Why you (still) need the church…

(Apologies that my posts have been a little irregular these last weeks. Leonie and I have visited a few churches, as well as ReCharge – The CRCA pastor’s conference, we have considered a few calls from churches, we’ve decided to accept a call to Gateway CRC, and this last week we’ve out our house on the market, and it appears to have sold. I am hoping that I can now maintain a little more regularity…)

It’s tough being church these days. You have to wonder how even hi-tech and well managed church ‘productions’ compete with easily accessible forms of entertainment. Or why people attend a local community when they can access Driscoll, or Piper, or Ortberg on their smartphone or computer. How can local church ‘Pastor Bob’ compete with all of that? With these choices so readily available, it seems more people are staying away from church, and managing their own spiritual development.

Do we still need the local church?

Ephesians 3:14-20 says we do. If we’re mapping out our own DIY spiritual growth, we are selling ourselves short, as well as dishonouring the community that Jesus gave his life for.

Your local church community can teach you things that the world’s best preachers and writers never can

Paul prays that we may grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ. He prays that we might know the full dimensions of Christ’s love. All its texture, every nuance, every subtlety and variation. The surprising thing is that this does not come from the world’s best preachers, or the Christian book of the year, or even the work of the world’s most erudite Christian scholars. Instead, it comes ‘together with all the Lord’s people’. It comes as the Christian community does new life together. That doesn’t mean preaching or scholarship is not required. It just means that when it comes to you growing into the full dimensions of Jesus’ love preaching, scholarship, and books have considerable limitations.

Your local church community can teach you things that the world’s best preachers and writers never can. Yes. Your church. That failed and fallen group of people, with all of their quirky and irritating aspects. These people are the very means by which God draws you into the full dimensions of his love.

How does that work? Here are a few suggestions:

• Only your church can love you with all of your faults and failings

• Only your church can express the forgiving grace of God when you fail

• Only your church can draw you into reconciliation and bring the grace of a receiving and welcoming God to full expression

• Only your church gives you a context to use your gifts and to serve others. Stay at home Christianity is basically self worship

• Only your church can express the hope of the New Heavens and the New Earth to the people of your neighbourhood

• Only your church can bring healing and restoration to the broken lives and the troubled families that live in your local community

All of this comes as a loving and sovereign God does his work in his people, through the power of his Spirit, to the glory of Jesus. Without him, we can do nothing, but as he works in us, his people express the truth that Jesus is the hope of our world.

Sure, it can be tough, and not church is perfect. But don’t give up n your local church: it’s God’s means, God’s personally selected context to bring you into the full dimensions of his love.

Q: How is God calling you to renew your love for the local church today?

John Piper interviews Rick Warren – a definite ‘must watch’

I have just taken 90 mins to watch this excellent interview between John Piper and Rick Warren. It is definitely worth your time to do the same. Here’s why…

Piper  Warren

You can view the interview here:

My interest was piqued because Warren’s Purpose Driven Life was incredibly influential some years ago, having become one of the biggest selling books of all time (after the Bible). PDL was also a great resource for the development of the small group ministry at Redlands Christian Reformed Church in 2003. That we could have sermons, small group studies, and reading materials all themed together was a terrific way to launch into our small group ministry. We have never looked back.

Beyond any organisational aspects, the subject matter of the Purpose Driven Life was also a great encouragement and stimulation to us. That’s why we could not understand some of the negative criticism levelled at the book. Rick Warren was denounced from some quarters as a mean centred theologian, light on theology, as one who played fast and loose with the text of the Bible, as well as a raft of other criticisms.

So when Rick Warren recently published the interview between John Piper and himself, I thought that was not to be missed. John Piper is of course one of the more popular reformed evangelical voices in the USA. His views are widely received and respected in circles where I serve amongst the Christian Reformed Churches of Australia.

If you’re a person who loves the reformed heritage, I would encourage you to watch the interview in its entirety. As you do, you may just

* Be challenged: that there is good reason to be respectful of Rick Warren’s ‘Purpose Driven Life’ and thankful for the contribution his work has made to Jesus’ Kingdom and glory

* Be surprised: that there is not so much separating Rick Warren and John Piper. Well, that’s how I saw it. You draw your own conclusions

* Be reminded: that we need to be balanced and gracious in the way we deal with what other Christian leaders say and do. Australian Christian leaders are sometimes a little too quick to engage in the tall poppy syndrome. We are not immune to this weakness, friends.

* Be encouraged: Piper and Warren are so gracious to one another and so warm in their interaction. I found myself saying ‘I wish I would interact a little more like that’. They made me desire to honour Jesus more in my work

Q: Leave a comment and let us know what you think about this interview

The Audacity of Grace

Read Ezekiel 34:11-16

I am struck by the contrast between the abusive shepherds of Israel and the Lord, who is the good shepherd. A context of the shepherd’s self interest and abuse we are drawn to the breathtaking faithfulness of the Sovereign Lord. He knows all, and decides to do all to change this ugly pastoral picture into a one of peace, tranquility, protection and blessing.

More amazing is that God does this despite the terrible situation before him. He could have sold the farm, written off the loss, and done one huge cull. His lavish grace draws him to do something else: he took on the shepherds job himself and got to work changing the situation.

What he promises here: to search to restore, to care for, to rescue, to bring to pasture, he has done in Jesus, the Good Shepherd (John 10), and Jesus continues this work through his church (Matt 28:16-20; John 21:15-19).

When people fail, God will find other ways to bring his purposes to fulfilment

God takes our failing and rebellion upon himself. God steps in and brings restoration and hope to our brokenness. This is the audacity of grace. And we have to learn from his undying commitment to his own saving purpose. When people fail, God will find other ways to bring his purposes to fulfilment. Jesus’ death and rising is all the proof we need.

Q: What do these verses say about your own style of leadership, or about the challenges faced by your own church?

Motive, value and direction

Read Ps 131

I find myself still thinking about yesterday’s reading: Jeremiah 23. I suppose that as a shepherd I should take more time with passages that challenge those of my craft and calling who have strayed from the path.

Yesterday I wrote that a thousand prior decisions lead to an eventual change of value and direction. Today I am thinking that we can stay ‘in the Lord’s council’ (Jer 23:22) by ensuring that our ‘thousand prior decisions’ are one’s that honour God and reflect his character.

David (who wrote Ps 131) says ‘my eyes are not haughty, I do not concern myself with great matters, or things too wonderful for me.’ Instead, like a weaned child he has put his hope in the Lord.

What determines your direction, really?

These are remarkable words for a King. They expose motive, values of heart, attitudes of will, and direction of mind. They speak of priority and forethought. David has not set his heart on the big money, the great sets of numbers, or the wins. These things are not bad in themselves. They are generally good ‘goods’… it’s just that they are lousy gods.

Ps 131 reminds us that if we make God our priority, and his Kingdom and character the centre of all our values and ideals we will end up being more calm, with quieter ambitions, and being more content. And the outcomes we achieve, whilst they may not be world beaters, high end, or great, may in the end last longer that that which rusts and rots.

That’s what Jesus said, right?

“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. ” (Matthew 6:33–34, NIV84)

Think about your own life. What are the first things? What has priority? What determines your direction, really?

The good you do is never wasted – do you know that?

I was sitting next to Mum this afternoon, and she was sound asleep. Not just dozing, but sleeping deeply, so deeply I could not rouse her.

You know how sometimes your thoughts run away from you, and you start to think the worst? That’s what happened to me. When Mum was in this deep sleep, I started wondering whether there was something wrong, and whether Mum was unravelling quicker than we thought, and whether this was how it was going to be, and how would Dad manage it all. And just for a moment I was lost in one disturbing thought: “has it all just come to this? Isn’t it all a bit of a waste?”

It was only a moment, but I had used the word. Or thought it. And it was the word “waste” that bothered me. I have to say, I’m not proud about the fact that this word entered my head. But just for a moment it was my reality.

It shouldn’t be. Because even though Mum is not well, and she’s going through some enormous changes, ‘waste’ is a word that should never enter the picture.

Shirley Anne Groenenboom is a great mother and a faithful wife. Along with husband Cor she raised four healthy and exceptionally well adjusted children. This she did in circumstances that were far from ideal.

Mum and daughter Jenny, on the step of the family home in Portland, NSW

There were plenty of people doing it way tougher than our family, there always are, and always will be. That does not invalidate any of the challenges Mum and Dad faced in the 50s and 60s. Mum was a teacher, and worked incredibly long hours. She was always up early marking work, and always up late preparing for the next day. I don’t know how she sustained that.

If you know a full time teacher who has a great social life, and watches TV or engages in leisure pursuits every night, you need to know they are not pulling their weight

For this reason I have never been able to understand people who think teachers have it easy. I am the son of a teacher, my sister is a teacher, and I am married to a teacher. And I can tell you: they work incredibly hard. They are worth every cent they are paid, and they fully deserve every day of leave they receive. Probably more. If you know a full time teacher who has a great social life, and watches TV or engages in leisure pursuits every night, you need to know they are not pulling their weight. Just saying.

Mum, graduating from Bathurst High School

Over the years, Mum has taught people who are now fine builders in Brisbane. She has taught people who are now great pastors in good churches. She has worked and served in church communities. She has written stories for children in a church magazine. She has been a great friend for people going through tough times. She has built a legacy of warm friendship, passionate following of Jesus, and high standards of education. With husband Cor she has raised four children to follow Jesus and who seek to make a real difference in his world. The good you do is never wasted. Not ever.

One day, assuming we do not meet with accident or illness, we will all grow old. The events of the last few days tell me that process can be debilitating and confronting. I don’t think it’s overstating things to say it that way. But the things you do to make a difference in the lives of others are never wasted. They can be normal, everyday things. Just doing your job. Just teaching the class. Just trying to connect with someone who does not want to cooperate. And guess what? You can be frustrated, irritated, angered, and feel like knocking some heads together. But the good you do is never wasted, no matter how hard it gets.

And why? Because it matters to God and he works through it all. Check out Isaiah 55:8-11.

Q: have you ever felt like giving up? Ever thought what you were doing was a waste? How did you deal with that Leave a comment and let us know…

Grace and peace: Dave

Location:Boundary Rd,Cobden,Australia