Friday, 22 April 2016

Sunday, 10 April 2016

Refreshed like having a fresh wind blowing the dust away

Even as a pastor I deal with sin... at times I deal with complacency and a sense of worthlessness in my own life. Simply put I am human... and though I spend a lot of my time specifically working to build up the faith of others, sometimes I come to realise mine has wavered.

It's times like that I need refreshing. I need a retreat, or some specific time to go and work on my personal journey with Jesus.  A lot of times preparing sermons helps me in that, because how can I preach this stuff to others if it hasn't personally affected my life?  Tonight I am preaching from Romans 2 on the judgement of God, that has certainly made me reflect on things in my life at the moment.

This morning on the way to church this song came on in the car... and it was a beautiful refreshment of my spirit, because I realised it was a prayer I needed to pray to God today.

Rushing wind blow through this temple,
Blowing out the dust within,
Come and breathe you breath upon me,
I've been born again.
Holy spirit, I surrender, take me where you want to go,
Plant me by your living water,
Plant me deep so I can grow.  
Jesus, you're the one, who sets my spirit free,
Use me lord, glorify, your holy name through me. 
Separate me from this world lord.
Sanctify my life for you.
Daily change me to your image,
Help me bear good fruit.
Every day you're drawing closer.
Trials come to test my faith.
But when all is said and done lord,
You know, it was worth the wait. 
Jesus, you're the one, who set my spirit free,
Use me lord, glorify, your holy name through me.  
Rushing wind blow through this temple,
Blowing out the dust within,
Come and breathe you breath upon me,
For I've been born again.
Keith Green "Rushing Wind"

Saturday, 9 April 2016

Wisdom... not just knowledge

Information is constantly accessible these days.  It's at our fingertips every moment of every day. It makes for everyone thinking they are an expert on just about anything. No longer can we give advice, because how dare we contradict what someone has searched for on their phone.
There is no fool so great a fool as a knowing fool…to know how to use knowledge is to have wisdom. - Charles Spurgeon
Knowledge is easy... wisdom is still the challenge, and should be our goal. People these days need to learn how to take the vast amount of information they have access to... and use it to come to the best outcome without bias... and ultimately find the truth.


Monday, 4 April 2016

Psalm 22

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning?
O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer, and by night, but I find no rest.
Yet you are holy, enthroned on the praises of Israel.
In you our fathers trusted; they trusted, and you delivered them.
To you they cried and were rescued; in you they trusted and were not put to shame.
Psalm 22:1-5
This was read in church last night, and I was left reflecting on this idea that so often we focus on our feelings.  We feel lonely... we feel abandoned... we feel hurt... or in trouble, unrest or distress.  But God doesn't change.  God is always holy, always trustworthy, He is always the deliverer and rescuer.  He made us those promises through Jesus, and what Jesus did on the cross.

Maybe sometimes (like the psalmist did here) we simply need to take our eyes off our feelings, and put them on the actions of our unchanging God.

Friday, 1 April 2016

Thinking about sacrifice.

Christians today like to play it safe. We want to put ourselves in situations where we are safe 'even if there is no God.' But if we truly desire to please God, we cannot live that way. We have to do things that cost us during our life on earth but will be more than worth it in eternity.
~Francis Chan, Crazy Love p114
Hebrews 11 is a fantastic chapter of encouragement, giving us a great testament to what God has done throughout history through people who had faith in Him. Able, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Moses, David and many many more.  Accounts of their faith, about what was promised to them and what God did through them are there so that now we can, as it says in Heb 12:1-2;
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
We have a greater centre to our faith than what any of these 'heroes of our faith' had, because Jesus is the 'founder and perfecter' of our faith. In Jesus we are given the full revelation of God.  In Jesus is the fulfilment of the promises to made to those heroes of faith.  The promise of Abraham's decsendents is fully realised when grace is offered to all the world because of Jesus; Noah's promise for salvation is fully seen in Jesus dying for all sin; God told Moses that He would be Israel's God and they His people, making them a kingdom of priests and a holy nation - this is fully fulfilled when Jesus sent His Holy Spirit to dwell within His people.  We have a greater motivation, encouragement, challenge and intimacy because of Jesus. And surrounded by that cloud of witnesses, we should cast off all those things that hinder and surge on in good works for God as we were created to do.

Yet I feel Francis Chan's quote at the beginning of this post rings true about the greater number of believers in this day and age.  Hebrews 11 is a great chapter of encouragement for us as we see what God has done, however it should also be noted that all of these heroes of our faith gave up much for the faith they are now famous for.  Caleb was murdered because he brought a more acceptable offering; Noah built an ark - a giant work of many years of hard labour - at a time when an ark looked like the last thing anyone would need; Abraham packed up his family and left to a completely foreign land; Moses was hiding from the law, with a wife and a simple life, but went back into the land where he was wanted for murder to be a spokesperson for God... and on and on.

I think many Christians today want to be connected to Jesus. They understand that He is the only one who can save them from the consequences of their sins, and they certainly don't want to have to deal for the consequences for their sin.  Some get to a point where they are really convinced of the price of their sin, and the cost it was to God to send Jesus, and the cost of the cross, and are truly sorry for their sin - that it would cause that much pain.  But I fear the Christians Francis Chan are talking about don't go as far as realising Jesus is our Lord, that means He's the King.  He said this himself...
“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me." (Matt 28:18)
Philippians also defines the status of Jesus now that He has risen...
Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:9-11)
Even if you look at human kings, they demanded that their subjects give up much for them, and their rule.  The king made decrees and people obeyed.  The king went to war and his people just got up and went with him. If the king wanted a feast the people brought him their animals and crops, because at the end of it all the king owned those animals and crops anyway.

So do we as Christians think of Jesus in that way? What He says we do, where He sends we go, what He requires we give.  The big question is are we willing to sacrifice our lives for our faith?  That's not going to the extreme of dying for our faith, but simply sacrificing things we want, for the sake of what Jesus calls us to.

This is where most get caught up I think, this is where a lot of people these days say, "I'm happy to hear about Jesus, to sing the songs, to feel the love, to understand the guilt of my sin and the grace I've been shown... but!!! But I am going to live my life my way... you can't expect me to sacrifice my happiness, my wealth, my want for relationships, my sense of comfort."

The simple fact is yes I do expect you to do that, because Jesus expects you to do that and He is the King.  Jesus is the King who did that for us in such a way we can never fully conceive, and never pay back - so praise Him He's given it as a free gift.  But to accept His free gift and not be willing to sacrifice is not living in a way that is worthy of that sacrifice He made for us.

Paul wrote in Ephesians 4:1-3;
"I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace."
I love that! 'Walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called...'!!!!! That means sacrifice... that means honouring your King by letting Him command.  It is not about earning your freedom or salvation, we've already been called into that, but because of that salvation we now have something of such great worth we need to be willing to sacrifice for it.

It just makes sense to me, and I get so frustrated when it doesn't for others. Human selfishness (though I recognise I fall into it too) is the single most frustrating thing in my ministry. It is the single biggest road block in people living a life for Jesus. It is the single biggest challenge to people finding true happiness - even though they think keeping things for themselves will make them happy.

In this day and age I think the biggest call I make as a pastor is for people to sacrifice their lives for Jesus... even when talking to Christians.  It is something I constantly preach to myself, I understand I need constant reminding of it too - but if we were all reminding ourselves of it more often I feel the Church would experience extraordinary growth!

Maybe today ask yourself what you are keeping for yourself, what are you refusing to sacrifice... because I tell you that will be the thing stopping you from serving and loving God more!

Tuesday, 22 March 2016

The best ministry starts small.

Over the last couple of weeks I've had many different discussions with many different people about starting ministries, or wanting to be involved in ministries at our church.  First off that is hugely exciting, because it really shows the life in my church, and that the Holy Spirit is actively involved in the lives of people in the church.

And the thing I am realising, that even in what can be defined as a 'large' church (not by American mega church standards, but at least the biggest church I have been involved with), the best way to begin a ministry is small and simple.

We have a lot of resources as a bigger church, and we have some very big and successful ministries already established.  That can lend itself to thinking we need to start anything new big and well structured... or that people who want to get involved in ministry need to do so in some formal and well defined way.

However again I say, I believe thinking small, but intentional is still the key to starting a good ministry.

For example I encouraged someone this week not to think about formalising a specific mentoring interaction to start something they felt God calling them to do, but to instead subtly, yet intentionally start investing in the person God has laid on their heart.  Instead of going and asking if they can be their mentor and start discipleship catchups with them, they are simply going to intentionally engage that person in conversation every Sunday and build relationship over time. I am confident if they are committed to doing this then a discipleship relationship will naturally develop... and be healthier for its organic beginning.

The key to ministry is relationship, not programs. If we start with programs it can be really hard to develop proper relationships... but if we start with building relationships from the outset then those relationships can define what kind of programs we put in place to facilitate them... and the ministry may grow to be very large - but it will be much healthier because it started small.

Monday, 29 February 2016

Shifting our view on suffering.

So true! When we look at the here and now - at the situation in the present - it is so easy to take our eyes off God and to think Him unfair or even cruel for allowing us to suffer or experience the pain we find ourselves in.

At those times though, we need to stop, we need to step back and look at our suffering with an eternal perspective. Because with the view of eternity we see two main things.  We look back and see that God's love for us is unmeasurably, overwhelmingly great.  Because when we look back we see the cost Jesus paid so that we might live - we see what He suffered because he took the punishment for sin upon Himself on the cross.  The second thing we see is the final result for us of Jesus' acts on the cross.  We look forward to peace, we look forward to glory and we see ourselves in the future place, doing what we were created to do... praising God.

With those two things as an eternal backdrop, we can take on a completely different perspective to the misery and suffering we are experiencing in the moment.
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