From the pastor’s desk…
Motherhood. The desire of many. The perceived benchmark of success as woman. For many women, motherhood is a burden – a burden to the women who do not feel called to pro-create and a burden to a wife desperate to conceive. And to many the celebration of Mother’s Day is a painful reminder of such bias. For some, Mother’s Day is also a sad reminder of a mother’s passing. For others, it is the painful reminder of the loss of a child, unborn or young child or adult.
When Mother’s Day came up, a silent thought prompted me to Hannah, the mother of Samuel. Many times her miraculous birth has been preached upon. I have heard said faithful prayer can bring such things abound. It is true, but only in part, because it can leave us works based. If I pray hard enough, if I, if I… Have you ever felt like this? No matter how hard you try, nothing seems to help? The text actually added that God closed her womb, but that is a whole different conversation. I am convinced Hanna did everything in her power to conceive. She read the Jerusalem weekly top tips, she tried every prayer and had the same result year after year – no baby…
“She went away and was no longer downcast.”
The text tells us that Hannah went in to the temple and left no longer downcast. What happened? Was it because she made a deal with God? Did she and the Lord trade in souls?
A religiously burdened woman entered the temple and an eternally secured, grace filled, loved woman came out. She was no longer burdened by the measure of religious and cultural success that was associated by the birth of children. Her self worth, her value and her purpose when she emerged from that prayer was secured in the Father’s love through Christ Jesus (even though she did not know that then, she benefitted from his eternal sacrifice centuries later).
Hannah’s peace was no longer to be settled in motherhood. Her goal of success was not determined by her child/ren as was dictated by her culture. Her peace was in the peace of God’s divine appointment. Whether it was as a mother, daughter, or wife.
The Goal, through motherhood or barren hood, through marriage or celibacy is to marvel and rejoice in our identity in Jesus Christ. It does not trivialise pain or the longing, but it does give an eternal perspective. It connects dots divinely! No longer is it about the fractions, but the whole. It retains purpose regardless of circumstance.
Our value was settled on the cross.
She entered bitter and left sweet.
“I do not easily ask for help” – understanding the implications of the Great Commission
For who is God besides the Lord? And who is the Rock except our God? It is God who arms me with strength and keeps my way secure. He makes my feet like the feet of a deer; he causes me to stand on the heights. He trains my hands for battle; my arms can bend a bow of bronze. You make your saving help my shield, and your right hand sustains me; your help has made me great.
Psalm 18:31-35 NIV
A few years ago while attending a seminar a speaker sketched the following scenario:
A friend of yours is in need of help.
Someone in church’s car broke down and need help.
A marriage is falling apart
Someone asks for prayer
What do you do and WHY?
You are in need of help.
Your car broke down and need help
Your marriage is falling apart, what do you do?
You need prayer, who do you go to?
What do you do and WHY?
Are you happy to help others in need, but also as likely to refuse help from others? When asked if it applies to anyone in the audience, a few of our hands went up. Why would you respond that way?
She then went on to say (and this has had a profound impact on me): “You want people to look at you with admiration of your perfection, your devotion, your dedication and commitment. What you are modelling is that you are the rock, the foundation, the unbreakable strength people can rely upon.” At this point I wasn’t quite sure if I like the direction of her talk! She continued: “so are you Jesus?”
She wasn’t quite finished: “You accept and expect others to be vulnerable, but refuse being vulnerable yourself? That is not humbleness; that is pride!” Ouch. Religious humble pie for me right there! Pride shapes our identity. Pride makes us look self-sufficient. It portrays an image of what discipleship should look like. And in the silence it kills its followers. Pride prevents us from speaking up. Pride causes fear of vulnerability. Her words revealed the true security afforded in pride! We are modelling a strength that does not come from us! When you refuse others to support you, you also deny them the same opportunity you seek in supporting others. We are not the source, only Jesus is. Only Jesus made a way. Only Jesus was able to bridge the gap between God and us.
God’s economy – valuing the seemingly unvalued
On my way to gym I happened to notice a 5 cent coin on the side walk. Not in full view, but just enough to notice. With a full day ahead and lots on my mind, I opted to ignore the coin. “It’s only a 5c piece” I thought to myself. “Let someone else have it” which is short for I could not be bothered. A moment later a thought hit me with one word: value. I walked past that coin instantly valuing its worth and deemed it not worth the effort to stop and pick it up.
What is value? Google defines value as: “The regard that something is held to deserve; the importance, worth, or usefulness of something.” And also: “One’s judgement of what is important in life.” As a verb it has an economic, monetary value which applies well in this case. We determine value from the top down. $ 1 is worth more than 50c. How many of us would prefer to earn less?
What we value we treasure. What we treasure we care for and look after. Understanding value through God’s economy is risky, yet eternally satisfying. It is upside down. Technically if you need $20 and you only have $19.95 you are unable to make the purchase. I turned back and picked up that little coin and rejoiced in knowing that even though its face value seem little, it still has purpose.
Thinking of value: How do we value our young? Our little ones, our youth and our young adults?
God’s economy scales by the words of Jesus: whoever welcomes a little child like this in My name (and on My terms) welcomes Me. This reflected our eternal value! It is not a do as I say. It is connecting faith to life. It is listening, it is accepting and it is real. It is humbling but eternally valuable. Remember, God’s economy is upside down: It is leaning into God’s authority first, but it is demonstrated upside down in serving our little ones, our youth, our young and our young adults.
It is to the live in the solid knowing of God’s unconditional love and provision. It is covenantal, not contractual.
This is discipleship. This is love.
How valuable are our young to us?
An image of God from a heavenly perspective echoed by these words in Revelation 4:8
Lord God Almighty
Who was and is and is to come”
And verse 11:
“You are worthy, O Lord,
To receive glory and honour and power;
For you created all things
And by your will they exist & were created.”
You placed the stars in the sky and You know them by name.
You are amazing God
All powerful, untameable,
Awestruck we fall to our knees as we humbly proclaim
You are amazing God
You have heard that our theme for 2017, our 45th Anniversary year is: “Repent to renew to rejoice.” And I am sure that each of us has a different association and understanding of what “repentance” is. In essence, repentance is the act of assessing our position, followed by an action.
A ship crossing the ocean is continuously “repenting.” The team on-board needs to continuously assess its current position and work out if they are still on course. If not, they will adjust the direction of the ship accordingly.
Why you may ask. I get concerned when people use church, Jesus and boring in the same phrase. Was Jesus’ ministry meant to be dull or boring? The DNA of this congregation is built, like the seven churches of Asia, with a wholehearted commitment to love as we are loved. Our mission statement reads: “A Christ centered people radiating his love to our community.” If our outcome, our purpose for existing is for a community to experience the power of the living Christ in their lives then maybe we need to look at his ministry.
Jesus’ ministry was:
Jesus spoke into our context today. He left us with just one co-mission: Make disciples. As you are going, baptising them (in the Name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit) and teaching them to obey everything I taught you. This discipleship is engaging, empowering and able to go viral – far beyond the best Facebook post. Nothing else can bring lasting satisfaction. Real joy is found in single-minded, wholehearted discipleship.
Bill Hybels said this of a dynamic church movement: “One of the greatest thrills in all of life is to feel the hand of God working through you and to be a part of the working reality of the church engaged in a movement larger than self.” As you read this I pray that His Spirit is poking at you, stirring your hearts to engage. When you understand God’s plan for tomorrow you will understand God’s purpose for today.
Jesus’ ministry was revolutionary, it was confronting, it was challenging, but it was authentic, real and explicitly relational. Jesus challenged the roots of religion – He has interest is not our works, but our hearts; He spoke about sex and lust, murder and envy. He was authentically bold in being real, revolutionary unashamed to love the unloved and hanged out with the uncool crowd. He had tongues wagging when He high-fived little kids and stunned his disciples when He discussed water provision with a Samaritan woman. He had the Pharisees reach for their Asthma puffers when He discussed money matters with Tax Collectors! Boring?
A group of theological students were exhausted and maybe even slightly confused by their study of the Book of Revelation. To relieve their tension, they decided to head over to the basketball court to shoot some hoops. While playing they noted a bloke next to the court, reading his Bible. Curious they wandered over and asked what he was reading and was surprised to find him reading through the Book of Revelation.
“You don’t understand that, do you?” they asked him.
“Sure do!” he replied.
“What’s it about, then?”
With a bright smile on his face came his reply: “Simple! Jesus wins!”
Revelation is a picture of battle, with victory declared. It is a picture that Connects the Dots, that brings the purpose of the whole Bible to a glorious exclamation: “Jesus wins!” Your value is not determined by people, but purpose! Your purpose was settled at the Cross!
As we embark on this journey into the revelation of the victory of Jesus Christ, it is my prayer that our souls will awaken to the magnificence of his power in our lives! Our theme, “Repent to renew to rejoice” is a picture of preparing us to be battle ready, to awaken our souls anew, to transform our minds anew and engage our hearts anew. John Piper’s words are so true: “Christ is most glorified when we are most satisfied in him”
Our aim this year, as it is our 45th anniversary, is to look into ourselves to ensure that we still reflect Jesus’ heart for his people: Both the 99 and the 1. Rob Reimer said: “Until we experience the reality of our identity in Christ as dearly loved children of God, we will never realise the potential of our destiny in Christ!” Join us we seek to merge faith with life. When you understand God’s plan for tomorrow, you will understand God’s purpose for today!
And remember above all: Your value was settled on the cross!