Apparently I’m a Worldly Calvinist!

After reading the article ‘The Merger of Calvinism with Worldliness’ by Peter Masters (his comments on Collin Hansen’s book Young, Restless, Reformed) in the latest issue of Sword & Trowel I’ve come to realise that I’m a Worldly Calvinist. 

What makes me a Worldly Calvinist?  I’m a Calvinist who likes contemporary worship music.  

Although Masters points out four issues which he says contradicts a genuine Calvinistic outlook the focus is on how the Calvinistic resurgence reported by Hansen’s book is a mix of Calvinism with contemporary charismatic-ethos worship (“worldly-worship variety”). 

So for example: 

Passion conference: “young people revelled in contemporary music, and listened to speakers such as John Piper proclaiming Calvinistic sentiments”. 

Resolved: “usual mix of Calvinism and extreme charismatic-style worship” “worldly, showbusiness atmosphere created by the organisers” 

Described large conferences: “at which the syncretism of worldly, sensation-stirring, high-decibel, rhythmic music, is mixed with Calvinistic doctrine”. 

Mars Hill Seattle: “the most ear-splitting music of any”. 

He then goes on to talk about how New Calvinism is encouraging people to become friends with the world but again the issue is in the area of style of music. 

The examples he gives: 

“When a secular rapper named Curtis Allen was converted, his new-born Christian instinct led him to give up his past life and his singing style.  But Pastor Joshua Harris evidently persuaded him not to, so that he could sing for the Lord.” 

On the book Worldliness (edited by CJ Mahaney) he says that it: “hopelessly under-equips young believers for separation from the world, especially in the area of music, where, apparently, the Lord loves every genre.” 

I agree with Masters concern that we aren’t of the world but I’m not convinced that liking or preferring a contemporary style of music makes you worldly.  Even though I’m not convinced by Masters argument, I did find it a helpful reminder that there is a danger of becoming united to the world.  

Am I a Worldly Calvinist?  It depends whether you agree or disagree with article. 

Read ‘The Merger of Calvinism with Worldliness’ online HERE

Subscribe to Sword & Trowel HERE (which I highly recommend; even though I don’t always agree fully with what Peter Masters says, I appreciate that his writing always gets me thinking). 

The Contemporary Calvinist comments on the article HERE.

Real Lives (DJ Carswell)

Real Lives by D.J. Carswell is a book full of examples that show that the gospel is the power of God to save those who believe in Jesus.  It’s highly readable and great value for money (only £2)!

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Real Lives contains the stories of 13 people who have been saved by the gospel.  I really enjoyed reading their stories and seeing God’s amazing grace at work in their lives.

The thirteen people whose stories are told are all real people and are all different, (from a famous footballer, to a backpacker exploring the states, to an alcoholic working in London), but there was one thing they all had in common, they were saved by the gospel and their lives were changed.  

As I read each of the stories, I was struck by the number of different ways that people came into contact with the power of the gospel.  Here are some of ways the people in book did: through a tract; an invite to an event; a work colleague; a biography of a Christian; by a family member becoming a Christian; in recalling Bible verses learnt as a child; being impressed by behaviour of Christians; or just reading the Bible.  

Real Lives is a perfect book to give to non-Christians because each chapter contains an explanation of the gospel, and give evidence that show that the gospel works in the changed life it brings about.  In the final chapter, it also gives a straightforward summary of who Jesus is and what He’s done.

It is also a great book for Christians to read and see God’s saving power at work, and then buy extra copies to give away to non-Christian friends and families. 

Real Lives is available to buy from 10ofthose.com HERE.  

Check out the great offer for 100 copies of this book as part of The Real Giveaway HERE

Also check out the article by Roger Carswell about doing a ‘Real Lives’ mission HERE.

The Need for Family-Based Youth Ministry

I have enjoyed reading Family-Based Youth Ministry by Mark DeVries.  Before writing one of my book recommendations I will post a three part summary of the book.  The first part below deals with what I’m calling the need for family-based youth ministry which covers the first 6 chapters of the book.

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The Need for Family-Based Youth Ministry 

Chapter 1: Something’s Wrong The Crisis in Traditional Youth Ministry

There is a crisis in youth ministry today.  The crisis is not getting teenagers to come to our youth meetings but rather that we have not been effective in leading our young people to mature Christian adulthood.  More teenagers are participating in our programs but they are not growing up into adults who participate in church.

One of the dangers in youth ministry is that youth workers and churches evaluate their success or failure by the wrong numbers.  They spend huge amounts of effect and energy getting more teenagers to participate while ignoring most of the ones that God has already given them.

Chapter 2: Is Anybody Out There? The Growth of Teenage Isolation

The main cause of this current crisis is the way that our culture and our churches have systematically isolated young people from the very relationships that are most likely to lead them to maturity.  Young people grow in maturity generally, and maturity in Christ particularly, by being around those who exhibit such maturity themselves.

9 cultural shifts have taken place which has increasingly separated children and young people from the world of adults (taken from Urie Bronfenbrenner). 

  1. Father’s vocational choices that remove them from the home for lengthy periods of time.
  2. An increase in the number of working mothers.
  3. A critical escalation in the divorce rate.
  4. A rapid increase in single-parent families.
  5. A steady decline in the extended family.
  6. The evolution of the physical environment of the home (family rooms, playrooms and master bedrooms).
  7. The replacement of adults by the peer group.
  8. The isolation of children from the work world.
  9. The insulation of schools from the rest of society.

There are now today, less opportunities for children and young people to be with adults in the neighbourhood, schools, social activities, families and church.  Hanging out with friends or partying in an adult-free home has become the norm for the teenager’s social life.

Church is possibly where youth are segregated the most from the world of adults.  Youth programmes keep them separate from the rest of the church.  Even when adults and young people do worship together, they sit in peer groups – adults with adults, youth with youth etc.

Chapter 3: The Developmental Disaster The Impact of Teenage Isolation

There are a number of things this isolation of teenagers from adults brings:

1) Teenagers won’t learn the skill required of mature adults.  Maturation occurs as less mature have repeated opportunities to observe, dialogue, and collaborate with the more mature.  This does not happen in a peer centred Sunday School class. 

Youth culture keeps young people in youth rather than moving them towards adulthood.  Young people who sit together in church tend to act like children.  Young people who sit with parents, or who are divided amongst the rest of the congregation imitate the behaviour of the adults they are with.

2) The media now plays a more powerful role in the formation of teenagers values .

3) Teenagers are severely limited in their ability to think critically, leaving them easily swayed by what feels right at the moment.

4) Peer influence correlates closely with the rise in rebellion, resistance, chemical abuse, and promiscuity. 

Chapter 4: Sitting on a Gold Mine The Power of the Nuclear Family

What happens in the youth group has miniscule impact compared to what children learn on a day to day basis as they do the everyday things of life in and with their families.  The best long term youth leaders are parents themselves because they ultimately have the greatest interests in their kids.

Research has found a number of things to support this: It’s found that parents remain the single most important influence in the development of a teenager’s personality.  It’s found that parents who talk about faith and invite their children in serving alongside them can double and sometimes triple their children’s chances of living out their faith as adults.

This shows how important it is to equip fathers and mothers to play a more active role in the religious education of their children.  Parents play a role second only to the Holy Spirit in building the spiritual foundation of their children’s lives.

However, it’s also important to remember that the parent’s power to build up is matched by their power to cause harm.

Chapter 5: The Critical Care Unit The Peculiar Crisis in Today’s Christian Family

There are some barriers to involving more parents in youth ministry.

Here are three of the biggest:

1) Parents are not mature Christian adults themselves.

2) Parents are feeling helpless when it comes to providing for the Christian nurture of their own children.

3) Parents are victims of their own schedule – they are too busy.

Chapter 6: Stacking the Stands The Power of the Extended Christian Family

Every teenager needs an extended family of Christian adults – adults who can be a part of the cloud of witnesses that cheers them on.  Church is where teenagers are exposed to these adults.  An extended Christian family is a community of believers who affirm and encourage growth toward Christian maturity.  Only church and family can provide Christian nurture from birth to old age – even death.

The extended Christian family can be equally as powerful in faith formation as parents, especially for those who come from non-Christian homes.  Research has found that when person reaches mature Christian adulthood they often will point to the influence of a godly parent or Christian adult who modelled what being an adult Christian was all about.  It’s important that teenagers are give opportunities to build connections with Christian adults.

When the church and family abandon their role of helping young people navigate passage to adulthood, the teenager becomes more susceptible to influence of friends, music and media.

Often it is the stronger youth programmes that weaken the chances that young people will remain in the church, because participation in the youth programme takes the place of participation in the church.

London Men’s Convention 2009 – He rose to rule

Here are my notes from Tim Keller’s second talk on John 20:1-3, 10-18 at the London Men’s Convention 2009.  This third session focused on Jesus, He rose to rule.

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The connection between death and resurrection in John’s gospel has to do with faith.  The cross itself does not produce faith.  People looked at the cross and said God can’t bring good out of this.  But what triggered saving faith, faith in the cross, was the resurrection. 

Three marks of faith that the resurrection triggers: 

1) Faith rests in truth 

Jesus said He would rise again over and over again.  He said it so often that His enemies had heard it so they put guards next to the tomb.  You would have thought His disciples would have said: “It’s the third day, let’s have a look!” 

What evidence would your friends need to believe that Jesus was raised from the dead?  See Him, touch Him, see Him eat, see Him lots of times.  This is exactly what we’ve got in the Gospels.  Jesus gave the evidence that broke through these barriers. 

If you were making up a story about Jesus rising from the dead, you wouldn’t put women as the first eyewitnesses.  The reason why women were the first witnesses was because it happened that way.  Historical evidence is powerful.  Believe in Christianity because it’s true. 

2) Faith comes by grace 

All around Mary is evidence, the angels in front and the Lord behind, but she still thinks it’s a disaster.  Even if you don’t think Jesus is near you, He is.  Jesus breaks through and sends her as the first messenger.  How clear does Jesus make it that salvation is by grace.  He chooses a women not a man, a former mental health patient as the first messenger.  This salvation is as much hers as ours.  She was at the bottom of the pecking order but He chose her.  

3) Faith works through love 

Mary was grabbing hold of Jesus to never let Him go (v17).  But Jesus is saying once I’m ascended you’ll still have me.  I’m about to ascend to the Father and send the Holy Spirit and you’ll have me.  The Spirit brings my presence in your life.  Don’t be satisfied with just the objective side.  Jesus can come into your hear now. 

Be willing to pray and meditate on His Word so you get to a place where He touches you.  Let the resurrection not only convince your mind but let you have Him.

London Men’s Convention 2009 – He Came as King

Here are my notes from Wes McNabb’s exposition of Matthew 14:22-33 at the London Men’s Convention 2009.  This first main session focused on Jesus, He came as King.

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Introduction 

London’s greatest need is for men to be vibrant worshippers of the King, acknowledging Him as the Son of God and living transformed lives. 

Do you love Jesus?  How can you not?  Has Jesus captivated your hearts?  Does your wife, children, friends, know that you’re mad about Jesus, that He’s precious to you?  This man deserves your worship, does he have it? 

He came as King like no other.  When was the last time you went to a baptism and heaven opened and God Almighty speaks. 

1) King of Authority (v22-23) 

Look how He dismisses the crowd, how He tells the disciples to get in the boat.  His authority is staggering.  Thousands ready to crown Him as King and He sent them home.  He has authority over life and death, angels and Satan, you and me.  One day every knee will bow and acknowledge King Jesus as Lord. 

2) King of Knowledge (v24-25) 

Knowledge of everything – even our greatest dilemmas.  Disciples are in the middle of a storm but Jesus knows exactly where they are.  Maybe there are storms in your life (marriage, finances etc), take heart Jesus knows exactly what’s going on.  Its pitch black and Jesus walks straight to them.  We’re his children; it’s his business to know where we are.  Maybe nobody understands what you’re going through, King Jesus does, and He says He’ll be with you to the end of the age. 

3) King of Love (v26-31) 

Love that is outrageous and unconditional.  Disciples are terrified but Jesus full of love and compassion speaks reassuring words to people who thought He was a ghost.  Maybe you need to hear His words ‘Don’t be afraid, take courage’.  Jesus says ‘Come’ to Peter.  What Jesus says to each of us when we ask for His forgiveness and mercy.  Peter begins to sink and cries out ‘Lord save me’.  Jesus couldn’t let Peter drown and as the King of love saves Him.  Do you remember when Jesus did that for you?  Jesus can meet your greatest need. 

4) King of Power (v32-33) 

Power that brings us to our knees.  Are you still unsure that Jesus deserves your worship?  When they climbed into the boat the wind died down.  Do you know anyone who can control the weather?  Here is someone who is all-powerful.  When we think of things that are impossible, remember Jesus delights to do the impossible.  We’re so weak and helpless, not King Jesus. 

Conclusion 

Has Jesus won your heart?  Are you sorry that you’ve let other things take His place and want to be taken up with Jesus again?  

Be passionate about power of Jesus to change people.  No-one comes close to Jesus.  Will your worship of Jesus enable you to address London’s greatest need? 

How dare we not be lost in wonder, love and praise to King Jesus?

London Men’s Convention 2009 – Chairman’s Welcome

Here are my notes from Richard Coekin’s address from Acts 8:35 at the London Men’s Convention 2009.

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Be Men of Jesus 

In Acts 8 we read of an important man, the Ethiopian Chancellor of the Exchequer. 

“Then Philip began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus.”  (Acts 8:35) 

Luke records how the Lord sent his evangelist to the Ethiopian to help him understand who the suffering servant is. 

a) We are men who want to learn from Scripture 

Like the Ethiopian we have come to learn from Scripture.  We haven’t come just to be entertained.  We haven’t come just to hear great orators.  We have travelled to an inconvenient part of London to hear the living Lord speak by His Spirit through His Word.  Jesus regarded the text itself where God speaks.  The Bible is the ruling, uniting Word of God.  We’re here to search in the text expecting to hear God speak. 

b) We are men who want to understand the gospel 

We want to understand the gospel for ourselves and the sake of unbelieving family and friends who need to hear it in language they understand.  The Gospel saves us from the God’s wrath to come.  The Gospel is found in the identity and mission of Jesus Christ our Lord.  He came as King, He died for sins, He rose to rule, and will return to judge.  Each part of His mission we see He is Lord.  The Gospel is the power of God for salvation and calls us to repentance and faith. 

c) We are men who want to worship Jesus 

We want to worship Jesus.  We want to know this wonderful man, who was led like a sheep to slaughter for us.  He is the man for all men.  We can’t know this man until we know the Gospel.  But we must not forget to worship and adore Him.  Biblical faith is both objective and subjective, both facts and feelings, understanding and affections; genuine spiritual affections for Jesus where mind and heart are combined like light and heat in a fire.  We want to return home as change men on fire with a devotion for Jesus. 

We want to be men of Jesus.