Bearing Witness

This week I’m spending time preparing two messages to give on Sunday. My text for the weekend is John 15:26-27, “When the Counselor comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father, he will bear witness about me. And you also must bear witness because you have been with me from the beginning.”

This passage is set in the Upper Room or at least on the way to the Mount of Olives just before Jesus’ death. It is the final time Jesus and his disciples will be together, and between 13:31 and the end of chapter 16 Jesus speaks his final words to them. These two verses are placed in the middle of Jesus talking about the persecution they will face, even by those who think they are offering a service to God (16:3).

Last night, before I had a meeting to go to, I began pondering what it means to bear witness. It is evident from the text that the Spirit gives witness about Jesus, in other words, the central point of the Spirit being sent is to testify about Jesus’ life, ministry, death and resurrection.

One must also ponder what it means for us.

The disciples are given somewhat of a command, they must bear witness. Why? Because they have been with him since the beginning of his ministry.

Here we see what they will be witnessing about.

Not only will the Spirit witness about Jesus’ life, ministry, death and resurrection, but so will his disciples. This grounds the Gospel and the life of Jesus in a historical context. Suddenly we see that 1 Corinthians 15:3-5 comes into play and agreement is reached regarding the historical fact of Jesus and the Gospel. Here is one part of bearing witness, testifying to the truth of Jesus.

There also seems to be a distinct link to Jesus’ final command to his disciples in Matt 28:19-20, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit and teaching them to obey everything i have commanded you.”

The act of bearing witness could then be classified as evangelism and teaching. Telling people about Jesus and teaching people about Jesus.

Bearing witness and being a disciple of Jesus also have lifestyle implications. A disciple of Jesus doesn’t just proclaim the historical Gospel with their mouth, or teach others about Jesus they also pursue a life worthy of the Gospel.

A life of being a disciple is a life of following Jesus, his words and actions.

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It Was Real Today

It was real today.

It was the start of something new, it was meeting new people, it was seeing familiar friends.

It was interesting, it was eye-opening, it was energising.

It was exciting, it was nerve-wracking, it was fun.

It was talking, it was drinking, it was playing cards.

It was a lunch time, it was busy, it was a time drenched in prayer.

It was hot, it was raining, it was a rush.

It was finally here, it was active, it was tiring.

It was the Lord’s work, it was schools ministry.

Psalm 6:9

“The Lord has heard my plea; the Lord accepts my prayer.” (Psalm 6:9)

Isn’t great that we can be safe in the knowledge that the Lord hears our prayers?

This verse struck me this morning in my reading and gives me assurance of a God who listens, hears and accepts.

Prayer can be a difficult and weary task at times, our relationship with Him may be rather dry or it is difficult to speak to God when we are conscious of sin. However, the Lord is good, he hears our prayers and he hears our cries for help.

Within this Psalm David is troubled and knows he has done wrong. It looks like he is conscious of his sin and is stuck in a guilt-ridden mindset. He is crying out to the Lord, he is desperate for his help. I think it is easy to resonate with David here. How often are we in sin, how often have we done the things that we do not want to do? We have gone against God and chosen the wrong path, the wrong words and actions towards one-another. Our thoughts and actions have led us down a path that leads to regret, we are guilty and we have sinned against the Lord.

There is no worse feeling, I don’t believe, than knowing you have sinned against the Almighty. For he is an all-powerful, glorious, and magnificent God who knows all and is in all and is through all.  But here David rests in the knowledge that the Lord has heard his pleading, his cry for help and his cry for mercy. What great assurance, to know that the Lord has heard our pleas and heard our cries.

He not only hears them, but he also accepts them. He is willing to accept what we say to him, hearing our anguished cry for forgiveness and for help. And through our mediator, Jesus Christ, our cries are put into action, whereby the Lord forgives us, filthy rags, and makes us new once more.

Through the work of Christ upon that beautiful cross the Lord hears and accepts our prayers, taking us in his loving arms and helping us in our time of need.

O what assurance, O what loving grace.

What Happens When All The Chocolates Have Been Eaten?

I’m currently trying to work out what I will preach on next Sunday. It is Easter Sunday and I suppose logical reasoning would be that the topic of the resurrection would fit well.

But, isn’t it the case that as we move through the Easter weekend we are more bent on remembrance than on what to do next?

Obviously we do need to remember and it is a great time to reflect on the death and resurrection of our Lord. It is important to see and feel the gospel afresh again. However, I think we miss something if all we do is stop there.

Easter is a great time for remembering our Lord but is also a great time to re-adjust our priorities, come closer to Him and be convicted to transform our lives into one that brings glory to God. The gospel changes and renews and what better time of the year than at Easter.

What do we do once all the chocolates have been eaten? Continue on our merry way like nothing much has occurred, or, do we get a renewed sense of God and his purposes.

A renewed sense of the Gospel.

The Sadness Of Ministry Closure

When things come to a close it can be a sad time can’t it. When we come back from overseas after a wonderful holiday, when we say good-bye after a lovely dinner with friends, when the inspiring movie could have gone on much longer but had to come to an end.

So it is with ministries.

Last night at a ministry meeting a team of us decided to close a ministry that had been going on at our church for at least three years. Over the past 18 months many of the team members have left and moved on to other things. Some have sadly left the faith altogether, others have simply stopped participating and helping out.

The sense of this team was that it is probably best to lay the ministry down for a season or two due to a number of reasons. And, it is sad. It is sad because it is something that many have put their heart and soul into. It is sad because it is a ministry that was loved by a number of kids and families. It is sad because relationships were strained over the ministry. It is sad because the investment of peoples money and time and effort into something like this brings with it an emotional connection.

But as my pastor, who chaired the meeting, reminded us all of John 12:24, Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” So too, our ministries are like the grain and sometimes must fall to the earth, die and can then go on and produce more fruit.

And it is interesting to look at this verse in closer context.

Some Greeks have come to see Jesus, Andrew passes this message on to Peter who then goes and tells Jesus. Jesus’ response to the Greeks coming to see him is that it is now time for him to be glorified. What the…? Then in v24 we see that he is actually talking about his death, that through his death the disciples and the believers will bear much fruit. We see this happen throughout the books of Acts.

But, it is also interesting to see what happens in v25-26. He makes some very challenging statements. v25, Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.” And v26, “If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him.”

What a challenge, we must look to do the things of God, look to do the work of Jesus, look to die and be a sacrifice in this world.

How does this relate to ministries dying?

Well maybe it is the case of having to let them die so that more fruit can come from the wider ministries of the church. And maybe it is also the case of having to re-adjust our focus to Christ and look closely at how we serve him and re-align our ministries with his.

Book Review: Leaders Who Will Last

Over the last 24 hours I have been reading a book about youth ministry by Tim Hawkins.

Tim has been involved in youth ministry for years here in Australia and this is his second book on the topic. His first book, “Fruit That Will Last” was written in the 90’s and is the foundation and strategy of his youth ministry. It’s a good book and I’d recommend it to anyone in youth ministry.

His second book, published in 2002, is called “Leaders Who Will Last.” It is this book that I have just finished and again I would recommend it. However, this book is not only to those in youth ministry on a paid basis but for also anyone involved in a voluntary capacity.

“Leaders Who Will Last” is grounded in scripture and gives some good advice for youth leaders. There are three main sections of the book – one on the leader’s vision, one on the leader’s character, one on the leader’s skills.

 It is under visioning that the main biblical foundations are set. The issues of calling, shepherding and servant-hood are described and rightly portrayed as important. The main characteristics of a leader are to be faithful, reliable and a follower of those in higher authority than you (i.e. senior pastor, youth pastor, lead leader etc). In terms of skill, the main things to focus on are to be a Bible teacher, at least think about leading a small group and Tim also describes, in 16 points, what a youth worker can be. i.e. a prayer, an organizer etc.

Overall, I thought the book was good. An area of improvement would be a deeper theological basis for youth leadership and youth ministry in general. While a Biblical theology of youth ministry is not what this book was on about I am continuing to search for such a book. I haven’t found one, even in all the youth ministry books I have out at my college’s library. Maybe I should just come up with my own!

Anyway, back to the book. Much of it applied directly to me, particularly the issue of getting right with God and staying right. I must set my heart on His things and His agenda. This book pushes me to pray more, I don’t pray nearly enough for my leaders, my peers, my kids, my church even. And finally, it is a book that I will be recommending to my fellow youth leaders. There is much information in this book that is helpful to any leadership position, but specifically to those in youth ministry.

Romans and The Next Generation

This past week I have spent time reading the book of Romans. I loved it. It is such a great book.

Paul beautifully sets the foundation of the faith in chapters 1-8, focuses on God’s hand and work in our lives in chapters 9-11 and then makes it all practical in chapters 12-16. It is a wonderfully written sermon which really nails the gospel of God better than anyone I hear these days!

In recent days mission, outreach and evangelism has been on my heart for the first time in a long time. My ministry as a Youth Pastor needs to be focused on these things and Paul reminds me of their importance in Romans.

The gospel is needed desperately in the inner-eastern suburbs of Melbourne and very much needed by those in high school. A vision of the Almighty needs to be cast for young people to see that there is hope and purpose in this life. There is no point in carrying out a ministry which does not bring the hope that is in Christ to the fore. He should be put up high, worshipped, magnified and made known to those who need Him – the next generation. There is surely something more satisfying than Facebook, Flo-Rida and McFlurry’s!

Where can hope and purpose be found? Christ. Not just what He has done but also who He is.

As I evaluate how to be culturally appropriate to those under my care I continually think of how I can magnify Christ to them too.

May the Lord give grace upon grace in reaching this generation.