Desiring to Live and Breathe: Jesus

I want to be the kind of person who lives and breathes Jesus. Who’s hobbies and free time all revolve around Him. I want to be known as a follower of Jesus, someone who loves Him and is trying to be as much like Him as possible. To be a man after God’s own heart and then to lead, labour, inspire and encourage others to be the same.

But then I run into two problems.

Firstly, I get distracted. I lose sight of this goal and will invest my time in things which aren’t Christ centred. Which have little to no impact in His Kingdom and which don’t bring me closer to Him OR make me more like Him.

Secondly, I fear that I will become one-dimensional to others. That I will become that cliche Christian stereotype who only does “Christian things” and who therefore becomes pretty dull and has nothing to talk about.

I want to write a little truth into this second problem. It’s wrong on a few levels and needs to be combatted with correction. I can focus on the distractions later.

So first, where does this fear come from? Well, I want to fit in, I want to be cool, I want acceptance and to be able to contribute to conversations. Primal need – relationships and acceptance in community. If I centre my life of “Christian activities” then the only community I’ll find acceptance in is in “Christian circles”. And experience has taught me, this is not enough, it’s not dynamic enough or satisfying enough. In my experience “Christian circles” are cliche and fairly shallow. (Admittedly, I’ve had a fair share of frustrating experiences….) Furthermore I also want to be “relevant” to everyone else.

Remember that kid, who only listened to Christian music, only watched Christian films and only read Christian books. Not only was his experience of art, constrained to a bleak corner, but he also couldn’t/struggled to get involved in the conversations, communities and friendships that had exposure to a wider world.

Let me clarify, I know that to have a life which is Christ centred – doesn’t mean only engaging with the “Christian Bubble”. I know that there really isn’t so much as a sacred-secular divide as people in the olden days supposed. I know this, I’ve been around the block. It’s not what goes into a man that defiles him, but what comes out – Jesus said that.

But at the same time, I do believe Christ calls us to a life of purity. Where we are selective about what we engage in. And deliberate about what we do. We know that there are certain activities which harden our heart to God’s truth, we know that there are things which cause us to stumble, we know that we need to live selectively because our days are short. We are ambassadors with a limited time frame to work, to harvest, to fish. Therefore we should live in such a way that demonstrates God’s love, passion and blessing to this world. And not get caught up and entangled with distractions.

Let me also clarify that a life lived after Christ, isn’t insular, it isn’t passive and useless, it tackles the problems that the world faces. It offers light and salt to a world hungry for it. It shines hope into darkness, truth into lies, freedom into captivity, healing into brokenness and glory into shame. It does all this and more. And therefore it doesn’t have to be, and shouldn’t be, in the periphery and outskirts of ordinary life.

Furthermore, we shouldn’t be living in fear of being excluded or being rejected. This Good News, is ugly news to some and off-putting to others. The lifestyle of radical discipleship to our Rabbi, will upset, frustrate and anger people who don’t like Him. It is enough that the student be like his Rabbi/teacher. If they persecuted Him, if they laughed at Him, rejected Him and excluded Him, how much more us?!

Sometimes I just need to write truth down, and speak it to myself.

Afterthought, I also think that a selective life is very interesting to a watching world. Ever met someone who didn’t have social media, or a Netflix subscription – because of a deliberate decision. They usually have an interesting story behind it. And we are eager to know about it. May my selective life, draw others to Jesus.

“…to live in a way which demands an explanation.” Was a motto my wife and I adopted when we got engaged. It’s time to dust it off and start again.

Jesus in the Gospel of Mark

Who is this Man?
Jesus is the Miracle-Worker, healing those that come to Him with faith, multiplying food for those who eagerly listen without concern for their rumbling-stomachs, walking on water in order to be present with those whom He loved.

Jesus is the Masterful-Teacher, instructing the crowds, challenging the religious experts and nurturing His own disciples. Using a diverse range of tools from cleverly crafted parables to razor-sharp pointed questions. From the examples of a poor widow’s generosity, to a rich young ruler’s disappointment.

Jesus is the Spiritually-Orientated Leader, who sees what is hidden in hearts and chooses prayer rather than might, submission instead of pride and love instead of judgment. He understands the dynamic between the physical and immaterial, embracing both and using it for His Father’s purposes.

Jesus gladly embraces and honors the least.

May I ever seek to desperately approach Him, in humility and awe. May I never lose the wonder, that God became like us in order to love us and restore us. May I never forget to be grateful for this.

What did He do?
Jesus taught truth, in many ways to many different people. He was sought out by the crowds, the religious experts and the desperate citizens from both Jewish and Gentile communities, because of His teaching and insights. Three noteworthy themes of His were: 1) The Kingdom of God, revealed through parables and one-liners, and ultimately through His death (13:39). This is a Kingdom that seems in many ways to mock the kingdom of this world by raising up and honoring the least (10:14-15), by promoting servants (9:35) and it does not pay homage to material wealth (10.21). 2) The importance of Faith, Jesus is repeatedly responding to faith (or lack of) and using it as a springboard from which to teach. Jesus sees the faith of the good friends who have gone to great lengths to present their companion to Jesus, He accepts the trying faith of the frightened father and leaves Bartimaeus named, healed and following all because of faith. Jesus is disappointed and left astonished by the absence of faith in others; following the panic incited by a storm and those offended by His familiarity. 3) His own death and the suffering awaiting His disciples. Three times in this Gospel Jesus teaches about His death and each time follows it with a caution that those who follow Him will also be asked to lose, be it their desires and life, their status and pride or their freedom and position. Jesus taught difficult truths.

Jesus provided numerous people with significant direction and purpose for their lives. Not only did He provide direction for a miracle-hungry and easily impressed crowd who eagerly waited for another mass feeding. But He also touched individual lives, sparking generation upon generation of changed futures as He went. Levi was ushered away from his booth and hosted a party for other tax collectors before leaving everything and following Jesus. Legion was delivered and sent home to proclaim truth to the Decapolis. Peter was invited away from his trade to fish for men and become the head of the Church to come. Bartimaeus was healed and decided to follow Jesus. Barabbas freed on account of Jesus’ sacrifice and given a second chance. The Centurion sees Jesus’ death and receives saving faith in order to enter eternal life. The eleven disciples were commissioned to ‘go into all the world and preach the gospel to all of creation’. Jesus provided purpose.

On two accounts Jesus sees’ what the world might have missed and loves where someone else in his position might have scoffed. Firstly, as a widow discreetly offers all she has amid a crowd donating large sums of money. Jesus sees deep what others would have missed and honors the lady’s sacrifice. Secondly, when the rich young ruler approaches and is disappointed with the prospect of selling what he has – Jesus doesn’t gloat in his intellectual joust instead He sees and loves the man who could not surrender. Jesus sees and He loves, even the those who were despised.

Jesus lived by Scripture in close communion with His Father. He knew Scripture profoundly and completely, using it not only to teach but to defend His own actions and life choices. His knowledge and approach to Scripture purchases for Him a freedom from human tradition and regulation, a freedom He compassionately offers to those in chains. This Scripture wrought freedom allows Jesus to bless, to heal, to rest and to eat without entertaining the expectations and fear of men (for a poignant example of this read Mark 7:1-23). Jesus also lived in close communion with His Father, frequently withdrawing to quiet places and allowing His disciples to do the same. This communion undoubtedly informed many of His most crucial decisions, significant teachings and insights into His own calling as well as the hearts of those around Him. The most stark and important decision which He made was directly in the context of extended prayer (14:35-36).

How do I tell others about Him?

He commands me, and His decree makes possible. He accompanies me, with Him by my side whom shall I fear. He protects me, and yet, He demands that I surrender all I hold as precious. He rewards me with Himself. This is my hope and faith.

I find that the best way to tell my colleagues about Jesus, is to tell them a story from a gospel and ask for their thoughts. I feel like Jesus did this to tell people about the Kingdom of God. I don’t need to explain the story, just telling it is powerful. Most recently I asked my colleagues about the three people who wanted to follow Jesus but had things to do first (Luke 9), Jesus gave them an uncomfortable ultimatum.

I find that people are often happy to express their opinions on a story. Maybe in the story they encounter Jesus.

Hopefully they encounter Him in me.

The White Flag: Called and Equipped to do much.

One of the significant activities God has been leading me into over the last 5 months is the process of ‘stepping out of ministry’. This has been an interesting time and I’ve learnt a lot. I wanted to share a bit of that journey and what it’s all been like.

Since October 2017, I have been doing what I called ‘bi-vocational’ ministry. I was working 9-5 for Cancer Research UK in their clinical trials unit, and at the same time running a student ministry with Navigators UK. It was great fun, it was a great challenge, it had it’s ups and downs like any ministry endeavour – but it was incredibly rewarding.

My average day started around 4.30-5am with all the regular routines and disciplines I needed to sustain me through the day (quiet times, exercise, reading and study), then I’d be out to meet with a small group of students on campus at around 8. We’d often simply read our Bibles and pray together. A fantastic way to start a working day, a fantastic way to approach discipleship, a fantastic way to grow friendships. Meeting daily in the mornings, you really do get to see each other on good and bad days – weaknesses exposed, yet together meeting to encourage each other and bring our days before God.

Then I’d be at work. I might meet someone at lunch (the trials unit was based at the university!). Then, depending on the weekday – I’d either be meeting a student 1-on-1, attending/leading/hosting a Bible study. It was busy. But being in my early twenties I have/had a lot of energy and time to spare for these good endeavours.

After a year at this pace, I added to my life FFM (Foundations For Ministry – a 3 year training course with Navs) and my wife and I took up our Church’s youth group’s mid-week gathering. Wow. Oh, and on top of all that, I was being allowed to preach once a month at Church (something I deeply cherish, and feel so honoured by!)…. Looking back on all this, it sounds like too much. But honestly, God sustained me.

I held firmly onto two verses which inspired and motivated and kept us both going…

“He is the one we proclaim, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ. To this end I strenuously contend with all the energy Christ so powerfully works in me!” – Col 1.28-29 (which continues beautifully and relevantly into chapter 2!)

“Invest in seven ventures, yes, in eight;” – Ecc 11:2 (I felt God give me this verse one morning in my quiet time, it also came with the word: there is a difference between investing and managing)

With these verses, which I genuinely believe God gave me, I was encouraged to do all the many works I felt He was asking me to do. He put the work before me, and then enabled me to do it. I would say to myself, and to anyone else, that they really shouldn’t do as much as I was doing, unless God has specifically called them to it – and to remember – He probably won’t call you to it permanently.

…And then at Christmas 2018, we felt very clearly God was telling us to start drawing back…

 

Systematic Theology 7.b: Necessity of Scripture (what about “Jesus-dreams”)

Forgive the 2nd post on this topic, but I went away and did some more learning about this doctrine, as you probably noticed – avid, loyal readers of this marvelous blog that you are – the Necessity of Scripture raised an issue for me.

One component of the Necessity of Scripture says that Scripture – whether read or heard – is necessary for knowledge of the Gospel. In other words, we are able to know some things about God apart from Scripture (e.g. that He is loving and He is just), but we aren’t able to know that He sent His Son to die for us (so that His loving-ness and justice could actually function together) without Scripture.

In short, I wanted to answer the question: “How do we make sense of the Necessity of Scripture (for knowledge of the Gospel) when people seem to have dreams/visions about Jesus and become Christians without the Bible”.

After a bit of research, I found 3 answers which I found helpful:

  1. The Bible never encourages us to expect/rely on these things (Gospel-explaining-dreams) to happen, they may happen and that is wonderful, but we can’t use that as an excuse to not do mission. In fact it is this very doctrine, the necessity of scripture, that has motivated missionary efforts for centuries!
  2. Often people who have these visions are soon led to Christians (who have Bibles) – or Christians are led to them – and they’re faith grows. In this way the dreams and visions seem to function as if God is preparing the way for missionaries.
  3. If someone did have a vision, a valid question would be, ‘would it be compelling enough for them to base their complete faith upon without any confirmation from God’s Word?’ Grudem admits, he doesn’t know, but again Scripture never encourages us to settle with this. In fact, it encourages us to go, to go and preach the word! (Roman 10:13-17)! This brings me back to the earlier chapters, it is as we read the Bible the Holy Spirit confirms that what we read is true.

All this to say, not only has it been useful to follow up on my questions (because they’ve been answered!), but also that there is great advantage to theological training –with others. A healthy reminder, that theology shouldn’t be studied alone – but as part of His body. I will be looking for ways – aside from this blog – to involve others in my study processes.

Systematic Theology 4.b Authority of Scripture (Obedience & Truthfulness)

 

WELCOME to the 2nd part in looking at the Authority of Scripture. (Meta-blog interruption, since one post usually takes me about an hour to read the content, make notes and write up, I’m looking at a big project ahead of me! On the bright-side we’re 4/57 chapters of our way through. So whats that? Like, 1/14ish Almost a tenth!…)

Authority of Scripture – to disobey or disbelieve any word of scripture is to D/D God.

This is why Jesus can rebuke His disciples for not believing the OT (Lk 24.25), why believers are encouraged to obey apostles (John 15.20, 2 Pet 3.2). And why disobeying Paul’s writings could result in excommunication (2 Thess 3.14) or Spiritual punishment (2 Cor 13:2-3). In contrast God delights in those who tremble at His Word (Isaiah 66.2).

Grudem makes an amazing observation on how this doctrine – sub-doctrine – whatever – affects the role of preaching. I love it so much I’ve copied it again:

Preacher

As a personal side note – I think our expectations of a sermon are far off – and that’s our own fault. We have a tendency to lift up a gifted speaker, a funny communicator, an intelligent teacher or a likeable personality. We rate someone – according to their engage-ability, the stories told, the feelings we had over the message (ALL GOOD THINGS)…But in doing so – we can get distracted, miss the point and forget what really matters, really. It is His word. His word brings life, not a speaker’s ability. I love Paul’s opening to the Corinthians (1 Cor 2:1-5):

And so it was with me, brothers and sisters. When I came to you, I did not come with eloquence or human wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. I came to you in weakness with great fear and trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power…

Anyway! – Grudem also explores the Truthfulness of Scripture, and how this aspect of the WoG allows us to confidently acknowledge it’s authority. We know that the His Word is true because:

  • God cannot lie – See Titus 1:2, Hebrews 6:18, 2 Samuel 7.28 and Numbers 23:19.
  • Scripture is without error – Proverbs 30:5, Psalm 12:6
  • His Word will endure – even if Heaven and earth pass away (Matthew 24:35)
  • Not only are His Words true, but they are the ultimate standard of Truth. See John 17.17, Grudem explains that the greek word for “true”ness in this passage is actually a noun. His word is Truth.

What then is truth? Truth is what God says, and we have what God says (accurately but not exhaustively) in the Bible.

Q WHAT IF…we discover a new fact that contradicts Scripture. 

  1. Examine the fact, data and source. Check it really is a fact.
  2. Re-examine our own interpretation of Scripture, have we really understood it correctly – is it possible we have read in to it – what makes sense to us. Is there a chance we – fallen, human beings – have misunderstood it. Or is it more likely God made a mistake!? (Rhetorical question!)

 

Systematic Theology 1.b Introduction (Why & How)

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About this time last year I read a book by Simen Sinek, which has had a surprising impact on how I preach, teach and communicate ideas – even to a small group. The book is ‘Start with Why’. And in it he argues that instead of starting which What you do or How you do it you need to start with why. This sells people the vision, it keeps them motivated. Sinek argues that most people know what they do and how they do it. But few can express why they do what they do – and yet this is the most important. So why should I, why should we, study Systematic Theology.

Why not?

Grudem address some of the arguments people have against studying systematic theology and then gives responses.

  • “Since the conclusions are too neat and tidy they can’t be true”
  • “It is pointless, since whatever subject is chosen to be studied will determine the answers found.” (E.g. if you chose to study God’s sovereignty you’ll find arguments for Calvinism, but if you choose to study freewill you’ll be led towards Arminianism (a real word?)

Grudem gives good responses to these arguments. However these aren’t objections I have heard before, and ones I wouldn’t be tempted to make myself. For me the most compelling objection to studying systematic theology comes down to the fact that it should just be enough to read the Bible. I love the Bible, and I believe in it we have everything we need to learn to live a life of Godliness. So why should I study Systematic Theology?

I’ve been told to read books before, which summarise the Bible – and always had an inner frustration that we weren’t encouraged to simply read through the Bible itself. As someone who reads through the Bible regularly – what can systematic theology do for me? 

Well, Grudem makes clear that the purpose of S.T. isn’t to improve upon the Bible and give us special knowledge. But instead to help us understand the Bible’s voice on a variety of topics, to summarise and synthesise the whole of the Bible on any given topic, without reading it through from beginning to end every time we need an answer on a topic.

Furthermore it can help us carry out the Great Commission – Matthew 28:19-20. Of which, part of the commission is to ‘teach them to obey everything [He has] commanded us’. As someone who has been involved with teaching, and married to a teacher, I know the value of having an overview of a topic before introducing a fragment of it. By studying S.T. we can have overviews on Jesus’ teaching/commands through the whole Scripture (which we believe is all God-breathed, Spirit-inspired)!

The task of fulfilling the Great Commission includes therefore not only evangelism but also teaching 

To teach others – is the “Basic Reason” Grudem gives. Hence this blog and my desire to share with other Christians. May this knowledge also change the way I live that others see Jesus all the more.

The Benefit to our Lives – This is the 2nd reason given. By studying S.T.:

  • We can overcome wrong ideas (either innocent/naive or stubborn/rebellious). Grudem remarks that when we stubbornly disagree with a biblical idea, it can be helpful to feel the ‘Total weight of Scripture on an issue’.
  • Make better decisions, not just in life, but when it comes to future/unexpected disagreements with theology. Knowing what the Bible says on major doctrines, can clarify trip hazards in minor doctrines.
  • Help us grow as Christians – as noted in Scripture Godliness is often connected to Doctrine (1 Tim 1.10, 6.3)
  • Unity in the Church. This for me is so so important! I’ve come across this distinction before in my reading – between major and minor doctrines. Too often the Church divides over differences in minor doctrines, when it’s the major ones that are really important. What’s the difference?

He describes a Major Doctrine as one that has a big impact on how we view other doctrines (e.g. Authority of the Bible, Deity of Jesus, Justification by Faith etc.) whereas a Minor Doctrine has little impact on other doctrines (forms of Church government, timing of the Tribulation, food laws). Grudem explains that the concept of Major/Minor is more helpfully viewed as a spectrum rather than either/or. Aka: Some doctrines are more major than others. By being able to distinguish between the two, needless divisions and walkaway arguments need to happen.

I hope this is all followable!

So how should I study this?

  • With Prayer: we need the Power of the Holy Spirit, not just to learn this but to apply it. Therefore let us approach this prayerfully and maintaining our devotional lives and love for God.
  • With Humility: rightly is mentioned how knowledge often leads to pride – which puffs us up and isn’t useful without love (1 Cor 8:1, 13:1-3). There is a challenging quote on page 33, I’ll type out since pride is a big temptation for me personally – this is a good reminder:Pride

…it would be very easy to adopt an attitude of pride or superiority towards others who have not made such a study. But how ugly it would be if anyone were to use this knowledge of God’s Word simply to win arguments or to put down a fellow Christian in conversation, or to make another believer feel insignificant in the Lord’s work…

  • With Reason: Grudem argues that we should use our logic to draw deductions from Scripture, however we need to recognise that even though God has given us brilliant minds and abilities our deductions/reasoning are not level with Scripture and must be submitted to Scripture. By that he means that whenever we have reached a conclusion that is contradictory to Scripture, our idea is wrong.
  • With the help of others: be that books, peers, other Christians, by talking about what we’re learning. We are meant to grow and learn together – as Iron sharpens Iron.
  • With rejoicing and praise: What  God reveals to us through the Bible should result in awe, and praise and worship. I think the moment this slips, we are very much in danger of idolising ourselves/our minds. Our study – should result in God’s glory as we learn more about Him.

I want to make a third shorter post on this Chapter about the application questions, memory verse and what stood out to me this chapter. But then we’re starting PART 1!!! The Doctrine of the Word of God!!!!

Slow and steady wins the race, right?

 

BRT – Galatians

I’m getting behind in posting these up, but I still want to try and keep the books in separate posts.

  1. 4:21-31 . Galatians has the theme of ‘receiving the promises by faith NOT works’ all the way through. And here in these verses we get an amazing example of what happens when we try to go about it in our own strength. The example is from the Old Testament, Abraham and Sarah are pr0cde6e532bc2d13e8c7568185081d1d9omised to by parents of a nation – basically! But their old and they doubt God is able to do it, so they try and make the promise be fulfilled in their own strength – by works. The result is Abraham sleeps with another women, who is younger and she gives birth. They have a son they call Ishmael (whose descendants later give God’s people a bit of trouble in the OT). But God does provide for Abraham and Sarah their own son. Anyways, I just like it, lets trust God to provide rather than trying to get things our own way!
  2. 5.8-9 “It only takes a little hametz (yeast) to leaven the whole batch of dough”. Paul is talking about false teaching. I found this challenging, because I really like to listen to sermons from a wide range of denominations and who speak in a variety of ways. And there’s one guy in particular, who I’ve listened to his sermons since I was in secondary school. As I’ve got older I’ve become more and more aware of things I believe He says which contradict God’s Word. There was a point about three years ago when I stopped listening because I got so frustrated by it! Anyway in the recent months I’ve started listening again, this time as an intellectual exercise. I think: “It can’t all be bad, let’s see if I can find the bits I disagree with and find ways to argue against them from the Bible“. But reading these verses in Galatians was like a stern warning to me in this, it is much more dangerous than I imagine. I still think there is some gain in listening to teaching that is dodgy (in that I am learning to see faults and stronger my own conviction and ability to teach others correctly), and I am also convinced every preacher gets it wrong at times. But maybe it would be better to do this “intellectual exercise” with some other wiser and more mature Christians alongside me – rather than handling the fire on my own. This is a stern warning to me, and I want to take it seriously!
  3. 6.12 “It is those who want to look good outwardly who are trying to get you to be circumcised.” Again this is related to false teaching. In this church at the time, part of the false teaching of receiving right standing with God by works – rather than grace – was telling people they needed to undergo circumcision. Paul explains how this is also just another form of ‘works-based-righteousness’ and was wrong! When I read this I saw a connection between them wanting to look good outwardly and false teaching. Again this was a warning for me, one thing I’ve noticed through my Bible reading lately is that desire for reputation keeps coming up as a challenge point. When I read this I felt like God was directing me to be rooted in my Identity which is based on Him rather than my reputation. I find this difficult and have realised that appearance/reputation are the things I often idolize over God’s Word in regards to my identity. I used to think it was achievement, and I guess there is a bit of that in there, but deeper down I think my mind goes: achieve so that you will be recognised/have a good reputation/appearance.

The prayers in Ephesians were good to read to help me in being rooted in His Word over me:

“In my prayers I keep asking the God of our Lord Yeshua the Messiah, the glorious Father, to give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you will have full knowledge of him. I pray that he will give light to the eyes of your hearts, so that you will understand the hope to which he has called you, what rich glories there are in the inheritance he has promised his people,and how surpassingly great is his power working in us who trust him”

“I pray that from the treasures of his glory he will empower you with inner strength by his Spirit, so that the Messiah may live in your hearts through your trusting. Also I pray that you will be rooted and founded in love, so that you, with all God’s people, will be given strength to grasp the breadth, length, height and depth of the Messiah’s love, yes, to know it, even though it is beyond all knowing, so that you will be filled with all the fullness of God.”

i-face (2): Practical Steps

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This one is probably less Bible based and more common sense. I’ll try and support things with Bible as I can – hopefully the principles will stand. For anyone who didn’t read my last post, the i-face is an acronym for dealing with confidence. There is a situation that seems coming up and I think confidence will be key in helping it. The first post, focused on the letter “i” which was identity, it talked about how our ID should be built on Christ and what God says about us rather than all the other things that are valued: achievements, personality, appearance, popularity etc….

So “FACE” stands for… Familiarisation, Acceptance, Competence and Enjoying…And because I’m not too much of a creative type these words may be a bit of a stretch from what I actually mean by them. But I hope its helpful. Also because I think prioritising is important I’m actually going to order it ACFE. Anyway – my unprofessional-ism is now adequately exposed!

A – Accepting – (the audience), when we looked at “I” we looked at accepting self – not on a “everyone’s a winner” basis, but on a “the God who has ultimate authority over all creation has said these things about me” basis. Here though, we are looking at accepting the audience. In preaching or serving the church this is crucial! We need to love the Church and the congregation. In order to love someone, you kind of need to get to know them first!

It could be said that this would make it harder to be confident! Some people find that it’s easier talking to strangers. But I say it’s harder to truly love strangers – love in the sense of unfailing/despite faults – because you don’t know strangers faults and they don’t know yours. But why is Love important in confidence. WELL, without love our preaching and teaching is pretty useless see 1 Cor 13 on using gifts without love! Therefore if our preaching is without love, then it is not accomplishing much for God’s Kingdom, if it’s not accomplishing me, how can we be confident in what we’re doing! We’ll just be relying on our own strength rather than God’s and that is a formula for un-confidence. Hope that all makes sense and the argument follows!

C – Competence – again it’s important that the “i” is in place first! Without the “i” we can value ability and take our identity claim from that instead! A recipe for disaster. Competence is pretty self explanatory. It helps our confidence if we are good at what we do. Therefore we read up on what we’re speaking on, we talk to experts, we prepare well. We read, listen, ask questions, take classes… The only thing here is not putting competence over “i” in terms of priority!

F – Familiarisation – this is linked to competence, once we know the stuff, once we’ve developed the skill. We want to practice it. Andy Stanley writes about the importance of memorisation when it comes to preaching. How much it communicates about the importance of what you’re saying to your audience and etc etc. I know it’s not possible for everyone to memorise their talks but at least be  very very familiar with the main points and how we plan to present them! This will build confidence!

E – Enjoyment – This is probably deemed as the least important, and maybe out of the four it is. But I still think it’s crucial. People will be able to tell if you’re not passionate and excited about what you’re talking about. They will “feel” whether or not it is a pleasure for you to speak to them or if it is a “chore” or a duty. If you are aware, you will sense this reception. I think it makes sense. Therefore if we want more confidence lets try and find ways to enjoy sermon, or at least  (if it’s a tough or sad topic) realise it’s importance! I find that passion is contagious, so maybe if you don’t get excited about the tabernacle system and how it relates to the new covenant (for example) talk to someone who is – maybe it will rub off on you.


RTTQ – So how can we develop confidence in preaching/teaching?? Make sure our identity is staked in what God says about us, not what others (or self) says. Then take the practical steps of getting familiar with the text, accept and love the congregation, develop competence and finally make efforts to enjoy and be stir passion for the subject – realising it’s significance.

This definitely isn’t the most comprehensive, or exhaustive tips. But I found them helpful when thinking through it for myself with God. Hope you find it helpful too!

i-face (1): Identity Foundation Truths

public-speaking-anxiety

My wife woke me up last night to tell me there’s a possibility I might be preaching at our home church in a few months. Apart from really loving preaching and feeling quite excited that I might actually be able to do it at our home church. (In the past I’ve only done it at churches we used to go to or at youth camps.) I also felt incredibly nervous. The church we are at, at the moment is very clever – not that the others aren’t – but most people there are graduates and the preaching is very expository and detailed. Whereas I’m used to using themes and blah blah blah…In short – I’m nervous and don’t feel too confident.

Even though at the moment preaching only seems a possibility. I got really nervous. And so this morning as part of my quiet time I lifted it to God and asked for Him to help me with confidence. I wanted to share a little seminar/talk/notes I got. The acronym is i-face (like iphone 😉 )

I – Identity (foundation truths). This is probably why I get so nervous about such things! I base a lot of my identity on how other people perceive me. Therefore if I do a “good” talk people will like me and if people like me then I am a precious person! At least, that’s the reasoning in my head. It’s an achievement & popularity based identity. In truth this is a form of idolatry, idolising myself and others – letting their opinion count more than Gods. The book of Ephesians is a great book to help us understand what God’s opinion of us is. Looking at Chapter 1 we see four foundation truths about ourselves

  1. V7 We are Forgiven – No matter what we’ve done wrong and what we should have done but didn’t do right, God forgives us and doesn’t count it against us. He can do this because Jesus died on the cross for our sins!
  2. V4&11 We are Chosen – Although a lot of people have spent a lot of time debating the finer details of what this means, simply it means God wants you on His team. You are good enough (because Jesus died for us on the cross) to be on God’s team. And if you are on God’s side, you have nothing to worry about.
  3. V5 We are Sons/Daughters – In the gospels Jesus unpacks this in many many ways. But one of my favourite is found in the Gospel of John (15.9) “just as the Father has loved me, so have I loved you.” Think about how much a perfect God loves His perfect Son, Jesus says here that that amount is the same for which He loves us! This is HUGE!!! (See: Rom 8:14-17, Gal 3:23-4:7)
  4. V12&14 We are instruments for his Glory! – God wants to use us to bring Glory to Himself…This should make us excited.

Therefore our Confidence has to start and be built on these foundation truths! Not on our appearance, achievements and popularity etc. But on what Jesus has done for us.

Because this is longer than I thought it would be I’ll post FACE up tomorrow.


Saying all this, believing these four foundation truths can be difficult especially in a world that does place value on us according to how much we earn, what grades we get, how good looking we are etc. Therefore a really helpful thing we can do is PRAY!!!

In the Gospels we have an account of a Dad whose son is possessed. The Father brings his son to Jesus and says: “But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us”. 

Jesus responds by saying: “If you can!… Anything is possible for the one who believes.” 

The Dad says, and I think in regards to struggling to believe the foundation ID claims we should pray like this: “I do believe, but help me overcome my unbelief!”

Father God, I do believe that I am Your son and, I am forgiven, that you see me as Holy and set apart, that you use me for Your glory, that You love me and have Chosen me. And nothing will change this or separate me from Your love. I believe that Your Word over me is infinitely more important and significant than any other man (including myself), but please help me overcome my unbelief – particularly when I forget it! Amen