Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Vision

I was reading through my emails recently and found this by Charlene, from 'Grit and Virtue' who writes the encouraging email that I receive most weeks in my inbox from them. I don't always read to the end, but the other night I couldn't sleep so I took time to read through the email. It's about vision, sticking with it to see it through and making it a reality by positive action and growth.

I hope you enjoy reading the following as much as I did.

Jill

What’s your vision?
What stirs up in you when you read that question? Maybe you get excited because you know exactly what you want or what God is calling you to accomplish, or perhaps it makes you cringe because you have no idea. Whatever your relationship with the word vision is, I want to invite you to see it from a different perspective.

People that accomplish amazing things all point back to a vision they had and held onto until they reached it. Having a vision is important and how it manifests is different for each person. So, let’s dive in and make it more tangible.

We can have multi-layered visions, in life and work. In the context of work I like to refer to is as your vocational vision. You and I both know that following our dreams can be riddled with setbacks. The prerequisite of unleashing our inner grit is having a vision worth fighting for. It has to be worth it. It needs to be a vision that excites you and one that drives you. One that will propel you to keep showing up regardless of the challenges.

So, as someone who has pursued clarity in my vocational vision, and has helped many people unpack theirs, I understand the complexities in the process of discovering one’s vision.

However, here are 4 things to help guide you in discovering or bringing clarity to your vision:

Know Yourself
Introspection and self-awareness are the catalysts to living a life on purpose. Understanding what breaks your heart and what changes you want to see in the world are nudges leading to your desired vision.

Make it Tangible 
Begin articulating what you know to be your vision so far. It doesn’t have to be perfectly clear right now. Writing it down makes it tangible. Speaking it out loud gives it breath.

Evolve it Through Action 
You have permission to explore, experiment and evolve your vision over time. Take action, both big and small, toward it and see it unfold into something beautiful.

Continuously Bring it to God 
Lastly, our visions without His alignment means nothing. Above all things listen to His still small voice. It’s only then that we’ll get the peaceconviction, and confirmation to pursue our visions with reckless abandon.

You’ve got this,

Charlena

Friday, January 11, 2019

Faith that Overcomes

Faith that Overcomes

Developing Convictions that guide us

Faith - a conviction, a belief, 

Persistence and endurance Heb 11 Heb 12

Heb 11 - people of endurance and faith

Faith and Endurance

2 Dear brothers and sisters,[a] when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. 3 For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. 4 So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.

Heb 12 - witnesses - run with endurance - 

Hebrews 12:1-2,7 NLT

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. [2] We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God's throne.

Dictionary Definition

Endurance - Patience

Original Word

ὑπομονή

Transliterated Word

hupomonē

Phonetic Spelling

hoop-om-on-ay'

Parts of Speech

Noun Feminine

Strong's Definition

From G5278; cheerful (or hopeful) endurance constancy: - enduring patience patient continuance (waiting).

Thayer's Definition

steadfastness, constancy, endurance

in the NT the characteristic of a man who is not swerved from his deliberate purpose and his loyalty to faith and piety by even the greatest trials and sufferings

patiently, and steadfastly

a patient, steadfast waiting for

a patient enduring, sustaining, perseverance

Cheerful hopeful endurance

Convictions that lead to hopeful endurance

These are my personal convictions that guide me and both require faith and build faith

God is good and loves us


God is at work and wants us to grow


God's plan is bigger than we can comprehend

When I look at the people of faith in the Bible, they are a mixed bunch.

Most of them found themselves in situations they did not plan and probably would not necessarily choose to be placed or to have wanted to find themselves

Esther - used to save the Jewish people

(Joseph - used by God to saved a family/clan,

Moses - used by God to free a people group

Esther - used by God to save a nation

Jesus - came to save the whole world - which is what the others looked forward to.)

Esther is a key player in the book named after her which is notable for its actual absence of the mention of God. However it forms part of the canon of Scripture, and we can learn much about faith. 

Not just Esther's faith, but also the faith and the wisdom of her uncle Mordecai

So to some background.

Esther 1:1-4  (NLT)

The King’s Banquet

1 These events happened in the days of King Xerxes,[a] who reigned over 127 provinces stretching from India to Ethiopia.[b] 2 At that time Xerxes ruled his empire from his royal throne at the fortress of Susa. 3 In the third year of his reign, he gave a banquet for all his nobles and officials. He invited all the military officers of Persia and Media as well as the princes and nobles of the provinces. 4 The celebration lasted 180 days—a tremendous display of the opulent wealth of his empire and the pomp and splendor of his majesty.

It goes on to tell us that they then feasted for another seven days. This is some party

Queen Vashti was called to come and show off her beauty before the nobles etc and she refused to do so. The king becomes angry, sends her away and then later gets lonely and decides on a beauty quest for a new queen. 

Clearly this is before the days of Women's Lib, Feminist movements and the #MeToo movement. 

Esther 2: 2-4

Esther Becomes Queen

2 But after Xerxes’ anger had subsided, he began thinking about Vashti and what she had done and the decree he had made. 2 So his personal attendants suggested, “Let us search the empire to find beautiful young virgins for the king. 3 Let the king appoint agents in each province to bring these beautiful young women into the royal harem at the fortress of Susa. Hegai, the king’s eunuch in charge of the harem, will see that they are all given beauty treatments. 4 After that, the young woman who most pleases the king will be made queen instead of Vashti.” This advice was very appealing to the king, so he put the plan into effect.

I bet it was appealing to the king. Not sure how appealing it was to the young women. They basically had to give up their freedom and become part of the harem. For a young Jewish girl with her whole life before her this can't have been a joyous prospect. 

In Esther we see a young Jewish girl placed in a difficult situation for someone from her upbringing. With only a few wise words from Mordecai, she leaves for the Harem.

But God had other ideas. Somehow, in the midst of this, Mordecai must have wondered what was happening. He stayed as close to Esther as he could, and remarkably Esther found favour with the King and is crowned queen. (after what is basically a beauty contest after months of treatment etc. 

I wonder what it was like with a whole bunch of women, vying for the kings attention, and carrying on like twerps - a bit like the bachelor show maybe!!

He's a man of loyalty to Esther - he continues o follow her progress, and he is loyal to the king. We tend with this story, to focus on Esther and her faith, and risk she took , to go in and see the king. But in actual fact, the story in many ways is about the faithfulness, wisdom, faith and loyalty of Mordecai in the face of opposition. 

Esther 2:21-23

Mordecai’s Loyalty to the King

21 One day as Mordecai was on duty at the king’s gate, two of the king’s eunuchs, Bigthana[g] and Teresh—who were guards at the door of the king’s private quarters—became angry at King Xerxes and plotted to assassinate him. 22 But Mordecai heard about the plot and gave the information to Queen Esther. She then told the king about it and gave Mordecai credit for the report. 23 When an investigation was made and Mordecai’s story was found to be true, the two men were impaled on a sharpened pole. This was all recorded in The Book of the History of King Xerxes’ Reign.

Faith is having the courage of our convictions 

The rest of the narrative is around Haman's hatred of Mordecai, his desire to remove Mordecai by removing the Jews (by genocide), and then of Mordecai's challenge to Esther. 

Mordecai was a man of his convictions. 

Haman’s Plot against the Jews

3 Some time later King Xerxes promoted Haman son of Hammedatha the Agagite over all the other nobles, making him the most powerful official in the empire. 2 All the king’s officials would bow down before Haman to show him respect whenever he passed by, for so the king had commanded. But Mordecai refused to bow down or show him respect.

3 Then the palace officials at the king’s gate asked Mordecai, “Why are you disobeying the king’s command?” 4 They spoke to him day after day, but still he refused to comply with the order. So they spoke to Haman about this to see if he would tolerate Mordecai’s conduct, since Mordecai had told them he was a Jew.

5 When Haman saw that Mordecai would not bow down or show him respect, he was filled with rage. 6 He had learned of Mordecai’s nationality, so he decided it was not enough to lay hands on Mordecai alone. Instead, he looked for a way to destroy all the Jews throughout the entire empire of Xerxes.

Here, Mordecai is following through on his conviction of only bowing to honour God, not people. It takes courage to do so in the face of opposition. Haman decides that its not just enough to get rid of Mordecai, but all the Jews.

If it was just himself, I don't think Mordecai would have sought out Esther, but his loyalty to God and his people, his desire to save people, helped him to see, that Esther was placed in to this place of honour as queen for this time and this purpose. 

Esther 4:10-14

10 Then Esther told Hathach to go back and relay this message to Mordecai: 11 “All the king’s officials and even the people in the provinces know that anyone who appears before the king in his inner court without being invited is doomed to die unless the king holds out his gold scepter. And the king has not called for me to come to him for thirty days.” 12 So Hathach[a] gave Esther’s message to Mordecai.

13 Mordecai sent this reply to Esther: “Don’t think for a moment that because you’re in the palace you will escape when all other Jews are killed. 14 If you keep quiet at a time like this, deliverance and relief for the Jews will arise from some other place, but you and your relatives will die. Who knows if perhaps you were made queen for just such a time as this?”

His convictions in one way lead to the situation. His conviction in God's goodness, his conviction, that somehow, God was at work behind the scenes, enabled him to have a faith, accompanied by action that would see the Jews saved. 

James - Faith without action is dead. Faith with action is what transforms it to an overcoming faith. A reality of faith as opposed to a lip service of faith. 

Faith without Good Deeds Is Dead

14 What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but don’t show it by your actions? Can that kind of faith save anyone?15 Suppose you see a brother or sister who has no food or clothing,16 and you say, “Good-bye and have a good day; stay warm and eat well”—but then you don’t give that person any food or clothing. What good does that do?

17 So you see, faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless.

18 Now someone may argue, “Some people have faith; others have good deeds.” But I say, “How can you show me your faith if you don’t have good deeds? I will show you my faith by my good deeds.”

19 You say you have faith, for you believe that there is one God.[f] Good for you! Even the demons believe this, and they tremble in terror. 20 How foolish! Can’t you see that faith without good deeds is useless?

21 Don’t you remember that our ancestor Abraham was shown to be right with God by his actions when he offered his son Isaac on the altar?22 You see, his faith and his actions worked together. His actions made his faith complete. 23 And so it happened just as the Scriptures say: “Abraham believed God, and God counted him as righteous because of his faith.”[g] He was even called the friend of God.[h] 24 So you see, we are shown to be right with God by what we do, not by faith alone.

25 Rahab the prostitute is another example. She was shown to be right with God by her actions when she hid those messengers and sent them safely away by a different road. 26 Just as the body is dead without breath,[i] so also faith is dead without good works.

We see this when Peter was asked to drop his net on the other side of the boat, after fishing all night and not catching anything. We see it when Rahab hid the spies and hung the red cord from her window, and we see it when the widow collected jars and filled them with oil etc. 

Non of it really made sense. But it was faith with action and each person was able to overcome. God was at work, when they couldn't at first see it. 

God was at work, behind the scenes at all times. Mordecai in his wisdom seems to understand this.   

Faith that God will intervene (think about Daniel's friends in the fiery furnace)

What areas of your life can you look back on and see that God was at work behind the scenes? All of us can probably look back and say we couldn't see it at the time, we wondered what God was doing. 

But the sun is always shining above the clouds. We need to remember , when its tough, that a faith that overcomes, knows God is at work, that he has placed us where we are, even when we don't understand it at the time. 

When we begin to grasp this, we can begin to see that God is in control. 

He sees the bigger picture when we see only the circumstances. 

Faith trusts that God has a bigger picture in mind, a bigger purpose. Faith trusts in a certainty that is not always seen.

Mordecai began to grasp this, but Esther had not yet grasped it. 

This is where we see the phrase "for such a time". We like to think that this means our "such a time" is going to be marvellous, wonderful and straight forward. 

"It's our Year", "its our time" etc. 

However, Esther's life in the palace was not always easy and her placement "for this time" was fraught with danger and risk. 

God's bigger picture requires us to be prepared to take risks. As Esther grabs hold of her purpose, we see her willing to place her destiny in God's hands, and God's bigger plan and purpose. 

How does she handle this?

She garners the support of others.  

Esther 4:15-17

15 Then Esther sent this reply to Mordecai: 16 “Go and gather together all the Jews of Susa and fast for me. Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. My maids and I will do the same. And then, though it is against the law, I will go in to see the king. If I must die, I must die.”17 So Mordecai went away and did everything as Esther had ordered him.

Esther asks other to fast and she too says she will fast. Why fasting. In Jewish understanding, fasting is associated with prayer. Matt 6:5-17 Jesus connects fasting and prayer together. 

To have an overcoming faith, requires us to seek the face of God in prayer, to be prepared to go without sustenance, to develop spiritual strength.

But she also understood the power of two or three gathered together. There is power in people of the same purpose praying together. 

Matthew 18:19-20

19 “I also tell you this: If two of you agree here on earth concerning anything you ask, my Father in heaven will do it for you. 20 For where two or three gather together as my followers,[h] I am there among them.”

She and Mordecai did not isolate themselves.

They intentionally drew support from those around them for the common cause and for good. 

They began to put their faith into action, to seek God and to step out with courage. 

They saw that a greater purpose was being played out. 

God loves his people and is looking after them.

God is at work

God has the bigger picture

Oil, Fish and a Shepherds Staff

Our mandate as followers of Jesus is :

To help our friends discover the grace of God and live according to the commands of Jesus

We gather together for collective worship and also in smaller groups to nut out the nitty gritty of life and help each other to love each other and to build a strong sense of belonging and community.

As we  build community its also important to remember that we live within a large community of people who don’t really understand what the grace of God really is.

As I have been thinking about some of this I realise more and more that God doesn’t make this stuff hard – we do. 

And so to today's message. 

A staff, some fish and some oil

So

Moses – Briefly the story -  Exodus 3 and 4

Widow of Zarephath – Briefly the story – 1 Kings 17:8-16

Loaves and the fishes – Briefly the story – John 6:1-15

Using the ordinary


So often we see that God simply uses what we already have. It doesn’t have to be special

We think we need more training, more understanding etc and in the right time and place that is good, but actually, we all have things that might seem quite ordinary, and simple, but its amazing how God can use that.

A simple idea you have, a gift or talent, etc that we can use

For Moses, who had all the excuses in the world, it was his staff that he had.

4 But Moses protested again, “What if they won’t believe me or listen to me? What if they say, ‘The Lord never appeared to you’?”

2 Then the Lord asked him, “What is that in your hand?”

“A shepherd’s staff,” Moses replied.

3 “Throw it down on the ground,” the Lord told him. So Moses threw down the staff, and it turned into a snake! Moses jumped back.

4 Then the Lord told him, “Reach out and grab its tail.” So Moses reached out and grabbed it, and it turned back into a shepherd’s staff in his hand.

5 “Perform this sign,” the Lord told him. “Then they will believe that the Lord, the God of their ancestors—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob—really has appeared to you.”

Staff and the rod were used by shepherd both to control the sheep and direct them in the right way and they were also used to fight off wild animals that would be prowling around to attack the sheep (picture of staff)

So the rod and the staff of Moses was something that as a shepherd he was familiar with, he carried it as part of his job in much the same way as a cricketer would have his bat with him, or a business woman would carry a bag.

The point is that God used what he had at hand.

God uses this approach so often

When Jesus was feeding the five thousand plus people – he used what was available – what was given to him by the boy

There was nothing miraculous about the fish and loaves. (probably sardines according to commentators) (picture of sardines)

But he offered up what he had and Jesus took what was very ordinary and created something extraordinary.

(Never underestimate what God can do through children – they offer what they have so much more easily than we do. I think that is why Jesus said we are to be like little children. )

Also the Widow of 1 Kings 17

She was looking at starvation, she had a small plan of action that seemed futile. There was nothing special about the flour and the oil. They were every day staple items.(Picture of flour and oil)

Yet When Elijah came, God used what she had to provide not only for her but for others as well

What is it that we have in our hands that seems small and insignificant?

Earlier in the year some of our Community initiatives team did some training and we did an exercise around what we have in our hands. (Picture of the word mountain)

It’s amazing what we all carried, all from different walks of life and all at different ages and yet there were experiences and learning that we already had available.

What is it that we have – sometimes we know – The little boy saw what he had. Sometimes we know what we have and don’t know how to use it – the widow, and sometimes we have to be told like Moses.

What is the same for each of these is that something ordinary was made extraordinary.

 

God created the opportunities


When we look at these stories we see that though God uses what we have and what we give to him, he is the one that creates the opportunities.

It was God who called Moses from the burning bush

Exodus 3

Moses and the Burning Bush

3 One day Moses was tending the flock of his father-in-law, Jethro,[a]the priest of Midian. He led the flock far into the wilderness and came to Sinai,[b] the mountain of God. 2 There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a blazing fire from the middle of a bush. Moses stared in amazement. Though the bush was engulfed in flames, it didn’t burn up.3 “This is amazing,” Moses said to himself. “Why isn’t that bush burning up? I must go see it.”

4 When the Lord saw Moses coming to take a closer look, God called to him from the middle of the bush, “Moses! Moses!”

“Here I am!” Moses replied.

5 “Do not come any closer,” the Lord warned. “Take off your sandals, for you are standing on holy ground. 6 I am the God of your father[c]—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” When Moses heard this, he covered his face because he was afraid to look at God.

7 Then the Lord told him, “I have certainly seen the oppression of my people in Egypt. I have heard their cries of distress because of their harsh slave drivers. Yes, I am aware of their suffering. 8 So I have come down to rescue them from the power of the Egyptians and lead them out of Egypt into their own fertile and spacious land. It is a land flowing with milk and honey—the land where the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites now live. 9 Look! The cry of the people of Israel has reached me, and I have seen how harshly the Egyptians abuse them. 10 Now go, for I am sending you to Pharaoh. You must lead my people Israel out of Egypt.”

It was God who sent Elijah to the widow

1Kings 17

The Widow at Zarephath

8 Then the Lord said to Elijah, 9 “Go and live in the village of Zarephath, near the city of Sidon. I have instructed a widow there to feed you.”

10 So he went to Zarephath. As he arrived at the gates of the village, he saw a widow gathering sticks, and he asked her, “Would you please bring me a little water in a cup?” 11 As she was going to get it, he called to her, “Bring me a bite of bread, too.”

12 But she said, “I swear by the Lord your God that I don’t have a single piece of bread in the house. And I have only a handful of flour left in the jar and a little cooking oil in the bottom of the jug. I was just gathering a few sticks to cook this last meal, and then my son and I will die.”

13 But Elijah said to her, “Don’t be afraid! Go ahead and do just what you’ve said, but make a little bread for me first. Then use what’s left to prepare a meal for yourself and your son. 14 For this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: There will always be flour and olive oil left in your containers until the time when the Lord sends rain and the crops grow again!”

15 So she did as Elijah said, and she and Elijah and her family continued to eat for many days. 16 There was always enough flour and olive oil left in the containers, just as the Lord had promised through Elijah.

And it Jesus who said – you feed them.

John 6

6 After this, Jesus crossed over to the far side of the Sea of Galilee, also known as the Sea of Tiberias. 2 A huge crowd kept following him wherever he went, because they saw his miraculous signs as he healed the sick. 3 Then Jesus climbed a hill and sat down with his disciples around him. 4 (It was nearly time for the Jewish Passover celebration.)5 Jesus soon saw a huge crowd of people coming to look for him. Turning to Philip, he asked, “Where can we buy bread to feed all these people?”6 He was testing Philip, for he already knew what he was going to do.

“I’m nothing special – I’m just an ordinary person” – is what we often hear.

We see over and over again that God creates an opportunity with ordinary things and ordinary people.

But God takes the ordinary, creates the opportunity and asks us to step into it.

Paul encourages the Colossians to make the most of the opportunities. He prays that he too will be given opportunities by God to speak for him.

Colossians 4:2-6

An Encouragement for Prayer

2 Devote yourselves to prayer with an alert mind and a thankful heart.3 Pray for us, too, that God will give us many opportunities to speak about his mysterious plan concerning Christ. That is why I am here in chains. 4 Pray that I will proclaim this message as clearly as I should.

5 Live wisely among those who are not believers, and make the most of every opportunity. 6 Let your conversation be gracious and attractive[a]so that you will have the right response for everyone.

 

As we pray, as we seek God, as we live wisely, God creates opportunities for us to step into. Gracious and attractive conversation is party of living wisely. 

Pray for opportunities, and look for the opportunities that God is creating for us to step into.

 

What is your “But I’m…”


As I’ve already said we often say things like:

“I’m nothing special – I’m just an ordinary person”.

But God takes the ordinary, creates the opportunity and asks us to step into it.

Feeding the 5000 plus

The little boy did not say – “how can we feed this many people with the small fish  and bread”.

He said – “this is what I have” and he was prepared to give it to God to use.

It was Andrew and Philip the other disciples who looked at it and said – “How can we feed all these people with this!?”

Perhaps we can be more like the small boy who instead of saying “this is not enough” offered what he had. John 6

The widow of Zarephath  - said “this is all I have – I’m going to use it and die” Elijah said – Make something for me and you will have enough.

The widow had to be prepared to give up what she was making for herself and her son – think about it – she knew she only had enough for two, but she was being asked to feed three so someone was going to miss out.

But she chose to give up what she had and God took it and multiplied it. Not just once but many times over each day, so that everyone had enough and they were able to survive a really difficult time.

Moses’ “But I’m’s…” were so plentiful

I’m not good with words,

I can’t speak

They won’t listen to me etc

Do these sound familiar.

We don’t always say them out loud, but I can just about guarantee we’ve all thought something and told ourselves something like this at some stage.

God got jack of it after a while. And he said – “What is in your hand..”

What is your own personal “BUT”.

(I’m tempted to say “just get over it” and give it to God to use).

We all have reasons why not.

I’m old, young, uneducated, tired, can’t write, don’t have enough…….

What’s your personal reason, your ‘”why not”

Le’ts look at it differently

Instead of looking at the “why nots” simply say, “Why not give it a go?” 

 

Obedience


Lastly

Jesus didn’t call us to be Good enough – he called us to a relationship of love and obedience

John 15:9-14

9 “I have loved you even as the Father has loved me. Remain in my love.10 When you obey my commandments, you remain in my love, just as I obey my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. 11 I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow! 12 This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you. 13 There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command. 

The Miracle comes from obedience

Moses was obedient to God’s call – and many miracles happened.

The widow was obedient –

Vs 15 – She did as Elijah said.

The boy with the loaves gave up his lunch for others.

Jesus prayed and the disciples – in obedience - handed it out. The miracle happened, not when Jesus prayed but when the disciples were obedient.

Matthew 14:19-21

19 Then he told the people to sit down on the grass. Jesus took the five loaves and two fish, looked up toward heaven, and blessed them. Then, breaking the loaves into pieces, he gave the bread to the disciples, who distributed it to the people. 20 They all ate as much as they wanted, and afterward, the disciples picked up twelve baskets of leftovers. 21 About 5,000 men were fed that day, in addition to all the women and children!

For the widow and the boy with food, they used what they had available, were willing to give up what they had and God gave back in abundance.

God takes the ordinary and creates the extraordinary.

What ordinary thing do we have in our hands that God can make extraordinary?


Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Armour of God

Ephesians 6:13-17 NLT
Therefore, put on every piece of God's armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm. [14] Stand your ground, putting on the belt of truth and the body armor of God's righteousness. [15] For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News so that you will be fully prepared. [16] In addition to all of these, hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil. [17] Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

Belt - Truth - mentioned first - truth of who Jesus is, what he has done, who we are in him. This is first and foremost the greatest part of the armour because it reminds us of the truth of God and is the starting point.

Body Armour - representing the righteousness that comes from Christ and wraps us round protecting us and our heart. Covering our heart - relationship - Jesus' righteousness not our own.

Shoes - good news - ppreciated to take it into places that don't yet have the news of Jesus. When we have our shoes on we are ready to walk anywhere we need to go, prepared with the truth of the good news, protected by His righteousness.

Shield - faith - held up against enemy attack. Standing firm in faith - knowing we have our hearts protected, holding his righteousness around us and standing in truth.

Helmut - protection for our heads - right thinking - enables us to live transformed lives - thinking is protected - salvation - assurance - God's thoughts transforming our mind.

Sword - of the Spirit - word of God - sharpened and ready to use - a weapon of attack - God's Spirit brings the right words - God's word - at the right time to speak to the situation.

Truth
Righteousness
Good news
Faith
Salvation
The Word

Know the truth. Live in God's righteousness.  Share the good news. Live by faith.  Saved in right mind by grace. Know the Word of God.

We fight the enemy by understanding and applying these 6 things to our lives, not just occasionally but at all times.

In addition, pray in the spirit, stay alert - watchful - persistent in prayer for believers.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Devotional thought.

Ephesians 2:19-22 NLT
So now you Gentiles are no longer strangers and foreigners. You are citizens along with all of God's holy people. You are members of God's family. [20] Together, we are his house, built on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets. And the cornerstone is Christ Jesus himself. [21] We are carefully joined together in him, becoming a holy temple for the Lord. [22] Through him you Gentiles are also being made part of this dwelling where God lives by his Spirit.

Citizens - from the same place, belonging to that same group of people (benefits and responsibilities of citizenship)

What are the benefits of our citizenship and what are our responsibilities?

E.g responsibilities to kingdom and it's King.

God's family - those gathered in Christ (belong to him) in the same family.

As a family there are benefits and responsibilities .

What are the benefits and responsibilities of families?

E.g Security, everyone works together - different roles and responsibilities, different gifts, given for the building up of others.

We have a strong foundation - secure.

Becoming a holy temple - carefully joined together for him (not for ourselves) - Fitted together perfectly

We are made citizens and built into a dwelling where God is honoured by us and found by others.

What are the implications of being built together?



Monday, August 27, 2018

Thoughts from Jonah

A couple of days ago I read through Jonah. Today I'm processing some thoughts around the last part of Jonah. We so often focus on the story of Jonah being swallowed by a big fish that we can miss the real point of Jonah.

Yes, we can learn about obedience and the consequences of lack of obedience through the first part of the story. Jonah's lack of obedience had a huge impact on him and our lack of obedience can too.

But let's think about what was happening in this situation. There is more going on than just lack of obedience. God needed to address the issues in Jonah's heart towards people.

God sent Jonah to preach to a city that was full of sin. God was planning on destroying the city because of the sin. When Jonah finally got there, and gave them God's word, the people received the message, believed it and repented. God, seeing the hearts of the people, with his love for them, showed them grace and spared them from destruction.

Surely this is a great outcome. But Jonah was not happy. He wanted God to destroy the people, to bring judgement on them the way he thought God should do it. How often do we want God to do things our way when God has something different in mind?

God's message to the people had brought repentance and salvation. Yet Jonah was not happy. God then provided a powerful lesson while Jonah was sulking, to help Jonah understand just how important people really are to him.

He allowed Jonah to find shade under a small plant, but Jonah was upset when it died and he was left to scorch in the sun. He complained to God. Notice how his focus was on him alone and not on others or even on God. Here is God's response. 

Jonah 4:10-11 NET
The LORD said, "You were upset about this little plant, something for which you have not worked nor did you do anything to make it grow. It grew up overnight and died the next day. [11] Should I not be even more concerned about Nineveh, this enormous city? There are more than one hundred twenty thousand people in it who do not know right from wrong, as well as many animals!"

God had to show Jonah, that people matter to him. In fact people matter immensely to God, more than we can really grasp or understand. Ninevah had many thousands of people. People who mattered to God and should have mattered to Jonah.

 People matter to God and should matter to us. Just as we are important to God, and loved by him, people who don't yet know his love and grace matter also and are loved by him. He wants them to know him, he does not want any person to perish.

1 Timothy 2:3-6 NLT
This is good and pleases God our Savior, [4] who wants everyone to be saved and to understand the truth. [5] For, There is one God and one Mediator who can reconcile God and humanity-the man Christ Jesus. [6] He gave his life to purchase freedom for everyone. This is the message God gave to the world at just the right time.

God is more interested in the lost* than we could ever be but he calls us to love them, to pray for them and to share life with them so that they also would know him.

This is the lesson Jonah had to learn. The people of Ninevah mattered to God. He cared about them and loved them. He forgave them when they turned to him. People still matter to God. He still loves them and sent Jesus into the world to make a way for them to come to him. We have been given a message of hope and grace for the world. A message of salvation.

Matt 28:18-20 NLT
Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth.  Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

Like Jonah, we have a choice. We can run away from the call to speak God's message to people living far away from God, or we can embrace it, and be joyful when they discover God's saving grace. Then we have the opportunity to walk with them on the journey of discipleship towards maturity in the faith.

We can be so consumed by our own lives, so focused on our own comfort that we can think it's all about us. But God says to us, people still matter. There are thousands, many hundreds of thousands of people, in cities and countries in our own nation and all around the world that are yet to hear the message of God's love for them, who as yet have no way to discover the grace of God for themselves.

They are more important to God than our personal comfort. Are they more important to us than our personal comfort?

We have a message of hope, a message of grace that the world needs to hear, a message that God is asking us to take to others. Will we put aside our own comfort for the lives of other people?

(*Lost people are people who do not have a relationship with God that is based on who Jesus is, what he did for us through his death and resurrection and have then placed their hope for salvation in Jesus alone, thus beginning the journey of discipleship as a follower of Jesus)

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Listening

James 1:19-20 NLT
Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. [20] Human anger does not produce the righteousness God desires.

How quick to listen are you? Listening is an art and a discipline. Its an art because when we listen well it produces something beautiful.

It is a discipline, because it takes practice ti do it well.