I have moved…

8 05 2008

No more aliases. I have moved to http://daveshawblog.wordpress.com

All the best…





Unity and the Cross

6 05 2008

In the second half of chapter one in First Corinthians, Paul argues against the folly of “church groupie-ism.” Culturally Corinth was more concerned with style than with substance, especially when it came to judging their public speakers and orators. This attitude prevailed in the Corinthian church to the point that those who had planted and helped grow the church; men like Paul and Apollos, now found themselves having a bunch of groupies hanging on to their coattails and dividing the church. “I follow Paul,” or “I follow Apollos,” they were saying. As a result the church was not focussed on its mission or it’s Christ. Instead, they were focussed on themselves and their preferences.

The same thing happens today, it just manifests itself in different forms. Like the Corinthians, we have our favorite preachers; and we also divide over theology, music style, or the color of the carpets or the curtains etc, etc, and so on. Paul is calling the Corinthian church to die to these sorts of preferences. He calls the Corinthians back to the cross because the cross is the heart of the gospel, and the gospel is the heart of the God-given mission for the church. Paul calls the Corinthians to unity at the cross because before the cross there is no rich or poor, no king or beggar, no smart or simple. We are united only by our ability to kneel at the cross of Christ.

When Paul calls us to the cross, it is a call to live to Christ and die to preference. A church can only be as effective as it’s willingness to die to its preferences and be united in Christ’s cross and his mission.





Stressed Out

22 04 2008

The load of one and a half jobs has stressed me out no end this last month or so. Beginning next week, I hope to block out Monday to get some blogging done every week. I’ve taken time out from the blogging to do research on what has been an intense beginning to the First Corinthians series our church have been pursuing.

What has struck me in the opening chapters of Corinthians has been Paul’s determined focus on the cross. With all the strife in the Corinthian church, this strikes me as odd. Why not write a letter in a similar manner to James? The answer is that the Corinthians did not understand the gospel. After spending approximately 18 months with the Corinthians and then leaving, the Corinthians did not do well left to their own devices.

Before Paul can give advice for living, he must bring them back to the heart of the gospel which is the cross. My concern today is that so many preachers and pastors have made application an idol in the sermon. Whilst application is a necessary feature of a good sermon, it is not primary. What is primary is the gospel, as revealed in the cross of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:2; 15:1-11). No matter how much advice we give our congregations as we preach, it will be little more than self-help in the style of Oprah or Dr. Phil unless the cross of Christ is proclaimed. That is what sets Christians apart. May we not lose that for the sake of applicability. May the cross be central as we seek to live out the gospel.





Thankful

8 04 2008

As I preached the first chapter of 1 Corinthians last weekend, I was struck by how thankful Paul was for such a jacked up church. He give thanks for four graces that God has blessed his people in Corinth with.

  • “I give thanks to God because he has enriched you in speech and knowledge.” (1 Cor. 1:5)
  • “I give thanks to God for Christ’s testimony in you.” (1 Cor. 1:6)
  • “I give thanks to God for the spiritual gifts He has blessed you with.” (1 Cor. 1:7)
  • “I give thanks to God because he will sustain you in faith.” (1 Cor. 1:8-9)

I think what enabled Paul to give thanks was his steadfast belief in God’s faithfulness. Convicted to the core, I began to pray and ask God what graces in my own church I had been missing. Here is a sampling:

  • First of all, I am thankful to all the people that serve regularly. Without them the Sunday service wouldn’t even get off the ground.
  • Second, the growth that I am seeing in so many people. Many are not recognizable from six, seven, eight months ago. Transformation little by little. What a wonderful privilege to see.
  • Third, for the grace that the congregation have shown me – a rookie pastor – as I have learned the ropes and made mistakes. I am grateful for the forgiveness that has been shown on a regular basis.
  • For God’s faithfulness as some people battle with their own faith. It has been great to see people battle with God, embrace grace, and keep going. I praise God for his perseverance with us.
  • I am thankful for the men that have been coming. A year ago, it was me and a bunch of women. I love the ladies that are present and they continue to be a blessing. But it is wonderful to have godly men around, who are committed to growing with Jesus.

For all the pastors (and others) who may be reading this, what are you thankful to God for. Take time out this week and write down a short list and spend time praising God. I can’t help but think that if Paul can give thanks to God for the Corinthians, we can give thanks for our people too. Ask for eyes to see and ears to see the grace all around you.





Brief Thoughts on First Corinthians

2 04 2008

This Sunday, I begin an extended series on First Corinthians. I have written a broad introduction to the series on our church blog, but here I wanted to get into some specifics and where I see connections with our culture. As I read the first six chapters of the letter, Paul is addressing the various manifestations of division that are tearing the church apart from the inside out. Members of the congregation are playing favorites with the elders, “I follow Apollos,” I follow Paul,” etc… You have other members of the church suing each other to gain prominence in the community, you have a man who has decided that his own mother is rather hot and wants to date her; the list would be comical if it were not so deplorable. This really is how not to do church.

From chapter seven onward, Paul starts tackling questions of a more practical nature. Married vs. single life, eating with non-believers, the exercising of spiritual gifts, the importance of the resurrection in Christian living. In short, Paul is showing them how to live missional lives in a culture that is remarkably similar to our own. Like our culture today, Corinth was incredibly pluralistic. “This is my truth, tell me yours” is a phrase that sums up well the attitude that both we express today and the Corinthians expressed 2000 or so years ago.

Like the Corinthians, the church has trouble walking the fine line between being culturally relevant and at the same time be counter-cultural in the best sense of the word. The Corinthians would swing from one extreme to the other. Some would flaunt their freedom, whilst others in reaction would deny all freedom. Paul calls for a healthy moderation in order to retain a much needed cultural connection whilst not giving people the license to sin.

I  am looking forward to this series. It should prove thought provoking, challenging, and if I do my job right, should have both the fundamentalists and the liberals wincing. I heard somewhere (I wish I could remember where), that the goal of preaching is to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. First Corinthians is one of those letters that should do the job quite nicely.





Thoughts on Easter

19 03 2008

In only a handful of days the Easter event will be upon us. Easter is the centerpiece of the Christian faith. Interestingly enough, when Paul wrote to what was possibly the most jacked-up church in all of history (the Corinthian church), he said that the cross of Christ was of first importance. That in the death of Christ we have a Savior who died for our sins.

Why is this of first importance? Read the rest of this entry »





Excitement Building

17 03 2008

The AFL premiership season commences this weekend. Woohoo! Let’s hope that someone (preferably West Coast) can knock Geelong off their mighty high pedestal. Should be a good AFL season ahead. For a taste of what may be coming, here are some highlights from last season. Enjoy!