Archive for December, 2012

December 12, 2012

Grow you Good Thing!

The good people at Willow Creek Community Church in Chicago have cracked it – they have worked out what actually causes people to grow as Christians.  Hold on – I know.  It is the Holy Spirit.  Let me be more specific than.  They have worked out what things that churches do cause the people in their churches to respond to the Holy Spirit, and grow.

Willow have been doing large-scale research since 2004, and have last year published some very interesting results.  Earlier this year I blogged about how merely involving people in church programs does not help people to grow closer to God.  This was the conclusion that some of Willow’s early research uncovered.  And it came as a bit of a blow to a church that has some of the most attractive and well run church programs in North America.

Recently I have been reading one416Dr1ENFsL__AA160_ of the follow-up works that they have published.  It’s called Move.  The researchers (who are now surveying over 1,000 churches, not just their own) have come up with a list of the things that help people grow as Christians.  As you would expect they are many and varied.  They range from evangelism, tithing to understanding salvation by grace alone.  Some of these catalysts, as they like to call them, help new Christians a lot.  Others help mature Christians more significantly.  But the number one thing stands out a mile.  This is what they say, by way of a helpful illustration:

“If your local ice cream parlour could sell only one flavour, it would sell vanilla.  This isn’t just because vanilla ice cream is the most popular flavour, although that is true.  It’s because vanilla ice cream is hugely popular: in fact, it’s twice as popular as the second favourite flavour, which is chocolate. … So your ice cream parlour would choose vanilla.  Hands down.  No contest.

“Church pastors have an equally compelling option.  If they could only do one thing to help people at all levels of spiritual maturity grow in their relationship with Christ, their choice would be equally clear.  They would inspire, encourage and equip their people to read the bible – specifically to reflect on Scripture for meaning in their lives.

“Reflection on Scripture is the spiritual equivalent of vanilla ice cream because its influence on spiritual growth far exceeds the potential impact of other catalysts…Hands down.  No contest.  When it comes to spiritual growth nothing beats the bible.”

Now you might respond, “Ah yes – my church makes a priority of good bible teaching.  We are likely doing well.”  If that is the case then you have missed the point.  The main driver of growth is people reading their bibles on their own.

So – how are you going with your bible reading right now?  Because if you are someone who wants to grow closer to God then it’s the one thing most likely to get you there.  Been a Christian a short time?  Read the bible if you want to grow.  Been a Christian a long time?  Read the bible if you want to grow.

And if you are leading people, then the number one question is, “How are you helping your people get into their bibles?”  Because if you can do that, then they are highly likely to be growing.  If you are not doing that then there might be good things happening here or there but you are denying the people the most powerful source of growth around.

Obviously there is more to being a Christian than reading and reflecting on your bible.  And there is more to Christian leadership than helping people read their bibles.  But it’s hands down the best place to start.

The author of the letter to the Hebrews knew what was going on: “For the word of God is alive and powerful.  It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow.  It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires.” (Heb 4:12)

John

December 12, 2012

Fighting Back!

boxing glovesDo you ever feel attacked, like everything is suddenly coming against you? A number of years ago I had a “God dream’ warning me of an impending attack. In the dream I was standing on raised wooden platform in a field of tall long grass. Suddenly a snake came out of the grass and became airborne darting for me. I ducked and swerved managing not to get hit, but it kept attacking me. Its attack eventually failed. When I woke up I knew that the dream was a warning and God confirmed to me that I was going to come under some kind of attack.

Imagine, if you will, the enemy’s war room. His purpose is to bring you down and in the process throw whatever doubt He can on his arch-enemy – God. He strategizes all night long with his minions coming up with brilliant plans to have your car break down on the way to work, your purse stolen and purposes to cause a fight between you your partner or blow you a bout of the flu. Thankfully the Holy Spirit is sitting in on those meetings too and He’s taking notes! The Holy Spirit does everything He can to then prepare you to thwart these attacks the enemy has planned for you.

In Isaiah ch.7 there is a story about two kings conspiring and aligning forces to attack another King called Ahaz. God sends the prophet Isaiah to instruct King Ahaz on how to respond to this attack.  In a nutshell this is what he says:

Be Careful, Keep Calm, Don’t be afraid and Don’t lose heart.

Be careful

About a year ago I was shopping at the mall. I was leaving the toilets when a girl and I knocked each others elbows as we walked by each other. Unbeknownst to me her arm was in a sling under her sweater. She cried out in pain and her boyfriend who was waiting outside for her threatened to hurt me. Despite apologising profusely he threatened to bash me but he was delayed by seeing if his girlfriend was ok. I left the toilet area quickly. The danger felt very real and I was very scared but I had the sense to be careful and I hid in a clothing shop and left the mall quickly.

 Keep calm

My friend and I visited the fish market early in the morning to buy the ‘catch of the day’. On the way home we heard the sickening noise of a car accident. I jumped from the car and ran toward the sound of the accident. The scene was utter chaos. My own adrenalin level was pumping but upon arrival at the scene someone told me to calm down and instantly I did. I noticed a young girl about 10 years old standing near one of the vehicles in the collision. She was hysterical – just standing there, screaming. Her father was nearby but was dazed and in shock. I asked him if I could pray for his daughter. He said ‘Yes’. I introduced myself to the young girl and I started to pray. I called her mind, body and spirit out of shock and trauma and I spoke peace and calm to her. Immediately she stopped screaming and calmed down. Panic blocks our ability to think clearly. Our body releases stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenalin which block access to our frontal lobe – the place of rational and logical solutions. We must take our own pulse first.  That is keep calm so that we can be of some good for ourselves or others.

 Don’t be afraid

God always says it best…

Be strong and of good courage, do not fear nor be afraid of them; for the LORD your God, He is the One who goes with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you.

Deuteronomy 31:6

Do not lose heart

The Amazing Race has taught me to never lose heart, to never give up. Just keep going no matter how bad things seem. There’s always hope until Phil says ‘I’m sorry to tell you that you’ve been eliminated from the race’. Another team could have stuffed up and /or it could be a non-elimination round. Just never give up.

Isaiah was a true prophet of the living God. His words to Ahaz were wise and helpful then and they are still good for us today.

When you’re under personal attack, public attack or demonic attack let God meet you and protect you by remembering these words…

Be Careful, Keep Calm, Don’t be afraid and Don’t lose heart.

Over and Out,

Catherine xoxox

December 5, 2012

Dream Interpretation

Everybody dreams. It is a commonality amongst mankind to have them. Everybody wonders if there dream means something more than what is maybe obvious. Have you ever had a sense that your dream contained a message? To find a message or meaning in any dream we need to first establish authorship. It makes sense that the author of the dream is able to bring meaning to the dream.

Establishing Authorship

There are four possible authors for any dream:

  • You : Our own mind, body and soul can and does author dreams. It could just be the putting away of the day or a situation. Medication, food, alcohol and drugs can cause us to have powerful and illustrative dreams that find their authorship in our own subconscious.
  •  Demonic Dreams: Satan can and does give us dreams that originate in the kingdom of darkness. They are typified by fear, destruction, death and lies. They are designed to scare, intimidate and dismantle the kingdom of God in our hearts. Sometimes they are subtle but most of the time quite obvious.
  • Angelic and God Dreams: God and his Angelic Host speak to people through dreams and there are many examples of that in the bible.

The Ministry of Dream Interpretation

If God does speak through dreams it is legitimate to explore the notion of ‘dream interpretation’. I think some Christians equate this to horoscopes or palm reading but ultimately once God-authorship is established there is adequate scripture and biblical examples that show us that there are those that can practice this legitimate ministry of interpreting them. Daniel and Joseph both interpreted others dreams.

A number of years ago I did a 40 day fast. During the fast I started to have strong and vivid dreams. They were most definitely ‘God dreams’.  I awoke one morning after having one of these dreams and immediately my hands flew to my mouth. I felt around for my front teeth. In the dream I had been looking in a mirror and when I opened my mouth my front teeth were shattered but then they grew back whiter and stronger than ever. I had no idea what the dream meant but I knew that it meant something! God spoke clearly – He said ‘You are going to lose face for a time but I will restore it better and more than it was before’. When this situation arose a short time later I held fast to that dream and its promise of restoration. The possibility of this was unlikely but  God was true to His dream to me and the relationship was fully restored beyond measure.

Here are some simple but helpful tips to interpreting your dreams:

1. Establish Authorship: Ask the Lord, is this you?

2. Keep a dream diary. Things to notice:

  • Dreams from God never come to leave us in the dark but to reveal something of God to us (Numbers 12:6). They are worth writing down.
  •  Reflect on how you felt, what you saw and who was there. All these add up to give you the full message of what is being said or revealed to you.
  •  Note colours, numbers and symbols, who was in the dream, where were you. Were you an observer or were you actually part of the dream? Ask God to help you understand what the details mean. Don’t make assumptions.

3. Ask the Lord was this dream for you or someone else?

4.  What type of dream was it? A warning, a future event, an encouragement, a   directional dream?

5.    It is worth noting that if a dream is repeated it often means the matter is decided or determined by God (Gen 41:32).

6.   Does the dream line up with God’s word?

7.   Some dreams are literal and need little interpretation. For example, God could warn you about making a journey or about making a certain decision. Joseph and the Wise Men had dreams like this in Matthew 2. The dreams were clear and needed no interpretation.

Recently Poppy has being praying for God dreams. After not having one on the first night she awoke and yelled accusingly ‘Mum, you’ve tooken all the God dreams’. I reassured her that God has enough dreams for everyone…..

Over and Out,

Catherine xoxo

December 5, 2012

The Royal Commission into child sexual abuse – how will the church cope?

church

The Australian Prime Minister has announced that there will be a Royal Commission into child sexual abuse.  Whilst the scope of the commission will be broader than just the Christian Church, you can be sure that there will be substantial focus on abuse within church run institutions, as well as in the ordinary life of Christian congregations.

My friend Tim Hawkins has blogged here, with his usual insight, about the implications for the church.

For my own I think that this will be a major negative for the Christian Church.  Obviously the average citizen will not read the Commissioner’s final report.  But they will be exposed to occasional media coverage of the evidence, and the findings that are made.  That process will take many years.  There will be a steady drip of stories about people’s testimony, as well as more concentrated coverage when someone with a public profile gives their evidence.

I think that in the public mind the following conclusions will be drawn:

  1. That the leaders of the Christian Church are full of deviants and not to be trusted.  Even someone who has never set foot in a church knows that there are character qualifications to be in Christian leadership, as the scriptures make clear in Titus 1 and 1 Timothy 3.
  2. The Catholic Church attracts sexual deviants because it demands that priests be celibate.  I think that this is probably already a belief held by a substantial percentage of the population.  The Royal Commission could well increase it.  Even though I am a Protestant myself, I can appreciate that heaps of good things have happened and are happening through the Catholic Church.  God is at work there.  However I don’t hesitate to say that an unmarried priesthood is an absurd and unscriptural thing.  The Catholic Church purports to hold that their Pope is in the office of bishop of Rome, first held by Saint Peter himself.  And yet Peter was married!  If it was good enough for Peter to be married, why not for his successor?
  3. The Christian Church in general cares more about its money and reputation than about children and the people it is meant to care about.  This is the inevitable conclusion to be drawn when tale after tale will be told of abuser priests being shuffled around from one church to another.  Much of this is already on the public record but giving it another airing will increase its impact on the public consciousness.

When you put all of that together I think that if you are sharing the gospel in Australia in 2022 then the average non-Christian will have a slightly higher level of resistance to dipping their toe into organised religion than what they do right now.

Child sexual abuse in obviously an awful sin.  That it happens anywhere, ever, is a work of Satan.  That it happens at the hand of Christian leaders is a double triumph for the enemy.  And for the enemy it is something that will ruin and scar the lives of not just the victims of the abuse themselves, but through the public airing that the Royal Commission will create it will harm the image and standing of the people of God.

Of course the church cannot complain about any fall in its standing or image – if that happens the church has no one to blame but itself.

But to end on a positive note, Jesus told his disciples, “I will build my church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it.”  As we continue to serve God and spread his word the harvest will be brought in.  Because of God’s grace not even the evil deeds of various Christian leaders which will be exposed by this Royal Commission can stop that from happening.

John

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