Proverbs Day Twenty-One | Not missing it!

By | Blog, Devotionals, Discipleship, Doctrine, Foundational, Holy living, Leadership, Life change, Love, Loving the poor, Preaching, Provoked Within, Salt, The Bible, The gospel, Wisdom, Witnessing

The Lord is more pleased when we do what is right and just than when we offer him sacrifices. Proverbs 21v3

I am deeply provoked and sobered that I could miss the really important things in following Jesus. In addition I could spend too long and too much effort on the things that matter a whole lot less.

Jesus really was unflattering about those who talk the talk but don’t walk the walk. What these folk taught or said might be true, but it needed to be demonstrated not just declared. Failing to do this may make us guilty of “crushing people with unbearable religious demands and never lifting a finger to ease the burden” (Matthew 23v4).

I see more than ever that a relentless pursuit against performance and pretence will be good for me and for others I share life with. God is not fooled. He knows what we do for show and what we do for Him. He knows whether we operate in the Kingdom or out of it. I want to help people discover, follow and serve the Jesus of Matthew 23. He said it as it was, saw it as it is and changes us despite ourselves.

Therefore, I am learning in a new way the high value Jesus places on justice, mercy and faith. These are matters of the heart (Matthew 23v23). That is wisdom!

To do righteousness and justice is more acceptable to the LORD than sacrifice. Proverbs 21v3

Proverbs Day Thirteen | How to get rich?

By | Band of Brothers, Bible memorisation, Blog, Character, Church, Connection Groups, Discipleship, Foundational, Holy living, Life change, Membership, Preaching, Revelation, The gospel, Wisdom

This afternoon I spoke on how we keep growing in maturity – emotional and spiritual. Things like:

Wealth from get-rich-quick schemes quickly disappears; wealth from hard work grows over time. Proverbs 13v11 (NLT)

Some people want to grow fit, rich and important. We want to grow in wisdom, stature and grace. The principle from Proverbs 13v11 applies to both.

In the talk I mentioned a little survey that I have used, and found helpful, to help me take a snapshot of my overall emotional maturity. You can access it here. How am I (Emotional and Spiritual Health.

Wealth gained hastily will dwindle, but whoever gathers little by little will increase it. Proverbs 13v11 (ESV)

She cries out: Responding to the wisdom of God

By | Blog, Preaching, The Bible, Uncategorized

On the 19th January we will commence a new teaching series in The Hill. It is She cries out. The title comes from a passage in the book of Proverbs (Chapter 1 verses 20 to 21). I particularly like the way The Message conveys it:

Lady wisdom goes out in the street and shouts. At the town centre she makes her speech. In the middle of the traffic she takes her stand. At the busiest corner she yells out.

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A helpful conversation on oaths!

By | Church, Holy living, Love, Preaching, Provoked Within, The Bible

A few days ago a loving and very supportive brother in the church contacted me to query some of the content of my talk ‘It’s yes Jim, but not as we know it’. Firstly, I am thrilled to bits that somebody in the church would be willing to do this. The Bible is without error, whereas anyone who knows me, or listens to me, for a while will know that I stumble in many ways! I am therefore genuinely grateful that the church is listening, thinking and challenging what is said. Secondly, the manner in which it was done was full of love, genuine support and encouragement.

The query centred on me seeming to take a very pragmatic stance on whether Christians have a choice to swear or make an oath, or simply to let their yes be yes or their no be no. In response, this brother understandably commented that in Matthew chapter 5 Jesus says almost identical words to James:

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Good teaching!

By | Church, Doctrine, Preaching, The Bible, The gospel, Uncategorized

At the end of this blog entry are the 10 things worth looking for in the attitude and life of bible teachers that you choose to listen to.

It is not an exhaustive list and you might be able to think of other characteristics worth bearing in mind. This particular list came about through my own time reading the Bible. I have found it useful as a “check-list” for the teachers either recommended to me by others or that I have personally stumbled across.

During the discussion that followed this 15 minutes! a couple of things came up in conversation that are worthy of further comment. These are worth reading after listening to the recording.

Comment 1: Does ‘live amongst us’ mean they have to have a Swansea postcode?

No. The point being made was to seek confidence and assurance that who we are listening to has a transparent life before other believers – in other words – that they are openly accountable. We do not need to know them personally and they certainly do not need to be in our ‘stream’ of churches. So it is not unwise to read Christian books (including those written by authors who have since died), listen to preaching on the web etc. Quite the opposite! We should be encouraging one another to be pro-active in getting solid teaching from reliable sources.

The real issue is the reliability of the teacher. My purpose was to encourage wise consideration regarding from whom we get our teaching, and ensuring that our attitude to teaching is neither exclusive (dogmatically limited to one teacher) or reckless (open to whichever teachers ‘You Tube’ or ‘Google’ search engines choose to show me!).

To use a biblical example, it does not matter whether it is from ‘Paul’ or ‘Apollos’, as long as it is definitely the good news of Jesus we are reliably being taught!

4 When one of you says, “I am a follower of Paul,” and another says, “I follow Apollos,” aren’t you acting just like people of the world? 5 After all, who is Apollos? Who is Paul? We are only God’s servants through whom you believed the Good News. Each of us did the work the Lord gave us. 6 I planted the seed in your hearts, and Apollos watered it, but it was God who made it grow. 7 It’s not important who does the planting, or who does the watering. What’s important is that God makes the seed grow. 8 The one who plants and the one who waters work together with the same purpose. And both will be rewarded for their own hard work. 9 For we are both God’s workers. And you are God’s field. You are God’s building. 1 Corinthians 3

Comment 2: If the source of our teaching exhibits the 10 characteristics I have listed, should we blindly just listen to them?

The answer is an emphatic no! It is very clear that the Bible places significant weight on receiving teaching, but also on personal reading, study and understanding. One very important principle of the Christian life is to carefully consider everything taught to us, and be eager to examine the teaching personally as to whether it matches up with the Bible.

One classic example from the Scriptures were the people of Berea, of whom it was said that “they searched the Scriptures day after day to see if Paul and Silas were teaching the truth” (Acts 17:11).

My top ten things to consider when looking for reliable teachers:

1. They should live ‘amongst’ us…
2. They should be consistent, transparent and humble
3. They should be bold and willing to say it as it is
4. They should live for what profits the church not themselves
5. They should have no desire for platforms or tie microphones
6. They should teach certain key truths
7. They should be sensitive & obedient to the Holy Spirit, whatever the cost
8. They should live in a way that there words and their deeds witness to the truth
9. They should be interested in the living Kingdom of God not just doctrine
10. They should be sobered by what is at stake

Cross roads on a Greek Island

By | Holy living, Holy Spirit, Life change, Preaching, Revelation, The gospel, Worship

We have begun our series on Perfect Church?

As we do so I am aware of a risk to our spiritual health. This blog entry is intended to help us head in the right direction.

When Jesus speaks to the 7 local churches in the book of Revelation, he ends each message with a plea for them to listen to what he is saying. Time and time again he urges them to change their direction completely (repent) otherwise they will face the consequences of their actions.

This means that a teaching series on the local church from these messages may result in some pretty tough words for us all. When those words fall upon our ears, we have a choice to receive or to reject them. Jesus makes it clear that listening is the only option.

But what do we do once we have heard Jesus speak to us about the state of our hearts?

At this point we are faced with a choice – condemnation or conviction. Let me explain how we can spot the difference and choose wisely… Imagine each choice is a road we can travel down. Conviction leads to reflections on the sacrificial work of our Saviour. Condemnation leads to reflections on ourselves. The first road ends at Jesus, the second road ends at self.

The fork splitting the two roads is the Cross.

Whilst reading the Bible or listening to teaching, Jesus pins some stuff on you or I about our lives. We know he is right and we feel remorse and the need to change.

The road of condemnation

It feels like conviction by the Holy Spirit, but it is actually a human-driven remorse, guilt and sorrow. It sends us in the wrong direction and we end up in a place where we wallow and drown in the world of ‘me’. This reminds us of what Paul said:

22 I love God’s law with all my heart. 23 But there is another power within me that is at war with my mind. This power makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me. 24 Oh, what a miserable person I am! Romans 7

The road of conviction

This may also arouse emotions of remorse, guilt and sorrow but there is a subtle difference. This time the feelings have been given to us by the Holy Spirit and he sends us on the right road. The place we end up this time is worship of Jesus.

You see Paul did not finish his his letter at verse 24 of Romans 7. He continued…

24… Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? 25 Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord. So you see how it is: In my mind I really want to obey God’s law, but because of my sinful nature I am a slave to sin. 8:1 So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. 2 And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death.

Choose the road of condemnation and we end up looking at ourselves, in a state of entrapment, idolatry, guilt and a hopeless resignation at our behaviour.

Choose the road of conviction and we end up at the Cross, in a state of freedom, worship, hope and the power to change.