Thursday, 28 February 2013

Farewell Steve Chalke

by Joel Hawting | @jhawting

Now that I've got your attention with my John Piper-esque title, I'll clarify what I'm talking about. For those of you who are unaware, Steve Chalke is regarded as one of the United Kingdom's most prominent and respected preachers. He is now also very well known throughout the world for coming out in support of committed, faithful, same-sex relationships. You can read his statement here and can read an article by his good friend Tony Campolo (who is opposed to his viewpoint) here.

So what do I think? Firstly I want to start by saying that I want to make it clear that I am all for extending the love of Jesus to all people, regardless of race, ethnicity or sexual orientation. That is a given. That is our biblical mandate as followers of Christ. We are to love all people equally regardless of lifestyle. I think most Christians would agree with my view. What concerns me however, is when we as leaders compromise clear biblical truths in order to be culturally relevant in our times.

This is clearly what Steve Chalke has done in making this announcement. Steve argues that the bible condemns only non-committed same-sex erotic behaviour, and says nothing about 'same-sex Christian couples' living together in committed, exclusive relationships with one another. Unfortunately, Steve has made the choice to attempt to be culturally relevant at the expense of holding to clear biblical teaching. Steve Addison in his article accessible here, argues the point well:

"For thousands of years, God’s people have affirmed this teaching (heterosexual marriage). Steve and others have fallen into line with the current social trends, and walked away from God’s intention for marriage."

Steve Addison continues:

"Discipleship means teaching people to obey Christ’s commands. Movements are counter cultural. They follow Christ, not social trends... Disciple making movements always raise the tension with the surrounding culture. They are both radically engaged, and radically different. Fundamentalists are radically different, but radically disconnected. Progressives, like Steve, are connected with the culture, but not radically different."

Quite right. That is the tension that we battle with each day as Christians. Engaging with and living in worldly cultures, but not submitting to and 'becoming like' the worldly culture around us. Jesus was always counter cultural and he did not concede in any way from His message or from the truth of the Word of God. He stood firm in his beliefs whilst extending love, compassion and concern to all people everywhere.

The beauty of the Christian message is that it is different. It is radical. It is counter-cultural. It is salt to season an otherwise bland world. Matthew 5:13 says:

"You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men."

We need to remain salty in our world. Yes, we need to extend love to Same Sex attracted people. But they key is this: the love we extend to them or anyone else for that matter,  needs to be based on the truth of the Word of God. That is true love. We are to remain salty regardless of what culture tells us is right and wrong. Let's be praying that Steve Chalke returns to a biblical view of marriage, becoming salty once again.

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Vice Verses

by Joel Hawting | @jhawting

I love the band Switchfoot. They have been a band that have been a part of my Christian journey throughout my teen and now mid-twenties years. I was introduced to one of their more recent songs called 'Vice Verses' by my Bible College lecturer this term. If you didn't know Switchfoot and only heard Vice Verses, you could very easily view Switchfoot as being a very negative, depressive, and even pessimistic band. However, they are anything but. They are arguably one of the most talented and creative Christian bands and have been for years now, writing positive and passionate songs about living life to the full for God's glory.

Jon Foreman - lead singer of Switchfoot - offers insight into what the song Vice Verses is about in his interview with Scott Firestone:

"I mean, your weakness is your strength and your strength is your weakness. You know, a kid grows up in a family with a lot of cash, and suddenly that becomes his curse as well as his blessing. Another kid, maybe across the border in Tijuana, has nothing and he has everything. [Some of those kids] have a hope and a joy that a spoiled rich kid north of the border can't possess, you know? That analogy plays out in other ways—a girl who's incredibly good-looking will be cursed with that all her life unless she learns there's more to her life."

"When I look at culture, I see we have so many gifts given to us that allow us to be lazy. I've heard it said that any culture that makes ease its goal has already begun its demise—I can't think of any nation where this would more relevant that my own. The United States has become the culture of comfort—growth, strength, and beauty are not things that come from comfort. They are refined qualities that are brought to the surface often by pain or trial."

Chad Butler - Switchfoot's Drummer - in a video accessible here, explains his view of Vice Verses:

"Vice Verses has become, rolling down the window and looking around and noticing the highs and the lows... this life is short and there are so many things that we miss along the way. There's joy, there's pain, there's good and bad happening around us all the time and... coming to grips with that and living in the tension... to me that's Vice Verses."

Jon Foreman sums up their intent in penning their thoughts on the song Vice Verses:

"It's not meant to be a dark morbid thought; it's more of a thought that, while we're here, while we still have breathe, I want to make it count."

Amen to that. Let's live and experience life - throughout the many mountain-top experiences and the valley troughs - living with Jesus. While we have breathe let's live life and make it count for God.

Weekly Wrap (24/02)

by Joel Hawting | @jhawting

For those of you who have never before heard the story of Ian and Larissa, prepare to be challenged and encouraged by their inspirational story. Check out their video, hosted by below.

My Coming Out As A Friend of Dan Kelly & Chick-fil-A - A very interesting article written by Shane L. Windmeyer, executive director of Campus Pride in the USA, exploring his interactions with Dan Kelly, President of Chick-fil-A and opponent of Same-Sex Marriage. It is well worth a read.

Food for Thought: Essendon's 'Whatever It Takes' Slogan Depends on Values - Most of us in Australia would be familiar with the recent controversy around professional athletes taking performance enhancing drugs. This article by David Wilson provides some Christian food for thought on the issue.

God Uses Intentionality To Grow Us Spiritually - "The point of seeking God is not that He is hard to find. Rather He desires we constantly invest in this relationship and seek to follow Him in every area of life. This requires intentionality and ultimate priority in a disciple's life." Ed Stetzer provides some interesting statistics and research on "Seeking God" today.

Don't Drink The Dirty Water - "We're drinking from water that will never satisfy if we're not drinking from the Living Water (John 4:7-30)." Lore Ferguson writes a beautiful piece on the importance of getting our water from Jesus and Jesus alone.

7 Strategies To Empower Leaders - "It does no good to invite leaders to be a part of your team if you’re not going to let them lead." Tony Morgan provides some great points on empowering leaders within a church context.

Thought for the day...

"Prayer is a sincere, sensible, affectionate pouring out of the heart and soul to God."
— John Bunyon

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Weekly Wrap (17/02)

by Joel Hawting | @jhawting

I have decided to include a video or a picture that I've come across during the week on my Weekly Wrap posts starting from today. I pray that you enjoy this video about a pastor with a hidden narcotics addiction as much as I did. It's an amazing story of God's grace, forgiveness and redemption and is well worth 15 minutes of your time!

When My Love Grows Cold - "When it comes to Valentine’s Day there is really just one thing I want—to spend time with my wife." This is a great reflection piece on Valentine's Day from Tim Challies.

Church Leader Counters 'Pastor Tip Gate' - An article about one pastor's (Ed Stetzer) response to the recent stereotyping of Christians as being poor when it comes to leaving tips in restaurants.

Why Doesn't Your Church "Get With The Program?" - Trevin Wax writes a great article reminding people that we as the Church already have a program; the Great Commission.

Faithmapping: An Interview With Mike Cosper - Ed Stetzer interviews Mike Cosper about his new book Faithmapping.

What Would Jesus Do With Christmas Island? - Part 2 of Robert Martin's piece from the Bible Society of Australia, that attempts to tackle this emotive and political issue from a biblical perspective.

Thought for the day...

"The Scriptures teach us the best way of living, the noblest way of suffering, and the most comfortable way of dying."
— John Flavel

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

I'm Addicted to Coffee

by Joel Hawting | @jhawting

This is the realisation that I've come to recently. I'm addicted to coffee. I can't wake up without it. I can't think without it. I can't socialise without it. I can't work on anything without it. I can't function without coffee regularly passing through my lips.

Now there's a problem with that. There's a big problem. The problem is that my love and enjoyment of coffee (those of you who know me well will know that I am a coffee lover and connoisseur!) has turned into an addiction. Coffee has become all-consuming. Coffee has become the focus. Coffee - at times - has taken me away from what matters most.

The bible is clear in what it teaches in relation to addictions. One scripture that stands out for me is Exodus 20:3. It reads: "You shall have no other gods before me." Whilst this scripture is obviously one of the ten commandments given by God to assist the Israelites in right living, it has application for our lives today.

Basically, God is good. He is amazing. He gives us purpose in life, He calls us by name, He redeemed us from the curse of sin through His death on Calvary's cross. He has given us life, He feeds us, He guides us on His paths of righteousness. The very earth and everything in it was made by Him, for His pleasure. He is magnificent, all-knowing and all-powerful. Nothing can come against Him. He is love.

Therefore, God is to be praised. He is worthy of honour. Our adoration. Our love and devotion. Our time. Nothing should hinder us in coming before God and worshipping Him, adoring Him and putting our faith and trust in Him. He deserves our full-undivided focus. Nothing should come between us and Him. Nothing.

To have a 'God' before God means that you are focussing on, worshipping, or elevating something before God. Something or someone is taking pre-eminence in your life. Something or someone is distracting you from what is important in life; the very one who gives you life, Jesus Christ.

Now I'm not saying that drinking coffee is wrong. Drinking coffee is great! The point is, for me right now, coffee has become an addiction and is taking up too much of my focus. So that is why I'm going on a coffee detox for the remainder of the month. I know that coffee has slowly elevated itself in my life. I know that God doesn't always get my full focus and attention every morning. I know that I need to once again be in control of coffee and not let it control me. So that means no coffee, at home or out. It will be tough but it will be worth it. After all, continuing to cultivate a strong relationship with God is well and truly worth the effort.

Do you struggle to keep seemingly good things from becoming addictions? Do you find it difficult to manage your use of other things such as social media and technology, to ensure that you don't become addicted?

Monday, 11 February 2013

Weekly Wrap (10/02)

by Joel Hawting | @jhawting

Bringing Jesus to the Superbowl - This column from the USA Today website by Ed Stetzer is a fantastic insight into what is deemed to be offensive or off limits, when it comes to media advertising. To quote Ed: "A scantily clad Kardashian or Danica tottering around in stilettos? No problem. Taking Jesus' name not in vain, however, was going too far."

The Value of a Tired Soul - Dave Dunham writes for the Gospel Coalition about the value of sorrow and weariness for people in Ministry.

The Danger of Being a Woman - Eugene Cho reflects on the poor treatment of women in society today, focussing particularly on the role that the media has in shaping identity and value for women in society. A fantastic article that I wrote some reflections on earlier this week myself.

Atheist 'Churchgoers' - An interesting article from the Guardian Newspaper about an atheist 'church' in London.

What Would Jesus Do With Christmas Island? - Robert Martin from the Bible Society of Australia attempts to tackle this emotive and political issue from a biblical perspective.

Thought for the day...

"If Jesus were to come today people would not crucify him. They would ask him to dinner, hear what he had to say and make fun of it."
— T Carlyle

Thursday, 7 February 2013

Finding a Faith of Our Own

by Joel Hawting | @jhawting

I came across a fantastic article from Relevant Magazine today and thought that I'd share it with you. The article is called "Finding a Faith of Our Own" and can be accessed here.

Brandon Ambrosino provides some wonderful and challenging insights into the modern church. In particular, he highlights the quest that many churches seem to go on in trying to shape and market themselves as hip, relevant or trendy in order to win back disgruntled, bored or indifferent people who have grown up in, but have since left, the church.

This is an issue that I've personally been wrestling with for some time - to what degree does the Church become 'like' the world, in order to attract people to Christ? After all, when you consider how Jesus was in his times, He wasn't exactly what you would call hip. In fact, He was hated, despised and persecuted because He dared to be different - He dared to stand for the Father's will. That wasn't cool, that wasn't hip. He stood out - He was different.

I'll let some quotes from Brandon speak to this issue. Here are some thoughts from Brandon's post that particularly stood out for me:

"It’s no secret that the young demographic in churches today is wearing thin. Today’s twenty- and thirtysomethings who have grown up in the Church have grown disillusioned and discontented, and churches trying to intentionally reach them should be applauded. Yet I wonder if there are drawbacks in this approach. Our generation is emerging into adulthood—we’re claiming our independence and struggling to find our place in the world of jobs, relationships, finances and faith. And during this formative time, I wonder if it is counterproductive to forge a way of our own that is shaped more by who we don’t want to be than who we want to be. Are we framing our theology in terms of what it is not—not boring, not old-school, not whatever your parents raised you on? By defining our faith in terms of what it isn’t, have we assumed the role of the marginalized hipster and so built our faith on a framework that is reactionary and defensive? If we can only gain spiritual independence by distancing ourselves from “other” faith expressions, we risk organizing the body of Christ into “us” and “them.” Sure, it might be marketable, but is this really the point?"

"Jesus once compared His generation to children sitting in the marketplace, angry with Him because He wouldn’t dance when they expected Him to (Matthew 11). His point was that He didn’t come to be the Messiah they expected Him to be. He came to be who He was—to be, in a sense, who God was. “No, no,” this Messiah said. “I’m not here to overthrow Caesar. I’m here to overcome the world. Put away your flutes, and join Me in My dance as I recreate the universe one atom at a time.”"

"...neither this Messiah nor His message was very marketable. Quite the opposite, actually. Jesus’ angry episode in the temple was horrible for business. With indignation, the Messiah looked around at those who exploited the temple for their own purposes. And as He overturned the money tables, He chastised the merchants, calling them thieves, and accused them of turning the temple into something that reflected their own agendas—not God’s."

"Certainly, we need a faith of our own. We need to rediscover the glory of the Gospel in an age that has relegated it to something of no use and no importance. Certainly, we need to engage our faith individually and in community in authentic ways."
"Behold the man nailed to a tree—that peasant, from a working family, despised and unknown. Look at Him there—the weakness of God, rejected, despised, unfashionable as ever, cursed by His own Father. If only He’d gotten with the program. But He didn’t. And that’s the point of the cross. That’s why there was a cross. Jesus didn’t ever get with the world’s program. He remained authentic to who God wanted Him to be."

This is a big challenge for all of us who are in church leadership today. We need to not be so concerned with how we might be perceived, or too focussed on developing a brand of Christianity that is marketable. We need to simply get back to basics. We need to discover what and who God wants us to be and find peace in walking in His will for our lives. We don't need to be different; we just need to be authentic.

Do you think that the church in general struggles with this issue? What do you think Jesus' response would be to the churches constant focus on being culturally relevant or hip?

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Eugene Cho - The Danger of Being a Woman

by Joel Hawting | @jhawting

I came across a fantastic blog post by Eugene Cho this morning entitled 'The Danger of Being a Woman.' I've only recently come across Eugene Cho on the blogosphere but from what I've read both on his blog and on twitter so far, I must say I am impressed with his heart for God and his passion for the out-workings of radical Christian love and faith to be displayed throughout society.

To read Eugene's post in full click here and you can watch the video Eugene refers to below.

Here are some quotes from his blog post that particularly impacted me:

"As I’ve contended before on my blog, the treatment of women is the oldest injustice in human history. It’s so old and so taken for granted, that we don’t quite understand what’s at stake – not just for women, but really, for all of us. In more nuanced and simultaneously graphic ways, women are objects to be objectified and marketed and packaged for consumption. And these messages start early and often in human development and identity.Girls are taught at a every young age their worth is dependent on what they look like. Their body and not their mind.”

"Couple years ago, one of my daughters was celebrating her 8th birthday and had about 9 of her friends from school at a sleepover party. While they watched movies, talked, laughed, and played games, I tried my best not to interfere but on one occasion, I slowly walked down the stairs to the basement where they were playing and was absolutely heartbroken over their conversation. These 8 and 9-year-old girls were going around and sharing with each other…how much weight they wanted to lose."

"Jesus’ death not only reconciles sin but his life reveals the true reflection and way of the Kingdom. The apostle Paul captures this vision of the Kingdom so compellingly in Galatians 3:28 when he subverts the dominant worldview through the lens of the Kingdom: “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Such powerful words. Such beautiful vision of what God intended and promises to restore. And so with that vision and path in mind, may we all work together to create a more just world where we can honor and celebrate the unique ways in way God created us rather that using our differences to manipulate, exploit, and rule over."

Amen, Amen, Amen to that last quote. This is an extremely important issue and one that the church needs to better address in ensuring that both women and men are viewed and treated with the same respect and dignity that they deserve. After all, we are all created in the image of God (Gen 1:27). We all deserve to be cherished, respected, valued and loved for who we are: Sons and Daughters of the Living God (2 Cor 6:18). As Eugene said, "...may we all work together to create a more just world where we can honor and celebrate the unique way God created us rather than using our differences to manipulate, exploit, and rule over." That would be Christ-like; that would be expressing Christ's love to all.

The Serenity Prayer

by Joel Hawting | @jhawting

God, give me grace to accept with serenity
the things that cannot be changed,
Courage to change the things
which should be changed,
and the Wisdom to distinguish
the one from the other.

Living one day at a time,
Enjoying one moment at a time,
Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace,
Taking, as Jesus did,
This sinful world as it is,
Not as I would have it,
Trusting that You will make all things right,
If I surrender to Your will,
So that I may be reasonably happy in this life,
And supremely happy with You forever in the next.


Monday, 4 February 2013

Weekly Wrap (03/02)

by Joel Hawting | @jhawting

From Prison to the Pulpit - This video testimony about God's amazing grace will touch you greatly. Another great post courtesy of the Gospel Coalition.

The Greatest Tragedy in the Church Today - "Evangelism is dying in many churches today. No, that’s not an overstatement. I am not speaking hyperbolically. Evangelism is dying. Look at the data. Measure almost any groups of churches today versus 30 years ago. You'll likely find only 1 person is being reached with the Gospel for every 40 to 60 church members." - Thom Rainer writes for about the state of Evangelism in the Church today.

Rest Works - Christianity Today reviews Rest Works by Matthew Sleeth, a book which explores the importance of keeping the fourth commandment: keeping the Sabbath day holy.

Social Media and the Church - Mark Spencer asks: "What happens if the Church doesn't embrace Social Media?"

The First Christian Service in Australia - Today (Sunday the 3rd of February) is the 225th anniversary of the first Christian Service in Australia. Craig Schwarze provides the facts about the very first service on Australian soil.

Thought for the day...

"The church is a hospital for sinners, not a museum for saints."
— Timothy Keller