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)!

real_lives1  

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.

Jesus – the greatest man in history!

“The greatest man in history was a child refugee.  Born into poverty and obscurity, as a youngster he was taken to Egypt to escape Herod and persecution by the oppressive regime of the Romans.  

Jesus received no formal education, but rather, worked hard a labourer.  He never wrote a book or a song.
 
He formally preached and ministered for only three years.
 
He never spoke to flatter the authorities; He refused to compromise His message, and eventually was executed by crucifixion at the age of thirty-three.
 
In those three years of public work, without travelling far, He made blind people see, dumb people speak, and deaf people hear.  He healed lepers and lame people.  He raised the dead to life.  He fed thousands of hungry people with just a few loaves and fish.  He instantly calmed a rough storm at sea and walked on the water, dispelling the fear of terrified fishermen.
 
Nobody spoke as Jesus did; He had authority.
 
He gave to the world the highest moral standard, preaching only what He practiced.
 
Christ said, ‘Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who ill-treat you,’ and ‘turn the other cheek’ (Luke 6:27).
 
Jesus Christ gave dignity to women, respect to the disabled, significance to children, credibility to the family and status to each individual.
 
He has made an indelible impact upon our literature, art, music and architecture and is the foundation principle for our democratic freedoms.
 
Judas, who sold Him, cried, ‘I have betrayed innocent blood’ (Matthew 27:4).
 
Pilate, who ordered His execution, said, ‘I find no fault in Him’ (John 19:6).
 
John, the disciple, said, ‘In Him is no sin.’  The great missionary, Paul, said, ‘He knew no sin.’  And Peter said, ‘He did no sin.’
 
It is impossible to fault Christ.
 
He had no sin, nor did any sin, because He was God manifest in the flesh (1 Timothy 3:16).
 
The Bible says of Jesus, that God ‘became flesh and made His dwelling among us’ (John 1:14).
 
Stripped naked, beaten and humiliated, Christ died on a cross.  As He hung there, God laid on Jesus the sin of us all.
 
The Bible says, ‘For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life’ (John 3:16).
 
‘For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God’ (1 Peter 3:18).
 
Jesus was punished in our place, that we might be forgiven for all our sin, all our wrongdoing.
 
Three days later, the tomb, where Jesus’ body was laid, was empty; He had risen from the dead; He was alive.
 
Over an extended period of time, He showed Himself physically alive again to many people.  He changed their lives, giving hope and peace to each one who trusted Him.
 
Jesus Christ had come to earth with a mission.  He had come, not to call to Himself the righteous people, but sinners.  He was more than a great example to us.  He was greater than the supreme teacher.
 
He accomplished more than simply performing great miracles.  The Bible states: ‘The Father has sent his Son to be the Saviour of the world’ (1 John 4:14).
 
Millions have followed Jesus simply because they trust and love Him. Civilisations have been changed as people have come to know God.  He is able to set free each person who comes to Him. Instead of the hell we deserve, through forgiveness, God can reserve a place in heaven for us.
 
The Bible makes it clear that God’s command to us, is that we turn from all that is wrong in our lives, and ask the once-crucified, now-risen, living Jesus to free us, forgive us and become our Lord and Saviour.  When we turn our back on sin and trust Christ, He becomes our Saviour and Helper, making everything new.  As our constant Companion He helps us in all the decision making of our lives.  Jesus Christ has been such a real Friend to individuals for twenty centuries, all over the world.
 
Only Jesus had the power to defeat death and rise from the dead – He said, ‘I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.  No one comes to the Father except through me’ (John 14:6).”
*
(D. J. Carswell, Real Lives)

Latest Links

Here are some more links worth checking out…

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.

***

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.

Luke 6:37-42 Kids Talk

Here’s an idea for a kids talk on Luke 6:37-42…

[Powerpoint for this talk HERE]

***

What’s wrong with this picture?  Can you spot seven things that don’t belong? 

  • Car
  • Tortoise
  • Fish
  • Boat
  • Stocking
  • Painting
  • Clock 

In Luke 6, Jesus tells a parable to His disciples about spotting wrong things.  

He says to them: “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?” (Luke 6:41) 

In this parable Jesus is saying that we are brilliant at spotting the wrong things that people do; the speck of dust in our friend’s eyes.  But we are rubbish at spotting the wrong things we do; we fail to notice the plank or log in our own eyes. 

Now it’s good that we want to help people to obey God, but we need to remember that we need help to obey God too.  Just like our friends do wrong things that we see, so we do wrong things too. 

Jesus then goes on to say that before we can help others we need to ask God to forgive us and help us to obey Him. 

He says: “How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take the speck out of your eyes,’ when you fail to see the plank in your own eye?  You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” (Luke 6:42) 

Now there was a reason why Jesus told this story.  He wanted to teach his disciples an important lesson, which is that followers of Jesus ‘Don’t Judge!’ 

That means: Don’t think that you’re better than other people, you’re not.  You’re a sinner like they are.  You need to be forgiven just like they do.  Jesus died for your sins, like He died for your friends sins.  You need to trust in Jesus to save you from your sins by His death and resurrection and ask God to help you obey Him just as much as they do.

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.

lmc

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

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.

lmc

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.

lmc

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.

John Harper Kids Talk

Here’s an idea for a kids talk on the story of John Harper who was on board the Titanic…

[Powerpoint for this talk HERE]

***

Who am I? 

  • I cost $7.5 million to build.
  • I disappeared for 74 years.
  • 2,208 people travelled on me.
  • The movie about me won 11 Oscars.
  • It was apparently said of me: “Even God cannot sink it”.
  • Only 712 people survived when I hit an iceberg (706 on lifeboats, 6 rescued from the water). 

Who am I? [The Titanic] 

Some months later it was discovered that one of the 6 rescued from the water was saved twice that night. 

At a prayer meeting in Hamilton, Ontario, a young Scotsman stood up in tears and told the extraordinary story of how he was converted. 

He said: “I am a survivor of the Titanic.  When I was drifting alone on a spar that awful night, the tide brought Mr Harper, of Glasgow, also on a piece of wreck, near me. 

‘Man,’ he said, ‘are you saved?’ ‘No’ I said, ‘I am not.’ He replied, ‘Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved.’” 

“The waves bore him away, but, strange to say, brought him back a little later, and he said, ‘Are you saved now?’ ‘No,’ I said, ‘I cannot honestly say that I am.’ He said again, ‘Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved,’ and shortly after he went down; and there, alone in the night, and with two miles of water under me, I believed.”  

“I am John Harper’s last convert.” 

It’s an incredible story, and from it I want to remind you of two truths from the Bible: 

1. God’s amazing grace to save. 

God in his amazing kindness saved that man not only from drowning in the sea, but all for eternity.  God can save in extraordinary circumstances, and this surely was one.  

He found the words of Romans 10:13: “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” to be so true.  That man believed on the Lord Jesus Christ, he called on the name of the Lord and was saved because of God’s amazing grace.  God’s amazing grace to save. 

2. God’s amazing grace people urgently need to hear. 

John Harper the other man floating on a piece of wreck, knew of God’s amazing grace.  He knew what would happen to people if they didn’t respond to it.  Other survivors report that as the Titanic went down, he ran through the ship yelling, “Women, children, and unsaved into the lifeboats!” and began witnessing to anyone who would listen.  And once he was in the water he continued telling people about God’s grace in the Lord Jesus Christ.  Why?  He knew John 3:36: “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on him.”  As the Titanic sank he knew there was something more important than mere survival.  People needed to believe in the Son urgently otherwise God’s wrath would remain on them and they would be punished in hell.  God’s amazing grace people urgently need to hear. 

All of us find ourselves in one of the two positions these men were in.  We either need to respond to God’s amazing grace to save by trusting in Jesus and what He’s done through His death and resurrection otherwise God’s wrath will remain on us as we are punished in hell.  Or we need to be those who speak of God’s amazing grace which our unsaved friends and family, urgently need to hear about.  That’s the challenge before us.

Jesus is my friend

Oh dear!