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Why protestants should pray for Pope Francis 18th March, 2013

Posted by Scotty in Church, Heart, Prayer.
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0315-pope-francis-first-jesuit_full_600Growing up, I never really understood the Pope.  As a child, he was just a really old man in funny clothes.  As a teen he captained the other team and so wasn’t relevant to me.  As a young adult I listened to people debate about him.  But as my faith has matured I’ve grown in empathy for this Roman Catholic figurehead.  My curiosity was piqued reading Dan Brown’s novels, with their details of the conclave and the process for electing the pope.

I was intrigued when Benedict resigned, and began musing about the papal election.  When I was in the airport travelling home from the States all the TVs were focused on the Vatican Chimney, and so I watched and pondered.  As I was reflecting, I found myself more horrified for the man than excited for him, and I realised the tremendous responsibility we have as believers to PRAY FOR THE POPE.  Here’s why:

  • The Pope was appointed by God.
    Scripture is clear: “There is no authority except that which God has established.  The authorities that exist have been established by God” (Rom 13:1), and we are to pray for those in authority (see 2 Tim 2:1-4).  If you believe the Pope is a good and godly man, pray for Him, for He has been appointed by God to lead the Roman Catholic church, and he needs our prayers for God’s Spirit to empower him to govern wisely.  If you believe the pope is the antichrist, pray for Him, for He has been appointed by God, and needs our prayer for God’s Spirit to take hold of his heart.  It doesn’t matter where you fall on this spectrum, the result is the same.  We have a responsibility to pray that God would move in and through this man.
  • The Pope is a sinner and in need of Jesus.
    It is quoted that upon accepting the papal office, he said: “I am a sinner, but as this office has been given to me, I accept.”  This is a truth we need to remember.  The Pope is a sinner and needs to experience Jesus.  He comes to his office with a past riddled with sin, and he will continue in sin while in this office… because he is human.  It is wrong to venerate him as a god, as some will do.  But we must not do the opposite and accuse him of being the devil incarnate, for he is no more a sinner than we are.  A sinner in such a high position desperately needs the Holy Spirit’s guidance.
  • The Pope is the face of Christianity.
    Whether you like it or not, this is the truth!  Ask a random person on the street to name influential Christians, and the person they’ll name is the Pope.  They don’t know Tim Keller, or Mark Driscoll, or John Piper, or your denominational leader… but they know the Pope.  Every move he makes, every success and failure will be broadcast to the world and impact how people view Christianity.  The enemy of our souls would love to exploit this situation to mar the image of Christ, so let us pray that the opposite be true.
  • The Pope immediately becomes the most loved and hated person in the world.
    The instant Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio became Pope Francis, he became a figure adored by 1.2 billion catholics, but hated by millions who are antagonistic towards not only towards Roman Catholicism, but towards religion in general.  I can’t imagine what it must be like to be a “normal” person one day, and one of the most hated people in the world the next day.  Moments after the election I saw an insane number of tweets and facebook posts simultaneously blessing and cursing him.  The media now has their sights set on bringing out into the open any tiny piece of dirty laundry they can find, and conspiracy theories galore can be found with this man’s name as the focus.  Throughout his life time he will receive death threats, curses, and all-night prayer vigils focused on his harm.
  • The Pope has an unfathomable burden of responsibility to bear.
    I can’t begin to imagine what it feels like to carry the burden that Pope Francis now carries.  I think only Benedict and other world leaders can comprehend that amount of pressure.  1.2 billion Catholics are looking to Pope Francis to lead their church.  Within the Roman church competing factions all want him to address or ignore various issues.  The rest of the world is looking on to see what he will do to address the major failings that the media has made us so aware of.  No matter what actions he takes, people in and out of the church will not be happy!  In the midst of all this, he is somehow supposed to seek God, hear Him and do His will.  I would crumple under such a tremendous load.  I have a hard time picturing a Cardinal sitting in the conclave desperate to become Pope for the power and accolades.  Instead, I imagine drops of sweat pouring down the face of any man whose name was read out from a ballot because of the gruelling task of implementing reform that is being called for from both inside and outside of the church.
  • The Pope has an unfathomable amount of power and influence.
    He can use this power for good or evil.  His actions will have incredibly large ramifications, sometimes in the direction he is hoping, and sometimes those consequences don’t go quite as planned.  Through him, more people can be influenced towards Jesus, but equally, many can be turned away.  At the same time, we need to remember that the power to bring someone to Christ lies not with man, but with the Holy Spirit.  God can use any person or any circumstance (good or bad) to introduce people to Jesus.  With such a visible presence, I am praying that God will use this man to draw people to Christ rather than pushing them away.  Pray that God would protect him from the lure of worldly power and use him to influence people toward Christ.
  • The Pope is a Christian.
    Of all the things I’m going to write, I know this is the place where people may get heated.  I believe this pope knows Jesus.  I have read some articles by prominent Christians I respect who know this man personally and attest to his love for Jesus.  I get frustrated when Christians use blanket statements which state that Catholics aren’t “saved” as if being a Protestant is what saves.  I have some wonderful Roman Catholic friends who love Jesus more than most of my Protestant friends and are clearly in a saving relationship with Jesus.  Yes, we disagree on areas of theology, but then I don’t see eye-to-eye with every Protestant either.  (I’m yet to meet a Christian with flawless theology, and those who claim to have it are making a dangerous claim!)  There are people in the Roman Catholic church who think they are saved but aren’t.  That breaks my hearts… just as much as when I look at people in my own church who claim to be saved but live lives that show otherwise.  Sadly, there are many people around the world who attend churches and confess to be Christians, yet they don’t have a saving relationship with Jesus.  I am encouraged that Pope Francis has a desire to ensure that Christ is preached.  And I am praying that God will use the Pope’s imperfect-and-sometimes-erroneous preaching to win people to Christ in the same we He works in spite of my imperfect-and-sometimes-erroneous words to the do the same.

For all these reasons and more, Christians world-wide should pray for Pope Francis.  We can sit back and criticise, or we can pray.  I know which one God commands us to do.

If you are looking for some fuel for prayer, here’s an idea:  Spend some time this week imagining what you would do if you were the Pope.  Consider how you would fare if you were given his responsibility to bear.    How would you address the controversial issues that lie before him?  What backlash do you think you’d have to deal with?  What changes would you make to the church and how would you implement them?  What events in your life would the media dig up and how would it make you feel having them aired to the world?  Would you be able to stay faithful under the pressure and while being enticed with power and riches?  Then allow this to inform how you pray!

Lord Jesus, I pray for Pope Francis.  Enlighten the eyes of his heart that he would know You deeply.  Pour your Spirit over him, filling him with grace and humility to advance your Kingdom, not any worldly system.  If his ways are opposed to Yours, convict him of sin and align him with Your Word.  Give him wisdom to do govern wisely, and use him to bring people to the cross and in doing so exalt the Name of Jesus.  Amen.

Imagine Your Church… 11th February, 2013

Posted by Scotty in Books, Challenges, Church, Mission.
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platt-follow-meI spent the last few days reading Follow Me by David Platt.  Towards the end of the book (p175-176) he says something that I think most churches today would find challenging and so I thought I’d share it:

“Imagine your church.

Don’t picture the building or parking lot, and don’t envision the activities and programs.  Just the people.  Whether there are fifty, one hundred, five hundred, or five thousand of them, simply imagine the people who comprise your church.

People living in a world of sin and rebellion, suffering and pain.  A world where over three billion men, women and children survive on less than two dollars a day, and a billion of those people live in absolute poverty—in remote villages and city slums where hundreds of millions are starving and dying of preventable diseases.  A world where billions of people are engrossed in false religions, and around two billion of them have never even heard the gospel.  They are all (literally billions of people) on a road that leads to an eternal hell—suffering that will never, ever, ever end.

But you and the people in your church have been transformed by the gospel of Christ.  In your minds, you know that Jesus died on the cross and rose from the grave to save people from their sins.  In your hearts, you have tasted and seem that he alone can satisfy people’s souls.  Your wills are now abandoned to his ways, and you long to be his witnesses throughout the world.  God has banded you together as brothers and sisters in a local church with a global commission:  make disciples of all nations.  God has filled every single one of you with the power of his own Spirit to enable each of you individually and all of you collectively to reach the world with the gospel.

So if you had nothing but people—no buildings, no programs, no staff, and no activities—and you were charged with spreading the gospel to the whole world, where would you begin?  Would you start by pooling together your money so that you could spend millions of dollars on a building to meet in?  Would you get the best speaker, the greatest musicians, and the most talented staff in order to organise presentations and programs that appeal to your families and you children?  Would you devote your resources to what is most comfortable, most entertaining, and most pleasing to you?

I don’t think your church would do these things—and neither would mine.  Not if we really believed God’s Word and were honestly looking at God’s world.”

To give a wee bit of context… David Platt is a mega church pastor in the States.  He’s been on an intense journey… thrust into the lead role in a mega church at a young age, pouring over the Scriptures, and trying to reconcile pastoring thousands of people with Jesus example of spending time with twelve men (and turning away thousands)!

He is in no way suggesting we throw out the baby with the bath water.  He’s simply inviting us to consider what the Word says we should be all about (making disciples of all nations) and to evaluate how effective we are being in carrying it out.

How easy it is to get our priorities in the wrong place and subtly make it about us instead of the nations!

Pics – just in time! 28th November, 2011

Posted by Scotty in Church, CRM, Leadership.
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So at our Tuesday staff meeting last week we got our new Staff Pictures taken for the website.  I’m so glad that we did them when we did.  At some point in the next day or so I head off to to barber to get my head shaved.  The nurses recommend it as being “far less traumatic” to shave your head as opposed to watching it fall out in clumps.  That would definitely make for some interesting staff pictures!

Anywayz, here are the pics we took this week.  What a great team don’t ya think:

Brian & Kellie Ingraham

Scott Burns

Monica Burns

Andy Ashworth

Kirsty MacIntyre

Ruth Weller

In the next photos I upload, I’ll be bald just like Brian & Andy!

Organ Masters?! 21st September, 2011

Posted by Scotty in Church.
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After a couple of days slaving away, I’d say the difference is worth it… Wouldn’t you?

Before
20110921-065508.jpg

After

20110921-065352.jpg

Result=amazing!
Cost=very cheap!

Love it!

Baptisms 16th May, 2011

Posted by Scotty in Blessings, Church, Ministry, Mission.
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The service this weekend was amazing.  Our prayer times before the service was powerful.  There was a joy and energy during the worship.  The sermon was a simple but powerful message on Christ’s baptism.  4 people were baptised in the morning service and 5 baptised in the evening service.  And the post-baptism worship was fantastic.  And someone came forward for prayer limping but left dancing (Although I fully believe in God’s power to heal… I still have no box for this!)  What a day.

God is moving.  Lives are being changed.  May His Name be praised!

Blasphemous Audacity? 19th March, 2011

Posted by Scotty in Church, Heart-Break, Spiritual Warfare.
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It is heart-breaking to walk around Scotland seeing beautiful church buildings that are no longer places where God’s people come together to worship.  The congregations slowly died off and now many of the beautiful and historic buildings lie rotting; others have become pubs, clubs, restaurants, theatres or school buildings.

Some are worse.

Our friend Josh  took this photo while walking through Edinburgh…

I’m saddened by the thinking that lies behind the name and picture.

We are so depraved.

My heart is heavy.

Come, Lord Jesus!

Disunity 16th February, 2011

Posted by Scotty in Challenges, Church, Heart, Pain.
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I hate it! I really really hate it! Right now I’m somewhere between angry and heartbroken as I think about (and experience) the disunity that exists in the church in Scotland.

Scottish Church History is scarred by division upon division. Today, after hundreds of years you can see and hear the bitterness and resentment that underlies much of church life.

  • Two pastors of age-old denominations won’t sit in the same room together because of a split that happened a few hundred years ago, even though they would probably be wonderful friends if they were in the same denomination.  They can’t get past the ancient rivarly
  • Church members bad mouth other churches as they try to sell you theirs.
  • Members of old churches making accusations against new churches they’ve never set foot in nor met someone from.
  • Members of young churches write off older churches without ever setting foot in the door to see the work God is clearly doing.

The old is threatened by the new.
The new is stifled by the old.
The old is against the old.
The new competes with the new.

I’m angered by the things I see and hear.  As I consider God’s heart toward His church my heart breaks along with His at the way His Body behaves towards its other members.

Somewhere along the line we go terribly wrong. We start to care more about our kingdom than His. We see other churches as our competition rather than an extension of ours. We see their methods as wrong rather than different. We turn our hearts against them rather than pray for them.

We don’t take the time to understand. We stand back and throw our stones.

  • How does it feel to be a 100 year old church that has struggled to reach people for years?
  • How does it feel to watch the church you’ve been in for 50 years slowly dying?
  • How does it feel to be a new church plant looking for help and encouragement but only experiencing opposition from the established churches around?
  • How does it feel to be fighting for a church you feel called to and hear someone call it dead?
  • How does it feel to birth a church when God calls you and hear brothers and sisters try to stop it?

What is my motivation? Is this God’s will as modelled by His Son and explained in His Word? Or is this my way, mixed with my pride, my ignorance, my preferences and my environment?

We will never achieve church unity.  We will never be able to get over our issues.  We will never agree or get along.  Only God can make that happen.  It requires a massive move of His Spirit, convicting people of their sin and opening our hearts to love.

It’s not easy.  Truth and Grace are the two hands of God.  It’s hard to know when to bite your tongue and offer Grace or when to draw the line and  stand for Truth.  But… it’s always speaking the Truth in Love… and extending Love grounded in Truth.

We are supposed to be reflecting the Grace & Truth of God to the world.  Instead we are a like a broken mirror.

Lord, have mercy on me. I repent of the ways I have failed to love my brothers and sisters. And I repent of the way we, the Church, have failed to be your Body and stood in opposition to each other. Have mercy on us, in Jesus Name.  Come, Lord Jesus. Amen.

(For the ‘other side of the coin’ in my processing read the next entry)

Disturb Us 2nd June, 2010

Posted by Scotty in Church, Heart, Prayer, Worship.
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We had a really great prayer night at Grace last week where we, as a body, called on God to shake us up.  After 30mins of individual contemplation there were a couple of worship songs to bring us together and to join corporately in raising our voices to God.  During that time Jake read this awesome prayer by Sir Francis Drake.  It is the kind of prayer I long to hear every Christian praying:

Disturb us, Lord, when we are too well pleased with ourselves,
When our dreams have come true
Because we have dreamed too little,
When we arrived safely
Because we sailed too close to the shore.

Disturb us, Lord, when
With the abundance of things we possess
We have lost our thirst
For the waters of life;
Having fallen in love with life,
We have ceased to dream of eternity
And in our efforts to build a new earth,
We have allowed our vision
Of the new Heaven to dim.

Disturb us, Lord, to dare more boldly,
To venture on wider seas
Where storms will show your mastery;
Where losing sight of land,
We shall find the stars.
We ask You to push back
The horizons of our hopes;
And to push into the future
In strength, courage, hope, and love.

Holy Spirit Power 1st June, 2010

Posted by Scotty in Church, Musings, Spirituality.
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I have been reflecting on the following illustration for the last couple of months. It comes from Francis Chan’s book Forgotten God:

This may be a silly illustration, but if I told you I had an encounter with God where He entered my body and gave me supernatural ability to play basketball, wouldn’t you expect to see and amazing improvement in my jump shot, my defense, and my speed on the court? After all, this is God we’re talking about. And if you saw no change in my athleticism, wouldn’t you question the validity of my “encounter”?

I love this image. If we, as believers, are filled with the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit who caused Creation and raised Christ from the dead, why do we not see this in our lives?  Setting aside for now the idea of healings, deliverances, tongues, prophecy and all the other “power gifts” that get debated so often, consider for a moment His power in our attitude and behaviour.  I feel that as the Church, we spent too much time trying to manage our issues in our own strength rather than walking in His power.

God’s Word says:

For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline. (1 Tim 1:7)

Yet I see so many in the church marked by fear, broken relationships, and/or addictions. This is not because the Word is wrong, or the Spirit is not powerful… it’s because we spend too much time trying to overcome our issues by our own strength instead of passing control to Him and by faith cooperating with the Spirit as He works in us.

What should our lives look like?  If we have the Spirit in us…

  • Shouldn’t Christians be marked by a boldness and confidence in God’s Plan than makes us stand out from the rest of the world?
  • Shouldn’t we have a supernatural confidence and peace in the face of hardship?
  • Shouldn’t we be the ones with the strong marriages and solid families?
  • Shouldn’t we be known for our radical love and acceptance of people from all walks of life?
  • Shouldn’t we be known by our ability to face our struggles and walk in victory?  (Not that we never struggle, but that our outlook is one of hope, and are daily making progress to overcome those issues?

If someone looked at your life would they see a life that demonstrates the Spirit’s power?

Jim & Casper Go to Church 18th November, 2009

Posted by Scotty in Books, Church, Spirituality.
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I just got done with Jim & Casper Go to Church, a book that frustrated the living daylights out of me through my oscillation between loving it and hating it!  The basic premise of the book:  Jim Henderson, a pastor of 30 years hires Matt Casper, an Athiest, to go to with him to various churches to evaluate them.  Jim’s goal is to dialogue with “Casper” and learn how church looks to an outsider.

Why do I love this book?

  • It acknowledges that “The Church” is far more than just a Sunday morning show.
  • It pushes us to ask the question:  Is how we do church really fulfilling Christ’s vision?
  • It validates the need for more one-to-one discipleship.
  • It challenges the church to be less focused on self and more aware of needs around us.
  • It calls Christians to live what they preach and break the hypocrite stereo-type the church has become known by
  • It shows some of the great things churches are doing around the States,
  • It gives some ideas of things churches could do to more effectively reach people outside of the church.
  • It exposes some false teaching
  • It encourages Christians to love and listen to those who don’t hold our beliefs, rather than trying to “prove they’re wrong”.
  • It advocates for authentic relationships.
  • It challenges us to think about the terms and practices we do that are foreign to those outside the church

Why do I hate this book?

  • It is successful in critiquing aspects of the church… but to a fault.
  • Casper’s viewpoint is often portrayed as general Athiest opinion, when he is only one person.
  • Casper is very vocal about pros and cons of the churches, but clearly has a style preference which affects his views.
  • Rating and Critiquing churches enhances the performance mentality that is the downfall of many.
  • Visiting and evaluating the churches feeds our current Consumer Christian mindset.
  • It dismisses events and roles that are (for some) critical elements of their role in serving God.
  • It downplays the fact that Scripture explains that God’s Word is foolish/offensive to people who don’t embrace the offer of salvation.

There is another thing I wrestle with which this book pokes at… what is the role of The Church?  Is it for either believers or non-believers?  Does it not have a part to play to both?

Is it wrong to have a part of the week, (e.g.) a Sunday morning, that has a focus on the believer, while doing other work that reaches out to the unbeliever?  If we choose to continue with a Sunday morning gathering should we cater ir for those who don’t have a belief in Christ so they are comfortable and provide other avenues for Christians to be taught… or should we cater Sunday mornings to those who place their faith in Christ, and create avenues for those who don’t believe to encounter Christians in another manner?

I agree that if all your church does is a Sunday morning entertainment session, and those in your church are focused on themselves… you are far short of what God has called the church to be.  If a Sunday morning service is music and a monologue, and your only method of equipping your body, there is a problem.  But if Sunday morning is one element of a number of ways you draw near to God, equip believers, and reach out to those who don’t accept our faith, and help those in need, then is it really that bad?

The widsom of the cross is foolishness to the world.  To someone that doesn’t believe in God… my life, poured out for Him, should be CRAZY to them!  The things I do should raise questions.  If God is real, and I believe He is… and if His Word is true and powerful, and I believe it is… then should we not be doing what we can to engage Him, proclaim His Word, and do what it says?

I do not by any means want to write off those who differ in their belief (or non-belief) system, loving God and imitating Him I desire to reach out to them and introduce them to the God I deeply love.  But I also realize that they will not understand unless the Spirit draws them.  I read in the Bible verse after verse about the persecution we will face if we live the way Christ lives… but too many believers (myself included) naturally choose the path of being liked, over the path of being hated.  We have to be willing to speak what God leads us to speak, thoughtfully and lovingly, knowing that it may not be accepted.  At the same time, a life with Christ is a wonderful adventure, and our lives should show that in a way that makes our lives attractive and desirable to others.

I have lots of questions and few (if any) of the answers.  All I know, is that every person, whether they have faith in Christ or not, lives a life that falls short of its full potential.  For we are all sinful.  But I praise God that His grace makes room for my failures as He works to make me more like Christ.