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.

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