We can’t be more sacrificial than God

This is based on a talk I gave for Plant North Yorkshire.

How can churches in Europe, especially in rural areas, work together to plant churches in Europe when they themselves are so often few in number. In North Yorkshire most churches have fewer than 30 people in the congregation. Some are without pastors. None has what you might call a staff team. We don’t have congregations full of people with nothing to do or bank accounts full of cash with nothing to do. None of us can plant with feeling it – without a feeling of sacrifice.

So there are lots of reasons to leave the task of reaching North Yorkshire to other people. Or wait until our churches are bigger, stronger, richer. I think that’s a mistake. In fact, I think our churches won’t grow bigger, stronger, richer if we don’t own the task of reaching our country. If we turn inwards then we will become introverted and introverted churches wither and die. But if we look outwards then God will bless our endeavours.

It is, of course, easy to be generous in theory. The practice of partnering together to plant churches will involve some tough decisions. But I want to celebrate and reinforce this spirit of generosity by looking at 2 Corinthians 8-9.

Paul is raising money to relieve the poverty of the Jerusalem church. 2 Corinthians 8-9 are his fundraising appeal to the Corinthian church. We’re not raising money for the poor. But we are asking one another to give resources for mission – money, time and (perhaps hardest of all) people.

There is another point of connection. The Jerusalem Collection was controversial. So controversial that in Romans 15:30-32 Paul asks the Romans church to pray that it will be well-received: ‘I urge you, brothers and sisters, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to join me in my struggle by praying to God for me. Pray … that the contribution I take to Jerusalem may be favourably received by the Lord’s people there.’

Why might a gift to relieve poverty not be received favourably? The answer is that Paul sees it as a sign of unity between the Gentile and Jewish churches. Their welcome of the gift will be a sign that they welcome the givers as fellow brothers and sisters in the family of Christ. And that meant accepting Gentiles without them becoming Jewish. It was a sign of unity in justification by faith.

The point is that giving is not just giving. It binds us together. It creates relationship. Paul puts it beautifully in 1 Corinthians 9:14: ‘And in their prayers for you their hearts will go out to you, because of the surpassing grace God has given you.’ It’s reflection of the words of Jesus: ‘For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.’ (Matthew 6:21) Your hearts follows your giving. It gives you a personal investment in the partnership.

Giving fosters partnership. And partnering together is an expression of our unity in the gospel. That means we need to be willing to receive help as a sign of unity in the gospel. And it means we need to be willing to give help as a sign of unity in the gospel.

I was once phoned by someone asking for the names of our worship leaders. At that time, our worship leader was me on my guitar, but I suspected that was not what he had in mind! So asked him why he wanted the information. The answer was that he wanted to bring the worship leaders of the churches in our city together ‘for unity’. They would rehearse together and then lead an evening of worship ‘for unity’. I kept pressing him on what the point of this was and he kept saying ‘unity’. So feeling mischievous I said, ‘We don’t believe in unity.’ Paused. And then added, ‘We believe in co-operation’. My point is that co-operation implies working something together for a bigger goal. Our unity in Christ is expressed when we work together to reach the lost.

So let’s look at 2 Corinthians with this in mind. I want to focus on two sections.

We can’t be more sacrificial than God (8:1-9)

2 Corinthians 8 begins: ‘And now, brothers and sisters, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches.’ (8:1) What is that ‘grace’? Verse 7 talks about ‘this grace of giving’ (8:7). The grace or the gift that God has give not the Macedonians is giving. Not simply, I think, the ability to gift, but also the opportunity to give. Giving itself is a gift from God.

But this is not just giving. This giving is sacrificial.

  1. Look at verse 2. The Macedonians are giving ‘in the midst of a very severe trial’ and ‘their extreme poverty’. Extreme poverty is not a good context for generosity. Except that Paul says it is! It’s the ideal context for sacrificial generosity. Notice at his formula: joy + poverty = generosity. Giving without poverty is not true generosity because it’s not sacrificial.
  2. Look at verse 3: ‘For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability.’ That’s the definition of sacrificial giving: beyond our ability. Think what that means for church planting. It means giving time when there is plenty for you to do in your own church. It means giving people when there is plenty for them to do your church.
  3. Look at verses 3-4: ‘Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the saints.’ This is willing and unconstrained. They’re not waiting to be asked. Instead they’re the ones doing the asking – asking if they can give because they count partnership a privilege.

What creates this kind of behaviour? Look at verse 5: ‘And they did not do as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then to us in keeping with God’s will.’ They didn’t have to decide to be generous – it was the natural consequence of a bigger decision: they had given themselves to the Lord and to his people.

How? Why? Here we come to the central point. Look at verse 9: ‘For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.’

You cannot be more sacrificial than God. Sacrificial giving expresses, reinforces and reminds us of God’s sacrificial gift. This is why giving is ‘a grace’. Giving is a gift because every act of giving:

  • loosens the power of wealth over us
  • strengthens our satisfaction in God
  • reminds us God’s generosity to us

Verse 7 is ironic. Paul says: ‘But since you excel in everything – in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in your love for us – see that you also excel in this grace of giving.’ (NIV1984) The Corinthian was not short on confidence. Paul is about to address the super-apostles who boasted in their faith, speech, knowledge and so on. They thought of themselves as super-spiritual Christians. So Paul says, ‘If you really excel then you will excel in giving.’ Their danger is that they full of their own abilities – and no doubt they were very able – but they were missing the point.

A gospel church is more than an orthodox church which reads the right books, sings the right songs and has the right kind of preaching. A true gospel church a sacrificial church because at the heart of the gospel is the sacrifice of Christ.

We’re called to be sacrificial. But we can’t be more sacrificial than God.

In a future post we’ll look at 2 Corinthians 9 and see that we can’t be more generous than God.

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Praying in the Spirit

John Bunyan wrote a book on praying in the Spirit. He said: ‘There is no man nor church in the world that can come to God in prayer, but by assistance of the Holy Spirit.’ ‘If men did see their sins, yet without the help of the Spirit they would not pray.’ ‘There is nothing but the Spirit that can lift up the soul or heart to God in prayer.’ ‘The soul that rightly prays, it must be in and with the help and strength of the Spirit; because it is impossible that a man should express himself in prayer without it.’ He explains:

O how great a task it is, for a poor soul that becomes sensible of sin and the wrath of God, to say in faith but this one world, “Father!” … O! says he, I dare not call him Father; and hence it is that the Spirit must be sent into the hearts of God’s people for this very thing, to cry Abba, Father: it being too great a work for any man to do knowingly and believingly without it.

Without the Spirit we wouldn’t pray. Do an experiment with me. Every day for a month ask the Queen for something. Wherever you are, speak out loud a request to the Queen. I suspect you won’t keep it up for a month because it’s a futile exercise. Try it now. Say out loud, ‘Hello your Majesty. Could I have an invitation to Buckingham Palace?’ It feels stupid. For one thing, she’s not there with you. What’s the point of asking for something when she can’t hear you? And even if she was in the room with you, her likely response would be, ‘Who are you?’ Or perhaps she would just call security to have you removed. She might respond to one of her children, but you have no claim on her.

Why doesn’t prayer feel like this? The answer is that we have the Holy Spirit. When we pray we feel connected to the Father because that’s what’s happening – the Spirit is connecting us to the Father. When we pray we feel the Father hears us because the Spirit assures us that he is our Father (Romans 8:14-16). If the Spirit wasn’t at work in your heart then you just wouldn’t pray. Every time you tried to pray you would feel like a mad man ranting in the street or a child talking to their imaginary friend.

But we do pray, we can pray, we should pray because the Spirit assures that God is our Father who longs to hear us. The Spirit of God enables us to share the experience of sonship that God the Son experiences. That is a glorious gift of grace. It means confidence, intimacy and joy.

Adapted from Tim Chester, You Can Pray, which is available from Amazon.com and ThinkIVP.

John Bunyan, Prayer, Banner of Truth is available from Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk.

New books: 1 Samuel, Hosea and Prayer

I’ve just realised (in time for Christmas) that there are two or three books which I’ve had published this year that I’ve not mentioned on this blog.

1 Samuel for You

1 Samuel for You is my latest contribution to The Good Book Company’s God’s Word for You series (famous for Tim Keller‘s contributions on Galatians, Judges and Romans). My wife thinks it’s my best book ever. (But then she has only read two of my books.)

Hosea (Focus on the Bible)

Hosea is a popular-level commentary in the Focus on the Bible series (famous for the various contributions on the Old Testament historical books by Dale Ralph Davis). I’m not sure how I missed mentioning this – it was a fairly major undertaking!

You Can Pray

I have mentioned You Can Pray before. But it’s now out in the US from P&R.

All of these books (and more) are available in the US from my US Amazon store store and in the UK from ThinkIVP (with the exception of Hosea which is available  – along with the others – from my UK Amazon store).

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Six ways your iPhone Is changing you

Tony Reinke has an interesting interview at Desiring God with David Wells and Douglas Groothius reflecting on our interaction with social media. He ends with six questions to gauge how our iPhones are changing us which I’ve transcribed below:

  1. Am I becoming like what I behold in my iPhone? Are my face-to-face relationships conforming to modes of communication that are shaped by my online habits?
  2. Am I overlooking my finiteness? I am finite. I am a man severely limited in what I can know and what I can read and what I engage and what I can care about. So do I want to know everything? Do I fear being left behind on what’s trending online right now?
  3. Am I multitasking priorities that should be uni-tasked. Specifically is my time with God in the word and I prayer being distracted and even being replaced by digital interruptions?
  4. I am deleting my embodiment? Do I truly value the personal, face-to-face relationships in my life over the disembodied relationships I maintain online? Are my face-to-face relationships with my neighbour, my wife and my kids suffering as a result?
  5. I am losing interest in the gathered church on Sunday? Baptisms, the Lord’s Supper, corporate worship, the laying on of hands – do I truly value the embodied reality that is my local church? Do I fiddle through it on my phone looking for something more entertaining?
  6. Am I careless with my words? It’s easy for my words to be published online. So what self-imposed limitations do I have to filter what I say and do I have any accountability in my life for what I say online?

For my own contribution to the subject see my short book, Will You Be My Facebook Friend?, which is available here from thinkivp.com and amazon.com.

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Will you be my Facebook friend? Part 7

In these series on Facebook we have highlighted two potentially dangers with Facebook and other social media:

1. On Facebook I can recreate my world through my words to gain approval

2. On Facebook I can escape the limitations of my body

As we conclude I want to reiterate that for many of people using Facebook is not a problem. For many it is all blessing.

But there are dangers in social networking. And to those who face those dangers the gospel provides a better and richer alternative.

Facebook is the place were I show my face or my image. For some of you it is the place were you recreate your image and your world through your words. The gospel is the place where God turns “his face towards us” (Numbers 6:26). It is the place where he recreates us in his image and recreates his world through his words.

2 Corinthians 3:18: “And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.”

Through Facebook you can show your face or image to the world. Through the gospel we see the face of God, the glory of God. And when we see it we radiate that glory just as Moses did long ago when he saw God on Mount Sinai. Through the gospel we can reflect the glory of God to the world.

Through Facebook we can recreate ourselves. We can recreate our own identity to win the approval of other people. Through the gospel God recreates us in the image of Jesus. Jesus makes us approved by God. And we are being transformed into the likeness of Jesus with ever-increasing glory. Look at your Facebook page: Do you really want this more than the glory of God?

Remember the medium is the message and Facebook was designed by a teenage nerd. It reduces your life to the preoccupations of a student nerd. You are encouraged to fill in your relationship status because students define you by your “availability”. The medium encourages you to express your personality through lists of books, movies, TV programmes. This is what nerdy students do. You are encouraged to poke people – poking is what teenage boys do who do not know how to talk to girls! The medium is the message. Your life is being squeezed down into these select, nerdy categories. You can give your time to this – or being transformed into Christ’s likeness with ever-increasing glory.

2 Corinthians 4:5: “For we do not preach ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake.”

Through Facebook we can promote ourselves. We gain friends. Or we gain followers through Twitter. We engage in self-evangelism. Through the gospel we promote Jesus as Lord. We gain followers for Jesus.

2 Corinthians 4:6: “For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.”

Through Facebook we recreate our world through our words. Day after day, endless words pouring out, trying to create an image of ourselves that others will approve. And God speaks four words, “Let there be light.” Two words in Hebrews. And there is light. God speaks and the universe comes into being. This physical, substantial, real universe. The kind of universe you can hit with your hand and it hurts because it is really there.

Through Facebook we reveal our “face” and look at the “faces” of other people. Through the gospel we see the face of God. The Bible is the true Facebook, the book in which we see God’s face. Prayer is the ultimate instant messaging. The church is the real social network. The gospel is the place where we see “the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.”

Think about what you have written and read on your Facebook wall this week. Think about the tweets you have followed this week. Imagine reading them in six months time. I am guessing, but I suspect that most of what is written will be drivel. Trivia. Empty. “Eating egg on toast. Yum.” “On my way to the station.” “Great party last night.” “Jack just fell over. LOL.” “Love the photos. You’re so gorgeous.” Poke. Listen to the prophet Isaiah:

A voice says, “Cry out.”

And I said, “What shall I cry?”

“All men are like grass,

and all their glory is like the flowers of the field.

The grass withers and the flowers fall,

because the breath of the LORD blows on them.

Surely the people are grass.

The grass withers and the flowers fall,

but the word of our God stands for ever.” (Isaiah 40:6-8)

 

The Facebook comments wither and the tweets fall,  but the word of our God stands for ever.

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Will you be my Facebook friend? Part 1

In just a few years Facebook has gone from nothing to a significant feature of modern life with over 500 million users, half of whom use it on any given day. More than 200 million users access Facebook through mobile devices. Facebook is itself part of the wider phenomenon of mobile technology and social networking or Web 2.0 – the use of the internet not just to find information, but to connect with people.

There is much that is good about this. New technologies reflect humanity’s God-given, godlike creativity. God gave us a mandate to take his world and invent, create, and produce.

Social networking brings many benefits:

  • Grandparents can get up-to-date photos and news from distant grandchildren.
  • Missionaries can send real time prayer requests.
  • The message of Jesus is going into countries that we used to speak of as being closed to the gospel.
  • People are able readily to organise events or arrange meetings. The recent change of regime in Egypt was called by some “the Facebook revolution” because of the way Facebook was used to organise the protests.
  • It is creating a culture of collaboration were products, software, social enterprise are developed through co-operation.

But despite all of this, I am going to focus on the dangers. First, because I am “a grumpy old man” with a nostalgia for the old ways. But mainly because, while the benefits of new technologies are immediately apparent, the negatives are more hidden. Tim Challies says: “a technology wears its benefits on its sleeve – but the drawbacks are buried deep within.”[1] Technology is good. But it readily gets perverted by our sin and used for selfish ends.

More than that, “the medium is the message”. This is what the cultural critic Neil Postman has alerted us to. In other words, how we communicate changes what we communicate. The technology we use to express our thoughts actually changes those thoughts. It changes what we think is important.

Some problems with social networking are obvious.

Misused time
Over 700 billion minutes are spent each month on Facebook. That is a lot of time. The problem is not just quantity of time, but the constant interruption. Lots of people talk about Facebook as the greatest distraction from work ever. Students are suffering from lack of sleep because they are texting or on Facebook late into the night.

Remember, the medium is the message. In the case of Twitter this means thoughts must be expressed in 140 characters. For blogs it means around 400 words (any thing more and people will not read it). Facebook, too, is designed to deliver short updates and comments. Not using proper grammar and sentences is affecting the way we express ideas. We are losing our ability to construct an argument.

Commercial interests drive this. What is Facebook’s product? It is you, you are its product delivered in large quantities to advertisers! It is the same with Google. They make money when you click on ads so it is in their interests for you never to spend long on one page. So the medium is designed to keep you constant surfing, constantly skimming, constantly clicking. And this is reducing our ability to concentrate. We zip from one piece of information to another. We keep stopping to check texts, emails, tweets, Facebook. We are losing our ability to follow an argument.

Technology makes us more efficient. And efficiency is good. But only in some contexts. Do you want to be an efficient lover? An efficient parent? An efficient worshipper?

But these are just the symptoms. The real issue is this, Why do people spend so much time on Facebook? What does it do for them? What does it offer?

It is not enough just to say “Stop” or “Do it less”. If the only answer you give is self-control then you are inviting me to be my own saviour. And in this case I am may not be convinced I need saving! So the key question is Why? This enables us to make the gospel as the answer.

For many of people, of course, using Facebook is not a problem. For many it is all blessing. But there are dangers in social networking and here are some warning signs.

  •      Do you check your Facebook page more than once or twice a day?
  •      Do you spend more than 20 minutes a day on Facebook?
  •      Do you find it difficult to imagine a day without technology?
  •      Have you ever read a text or gone online during our gathering?
  •      Have you stayed up beyond your normal bedtime because you were on Facebook or playing online games?
  •      Do you use your mobile phone during meals or keep it in the bedroom?

Those are some warning signs. What are the dangers? What is about Facebook that makes it so addictive? In future posts I want to highlight two dangers:

1. On Facebook I can recreate my world through my words to gain approval

2. On Facebook I can escape the limitations of my body


[1] Tim Challies, The Next Story: Life and Faith After the Digital Explosion, Zondervan, Available here from amazon.co.uk.

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God provides you with plenty of food and fills your heart with joy

A Meal with Jesus intro
Here’s the latest extract from my new book, A Meal with Jesus. The book is available here from amazon.com and amazon.co.uk and there is also a Kindle version available here from amazon.com and amazon.co.uk.

Much is said of engaging with culture. Much that’s right and helpful. But we must never let engaging culture eclipse engaging with people. People are infinitely variable and rarely susceptible to our sociological categories. If you want to understand a person’s worldview, don’t read a book. Talk to them, hang out with them, eat with them.

People often complain that they lack time for mission. But we all have to eat. Three meals a day, seven days a week. That’s twenty one opportunities for mission and community without adding anything to your schedule. You could meet up with another Christian for breakfast on the way to work – read the Bible together, offer accountability, pray for one another. You could meet up with colleagues at lunchtime. Put down this book and chat to the person across the table from you in the canteen. You could invite your neighbours over for a meal. Better still invite them over with another family from church. That way you get to do mission and community at the same time, all the while letting your unbelieving neighbours see the way the gospel impacts our relationships as Christians (John 13:34-35; 17:20-21). You could invite someone who lives alone to share your family meal followed by board games, giving your children an opportunity to serve others through their welcome.

Join in with the cultural events in your neighbourhood. The chances are food will be involved somewhere because food is such a powerful bond. Look for opportunities to reinterpret what is happening in biblical categories. In Acts 14 Paul addresses the people of Lystra. They want to worship him and Barnabas as gods because they’ve healed a crippled man. Paul calls on them to turn from idolatry and then says: God “did not leave himself without witness, for he did good by giving you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, satisfying your hearts with food and gladness.” (Acts 14:17) How many evangelistic messages have you heard along these lines? “God provides you with plenty of food and fills your heart with joy” (NIV). So let’s give thanks to him rather than worshipping “vain things”. It’s evangelism for parties.

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And finally … let me entertain you

Some time ago I set up a Twitter account which automatically takes a feed from my blog. I can’t remember how I did it – I only had to do it once. And then I left it alone.

I was recently speaking on social networking. So I went to look at my Twitter page. I discovered to my surprise that I have twice as many Twitter followers as blog subscribers. I also found lots of comments on the Twitter version of my blog which might explain why these days I get fewer comments left on the blog itself. I’m afraid I’m not planning to start tweeting properly. The idea of expressing my thoughts in 140 characters has no appeal!

I also looked at the Twitter pages of some of the rich and famous. The banality of it all is what is most striking. Pages and pages of trivia.

But there was one aspect I found quite disturbing and I’ve been trying to work out why. A number of people had tweets on the earthquake in New Zealand along the lines of “Terrible news from New Zealand – our thoughts are with you.” Nothing wrong with that in itself, of course. But this comes alongside tweets on what flavour of ice cream they prefer or what movie they were planning to watch or a link to some amusing picture.

Neil Postman famously said “the medium is the message”. In other words, the method of our communication  shapes the content of our communication. Twitter flattens communication. It squeezes it all into one form: the 140-character message. In so doing, it gives it all a disturbing equivalence.

In the UK our second largest TV channel (not the great BBC) routinely has (or used to have) an item at the end of each bulletin which was famously introduced with the words, “And finally …” It was always a light-hearted item on something like a dog who could play with a Frisbee or someone’s bottle collection. We moved from a heart-reading story of disaster in China to an item on an eccentric bottle collection and then back to a summary of the headlines with more human misery – all given a certain equivalence in the process.

The alarming thing is not the “And finally” piece itself, but what it reveals about the rest of the news. It highlights the way news has become entertainment. We watch the news to be entertained, hence the inclusion of the “And finally” piece. We love pictures of floods or hurricane or crime busts or police chases or alarming graphics. The numbers of people missing or homeless only add to the wow factor. News is served up for our entertainment.

Newspapers are not much better. Tabloids mix news and entertainment just as much. The Sun newspaper in the UK famously features topless women on page three with captions expressing their concern for our troops in Afghanistan or the victims of the most recent natural disaster. (I must confess I don’t have much first hand knowledge of this so I may be skewed by the satirical representations of it.) The broadsheets at least have the decency to put news and entertainment in different sections, though it is still somewhat anomalous to move from reading about slum poverty or welfare reform to features on expensive house renovations or reviews of restaurants where a typical bill is £50 a head.

There are two dangers we face when we watch the news. The first is that we feel ourselves responsible to do something about all that we now know. We take on the role of saviour and try to sort out the world. And because we cannot do everything we end feeling guilty. We need to trust God. He is the saviour and he is Lord. We can entrust the world to him through prayer.

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Are you doing enough?

I’ve been spending some time in prayer and reflection this week. One of my conclusions is that in church life we can all too easily bounce between competing emphases. In part of this is because we are tyrannized by the question, ‘Are we doing enough …?’ This is always the wrong question to ask.

Let me explain what I mean.

‘Are you doing enough evangelism?’ It’s a very difficult question to answer in the affirmative. Who is going to say, ‘Yes, in fact we’re probably doing too much evangelism’? What about, ‘Are you doing enough praying?’ Or social involvement? Or training? Or pastoral care? Or Bible learning? Or world mission?

I recently gave a gospel community 40 statements and asked them to put a tick by those statements that are clearly true of their community and a cross by those statements that are clearly false. Three-quarters put a cross by the statement, ‘We are actively and generously involved in world mission.’ Now I know that most of this community have been on mission trips in the last two or three years and they are involved in sending and supporting two missionary couples and one single young man in three unevangelized areas, in two of which Christians are regularly persecuted. There is regular news backwards and forwards, and they often pray for these people. So I began to wonder what level of ‘active and generous involvement in world mission’ would have been sufficient for them all the tick this statement. The point is that whatever the answer, it would have been a level that made it very difficult for this small group to tick any of the other statements! Whatever level of involvement in world mission they would have consider adequate would not allow them to sustain an equally adequate involvement in prayer, evangelism, social involvement, training and so on. They were setting themselves impossible targets.

The result is, I think, and I see this in my own ministry, that we bounce between competing emphases in church life. We decide we are not doing enough prayer. After all who is going to say they are doing enough prayer? So we start some new prayer meetings and get everyone praying in small groups. Three months later we feel we are not doing enough evangelism. So we increase our evangelistic activity. Three months later we wonder if everyone is really being fed so we start some Bible study groups. As a result of all this new evangelism and Bible study the prayer meetings have suffered. So three months later we all feel like we don’t do enough praying and the cycle starts all over again.

Perhaps is this okay. Perhaps this is the natural way in which churches calibrate themselves to a proper balance.

But I also wonder whether we need to recognize we are finite. We can’t do everything ‘Are we doing enough …?’ is the wrong question to ask. Perhaps some Christians are lazy, perhaps some church’s lack ambition. I suspect more often the opposite is the case. We need to learn to  celebrate what we are doing and ensure we do it well.

I’m also thinking of encouraging my congregation to ask God to guide them by his Spirit each day. ‘How would you have me serve you today, Lord?’ Maybe if we learn to follow the Spirit’s leading, God will sort out the right balance and enough will be enough.

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Living life out of your control

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.

“I don’t want my life to be explainable without the Holy Spirit.

“I don’t believe God wants me (or any of His children) to live in a way that makes sense from the world’s perspective, a way I know I can ‘manage’. I believe he is calling me – and all of us – to depend on him for living in a way that cannot be mimicked or forged. He wants us to walk in step with his Spirit rather than depend solely on the raw talent and knowledge he’s given us.” (143)

“God wants the praise for what we do in our lives. But if we never pray audacious, courageous prayers, how can he answer them? If we never follow him to positions where we need him, how can he show up and make his presence known?” (150)

No matter where you live and what your days look like, you have the choice each day to depend on yourself, to live safely, and to try to control your life. Or you can live as you were created to live – as a temple of the Holy Spirit of God, as a person dependent on him, desperate for God the Spirit to show up and make a difference. When you begin living a life characterized by walking with the Spirit, that is when people will begin to look not to you but to our Father in heaven and give him the praise.” (156)

“A few months ago I was speaking at a summer camp, and I was speaking to one of the organizations there that sponsors children. This volunteer told me about a 16-year-old girl there at the camp who sponsors 14 children, on her own. I was astonished by this. Fourteen children (at about $30 a month for each child) is a lot of money for a high school student to come up with. I talked to this girl and asked her how she did it. She told me that she works year-round and she works three jobs in the summertime to pay for the child support. While other teenagers are saving for a car, she’s saving lives! Instead of spending her hard-earned money on herself and her future, she gives it to these 14 children because she believes God loves them just as much as he loves her. My prayer is that churchgoers will not dissuade her from this calling.” (163-164)

“Instead of thinking and telling people they are crazy when they feel like the Spirit is leading them into something that doesn’t necessarily make sense to us, we should join them in the discernment process. Instead of discouraging people, we should pray for more insight and boldness. Instead of deadening people to the Spirit’s leading with our words and our actions, we should celebrate and join the Spirit’s movements in and through them!” (165)
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