Wednesday, 15 April 2015

The answer to the longings in our heart.

Deep longings pervade the human heart.
   We long for selfless, trustworthy, unending love from someone we can trust to be faithful and helpful.
   We long for the unity within the diversity of humanity, some means by which we can live in peace and oneness that benefits each of us.
   We long for communication - from face-to-face conversations to the proliferation of modern technology created for the purpose of letting us know others and be known by them - and have a seemingly insatiable passion to speak and be spoken to.
   We long for community, significant and earnest relationships with others, so that we are part of a people devoted to something larger and greater than our individual lives.
   We long for humility, where people pour themselves out unreservedly for the benefit and well-being of others.
   We long for peace, harmony and safe altruism for others and ourselves so that abuse, cruelty, misery and the painful tears they cause could stop.
   We long for selfless common good, a world in which everyone does what is best for all and is not so viciously and exclusively devoted to self interest and tribal concerns.
Why? Why do we have these persistent deep longings that occasionally compel us to action and often leave us frustrated or disappointed?
~Mark Driscoll, Doctrine, p11-12

Why indeed! I read this after writing my previous post, and I realised that these longings are many of the things we use to define ourselves... to learn about ourselves... to try and understand ourselves.  If we can meet these longings in our lives then we can say we 'know who we are'.

Driscoll continues and says that all these longings are actually with us by design.  It's not a flaw, it's simply a construct in humans so they seek their Creator. In trying to define ourselves we are simply pointed once again back at the Creator and we see that only by knowing Him will we be able to understand ourselves. We long for these things because ultimately they are things only God can provide.
Tragically, human desires corrupted by sin turn in on themselves; rather than finding satisfaction in God, longings become lusts - bottomless pits of selfish desire, never quite satisfied, inevitable leading to despair. Because we are made in the image of a triune God to reflect his glory, we will never stop longing; yet, our sin-stained longings distort that reflection.
Sin defines any act when we turn from God and focus on ourselves. Any longing that we have should lead us to God, but in our humanness we change the focus and try to substitute something to subdue that longing - which will never work (as Driscoll says it's a bottomless pit).

If you have longings in your life... if you're dissatisfied, lonely, depressed or unhappy... ask yourself where are you directing you attention to fill those holes.  Is it God or is it something inferior that will never work? Is sin causing you to turn away from the one your heart is urging you to turn towards? Knowing that God created this world good, that He is good; allow that to satisfy your longing as you seek to know Him more.

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Before I can know myself...

“Of all the knowledge that we can ever obtain, the knowledge of God, and the knowledge of ourselves, are the most important.”
~ Jonathan Edwards
Yes these are the most important... but as I look at my life I realise that they are intrinsically tied to one another and cannot be separated.  The fact is that I cannot actually gain any knowledge of myself until I have gained a proper knowledge of God.

That sounds strange doesn't it? You would think that me being me, it would be easy for me to gain knowledge about me.  In our society today, so many physiologists, self help experts and Dr Phil want-to-bes will tell you that you cannot succeed or even make progress in your life until you 'know who you are'.  I totally agree with that, but I would add the precursor that you can't truly know anything about yourself until you understand who God is.

Why is that?  Well because God is truth.  The way I see the world that is an objective fact.  It is something that just is. I don't care what you personally believe, if you believe God even exists or not... what I am saying here is that objectively He does - no matter what people think - but not only that, also no matter what people may think of Him, He is the truth... He is perfect, all-powerful, all-knowing and all-creating.

At this point some people argue that there cannot be one truth for everyone - that humans cannot demand everyone believe one thing - in some sense they are right... humans cannot... but God Himself can, and He has.

Humans have warped that truth though, even saying that their warped ideas are from God.  That's the trouble we see today - people don't know the truth... don't accept God because they haven't gained knowledge of who He really is and on their own family history, or what they see in the media they just don't want to.

But just consider, if God is the truth, if there's even the slightest chance of that, then it is in your best interest to at least investigate that to the point of understanding what God says about Himself (not just what others say about Him)?

Because I know many people out there feel they don't understand themselves.  Today I'm just putting forward this idea that if that is the case, investigate who God is.  Because when you know that truth it really helps with the perspective of who you are.  I'm not going to write much more than that - if you do want to know who God says He is... contact me and we'll discuss it privately.

Wednesday, 1 April 2015

LIVE IT! - Week 6

So stoked to have my good mate Ben Peacock come and preach in our evening service last Sunday.  I really thought he pulled out the truth of the passage (Galatians 4:21-31 - read it here) in a simple yet impacting way.

Sometimes hearing someone else's interpretation of the study and application of a passage gives you such a fresh revelation of what God may be saying at this point in your life.  Ben's sermon definitely did that for me this week.

Then on Monday night we took a turn and really dove into some of the application stuff that effects our lives, and how the teaching Ben gave us really impacts us to live differently.

Two main questions were...

-Why do 'laws & regulations' have such a persistent appeal?
-Why does sin and the idea of having a 'freedom to sin' have such a persistent appeal?

These questions basically framed the rest of the study.  Because the truth is... the best I have ever felt... the most at peace I have ever felt... the most fulfilled I have ever felt... is when I have been well within God's plan for my life, serving Him and worshipping Him.   There is simply no better place to be.

Yet I don't choose to dwell there all the time.  There is some persistent appeal that draws me to either lawfulness or sin.  Why? I don't completely understand it myself but some of the main things we came up with were; self-gratification, self-righteousness, weakness and having a short vision of pleasure and our needs.

I think we pulled out many things that seem to be part of the detrimental effect sin has had on human nature.

Thankfully we are children of the promise covenant... not the law covenant.  The inheritance we receive (and learnt about last week) isn't dependent on what we do... but promised to us on regard of our faith. Our faith makes us part of the family... and eternal life, peace with God and being made righteous is promised to those who are part of the family.

It's still important to ponder those questions of turning away and of sin though, because I still recognise that the best place for me to be is immersed in that family of God - so I want to work at being better at that... not in the sense of working to be better received by God, but in being a better example of God through the workings of my life as I go about LIVING this Gospel that defines my life.

Monday, 30 March 2015

TeenStreet - The Journey So Far.

5 years of TeenStreet... what an amazing ride it's been and I love this video that's been produced just to show a little of what has happened as this camp has grown.

2015 is camp number 6 and it's going to be bigger and better than before... if you know any teens make sure you encourage them to get involved.

TeenStreet QLD | The Story So Far from TeenStreet Australia on Vimeo.

Friday, 27 March 2015

LIVE IT! - Week 5

The end of Galatians 3 is one of my favourite passages of all time.  The highlight of the love of God, and His grace through the work of Jesus Christ so that we are all now sons, with the greatest inheritance, is a monumental injection of hope, clarity, conviction and determination in my life.  It's one of those passages that serves to focus me on this Gospel mission the Church is now given, and to rejuvenate my weak humanness to a point of being clothed by Christ once again.

Verse 27 makes that exact point doesn't it?
"for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ."
Baptism is something many regard as a 'tradition' these days - something to be done as an initiation into the church, or a public witness to the congregation and your friends/family of your faith. However I'm not sure that's how it's portrayed in the New Testament.  There always seems to be an inherent spiritual aspect to Baptism.  The significance of it being that it instigates a distinct change in ones life.

Here in Galatians Paul says one is clothed in Christ through baptism - our identity is not now individual, it's not based on who we are, but on who Jesus is.  Because of this change in identity Paul can then say in verse 28 that there is "neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male or female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus." Some spiritual change is attenuated to Baptism which gives us a unity with Jesus that is beyond-human.

In Romans Paul says:
We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.
-Romans 6:4
Baptism may display a symbolic gesture of death and resurrection, but in some very real sense Paul's writings give us an impression that there is some effectual spiritual death and resurrection that happens as well.

Theologically I don't feel compelled to state that Baptism is a necessity for salvation - but I do think it is even more important than how many modern churches portray it.

This week's sermon in the LIVE IT! series focused on our adoption as sons into the inheritance of Jesus.  What an incredible thing for us to receive! What is Jesus' inheritance? What does He get for being the Son of God? The answer is eternal life and an intimate relationship with the Father.  That's now our inheritance because Jesus made a way for us to be adopted as well.

Having verse 27 thrown in the middle of this passage about adoption makes me think Paul saw a real importance to baptism being a real instigator of that adoption process. Just like a child who is adopted takes on the family name, moves into the home, is dressed and cared for like any other child in that home - we receive that spiritually through the Holy Spirit. Through baptism we are clothed in Christ... we are now truly part of the family!

Read Galatians 3:23-4:20 here

Monday, 23 March 2015

LIVE IT! - Week 4

Since last weekend was my weekend off, Warren preached the week four message , and Blake led the Bible study, so this blog is really my only input on this passage in Galatians (Read Galatians 3:1-22 here). I just finished listening to Warren's sermon online and loved his term "Spiritual Moonwalking" - this idea where we think and act like we're moving forward, but in reality we're actually going backwards.

I recognise I have spent a lot of time Spiritually Moonwalking and want to identify how I can get some traction and actually get back to walking forward in faith and this salvation I have been given.

Traction is important.  My weekend off I actually spent in Melbourne at the Grand Prix.  As soon as you're involved in motor-sport you very quickly become aware of how important traction is.  It's very easy to build a super powerful engine, but the speed of your race car comes from how best you can use that power to propel your car forwards (i.e traction) - or how much speed your car can carry through the corners. That is exceedingly tricky - getting that power to the road is where the most engineering is needed, and sometimes less power means more traction, and a faster car.  The most powerful engine in the world bolted onto a current Formula One car would not guarantee winning success... too much power and the car will loose it's grip, it will be slow through corners and off them... it will spin its wheels on the straights and go slower... all because the current F1 car is perfectly set up for maximum traction with the power its engine has.

A lot of time in our Christian lives we look for power.  Yes God is all powerful, but that's not what I mean here... instead what I'm talking about are those things in our life that we go towards that make us feel like a good Christian.  The power of belonging to a home group, holding a big fancy Bible, listening to the most popular pastor's sermon podcasts, being the congregation's favourite worship leader.

None of those things are actually bad things... but without the right motivation they don't provide any traction in our lives... and without the traction we may look like we're going forwards, but really we're just sliding backwards.

So I want to search my life for the motivations I have for doing things.  Am I serving God because I have a distinct love for Him and my faith in Him drives me to do things for Him... that's the traction I need... but all too often I feel I may be relying on my own purposes or emotions.

Have a listen to Pastor Warren's sermon... it was a cracker!

Thursday, 19 March 2015

Am I brave enough to pray this?

I love that men like Francis Chan are sharing their prayers with us.  They challenge me greatly.

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