The gospel

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 Sixteen | Bags

By | Blog, Death, Doctrine, Foundational, Revelation, Suffering, The Bible, The gospel, Wisdom

The Lord demands accurate scales and balances; he sets the standards for fairness. Proverbs 16v11 (NLT)

A just balance and scales are the LORD’s; all the weights in the bag are his work. Proverbs 16v11 (ESV)

This proverb strikes me as a beautiful description of the sovereignty of the cross. The justice, mercy, love and wrath displayed on the cross – God’s chosen means to administer justice and apply forgiveness through the sacrifice of the second Adam (Jesus) in order to deal with the sin of the first Adam.

  • The cross is right
  • The cross is just
  • The cross is His work not ours

Let us boast in the bag entitled “the Cross of Christ” not the one with our name on it.

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)

Conversation with Simon and Helen Moores re Street Pastors

By | Blog, Life change, Love, Loving the poor, Prayer, The gospel, Witnessing

We have just had a really encouraging afternoon together with Simon and Helen Moores from Spring Terrace Church.  They have been involved in the Swansea Street Pastors for a number of years and we were able to chat with them about that work. For the recording of the conversation click here.

They have provided me with a link for a video about the work in Swansea which is well worth a watch.

Why scatter?

By | Church, Doctrine, Holy living, Leadership, Salt, The gospel, Witnessing

I was so encouraged this week to hear how one of the Connection groups met to pray for North Korea, particularly our brothers and sisters living there.

Using brilliant creativity they were able to simulate something of what it might be like for disciples of Jesus living under the North Korean communist regime – a country where the church is forced to scatter.

The gift of creativity provides many benefits. If one of these is that it stirs us to prayer and good works, then I say more!

For a while now I have wanted to take the opportunity to outline some reasons why we do not always meet together as a church on a Sunday. We call these occasions The Hill Scattered.

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How do we respond when Jesus enters the house?

By | The gospel, Worship

Luke tells us in his account (Luke Chapter 7:36-50) that a man called Simon asked Jesus to eat with him. This news spread and others were eager to join in the meal. One such person was a woman tainted by immorality. As she entered the house Luke noticed she was carrying this beautiful jar filled with extremely expensive perfume. As Jesus reclined to eat (no dining chairs back then!) she kneeled at his filthy mud stained feet, and cried on them. She took the highest most honourable part of her body, her hair, and used it to clean the lowest and least honourable part of his, the feet. Then she kissed his feet and poured the perfume on them. The owner of the house was stunned that Jesus found this behaviour acceptable saying to himself “If this man were a prophet, he would know what kind of woman is touching him. She’s a sinner!” Jesus knowing what Simon was thinking told him a story about two men. One of whom who was released from a large debt, whereas the other was released from a smaller debt. Jesus asked “Who do you suppose loved the money lender more after that?” Simon answered, “I suppose the one for whom he cancelled the larger debt.” As the truth of this story sunk in Jesus looked at the woman, and said to Simon, “I tell you, her sins—and they are many—have been forgiven, so she has shown me much love. But a person who is forgiven little shows only little love.” Then Jesus said to the woman, “Your sins are forgiven.”

Simon thought he was a man who had a small debt redeemed. His worship reflected this. It cost him little and showed little. The woman considered she had a huge debt that was redeemed. Her worship reflected this. As a church when we gather together, we effectively invite Jesus to eat with us. When we do, are we a people who consider a small debt has been redeemed or is it obvious we love much, because we have been forgiven much? The latter expression of worship means that we will leave encouraged with Jesus saying, as he said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”.

A Brother Who Made History

By | Death, Love, Provoked Within, Suffering, The gospel

For the final 3 years before I left Gracechurch to move to Swansea we ran a yearly camp for the men and boys in the church called Band of Brothers. During that camp I would take the opportunity to teach about a brother who made history.

Nate Saint is one such man. He with his four friends were murdered on the 8 January 1956. Today is the anniversary of his death.

These men had determined that God had called them to share the news of His Son to the Waodini Tribe in the Amazon Rain Forest. This tribe had a proven reputation of murder using the spear. In fact most of the tribe had a relative that had been likewise killed. It was a risky and dangerous calling.

On the 6 January 1956 after several weeks work they made direct contact with three of the tribe, and were particularly excited two days later when they saw a group of them heading their way. The men’s wives were expecting a radio update at 4.30pm and it never came. The radio was silent.

A few days later a search party was dispatched. They found the bodies of Nate and his friends, and their plane destroyed. They had been speared.

End of the story. Wasted lives? No.

Their deaths opened two doors. The first door was that when the story hit the news in 1956, it compelled many thousands of men and women to lay down half-hearted lives for Christ, choosing rather to live for Him with everything they had.

The second door was that within a few years some of the men’s wives and their children were living with the tribe, and many of the tribe came to put their faith in Christ. Indeed Nate’s son, Stephen, would later call one of his father’s murderers Grandfather.

Here is the video I used on Band of Brothers to share the story. It has clips from the film End of the Spear. In the story you will see a dramatised encounter of ‘Grandfather’ telling Stephen Saint that he killed his father.

Nate Saint knew the one who had been pierced by men (Isaiah 53), and with his life he led others to lay down murder with a spear for good.

33 I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” John 16

Nate Saint Tribute from The Hill on Vimeo.

NB: You can read the story as told by one of the wives in the book Through the Gates of Splendour

Putting ballast in your boat…

By | Death, Doctrine, Suffering, The Bible, The gospel

Following my talk today I wanted to take the opportunity to add the quotes I referred to that have been so helpful to me:

“Only if God can say things that make you struggle will you know that you have met a real God and not a god of your imagination” Timothy Keller

“I can not see my role as a pastor in such days as simply entertaining you… to help you have a superficial cheerfulness that you just like to come to church, its a bit of relief from the severity of the times. That can not be my goal, not if I care. Rather as I understand my job, my calling… is to put ballast, the ballast of truth, the ballast of weighty glorious doctrine in the belly of your little boat. So that when you try and navigate these strange days, and these kinds of winds batter your life, you won’t capsize but rather you will make it all the way to the harbour called heaven with your faith intact and your joy overflowing. That’s my job – Ballast in your boat. Others can decorate the decks. I don’t have time to do it all. I do hope the decks are clear and the sun shines on us from time to time. Those are easy days. I am here to keep the boat from tipping in the hard days.” John Piper

Finally I wanted to share with you the reflection from my friend 12 months almost to the day when her mother died in a car accident (please see my previous blog entry):

These last 12 months would not be a time that I would want to repeat again, but I would also say that God has been amazing throughout. I have a son who likes to hang around my neck, even if I let go. I feel that God has been like that to me. I have learned so much about his character and sovereignty during these 12 months and where my life is unquestionably secure in Him. I am also at times like my son – holding on for all its worth, but I know more than ever that he is not going to let me go and he knows what he is doing. My mum knew where she was going and who she trusted in and that was Jesus. I do not know how I would have coped without God during this year. To be firmly rooted in God so that when hard times hit is more important than I realised. There have been times when I know I would not have coped without God.

I thank God that for my friend’s mum she had placed her life, and also her inevitable death, into the indestructible hope and security that is found within the life and death of Jesus.

38 And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. 39 No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8

So we go into Christmas not with a superficial seasonal joy, but a steadfast joy in the Son of God.

10… but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. Luke 2

Why we scatter…

By | Church, Provoked Within, The gospel, Witnessing

I was in a conversation with someone the other day and we discussed the concept of keeping the church focused on its purpose to reach people with the good news of Jesus Christ. In the course of that conversation I was able to explain the reasons behind our decision to not meet every Sunday… We call this expression of life in the church as The Hill scattered.

We believe that we are the church wherever we are. Whilst meeting together is extremely important to us, it is not the only expression of the church. History has taught us that a real risk for any church is that it gradually ceases to exist at all for those outside, and simply becomes a weekly meeting for those within.

As a church we we are keen for that not to happen to us. Therefore, we want to be proactive in keeping our eyes on the purpose to which we have been called. We believe that anything which helps keep that focus is a good idea, because it will help keep us close to the heart of God.

One practical step is occasionally choosing not to meet on a Sunday. We have found significant benefit in occasionally ‘pausing’ The Hill Together in order to remind us that we exist for those who do not know Jesus. This time allows us further opportunity to spend or plan time with others outside of God’s family. This expression consistently reminds us that we are called to be the church wherever we are.

Naturally, to be part of a church that chooses to live like this, means that we have to be aware of what the plans are as to when we do and don’t meet – and good at communicating that. This is why we work hard to keep the diary as up to date as possible.

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