One foot forward

“Keep going. Put one foot forward. Now the next foot. You can do it.”

Self-talk is a marvellous thing, and yet in recent times it seems to have become a somewhat gruelling task! I keep telling myself:

“Diligence. Perseverance. Endurance. Sweat it out. Diligence. Perseverance . . . ”

Where does this get me? Not very far, I’m sorry to say. These words bring to mind memories of pain, exhaustion, and a deep-seated tiredness. They make me want to give up before I start. They taunt me in to giving less than one hundred percent. They tempt me in to giving up time with my King in order to have more time for “doing”.

Have you been trusting God for a breakthrough that just won’t come? Are you chasing after a dream that seems like an ungraspable mist?

Perhaps you are praying for a loved one to come to the Lord and yet, after twenty years, it seems no closer to becoming a reality. Maybe you are struggling with finances and your pockets are only becoming thinner. Or you might be wrestling with the same old sin, such as alcoholism, or the familiar taste of fear that stops you going after what God has set before you. In such circumstances, self-talk simply does not seem enough to get you where you to your goal.

Good news is on the way! Are you ready? Here it comes . . .

God can bring you to your longed-for destination. He desires to be your strength. He desires your trust. If you are in a place of desperation, perhaps it is worth giving up trying to do it in your own strength and instead turn your eyes back to Him. I’m not saying these things can’t be achieved, only that it a far easier road when you tread it in His strength.

We can endure all things in Him. What is temporal will fade, but we wait with hope for the coming eternal Kingdom of God.

Keep walking the path He has set before you, but do not let the attainment of physical goals burden you from living with joy, looking towards the eternal. Life, peace, joy, and comfort are found in Christ! Rest in Him and draw on His strength. Allow Him to rejuvenate you.

If, like me, you are feeling tired and weary, then let those feelings serve as cues to press into God and turn your eyes back on to the things with lasting value. Our greatest call is that of heaven, in the company of our loving Father.

Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:13-14).

But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself. (Philippians 3:20-21).

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice . . . do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:4-7).

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You have Stolen My Heart

Have you met those Christians who are just SO IN LOVE with Jesus? I’m sure you have. Do you look at them with their noses in the Bible or their hands raised during worship times and wonder what they have that you don’t? Do you ask: “how do I get there?”

I used to.

And it led me to pray about it. Never underestimate the power of prayer. You see, God WANTS to be pursued. He wants to be sought after. He wants us to turn hungry eyes on to Him.

When you turn to God in prayer and start asking for a deeper love for Christ, greater understanding of His forgiveness and grace, and a passion for His Word, you can be sure that He will answer. In the meantime, show your desire for Him.

Open your Bible faithfully and trust His Spirit to bring the words to life. As you read of God’s character (and the contrast that man’s character makes with His) you cannot help but fall in love with Him. You will grow in awe and wonder of the Almighty.

If you find making time for consistent prayer hard, why not join your church’s weekly prayer meetings?

If you read the Bible with a sense that you are missing the point – that you aren’t going beyond the surface – then don’t allow discouragement prevent you from finding what you need to dig deeper. It may mean a trip to your local Christian bookstore (in Australia two big names are the WORD Bookstore and Koorong). Find a Bible Study book to work through. Go to your church library for resources or the local library (most have a Bible Dictionary or similar that you can use to gain an overview of the book in the Bible you wish to study).

If you find it difficult to break into spontaneous worship when preparing the evening meal, why not play your favourite worship CD?

If you find it too hard to fit Bible reading in to your afternoons after collecting the kids from school, why not play an audio Bible on your drive to work each day?

And never forget that it is a personal journey – God doesn’t want you to be where Mr Hands-Raised-Each-Week is. God has you on a unique journey. Don’t look at where others are in their faith. Fix your eyes on Christ and seek after more of Him.

Turn your eyes on to Christ and He will captivate your heart. He is worth our adoration and praise. If you look for Him you will find yourself falling ever more deeply in love with Him.

John 15:7-11
If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.
As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love.
These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.

Red-bellied Black

No, my belly is not red or black! I am sure those in Australia will have made the connection but for those overseas I am referring to the poisonous red-bellied black snake (there’s a picture below). Re-energising mid-day with a gentle run through the park I met this little fellow on the footpath. He did not even move his head to look at me so content was he in the sun. I slowed my pace, crept past him, and then full of the heebie-jeebies, made a dash to put some distance between us!

The encounter reminded me of a story that my parents like to tell of my eldest brother. Alan has always been very inquisitive, bright-eyed, and curious about fauna and flora. They had taken him to the zoo and he had been able to touch a children’s python. He knew all about them now! And so, on a walk the next day, when they had come across a death adder Alan ran back to Mum and Dad shouting his excitement at having found a children’s python. Close call! He would have raced back to touch the snake if Dad had not quickly intervened and educated him as to the true identity of his new acquaintance.

I recalled the words of Paul:

“But I, brothers, could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not yet ready, for you are still of the flesh. For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way?” (1 Corinthians 3:1-3)

As a child I may have been intrigued by the snake and started poking and prodding it. It did no harm to me today because I went right around it. I was prepared to go out of my way to avoid the poisonous little fellow if I had to. But as a child, whilst knowing something of a snake’s potential to bite, I may still have tried if I could not provoke it from a distance with a stick and then see if I could not get the better of it. As a child I would have entertained danger.

We can entertain danger in our faith too. New believers and old alike get themselves into trouble when they poke temptations rather than flee. Joseph was smart – when Potiphar’s wife came to seduce him he fled! Each of us has different struggles although some will be in similar areas. I do not know what your little red-bellied blacks are but here are some example situations:

  • A recovering alcoholic would be tempting the snake if he went into a bar where other Christians will go to pubs and such places, witnessing and living as the light without harm to their own faith. It would be wiser for one overcoming the addiction to avoid bars.
  • A dating couple may be courting disaster to spend time alone together in certain places, such as watching a movie in the dark. Better to play it safe and stay in the light or in company.
  • Some of us may be prone to gossiping. Allowing ourselves to enter into lengthy conversation with people we know will bring up gossip would be dangerous. It might be better to surround ourselves with people who avoid such slander until such a time that we feel confident to be able to turn conversation on to more uplifting subjects.

All well and good to say “stop drinking milk and start taking solid foods” but how does one go about it?  I think its time to tell the truth – it wasn’t in fact a red-bellied black snake that I came across but rather in the past week I’ve been right up close and personal with two (small) green tree snakes. In retrospect I find my response to them amusing. Neither could have been more than 2cm in diameter and 40cm long. I only took fright because my brain said “snake!!!” and sent up alarm bells. In appearance they are no more disconcerting than a baby mouse or, for those who don’t like mice, a puppy. And yet I know that snakes are dangerous, will bite if I get too close, and some are deadly poisonous. Identifying what is fleshly (dangerous like a snake) and what is godly (safe like a puppy) comes down to educating ourselves.

In all of Paul’s letters he never leaves his disciples with only theology; he also gives them specific instructions relating to the church’s current struggles. Ephesians is a great example of this. In this book Paul spends three chapters telling them who they are “in Christ” and then goes on to show them what it looks like to live in light of their identity in Christ.

Here are some examples from Ephesians 4:

  • Speak the truth with his neighbor
  • Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger,
  • Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need.
  • Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.
  • do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.
  • Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.
  • Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

Some final advice to avoid getting bitten:

Take a dog with you – the dog will scare the snake away before you come to it. AKA: Get into the Word of God. Let it be your guarding dog. If you are focused on the truth of God’s Word and living a life of righteousness you will be kept safe from these temptations.

In Ephesians, the Word of God is called the sword of the Spirit. Get into the Word and let the Spirit guard you with knowledge of the truth. Ephesians takes about 15 minutes to read. I encourage you to pick up your Bible and read through it now. Let your heart soak in the truth of who God has called you to be in Christ.

But mummy, everyone else is doing it!

If we heard these words coming from a child we would think “peer-pressure” and that the Mum should advise their child not to be swayed by others but rather “be their own person”. The trouble is that peer-pressure continues as we age. It is always there. And so I ask: are you building your kingdom, your church’s kingdom, or God’s Kingdom?

There is only one eternal Kingdom and that belongs to Christ. However, we are blessed to have been invited into this Kingdom. Not merely as servants, not even as friends, but as precious and beloved sons and daughters. God has adopted us into a Kingdom of everlasting value. And yet I so often get caught up in the world around me. There is pressure to get a degree or find the right job or build a fortune that will make us feel secure or to cover our flaws so as to win the esteem of men. God tells us to be wise with our money but He also said to the man who built more and larger barns to store his abundance: “Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?” (Luke 12:21).

God calls us to live passionately for Him. Compromise is not acceptable to God. There is grace but, as Paul says in Romans 6:1-2, “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?”

Living, as they say, with one foot in the world and one with Christ is not living with Christ at all. There have been plenty of times where I have tried the world’s way but as soon as I take one eye off God I find myself slipping. When both eyes are fixed on God my life is filled with passion and joy and worship, even amidst sorrows and trials. Take one eye off God – allow my job to become my focus, or the money I’m making, or start desiring the accolades and praise of man – and I find myself becoming tired, dissatisfied or emotionally reactive. Life becomes much harder when God is no longer my focus.

It is easy to be sucked in too; constantly surrounded as we are by the demands of the world. If you don’t have eternity to focus on then someone cutting you off in traffic or your boss not accepting your proposal or a friend turning aside when you need them most can all cause the kettle to start boiling.

Often the only noticeable difference is one of attitude. But our focus makes a big difference to God. Our thoughts, actions and deeds make a difference to God because they reveal our heart’s motive. He calls us to love Him and love man. How many of us live that out on a daily basis? A very straight forward command but one that requires utter reliance on Him if we are to walk it out. The world tells us to look after number one; God commands us to give to those who ask, lend without expecting anything back, and to bless those who curse us.

Let us try and define the point a little more and note some of the differences between the world and God’s Kingdom:

World God’s Kingdom
Store up for tomorrow Give to those in need
Befriend those who love you or can get you ahead in life Befriend the outcast, the poor, the needy; love the unlovable
Eat drink and be merry for tomorrow you die Find it all joy when you suffer for Christ’s sake.
Buy a house or houses; build stability The Son of Man had no where to rest His head; called to follow Him
Indulgence, comfort, more, a “wouldn’t it be nice…” mentality Take up your cross and follow me
You are worth it God is worth everything
Most important thing is… family, spouse, friend, money, position… God is always most important
Fear Perfect love casts out fear
Instant gratification Eternal joy and fulfilment

You may have noticed that I mentioned the church at the start too. The church is the body of Christ and we are called to build God’s Kingdom. Sometimes as individual church congregations we can become focused on self or on what individuals are doing for the church. Our motivation to serve should not be a pastor asking us to but overflowing joy and the love of Christ.

Do you know that the hardest thing He can sometimes ask of us is to do “nothing”? We fear the judgement of man and those who have been challenged by God to give up ministries to focus on Him know how hard this can be. He is able to keep a ministry going without us but we can’t keep it alive without Him! Our desire to serve should be motivated by passion for God and to see His Kingdom built. It should flow from a deep gratitude for what He had done for us. If you aren’t in this place take some time just to sit in His presence; dwell on the Word, His character or play worship music. Bring it back to God!

We each have different gifts and passions and these can be used to serve God. Ask yourself are you serving God or man? If you are serving God it will be a joy but serving man will become a chore or a need for the praise of man.

James 4:13-15 sums it up nicely:  Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”– yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.”

Don’t focus on what the world is doing but turn your attention to the task God has called you to.

Stop asking, “What are the Joneses doing?” and start asking “What would God have me do?”

What Fuels You?

We have all had times where we have been in a regular pattern of exercise and felt better for it. I am also sure we have had those times where our diet has consisted of more sugar or fat than it should do and we have felt sluggish as a result. It is like this in our lives too.

Earlier this week I typed out some thoughts about what drives us and our call to live passionately. To live passionately and to live passionately for God can be two different things. Passion drives us but it can drive us in the wrong direction. I think of the food example up above: we are driven to eat in order to restore our bodies but our bodies need more than just any old energy source; they need the right nutrients in the right quantities. Eating too much chocolate and not enough vegetables will result in sluggishness of body and mind.

The same can be said of our spiritual life. If we put the wrong energy sources in then our relationship with God will become sluggish. If we watch unwholesome T.V. programs then that content is what our minds will dwell on. If all day we ponder on our problems we will forget the greatness of God and rather than turning to Him in trust we will allow our molehill to turn into a mountain.

What about exercise? It has a similar affect to eating the wrong foods. If we don’t put in the exercise then our spiritual muscles will wither away. We cannot build a relationship if we do not invest in the other person. If we do not read God’s Word how will we learn of His character and nature? If we do not meet with other believers how can we function as the body of Christ? If we do not spend time in prayer how will we know what God wants to say to us? How can we live out His command to love others if we do not consider them or ask what their needs are?

We also have to make sure it does not become about works. Salvation is through grace alone – by accepting Christ’s sacrifice for our sin. We live in a way pleasing to God because of love for Him not to earn forgiveness or the praise of man. An attempt to work in ‘payment’ for God’s love can become the source that fuels our motivation. It is the wrong fuel source! – like putting unleaded petrol into a diesel run car. I’m no mechanic but I know that would not end well!

I don’t want to make suggestions because that would also be about works. However, I will give you an example: for Lent this year I have given up Facebook. Facebook has been a wonderful blessing to me over the last four years as it has enabled me to put up photos for people back home and keep them updated as to what I was doing in a very accessible way. But recently Facebook has become a detractor rather than a facilitator and so it is going for 40 days to put it back into its right place.

You know what exercise you need to take up, how you need to refuel and what wrong fuels have been entering your tank.

Seek out the right fuel sources to grow in your relationship with God and remember to exercise!

Exercise

What Drives You?

Passion spurs us on whereas disinterest in a subject can make it tedious and boring to explore. I was watching Louie Giglio talk on the Indescrible DVD from his tour of the same name. He is so passionate about astrology and science. It is his passion that engages his audience. People of passion draw us in. His other passion is God and the combination of the two has him positively beaming like a little boy. If you have not watched it I highly recommend it! (I’ve watched it four times in just two weeks!) Essentially, the DVD runs for 40 minutes and shows the vastness of the universe, how we really are so very, very small, and how very, very BIG God is!

Louie Giglio’s message could be summed up by these verses written by David:

Psalm 8:3-5 When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him? Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor.

God’s greatness alone, however, does not lead one to live passionately for Him. Many people have lived their lives in fear of a god who they believe to be angry, vengeful, unjust or merciless. But we who know the truth know that God – the Creator of all the vastness of the universe, who made the stars and planets, the galaxies, and who holds it all together in his large hand – is also merciful, loving and gracious. He is all knowing and all powerful yet takes the time to consider us, small though we may be. He knows each of us by name and longs for us to call Him, “Father”.

Consider these verses in Hebrews as the author draws from the Psalm of David and shows the response of this great and all mighty Creator to His fallen creation who were separated from Him due to their sin:

Hebrews 2:8  It has been testified somewhere, “What is man, that you are mindful of him, or the son of man, that you care for him? You made him for a little while lower than the angels; you have crowned him with glory and honor, putting everything in subjection under his feet.” Now in putting everything in subjection to him, he left nothing outside his control. At present, we do not yet see everything in subjection to him.

Hebrews 2:9-10  But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone. For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering.

Christ, the Creator of all, came to earth, suffered and died the death of a common criminal in order to save us. Through his resurrection He has brought many sons to glory! We now have a way to God because of Christ’s sacrifice. Our God died for us. The Almighty One came to earth as a humble babe and lived a life of persecution to bring us back into a right relationship with God. Works could not do it. Living by the Law could not save us for no one could perfectly keep it. But our God made a way through His own blood.

Yep, I think He is more than deserving of our passion!

So we’ve determined that God is worth our passion. I am driven by God and my heartfelt desire to live for Him. What now?

God is both our Saviour and our Creator. We are not accidents.

Jeremiah 1:5 “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”

Psalm 139:13-16 For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.  My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.

God formed us. He made each of us different; each unique. We all have different gifts. We all have different interests; different passions; different dreams and visions; different abilities; a different task set before us.

I used to think, “I wish I could be a politician” because I value politics and I value the role it plays in society. I used to feel that if I went into politics I could make a bigger difference in this world. Problem is: I have no interest in politics!

Then I thought, “I wish I could be a businesswoman” then I could have made an impact for God by giving to missions or helping establish small businesses for other believers. I could model godly business principles to the world. Problem is: I really have no business sense!

Teachers have an amazing impact in the world. One of my best friends is the most incredible teacher. I know this, never having seen her teach, by hearing her speak of her students and her work. When I have kids I hope they get a teacher with her passion. She gives her all to discovering how to get the best from each students. She is constantly getting knew resources, or implementing new ideas or modifying her teaching strategies to better suit her kids. She is passionate about the children and she is passionate about her role as their teacher. She is also well suited to early primary because of her energy and child-like spirit. I adore her and I’m sure her kids do too. I know I wouldn’t do half the job that she does because I do not have her passion for teaching or  enthusiasm with you children.

Not to say that passion takes away all the trials of various jobs or the weight of responsibility others bring. I’m merely trying to show that what I was created for is not the same as you. I can best serve God in areas of my passion. He may call me out of these for a season or two but even in such seasons He has highlighted interests for me that I did not know I had. I love travel and exploring new cultures so my time in Africa suited me. I’ve heard plenty of people express the opinion that I’m crazy or that they could not do likewise. At first I was surprised – after all how could anyone not want to go to these beautiful places and meet such beautiful people? – but since then I’ve learnt that that God has gifted me with this desire. Other people are more comfortable at home, in cities, or in the familiar.  For me, I hate large crowds where others are at their best in large group settings. Not better or worse; just different!

So what is my encouragement to you through all of this? FIND YOUR PASSION!

Further examples from my life are writing, God’s Word and now the DRCongo. I can’t explain why these drive me except by saying that God placed them within me. It has meant sacrificing other things, such as time with family and friends and most of my savings, but it enables me to live a life of passion. Not only does passion attract others to us – it is very rewarding for oneself!

Here are some questions to think about which might help you consider your passions:

  • If you could take up a new hobby, what would it be and why?
  • What did you want to do when you were 2-3 years old (ask older relatives if you can’t remember!)?
  • What are some of the most memorable events in your life?
  • What do you find most:
    • Enjoyable?
    • Relaxing?
    • Rewarding?
  • What piques your curiosity? What subject do you enjoy learning about?

God is to be our number one drive in life but what else drives you? People are attracted to those living passionately. If we are to live as light and salt to the world then we need to start living as light and salt. Being zestful and bright is much easier when we are doing things that interest us.

Looking at Worship

Worship is love
– Man was made for worship
– Love of God is to be our obsession
– Love leads us to worship

What is Worship?


Worship is Obedience:
Walking out what He calls us to do

Worship is Walking in LOVE: Love = to choose the highest good for you, your neighbour and God, regardless of emotions.

Worship is to Surrender: To surrender = to yield (possessions, will, emotion, position etc). Question: Why do we need to surrender to the Father? Let’s just compare Him to us for a second, shall we? He is stronger than us; He is wiser than us; He is more loving than us; He is PERFECT and we are not… Seems a bit of a no-brainer to me!

Worship is to Copy: Christ told us to do as He did; just as He copied the Father.

Worship is Passion: God wants people of passion. Christ was so passionate that blood came out from His pores with the sweat! We will always be most passionate for what we most value. (Matt 6:21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also). God is the most valuable treasure we can seek after! Look at the life of King David. He was so passionate for God that his wife was embarrassed by his worship.

However, be warned that passion requires Risk. Love is the biggest risk; love is all about risk. Faith is about risk. We should be risking every day. Passion also requires sacrifice. It requires that we give our best. Our best is acceptable worship to God when brought with a humble heart.

Worship is Honesty: God is absolute love, He is absolutely secure, and He can handle our honesty. Honesty Involves Risk but His love is unconditional. Often when we are honest, we are hurt in the process by people. But God won’t be hurt and He won’t respond in hurt and He won’t cause wounds to our hearts. We are safe being honest with God. Take off the ‘Christian mask’.

Worship is Creativity: God created and He placed creativity within us. He delights when we use our creativity in worship.

Worship is Celebration: We have the Good News! Genuine worship will be celebratory and will impact the whole community around us.

Worship is Hope: We hope in God’s promises. We trust in Him to work on our behalf. This enables us to come into His peace, joy and life.

Worship leads to Action: “You get busy living or you get busy dying, because there is no other choice”. No fence sitting! God hates the lukewarm. (Rev 3:15-16 “‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth). Be hot or be cold but don’t be lukewarm!

Worship Has a Price: Christ humbles us. We risk the scrutiny of other people. (Just as Mary was when she anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped his feet with her hair – John 12:3). He calls us to be seen in our worship; regardless of what others think of us. When the natural and the supernatural collide it just looks weird! But, its supposed to be.

Some thoughts to chew over:
• Worship involves revelation: something is revealed
o The collision of the heart, soul and mind
o Music often brings the collision between what we know in our head and an experience of God (Heart/ Soul)
o We need restoration in our spirit in order to bring revelation in our hearts and minds
o The response to these revelations = worship
• Life was not meant to be compartmentalised. All things can be worship except for sin.