Friday, 29 August 2014

Take a moment to realign your focus

Friday afternoon, after a long day, a long week you're almost ready to break into the weekend. Here's a psalm to help you hang out just that bit longer.

PSALM 19
1 The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
2 Day after day they pour forth speech;
night after night they display knowledge.
3 There is no speech or language
where their voice is not heard.
4 Their voice goes out into all the earth,
their words to the ends of the world.
In the heavens he has pitched a tent for the sun,
5 which is like a bridegroom coming forth from his pavilion,
like a champion rejoicing to run his course.
6 It rises at one end of the heavens
and makes its circuit to the other;
nothing is hidden from its heat.
7 The law of the Lord is perfect,
reviving the soul.
The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy,
making wise the simple.
8 The precepts of the Lord are right,
giving joy to the heart.
The commands of the Lord are radiant,
giving light to the eyes.
9 The fear of the Lord is pure,
enduring forever.
The ordinances of the Lord are sure
and altogether righteous.
10 They are more precious than gold,
than much pure gold;
they are sweeter than honey,
than honey from the comb.
11 By them is your servant warned;
in keeping them there is great reward.
12 Who can discern his errors?
Forgive my hidden faults.
13 Keep your servant also from willful sins;
may they not rule over me.
Then will I be blameless,
innocent of great transgression.
14 May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
be pleasing in your sight,
O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

The pain of rejection.

on flickr by KatLevPhoto
Rejection hurts, actually rejection is probably one of the most intense and overwhelming emotions we feel. In a wave it seems to encompass everything we are and denies us the ability to focus on anything else.

Whether it's not being accepted for a job offer, having a relationship end, not getting into the university you wanted or being betrayed by a friend I think rejection is the most intense emotion (at least in a negative sense) that we experience.  I know for me when I feel a real sense of rejection I feel physical pain, it shoots down my left arm and my left hand aches. I remember feeling this as a child, I kind of knew (even as a kid) the pain in my hand was a signal I was really sad or affected by what was going on and not just being an annoying child - even today I feel that pain in my hand and know I need to exit whatever I am doing and compose myself, or deal with whatever is happening.  No other emotion elicits a physical pain like this for me.

But why?  Why do we feel rejection so intently? Why does it cause us such emotional distress?

Because there is one rejection that will kill us - one so important that we never ever EVER want to experience it;
"Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name? ' And then will I declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness. '
~Matthew 7:21-23
"Then he will answer them, saying, 'Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me. ' And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life."
~Matthew 25:45-46
Being rejected by Jesus sends you to eternal punishment, to the final death, to the lake of fire, to pain, suffering and complete separation from God.

I truly believe that rejection hurts us so bad because that horrible feeling is a foundation to drive us away from being rejected by Jesus.
"The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. "
~2 Peter 3:9
Jesus doesn't want to reject anyone - but He is holy, just as God is holy, for they are one, and that means that anyone who isn't made holy cannot be where God is, cannot have a relationship with God, in a sense must be rejected by God on the basis of their unholiness.  And because of sin, we are all unholy - we will never met that expectation of perfection, of Godliness, that God expects and created the world with.  In moments of honesty you must acknowledge this to be true, that if God expects you to be completely set apart to His ways, then you have failed terribly.

In that sense we all face that ultimate rejection in the future, because we have not completely done 'the will of our Father who is in heaven' (Matt 7:21).  Praise God though that He does not want to reject us, so much so that He came to earth and lived the completely holy life that He expects of us, but then He died anyway.  Jesus was rejected, so much so He was beaten, mocked and then brutally killed.  Jesus experienced rejection when He in no way deserved it.  More than that, while on the cross Jesus had all of our sin thrown on Him and with that stain which we caused sitting on Him He was rejected by God; "My God my God, why have you forsaken me?" (Matt 27:46).

Because Jesus experienced that rejection in our place, that means we don't have to be rejected anymore.  Romans 10:9 says "If you confess with your mouth Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead you will be saved." Saved from what?  From that ultimate rejection.  It is our repentance (which Peter says in the verse above is what Jesus wants us all to reach for) of those sins that hung on Jesus on the cross that brings us to the point of having a faith that He is our Lord, that He can save us, that He did take that rejection for us.

That's why I believe the rejection we feel throughout our life crushes us, but not eternally, instead it serves to give us just a small taste of what rejection from God feels like... and because that small taste is so horrible we realise it is the rejection from God we really need to worry about.

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Tweet of the Week


God doesn't promise better life's circumstances because you love Him. He promises a better life.



Amen to that - even in the hard times, life is still better. Sometimes that is hard to grasp onto - but clinging to it can be the only thing that gets you through!

Monday, 25 August 2014

This I Believe (The Creed)

In reflection of my post this morning, this song has been speaking to me immensely over the last few weeks.  I love this simple acoustic version, even having the privilege of performing it in a very similar way in church last week.

I do believe - I believe everything in this song, and love the way it makes me reflect on all this amazing aspects of my faith.


I Do Believe...

"And when they came to the disciples, they saw a great crowd around them, and scribes arguing with them. And immediately all the crowd, when they saw him, were greatly amazed and ran up to him and greeted him. And he asked them, "What are you arguing about with them?" And someone from the crowd answered him, "Teacher, I brought my son to you, for he has a spirit that makes him mute. And whenever it seizes him, it throws him down, and he foams and grinds his teeth and becomes rigid. So I asked your disciples to cast it out, and they were not able."
And he answered them, "O faithless generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring him to me."  And they brought the boy to him. And when the spirit saw him, immediately it convulsed the boy, and he fell on the ground and rolled about, foaming at the mouth. And Jesus asked his father, "How long has this been happening to him?" And he said, "From childhood. And it has often cast him into fire and into water, to destroy him. But if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us."
And Jesus said to him, "'If you can'! All things are possible for one who believes."
Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, "I believe; help my unbelief!"
And when Jesus saw that a crowd came running together, he rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, "You mute and deaf spirit, I command you, come out of him and never enter him again." And after crying out and convulsing him terribly, it came out..."
~Mark 9:14-26

What is the big teaching point behind this story?  What truth do we learn about Jesus?  I think we learn a lot from the father of the boy.

Jesus has just been up on the mountain with Peter, James and John. While up their Jesus is transformed as His deity (His Godliness) bursts forth and His glory is revealed - Luke says "His faced changed..." and "His clothes were flashing as lightning" - it's like as they are praying the Godly nature of Jesus must burst forth and his glory cannot be hidden.  What a privilege for Peter, James and John to see that. For us reading the Gospels it is one of those high points where we really get to see that Jesus is God, not merely a man, and we can read about the glory of God, the goodness of hope and heaven and get a glimpse at the eternal realm.

But then as they return to the rest of the disciples they are confronted with the reality of the brokenness of the worldly realm we all live in.  There are arguments, all because the disciples couldn't cast out a demon from a boy.  Just the sickness and possession of the boy is a blatant contrast to the glory of God seen in Jesus' transfiguration - but then add to that the fact that when the boy is brought and Jesus isn't around the disciples for some reason cannot heal him, and then the local religious leaders take that opportunity to use it to discredit and argue about their effectiveness.  Human hopelessness, rebellion, disbelief and lack of faith/relationship with God all rolled into one, at the foot of the mountain where Jesus had so recently shone with his Godly glory (so much so that a bit must have remained because people were amazed just at the sight of him in verse 15).

Jesus also goes from discussing the fulfillment of his earthly mission with Moses and Elijah to lamenting about the people around him; "How long do I have to put up with you lot..." even Jesus is struck with the stark reality of the world He has come to dwell in.

Raphael's painting The Transfiguration actually captures the contrast well.

And the poor father is living daily in the reality of that broken and painful world isn't he? Every day he saw the brokenness in his son, the fits, the possession, the pain he would have felt as a father knowing there was nothing he could do to help his son.  He hears that there is a teacher travelling around who can heal, who has cast out demons and he must have had this amazing glimmer of hope enter his heart as he thinks of how this Jesus could help him son.

But he arrives to find his disciples there, but Jesus not.  He places his faith in the disciples and asks them to heal his son, but they cannot. What went wrong, did this man put his faith in the disciples and not in Jesus to heal, but then that would mean the disciples didn't correctly communicate that it was faith in Jesus that allowed them to heal (remember this is after Jesus sends out the 12, so of the 9 that didn't go up the mountain some of them would have cast demons out before). So were the disciples relying on the fact they'd done it before instead of stopping and committing it to the faith in Jesus once again.

Either way something is amiss with the faith connection and the believing healing power that had been expressed before by the disciples.  And it is only when the father meets Jesus that we see those errors in faith, explanation of belief or self dependence more clearly.  The father says to Jesus; "If you can..."  Jesus replies "If?... all things are possible for those who believe..." and the father immediately puts his faith in Jesus alone.

"I do believe! Help me with my unbelief!"

That's it, that's the key! Even the disciples needed in that moment to look to Jesus and say; "Yes we believe, help us with our unbelief" - it's the answer to all the problems in this story - even the scribes in their arguing and hardheartedness desperately needed to say "We believe" because they were the opponents to Jesus.

Whatever spot you find yourself in your life, this cry is needed. At one point in our lives we must all cry that out to be saved, but even after we are saved it is something to continually focus on and cry out because we continuously need help with our unbelief.  Today we all desperately need Jesus, whether we are on the mountaintop reveling in the beauty of his glory, or tumbling among the brokenness and hurt of this world; whether you have never grasped the grace that Jesus offers, or you understand the impact that grace has on your life; whether you are new to this whole 'Christian' thing, or if you have had a faith your entire life... we all desperately need Jesus, He is the only one who changes our lives, who gives us peace and grace, who can heal hurt, correct paths and restore life.

Turn to Him today - whatever your situation - and tell Him you do believe, and you need help with your unbelief.

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Francis Chan - my appreciation.

Francis Chan is probably best known as the author of 'Crazy Love' and his involvement with Passion each year. He leads and pastors a church in San Francisco and was one of the speakers at Oxygen Christian Leaders' Convention a few weeks back. 

I'll admit to him being a big motivator for me to go to the conference, as I have enjoyed hearing many of his sermons, used the Crazy Love book, along with the study DVD, in our young adults home group and appreciated the story of his ministry and heart for God.  

There are many people who fall into the realm of 'Christian Famous', being known for their books or preaching or music, and generally I am wary of following someone, or over indulging in just one person's effort into Gospel presentation, because I want to follow Jesus, and not just the ideas of a well known Christian leader; but something has always drawn me to the work of Francis Chan time and time again.

At Oxygen I realised why. Francis Chan is not Christian Famous - as soon as he realises people are following him instead of Jesus he does something about it. Chan serves to honour Jesus, and he is completely open, honest, humble and direct about that. Even speaking to a group of Christian Leaders (with the majority being pastors) at Oxygen Chan just spilt his heart for worshiping and serving Jesus.  He spoke of needing to be a sheep instead of always being a shepherd, because as pastors we find ourselves in that shepherd role naturally, but we are still sheep with a Good Shepherd.  He confessed his urge and attempts to be academically recognised - wanting others to think he was well versed in all areas of Christian theology and academia. 

Listening to him confess made me realise I struggle with the same thing. I constantly strive to make my sermons, or even just discussions sound like I really know it all, or can discuss things at that deep theological level - in truth I am just like Francis, I care passionately about Jesus and serving and loving Him, but I'm not the person to have those deep theological discussions with.  [For all those times I have sat and nodded and added generalised comments to sound like I know what we're talking about I am sorry.]


And so I realise why I am so moved by Francis Chan and his ministry - his sole focus is to follow Jesus - if people follow him, he points them to Jesus. I resonate with Francis and all he does because he is a shining example of Jesus and he makes me want to be more like Jesus.

I don't ever expect for Francis Chan to read my blog.  But if he ever does I would love him to know that I deeply appreciate him and all he has done for the work of the Gospel.  By Francis shining the light of Jesus so brightly it has helped illuminate my light to the world as well. I want to live like Francis Chan because I want to live how Jesus wants me to, and Francis gives me an exceptional example of that.

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

The End of Pride

In this morning's speaking session here at Oxygen, Bryan Chapell was preaching from John 10 and Jesus saying "I am the Son of God".
"...do you say of him whom the Father consecrated and sent into the world, ‘You are blaspheming,’ because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’? If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me; but if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.”
John 10:36-38
Jesus has also just said "I am the good shepherd" (John 10:11) and uses that analogy again to rebutt the grumblings of the crowd by showing them the amazing result of the truth of Him being the Son of God;
My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand. I and the Father are one.”
John 10:27-30
This is what Bryan had to say
God gives His sheep to Jesus and Jesus gives His sheep the gift of eternal life. And the gift of eternal life is the end of pride.
The end of pride. Think about it. What more can you gain for yourself than eternal life? There is nothing, no material possession, no wealth or fame or influence, which can rate higher that earning eternal life.

But if eternal life is a gift, and not earnt, then what could possibly feed your pride? We have nothing we can do that will be any better than what Jesus has already given us, our pride ends as we look to the voice of the Good Shepherd... the Son of God.

And our pride must end because to receive eternal life we have to receive the greatest gift God could give to 5us; His Son. God was sent into the world, Jesus was given, and lay down His life (John10:15) so He could give us eternal life.

End your pride.

Monday, 4 August 2014

Finding a place where you aren't the one in charge

As the first session of Oxygen Conference kicked off, and we were singing a few choruses I suddenly realised I felt very different to recent times at church.

Not that church has been bad (not at all) or that the music was bigger and better... but simply the fact I wasn't responsible for the running of what was going on, or responsible for others finding God.

The songs were simple, and not the most recent, but I really felt I connected with God in a real and personal way, because my main focus could be worshipping God alone. It seems a little strange to say that when I lead worship or am just attending my church as the pastor that I am not focusing on worshipping God alone. Because I do worship, but I don't think I even realised until today that even though I do worship, I am also geared by my ministry and calling to be thinking of others' experience as well.

But I see it now, and I don't resent my church for the role God has called me to, I certainly see its worth. But I saw today that there is also an importance to find a place to focus on God where you have no leadership responsibility.

Church members, I think its important you realise your pastors need this. I don't know how to do this as an ongoing thing, its a new thought today (and just the first of many to come from Oxygen day one), but I wonder if its a conversation that could br helpful for many people in ministry (both pastors and those with roles of leadership in the church).

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