Adam Hince

The musings of Syndal Baptist Church's Gen Y and Beyond Pastor

Whose church is your church?

Posted on | February 12, 2013 | No Comments

Whose church is your church?

Last Sunday morning (Feb 10, 2013) it was a privilege to be inducted as the Senior Pastor of Essendon Baptist Community Church. As a family we are very excited to have started here, and loving getting to know the people of this church and this part of our city.

Since finishing at Syndal Baptist Church, I’ve had the chance to have 7 weeks off! Whilst moving house consumed the first few weeks – it was a great blessing to have holidays for that long as a family. During that time – I did lots of thinking, especially about church. I was so humbled by all that happened in my farewells at Syndal, and by the expectations that were waiting for me at Essendon that for a while – I felt a bit overwhelmed. I read a passage from the bible that reassured me – and from that, I shared with the congregation at Essendon on Sunday morning.

Jesus and His closest followers were away from the crowd – and Jesus asks a question. “Who do you say that I am?” (Matthew 16:13-20)
Initially – He’s asking what they have heard others say about Him, but then He zeroes in on what THEY think. He wants to check that they perceive Him correctly – as a person’s perception of Jesus will shape all that they experience of Him. And it’s possible to have a perception of Jesus that is inaccurate.

Following that – speaking directly to Peter – Jesus says 5 words that much has been written about. He says “I will build my church”. Often – my eyes have gone straight to the word “build”. For good reason… Jesus wants His church to grow! He wants to build the health of the church, and He wants to build the size of the church. He invites all people to know him, to be changed by Him and in His strength and by His grace truly repent from Sin and live for Him.

In my break – feeling overwhelmed – my eyes went to the two words that follow.
Jesus calls says He will “build MY church” … taking ownership of it.
In the message on Sunday – I put it this way …
“It’s as if the church is in Jesus hands. A church that is in His hands, is in a good place”

The church is described in the bible as ::
The gathered people of God.
The bride of Christ.
The body of Christ.
The temple of the Holy Spirit.

In every way – Jesus is central. And in the same way that we are protective, possessive and passionate about that which is important to us… Jesus is the same about His church.

Those two words forced me to ask myself – “Whose church is my church?”

You see – even though Jesus claims it as His in this part of the bible, what it is to me is something that I can define. It’s possible for us to think the church is “ours”, or to think the church is “theirs”. All sorts of things can lead to that.

If you feel like a church didn’t accept you, your ideas, your limits or even your story – it’s easy to think its “theirs”.
If a leader let you down – maybe they didn’t fulfil a promise, take an interest, or failed to honour their position – it’s easy to think its “theirs”.
If you feel like the church is for a certain kind of person, from a certain kind of family, with a certain amount of money, and a certain amount of happiness – and you don’t fit that mould…. it’s easy to think it’s “theirs”.

For a church to be “yours” is perhaps more deceptive… but just as powerful. It’s possible to own something too much, to even make your own personal ideas and preferences more important than they ought to be.

I’m not sure what it is for you – but for me – knowing that I’m part of Jesus church (both local and global) gives me great peace, and great excitement. And I’m determined to do whatever I can to ensure that the church I am a part of is very much “Jesus Church”.

I encourage you – do whatever it takes to free yourself to be able to see the church that you are a part of that way too!
It’s not always easy – especially when you have been hurt. I know.
But it’s worth it.

What matters most?

Posted on | January 9, 2012 | No Comments

Last night at Syndal Baptist Church, I shared with the people there some of what Jesus taught about what it was important for a person to do. He was asked by a person who we can assume had a good grasp of the 613 commandments found in the Old Testament because he was a teacher of the law, which of those mattered the most.

Jesus said simply… Love God, and Love people.

Those simple lines have complexity when we take them into the different contexts of our lives.We took two questions away from the words of Jesus to ponder through the week…

What does it mean for you, in the various environments in which you live, to love Jesus?

What does it mean for you, in the various relationships that you have, to love others as yourself?


A few people asked me afterwards about loving God… how do you love something you can’t see? Do you love God like you love a girlfriend/boyfriend – or like you love the beach? How do you love someone whom you are not certain loves you back? Francis Chan has written a book called “Crazy Love” where he expands on this idea. I highly recommend you check it out! Below are some excepts from that book (sourced below) that explain a bit more about what it can mean to love God. He calls it a “Profile of the Obsessed” … using “obsessed” to describe the kind of crazy love that people can have for God. He writes….

“People who are obsessed with Jesus give freely and openly, without censure.  Obsessed people love those who hate them and who can never love them back” (p. 132).

“People who are obsessed with Jesus aren’t consumed with their personal safety and comfort above all else.  Obsessed people care more about God’s kingdom coming to this earth than their own lives being shielded from pain or distress” (p. 133).

“People who are obsessed with Jesus live lives that connect them with the poor in some way or another.  Obsessed people believe that Jesus talked about money and the poor so often because it was really important to Him” (p. 135).

“Obsessed people are more concerned with obeying God than doing what is expected or fulfilling the status quo.  A person who is obsessed with Jesus will do things that don’t always make sense in terms of success or wealth on this earth” (p. 136-137).

“A person who is obsessed with Jesus knows that the sin of pride is always a battle.  Obsessed people know that you can never be ‘humble enough,’ and so they seek to make themselves less known and Christ more known” (p. 138).

“People who are obsessed with Jesus do not consider service a burden.  Obsessed people take joy in loving God by loving His people” (p. 139).

“People who are obsessed with God are known as givers, not takers.  Obsessed people genuinely think that others matter as much as they do, and they are particularly aware of those who are poor around the world” (p. 140-141).

“A person who is obsessed thinks about heaven frequently.  Obsessed people orient their lives around eternity; they are not fixed only on what is here in front of them” (p. 142).

“A person who is obsessed is characterized by committed, settled, passionate love for God, above and before every other thing and every other being” (p. 143).

“People who are obsessed are raw with God; they do not attempt to mask the ugliness of their sins or their failures.  Obsessed people don’t put it on for God; He is their safe place, where they can be at peace” (p. 144).

“People who are obsessed with God have an intimate relationship with Him.  They are nourished by God’s Word throughout the day because they know that forty minutes on Sunday is not enough to sustain them for a whole week, especially when they will encounter so many distractions and alternative missions” (p. 145).

“A person who is obsessed with Jesus is more concerned with his or her character than comfort.  Obsessed people know that true joy doesn’t depend on circumstances of environment; it is a gift that must be chosen and cultivated, a gift that ultimately comes from God” (p. 146).

“A person who is obsessed with Jesus knows that the best thing he can do is be faithful to his Savior in every aspect of his life, continually saying, ‘Thank You!’ to God.  An obsessed person knows there can never be intimacy if he is always tyring to pay God back or work hard enough to be worthy.  He revels in his role as child and friend of God” (p. 147-148).

Francis Chan, Crazy Love, (David C. Cook Publishers, Colorado Springs, CO: 2008) pgs. 129-148.

 

One of my heroes…

Posted on | February 23, 2011 | No Comments

Last Sunday at Syndal Baptist Church – I shared with the people there some amazing promises and big challenges from the book of Jeremiah. To really grasp the power of what it means for us today, we need to understand a bit about the person who said it… Jeremiah. An Old Testament Character who is really one of my heroes! Here’s my notes from Sunday about him…

WHO :: Jeremiah – a prophet, specifically Gods spokesperson to the people of Judah. In many ways – an enormous failure. He was a speaker who nobody listened to – God spoke through prophets to cause change in the lives of people, and unfortunately the people to whom Jeremiah spoke didn’t change.

The truth is that God didn’t measure the success of Jeremiah by how much change took place, but by how faithful he was to what God has specifically asked him to do. This is one of the riddles of our faith… and something that is often true for us – through the faithfulness of people, God can do extraordinary things.  Jeremiah was put in prison, dropped in a well, ridiculed and vilified. But at the end – he was proved right. And if people had listened to him – their lives would have been very different.

HOW :: Jeremiah spoke with passion – many say that his words and the way he delivered them embodied not just the words of God, but the heart of God. He wept for them, he spoke with vigour and urgency, he said hard things that needed to be said. He was reluctant – not a gifted communicator whom God used, but someone whom God gifted to communicate. I like reluctant leaders – in the bible, they seem to be prevalent amongst those God chooses to use most.

Jeremiah the book is long – split into different sections, with the first 20 chapters being a summary of various prophecies given about Judah and specifically the fall of Jerusalem, and the final 32 chapters mixing prophetic words with the story of those words being fulfilled. When God keeps his word it brings great comfort – we need to know that He keeps his promise. Jeremiah presents us with that truth in a different way – God keeps his word, and with that comes a healthy kind of fear and respect that is essential for a follower of Jesus.

WHEN :: The people Jeremiah is talking too are relatively happy. He’s speaking about 627 and 585 years before the birth of Jesus Christ. There is a lot going on around the people of Judah – specifically Egypt and Babylon are vying for the position of being the strongest nation in the world. Judah is a small nation – and relies on its relationships with others to survive. It is the relationship they have with God that has been most influential.

It was a small army from Judah that defeated a large army under the leadership of King David – and that season of time has become legendary and created a lot of confidence. The problem is that like most “deals” that God makes with his people, they are conditional on them having a kind of “exclusive” reliance on him. Judah have made a mistake – they’ve kept trusting God, BUT have also aligned themselves with other nations. This alignment has had implications on the way they live, but more importantly it has said something to God. From His perspective – they have turned away from Him. Early in the book – an obscure word tells us a lot about it…

Jeremiah 2:13 (NIV) “My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me,  the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water.”

 God represented the “spring” … an effervescent, reliable – but daily provision of everything they needed. In “digging their own cisterns” … poetically and figuratively the people have said “we don’t want to just depend on what God will bring day to day – we need something else” as a cistern was a hole in the ground in which water was stored. There was no moment where they decided to do this… it’s a bit like us – it’s the adding up of a series of small decisions that ends up making a profound statement to God.

More specifically – Judah sought protection, leadership, provision and salvation from either of the two superpowers (depending who was winning). Those four things were exactly what God had offered and promised to them – if they stayed faithful to Him.

WHY ::  The result of this is that their lives are now on a path of judgement. That will involve them being taken off into exile in Babylon – which is not what they would choose. They will be like prisoners, or at best seekers of Asylum – having few rights, very little power, and a high reliance upon the goodwill and generosity of others. You would think this is not what God had in mind. The trouble was – it was exactly what was on his mind. God is angry, God is frustrated, God has judged.

BUT… there is still a chance to change. We make a mistake when we think Gods Grace only exists in the New Testament. It exists right here. Jeremiah 6:17 fits into this context. It is the only articulation of response given in this section of the book – its simple, clear and demanding. This verse represents what might turn things around for the people. If they will do this, then the future that Jeremiah has seen will not happen.

Into the hands of the people is placed the power and tools for changing direction.

This is beauty of a God who judges, but does not condemn.

The problem is…that the people don’t do what it says. They choose to continue the way they are going, not realising the power and importance of this warning! The passage itself says “But you said, ‘We will not walk in it.” They end up in captivity, choosing it by virtue of them not choosing to stand, look, ask, walk and rest.

Today – in this series… we aren’t thinking that a pathway of doom lies ahead, and we’re pretty sure that slavery does not await. BUT – these words of challenge and rebuke offer a hopeful and life changing pathway that we are foolish to ignore.

The book of Jeremiah, and perhaps specifically this verse teach us about the word “repentance”. It is critical to our faith. In fact – it differentiates the Christian faith from other  faiths. It’s a word that houses the greatest challenge of our faith, but also its greatest invitation. Even this community of people spoken to in Jeremiah can still turn around – to future is inevitable, no habit is unbreakable, no wound is un-healable – if we will turn towards the God who can do all things.

Its true that God loves us no matter what – He deeply loved the people to whom this prophecy was given. But that love fuelled a vision for their lives, and demanded a response that was strong and meaningful.

When exactly is “Gods Time”?

Posted on | January 17, 2011 | No Comments

There have been several important experiences in my life, where afterwards I’ve been astounded at the “perfect timing” of something. Sometimes it’s been the visit at just the “right time” from someone whom I needed to see. There have been many times where someone has said something at just the “appropriate time” for me. There have been times where I’ve done something just “in time”. Have you had times like that?

Last night at Syndal Baptist – I preached the final message of a series about “time”, looking specifically at “Gods Time” and some of the important assumptions that fuel my belief that Gods leadership in my life is the best leadership I could follow. God created time, God is above time, and God works at the “right time” …these were the three key truths. There is always going to be LOTS of grey in terms of what exactly the “right time” is, however – and this is perhaps the real answer that I seek when I ask questions of God and his timing

In the bible, there are more than 100 references to the phrases “the right time”, “the appropriate time”, “in due time”, and “the time had come”. And each carry this sense of that “time” not just being random, not being a force of fate – but actually being “Gods Time”… the time He had planned, the time He was anticipating, the time that He thinks best. In coming days, I’ll blog more specifically about this!

I feel like I spend a lot of my time waiting for the “right time”… and as an impatient person, this is very character building for me. All of us at some point have dreams about our future – dreams about the kind of person we’ll become, the kind of people we’ll have as friends, the kind of person we’ll marry, the kind of kids we’ll have, the kind of career path we’ll follow, the kind of financial situation that we’ll be in…. and we may also have dreams for others in our lives – dreams for our kids, dreams for our friends and so on. Rarely has my actual timeline matched up to the ones that I’ve dreamt up…. Has that been your experience? Waiting seems to be something that we need to be good at.

The bible speaks about this in a number of places. My favourite is found in Isaiah 30:18, and in the NLT it says But the Lord still waits for you to come to Him, so He can show you his love and compassion. For the Lord is a faithful God. Blessed are those who wait for him to help them.”

What these passages DO NOT promise…

  • God will give you what you what because you waited the right way.
  • God will honour every desire of your heart because you wait for him to provide them.
  • God will always meet our expectations if we wait long enough.

 What this passage DOES promise…

  • God will be what you need regardless of all else.
  • Gods love and compassion are not connected to the circumstances of our lives.
  • God waits… For us.

God created time, is above time, and works at the “right time” … and sometimes, Gods timing and mine are quite as in sync as they ought to be. I can sync my phone with the push of a button, but I can’t sync Gods heart and my heart, and Gods plans with my expectations that easily. If only we all could! The truth is that if we could simply run a “sync” and be happy – we may well be asking more of God than he wants to offer. God invites us to trust Him, even while we’re waiting – and waiting is often for me like a cancer to trust. While I’m waiting – I need to know what to focus on to maintain the right level of trust to see me through to the “right time”. I’ll write some more about that next time!

“My days are numbered…”

Posted on | January 7, 2011 | No Comments

“My days are numbered….”

This was the idea we spent some time looking at in our 6pm Service at Syndal Baptist  on January 2. We took it from Psalm 90, a part of the bible written by Moses, in which he asks God this… “Teach us to number our days, so that we may gain a heart of wisdom”.

There are four ways that I think we can apply this to life. The first is simply to live like every second of every day counts. This thought alone may send your stress levels up… and it probably should! A little bit of intensity targeted at the right things is crucial to us doing important things well. Living like every second counts means we plan our time, we evaluate the way we spend it (and treat it like it’s a precious resource) and we achieve things with it. For me, a big challenge is to ensure my definition of “achieve” is set correctly. It’s very easy for me to feel like the completing of tasks = achieving something meaningful. But to rest well is an achievement, to simply “be there” for a friend is an achievement, to not do something that boredom might otherwise permit is also an achievement.

A second way of living like your “days are numbered” is to live every day like it might be your last. Nickleback sing a great song about it!  While there is a touch of morbidity about it, there is something about seeing the end that effects how we do a journey in the “now”. As a pastor, there have been several times where I have visited people when death is very close for them. It’s amazing what becomes important. I’ve been with one person who HAD to see a friend and tell them he had forgiven them. I’ve been with one older man who HAD to know that his affairs were in order and that his wife would be taken good care of. I’ve been with a woman who HAD to see her ex-husband and ask for his forgiveness. I’m sure there are others (try watching “The Bucket List” for some other ideas on this).

A third way is very similar to the second, and it is to live like you can’t come back tomorrow. My wife often asks me to do things, which instead of me doing straight away… I promise to do it “sometime”. The thing is that I end up with lots and lots of things that all only take a little bit of time individually – but a whole day when done together. I try to do things straight away when I can. I try to leave my office clean every day I leave work. I clean out my in-tray, inbox and even try to empty the bin as I go. It means I start each day with at least the appearance of having finished one day and starting another afresh. Un-finished things are a bit reason why some people don’t sleep well! Not everything can be “finished” in a day though – learning to relax into a sense of knowing what you can do and being willing to let the rest wait is very important. But some things – especially relational things – if left for too long, only get worse. What do you have unfinished at the moment, which if finished, would make a difference to your life?

The final way is the most easily forgotten and yet most uplifting way… and it is to count your blessings. When I first read the words “number your days” I pictured planners and diaries in my mind, and the need to schedule things well. Then I found that “number” can also mean simply “record”. Looking forward is good, but looking back also good. If we fail to reflect well – we may simply keep making the same mistakes, we may miss some great moments that in context may shape the next day or more, we may also be guilty of being ungrateful for the many things that happen in life that are good. For this next little while, I’m changing the way I do my daily journaling. Instead of writing just about what I’m feeling or what I’m learning or what I’m worried about (all good things for me to get out of my head and onto some paper!), I spending time writing in detail about what happened the previous day that I’m grateful for.

For those who love practical lists and ideas… here’s a list of practical ways to do these four ideas. I would be really interested to hear if there are other things that you do!

Some tips for making the most of your time ::

  1. Count your blessings… look back and see what’s been good and be thankful.
  2. Reflect… look back and squeeze out what you’ve learned even from the pain.
  3. Check the status of things… is anything unfinished that doesn’t need to be?
  4. For one week…  record how you spend your time.
  5. For everyday… make a list of the things you need to do every single day.
  6. For the next little while… make a list of  things that you need to get “done” in 6 weeks.
  7. For the year 2011… what sort of things do you need to progress in as a person?
  8. For life… have a bucket list – things you want to do before you die.
  9. Buy a diary.
  10. Use a diary.

Time… where does it go??

Posted on | January 4, 2011 | No Comments

Time … where does it go?

Have you ever wondered where time went? Maybe you got totally engrossed in a movie or a book, played Playstation or Xbox, or maybe it was in conversation with a real person… I know that each of those settings and more are environments where it has at times felt as if time disappeared. Another reminder of the passing of time is New Years Eve. Amongst all the things said on that night, it was the number of times that people said to me “I can’t believe how fast this year has gone!” that was almost getting annoying after a while. It makes me wonder if time is actually in fact speeding up?

At the 6pm service at Syndal Baptist Church through the month of January, we are spending three weeks looking at three passages with something to say about “Time”. On January 2, we looked at Psalm 90 and in particular the middle verse which said “Teach us to number our days, so that we may gain a heart of wisdom”.  Amongst the other things we looked at, we focused on the idea that all our days are numbered, and thus every second of our lives counts.

That  phrase “teach us to number our days” has been translated many ways from its original language.  However you read it – it’s a life changing principal. It means to live like every second of your time counts (or is important), it means to live like today might be your last day, it means to live as if you can’t come back tomorrow, and it also means to “count your blessings” and be appreciative and aware of what has been and not just what is to come. I’ll write more about these four things through this week.

Those four things – if applied to life – should change it! The reaction of many though, is to simply feel a mix of pressure, guilt, shame and frustration about how we spend our time when we think about such things. I know that I feel that – especially when I’ve failed for no good reason to make the most of the hours in a day (and watching a whole day of Test Cricket IS a good investment of time).

The writer of Psalm 90 was Moses, a man whose best years were spent leading a group of people as they wandered around the desert waiting to get into the “promised land”. It seems that his disappointment or regret become something other than a negative though  – in fact I reckon it built a resolve to literally make every second count, that motivated and stirred him to do life differently.  His life certainly mattered long before he wrote this – but his choice of words gain weight when you think about his context and life story.

Often – its hindsight that allows us to see what could be different. Or its when people get older that they start to live life like every second counts because they capture a sense of what it means to have limited time! I’m praying for more of the kind of motivation and resolve that Moses had in 2011, before too much time is wasted or passes and I realise that I can’t do what I could do in the time that is left.

Andy Stanley from Northpoint Church taught a series on this that I’ve listened to and drawn some insights from. You can watch or listen to those messages here .

Good vs Evil :: An unseen battle shaping the visible world.

Posted on | July 12, 2010 | 1 Comment

Even as I write that heading – there is a part of me that just thinks it sounds a little more like science fiction than reality! But … as those who were at Syndal Baptist Church last night learned – it is something which the bible challenges us to believe and engage in.

Some of the things that are said in the bible Good and Evil are…

–          Both have been there from the beginning of creation. The story of the Garden of Eden introduces both – with “evil” personified in a snake, reminding us that evil can be subtle, hidden and even dismissed easily. Followers of Jesus need to choose to be aware and conscious – without living in fear.

–          The stories of Job and Daniel teach us that the battle between good and evil is read and tense … a genuine fight, whose implications have tangible effects on life as we see it. We must be careful of two extremes.

One extreme being a belief that “everything is the devils fault!”. There is a danger in giving evil more credit than it deserves – there are lots of reasons that bad things happen – and while “evil” (personified often as the devil or Satan) is certainly one influence, fallen humans, a fallen world and at times an active and redeeming God all play their parts. The other extreme is the belief that either the devil doesn’t exist, or has no power. I’ve talked to a number followers of Jesus lately who hold this belief – and it’s one that I strongly disagree with.

–          The stories of Jesus time on earth are often punctuated by little battles between good and evil. Jesus was strong enough for the very best that evil could throw at him, or at any human. He was wiser, stronger and  more powerful than any of the demons he encounters – and loving and gracious to enough to both set people free from the influence of evil and bring healing and restoration. Importantly  – the stories of Jesus separate healing from “deliverance” (a word used to describe what happens when someone has an evil spirit removed).

–          The book of Revelation tells many stories – one being the culmination of this battle between good and evil. This is not a battle that “good” wins, but rather a battle that “God” wins.  The best thing for people to do with this battle in mind, is get & stay as close to Jesus as they can.

The Book of Acts tells several specific stories about battles between good and evil, with the reality of both being the sub plot to the WHOLE story.  In Acts 19:13-17, this story is told…

“A group of Jews was travelling from town to town casting out evil spirits. They tried to use the name of the Lord Jesus in their incantation, saying, “I command you in the name of Jesus, whom Paul preaches, to come out!” 14 Seven sons of Sceva, a leading priest, were doing this. 15 But one time when they tried it, the evil spirit replied, “I know Jesus, and I know Paul, but who are you?” 16 Then the man with the evil spirit leaped on them, overpowered them, and attacked them with such violence that they fled from the house, naked and battered.  17 The story of what happened spread quickly all through Ephesus, to Jews and Greeks alike. A solemn fear descended on the city, and the name of the Lord Jesus was greatly honored.”

 

What did these seven sons do wrong and what would they have learned from the experience about the battle between good and evil?

 1.      Good vs Evil … it’s not a game.

I think that these boys were a little overconfident, and inexperienced in their decision making. They did not know seem to really grasp what was going on. Stories of Jesus working this way were well told, and the legend of Paul’s work and the Apostles would only have added to it. But it seems that they themselves lacked first hand, accurate knowledge. You cannot borrow someone else’s experience in life!

Next time?  I reckon they would be more humble, and take it more seriously.

Not humble to the evil, but humble before God.

2.      Good vs Evil… its real, and sometimes complex.

 A lot of the Devils work is permitted simply through the absence of awareness. Neither total ignorance nor totally obsession are healthy – but as with all things there is a balance we should seek after.

 Next time?  I reckon they would be more aware.

Theology is word used to describe our knowledge of God. It is built from the bible, from experience (our own and others) and from reason (our intellect and collected wisdom).  All followers of Jesus need a “theology” that is growing, yet secure. That theology should shape our awareness of even that which we cannot see.

3.      Good vs Evil… not something best battled out alone.

As with all things followers of Jesus might engage in … its always “better together”. The more isolated we are, the more alone we are … the more vulnerable we are. There is safety in numbers – more to keep watch, more to pray, more to protect. Its especially helpful when those “numbers” are experience, knowledge and strength that you lack.

Next time? I reckon they would make sure they weren’t fighting alone.

What do you think about this?

I must confess – its hard not to learn about the battle between good and evil without thinking of Star Wars, Lord of the Rings or any of the many films devoted to it. The bible tells many stories about it – but those stories aren’t Gods way of scaring people into beleiving in Him. I think that’s important to acknowelge. The over arching lesson I am left with is that while there is much I don’t yet understand about the battle between good and evil and its effect on my life… the bible challenges me and invites me to know Jesus as best I can, to trust him as much as possible and depend on Him as a protector and helper in ways that perhaps I will never see.

More later in the week!

Adam.

“I have something to confess….”

Posted on | June 28, 2010 | 2 Comments

Usually when I read that as a headline – I get either curious, or nervous. Either way it suggests that something I don’t know is about to become known! Confession is something that has an uncomfortable, uneasy and unnatural edge to it for me – it always has. So when someone else does it, or has to do it … then I tend to listen and feel for them greatly.

Last night, at Syndal Baptist – I shared from a story you will find in the Book of Acts, chapter 19. Every word of the story is valuable, but we focused most of our time on just a snapshot of what happened when a group of people encountered the grace and power of Jesus for themselves. The story tells us that “many who believed now came and openly confessed their evil deeds” (Acts 19:18).  They came and shared their secrets, they admitted their mistakes, they were honest about their inner and outer lives, they brought into the light that which had been in the dark.

A few things about this in the story…

It was a choice. Nobody forced them to, it wasn’t a “rite of passage” either. I wonder if as it started, people started to feel permission to be open themselves? I wonder if people as people saw the effect of what was happening (People being free? People being loved? People being helped?) they wanted that same result in their own lives?

It was public. No booth, no quietness of the heart… a public hearing! This must have been an amazing gathering… so much authenticity, honesty and trust – and so much hope!

It was costly. I’ll write more about this another day – but the story tells us that as well as telling people what had been going on, people brought out the things with which they had been doing evil. In that culture – it was lots to do with witchcraft and the occult – and the spells that they destroyed would have been worth millions! Jesus Christ did make it really clear that following Him would be costly… and not just to Him.

 It was an action. It wasn’t just words. Following Jesus and responding to grace demands action. Too often I have craved a passive road where Jesus will sort out my issues for me, when the thing He is waiting for is for me to respond to Him and simply follow Him in action.

 It was effective. The story finishes with an inspiring phrase – “in this way the word of the Lord spread widely and grew in power”. The “this” points people back to what has just been said in the original language, and suggests that it was this openness, this action, this confession that was a vehicle for God being able to do increasingly more work in the lives of people.

As a follower of Jesus, confession is something that I have always known about and been encouraged to do in different ways. My understanding of it has grown significantly, from it being something that happened between me and God – towards being something that is an essential part of growing and developing. Following Jesus is challenging – He invites me to live  in a way that is different to what my nature often craves, in way different to many of the lives that I observe (or especially saw during High School and Uni years) and in ways that sometimes seem just plain impossible.  But – the thing I keep learning about Jesus invitation and challenge for my life, is that He bases all His expectations on what He can do, not just what I can achieve. This principle in itself is something I am still trying to grasp!

Confession is often spoken of as some kind of “cleansing of the soul” … something we do to purge guilt, something that allows us to feel less guilty (because we have confessed), or even as if it’s a necessary “rite of passage” on the way to being forgiven. Its often private – either just a 1:1 with God (“in the quietness of your heart” I’ve often heard people say in church services), or for my Catholic friends a 1:1 in a booth. Both are valid, but both incomplete in terms of what the bible teaches about the power, need and effect of confession.

Confession is a part of what I do with some trusted friends. Not because I must, but because I can.

How do you feel about it?

Have a look at this clip ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KgmQM9cDPHk ) for an example what I don’t think confession is meant to be like!

This story reminds me that confession can be life giving, celebratory, even inspirational. It brings accountability, it brings help and motivation, it breaks down the strength of addiction and outside pressures. Confession is hard too. When I face the prospect of doing it – I feel …

–          Embarrassed… I fear that I will share something that nobody else ever struggles with.

–          Proud… I worry about people thinking less of me.

–          Fearful… of what people might do with the information.

–          Frustrated… the outcomes might be inconvenient or demanding.

But none of those are good reasons to not do it, when compared with the power, strength and freedom that it provides.

I’m not sure that we all need to confess everything to everyone all the time. I’m not sure about “YouTube confessionals” either… but I am sure that in my life – the confession of sin with trusted friends has been a great habit for me to pursue.

I think it’s something to consider! Next time, I’ll write some more about the “how” of this.

I’d love to hear your questions or thoughts about it!

Passion and Faith

Posted on | May 20, 2010 | 1 Comment

Although I’ve had some understanding of the Christian faith for most of my life, it would be fair to say that my heart was engaged a long time before my head was. I had simple trust, and asked few questions. What brought me to a point of early conviction about Jesus Christ was a feeling of His love, and a genuine desire to live life with and for Him. Later on, my head caught up a bit… and I started to question, started to find it harder to believe and even started to doubt. But I did again reach a point of conviction – this time in my mind. As a teenager – I decided that Jesus Christ was not just the option I wanted or felt compelled to follow, He was in fact the best person for me to believe in and trust (i.e. have faith in) and commit my life to.

Faith and feeling have always been mixed for me – generally I’m more of a thinker than a feeler, so the blend isn’t perfect, but its there nonetheless. This mix is true for any genuine experience of the Christian faith. The bible speaks often both the heart and wisdom. The bible quotes God saying that “He will write His law on the hearts of people” and Jesus Christ made it even more clear when He taught that the greatest thing for humans to do was to love God with all their hearts, souls, minds and strength.

In the Book of Acts, Chapter two – a big group of people listen to a long but powerful explanation about the character, work and invitation of Jesus Christ for all people. At the end of that explanation, the inward response of those listening is described in a few simple words “they were cut to the heart“. This was almost a scientific or forensic statement – like a knife had literally dissected their core! It was a way of expressing deep conviction, deep desire and deep understanding. These people heard the story of Jesus, heard about who He was and what He did and what it meant… and they got it deep down in their hearts. An amazing story! For me – this is a feeling I will call “passion” … and its often the feeling I most crave in response to Jesus Christ. Acts of worship, service, daily routines of devotion and choices to commit to Jesus way of living all are made easy by a strong sense of passion! But I find myself often living with less of that than I would love to have.

In the story… What follows this description is an instruction – repent and be baptised. These were HUGE things to ask! To repent meant to abandon thoughts, actions and patterns of living that had been normal and desired. It starts with a feeling of remorse, becomes a desire to change, and comes to describe to taking of a new direction. This was not easy, yet because they were “cut to the heart” even this big ask was embraced by 3000 people. To be baptised was also specific and challenging. It had a physical meaning – challenging people to partake in the sacrament of baptism (the act of a person being immersed in water as a profession of their faith in Jesus Christ and commitment to live with and for Him). It had a simpler meaning too – but one that was much more than just a “once off” act. The word “baptise” comes from a simple Greek word meaning to “immerse”. Like you would do with a dish you were washing or what you do with yourself when you dive into a pool. This simpler meaning was connected to repentance – in that as one turned away from a certain way of living – they embraced a new one! And that “embrace” was a natural outworking of a person immersing themselves in the one who is inviting, challenging and enabling them to change.

Passion does things to people. Its motivating and makes even the difficult things of life, life giving. I heard recently that “I am responsible for my own passion” … and I felt like I agreed with that, but was annoyed by it. Most of my experiences have been, and most of the stories I hear about others experiences tell me that passion is something built from the outside! Yet it would seem that I have a role to play in generating it, fueling it and protecting it.

As I read this part of the book of Acts … I found myself asking myself three questions ::

1. When was the last time I was “cut to the heart” by Jesus?

    And am I sufficiently passionate enough about Him right now?

   And am I doing what is in my power to do – to generate, fuel and protect my passion for Jesus Christ.

2. What is it that I’m being invited to turn away from or abandon that I’m not willing or able to turn away from?

     What is it that makes me unwilling or unable?

3. How immersed am I in Jesus Christ? Am I just busy doing Christian things, or am I truly throwing myself into Him?

    How do I differentiate between just “doing Christian things” and immersing myself in Jesus?

You might have the same questions or more – if you do … I’d love to hear them!

Am I missing something?

Posted on | May 17, 2010 | 2 Comments

Last night at Syndal Baptist Church, I shared some thoughts from a part of the bible that I love – the Book of Acts. It tells the story of how the Christian church started, and what it was like to be a follower of Jesus in that time. There are a few reasons I love it… here are some!

– I love that it shows how the story of God unfolds in a world that is far from ideal and perfect. For many, once life starts to get hard (inevitably) and things don’t quite go the ways we expect… our doubts in even the existence of God, let alone the goodness of God start to rise. The level of motivation and inspiration to live a life in response to Jesus invitation becomes harder to, and compromises start to creep in. My experience has been that Jesus Christ works well in chaos, and invites me to do the same in partnership with him. I love this kind of challenge – to be brave, counter cultural and tenacious.

– I love it that the story has details. I’ve grown up with a good knowledge of the basics in many areas of life, but as I grow older and get more grey hair… I’m learning there is power in the details. This story details the kind of people who did great things, it details the kind of expectations that I ought to have, it details the kind of beliefs that could be mine and it details through story the kind of life I am meant to be living. Its easy to measure success or failure with a few “Key Performance Indicators” … but I’m increasingly conscious of Jesus invitation to devote every detail of my life to Him.

– I love that its a passionate story… one with feeling, emotion and vigour. I’m much more of a “thinker” than I am a “feeler” – so I often find the “feeling” side of my faith in Jesus Christ to be something I’m not sure how far to take. The Book of Acts reminds me that my heart matters a lot to Jesus Christ – and the most crucial part of my response to Him. Jesus doesn’t just want my discipline, nor does He want reluctant obedience… He wants my heart to be broken by and for Him … and for my life to tell the story of that.

My three year old boy is starting to want me to read longer stories to him now. The other night I was doing so, when he said to me (word for word!) “Dad, I’ve realised that you don’t read me every page when you read me this book!” And he was right… I’d skipped at least half the pages in the interests of making sure I didn’t miss the start of The Pacific! My boy has a keen eye for what is missing – and I think that is a great thing! The Book of Acts is a story that causes me to ask myself … “Am I missing something??” Is there something about my beliefs, my experiences, my character or even my hopes and dreams that is lacking? I’m reminded often that I am not all that I could, should or would be … and growth and change don’t happen naturally. I need to be intentional, and inspired to make sure that I do something about the gaps in my own life – if I’m to play a meaningful role in the lives of others.

Tomorrow – I’ll write about “passion” … the Book of Acts challenges me to ask myself  if I’m missing that!

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