How to tell whether you are called to your comfortable neighbourhood

More quotes from Francis Chan’s The Forgotten God: Reversing Our Tragic Neglect of the Holy Spirit, David C. Cook, 2009.

Available here from amazon.com and amazon.co.uk.

“A lot of people in my church and in my travels tell me, “I believe that God has called me to Simi Valley.” Or Wichita. Or New York. Or Greenville. Or wherever. And that very well may be the case, but it could also be a cop out because you like where you live. You have a good job. The school district is safe and has high ratings. Your family lives close by (or perhaps far away, depending on your relationship with them). It makes sense that you are “called” to be there, right?

“And maybe you are called to be called to where you live, but if you say you are called to be in the place where you are a few questions need to be consider. For example, how would you be missed if you left this place? What would change? Basically what difference does your presence here make? Or as my youth pastor once asked me, what would your church (and the worldwide church) look like if everyone was as committed as you are? If everyone gave and served and prayed exactly like you, would the church be healthy and empowered? Or would it be weak and listless? …

“It is true that God may have called you to be exactly where you are. But it’s absolutely vital to grasp that he didn’t call there to settle in and live out your life in comfort and superficial peace. His purposes are not random or arbitrary. If you are still alive on this planet, it’s because he has something for you to do. He placed us on this earth for purposes that he orchestrated long before we were born (Ephesians 2:8-10) Do you believe you exist not for your own pleasure but to help people know the love of Jesus and to come fully alive in him? If so, then that will shape how you live your life in the place where you are.” (90-91)

“We are most alive when we are loving and actively giving of ourselves because we were made to do these things. It is when we live like this that the Spirit of God moves and acts in and through us in ways that on our own we are not capable of.” (96)
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Thursday Review: Francis Chan on The Forgotten God

A review of Francis Chan, The Forgotten God: Reversing Our Tragic Neglect of the Holy Spirit, David C. Cook, 2009.

Available here from Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk

I love this book. I suspect that for most readers of this blog it will not add much that you did not already know (and, to be fair, it does not claim that it will). Instead it is an impassioned plea to take the Holy Spirit seriously. So, while it might not add to your knowledge, it will stir your heart to seek the Spirit, not to grieve the Spirit, to prayer for the Spirit, to be open to the Spirit. It is good for the soul.

Here are some quotes (with more following in future posts):

“From my perspective, the Holy Spirit is tragically neglected and, for all practical purposes, forgotten. While no evangelical would deny his existence, I’m willing to bet there are millions of churchgoers across America who cannot confidently say they have experienced his presence or action in their lives over the past year. And many of them do not believe they can.” (15).

“If you or I had never been to a church and had read only the Old and New Testaments, we would have significant expectations of the Holy Spirit in our lives … If we read and believed these accounts, we would expect a great deal of the Holy Spirit. He would not be a mostly forgotten member of the Godhead whom we occasionally give a nod of recognition to, which is what He has become in most American churches. We would expect our new life with the Holy Spirit to look radically different from our old life without him.” (30-31)

“Have you ever thought about the significance of having ‘another’ Counsellor who is ‘just like’ Christ? Right now, imagine what it would be like to have Christ standing beside you in the flesh, functioning as your personal Counsellor. Imagine the peace that would come from knowing you would always receive perfect truth and flawless direction from him. That sounds amazing, and none of us could deny the benefit of having Jesus here physically, guiding and enabling us every step of the way. Yet why do we assume that this would be any better than the literal presence of the Holy Spirit? Those of us who believe in Jesus would never deny the truth that we have the Spirit of the living God, the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead, living inside of us. I’m just not convinced we’ve internalized this truth and enjoyed his blessings as he intends. It seems like this is mostly head knowledge to us, and that we have not owned it. It has not really made much of a difference in our lives, to the degree that if we woke up tomorrow and discovered that it is not true the Holy Spirit lives inside of us, most likely our lives wouldn’t look much different.” (35).
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Why We Need to Preach the Sovereignty of God in Deprived Areas Part Two

These notes are from a talk by Duncan Forbes at the recent Reaching the Unreached [http://www.reachingtheunreached.org.uk/] conference in Barnsley. They are my notes from a talk so they may not accurately represent what Duncan intended. Part one is here.

3. God has sovereignly arranged deprived neighbourhoods for our benefit

‘From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us.’ (Acts 17:26-27) Everything and everyone has told me I need to escape my council estate. But if I know that God has arranged my council estate and he has arranged for me to live there so that I would search for God then it will change my attitude. It means we cannot complain about our up-bringing. God arranged that I would be a scared kid living high up in a tower block with a sick mother so that I would find him. If I had grown up somewhere else then I might not be a Christian now. God arranged my deprived neighbourhood for my benefit. And not only is the estate given to us by God to save us, but also to make like Jesus (Romans 8:28-29). It is his means of sanctification in my life.

It is important that we proclaim this because many people cannot stand living on their estate. Many of us have seen ministries grow only to see them die back because people have moved on. It is not always wrong to leave an estate, but we must not see it as an enemy to be avoided. It changes everything if we view our council estate as God’s means to save us and make us like Jesus. This will help people stay on the estates and cope with hardships. Continue reading

Sharing the gospel

Here are two frameworks that may help talk about the gospel in the context of ordinary conversations.

Four points of intersection
Everyone has their own version of the ‘gospel’ story:

creation – who I am or who I should be
fall – what’s wrong with me and the world
redemption – what’s the solution
consummation – what I hope for

When we hear people expressing their version of creation, fall, redemption or consummation, we can talk about the gospel story. Talking about Jesus begins with listening to other people’s stories and sharing our own story of Jesus.

Four liberating truths

Everyone’s behaviour is shaped by what they believe. We can listen out for the beliefs that shape people’s behaviour and shape their hurts and hopes. This then allows us to speak of the liberating truth of God which counters the lies upon which people build their lives and which eventually fail them in some way:

God is great – so we don’t have to be in control
God is glorious – so we don’t have to fear others
God is good – so we don’t have to look elsewhere
God is gracious – so we don’t have to prove ourselves

It is usually less confrontational to present the truth in the form of a personal story. For example, ‘When I was ill last year I found it a great comfort to know that God was in control.’
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Porn Statistics

In my forthcoming book, Captured By a Better Vision: Living Pom-Free purchase from Amazon UK purchase from Amazon US, I describe the spread of pomography as an epidemic. Here are some stats that back up this claim …

  • Every second, 28,258 Internet users are viewing pomography and $3,075.64 is being spent on pomography
  • The pomography industry is larger than the revenues of the top technology companies combined: Microsoft, Google, Amazon, eBay, Yahoo!, Apple, Netflix and EarthLink
  • There are 4.2 million pomographic websites, which is 12% of all the websites on the internet
  • Every day there are 68 million (25% of the total) search engine requests for pomographic terms
  • 42.7% of internet users view pom
  • The average age of first exposure to pomography is 11 years old and 80% of 15-17 year olds have had multiple hard-cor e exposure
  • The 35-49 age group is the largest consumer of internet pomography
  • 47% of Christians say that pomography is a major problem in the home
  • 17% of women struggle with pomography addiction and 70% of women keep their cyber activities secret
  • The USA produces 89% of all pomographic web pages (Germany are the next biggest producer, producing 4% of all pomographic web pages)

Captured by a Better Vision aims to offer hope for people struggling with pom and guidance for those trying to help them. It is published by IVP  in the UK on 19 March 2010. It will be published in the US by InterVaristy Press.

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Captured by a Better Vision – Contents and Commendations

My new book, Captured by a Better Vision: Living Pom-Free purchase from Amazon UK purchase from Amazon US, is due to be released in the UK on March 19.

Here are some commendations:

‘Fantastic practical and realistic help… I highly commend this timely book.’ Carl Beech

‘A lifeline for those who feel trapped… A message of grace, strength and hope.’ Ian Coffey

‘Will rescue many a marriage and restore many a man to a place where purity and passion coexist in biblical relationship.’ Steve Gaukroger

Here’s the table of contents:

Foreword by Lyndon Bowring

Introduction: Let’s talk about porn

1 Looking beyond the frame

2. Freed by the beauty of God

3. Freed by the grace of God

4. The fight of faith

5. Freed for the glory of God

6. Conclusion: Putting it all together

The chapter titles don’t give much away, but they do emphasise that this is not just a grim assessment of the grip that porn has on so many Christians. Instead, this is a book which brings a positive message of hope and freedom. I’ll post an excerpt in a future post to give you a flavour of the book.

You can see me talking about the book here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FO3NktNg3qU

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The good news of the Trinity

I have an article on ‘The Good News of the Trinity‘ published at the excellent theologynetwork.org. Here’s how it begins …

In our culture Friends have become a television programme and Neighbours are experienced vicariously through Australian soap operas. We’re living in an increasingly fragmented and isolated society. It’s not just community that’s fragmented, but truth itself. Truth is now a matter of individual choice. We’re left with little shared basis for community life or social cohesion … In this context the doctrine of the Trinity is good news.

 

More thoughts on fasting

Some time ago I posted on fasting. Here are some more thoughts …

1. Fasting better enables to enjoy food with gratitude

Fasting reminds us we are creatures. We are not self-existent. As the hunger pains bite, we recognise with gratitude and prayer:

  • Our dependance on creation for existence. We are intimately bound together with the rest of creation. We depend on seasons, rainfall and harvests – something those of us in cities whose food comes from supermarkets are prone to forget.
  • Our dependence on community for existence. We are intimately bound together with other people. We depend on countless people across the world who produce, gather, process, transport and sell our food. We learn again to value then and give thanks to God for them.
  • Our dependence on God for existence. He provides our daily bread and our every breathe. And so we pray again, ‘Give us today our daily bread.’

One of the dangers of fasting is that we despise food and think of it as unspiritual when food is God’s good gift to be received with thanksgiving (1 Timothy 4:4-5). But I suggest that many of us have lost much of our ability to appreciate food because we over-consume. We miss the joy of satisfaction because we are perpetually satisfied. We are still full from one meal when we tuck into the next. Fasting is any opportunity to rediscover the joy of simple food received as a gift from God.

2. Medicating on sugar, salt and fat – or the living God

When we in the western world have emotional needs many of us turn to food for refuge. We self-medicate with food. The result is ill-health and weight gain. The result is an over-consumption of the world’s resources that contributes to the hunger of other people. And every time we miss the opportunity to turn to God. We don’t live by bread alone. We need God in our lives so that life without God is an empty life. And we cannot fill that emptiness with food. Fasting helps re-oriente us away from self-medication through food towards finding refuge in God. We particularly we turn to foods high in sugar, salt and fat. These consitute our comfort foods. We find comfort in sugar, salt and fat. Sugar, salt and fat instead of the living God. We must be mad! Fasting helps restore our sanity.

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4Gs in F – a New Song

Here’s a new song that I wrote ages ago, but I’ve just realised I’ve never posted it on the blog. It’s an attempt to express in song something of the pastoral significance of the 4Gs that I’ve talked on the blog before.

Weary of striving to make it alone,
fearful of failure or trying to atone,
I hear ‘It is finished’, Christ sits on the throne:
Jesus, I rest in you.

2. Weary of fearing what others may say,
needing approval to feel I’m okay,
when Jesus alone is the Lord I obey:
Jesus, I rest in you.

3. Weary of chasing the lies of this world,
finding its treasures an empty reward:
my beautiful Saviour, most glorious Lord,
Jesus, I rest in you.

4. Weary of needing to be in control,
brooding on worries, disturbing my soul:
the Stiller of storms who alone can console,
Jesus, I rest in you.

5. Weary of memories recalled with dismay,
burdened with guilt that I can’t sweep away,
when Jesus has cancelled what I could not pay:
Jesus, I rest in you.

Here’s the music: Weary of Striving (Jesus I Rest in You). You can also sing it to the tune of ‘Just As I Am’.

The astute among you will notice there are five verses. One of the Gs gets two verses. I’ll leave you to work out which. But here’s a clue. Both my daughters are named after this ‘G’. It’s the second name of one and the other’s first name is the Hebrew word for it.

Tim Chester © 2007 c/o http://www.thecrowdedhouse.org. May be copied and used freely for non-profit personal and congregational use.

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