Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Fill your stocking. Stir your soul. Start a conversation.

Morning everyone. The Roots and Wings book arrived last night from the printers.
Essentially, its the story of a community living out the Gospel together.
Its a collection of blogposts over the last 3 years, in 6 sections. Testimonies, Travels, Seasons, Church Life, Ethics and Theology.
Whether it's the simple story of a life changed, or an attempt to wrestle with ethics or theology, there is no disconnected theory here. It's a book rooted in an imperfect, authentic community. A journal of an unfinished story.

It's on sale at the Southlands church office for $8, and available at all three Christmas services.
I hope it's a nice stocking filler for friends and family.
I hope even more that it'll stir your soul, and start a conversation with someone around the Christmas table about Jesus.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Sow in Famine. Then Sow your Fruit.

Earlier this year, God spoke to us as a community about being an Isaac-spirited community; a community that sowed in famine like Isaac did in Genesis 26. After sowing seed, Isaac opened up some blocked wells that his father had previously dug. He was more governed by well than weather-system. And God caused gave him a hundred-fold yield. We felt that God was calling us beyond survival, but to thrive and even provide in famine.

So as a community we resolved to sow irrespective of the season; to sow financially, to sow in time and service, to sow in prayer. We wanted to liberally scatter Gospel seed in both word and deed, knowing that an All-Sufficient God was a well of resource as we scattered.

And by God's goodness and grace it has been a year of visible and tangible fruit. Its a complicated thing to try and measure 'yield' in a church - so much of what God does is qualitative not just quantitative, but there are a few clear indicators
that include both.

We have welcomed in around 100 people into membership this year. That is crowd becoming community. We have baptized around 30 believers too. This means believers becoming disciples. We have seen a large increase in percentage of people volunteering and attending life groups too. Around 25% increase in percentage attendance. That means consumers are becoming partners. We launched our Porterbrook training course too, which is training 30 people from 3 churches with a view to church planting. This indicates that leaders are becoming planters. We also began our Thrive mentoring initiative where around 25 college age Christians have been intensively mentored by some of our more seasoned saints. This means disciples are making disciples. We also set in 25 deacons, and are about to launch another 5 life groups. This means disciples are becoming leaders.

Financially there has been significant fruit too. By cutting back on spending and an increasing in giving in the community, we have not only been able to pay off the majority of a significant lawyers debt, we have also managed a surplus in our monthly budget the last year. In a year where we have been paying off debt, we have also increased our giving and activity among the needy and in the city. We have not just survived. By God's grace we have provided.

Then there are the less measurable but still tangible evidences of fruit, like people putting their faith in Christ, repenting of sin, getting healed of sickness, marriages being reconciled, the oppressed and addicted finding freedom, people encountering the presence of God and the prophetic, the lonely and broken finding family.

Numerous ministry initiatives have also been started this year that are bearing early fruit already. These include 133, 'laugh your way to a better marriage, lights jnr. high, mommy co, a sexual redemption group, lose to gain, mobile closet, near east/far east and 'men's meat night'. All these are the result of people who have sowed with vision, faith and fervor.

We are an imperfect church, stumbling forwards. But we are a church that has been richly resourced by God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and we are filled with praise and awe at God's goodness. My point is partly that we recognize with gratitude how much God has done, but also that we understand the seed contained in some of this fruit is seed that needs to be sown again for greater yield, instead of consumed.

A good farmer always leaves some of his crop as seed for the next crop expecting an increase Jesus said, "Unless a seed falls to the ground and dies it cannot bear fruit." He was talking about Himself. He was talking about us.
So let's not eat our seed, but rather expect a larger Gospel yield in 2012 as we sow more Gospel seed in both word and deed.
Here we sow again.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Roots and Wings Book

Enough people have suggested that I consider compiling some of my blogs into a book, for me to take the plunge and pull the trigger.
Design, compiling and editing are underway and it will go to print next week and be ready the week before Christmas.
It will comprise 52 of the more popular posts, and will read as a kind of devotional. Nice as a stocking filler for Christmas, maybe a helpful gift to open a conversation about Jesus around the Christmas dinner table? The first three posts will be about Christmas.

Some of my more earthy friends say the posts take as long to read as it takes them to go to the bathroom, so that's where it may end up!I'm okay with that. In fact it will be printed to fit neatly on top of the cistern. ;-)
Pricing to follow but it will be less than 10 bucks.
Above is the design for the cover. Brady Tuazon is a design genius, wouldn't you say?
To order contact

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Battle hands and War fingers part 2 - the force and finesse of setting people free

I've written about preaching and writing as a weapon to set people free, but what about prayer? Scripture is clear that prayer and the spiritual battle go hand in hand. "Our struggle is not against flesh and blood but against powers and principalities...put on the full armor of God..and pray in the Spirit on all occasions." (Eph 6:1-6)

I began with preaching, because we have often made setting people free a very mystical issue, whereas scripturally, freedom is a more legal issue. I recently preached on Jesus' teaching on the 'unforgivable sin,' concluding by saying that this teaching was not directed to the disciples but to the scribes who rejected Jesus as Messiah, saying he was of Satan. My point was that the only sin that God could not forgive was the refusal to trust in Jesus as the forgiver of sins. A Christ follower came up to me afterwards saying that he had been kept in 'slavery' for years thinking he had somehow committed the unforgivable sin,and had realized this was not true. He asked if I could pray for him, and I found myself saying, 'No, God has set you free through preached truth. I don't have to pray for you this time." I wanted him to see that faith in the truth is what ultimately sets a person free. Interesting that in the Gospels Jesus didn't pray for people to get set free from demons. His mere presence was enough for them to release people. This mostly happened while he was preaching.

However, prayer is a powerful weapon if it is not seen as the 'silver bullet,'but rather helping a person once they have repented of sin and submitted to Jesus as Lord.

In Mark 3:20-30, Jesus talks about Satan as the strong man who has occupation of a house and possession of its goods. Jesus talks about himself as the robber who will bind the strong man and plunder his goods. The issue here is not us trying to 'bind the strong man ourselves,' but ultimately under whose possession we agree to be.

Jesus is the Stronger Man, who can bind Satan,the strong man and plunder his goods, because of his sinless life, substitutionary death and triumphant resurrection, but he cannot do this unless we agree to come under his possession. The point is, we will never live free unless we hand over ownership of our lives to Jesus, through repentance and submission.

Praying for people to be set free is like being a janitor in the house of their lives, but we cannot repent and submit for them. That is something they have to do themselves. And if they refuse to repent and submit, we can spring clean in prayer all we like, but the house will end up worse in the end if they do not settle it that Jesus has both occupation and possession of their lives. (Matt 12:44)But once they do, the renovation of the house can begin!

This is why I say freedom is more legal than mystical. As James said, "Submit to God, resist the devil and he will flee from you."(James 4:7)