Saturday, 21 November 2015

Jesus Freak is 20 years old

20 years ago I was 13, in my first year of highschool and my first year of youth group. I was impressionable, passionate and a little confused about life in general. This song had a profound impact on my confidence as a Christian young person. It gave me an identity, and a rallying point of unity with other Christian teenagers who all loved the song, and its message.

I remember later in my teens spending hours in a mate's rumpus room learning to play the song on the drums - I don't think we ever performed it, but it was the ultimate jam song.

I also remember the youth pastor using the musical video again and again... but we didn't care. As soon as we saw that white dove appear on the screen at youth group or a Sunday evening service we knew things were about to get awesome.

I missed the 1996 DC Talk tour of Australia (I remember the concert was at Dreamworld, but as a 14 year old my parents weren't willing to let me head out for the late night car trip with other teens from Ipswich).  However I saw Toby Mac at Sonfest in 2003 and as his set ended the crowd erupted into the chant of "Jesus Freak.... Jesus Freak" - eventually Toby came back out and performed it and it was epic! One of the best memories I have!

It's still my all time favourite song, and 20 years later, now a worship pastor and pretty much a legitimate muso, I look back on this album (not just the one song) and think the entire thing was creative genius... I've made the statement a few times that Jesus Freak is the best Christian rock album of all time (I still buy a copy for young guys I want to see get into some good Christian music).

I shared this article from Christianity Today on Facebook this morning, it's good to see other people agree with me.

Now I'm going to rock out to this album to celebrate 20 years of influence

Thursday, 19 November 2015

The most worthwhile thing I did with my money this week.

Child sponsorship is an amazing thing, if done right.  I can't speak for other organisations, but from my experience Compassion International does it as right as they can.

Recently I spent the morning with a former sponsor child, he's now an accountant, and pastor, and travelling to tell people the worth of child sponsorship, and how a 15 year old girl changed his life. Then this week I received a letter from my sponsor child, telling me about how he's given his life to Jesus.  What an amazing encouragement that is. To think my small contribution has not only changed his health and education, but impacted on his eternity as well - that's just incredible!

I've been sponsoring Abby for 3 years now, and it's been a different experience having a child who speaks English.  He's written to me himself (without the help of a translator or teacher) right from the beginning, and it's allowed us a deeper level of communication. He asks me lots of questions, and this time sent me a photograph of himself with the presents he bought with the money I sent for Christmas (some 'cool' shoes and a backpack for school).  It's great to be able to influence through letters as well as simply provide funds for buying things.

If you're not sponsoring a child, seriously consider it. I gain so much from it, and I seriously hardly notice the financial side of things, even now only working part time. It is well worth it, and I really believe all of us in Australia are wealthy enough that there is simply no excuse not to.

Abbey, and his letter and drawing :-)

Monday, 16 November 2015

...this is important.

One thing I did during my break between jobs was unplug from social media.  I find many social media platforms integral in my day to day ministry life, so I took the opportunity to really break free when I wasn't in any formal ministry for a few weeks.

It was easier to disconnect than I thought. And I did naturally use some of that extra time in spiritual thought (reading, praying, worshiping) - so when I saw Chan's quote today it resonated with me.  I think I need to find some time daily to ignore my phone/computer/tablet and turn off all those beeps and chirps of notifications to really shut off for a while to be alone with God completely.

Thursday, 12 November 2015

New ministry; new opportunities; steep learning curve!

I am just finishing my second week at Birkdale Baptist Church.  It's been great! It's also been tough, just in having to learn a new culture, adjust to different working conditions and methods and just being in a place where you're not 100% comfortable yet.

As I have been introduced to the different ministries of the church I have observed so many opportunities where I think I will be able to influence for the better.  However, at this stage I have to balance that with meshing myself with the culture of Birkdale (and Cannon Hill) so that I can implement things in the best way for the church, and not myself.

It's an interesting dynamic, because I am surrounded day in and out by new opportunities, but I may not quite understand their full effect yet because I don't really know the church.  So it feels I have a massive amount to learn, and need to be careful about where I actually dip my toe before I dive in.

But they are a great bunch of people.  My induction service last Sunday was a little quirky but a lot of fun - and I am looking forward to really letting God use me as I gain some influence here with time.

Saturday, 31 October 2015

No excuses...

I had a strange and very vivid dream the other night, which God used to speak to me in quite an impacting way.

It involved myself, an orange Land Cruiser ute, an underground carpark and some senseless and careless driving on my part.  As I was talking to and explaining myself to the people whose cars I had damaged, I was making excuses about a fault in the ute's clutch, and engine and giving reasons why this truck had lurched into their cars.  I was very apologetic, but as I dreamt I knew I was lying about the malfunctioning truck, however, the people were believing me.  As the dream continued though, there was another damaged car and my story just didn't match up with the damage on this vehicle. I tried my story but it was just plain that only my own carelessness could have caused this damage.  I could feel my excuses and lies falling apart and at a point I just had to confess - it was just me... my senselessness had caused all the damage. I was at fault.

I actually woke myself up because my mind started rejecting this dream... why was I bothering playing out this stupid story in my mind. I was now awake in the early morning and the vividness of this dream was turning in my head and I remember asking God why my mind would produce such a strange, depressing, and seemingly meaningless story for me to dream about so realistically.

And immediately I was reminded of my sin.  Not just of my sin, but of my continuous attempts to excuse away my sin... 'it wasn't that bad', or 'I am not sinning as bad as I could', or 'if I'd had a better day I wouldn't have felt the need'... and so many others.  I realised that even that day I had fallen into a sin that I had consciously chosen... it wasn't that I had been tempted by circumstance, or been lead astray by someone else. There was no one to blame but myself, though in my subconscious I had just taken for granted the seriousness of it.  But here, in the dark and with the reflection of this dream, I realised that I couldn't make any excuses. God can clearly see through any stories or lies I use to convince myself I am a good person.  Just like my senselessness and carelessness was laid bare in front of everyone in that dream, that is how I stand before God when it comes to my sin.

I spent the next bit of time confessing and praying and grieving the hurt I had caused God.  I thanked Him for sending Jesus, because as much as I have no excuse for my sin, Jesus came to stand in my place for the punishment for that very sin. I asked for forgiveness, and received the gift of His grace once again.

What an amazing outcome from a dream about a ute I will never own...

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

Worship; familiar and new.

I love this place in the world where I live.  I went into Brisbane city today, and I walked along the river, through my old university, through the Botanical Gardens and just spent time soaking up the atmosphere of a place I really enjoy being.  Every time I go into the city I do similar things, sit and watch life at similar places - go and have a coffee at the same cafe - check out the same stores that I don't see anywhere else.  I enjoy the place so much that I enjoy doing those same things when I get the chance.

In some ways I find worship the same.  I don't mind singing the same songs, or going to the same place, or playing the same instrument, because I enjoy praising Jesus.  I love Jesus, and praising Him in worship, through music and church, is the place I love to be.

I understand for some people they want to be creative and experience something new... and I enjoy that as well, I remember a few years back going to New York, and Washington D.C - they were completely new places and I loved extending my experience of life by exploring those cities as well. Over the past few weeks I have been experiencing different worship experiences as I visit different churches... it has been refreshing too and I have found times of deep and thoughtful worship, even if it is not the familiar routine of what I've been use to.

I think we need to have a balance though, because I do enjoy the familiar, and I get something meaningful from it.

So let's not be afraid of the familiar when it comes to worship, but let's also not dissuade the ability to experience something new as well.  Our heart of worship comes from our love of Jesus, and that focus allows us to worship no matter where we are, and we can use whatever experience, familiar or not, to encourage our heart to worship Him all the more.

Tuesday, 15 September 2015

Jesus is all I need

Wouldn't it be great is we could really grasp that without having to have everything else stripped away.  I fail, but I am striving to to rest solely in Jesus - He is all I ultimately need.

I can see my life would be so much better if I could sort this out without God having to take everything else away for me to realise it.  But when I have so much, there is so much distraction.  Times of change help, that's for sure, stepping out every now and then puts us in a position where we have to rely on Him again. I think I'm going to have to find continue ways to step out, to change it up - it certainly helps keep me focused on Jesus.
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