I recently read Kevin De Young’s “Taking God at His Word”. The subtitle is “Why the bible is knowable, necessary, and enough, and what that means for you and me”.

It’s a short book (129 pages including the appendix) but packs a mean punch. I highly recommend it as an excellent introduction to and overview of the biblical doctrine of scripture, especially for those who are wanting to meaningfully understand the doctrine of scripture in an accessible way. De Young not only outlines the biblical doctrine of scripture, but applies it to our hearts and lives in a way that helps one to see how important this is to our spiritual health.

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The 8 short chapters cover how the Word is to affect our hearts, the certainty of the Word, the sufficiency, clarity, authority and necessity of the Word, as well as showing Christ’s view of the bible and a final exhortation to stick with the scriptures.

I found this little volume moved my heart to feel a great depth of gratitude to God for His Word, and an increased desire to know Him through it.

Highly recommended!

I have just read an outstanding article called Boundaries in Relationships by Ed Welch of CCEF on whether or not we should think about relationships through the ‘boundaries’ metaphor. This is obviously in response to the series of books that originated with the title “Boundaries” by Cloud and Townsend.

Welch begins by helping us think through metaphors and how critical they are in all of language and thought. But he then goes on to say that we need to be very careful what metaphors we use as dominant metaphors in life. Whilst appreciating some of the practical wisdom that can be gleaned from the metaphor of boundaries in relationships, Welch believes that it is an unhelpful controlling metaphor to employ in the realm of relationships. This is because boundaries are more descriptive of life after the fall (separated from God, each other, etc) rather than prescriptive for how we should live our lives. Indeed Christ has come to remove many of those dividing walls and boundaries between people, to make us one in Him.

Welch then compares the notion of boundaries to the Christian ideal of love, showing the whilst love does not always give us a formulaic approach to every situation, it still does answer some of the practical questions that arise from being overextended and having people put demands on our time, yet without become self centred in our relationships and sealing ourselves off from others.

This short article from the journey of Biblical Counselling is well worth a read if you are interested in learning how to think through Christian relationships.

I recently read Barnabus Piper’s “The Pastor’s Kid” which I found to be both challenging and helpful. It certainly seems to have been written through the experience of much pain, and so whilst I did not find it a gripping or particularly enjoyable read, I was compelled to listen carefully.

I organised some of my reflections from the book in the following way, with excerpts from the book pasted below each reflection. I would recommend the book for all pastors.

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1. The ministry environment creates huge pressure on pastors children that involves high levels of scrutiny and expectations on pastors children from every angle. Pastors children are sinners and work through doubts as much as anyone else, yet they live in an environment that to be real about any of those things is harder than in other contexts.

“The call of the father is not the call of the child, but the ministry of the father creates an anvil-like weight on the child.”

“Because being a PK can be very much like living in a pressure cooker. Even though we look just like the other kids and the ingredients are the same, our atmosphere is subtly but massively different. The ministry creates a pressure of expectation that is unlike any other. If all the other kids are cooking at 212 degrees (rather a challenge all its own), we are cooking at a scalding 250 pressurized degrees, and we are reaching our “done” point that much faster.” Read the rest of this entry »

As (will be!) mentioned on Sunday 12th Oct at RHC, here are two resources that are helpful in getting to the heart, one for personal use and the other for parenting:

1. David Powlinson’s article on “X-Ray questions” is excellent for working through deep heart motivations. X Ray – Powlinson

2. Tedd Tripp’s excellent book on parenting entitled “Shepherding a child’s heart” is highly recommended and used by many at RHC. You can buy it at Amazon here.

Shepherding

3. Tim Keller’s article “All of life is repentance” which you can download All of Life is Repentance

 

 

This series of posts will be summaries of excellent chapters that I have read. They are summarised here for the benefit of all readers, but primarily as a way for me to further meditate on the chapters as I summarise them.

This first one is taken from Desiring God by John Piper. It is chapter 6, in which he shows how prayer is one of the means that God gives His people of maximising their joy in God. I found it insightful and worshipful, meaning that it helped me understand prayer in a better way, as well as moved my heart in love for God so that I wanted to pray more. Enjoy the summary!

DG

Piper’s main contention in Desiring God is that God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him, and hence the pursuit of our joy in God is what most satisfies us and most glorifies God. Hence, Piper’s adaption of the opening question in the Westminster Catechism (What is the chief end of man) is “To glorify God by enjoying Him forever”. In this chapter Piper looks at prayer to see how it aligns with his contention in the book. Read the rest of this entry »

I had the privilege of growing up in a movement of churches that was passionate about loving Jesus and planting churches. For all the passion though, there were significant weaknesses, and this excerpt from an article at the Gospel Coalition best describes one of the major ones. This is why our “Bible Overview” Christian Education class at RHC is the most important one we run for all leaders. It’s also why a crucial part of our discipleship process is not just talking about topics but working through books of the bible with “One to one bible reading”.

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“Church leaders, I fear we have made a costly and erroneous assumption about those we lead. I fear that in our enthusiasm to teach about finances, gender roles, healthy relationships, purity, culture wars, and even theology we have neglected to build foundational understanding of the Scriptures among our people. We have assumed that the time they spend in personal interaction with their Bible is accumulating for them a basic firsthand knowledge of what it says, what it means, and how it should change them. Or perhaps we have assumed that kind of knowledge isn’t really that important.

So we continue to tell people this is what you should believe about marriage and this is what you need to know about doctrine and this is what your idolatry looks like. But because we never train them in the Scriptures, they have no framework to attach these exhortations to beyond their church membership or their pastor’s personality or their group leader’s opinion. More importantly, they have no plumb line to measure these exhortations against. It never occurs to them to disagree with what they are being taught because they cannot distinguish between our interpretation of Scripture and Scripture itself, having little to no firsthand knowledge of what it says.

And they’ve been in church for years.

When we offer topical help—even if the topic is doctrine—without first offering Bible literacy, we attempt to furnish a house we have neglected to construct. As a friend and seminarian said to me this week, “There is a reason that seminaries offer hermeneutics before systematic theology.” He is right. But it would seem many who have enjoyed the rare privilege of seminary have forgotten to pass on this basic principle to the churches they now lead.”
 

There are two main reasons we don’t draw near to God with confidence:

One is that we don’t believe that He has truly loved, forgiven, washed and accepted us. Until we comprehend the truth of the gospel we will never believe He is good, know we have access, etc.

The second reason is that we are holding on to sin / plans / agendas that are not according to His will. When we are doing this we will not draw near to God even if we believe that He has truly loved and accepted us. Because we are afraid to give up something we are holding dear to us.

The answer to both is repentance and faith. In the first, repentance is what gets us forgiven and our faith is the confidence in Christ through which we draw near. In the second, repentance is letting go of everything we hold on to that is not according to His ways and faith is trusting that His ways are better than ours.

John 4.35-38: “.. lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest.. one sows and another reaps. I sent you to reap for that which you did not labor. Others have labored, and you have entered into that labor’.

On one level God is the laborer of salvation who sows, waters, calls, and reaps through his people who are preaching the gospel. In another sense this passage shows how interdependant we all are upon one another, that for many their labors and ministry might just be sowing but then someone else comes along who hasn’t sweated and just reaps the crop. Jesus says that he has sent us to reap that for which we have not labored. This should lead to great humility in our labors.

At RHC we are doing much reaping of that which we never labored for – this verse reminds us that many others have sown and likewise we are to be sowers of the word, knowing that we might not personally get to reap that seed yet being content that God will ultimately oversee it’s watering and reaping.

Some of us are skeptical about obeying Jesus. We act as though his yoke is hard and his burden is heavy. In John 2 Mary instructs the servants at the wedding feast to “do whatever he tells you”. How many of us would struggle with this command? Really? Like, absolutely WHATEVER he tells me? In this case complete obedience led to the provision of wine with much rejoicing. Obedience often does. We must deal with our skepticism of God’s goodness and come to Him full of faith, that all His ways are good.

“with the Sword that makes the wounded whole” – O Church Arise, hymn

I love being a pastor. Preaching is possibly my favorite hobby, but it’s possible to be a preacher without being a pastor. Leading a church can be exciting, but you can do that without being a pastor. Pastoring is leading people to Christ so that they can become like Him. In the church all our actions should serve this end – our preaching, communities etc. But there is something special about sitting with people, hearing their stories and helping them build their lives upon the Rock of Christ. There is very little on earth that thrills me as much.

One of the the great things about planting a church from scratch is the ability to shape the culture of the church. Since the beginning of RHC I have sought to speak the truth in love to people, pray for them, and show an unending commitment to them that is unwavering despite what they may say or do. I have found these three ingredients to be incredibly effective in the long term for seeing people change.

Prayer

Prayer for the flock and for people’s specific struggles is one of the biggest keys in pastoring obviously. This moves the heart of God and also (maybe even more importantly) prepares our heart for when we speak to them. Until you have prayed for people it’s hard to know whether what you will say really will be ‘in love’. Somehow through prayer we catch the heart of God for His people. What a privilege!

Then we have to speak the truth in love. For years I could not do this, because I was governed by a fear of man instead of the fear of God. Although I knew what I should say to people, I simply did not have the courage. I was healed by understanding that we are all leveled at the foot of the cross, that only the truth will set people free, and that in order to really be a servant of men I had to first and primarily be a servant of God.

Speaking the truth in love

Speaking the truth in love is very difficult. The Word of God is a sword that makes the wounded whole. There is a way of speaking truth that retains the hard edge of the sword with the soft hands of the swordsman. It’s far more than just saying that the underlying motive for speaking the truth is love. We can all say that. Speaking the truth in love is the ability to do it in a way that makes the person who hears it realize that this is not a personal agenda or other organizational decision, but that makes them realize that it is love indeed that is motivating it.

This doesn’t mean that they will respond immediately. They can be defensive, angry, antagonistic, etc. They often are. But deep down they know that these words weren’t read out of a manual somewhere. They are said with conviction, compassion, with love.

Consistency

Many people can have burst of courage to speak the truth, or moments when it’s said in love. But I have found that consistency with people over months and years is what convinces them in the long term that our love is genuine and our motive is pure. As pastors we have to hold the line of truth, never wavering. But at the same time we have to relentlessly pursue the one lost sheep, sometimes neglecting the 99 to go after that one. Some people have doubted our love for them, thinking they would be discarded for not conforming. But somehow when we continually go after people, follow up, love them all while never shifting our position on truth at all, they finally realize that God is working through for their joy.

Paul said that his joy and crown were the people he laboured over (1 Thess 2.20)t. John says “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth” (3 John 3).

The Hope we Have

Ultimately, the hope we have for those we shepherd as well as our our hearts is deeper than our efforts on any of these levels (though they contribute greatly). The ultimate hope we all have is that “He who began a good work in [us, you] will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Phil 1.6)

Welcome

My name is Simon Murphy and I'm the husband to a wonderful wife, father to three great kids, and pastor to Redemption Hill Church in Singapore.

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