Thursday, October 25, 2018

When I stopped listening to the crowd...

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*This article was first published online at Christian Today.

I’m sick and tired of listening to the crowd. It’s tiring. It’s demanding. It’s not always truthful. It’s sometimes uplifting and other times not.

If God could shout a message loud and clear, I’d be ready to hear it.

Let me side track a few moments.

As the State of the Union Address was being delivered, the secret service ensured one of the state secretaries stayed behind in the White House. In the unlikely event that a catastrophe took place, this person would assume the position of President of the United States.

He or she is classified as the ‘designated survivor.’

As I sat on my couch watching this new Netflix TV series, the character Tom Kirkman (played by Kiefer Sutherland – you may remember his from the series ‘24’) was hurriedly sworn in as POTUS. Then he was thrust into the Situation Room and had to help stabilise the political tension in the Middle East, and prevent the U.S.A from going into economic meltdown, all the while dealing with his own insecurities of being in such a prominent position.

Episode one, done and dusted.

The show reveals Tom Kirkman as just a ‘secretary for urban development’, someone who many characters in the show believe was not capable of being President of the free world. Leadership was thrust upon him. Though was he ready?

You can hear the questions loud and clear. Who am I to be President? Am I really who people say I am? Are the critics right, should I step down? Or do I have the capacity?

Taking a step back from this fictitious adventure, and considering my own life, I have had to deal with my own sense of adequacy. Am I called by God to be a full-time minister? If I am, then am I qualified enough for this work? Will people recognise my capacity and calling? Will others support me on the journey? And what do I do if there is a disconnect between what I think about me, and what others think about me?

I promise you, I’m not a raving lunatic. I just have lots of questions.

Truth about yourself can seem elusive and even seemingly subjective when you listen to all the noise in the crowd. People have different opinions on you. Sorry to break the bad news. Not everyone thinks you’re amazing. Some think you’re awesome. Others misunderstand you. Others talk about you behind your back, but others have your back.

This was no different to Jesus Christ.

Consider for a moment, that Jesus was born of the virgin Mary. Some just called him Joseph’s son. ‘He’s just a little boy born in Nazareth. I’ll believe he’s the Messiah when I see some more proof!’

Jesus called himself the son of Man, and the son of God, sent from the Father. He knew the Father had sent him, that he was the promised Messiah to bring salvation to the world. Many in today’s culture just think Jesus was a nice man who walked on the earth teaching nice moral ethics. (I suggest to you, if Jesus walked around saying he was the Son of God and that he is, ‘the Light of the World’, he either was, or he’s a lunatic!)

Jesus died on the cross for the sins of humanity. Some just thought he was crucified like any other convicted criminal of the day.

Jesus rose from the grace to conquer sin and give new life and hope. Some scholars today work hard to discredit the authenticity of the reality of the resurrection narrative.

Some people of his day absolutely misunderstood who he was.

People can say what they want

All I’m saying is, people can say all kinds of things about you, but that then doesn’t change the truth of who you are. People can make assertions about your work performance. People can talk about your family when you’re not in the room. And through all the noise, there is one truth that I feel like God is screaming out to tell you.

That’s why I published Jo Brookshaw’s latest drawing called ‘Daughter Zion.’ Take another look at it. In Isaiah 58:1 the Bible says, ‘Shout it aloud, do not hold back. Raise your voice like a trumpet.’ This picture is of my daughter Shekinah, giving out humungous shout to the Lord.

Consider your own thoughts about your life. Some of us have negative self-talk that drowns out the rest of what we hear.

It’s hard to hear God above the sound of our own insecurities.

Some of us have been abused and mistreated and so the core of who we truly are is lost in the hurt, pain and bitterness. But God is shouting out something to you today…

You are who I say you are!

That is, you find your identity in who God says you are, not in who you may or may not think you are, and surely not what the crowd says about you.

A moment of preaching

Forgive me, because I’m a preacher by trade, so permit me a moment:

You are made in God’s image.

You are a child of God.

You are loved beyond measure.

Your personality is hand-crafted.

Your sin does not define you.

Your looks do not fully describe you.

You are who God says you are.

Tom Kirkman and Pete Brookshaw will need to keep discovering who they truly are. Tom is capable to be President. Pete is loved by God more than he realises.

What about you?

Can you hear God yelling out… ‘You are who I say you are!’


Pete Brookshaw is the Senior Minister of The Salvation Army Craigieburn. He has a Bachelor of both Business and Theology and is passionate about the church being dynamic and effective in the world and creating communities of faith that are outward-focused, innovative, passionate about the lost and committed to societal change. He has been blogging since 2006 at www.petebrookshaw.com about leadership and faith and you can find him on:

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Eugene Peterson leaves a legacy in death

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On October 22nd, 2018, well known Pastor and Author, Eugene Peterson passed away at age 85. The American Christian Minister is best known for his paraphrase of the Bible, The Message, while also authoring dozens of other titles.

About a decade ago I took on a mammoth task inspired by Eugene Peterson. I grabbed hold of that large hardback book called The Message, and I made a pact with myself that I would read it from front to back. Over the next two years I was challenged and inspired by Eugene Peterson's version of the Scriptures.

I came across words like these:

'So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out...' - Romans 12:1-2

And these:


'Count yourself lucky, how happy you must be—
    you get a fresh start,
    your slate’s wiped clean.
 Count yourself lucky—
    God holds nothing against you
    and you’re holding nothing back from him.
 When I kept it all inside,
    my bones turned to powder,
    my words became daylong groans.

The pressure never let up;

    all the juices of my life dried up.
 Then I let it all out;
    I said, “I’ll make a clean breast of my failures to God.”
Suddenly the pressure was gone—
    my guilt dissolved,
    my sin disappeared.
 These things add up. Every one of us needs to pray;
    when all hell breaks loose and the dam bursts
    we’ll be on high ground, untouched.
 God’s my island hideaway,
    keeps danger far from the shore,
    throws garlands of hosannas around my neck.
 Let me give you some good advice;
    I’m looking you in the eye
    and giving it to you straight:
 “Don’t be ornery like a horse or mule
    that needs bit and bridle
    to stay on track.”
 God-defiers are always in trouble;
    God-affirmers find themselves loved
    every time they turn around.
 Celebrate God.
    Sing together—everyone!
    All you honest hearts, raise the roof!'
Psalm 32:1-11
He regularly challenged other Pastors and leaders to keep God at the forefront; to not turn churches into businesses. To keep our eyes fixed on Jesus. In his book Working the Angles, he writes, 'The biblical fact is that there are no successful churches. There are, instead, communities of sinners, gathered before God week after week in towns and villages all over the world. The Holy Spirit gathers them and does his work in them. In these communities of sinners, one of the sinners is called pastor and given a designated responsibility in the community. The pastor's responsibility is to keep the community attentive to God. It is this responsibility that is being abandoned in spades.' 

I am intrigued as a minister of the gospel, how someone can have such a passion and determination to reinvent Scriptures that have blessed millions of people worldwide. I am inspired by Eugene Peterson's love of the Lord and his desire to finish what he started. To run the race well and to finish strong.

Have a look at Sheridan Voysey's blog Remembering Eugene Peterson for a great insight into this man of God.

My prayer is that I would continue strong in the Lord and I would finish strong like this man. Always loving the Scriptures. Always loving God's people. Always working hard to fulfil the plan of God for one's life and doing what you can to make a difference in the world.

I share with other followers of Jesus and offer prayers of blessing over his family and friends, and the legacy in which he leaves for the sake of the Kingdom of God on earth.

I am interested to hear from you. Has Eugene Peterson made an impact on your life?

This quote from Eugene Peterson is probably the best way to finish this short article: 

'That's the whole spiritual life. It's learning how to die, you start losing all your illusions, and you start being capable now of true intimacy and love...'




Friday, October 19, 2018

Sex is God's Idea

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*This article was first published on the Christian Today website.
I ordered my coffee and made myself comfortable in the corner of the café ready to read what I had been handed. I was preparing to officiate a wedding and I had been given a document about the Song of Solomon.
I squirmed in my chair.
I don’t read Song of Solomon very often. Maybe it’s the poetic language that I struggle with or the old-fashioned metaphors.
I’ve even tried some of the pickup lines from the Song of Solomon with my wife, but she wasn’t impressed with, ‘Your teeth are like a flock of sheep’.
I must admit there’s another reason I don’t read this very often, nor preach on the topic.
I’m not too comfortable talking about sex.
Even now I am cowering away on my laptop thinking I’ve become an unwholesome, dirty man who needs immediate redemption.
Though I’ve been thinking a little lately.
Sex is God’s idea.
There, I’ve said it.
For too long the secular world has taken sex and perverted it, tarnished its image and made a fortune out of promiscuity. Tinder. I don’t even know what I’m talking about.
People of faith have shied away from even uttering the three-letter word. The church has unwittingly kept discussion about all things sexual to the world at large. It has inadvertently abdicated its voice on the topic and lost all credibility in the process.
The world needed direction about fostering healthy, strong marriages, and the church was silent. I speak generally when I say, it seems people of faith have struggled over the years to talk about the topic. Not only that, the church has been rocked by scandal after scandal in recent years that has made Jerry Springer appear tame. We subsequently felt we didn’t have a platform to speak on such topics and went silent.   
The silence must stop
Something is stirring within the people of God in these days. I have pastor friends who are beginning to talk about the importance of marriage and even God’s gift of sex to couples.
I never heard this talk before.
I don’t think I’ve been oblivious to it, I just think we didn’t talk like this. I assume the church was so embarrassed by its shortcomings that it lost its voice on the topic altogether.
I think for the sake of God’s work in the world, the silence must stop.
The Christian faith has important points to make about establishing and nurturing intimate relationships. There are many people of faith, with strong, healthy relationships, that need to teach others about fidelity, forgiveness, nurturing an intimate relationship, trust and all the rest that comes with it.
The Song of Solomon
The love that takes place in the Song of Solomon, takes place in the context of a couple’s loving, committed relationship. Love within a covenant is the main theme of the book, without which the book itself cannot be rightly understood. The relationship expressed in the Song of Solomon is nothing other than total dedication and permanent obligation.
We live in a culture of immediacy. This culture runs contrary to the teaching of Scripture. In this world, we see relationships that have no boundaries, love that is cheap, and sex that is expressed outside marriage covenants, that ultimately lack the permanency and intimacy found in a relationship centred around God.
On the flipside we read in the Bible about love that is unconditional, love that is quick to forgive and love that doesn’t give up on another when times are difficult. As the Song of Solomon puts it, ‘Love is as strong as death’ and ‘Many waters cannot quench love, neither can floods drown it.’ It is about covenant love. Love that is expressed in promises that do not simply fade away when the honeymoon is over. This is love that, as the Song of Solomon puts it, is a seal upon the heart; a seal upon the arm.
So it’s time we stopped the silence. Sex is God’s idea. Strong marriages are God’s idea. Healthy, loving, covenantal relationships are God’s idea.
I’ve finished my coffee now. I’m a little less uncomfortable. I’m a little less embarrassed.
After all, it was God’s idea.

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