Persevering in Evangelism: Reflections on a godly stranger

Don’t give up sharing your faith in Jesus, even when it seems like a waste of time

Beautiful FeetOver the last couple of weeks, I’ve been thinking about Russell. Not Russell from Up! (probably my favourite Russell); not ‘evil Russell’ from Survivor (probably my least favourite Russell); and not the short, freckly kid who thought it would be funny to climb the tallest tree at school and tie my bag up there when I was in Year 9 (probably somewhere in between the other two Russells).

The Russell I’ve been thinking about is a man who changed my life. But I don’t even know his last name, and I met him just once, more than 15 years ago. Continue reading

Can a Christian fall away – revisited

Fall AwayIt’s one of the biggest and most frequently asked theological and pastoral questions: can a Christian fall away? Can a Christian stop being a Christian? Because I’ve been asked it so often, and because I’ve been asked it a number of times recently, I’m re-posting this article from a few years ago (with a brief addition at the end). I hope it’s helpful.

If you don’t want to read through this whole thing but you’re still interested: (a) don’t be lazy! 🙂 (b) I’ve put a bullet-point summary at the end. And please remember, this is just my way of thinking through the issue, and plenty of other Christians would think differently. So don’t just take my word for it – check if what I’m saying matches with the Bible. Continue reading

Jesus, human rights and bacon

BaconWhich of your rights will you give up today for someone else’s sake?

Reading through 1 Corinthians 8-9 this morning, I was struck (again) but just how incredibly counter-cultural the Bible is when it comes to thinking about our personal ‘rights’.

The language of ‘rights’ is everywhere in ethics and morality today. In large part, it flows out of the intense individualism that has enveloped our society. If you’re arguing for a particular position on any contentious issue, the quickest route to success is to establish that what you’re arguing for is ‘a basic human right’. Continue reading

Why ‘faith’ and faith are mortal enemies

A brief rant about (what should be) a painfully obvious idea

In Paul’s second letter to his protégé Timothy, he warns the young man ‘not to quarrel about words’. In fact, he goes as far as saying that this kind of arguing ‘does no good, but only ruins the hearers’ (2 Tim 2:14). It’s a strong warning, and one that many people today need to hear. But when we look closely, Paul’s warning is quite clearly against meaningless squabbles – arguing for the sake of arguing. When the truth of the gospel was at stake, time and again we see that Paul was clearly willing to hold his ground and disagree with others.

In our own day and age, I’m more and more convinced that Christians need to fight for the truth of a particular word, a word that goes to the heart of what Christianity is about: faith. Continue reading

What Are You Trusting? Some questions for my charismatic friends

Over the Easter weekend, a group of about 50 students from Christian Union (the campus ministry where I serve here in Christchurch) went away together for a conference on love, sex and marriage. While we were there, some of our members found themselves being aggressively ‘evangelised’.

Upon arrival, we found ourselves sharing our campsite with members of a ministry known as ‘Revival Fellowship’. You can read more about their emphasis and their beliefs here – but suffice to say, several members of Christian Union were told that, frankly, if you don’t speak in tongues,[1] you’re not really a Christian. Continue reading

How to poison your relationships in one easy step: Always assume the worst

Why assuming the worst about other people’s motives is so deadly – and how we can break the cycle.

Keep Calm Assume NothingFew things are as complicated, contentious or corruptible as our motives. French thinker Francois de la Rochefaucauld captured the reality of the human condition when he said, “We would frequently be ashamed of our good deeds if the world could see the motives that produced them.” Samuel Johnson summed up the heart of the problem even more succinctly: “Actions are visible, but motives are secret.”

The Bible is littered with warnings about our motives. When informing Samuel that David was his choice for King of Israel, God told him: “The LORD sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.” (1 Sam 16:7) Much of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount is spent warning his hearers against doing outwardly impressive acts with inwardly corrupt motives (Matt 6:1-18). And in Paul’s celebrated (but often misunderstood) chapter on love, 1 Corinthians 13, he tells us that even the best actions are worthless if done without love. Continue reading

The power of memory verses

Last week at our 10am congregation, I challenged everyone to take time this week to memorise Psalm 73:25-26. For those that were there, how did you go? In case you need a little more encouragement…

Whom have I in heaven but you, and earth has nothing I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

I also mentioned that for many of us, ‘memory verses’ may be a lost art – either something we ‘left behind’ in childhood, or something we never picked up at all. Whatever the case, today I want to urge you to (re)turn to actively memorising parts of the Bible as a key part of your devotional life. Here are just a few reasons it’s such a worthwhile practice (with thanks to John Piper for inspiring many of these points):

• It allows us to meditate on God’s word at times when you can’t read the Bible (Psalm 1:1-2)
• It shapes the way we see ourselves and the world, as it conforms our minds to God’s point of view (2 Cor 10:5)
• It equips us to detect error, overcome temptation to sin when it arises, and reject the lies of Satan with a force he can never resist (Eph 6:13-17, especially v. 17)
• The process of memorising will make the truths sink deep into your mind and heart
• You can minister to the needs of others with God’s word (not just your own thoughts) at any time
• A million thoughts, words, images and ideas compete to fill our minds daily, but memorising Scripture gives God’s word the pride of place it deserves

God’s gone to great lengths to speak to us and have it written down for us. Really, it makes no sense NOT to memorise what he says! So do it on your own; do it as a family; put a new memory verse on your screensaver each week; write out a verse and tape it to the fridge. Whatever you do, however you do it, let’s get back to memorising God’s word!