From the pastor’s desk…
14th June 2018
Isaiah 43: 19
“See, I am doing a new thing.”
Have you ever seen the movie Braveheart? If not, you certainly should add this to your watch-list. In the most historic scene, you find the small, frightened bunch of Scottish soldiers on the verge of taking on the vast army of England. They are huddled together, hopeless and overwhelmed. And then William Wallace turn up on his dangerous looking horse, primed for battle. And what he said changed everything:
“Run, and you’ll live — at least a while. And dying in your beds many years from now, would you be willing to trade all the days from this day to that for one chance, just one chance to come back here and tell our enemies that they may take our lives, but they’ll never take our freedom!”
Wallace’s speech was more than a pep-talk. His words were not just an empty gesture of “you can do it.” His words cannot even be ascribed to courage or boldness for life has stripped away any such thing of these men. His words were about their reason for what brought them here. His words renewed their motivation, their identity, their why.
Over time, churches lose focus on the why and battle the world on the what. And the what will always distract and overwhelm or overpower and boost pride. It causes the church to huddle together, lost in despair, like the soldiers, with an “out of date,” droned out voice. Isaiah’s words are Father’s call to us to renew our reason for being, our identity in Him.
There is a correlation between our identity in God and our courage and boldness to the world. The deeper our intimacy, the greater our tenacity to stand courageously and walk boldly.
Can we expect boldness without courage?
Can we expect courage without purpose?
Can we expect purpose without identity?
After Wallace’s famous speech, the atmosphere changed. The same hopeless, huddled, overwhelmed soldiers rose courageously and were prepared to fight boldly. Their purpose was not about winning or the fear of losing, but the victory already established in their identity. Their victory could not be determined by the lie of the enemy anymore! The more Christ is the root of our identity and the Holy Spirit the “energy” of our momentum the less we need to find life, validation, and purpose in other’s perspective.
The outcome of the battle is of no importance. The important thing was: they went!
See, I am doing a new thing
16th May 2018
It is time to act!
I have been quietly observing how often prayers and concerns have been raised to different causes on various social media platforms. For a while, I have noticed how the causes of refugees, the poor and the elderly are passionately mentioned and encouraged to be prayed for. Nice. Noble. What concerns me is that a lot of this is not much more than easy talk, done in the safety and non-challenging comfort of a coffee shop or perhaps a bedroom. Nice. However, James’ words of faith in action have been ringing in my ears – faith without prayer, prayer without action is pointless.
Before you take out your keyboard – let me be clear: Prayer is key to any breakthrough. Prayer is the most powerful offense any follower of Christ has at hand. Prayer is the way to align our hearts with Father’s heart. But it can also be used as the greatest copout. Social justice – I will pray. Refugees. I will pray. Mental health. I will pray. Hungry? I will pray. Thanks, but prayer without action is dead. Quite frankly, and I speak of experience – prayer without action (read help) does not put food on the table, it does not put clothes on ones’ back. It does not integrate the foreigner in our midst. Faith, if not accompanied by action, is self-centred and yes, dead.
Dead? Imagine our Father did the same to us. Imagine the Father thought sending Jesus would be a great idea, hoping someone else might step in. No, while we were still dead, Father’s love compelled him to act. Moved by his love, characterising his very nature He made us alive through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.
Does the Lord want you to pray for things you can help with yourself? Yes, seek his will before you act, but how often do we lower the benchmark on the power and magnificence of prayer, using prayer as an excuse not to act? Maybe we are praying that someone else will go!
My heart aches for the lost. My heart aches for the lonely, the broken hearted, the excluded foreigner who cannot integrate without the assistance of the integrated. But aching alone does not help. My heart aches for action, especially because there are many things we can act upon. My heart knows not to lean on its own understanding, yet if He directs your path, should we not keep in step with the Holy Spirit? It is risky; it is challenging but worth it!
I feel compelled to help, yet who is willing to stand and take a risk in bridging the gap? I read Matthew 25: 34 – 46, where Jesus talks about inheritance and wonder if we take this as serious as it sounds?
I was hungry, and you gave me something to eat – is our pantries closed, yet we pray?
I was thirsty, and you gave me something to drink – have we turned of the tap, yet we pray?
I was a stranger, and you invited me in – have we closed the doors – yet we pray?
There are pockets of people in our midst who have not yet had the opportunity to be redeemed by Jesus. Should we not do everything possible to give them at least that option? And yes, let me warn you – most will refuse, most will decline, some will even ridicule you, but for the ONE who it brings change it is all worth it. So worth it.
The best part of this? It makes a church come alive. It brings new strength to a declining gathering, it revitalises the young and sees a bold awakening of the HS in our midst. The HS is action. It is moving. It is the visible demonstration of Mission Dei. God is already moving among us – we get to join his mission already moving.
Jesus also taught about talents, talents each person; each church received in moving kingdom forward. Imagine what is possible! But imagine what your response to Father would be when asked what you have done with yours? Are you intent on multiplication? Each of us have been purposed in Christ. No one is not a disciple-maker. No one is unable to reach out to another, starting within. Each of us disciples, mentors, influence others every day.
What if we raise up an army of prayer warrior infused action taking believers willing to risk everything but the gospel for the gospel? What if we are like the four mates who lifted the roof to see their friend walk again! Imagine them sitting around him on the mat, just saying some prayers while they knew of a way to go? Will you lift the roof for the lost, the sick, the hungry, the foreigner, the cutter, the abused, the drug addicted?
It is time to rise up! Imagine we act on our prayers! Imagine a cohort of believers, compelled by the Holy Spirit to move into our community. Imagine we follow Jesus. Jesus whose resurrection gave him the authority to reign – not in force, but in love. Compelled by LOVE, Jesus and Father poured out the Holy Spirit. Shall we not lift the roof in keeping in step with the Holy Spirit?
What if boldness is to have our hearts aligned with Him?
What if boldness is to have our hearts broken for what breaks his?
What if boldness leads to action, to a disciple-making movement of believers who love as He loves, who acts like He acts and to see the lost integrated into the Kingdom of heaven? What if we abandoned an “I am safe, the rest can go to hell approach,” but actually become willing to reach into hell, by figure of speech, to help those who need to be helped?
Will you raise the roof with me?
What is your next step?
27th May 2017
Wait upon the Lord
Strength will rise as we wait upon the Lord
We will wait upon the Lord, we will wait upon the Lord
Strength will rise as we wait upon the Lord
We will wait upon the Lord, we will wait upon the Lord
Our God, you reign forever
Our hope, our strong deliverer
You are the everlasting God
The everlasting God
You do not faint
You won’t grow weary
Our soul waits for the LORD; He is our help and our shield.
I wait for the LORD, my soul does wait, and in His word do I hope.
Wait for the LORD; Be strong and let your heart take courage; Yes, wait for the LORD.
I find this Facebook post so applicable:
“I need simply to pray with, love with, and serve with others who want to simply follow Jesus in the same way without all the expensive, religious, institutional trappings that actually make discipleship unnecessarily more difficult. Why is this so hard?”
What are we seeking when we invite the church to pray?
Why are seeking the church to pray?
We are seeking a renewed Spiritual awakening in the security of our identity in Christ and Christ alone. As the church, let us seek the Father’s heart for us as ecclesia as we wait upon him! Waiting, resting in God is a courageous act when the pressure is to move forward. Will you pray with us as we rest in Him? Will you rest with us in prayer?
Remember the best is yet to come!
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!