Prayer for the Week

Almighty and merciful God, by whose grace your faithful people are able to bring you true and praiseworthy service: Grant, we ask, that we may so faithfully serve you in this life that we do not fail to attain your heavenly promises through the merits of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

[adapted from ‘The Book of Common Prayer’ 1662]

Yours are the hands

Christ has

No body now on earth but yours;

No hands but yours;

Yours are the eyes

Through which is to look out

Christ’s compassion to the world;

Yours are the feet

With which he is to go about

Doing good;

Yours are the hands

With which he is to bless now.

– St. Teresa of Avila

What I am posting about lately

Just to fill you in…

I thought I would just give you an update about how the blog is working of late.

I have been following a guide for daily devotional reading: A Guide to Prayer for Ministers and Other Servants (Job & Shawchuck). This great resource was recommended to me by Jack de Vries, the Mission Training Coordinator of the Christian Reformed Churches of Australia. There are readings for each day, following the basic form of

Prayer

Psalm for the week

Silence

Daily Bible Readings

Reading for reflection

Prayers for myself, the world, and others

Reflection: silent and written

Hymn or song for the week

Benediction

A few week’s ago I set myself the goal of regularly working through ‘A Guide to Prayer…’. I started recording my thoughts in a devotional journal, and after a few days I thought that I would share them with you. Perhaps the daily readings and the comment I make might also encourage you to be more regular in reading your bible and focusing your mind on the things of God.

This sort of discipline is not always easy to sustain. Well, I don’t always find it easy.

So I hope these posts help you deepen your understanding of the goodness of God and of his call on your life. As always, I encourage you to comment regularly, and engage with the subject matter.

Grace and peace,

Dave

Why start a dedicated Men’s Ministry

I am keen to tell you about the new men’s meeting which will be starting at Redlands CRC in February 2011.

There are important reasons why this is a great step for our church.

Men need a place to talk

    Men need a place where they can talk with one another about life¸ and build good relationships. Women seem to do this more easily: whether it’s over a latte or a chat on the phone, women are way better at talking about family, relationships, struggles and joys. We can call this stuff ‘in here’ because it comes from the heart. In contrast, when men get together, the discussion revolves around work, or the kids, or the traffic, the government, of the footy. We easily talk about stuff ‘out there’ and we’re not too good at talking about the ‘in here’ and ‘from the heart’ stuff. Men need a place where it’s OK, and normal, to talk more about the ‘in here’ stuff.

    Photo credit: iStockphtoto: asiseeit

    Men need to see good communication modelled

      I guess we all know how hard it is for men to talk about the ‘in here’ and ‘heart’ stuff. The problem is that like old dogs, it’s hard to teach grown men new tricks. Especially ones that involve communicating in new ways. This is why this new context for men needs to model how good communication is done. We will do this by giving men the chance to observe men relating in healthy ways. We plan to have some interview style open dialogue between two men who will talk about their story, their interest and their battle. They will be talking about this ‘from the heart’ and not only from the head. The idea is that as men observe other men in open and engaging conversation, they will be encouraged to do the same. Some group discussion will encourage those present to wrestle through the issues.

      God wants his church filled with great men!

        The Bible has some very clear teaching about men. They are to live and lead in the likeness of Jesus, putting the needs of others above their own (Eph 5:23, see 5:1,2; Phil 2:1-5). Their strength is one which imitates Jesus, and not one which exasperates or seeks to dominate others (Eph 6:4). They are to be men of integrity, grace and humility (see James 3:13; 1 Pet 5:5). When the Bible says this is so clearly, you have to wonder why there are not more contexts where men can encourage each other to live this way.

        I’ll work through a few more reasons next time, but for now, men, pray that this new venture will be blessed, and make a commitment to be part of it. There’s nothing better than brothers getting together in unity (Ps 133).

        If you have questions: be sure to ask me

        Grace and peace: Dave

        Why great achievement inspires us to be better people

        Last week we spent some time in Bath, Somerset. Best known for its Roman Baths, still operational after 2000 years, Bath boasts a rich architectural and social history.


        Bath Abbey

        Bath Abbey was founded in the 7th century, and rebuilt in the 12th and 16th centuries. Like most Abbeys and ancient churches, the Abbey presents a visual history of piety, fame and achievement.


        Crypts line the floors while the walls covered with memorials to saints, gentry, and people of note. Sir Isaac Pittman, who invented shorthand notation. Captain Arthur Phillip, leader of the First Fleet, Governor of Australia also features in a memorial.


        Memorial to Arthur Phillip

        I do not know how many memorials there are in the Abbey. Probably hundreds. As I was walking through the Abbey, something occurred to me. Why do we have memorials? Why do we have this idea of achievement? Why do we honour achievement? And perhaps most importantly, why does achievement inspire us? It’s true: If we listen to our heart, we find ourselves drawn to those who make outstanding achievement. A roman architect in the first century AD. Thomas ‘Beau’ Nash (1674 – 1762) who in the 18th century, the town’s celebrated ‘dandy’, made substantial advances in breaking down some of the class divisions in Bath society, even if he di do it through some interesting means. Bishop Oliver King who undertook the building of the current Abbey in the early 1500s.


        The organ in Bath Abbey, fanned arches in background

        There is something in us that yearns to achieve. Every one of us. We want to do whatever we do very well. We want to excel, and develop, and pioneer, and create.

        There is something in us that yearns to achieve. Every one of us. We want to do whatever we do very well. We want to excel, and develop, and pioneer, and create. Even we we do something very well, we still want to do better. It is in is to strive for perfection.

        This desire is from God. The Genesis account tells us that God has placed his image in us. More: We are his image. And this means we want to do what God does. The early chapters of the Bible tells us that God wanted to create. And he did. He excelled. He caused life to abound. He caused the universe and humanity to thrive. It was all very good. It is not surprise that we find our purpose in imitating him.

        We also know about rebellion and the Fall. While these are the natural inclination of our being, it’s not how this life giving, glorious achieving God first made us. In fact, Jesus’ coming is to draws us back to God’s original purpose. That’s why we imitate him, reflect his glory, and direct all our achievement to his wonderful praise.

        Who has inspired you to be more than what you once were? What would to really long to do, or be?

        Grace and peace: Dave

        How to tell people about Jesus (3): …a few resources for answering the tough questions

        In my last post I mentioned some books which I find helpful in addressing some of the common questions people ask. Here are a few titles to consider (feel free to recommend some others you have read in the comment section)

        I may not need to say it, but there are no perfect books out there. You may not agree with everything an author says. That’s OK. People don’t agree with everything you say, either, and we need to relax about that. As always, test all things, and hang on to the good.

        iStockphoto.com

        The Case for Christ – Lee Strobel
        Strobel recounts his own faith journey, and in so doing answers questions about the reliability of the New Testament, the historicity of the resurrection, and the person of Christ. Strobel’s background in law and journalism make this both a great resource and a well reasoned approach. It’s easy to read, and well priced to give away. Strobel writes as an ex-atheist, so you can be sure he knows where people are coming from.

        The Case for Faith – Lee Strobel
        In this book, Strobel builds on the foundation laid in his first work. He addresses some of the common the objections people may raise about believing in Jesus: the presence of evil and suffering; what about those who have never heard the good news? Or how do we explain the goodness of God in the face of the Bible’s teaching about Hell? Strobel opens up the issues of violence in church history. His section on the rarity and role of doubt in a believer’s life is especially helpful.

        The Case for a Creator – Lee Strobel
        Strobel addresses the perceived tension between science and faith, showing how many well respected scientists now see evidence of design in the universe and life systems. There is also a great DVD series which would be a great resource to work through in a small group setting.

        Searching Issues – Nicky Gumbel
        Nicky Gumbel is well known for the Alpha course. This book addresses the seven most common questions raised in Alpha course settings: suffering, other religions, sex before marriage, the New Age, homosexuality, science and Christianity, and the Trinity. There is also a helpful study guide for group work.

        Simply Christian – NT Wright
        A more inductive approach geared towards the thinking agnostic or atheist, while still very readable and accessible. Wright wants to get people thinking about what they see in their world and in the people who live in it. Staring with people’s longings, he looks at how the Bible presents God and the importance of Jesus, and finishes with what it means to be called followers of Jesus and to seek a world that God delights in. Reading this book brings memories of C S Lewis’ ‘Mere Christianity’. It’s a brilliant read!

        Books like these can really help others to work through questions that trouble them. They will also help the reader become more effective as they share the message about Jesus.

        Remember:

        it is God who changes the heart, and not the power of an argument

        . So read the best resources, and pray for God to use you

        Q: Which book and resources have you found most helpful for sharing the good news? Leave a comment…

        Grace and peace: Dave

        How to tell people about Jesus (they are probably more interested than you think)

        Before we get to the best things to talk about to help people see who Jesus is, I’d like to explore the hesitation many feel about doing that.

        It is no secret that many people find it hard to share the good news about Jesus. Here are some of the reasons I hear from time to time…

        They imagine people are not interested. Generally speaking however, this is not true. People are quite tolerant, and open to talking about spiritual things. If you’ve already built a bit of a relationship with them, you’ll be able to talk about a lot of things, including your faith. It’s just not true that people don’t want to listen. What they don’t appreciate is an overbearing or judgmental attitude. Come to think of it, God doesn’t want that, either!

        They think they need to know all the answers. It’s good to know some key responses to the common questions people ask. There are some great resources here: Understand, though, that most of the time you will not be able to explain everything. This is OK. Sometimes we just have to admit that we’re not really sure, and that we’re hoping to understand more sometime in the future. Here’s a few additional suggestions:

        Ask them to explore the question with you: work on the answers together. This helps people see that you’re really not interested in cliched answers. It also helps them see that Christians are people who are prepared to apply their mind and their intellect to the troubling questions of life

        Remember to take people back to the core issue of Jesus. If, for example, you are dealing with the question of why evil exists in a world governed by a good God, It’s fine to say something like ‘I have also wrestled with the question of the presence of evil in the world. I know Jesus came to break to domination of evil in people’s hearts. His promise is to bring it to right somehow, and sometimes that will involve us being prepared to engage in the fight against evil. But for me the big deal today is that I can trust God to do the right thing by me, and I can trust him to work the right things through me as I seek to follow him.’

        A third reason people are hesitant to share about Jesus is because they are uncertain about the level of their own Bible knowledge. Having a good working bible knowledge is a great thing, but it will never be enough, really. There will always be things we don’t fully understand. So, just say so. People are more impressed with someone who says ‘I’m not sure’ than someone who has an answer for everything. People just want to engage at the level of the heart, at what matters to you, and why Jesus still matters to you. Sure, sometimes you will get to talk with a person who knows a bit about the Bible, and they may have some questions, but from my experience, these instances are pretty rare. Discussions that turn into arguments about Bible texts are rarely productive.

        People are more impressed with someone who says ‘I’m not sure’ than someone who has an answer for everything.

        Remember: you have the good news! You know who Jesus is! You have a hope that does not disappoint! That is an incredibly positive standpoint, and even though you think your life might be pretty ordinary, when you start talking about why Jesus makes a difference to you, most people will be interested enough to listen. More about this in my next post.

        Q: what is your biggest fear or uncertainty about telling people the good news of Jesus? Or, what have you found helpful in addressing your hesitation?

        Feel free to leave your answer as a comment…o

        Grace and peace: Dave