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What is Ministry, Anyway? (Part 1)

So what is ministry, anyway? I want to offer four ideas. Four keys that have unlocked for me what ministry is. Not that I’ve “discovered”ministry; but that as I reflect on my life, I see the gradual revealing of my participation in God’s story and how it has shaped me – but more specifically for today – how it has moulded the way that I approach this “ministry thing”. My prayer today is that God would use my story (not that you’d see me though) to give us some tangible ways in which our theology of ministry can be practically applied to our daily lives, that God might get the glory both inside and outside the church.

Justification is not ‘Just-as-if-I’d never sinned’

Lately I’ve been hearing preachers declare the good news of justification – a word central to the Christian Gospel. They frequently use the catchy word-play that justified means “just-as-if-I’d never sinned”. It seems like a clever phrase, and something that we as Christians can celebrate. But it’s not really that clever, because justification is so much more than this.

We Shared the Gospel with You, and our Lives as well

Yesterday our church family said goodbye to some dear friends. It was a bittersweet moment as the congregation joined in prayer to bless this couple prior to their departure back to the USA in a few days time. It would not be an exaggeration to say that during their time serving the church in Australia, they had touched every life with the love and grace that Jesus Christ exemplified, and every heart was heavy to see them go. At the same time, they (and we) know that their journey back to the US is in God’s timing, and so they were released with the most love-filled blessing a congregation could express.

When Greg and Linda were invited to say a few departing words, Greg captured beautifully their heart for life and ministry with the Apostle Paul’s words to the church in 1 Thessalonians 28. Greg paraphrased Paul’s words like this
blockquote“…because we love you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of Jesus Christ, but our lives as well.”blockquote
As I listened to the words and pondered the depth of their meaning, I was struck by just how much Greg and Linda were truly the tangible representation of everything Paul meant when he penned them. Paul wrote of ihomeiromai; ithe earnest love that (like the love of a parent) is affection so deep as to be unsurpassed. Such personal affection was never out of obligation; yes, Greg and Linda served as Pastoral Care Pastors but it is clear that it was (and remains) the highest joy of their hearts to so love. They came first of all to impart the gospel of Jesus Christ; in all their living they encouraged, strengthened and comforted with the transforming truths of the surpassing greatness of knowing the Lord Jesus Christ. But besides imparting the gospel, they shared their lives. There was nothing superficial or partial about their love; indeed everyone with whom they came into contact felt immediately the authentic, generous, self-sacrificing love which shone through Greg and Linda’s every word and deed.

It is true that the church in Australia has suffered loss through their departure, but the rich heritage of love that Greg and Linda have left behind is almost immeasurable. I have personally learned so much from both of them with regard to what it means to love God and love others. I thank God whenever I pray for them that I was one of the privileged ones that this beautiful couple shared their lives with. My life is all the richer for it.

Lent: Less is More

This March, I made the decision to participate in Lent. Now I’m not a Catholic, and so I didn’t worry about only eating fish for dinner on Fridays, but in this crazy-busy world it isn’t hard to see the value in abstaining from something in order to make room for more important things. So what’s it all about? Packaged simply, Lent is a 40 day period of reflection, repentance and preparation which begins on Ash Wednesday, and ends with the celebration of the triumph of Easter Sunday. This post is the summary of my first experience of Lent.

Compassion, the Gospel, and Us

An amazing thing about compassion is that because of God, it’s indestructible.

This Sunday we continued our series on the character of Christ. Taking examples from remarkable people like Mother Teresa, we saw what true Christ-empowered compassion really looks like. And along with forgiveness, humility and love, as Christians we are called to clothe ourselves (Colossians 3:12) with compassion as we represent Christ to the world. Mother Teresa’s life undeniably embodies compassion both in her everyday and through specific events; like when she convinced the committee that awarded her the Nobel Peace Prize to use the finances for her awards dinner to feed 400 starving children…for a year.

But the message of compassion is never complete if it doesn’t begin where this post started.

Pray for your Wife

I’m now fast approaching seven weeks until I get married. As I reflect upon the way that my life will change (and is already changing), I’m reminded of the way in which Scripture calls me to love my wife, and how Jesus demonstrated that love and relationship in community with the Father and the Spirit through prayer. It’s so important that I pray for my wife. And I don’t just mean a quick little prayer for her in the morning or at night; I mean intentional and devoted praying for her.

As I’ve been thinking about reasons I need to pray for my wife, here are a few:

Prayer causes me to consider her.

I have a busy life, and I can easily be distracted away from her needs; becoming deaf to her concerns and insensitive to how she is feeling. Prayer causes me to dedicate time to consider how she might be feeling about all aspects of our lives (even the things that I happen to think are going fine), and be more sensitive to her struggles and needs.

Prayer is how I fight for her.

It’s my role to seek protection for her, and prayer is the way through which I ask the Holy Spirit to cover her emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. This comes in addition to our reading of Scripture and praying together; I seek Christ’s protection for my wife from my knees.

Prayer helps maintain our three-strand-cord marriage.

Praying for my wife correctly orients my heart towards seeking God and his will for us as a family. Prayer continually reminds me that not only am I seeking to live in the will of Christ, but I’m actually seeking to become Christ, so in praying for her my heart is softened, helping me to love her more like Christ does.

Prayer helps me to treasure her.

I should take delight in my wife; she should know every day that she has captured my heart. Just as God in Christ demonstrated the supreme treasuring of his bride through the cross, so (beginning with prayer) I should continually stir deep, lasting affection for my wife every day, and this affection should naturally be part of her every day life.

She needs it.

My wife isn’t perfect. She’s a sinner saved by grace, just like me. And just like me, she needs the saving and sustaining power of the gospel every second of every day. On top of this, she makes my life look like a summer cruise on an ocean liner. She needs prayer.

Husband, pray for your wife.