Tuesday, 29 December 2015

Are you satisfied?

When we find something more satisfying than God we sin, because we have turned to an idol.  Even in our own mind, with our own independence we create idols.

I truly believe every single sin starts with idolatry, even if it's just idolatry of self... as soon as we stop being 100% satisfied with Him, we take our eyes off Him. When we take our eyes off Him we cannot glorify Him. And when we are not glorifying Him, we are glorifying something else, and that is sin!

Saturday, 19 December 2015

Seeing the depths of my heart.

Last night I had a revitalising and refocusing theological conversation with three guys contemplating the core of the Gospel and how many 'Christians' today weave a tragic idea of morality into their salvation.  It was refreshing to hear young guys talking about how depraved humanity really is, that it is only God who can save us, that we have no ability in that at all - that sounds strange, refreshed to hear about depravity; but it's only in realising that, and then understanding the nature of God that we can being to let the Gospel work in our lives.

On the way home Chris Tomlin's 'Indescribable' came on in the car.  I was initially focused on how amazing God is and how amazing His creation is that points to Him, but then the last lines of the chorus absolutely floored me.
"You see the depths of my heart, and you love me the same
You are amazing God."
I thought about what lies in the depths of my heart... things I wouldn't want anyone to know... things I am totally ashamed of... because when I take an honest look at the depth of my heart I see much selfishness, even after all these years of following Jesus I still seem to have that horrid human condition right at my core.  These past couple of weeks I think I may have even been embracing it more as than usual, letting my selfishness bubble to the surface and entertaining ideas for my own benefit that are not in God's will.

That's why the line of that song hit me so hard, God sees all of that... He knows exactly how depraved I am, and He loves me the same.  He shows me such grace that He takes away that depravity, there's nothing I can do to clean it up, except let Jesus take it away once again through his atonement on the cross.  He sees the depths of my heart... where I usually do my best to ignore it, to make myself feel good (or at least 'not that bad') - and so last night the first step of me responding to the Gospel in my life once again was actually acknowledging the depths of my heart, so that I could set them at the foot of the cross and let grace and forgiveness wash them away and replace them with hope and purpose and Holy Spirit once again.

Truly; You are amazing God!

Friday, 18 December 2015

The Epic Arrival

Last week we ran an interactive lights display at Cannon Hill Baptist Church called "The Epic Arrival".  Hundreds of people from the local community walked through our church, into rooms that highlighted the chaos of commercial Christmas... then through a wardrobe into snow filled Narnia... and onto a warm cosy lounge room with the origin story of St Nicholas.

From there you entered a dark room which started us thinking, through a video, that there must be more to this story, that someone was coming to change everything... and then you walked out into this live stable, with goats and chickens and a large stable.  A shepherd quietly told you to enter the stable softly due to baby Jesus just being born... and there lying in a manger was He... the Epic Arrival has happened.

You exit a stable and enter a room telling you why Christmas was so important, because that baby grew, and He died, to save us all. The walls were covered in testimonies of people who have had their lives changed because of the Epic Arrival!  The final room was a reflection and prayer room, where many wrote up prayers and attached them to string for all to see.

Overall it was a very powerful experience.  We've now moved it all over to Birkdale Baptist and it will run alongside our carols events this Saturday and Sunday... come along and check it out!

Cannon Hill Baptist, lit up bright

The sign and 7m Christmas tree inviting people in

Mum and Dad about to enter through the wardrobe

Narnia

Someone is coming to make things right

Born among the animals

The gift of the cross

The reflection and prayer room







Saturday, 21 November 2015

Jesus Freak is 20 years old



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, 19 November 2015

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

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

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

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

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

Abbey, and his letter and drawing :-)

Monday, 16 November 2015

...this is important.


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

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

Thursday, 12 November 2015

New ministry; new opportunities; steep learning curve!

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

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

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

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


Saturday, 31 October 2015

No excuses...

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

Worship; familiar and new.

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, 15 September 2015

Jesus is all I need

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

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

Wednesday, 9 September 2015

Lifting your eyes.

Some years ago a sociologist accompanied a group of mountain climbers on an expedition. Among other things, he observed a distinct correlation between cloud cover and contentment. When there was no cloud cover and the peak was in view, the climbers were energetic and cooperative. When the gray clouds eclipsed the view of the mountaintop, though, the climbers were sullen and selfish.
The same thing happens to us. As long as our eyes are on God's majesty there is a bounce in our step. But let our eyes focus on the dirt beneath us and we will grumble about every rock and crevice we have to cross.For this reason Paul urged, "Don't shuffle along, eyes to the ground, absorbed with the thingsd right in front of you. Look up, and be alert to the things going on around Christ - that's where the action is. See things from his perspective" (Col 3:1-2 MSG).
Max Lucado, The Great House of God
 
I think I have been personally experiencing this lately.  This time of transition has been difficult. 3 months is a long time to continue working after you have resigned.  Your plans are out there - the intention of moving on is known - and whether people intend to or not, their attitude towards you changes. It's very strange after having invested in people's lives over 3 1/2 years that I now experience them pulling away, even before I have left.

It's left me confused with my own emotions, it was never a case of wanting to leave, but feeling God calling me on - but with people's attitudes it actually gets to a point where it would be just easier if I was gone.  However that's not how I am wired, and I desire to finish well the job God gave me.  And that's where I realise I have to lift my eyes to the mountain peak again - and other's in the church need to do that too... because when we drop our eyes, or let clouds of doubt roll in is when our attitudes change, when we treat each other badly, when we become selfish and sullen like the sociologist saw in the mountain climbers.

Unfortunately I cannot do that for others, but I can for myself, and I can ensure I am not creating a cloud covering that blocks other's view of the mountaintop. I realise now that's how I finish well.  I get the impression some people can't wait for me to leave (either out of their own hurt or just wanting everything to move on), and that was drawing me down and making me think I didn't have the opportunity to finish well. But now, I will lift my eyes again and do what God wants me to do. I will focus on His majesty and have a bounce in my step with these few weeks to go.

Monday, 7 September 2015

Appeasement verses Satisfaction

It seems Bible Studies I have run, and sermons I have preached lately have revolved around a certain theme... the idea of appeasement verses satisfaction.

In our humanness we attempt to appease our wants, our desires, our emotions and our physical urges by filling our lives with material possessions, relationships, acquaintances, parties, social media and social interactions, as well as other comforts. I look at the world around us and see a cycle of just trying to find the next thing to appease us continuing on and on... and then I look at the church and I don't really see anything too different.

Young people especially are driven to appease their desires themselves - through gaining friends (or boyfriends/girlfriends), or through the latest clothes and computer games, or through drinking and clubbing and partying endlessly, or through so many other things - and I am seeing this in churched young people, not just the general life of a young person in our world today.

...and it concerns me greatly.

...and I think it concerns God greatly, as He has been showing me as I prepare studies and sermons that always seem to be coming back to this idea.

Because no matter how hard we work to appease those feelings and desires... nothing we do will actually completely satisfy us!  Why?  Because we are wired to find satisfaction in only one thing... our Creator.  God, when He made us, made us to find our satisfaction only in Him.  Looking anywhere else is useless because it is taking our eyes off the One who ultimately satisfies. I understand that the world may not have grasped that, but it stuns me that Christian young people, who know Jesus, who know what He has done to provide that satisfaction, continually turn to other things they think will provide a better means for them.  Though they may enjoy it in the short term, my heart breaks knowing that eventually they are going to be hurt and feel a deep sense of being unsatisfied, and maybe a huge sense of regret and guilt as well.  I know I have felt that over my life, and I just wish I could communicate the Gospel in such a productive way that others avoid it because they truly find their satisfaction in Jesus.

I can resolutely say that my satisfaction only comes when I centre myself on Christ, what He's done for me and my response in worship to Him. I know there are times I look away, but I find I am quickly dissatisfied and feel the call to turn back to Jesus - a thing I am eternally grateful for, that I can turn back time and time again because of His grace.

We all need to get to that place, where turning away even for a moment leaves us instantly unsatisfied. Because that is the place where the Gospel has done its work - that is the place a true Christian is found.

Tuesday, 1 September 2015

My rules for posting on social media.

In a previous blog post (here) I spoke about our need to think about how we use social media. In that post I mentioned I had some rules I always try to adhere to before posting anything - and I said I would outline them in a separate post... well this is that post.

As best as I can, I try and think about each of these things before I hit the 'post' button.

1: What is my intention?
This is the most important thing I think of when I am writing  - even just a 140 character tweet.  Why am I going to share this, and is my intention a correct one?  That doesn't mean I never post anything negative, because sometimes with the right intention a negative veined post can bring about resolution, or a call to arms or something that is not inherently 'wrong'.  But I ask myself is that what I am trying to do - or am I wanting people to see I am angry (that is not always a good intention) or am I wanting certain people to know I feel hurt (that is not a good reason) or am I wanting people to think I am especially good at something, or I am important (again, not good intent).  Many times I have written a status update, a tweet, or even a blog post - and then in considering it's intent simply decided to delete it rather than post it.

2. Am I being ambiguous?
And if I am, am I using that to generate constructive conversation, or attention on myself, or room for implying gossip? Sometimes ambiguity is a beautiful thing - it can generate interest and bring about a good discussion on an important topic.  However a real trend on social media to is ambiguously post so that people have to assume what is really going on.  A post like "That sick feeling in your stomach when someone hurts you so deep" naturally leads people to wonder 'who hurt you?' or 'what happened?'   Sometimes this is done in the worst passive aggressive way, knowing the person who hurt you will read it and know what you mean while other's will be in the dark.  This is not the way to handle conflict - especially publically.  So I always re read my post to ensure it is clear, or that if I am being intentionally ambiguous that it is for the right reason.

3. How might this post be received?
Text based communication leaves a lot of room for misunderstanding - especially with short and sharp status updates and tweets. I don't claim to think through every conceivable possibility - but I do think through some things, like 'have I had a conflict with someone recently who may read this and think it a personal attack' (I admit I learnt this from an unfortunate life experience), or 'is there someone hurting at the moment who won't appreciate this' (posting an epic car roll video on Facebook knowing a friend was just involved in a traumatic car accident isn't being very sensitive).  This is especially important if I am choosing to be ambiguous, because that leaves a lot more room for misinterpretation.

4. Is it worthwhile?
Even if I am simply posting to share a little insight into my life, I feel it has to have some worth. "I just ate a chicken sandwich" isn't an overly worthwhile post, but letting someone into your life by showing a photo of an amazing crafted sandwich and sharing your gratefulness at getting to enjoy it might be.  If the post is going to have a negative connotation, it's very important to make sure that it is worthwhile and not just me having a vent.  I don't feel social media is a constructive place to vent, and most venting is not worthwhile for those reading.

I know I don't get it right every time, but asking myself these four questions time and time again have certainly refined the way I use social media, and have definitely reduced the amount of conflict I encounter on social media.  I have a few other rules too... there are certain topics I simply won't comment on via social media - I don't think it is a conducive environment for political, social, even religious discussion - instead I'll simply offer an invitation to speak about it privately or in person.  Also another huge rule is I don't post if I am feeling personally hurt and angry about something.  I might write something - but I don't post it... I'll go to bed, or leave it for a day... then I will come back and read it and with a bit of perspective then decide whether or not to post.  Posting as an emotional response usually leads me to break the rules I mentioned above, and that usually gets me in trouble.  I especially think that if I wouldn't say this to someone face to face, then I shouldn't feel comfortable posting it on social media.

Now I've going back to re-read this post and check it out before hitting 'Publish' ;-)

Monday, 31 August 2015

Judging Success...

I struggle with judging success when it comes to my ministries... what measurements do I use? Is it purely a numbers game, or are numbers not important at all?  I would love to measure it by a depth of spirituality, but how does one quantify that, especially when it seems some people may be going deeper in their faith only to then turn around and walk away all together?

I do think numbers play some role.  Even just last night at church, nearly everyone involved with the young adults ministry was there - the numbers brought a greater feeling of belonging and purpose, just because the room was filled, and I wasn't left wondering where different people had gotten to, and if there were issues keeping people away I was going to have to work through.  Growing numbers is also a good sign, especially if it is coming through those already there inviting and bringing along new people - I think that points to the depth of the group as well, that they are receiving from whatever ministry it is, seeing its worth, and sharing it with others.

But when that's not happening, is it my failure, or is it a hardness in the group, or is it some other element outside the scheme of control?  That's where I struggle to judge where things are going right or wrong.

It's hard to set Key Performance Indicators on such a organic community, which is hopefully being designed to follow the Holy Spirit - and not so much set goals defined by the group leader.  It's also hard to set KPIs when they would be dependent on the individual relationship people are having with God - I can teach and encourage, but that is ultimately up to them to maintain.

It's not a new problem I know, but I am wondering if anyone out there has some tangible measurements they use, or ideas for implementing things with ways to reflect on the success or failure of the workings.

Thursday, 27 August 2015

A little more than useless

There's a Relient K song that says:
And sometimes I think that I'm not any good at all
And sometimes I wonder why, why I'm even here at all
But then you assure me
I'm a little more than useless
And when I think that I can't do this
You promise me that I'll get through this
And do something right
Do something right for once
We often feel useless... and label ourselves as useless. And in some senses that is correct; on our own - depending on ourselves - we are pretty much useless.  But to actually label ourselves that denies that God has anything to do with our lives at all.  God sees us as 'more than useless' because He chooses to input into our lives, all of our lives whether we recognise Him or not.  He sent Jesus so that we would not be useless.

So don't deny God the recognition of what He puts into your life... you are more than useless!

Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Concerns on the social media worldview

Social Media is a fantastic tool, a great way to connect with people from all over the globe.  I love that I can talk with people I served on the mission field of The Gambia with - or old school friends - or American friends who have headed home - or even just church friends during the week in a much more relaxed way.

But time and time again I am reminded that I have to make sure I don't view the social media world as equivalent to the real world.  There are many things that make the world of social media a dangerous place if you take all of your experience and information from it, without regarding what is going on in people's real life.

People say things on social media (both publically and privately) they would never say in person.  It's very easy to type out a harsh comment, or not consider the circumstances or intent of how their words will be received.  It's also very easy to misunderstand someone's social media post, because it's tough to gauge emotion, sarcasm, intention and intent from written words.

There certainly is a need for 'real world' communication to supplement and, ultimately, complete the conversation that may start on social media.

Also just as it's easy to amass a large following of people whom you hardly know... it's easy to disconnect from people you know, but find yourself in conflict with.

In times of conflict it is very easy to find the 'unfriend' button, or maybe just the 'unfollow' or in those moments of complete anger the 'block' button. But that doesn't stop the real world does it.  It's not so easy to disconnect when you are seeing the person in person.  However it does create an awkwardness... I know that I notice when people have 'unfriended' or blocked me on different social media platforms and it becomes a little strange when you go to interact in the real world knowing the person has purposely disconnected on social media: do they actually want to talk to me? should I resolve some conflict I am not really even aware of? are they still a friend here in the real world?

So as amazing a tool social media is - it has to be used carefully, and with a correct intent.  I have a few rules about what and when I post (I may share those in another post sometimes - **update** I have written that post... here), but I think everyone needs a reminded now and then that what happens on social media will affect your real world life, so you need to consider that in all things you do online!

Friday, 14 August 2015

Praying for the Mission to be Seen!

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
~Matthew 28:18-20

This passage is at the heart of everything I write here on "Working on the Mission", because it is one of the key verses that outlines the very mission we as the Church are commissioned to work on.

I find myself constantly lining up the things I am doing with passages like this... "is what I plan to do today conducive to the mission I have?"  I admit to sometimes doing my own thing, going my own way (don't we all), and those days there are times I look back and think "what a waste" - and there are times it takes me days to realise my eyes have turned from the mission.

But how are we as the Church doing? There are probably many individuals who are focused on the mission, but what about the Church as a whole?  In a wide sweeping generalisation I don't think the Church is as focused on the mission Jesus gave it as it should be.  At least in Western countries you see (especially in the mainstream media) an organisation, not a body of Christ. You see money making schemes, not disciple making.  You see people falling from grace and not teaching to observe Jesus' commands.

There are pockets of the Church doing amazing things for the mission, but on the whole the secular world has infected the church to a point that the world now sees it as a corrupted and old fashioned enterprise.

I can't feel responsible for the actions of others, but somehow I do - my heart breaks when I see news articles slamming churches and seeing that there might be some validity in their reporting. I get angry when I hear of grand expense used on material things in churches when people are going hungry right next door. Yet I feel I have no influence to change the wider church...

...except to pray.

I will continue to preach and teach about observing Jesus' commands, I will strive to make disciples, I will rejoice as I get to baptise them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. And I will pray that God impacts the Church in a global sense to turn back to Him, for the gardener to prune the vine where needed and fertilise where needed - for the One with all authority in heaven and on earth to change the hearts of those who claim to follow Him and proclaim His Name.

Tuesday, 11 August 2015

Motivation

I think many people believe a pastor should always be motivated to work at his job, because his job is played out as service to God. You know what I agree, and even on the tough days it is that idea of service to God that motivates me.  But that doesn't mean I am always energised and enthusiastic.  Some days I just can't get started, or I wonder why I bother, or if what I am doing is actually going to matter to anyone.

Last Sunday I preached from Matthew 22:34-40 "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all of your soul and with all of your mind."  That's a pretty clear directive for our lives isn't it... and Jesus telling us to do something should be enough to motivate us into action.  But how many of us can actually say that every moment of every day we feel motivated to do that?  Even our Saviour imploring us to love Him with all our hearts isn't enough for us to actually do that without ceasing.

So it goes both ways I guess, we have to recognise that there are times that our motivation fails us and it's part of our human nature - at times as a pastor I have to recognise that some people just are not motivated (because of personal life, current situation, tiredness, spiritual dryness and many other reasons) and to be encouraging and up beat instead of coming across as an old drill Sargent pushing for things to be done.  But also people should realise that sometimes pastors struggle for motivation too, and being upbeat all the time takes a heavy toll, being involved every week takes a heavy toll, and sometimes it means that we just don't feel like doing something (even though I know most of the times pastors will still do it)... it's sometimes the expectation that it will just always be done that drains even more, and people just understanding that sometimes things are tough makes things a bit easier.

Someone posted this on Facebook last night, and though I am not their pastor, it was encouraging to think that people do think like this.  I'm not sure which stats I sit in personally, but they are definitely worthy of thinking about and considering - and wondering how you might be able to care for your pastor this week.


Thursday, 6 August 2015

Encouraged and reminded by example.


I can't get enough of the things Francis Chan says at the moment. This quote probably sums up why, because everything Chan does points to Jesus.

It's a challenge that I try and keep right before me. I know I don't meet that challenge very well most of the time, but I am also so thankful for the grace that my life sits on, because when I fail to point to Jesus His grace continues to bring me close to Him when I repent.

My whole life is Jesus' - He has bought it, it's completely paid for by His blood.  Though I wrestle it back at times, I willingly hand it back when I realise the error of my ways. My life is not a great example continually pointing to Jesus, but my life is a fantastic example of God's grace at work.

Wednesday, 5 August 2015

Don't let conflict fester

"Christians in community are never to give up on one another. We must never tire of forgiving (and/or repenting) and seeking to repair our relationships. Matthew 5:23-24 tells us we should go to someone if we know the person has something against us. Matthew 18:15 says we should approach others if we know that we have something against them. In short, it is always your move to repair relationships in community, God always holds you responsible to reach out to repair a broken relationship. A Christian is responsible to begin the process of reconciliation, regardless of how the distance or alienation began."
~Timothy Keller, Gospel in Life, p69

Conflict is a big thing.  It's such a destructive thing.  It is something that cannot be avoided, but can be dealt with.  Some conflict breaks into anger, disagreement and action - I find that conflict can be dealt with, because it is very visible, and everyone can see the need to fix it, so work towards resolving it.  The scary kind of conflict though is when people just disconnect and refuse to talk or work with each other - and refuse to even acknowledge each other.  This kind of conflict festers, and it creates awkwardness, so much so that everyone ends up walking on eggshells and no one is really willing to even mention the conflict, let alone address the issues and start the road to restoration.

That's why I feel Keller's quote above is so important.  It is each of our responsibilities to initiate the reconciliation, whether we were in or wrong, or were wronged.  And we follow the procedure of approaching the person, but if that doesn't work finding someone else to come with us and approach them again. I find with 'quiet conflict' someone usually doesn't even admit there is a problem, so if someone raises the issue with them they dismiss it... finding someone else to come back with you and address it again makes it much clearer that yes there is something that needs to be sorted.

But all in all we are to never give up on one another.  NEVER. If we are a group of believers we have to be expecting that we are going to be spending eternity with each other - so how can we give up on someone?

Friday, 31 July 2015

The Way

My favourite song at the moment. Had the pleasure of hearing Brett Younker preach at Passion City Church when I was there in 2013. This year he was part of the worship leading team at the Passion Conference. And the words to this song (and then the music too) make it something I just can't stop listening too at the moment
"Lost and dead but Your love came to find me, Jesus you are the Way..."

 

Actually being there...

In a world pretty much run by social media, real connections and friendship is still vital. Words on a screen cannot completely fulfil our need for interaction and intimacy.  I've been encouraged lately by people who have taken some serious time to invest in our friendships.  Some of that has come through text messages or Facebook messages, and some has come through spending time together, talking, having lunch or coffee or just sitting and hanging around each other for a while.

I really appreciate it when people act like they like me enough to spend time with me - there is a level of intimacy there that you simply cannot get from words on a screen. Actually being there (physically) adds so much more to the situation that just 'being there' for someone.

It's been a reminder to me to be encouraging in all that I do, but also to show that my time, and personal presence is also worth the effort for those I call friend.

Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Not just turning to God in bad times.


It's so easy to think we are in control when everything is going well. That's the biggest challenge really... making sure we're depending on God and following Him when it's easier for us just to run with what we want.

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

God's Plan; New Role.

On Sunday the 19th July, Birkdale Baptist Church held a member’s meeting and overwhelmingly voted to support their church offering me a call to minister to them. That means I'll be finishing up at Deception Bay Baptist in September after almost 4 years, and moving down to Redland Bay on the south eastern side of Brisbane.

Birkdale is a church of about 400, that now meets over two different campuses.  About 18 months ago they agreed to plant a congregation in the old Cannon Hill Baptist building (closer in towards Brisbane CBD). That means there is now a morning service at Birkdale and the young adults serve and run a small morning service at Cannon Hill as well. Theere is then a combined youth and young adults service called ‘BOOST’ in the evenings at Birkdale.  Once a month they run a community focused “Sunday Afternoons For Everyone” (SAFE) BBQ and Gospel presentation – local families come along and are then invited to stay for the evening service.

My role won’t be specifically youth, and another associate pastor looks after young adults. They have  also just hired a part time children’s worker and a student pastor who has extensive experience in outreach and evangelism (and who happens to be a very good friend of mine). I will serve in a wider church role focusing on the responsibilities of worship and discipleship. Worship-wise I will be overseeing music teams at both campuses and leading in all three services, as well as preaching in all three services at different times. The discipleship role will have me overseeing the small groups ministry of the church and ensuring the youth leadership team is properly discipled and that they are discipling the youth at their Friday night program. So, as I said it’s a very different role to what I have been doing here at dBay, and I think that was part of God leading me at this time, feeling I could move into something new, that will stretch me even more in some ways. I am going to enjoy my last few months here in dBay as a youth pastor but I am looking forward to what God has planned in this next stage as well.

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Gears in Motion

Being mechanically minded, I love watching gears work. It may be looking inside a watch and seeing the intricate collection of gears keeping time, or someone creating a artistic mosaic of gears on a wall, or an engine pushing and pulling rods and pistons. Whether functional or artistic I enjoy watching gears move, tracing the connections and revolutions - in short I love watching something just work.

Well that's just it... the whole point of any gear system is to work isn't it.  Even the artistic one, if it was just sitting on the wall still, wouldn't have much point unless it was moving to show how it worked.

The Christian life is like that too.  We can know all about Jesus, the Bible, faith, theology and yet unless our lives are moving, unless we are acting on our faith, trusting in Jesus, sharing the Gospel, we're not really living up to our full potential are we?
These have been written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in his name
~John 20:31
This is the Apostle John sharing his reason for writing his Gospel. There are two elements. The first is to know about Jesus, to know about faith - in a sense to build those cogs into our life's gear system.  But the second is to have life in Jesus' name... to actually set those gears in motion and live up to the potential Jesus injects into our lives.

This is a thought process I have been giving a bit of time too lately, what cogs do we need to define better? How do we show that our lives are turning to the revolutions that Jesus is driving them? What is the result of having moving gears driving my life?

I'm going to be exploring it during the evening services at dBay Baptist throughout term 3 as well. Preaching on what I'm exploring each week. Join us, 5.30pm on Sundays.

Tuesday, 30 June 2015

So Loved.

I love hearing the stories behind many of our modern worship songs.

This one is especially potent :-)


Monday, 22 June 2015

Salvation changes everything.

The master theme of the Christian gospel is salvation. Salvation is a picture-word of wide application that expresses the idea of rescue from jeopardy and misery into a state of safety. The gospel proclaims that then God who saved Israel from Egypt, Jonah from the fish's belly, the psalmist from death, and the soldiers from drowning (Exod 15:2; Jon 2:9; Ps 116:6; Acts 27:3), saves all who trust Christ from sin and sin's consequences
As these earthly deliverances were wholly God's work, and not instances of people saving themselves with God's help, so it is with salvation from sin and death... What are believers saved from? From their former position under the wrath of God, the dominion of sin, and the power of death (Rom 1:18; 3:9; 5:21); from their natual condition of being mastered by the world, the fles, and the devil (John 8:23-24; Rom 8:7-8; 1 John 5:19); from the fears that a sinful life engenders... and from the many vicious habits that were part of it...
~J.I Packer - Concise Theology; p146-147
And how are we saved? Only through the work of Jesus on the cross. It's not Jesus helping us to be better people... it's Jesus substituting Himself where we should be... it's Him taking the wrath that we deserve for all those things we're being saved from.

By Jesus paying that price our old lives are replaced, and our new life is bathed in hope and grace. How does that affect your attitude today!?

Tuesday, 16 June 2015

Prayer = Dependence


In general I am a very capable person. There are not many times I don't feel confident that I can handle the situation I'm presented with.  On a human level that can be a good thing, but it can get in the way of me seeking what it is that God wants me to do.

If I feel I can just do something, even if it appears to me to be a good thing for my ministry - should I just go for it? How do I tell if God actually wants this, or it's just me doing something I think would be good.  In my human capacity I think I've done some things that have really gone well but afterwards I've felt a bit deflated cause I've realised it may not have been the outcome God had wanted, and maybe the whole thing could probably have been done differently.

As part of this spiritual journey I've been on regarding prayer this year, this is one of the things God's helped me address the most. I am to be dependent on Him.  My abilities, and my confidence don't actually matter that much, and have to take a second place behind my dependency of Him to work through me.

Before anything I do now I stop and I pray.  Even if it's something I do every week, and I can do it without thinking... I still stop and I pray - not because I may particularly need God's help to do it, but because I want Him to be working beyond my abilities, and without Him involved whatever I am doing means nothing despite my abilities.

The quote by Francis Chan above has become a constant reminder to me that I only want to do what matters to God. Prayer is the way that I actively pursue that.

Monday, 8 June 2015

The importance of preaching

If flood waters were to sweep away a rich man in his BMW SUV and a homeless man pushing all his belongings in a shopping cart… suddenly they both need the exact same thing don’t they… they need to be pulled from the water and saved. The rich man isn't worried about his heated leather seats… latest smart phone or expensive suit – they’re all ruined, but he only cares about seeing that SES boat coming towards him with a life jacket and a way back to dry land… just as much as the homeless man is only waiting for the same thing.
Have been organising some of my old sermon notes today - this was a tiny excerpt from one of them.  I am reminded again the purpose for which I spend 8-10 hours a week preparing a 30 minute sermon. At times I know my sermon can be like that SES boat going out to rescue someone. It brings the means for salvation.  Every sermon I preach contains the Gospel... the good news that Jesus is here to save us, He's already done all we need and it's our response to Him that saves us.

I'm not big noting myself here, but realising once again the weight of what I do.  If I was doing it in my own strength I'd be running that boat into a tree... I just want to depend on God more, because it is only by the power of His Word that this life saving message is preached to the rich and poor alike.

Sunday, 7 June 2015

The Paradox of Grace


All at the same time I am ashamed at myself, thankful to God, resigned to my depravity, loved by God, weak, made strong, humbled and lifted up.

Praise Jesus.

Wednesday, 3 June 2015

#God2BKing

Many of us are quite comfortable with the notion of Jesus being our Saviour. The idea of Him coming and saving us from our sins is welcome. However, how do we feel about Jesus being our King? Him being the ruler, who’s will is followed… what He says goes!

Many of us want a saviour, yet still want to run our own lives our own way. That’s how the people of Israel were feeling at the beginning of 1 Samuel. They had been rescued many times by God, and the Judges had lead the people well, all the while with God as their King. But the people wanted an earthly king like all the other nations – they wanted to fit in, they felt they were worse off because they weren't running their lives like everyone else.

It was not how God planned it, but He allowed them to do it – in our evening services we’ll take a look over 5 weeks at how the different roles of King seen in 1 Samuel can teach us about ensuring that Jesus is the King in our lives.

Also as part of the series we want to see people from the church posting on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram (ect) using the hashtag #God2BKing – during the week if you find something, do something or see something that exemplifies the idea of God being the King then post about it – and use the hashtag – each week we’ll include some of those social media inputs in the service.

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Our reaction to sin

Here's a little insert a young lady from church wrote on Facebook the other day.  I love it.
You can disappoint people and still be good enough. You can make mistakes and still be capable and talented. You can let people down and still be worthwhile and deserving of love. Everyone has disappointed someone they care about. Everyone messes up, lets people down and makes mistakes. Not because we are inadequate or fundamentally inept, but because we are imperfect and fundamentally human. But in God's eyes we are a perfect imperfection.
~Vanessa Jade
Sometimes we just feel worthless when we realise we've messed up - sometimes our reactions to people who do mess up is completely unacceptable because we make them feel worthless.

I love Ness' heart! I love the insight she gives here that we are all humans who all mess up, who initially actually are worthless but because of God's love and Christ's grace we are now a 'perfect imperfection' - someone who is still caught in world that is infected by sin, but has been made perfect and saved from the consequences of that sin. We as Christians need to remember that salvation when we interact with people we are aware are sinning.

Sin doesn't write you off from working on the mission of the church... if it did then none of us would be able to work on the Great Commission. Sin hinders our work yes, but Jesus' grace is greater - and it restores.  Let's remember that we are restorers... not tearers down.

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

LIVE IT! - Week 9

Well I preached the final sermon in the LIVE IT series a few weeks back now - but the next day I went on leave... so this blog post has been postponed a little.

I loved how Paul finished up his book with some practical pointer on how this whole message of the Gospel can infiltrate every aspect of our lives.

  • If someone sins - that's not good, but it's not an opportunity to cut them down and kick them out... restore them gently.
  • Look at yourself first - don't let yourself be sucked into sin. Keep away from all the temptations and emotions that lead to sin.
  • Never hesitate to do good - the false teachers say you have to do things to earn salvation, but Paul says your salvation is free, so go do good things.
  • Out of everything... the only thing that really matters is this... you have a new life - so don't go back to the old one.




Wednesday, 29 April 2015

LIVE IT! - Week 8

Galatians 5:13-26 (Read it Here) lays it all out for us very clearly. We are free; but we cannot use that freedom to indulge in our selfish desires.

Actually we can... we are free to go and do whatever we want, but verse 21 has a dire warning if we do.
"I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God"
We live in a world that doesn't always comprehend that there are consequences for the choices we make.  Unfortunately many children grow up without being taught that actions have consequences. It's an almost pandemic issue sweeping our nation that we have the right to do what we want.   So many teachers today are struggling with teaching children and teenagers because they simply cannot communicate to them the importance of responsibility, and education, and that their actions even at such a young age will have a consequence later in life when they are trying to find work or build a life for themselves.

It is again the case of an overwhelming culture of the world around us, starting to have an effect on the church community. I feel on social issues like education and raising kids that Christians are still doing very very well - but that nature of not thinking of the consequences is influencing the way we see grace and our freedom from sin.   Yes it is well within our rights to do what we want, and Jesus has offered us unrelenting forgiveness and limitless love. But Paul warns at some point we have to accept that to be saved by Christ means being given a new life, and that new life is in the Spirit so cannot be enjoying all those sinful things and must be yearning for those fruits of the Spirit mentioned in verses 22-23.

If we don't come to realise that life change... maybe we've never actually been saved in the first place, because we've never accepted all that Jesus has to offer.  The consequence of that is huge!!

Today let's reconsider our freedom.  Firstly, do we have it? Have we accepted all Christ is offering, including this new life? If so, secondly, which life/nature are we feeding, that old sinful one or the new Spirit filled one?  They are both still alive in us, until we meet Jesus again - but we need to live out the new life, feed the Spiritual one - because that's what produces the fruit.


Tuesday, 28 April 2015

"I really enjoyed your sermon"

It's funny... after preaching I hear that a lot; or some variation like it and though I know people are trying to be encouraging and nice; most times it leaves me feeling a little bit hollow.

See my intention when I set out to preach God's Word is not that people would sit back and enjoy it. Our world today is so demanding of entertainment, so expectant that when we turn up to things we will simply be entertained.  I personally believe that this culture is crippling the church's effectiveness to complete this mission we're all suppose to be working on.

So when I hear "I enjoyed that" or "that was nice" or "you're getting better at this"; my mind automatically goes to "but what did Jesus say to you through His Word?"

I truly believe that the purpose of preaching is for the proclamation of God's Word into our lives today.  Not that I am speaking the Word of God which must be obeyed... but that I (and other dedicated pastors like me) are expounding on the Word of God in the Scriptures and applying it to our lives today.  We should not sit back during a sermon and say "I am enjoying this... that illustration was very entertaining", but instead we should be wondering what God wants us to do with this revelation, how must we change if this Word is true?

I am generally a good public speaker (have been since high school), and I can entertain - and in some ways that's great to engage people with the message - but I want the intent of the sermon to leave people not feeling satisfied, but in many ways dissatisfied and challenged to go and act on something they heard.

Saturday, 25 April 2015

ANZAC Day reminder.

Today we commemorated one of the most sacred days on the Australian calendar. A day where we cast our eyes back 100 years to the shores of Gallipoli and remember the sacrifice that was made for us. We also remember the countless other sacrifices men and women in our armed forces have made for us as Australians over the years.

On ANZAC Day we have a very real, and powerful, idea that we cannot take the freedom we enjoy in our nation for granted. It was bought at a great cost. I am always moved to see the response of children and teenagers to the commemoration of ANZAC Day. It seems more and more are committed to making it to dawn services, partaking in marches and doing tangible things to remember the price of freedom and to honour those who paid the ultimate price. I remember in school having WWI and WWII veterans come and speak to us about the war – they were always moving stories that stirred my heart. However, even though today the first person stories are becoming rarer and harder to find, the sentiment of honouring our diggers seems to be growing. I feel that is something we can be proud about as a nation.


As Christians, though, it should also serve as a reminder that there is an even greater freedom that we all too often do take for granted (and that many in our nation today completely ignore). The price for the freedom from the punishment of sin was even greater than the price paid on those Turkish cliffs in 1915 – God Himself came to pay for our freedom, and in dying on the cross Jesus paid the penalty for sin for all of humankind, till the end of the ages. The weight of that punishment on Him must have been so great – but how often do we turn to our own selfish desires and take for granted what He did for us?

Today, let’s honour Jesus, like we honour the ANZACs, lest we forget the ultimate price Jesus paid, and the ultimate worth He has for our worship.

Friday, 24 April 2015

LIVE IT! - Week 7

After a short break over Easter we were back into our LIVE IT! series last Sunday Night.

We're up to Galatians 5:1-15 in week seven (go and read it here) and with only two weeks to go we're at the pointy end of Paul's message regarding the influence of false teachers and the true Gospel we have to recognise and live.

In Sunday's sermon I used a heap of different sports to illustrate the way we need to view the Gospel, and our path to salvation.  I thought it might be good to just outline those again here on the blog this week.

The Gospel is NOT like golf
The whole aim of golf is to get the ball into a hole that is only just big enough for that ball. You may have a whole field to shoot at, but it only counts if it goes in the hole. This is the 'gospel' that the false teachers were preaching in Galatia. A list of things that must be done to be saved, if you aren't fitting exactly in then you are not saved.



The Gospel is NOT like AFL
Though the boundaries of the goal are broader, but if you happen to miss slightly you don't need to worry, you'll get a point for being close.  Jesus is the Way, Truth and Life, and without the legalism of law and rules this model gives us an appreciation for grace; but Jesus still is that one way, if you miss that is sin, and you can't have a point for sin. Being happy with being close but not within the bounds of Jesus is not the Gospel.

The Gospel IS like soccer.
There is a clear goal. The aim of the game is to score in that goal, but you could choose to shoot high or low, left or right. The goal in the true Gospel is Jesus' salvation through grace. There may be a few options in understanding that, but as long as you shoot into that goal you are saved. However if you are outside that boundary you are outside the grace by which you can be saved.

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

When acoustic is better than the original.

I like acoustic or 'unplugged' versions of songs, usually more than the originals.

It seems especially the case with some Hillsong music - this is fantastic!

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

The answer to the longings in our heart.

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

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

Driscoll continues and says that all these longings are actually with us by design.  It's not a flaw, it's simply a construct in humans so they seek their Creator. In trying to define ourselves we are simply pointed once again back at the Creator and we see that only by knowing Him will we be able to understand ourselves. We long for these things because ultimately they are things only God can provide.
Tragically, human desires corrupted by sin turn in on themselves; rather than finding satisfaction in God, longings become lusts - bottomless pits of selfish desire, never quite satisfied, inevitable leading to despair. Because we are made in the image of a triune God to reflect his glory, we will never stop longing; yet, our sin-stained longings distort that reflection.
~p12
Sin defines any act when we turn from God and focus on ourselves. Any longing that we have should lead us to God, but in our humanness we change the focus and try to substitute something to subdue that longing - which will never work (as Driscoll says it's a bottomless pit).

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

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Before I can know myself...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, 1 April 2015

LIVE IT! - Week 6

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

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




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

Two main questions were...

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, 30 March 2015

TeenStreet - The Journey So Far.

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

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



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

Friday, 27 March 2015

LIVE IT! - Week 5

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read Galatians 3:23-4:20 here


Monday, 23 March 2015

LIVE IT! - Week 4

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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