Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Our focus for this year... and the next!

As 2014 ends I've spent some time reflecting back on all the different things that have gone on throughout the year. We had a reflection service last Sunday night, and I displayed some images from some of the major news events of the year.  Some were good, some were weird, and some were downright horrific.

Then someone read this Bible verse as part of the service.
Jesus replied:" 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. ' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it:'Love your neighbor as yourself. ' All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments."
~Matthew 22:37-40
In the middle of all the chaos this world throws up, I see here a very clear and simple focal point for us as believers.  This focal point of loving God with your all heart, soul and mind is a firm foundation through good times and bad.  It will get you through even the worst of times and help you remain pure in easy and good times.  And then loving the neighbour as yourself will make sure your interaction with the world is always pure as well - in its purity it is then helpful, kind, compassionate, safe, courageous and glorifying to God.

Some of the horrific things that have happened this year have caused people to zealously hold to that first commandment (that they'll proclaim their love for their God for all to see), but the second commandment has taken a hit.  I've been disturbed by some Christians responses to people groups, cultures, even religions, after extremists have shot down planes, blown things up or taken people hostage.

I think we would all do well to realise that loving God with all our heart, soul and mind means that we will love our neighbour as ourselves... you can't actually focus on one while you neglect the other. It just doesn't work.
For Christ's love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again. So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation:
~2 Corinthians 5:14-18
Because of Jesus, because He's shown us such an amazing amount of love, and a grace we simply do not deserve, we can't look at other people the same way anymore.  We have to look at them through the grace filled glasses that Jesus has washed us with, by His very own blood. We no longer regard anyone merely from a worldly point of view, so where the world condemns we must offer peace and forgiveness (because when we were to be condemned, we were offered peace and forgiveness).  Yes there is still a thing as justice, but it is not ours to dish out.  Does that mean Christians might get the raw end of the deal? Does that mean we may be persecuted, terrorised, even killed? Yep; actually it does.

That's a scary proposition, but when my focus is to simply love God with all my heart, soul and mind then I know that whatever the proposition is, I can handle it, and in the same breath I will be able to love my neighbour as I do myself.

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Share Eternity

This Christmas we at Deception Bay Baptist want to share the story of Jesus with everyone. In that light we want to equip our people with tools that help them share this story with their friends and family.

YesHeIs is a fantastic app that you can have with you at all times, on your smart phone, that gives you access to videos and pictures that are valuable assets when you want to share your faith.

You can either use the app on your phone as part of a discussion you have with other people, or connect the app to your social media and share videos and pictures online. Here’s a little more on how it works.

So we encourage you to Share Eternity this Christmas – and we hope that YesHeIs helps.

Monday, 24 November 2014

Where is my identity?

A song from Matthew West that has been encouraging me today

Where do I find my identity, in my faults... or as a child of the One True King!!!??

Thought of the morning...

"Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever."
~Psalm 23:6
What a promise... what a statement of faith!

If I make that statement how does it change the way I live? What does it mean for my outlook on life? How does it alter the way I interact with people, especially people who oppose me?

I see I can make that statement in my life, the promises of God mean everything to me, but I have to translate that into the daily outworking of my life and attitudes.

Just some questions and thinking processes triggered in my personal devotion time this morning.

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

A true idea of fellowship

Fellowship is a very 'churchy' word. It is one that we throw around a lot, but do we live out fellowship in the Church today like we see fellowship lived out in the Church in the Bible? Fellowship is more than just socialising, it's more than just feeling welcome and comfortable... in fact, true fellowship may be very uncomfortable on an individual basis for the greater good of the unity in the Church.

Acts 4:32-33 says
All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had. With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and much grace was upon them all.
This gives us an amazing insight into the fellowship of the early church. When we look at our church today can we truly say we are "one in heart and mind"? Or that we claim nothing as our own, but everything shared for the common good - as noted before on an individual level that may create some discomfort, but a supernatural unity seems to be more important than personal comfort. Because of that attitude the Apostles are able to preach Jesus with great power, and they continually received much grace!

 What an incredible picture that paints for us, and maybe leaves us wondering if we're not lacking something when we do 'fellowship' today.

 Jesus command in John 13:31-35 gives us a reason why fellowship is so important, it also shows us why when true fellowship happens then Christ is preached with great power.
Jesus said, "Now is the Son of Man glorified and God is glorified in him. If God is glorified in him, God will glorify the Son in himself, and will glorify him at once.
 "My children, I will be with you only a little longer. You will look for me, and just as I told the Jews, so I tell you now:Where I am going, you cannot come.
"A new command I give you:Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another."
Loving one another is our greatest witness... so how does that effect the life of our church?

I preached this sermon on Sunday morning - it is online here.

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Attacking Complacency

God attacks the complacency of religious people who protect themselves from the needs of others with the reality of their own needs.

We all have a great need for grace.  When we only worry about our own wants then we ignore our communal need for grace because we deny others the opportunity to receive grace.  May God blow away our complacency with a true idea of our needs and how He has met them.

Monday, 10 November 2014

Speaking the truth about Jesus

I heard a sermon yesterday on the life and ministry of John the Baptist.  The preacher used John 10:41 as a main focus for the sermon.
"Though John never performed a miraculous sign, all that John said about this man was true."
John was not about bringing praise, honour or identity to himself. He was as he said, 'a voice in the wilderness calling out "make straight the path for the Lord"'.  His sole purpose in life was to reveal Jesus, and when Jesus turned up he gladly became less as Jesus became greater.

John didn't perform any miraculous signs, or bring down fire from heaven or stop the rain or anything like the prophets of old.  He simply preached about the kingdom that was to soon come and call people to repent and recognise Messiah.  Jesus performed many miraculous signs... and he did so for a purpose.
Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.
~John 20:30-31
John, not being Messiah, didn't need to do miraculous signs to prove who he was, he just had to point to the one who was the Saviour and His signs would be more proof... John just spoke the truth about Jesus and I love the next verse after the verse that talks of John not doing any signs... it simply says;
And in that place many believed in Jesus.
~John 10:42
Speaking the truth is so powerful.  You don't need to perform any signs yourself.  I want people to remember me for speaking about Jesus, not for doing anything to draw attention or fame to myself.  If I could have that gravestone as a lasting legacy I would feel my life had been lived in proper service to my Lord.

Friday, 7 November 2014

A G20 Psalm

With the G20 World Leader's Summit in Brisbane next week politics, security and world influence is dominating the news.  As the leaders of the most powerful nations on earth meet I was reminded of their responsibilities as I was reading Psalm 82 today;
God presides in the great assembly; he gives judgment among the "gods":
"How long will you defend the unjust and show partiality to the wicked?
Defend the cause of the weak and fatherless; maintain the rights of the poor and oppressed.
Rescue the weak and needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.
"They know nothing, they understand nothing. They walk about in darkness; all the foundations of the earth are shaken.
"I said, 'You are "gods"; you are all sons of the Most High. '
But you will die like mere men; you will fall like every other ruler."
Rise up, O God, judge the earth, for all the nations are your inheritance.
In the devotional book I am using along side Psalms the writer said this about Psalm 82
In Israel, judges and kings are suppose to represent the Lord and model His concern and protection for the people who might be taken advantage of. Yet those human rulers are included among those taking advantage of the pool, weak and otherwise helpless (Ps 82:2-3).  The description of such people in verse 5 is accurate, but truly bleak.
The psalm serves as a reminder of a ruler's job description. Rather than adding to the woes of the weak and poor, Israel's leaders are suppose to defend and rescue such people. But in order to save them from wicked people, those in authority first must stop being wicked themselves.
In the end, the only judge who matters is God. The human rulers may have a high position for a while, but they will meet the same end as everyone else. The more the psalmist thinks about the difference between God's rule and human leadership, the more he desires God's authority (Ps 82:6-8).
~ Dr Tremper Longman (ed.), "Ancient Wisdom for Today", p69
I pray that these leaders meeting in Brisbane next week desire God's authority, or are encouraged to at least defend the cause of the weak and fatherless and maintain the rights of the poor and oppressed. That's not something even our Australian government has been doing very well lately itself.

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Motivate Me

It's that time of year where everything seems to become a struggle.  People have been working hard all year and around November they just find they're at the end of their rope.  Attendance to nearly every church thing seems to drop, finding volunteers for holiday events is hard, and sometimes everything just gets a bit of a flat feel to it.

I'm not a good motivator.  I am motivated, I keep working, and I get frustrated when other's can't motivate themselves... but I am not good at motivating people to keep going, maybe it is because I am so self motivating that I struggle to see why other's cannot.  I know I can be a bit harsh or come across a bit bossy when I am trying to encourage people to pick something up, help with something or just attend something that is being put on for them.  Bossy doesn't always come across well does it? So I am looking at how to massage my motivating techniques to be more encouraging.

However, I get frustrated, because I see a lot of people motivated to do things for themselves, but not for others, or supporting church events/ministries.  Sometimes the things they motivate themselves to do are good, things to do with family, or friends, or study or work... but when I was growing up my parents always taught me that before all that I had to motivate myself to read Scripture and support the church community.  When I was in uni and I had huge assignment deadlines I had to motivate myself to sit at a computer and write... but my first motivation had to be to honour God with my faith; which meant I had to be even more motivated with my studies, so I had enough time to finish my assignments before Sunday night's church service, or not be left so rushed that I scrapped my morning devotion time before going into class.
When Jesus saw the crowd around him, he gave orders to cross to the other side of the lake. Then a teacher of the law came to him and said, "Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go."  Jesus replied, "Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head." Another disciple said to him, "Lord, first let me go and bury my father." But Jesus told him, "Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead."
-Matt 8:18-22
Even when there are good things to do, they are not good things if they hinder Jesus' simple command to "Follow me". We have to be more motivated to follow Jesus than anything else.  As I said before I am not a good motivator, and when people are just sitting back saying "Motivate Me" I feel so frustrated... but when I say "Follow Jesus" they don't get the motivating factor behind that.

It's the same with family and friends - both are great and encouraging things, but commitments to church and to following Christ have to have a higher motivating factor in your life.  Sports people are some of the most motivated people in the world, and sport demands a lot from us, there's the pressure of the team, as well as the pressure of making sure you are fit enough to cope, but again even if you love sport and are very good at it, you can't let those demands seep away your motivation to follow Jesus.

I have a friend who plays AFL for the Gold Coast Suns. Playing professional football consumes the majority of his life... training, conditioning, travelling and playing are what fills his week. Yet his commitment to his faith in Jesus is held in even higher regard. He has to be so motivated to meet the physical demands of his life, but whenever I catch up with him I am constantly encouraged not by how fit he is, but by the motivation he shows in supporting his church, sharing the Gospel and mentoring younger Christian guys.

If someone with those kinds of demands can do it, then anyone can. Our churches are floundering because people are not motivated to get in and do the work... in some cases they are just not motivated to follow Jesus, sure they're happy to sit and listen while someone else talks, as long as they get to sing a few songs they like and have a decent cup of tea afterwards... but that's not what Jesus meant when He said "Follow Me."

Maybe it's all just amplified because of the time of year, but I feel the only injection of motivation I can hand out is Jesus.  Because if I am honest He is the only thing that motivates me.  So when you feel like you're done, at the end of your rope... don't just sit back and do nothing, or look for something you can do for yourself, or expect someone else to motivate you. Instead turn to Jesus' example, how He lived, and simply follow Him by doing the same.

Monday, 3 November 2014

When a plan comes together...

God has a plan. He's had a plan right from the beginning, but I also have to assume our human selfish nature must have wrecked His plan at some points.  I mean God's perfect plan must not have included human sin - and not in any sense of a weakness or oversight by God, but our sin (even right from Adam and Eve) must have caused havoc for His perfect plan.

But God reigns, He is sovereign and in complete control so I don't think our actions of disobedience sway the conclusion of His plan in anyway, but the havoc and chaos we must cause when we are selfish, or not listening, or just plain disobedient just shows again how in control God is.

If anything I think we just make it harder for God to complete the plan He initiated with creation, sin has meant God had to provide a way for us to repair that relationship with Him, and the only way was for Him to give up Himself (how could we have made it any harder for Him than that!). But even today, even as Christians, we have to follow His plan and not our own; because God will still complete the work He set from the beginning, it is just selfish of us to make it harder on Him by disobeying.

Friday, 31 October 2014

Fear God

How do we approach the notion of fearing God? Does it line up with the experience of those in the Bible who encountered God? Thanks to Francis Chan's 'Basic' series it's something we've discussed in our young adults group recently, and what I am preaching on this Sunday.

Now I know the Greek word for fear, 'φοβέω', is also synonymous with respect and is used in both contexts in Scripture... however, do we too quickly just read 'fear' as 'respect' because the idea of respecting God is much easier to comprehend than the idea of fearing Him.

Chan, in his video, speaks about how what he heard about the fear of God just didn't seem to line up with the actual experience of people in Scripture who were said to be fearing God.  In Scripture the fear looks like real fear... in fact, a terrified realisation that God is so awesome and holy that they are completely out of their depth and in danger of their lives when they are in His presence.
At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke.  "Woe to me!" I cried. "I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips,
~Isaiah 6:4-5
I turned around to see the voice that was speaking to me. And when I turned I saw seven golden lampstands, and among the lampstands was someone "like a son of man," dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet and with a golden sash around his chest. His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and his eyes were like blazing fire. His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of rushing waters. In his right hand he held seven stars, and out of his mouth came a sharp double- edged sword. His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance. When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead.
~Revelation 1:12-17a
As soon as people see God, they fear Him.  Isaiah states "I am ruined", I am dead; done for; hopelessly situated before the perfect God as a sinful and ruined human.  John's reaction is even more stark... on seeing Jesus John drops... just drops, like a dead man.  The sight of the resurrected Jesus sitting in authority is simply too much, he is so fearful John simply cannot bear it.

That's the real reaction people have when they come before the throne of God - that goes so much beyond just explaining away fear as respect doesn't it??

In each case God, on the person's realisation of their fear, extends grace, mercy and peace in some way - but He only offers that after each person realises their fear.  That's where I wonder if we glaze over it in our current church culture.  We present a loving God, a kind Father, dear brother, friend who wants a personal relationship... and all those things are true - but it should all start with a healthy fear of the powerfulness of God and His supreme might over us.
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; all who follow his precepts have good understanding. To him belongs eternal praise.
~Psalm 111:10
We begin with fear, because the truth of the matter is when we see God we will fear Him.  It's the only natural response of a creation before the might of their Creator. But that is just the beginning, but for a true understanding of who God is we need to start at that beginning.

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Working as a Motorsport Chaplain.

"God look over us today, even though so many choose to overlook you"
Garry Coleman - Bathurst Track Prayer 2014 

This is just a single line from a 90 second prayer V8 Supercar chaplain, Garry Coleman, had the opportunity to pray in front of a crowd of 195 thousand people and international TV audience of over 3 million before the Bathurst 1000 race this year.

Chaplains are ministers who work within a certain environment, usually, not governed by principles based on the faith they hold. This causes tension at times, but handled effectively gives an incredible opportunity to show people Jesus’ love and grace. There are sports chaplains in nearly every sporting code in Australia, as well as chaplains for the military, hospitals, police, fire and of course schools all over this nation.

Garry and myself are just 2 of over 40 motorsport chaplains working in Australia, and though much of our work is behind the scenes, it is amazing the public influence Garry can have on Australia’s biggest day in motor sport. However, the majority of the ministry is focused on things that happen behind the scenes, really interacting with the community at the track; not just the drivers, but the engineers, mechanics, family, marshals, firemen and medical officers. It is not overtly evangelical role, but more subtly so through a focus on pastoral care and compassion.

Motorsport is dangerous, but those involved are full of passion; people race because they love it. As chaplains we respond to all the different results that come from that risk.  We're usually based with the medical team and work closely with the track doctors in assisting with follow up, communicating with families and doing the additional things to help out like picking up from hospital and taking personal belonging back to people - or even just simply sitting with someone while they get their fluids replenished before walking them back to their job point.

Betty Klimenko, V8 Supercar team owner,
took and posted this photo of Dad & I
 on Instagram with some kind words
about our work.
Last weekend I worked the Gold Coast 600 event for V8 Supercars with Garry and my father. In all there were actually five chaplains on track for the weekend but I was based in pit lane with the medics and had a whole range of opportunities to show the love of Jesus.  I actually missed the majority of the final V8 Supercar race on the Sunday because I was picking up someone who had been injured on track from Robina Hospital - that's the job and missing the main event to help someone is certainly not an issue in my mind.

Even with that though there was plenty of time to submerse myself in my passion for motorsport. I got to chat with heaps of drivers, actually walking on the grid before the race and sharing a word of encouragement with many of them (from all driving manufacturers as well) before they jumped in their cars for the race.  Early mornings before the public is allowed in is when all the drivers and teams arrive.  They do pit stop practice, have breakfast together and there is a really warm and inviting atmosphere which is great to simply mix into - kind of lurking with intent - looking for meaningful conversation opportunities.

Like Garry's prayer said, many of these people over look God, but we can be there to show them that God still looks over them.

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Jesus Loves Me

New song from Chris Tomlin, on his album "Love Ran Red" which will be out in Australia next week.

Looking forward to it, as I love the heart of this man and his passion for reflective and honest worship.

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Where do you pray?

Currently reading Bill Hybels' "Too Busy Not To Pray"... here's an interesting excerpt regarding the choice of where we pray.
If establishing a regular prayer time is important, so is designating a regular prayer place.  Some people pray in public places, at social gatherings and at mealtimes just so they can be seen and heard and assumed to be religious.;  But prayer, Jesus says, is not a spectator sport.  It is not something we are to engage in to give off signals of spirituality.  'Forget that idea' says Jesus. 
Instead, when you pray, go into your room and shut the door.  Find a small room, an empty office, the workshop out in the garage, some secret place where you can be away from people and alone with God. That's where you can pray most effectively... The place you choose may be more important than you think.  When you establish a time and a place, it becomes integrated into the rhythm of your life.  I'm a morning person, so I typically arrive at work before anyone else is there. Every day. I sit down in my office chair, swivel around, prop my feet up and reach for my spiral notebook, a Bible and a weak cup of black coffee. 
This routine has taken such root in my life that it tends to take precedence even over more logical considerations, such as whether I need to be in the office on a particular day.  If I'm not preaching that weekend, or if it's my day off, most of the time I still show up, just to spend those precious moments with God... Once you identify such a place and begin to use it regularly, a kind of aura surrounds it.  Your prayer room, even if it is a laundry room in the basement, becomes to you what the Garden of Gethsemane became to Jesus - a holy place, the place where God meets with you.
Bill Hybels, "Too Busy Not To Pray" - p54-56

Now I don't see Hybels negating the role of public prayer here... he's not saying prayer should only be done in a private, secret place.  But I think he makes a compelling argument that if you don't take prayer seriously enough to invest in private time like Jesus teaches in Matthew 6:5-13, then you don't have the right to pray in public.  If you do one without the other then you are only praying to be seen, but if you have the private time, then your public prayers are simply inviting others to join with you in what you usually share with God alone.

So then where do you pray?  I am not sure I have one 'secret' place, but living on my own means that my whole house is my own private place, so sitting having my cereal each morning at my dining table is a common place for me to pray, other times it is the couch, or even my bed.  I do wonder though about the wisdom of creating a 'prayer place', maybe purchasing a comfy chair to put in my spare room with a coffee table, or something that can symbolically become the place I meet God each day.

Interested in other people's ideas, I am really searching to enhance my prayer life at the moment.

Friday, 17 October 2014

What's the consequence?

I think about sin a lot.  Well, I don't mean think sinfully (though don't we all do that at times too), but about sin, more exactly my sin.

I know I sin.  I know I sin horribly, and that many of my sins are known to no one but God Himself.  I am very sorry for those sins, because I know what they do to my relationship with God.  God have any part of sin in Him, or near Him, so my sin effectively cuts me off from God.

That is... before the grace of Jesus comes into play.

But even as a Christian, knowing I have peace with God in regard to my sins because of the righteousness of Jesus that is imputed to me (Romans 5:1), I still feel guilty over my sins at times.  It is not because I am feeling guilty of being caught for my sin; for looking bad in others' eyes.  Like I said before, most of my sins are probably only known to God Himself, others haven't seen them anyway so they have no impact on their perception of me.  I am not sorry for being caught, but I feel a great sorrow for standing in front of God knowing I have done things against His will.

I have been dwelling on that feeling lately, and a few sermons at churches I visited while on my leave really helped me process it a bit more.  I recognise there has to be a consequence for sin.  Like a court of law, a crime is committed so a punishment must be dealt.  I see my sin, but continue to feel a bit of guilt because personally I don't see a consequence - I ask God for forgiveness and receive grace and mercy, my dutiful brain doesn't rest because I haven't had to pay a price.

Thinking about that is when I realise I don't not see the consequence of my sin, what I am doing is taking it for granted!

My sin has a huge consequence! It's just that as a Christian I do not have to face it.  My sin meant that God sent Jesus to earth; that Jesus chose to leave heaven, to put aside all the power and knowledge and presence of what it means to be God and become a human; to experience a sinful world all while never sinning; then suffer the most horrific death imaginable because of the people's sin; and then on the cross face all of the consequences for all sin for all time.

The consequence of my sin is that God is angry at me - but because of my faith in Jesus to save me that anger was heaped on Jesus instead.  How can I take that for granted?  That must turn my feelings of guilt into unashamed reactions of worship and thanks.  It must also serve as a motivator to not sin, because sinning again after I know Jesus is the pinnacle of taking what Jesus did for me for granted.

But when I do sin, instead of feeling cut of from God and not communicating with Him, or ignoring Him more because I feel guilty, what I need to do is worship Jesus for what He's done, apologise again for causing wrath to fall on Him instead of me, but feel the love and the grace He offers, not to turn away, but turn towards.

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Tweet of the Week

  1. Prayer can be simple, but it's not easy. Nothing great is.

This is great - and so pertinent to my sermon prep at the moment.  Will definitely be on a power point slide come Sunday.

New Evening Sermon Series @ dBay Baptist.

sing a song - banner

Psalms is virtually the Jewish hymnbook. We don’t know the tunes, but we assume that in the temple, synagogues and probably even the early church these Jewish songs were sung to praise God.   Yet as you read through the Psalms you find such an amazingly vast selection of topics, emotions, focuses, and questions.  This really shows us the far reaching impact faith should have on our lives, on how our worship is intertwined into every aspect of our daily lives.

guitarStarting on November 2nd and continuing for the rest of term 4 we are going to be looking at a selection of different Psalms in our evening services.  When people think of worship in the contemporary church many people automatically equate that to music.  From the Psalms we see that music was an important way of praising God for the Jews, and should be for us.  But their music reflected the wide range of issues that they could worship God through.  This series isn’t specifically about worship, but about how our faith must interact with every single aspect of our lives and how that intertwines with how we can worship Jesus for the amazing sacrifice He made for us.

Jesus died on the cross to bring us into a state of peace with God.  A relationship that was broken at the very beginning of creation was repaired because the debt we could never pay was paid by Jesus.  He substituted Himself for us, and stepped in to bear the wrath and punishment God had meant to push on us for breaking that relationship.  Jesus, being God Himself, was able to pay the price for everyone’s sin (that is the actions that break relationship with God) and, again because He is God, conquer death, rise again and be alive today for us to interact with and look forward to a similar resurrection into eternal life. cross111

That’s why we worship Jesus, because He is so worthy, and He did so much for us.  It is silly for us to think that just singing some songs on Sunday does justice to the worship Jesus is worthy of.  Join us in our evening services this term to take on a deeper reaching idea of worship.

Monday, 13 October 2014

I watched Bathurst... and didn't go to church.

I seriously enjoyed the Bathurst 1000 on Sunday. I got up early and watched it from start to finish, I yelled at the screen when Mark Winterbottom was spun just laps from the end, I jumped from my seat on the last lap when Chaz Mostert passed Jamie Whincup at Forest Elbow and I cheered (and possibly even cried) as he crossed the line winning for Ford… and you know what… even though it was Sunday… I didn’t go to a church service.

I was disappointed to hear a few little grumblings on that front – or some insinuations regarding ‘choosing sport over God’, because I certainly don’t feel I did that at all. Let me explain.

I openly admit I do love motorsport, all kinds. V8 Supercars is certainly my favourite variety of motorsport, having been involved in the series as an official and a chaplain for almost 10 years. The Bathurst 1000 is the biggest and best race in this series, it’s the biggest and best race in Australia hands down (if not the world) and has such a long rich history. Not only that, but my family has such a long history with this race. From the earliest time I remember watching it every year with my Dad (who remembers watching it with his Dad), I learnt only the other day that he and Mum sent money to Dick Johnson as part of that outcry of support after he hit the rock in 1981, my grandfather and his brothers all worked for Ford when they immigrated to Australia from Malta and I grew up hearing stories about building all the famous Falcons, the XY GTHO, XC Cobra and many others. For most of my life the name Sandham has been synonymously linked with Ford, building them, driving them, supporting them and hot rodding them.

And though I do admit all that, I also confidently say that motorsport, Fords, or cars in general are not an idol in my life. When I was 17, with my new license and first Ford (a 1986 Laser) it probably did become an idol for a while, but as I grew in faith I have very much addressed that and continued to as the years have gone on. I have even turned down opportunities at times for purchasing some truly beautiful cars because of where God had me in my life or in checking my motives I wasn’t convinced I was following His plan properly.

But I do drive a Falcon, and I do watch Bathurst every year (religiously you could say), yet I feel I can do this an honour God while doing so. God created me an individual, He created me with passion, with love, with a sense of duty and the ability to enjoy love, passion, commitment and fun. He even placed me in a specific family, in a specific country at a specific time. He did all this on top of the fact that He sent His Son to come and step in place for the punishment of my sin. First and foremost I am eternally thankful and resolutely faithful to Jesus and what He did for me, but I feel a great thanks also for the way God created me, the passions and family He has given me.

Sometimes I wonder if as we strive for dutiful religious following of Jesus we shun the idea of praising God by enjoying the passions He has created us with. We have an idea regarding the dutiful attendance at church each week (possibly twice each week) and it becomes legalistic in the sense that we regard anyone who doesn’t do this as inferior or uncommitted or even a heathen. For that reason alone I don’t mind missing a church service here or there, just to show that even though I am committed to Jesus, and the life He’s called me to (which certainly includes being involved in my local church) I am not legalistically holding to anything that promotes a work based or evaluation based belief.

But there’s more to it as well. I truly believe I can honour God in my passion for motorsport by including Him in my passion for motorsport. Directly I have known following God’s plan to be involved with chaplaincy has allowed me to do this by serving the motor racing community in Jesus’ name, but even in watching I think in a prayerful awareness and pure enjoyment I can glorify God for who He is as Creator, by enjoying who He created me to be. Watching on Sunday I joined in heart as V8 Chaplain Garry Coleman prayed on live TV before the race, I prayed for drivers and marshals as I saw accidents and conflicts arise. I conversed with Dad as we sat and watched together and encouraged and loved my nephews when they came for lunch to; ‘watch “Frosty” and “Number 5” with Uncle Dean.’

For me Bathurst was a celebration of family, passion and ministry – I do not feel any sin in putting that before going to church on one day each year. I know as a Pastor there is are extra obligations due to my employment, but I was on my annual leave break this year so those considerations don’t really fit here.

Hopefully you can see by the length and depth of this post, that this mode of thinking has only come about because of lots of in-depth consideration on my part and years of self-reflection to engage Jesus in a proper and passionate way. It’s not simply an excuse to not go out on Sunday and sit in front of the TV instead. For some it is, for some motorsport or sport in general is an idol. For some it keeps them from serving or worshiping God. I think sport, music, tv, movies, arts, and personal enjoyments need to be carefully considered but each person is created with certain passions, and if we find ways to enjoy honouring God through those passions, we will be much happier, and feel a better sense of freedom and a closer interaction with Jesus day by day and not just when we dutifully apply it in only certain areas of our life.

So I will continue to passionately say “GO FORD”!!!

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Dealing with the prayer circle

We've all been there; maybe in a home group, or before church, or after music practice, on a camp or even in a deacons or elder's meeting; but I am sure we've all experienced sitting as a group of Christians to pray together and finding yourself enduring minutes of awkward silence.

I don't get it... when we say we are going to pray let's pray!  To be honest I do remember as a teen feeling unfit or unprepared to pray when an older person pulled us together to pray, that was immaturity on my part and I can understand younger people could feel a bit uncomfortable, so I try and find other ways to pray with teens say at youth group or in small groups on a high schooler's camp.

But for Christians who have been in the faith long enough to experience the maturity of the Gospel impacting truth to change who you are (which is different for all people, and I know many young people who do this so not saying teens can't), then praying, even in a group, should come naturally.

So why the awkward silence?  I have a few ideas I feel need to be addressed.

1. You don't pray on your own
Why would you feel comfortable talking to Jesus with other people around if you aren't comfortable doing it on your own? But as I sit in a silent circle and consider what's going on I have to say this is the saddest reason straight up.  I mean prayer is a life-source for Christians, communicating with the one who saved you, who loves you has to be the most uplifting thing a Christian can do. If people don't do this their faith will go stale... so how scary is that thought if you're in a prayer circle with youth leaders, or deacons and this is the reason behind the silence.  First and foremost we must be communicating with God ourselves, so that our relationship and faith is growing, fresh, healthy and foundational.

2. People aren't taught how to pray
Some people have a gift of prayer.  From the moment they meet Jesus they are in constant communication with Him.  It is the first thing they think of when they wake up, the last thing they do as they fall asleep and they relish every moment in between to talk to God.  I  am not one of those people, and I know many are not like that.  For me it took years to understand God, understand prayer, to learn from others, to learn from Jesus and Scripture.  I mean before Jesus shares 'The Lord's Prayer' with the disciples he says this; "this is how you should pray...".  Jesus knew the disciples needed some guidance, so we should not think that we don't either.  So do we teach people how to pray?  As a pastor I reflect and wonder if we do it well, or if we just get everyone in a circle, hold hands, close our eyes and expect each person to know what they are doing.  I think as pastors we need to intentionally do some teaching on prayer, and its importance.

3. People aren't living in Gospel community
Today's western society is a very individualistic society.  When people live lives individually then it inherently lets selfishness creep in.  It may be controversial but I think the selfishness of independence ruins churches, not just corporate prayer.  However since it is the prayer circle we are talking about here let's leave the wider issue and just look at how it impacts this.  'My faith is my thing'; 'Prayer is personal'; 'I don't want others to know what's going on'... these are all reasons people don't pray and they are all inherently selfish. Right at the beginning, we hear that the church in Jerusalem was totally unified in all they did and committed themselves to teaching and prayer.  I am sure in their unity they didn't see prayer as a personal individual thing.  It was their opportunity to talk to Jesus together, and knowing that Jesus was God, saviour, conqueror, king, and brother they knew their needs could be met, their inhibitions blown away, their sins forgiven and their identities only found in Him.  Because of that they recognised they (all together) were the same, and individualism had no place because they now all had the same standing that they were simply 'in Christ'.  That's a Gospel community, that's what I want to see our home groups, youth groups, worship teams, leadership teams and entire churches living in, but it comes at the cost of selfish individualism.

4. The prayer circle isn't right for the current context
Group dynamics are different from group to group.  There are different ways to pray in groups, sometimes there are better ways than just talking about a list of prayer points and then closing our eyes and expecting people to repeat them now as we pray.  But somehow the traditional prayer circle has become something we cling to, even when it constantly is met with minutes of awkward silence before finally the leader puts everyone out of their misery by praying and saying "Amen".   If it is a constant issue for your group, and you have addressed the previous three points, then maybe look at a different way to pray together.  Maybe getting people to write on paper a few worries and a few praises and then read them out to the group after which someone can commit them all to God in prayer.  Maybe incorporate music to centre people's hearts, or go for what I call the 'African prayer' where everyone talks allowed at the same time, praying individually to God but as a unified group (that's how we did it in The Gambia all the time).  Maybe you could use Jesus' teaching and step through the Lord's Prayer and stop at each element and have people share what's going on in their lives regarding say 'seeing God's kingdom come' or 'giving us our daily bread'.  There's no prescribed way to do corporate prayer, so don't cling to something that isn't working.

It breaks my heart to sit in silence when a group has turned to God in prayer.  I long for a community of people who themselves long to communicate with Jesus and so at any opportunity express their thanks, their love and their need of Him.  Those are rich corporate prayer times. So I am not content to let awkward silence prevail, either lives need changing, people need more understanding, selfish individuality needs to be crushed or we need to find a new way to talk to Jesus together.  Let's at least commit to trying to enhance and better the way we pray together!

**I am aware I have not quoted Scripture in this post, and merely paraphrased without giving reference at times.  I anticipated a conversational styled post here, but am happy to give further references if people want, just contact me.

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Tweet of the Week

We want to please the heart, resemble the life, and promote the glory of the one who has saved us.

Monday, 22 September 2014

Want to read the Bible in it's original language?

I came across this fantastic new website this morning.  Rob Plumber (N.T professor at Southern Seminary in Louisville) makes a 2 minute video each day, reading through a verse in Greek, he then explains it very simply but proficiently.

If you've studied Biblical Greek this is a great way to just keep it rolling around in your head each day.

If you haven't, Rob has a whole section of videos to help you learn a bit about Greek too.

What a fantastic idea, and website! -

Sunday, 21 September 2014

Just needing Jesus more and more.

The more I find myself diving deeper into the world of pastoring, the more I find myself needing to cover myself with Jesus' grace.  People turn to me for advice, for leadership and sometimes for their spiritual identity... yet the deeper I go the more I realise how much more I need Jesus.

This means I find that my only desire in being a pastor is to push my congregation to find themselves deeper and deeper with Jesus so they realise themselves how much more they need Him.
I will bless the LORD at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth. My soul makes its boast in the LORD; let the humble hear and be glad. Oh, magnify the LORD with me, and let us exalt his name together!
~Psalm 34:1-3
I fret when I pick up that people are putting their own spiritual identity in who I am, or what I do. Because when people don't own their own faith, when they rely on the pointers of others then we're not really doing what the psalm above says; 'exulting his name together', what is actually happening is one or two people are exulting the Lord and the rest are just doing what they see others doing.

Francis Chan said something amazing at the start of his sermon at the Passion Conference in February, that his desire, and the only desire of the entire conference was to bring people to the foot of Jesus' cross and leave them there.  As humans all we can do is bring people to the cross and from that point it is between the individual and Jesus.  In this way I've realised I live a life kneeling in the dust at the foot of the cross, even as a pastor, that's where I need to be, and where we all need to be, there's nothing more special we need to do ourselves.  Jesus does amazing, supernatural works in our lives, but there is some element of individual response that is needed on our part... something that ultimately you can't fake, or just copy off someone else.

My heart breaks at the thought of people not getting that, and never realising grasping that praise 'continually coming from their mouths, their souls boasting only in the Lord, and being humble and glad'.

But I know all I can do is bring people to the cross, from there it's between them and Jesus.

Monday, 15 September 2014

Speak what is true

A song which has felt really relevant since preaching on Sunday night, and reading that tweet from John Piper last night.

"Here's my heart Lord, speak what is true."

Sunday, 14 September 2014

Bless those who speak the truth, hinder those who don't

Wow - I love the directness John Piper brings to the table of Gospel proclamation, but sometimes I have to double take to get where he's going. Within this tweet I see the weight of what I do each week as I get up to preach the Word of God.

Today, just before the service I realised I had lost half of my sermon notes for tonight, and so preached my introduction then opened up to the passage and stepped through it verse by verse with some thoughts of application and illustration thrown in.  I felt power and clarity in what I said, which I can only point to the power of God.  All glory to Him.

My topic was the truth in the statement of the Roman Centurion in Luke 23:47 where he says "surely this was a righteous man" or the idea that this man realised the truth of who Jesus was, and we need to as well.

I pray that I continue to preach truth with clarity and power, and never fall into a place where I need to be hindered with weakness and confusion.

Friday, 12 September 2014

Rely on Jesus.

In the sport of cricket, a bouncer is a type of delivery, usually bowled by a fast bowler. It is pitched short so that it bounces on the pitch well short of the batsman and rears up to chest or head height (or even higher) as it reaches the batsman. Bouncers are used tactically to drive the batsman back on to his back foot if he has been freely playing front foot scoring shots.
Sometimes in life we get into a place where we feel we are just driving at the ball, scoring points and then suddenly life bowls us a bouncer, it's unexpected and drives us back into a defensive position.

Sometimes it's God doing the bowling, maybe we've become too complacent and self-reliant so God serves up a bouncer to bring us back to depending on Him.

Sometimes it's just a result of the broken world we live in.  Not every bad thing, or tough thing, can be blamed on God or His plan to challenge us.  There are times it is our fault, our own sin brings a consequence that bounces up into our faces... but again, other times it is just a result of a sin-filled, broken world.  Disease and sickness can usually not be blamed on anything but the world we live in.  But it can still bounce up at us.

In all cases, though, the answer is the same... rely on God.  Jesus died, He went through some tremendously horrid stuff, but He did it so we can fully rely on Him. When you get bowled a bouncer know that you aren't facing it alone.  Jesus has promised He is with us, and that in the end, or in the light of the most important things we need, "all things work to the good of those who love Him" and "we are more than conquerors" (Romans 8:28 &37)  Even when God is bowling a bouncer you're not the only one handling the bat, Jesus is there too, in you.  You can always rely on Him to help you through anything, even long term, life changing stuff.

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Send some missionaries to your face...'s a video I used in my sermon last Sunday night, it relates to the previous post as well because I was preaching on the story of the ten lepers.

Thanks Ken Davis for providing such great illustrations for us.

Healed and grateful... My desire for you all.

Jesus Cleanses Ten Lepers 
On the way to Jerusalem he was passing along between Samaria and Galilee. And as he entered a village, he was met by ten lepers, who stood at a distance and lifted up their voices, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.”
When he saw them he said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went they were cleansed. Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice; and he fell on his face at Jesus' feet, giving him thanks. Now he was a Samaritan.
Then Jesus answered, “Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” And he said to him, “Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well.”
~Luke 17:11-19
When we read this story we are forced to recognise that in this world a human can only fall into 1 of 3 different categories.  Either we are a;
  1. Sick and dying leper
  2. Healed and ungrateful person
  3. Healed and grateful person
That's it, there's no fourth option - no "healthy person" category... no excuses or cop outs.  The simple fact is that everyone at some point or another has been a sick and dying leper... or a human in a state of death, dying from a disease called sin. No one has ever been healthy, we are born already infected with this sin disease - it's not as visible as leprosy, but sin is just as deadly.  

When God created the world He created it to be in line with His own nature, and His very nature is perfect, there in nothing within God (and can be nothing within God) that is not good.  However God is also full of love which in itself includes the choice to show love (love can only be real if it is freely given), hence our world was created with the ability to love, which must include the ability to not love (or love is worthless).  The choice to love ourselves first must mean we choose to not love God as a first priority, and this is not good.  This is sin, any choice made not to put God or His will first.  Once sin enters the realm then we can never be healthy, for we have all sinned, which is not good, and nothing not good can be associated with God.

 But this was not how God planned His creation to be - and His love is true, genuine and enduring.  So He enacted a way to make things good again.  The only person who would be worthy of paying the penalty for sin was someone who had never sinned (a criminal can't pay the sentence for another criminal can he? That would defeat the purpose of justice). No mere human could do that, but a human must pay that price... so God became human, He limited His divinity and Jesus was born, without the disease of sin since Mary was a virgin and Jesus' conception was a divine intervention.

Jesus lived a perfect life, He is the only one who can say He was 'healthy' in regard to sin, but He then offered himself in our place, He died the death that our disease was driving us towards. On the cross our disease was placed on Jesus, so much so that God could not be with Jesus (God saw Jesus [Himself] as not good, because of our sin).  The substitution was made, the disease was conquered because God, having paid the price, rose to life and set Himself in authority.

So just as Jesus healed the lepers in the passage above, He can now healed our sin disease.  The lepers had faith Jesus would heal them, they asked for mercy.  That is how we are healed as well, turning to Jesus, repenting of that sin that causes so much trouble and asking Jesus for His mercy to save us.

But just like all ten lepers were healed and only one realised he needed to show thanks, we do the same thing.  We accept that forgiveness, that saving grace, and we go on focusing on our lives. We are ungrateful.  We must take the example of the one leper, and we must seek Jesus out again and be thankful always for what He did for us.  Anything less is cheapening the sacrifice Jesus made for us, it is simply rude to not be thankful, to show Jesus' worth through worship and letting the emotion of it totally encompass our entire lives.

Where are you today? Are you still sick? Know Jesus can heal you.  Are you ungrateful, nonchalant, ignorant, stale or bored? Focus once again on the sacrifice - don't let your humanness or your independence or selfishness get in the way of your thankfulness.

Stop right now, turn to Jesus, and be thankful... worship Him!

Friday, 5 September 2014

Doing life together is tough.

Sometimes life and ministry raise more questions than finding answers. I know the Truth of the Gospel is the Answer, and that Jesus is the Way the Truth and the Life - but sometimes it's with those practical things of life and everyday relationships/interactions that seem to raise more and more questions.

Doing life together is tough, the Christian life is a life of community, especially of unity in community, and though our normal human disposition is relational, and communal there is also a distinct independent and selfish that can fight against that unity within community.  It's for that reason even within Christian communities doing life together can be tough.

I think I just feel the need to express that I know I get it wrong a lot of the time, I am by no means any better at doing life in unified community than anyone else because I know and recognise my own independence and selfishness. In that regard I know I find myself with more questions than answers at times.

However; as a Pastor, I feel the need to call people back to that only Way, Truth and Life, because it is only in Jesus that we can truly be unified. I will continue to remind myself of this as well, and pray Jesus replaces my selfishness with His grace, both for myself and others.

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Between the sinless birth and sin-bearing death...

With the "He Changed My Life" series currently in our evening services looking through the interactions Jesus had with people in the Gospel of Luke, I have been reminded again of the ministry that took place during Jesus' life. We constantly (and for good reason) reflect of his substitutionary sacrifice for the propitiation of our sins (His work on the cross), because belief in this is what saves... but for living day to day life as a Christian here and now, there is no better source for encouragement, example, correction and guiding than Jesus himself.
Most theologies seem to move from a sinless birth to a sin-bearing death, and most ignore all that lies in between. This is a terrible misstep since Jesus' ministry, beginning in Galilee with his baptism by John and ending in Jerusalem with his crucifixion, puts into motion crucial events in the divine drama of redemption. Let us remember that the books we call "Gospels" narrate Jesus' redemptive death as the climax to his messianic career, and that career should be part and parcel of our study.
~Michael Bird, Evangelical Theology, p375
Jesus spent a lot of time teaching, and this teaching was regarding either the coming of the kingdom of God, what the kingdom of God was, or proper living for those in the kingdom of God.   He especially poured his knowledge and example into twelve Apostles who became the fathers and spreaders of His church.  Within his teaching, and the proclaiming of the Apostles of what Jesus taught them, was the source to the restoration of Israel (which they had been waiting for for so long) and the inclusion of all nations into the family of God.

Israel had been waiting for a Messiah who would bring about the restoration of their nation which God had promised.  Jesus didn't bring a physical restoration by driving out the Roman occupying force and setting himself up as the king on a throne in this nation.  Instead Jesus taught that God's kingdom was more important than the earthly kingdom, and that this was what God had intended all along... that people would be able to come to Him - that the Holy Spirit would dwell within humankind and a spiritual kingdom would be established.  The only way this could happen was for Jesus to go to the cross.  But His life was spent teaching about what He was about to bring about.

So we can turn to Jesus for so much more than salvation - even though salvation is our primary need.  I hope as people have heard the "He Changed My Life" messages (available on to listen to if you aren't a regular attendee)  that they have seen some of these other areas where Jesus changes who and what you are!

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.

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.
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