YOU are gifted, and you can do it

When Paul introduces himself as a prisoner for the Lord in Ephesians 3, he’s simply stating a fact. I wonder what we make of that introduction. So often we can miss them as we move quickly on. Does it remind us that Christianity is costly, it’s risky, it’s dangerous. Does it remind us that Paul has been confined and has had a lot of time to think about what he is going to write?

Clearly Paul has thought deeply. He has written this letter to encourage a fledging church. Reminding them of the riches they have in Christ. Reminding them that the power of God demonstrated by Jesus in his resurrection is the same powerful God who is at work for us.

Reminding them that God is a God who has redeemed us. That is that God paid a price for our sins that we couldn’t pay ourselves, and that that price has brought us salvation – freedom from our sin.

In chapter 4 he reminds us that Christianity is not simply a belief but a lifestyle. He says life a life walk a walk worthy of what God has done for you. He has called you His child. Paul reminds us that Christianity is a lifestyle directed toward maintaining and guarding the unity within the church. That unity has as its focus obedience to Jesus.

We are all responsible for maintaining that unity, we are all gifted to encourage one another. We are all called to serve God wherever we are. There is a diversity of gifts and a diversity of people within the church. We are called to unity not sameness. We are called to be humble. gentle and patient with each other. We are called to love each other.

We are called so that His church witnesses effectively to God’s glory.

This week, as God by His Spirit to empower you to be the witness he wants you to be. Ask him to show you opportunities to share your faith and the courage to do it.

YOU are gifted, and you can do it

Don’t miss this opportunity

Don’t miss this opportunity. This seems to be what Paul says to us. He says you have this incredible opportunity to meet with the creator God of the universe. That what seems impossible almost incomprehensible has been made possible by Jesus Christ – we can meet with God. So, Paul says, approach God with confidence, fearlessly and with freedom. Don’t miss this opportunity – meet God. The NIV says ‘approach God’. Isn’t that cool! If you go up to someone it’s because you want to ask them something, and Paul says, ‘do it.’ And he says ask with huge expectations, ask Big things, and yet he seems to say no matter how big you’re asking, God can do way bigger things – God can do ‘immeasurably more than we can ask or imagine.’

Don’t miss this opportunity ask God big things. And Paul says, do you know what the biggest thing is? It’s to know God’s love. and to know him living with you. He says I want you to know how high, how long, how deep, how side God’s love is. He’s got the four sides covered – and he says you can’t know it by yourself, you need the Sprit to help you.

Do you know God’s love? Paul does’t mean have you read about it or heard about it or thought about it – he says have you experienced it. Are you living it, is it changing you. That’s the big thing, that’s what we don’t want to miss – God at work living in us and loving us.

How big are your prayer? Make them big but make them God focussed – make them with your bible beside you so you know what God thinks – come to him and ask for his strength and power to know his love – and wait to be amazed

Ephesians

Paul, who writes this letter, is excited about the church. He is longing to encourage it, to encourage us. One of the stumbling blocks for us is that although we love Jesus, although we want to belong to him, we so often don’t understand all that he has in store for us.

Paul wants us to live a life that is full of the knowledge of God. So he writes to the church and he says, I’m praying that the eyes of your heart might be opened. Opened to what? And he goes on and says: opened to hope, riches and power. Now that is something that surely must grab our attention. We so often think that the Christian life is a life of deficit. That we don’t have available to us so much of what the world seem to enjoy. Paul says, you don’t want, you don’t need what the world has because Jesus offers so much more:

He offers the hope of his calling – we all need hope. It’s what gets us through life, it’s what gets us through those difficult days when we know something better is coming. And Paul says we have a hope that is certain, and this hope is a new life in Jesus. That Jesus has done all that needs to be done to give us a new life, a living hope. That in Jesus we are certain of our salvation.

He offers us the riches of Jesus inheritance – we who believe in Jesus are heirs with him. We are the children of God, and God has in store for those who believe in him an inheritance coming that is beyond our wildest imaginations. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 2.9 that “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined the things that God has prepared for those who love him.”

He offers us power. This is the power of a transformed life. The answer to fear is power, and as Christians we have power that is available to us in Jesus. Not that we become powerful but that the life giving power of Jesus is available to us now. It is resurrection power. It is the power that says that Jesus has conquered guilt and sin and death itself. It is the power that enables us to confront life without fear of death. It is the power that enables us to hold on to the hope and attain the riches. It is the power that God gives for us to be what he wants us to be and what we want to be as well.

And Paul prays that this hope, these riches, this power will be experienced by us now. Living in the hope of what God has in store for us, and experiencing his life giving power will transform our lives.

Have a wonderful week and may God continue to bless you, and I pray you will live powerful lives that give glory to God.

Saints – faithful- in Christ Jesus

Last Sunday we looked at Paul’s introduction to the church at Ephesus. Introductions are really important; Paul wrote to them and describes them as follows:
To the saints in Ephesus, to the faithful in Christ Jesus.’ Paul, in this introductory statement describes the life of the Christian. The who we are, the what we do and the how we do it.

Who are we? We are saints. Why because we who believe and follow Jesus have been set apart, we are a called people, a chosen people. That is the meaning of this word in the New Testament. It isn’t privileged few, it is everyone who believes. I think it is wonderful that Paul uses this descriptor so early on. We don’t deserve to be called, we don’t have to learn to behave first, no, we are chosen. So often we expect people to conform to our expectations, but Paul doesn’t, you, if you believe and obey Jesus are a saint. Not perfect, not yet anyway, but chosen

What do we do? Although we aren’t perfect, there is an expectation of lifestyle. We will stick at being Christian, we wont give up. We will defend the faith and live lives as obediently as we can. We are called to live saintly lives. But Paul doesn’t suggest this happens suddenly or all at once. Salvation does, but there is a process that goes on of growth and maturity. It’s not where we are, as much as the direction we are heading.

How do we do it? By being stuck to Jesus, by being ‘in Christ’ by being so closely connected to Jesus that he is in a metaphorical sense the air that we breath. We are to live in him, to be centred in him. To not just know about him, but to know him by means of developing a relationship with him.

What about the purpose? Well if you look at Paul’s writing he talks about the beauty the power of the Church. So questions for us as church are:
Are we demonstrating the love of Jesus
Are we demonstrating the life changing power of Jesus
Are we being faithful to his calling
There is so much good stuff in this letter. Take time to read it, and be encourage. We serve and awesome God who in his mystery thinks we are ok, and has chosen us to work with him. What a privilege

Let that thought sit with you this week.

Fishing With Jesus

John 21 is a beautiful chapter. It concludes with Jesus asking three questions of Peter, do you love me? A wonderful story of restoration as Peter had 2 times denied knowing Jesus .

This story of restoration begins earlier. Jesus sees Peter and others fishing without success. He calls out to them to put their nets on the other side of the boat, and they are full to bursting.

You see Jesus is so interested in us. His desire for us is to bless us, Isaiah reminds us that, ‘No eye has seen no ear has heard no mind has conceived what God ha prepared for those who love him.’

We can get stuck in the moment, but God’s plans are way ahead of ours. We forget the depth of his love, because we focus on the now and that at times is uncomfortable. But Jesus can and will take us though those tough times. We need to trust him, to have faith in him to listen out for him and to obey him. He is speaking. He will come through for us, he is faithful.

Imagine Peter, this man of declared courage, Jesus others will let you down, but not me, who so soon afterwards denied and rejected his friend when he needed him most. What did Jesus do? He blessed him, he filled his nets, he called him to share in the twilight to a fire, the same sort of scene where Peter had denied him. The memory must have been vivid for Peter, but at that fire place, Jesus shows Peter his love and his care. Jesus has prepared a meal for him, Jesus has the fire to warm him, Jesus has supplied for Peter what Peter couldn’t supply for himself, Jesus says. Peter I know you I know what you have done, and Peter I love you.

Jesus says the same to us, he knows us, we can’t hide from him. he wants to bless us to care for us to show us his love.

What does he ask of us? That we listen and obey that we trust him and put our nets out when it seems hopeless. And when we think it is hopeless he will come through for us.

What an awesome Saviour we serve. Trust him, love him, make him the boss of your life and watch what he will do for you.

The Resurrection

The good news for Christians is that the Bible tells us God so loved us that he sent his only son so that whoever believes in him will have eternal life.

The Gospels, Matthew Mark Luke and John, tell us the story of Jesus life on earth. Of his love and concern for people, and his power to transform lives. They all end by telling us that Jesus died on a cross but rose again, Proving himself to be truly the Son of God and having power over death. Jesus promises that he is coming again, we don’t know when or where, but when he does, life on this earth ends and eternity with him or without him begins.

Life without him is unimaginable horror. Life with him now is one of peace and joy and hope. Not a life without trouble but a life with a personal relationship with the risen Saviour of the world, and the promise of an eternity with him.

We all called to share the good news. Who do we share it with? Here is an interesting and challenging article.

Article by: Jen Wilkin

There is a people group whose language you may not want to learn, whose customs you may find distasteful, whose dress may offend, and whose values may disappoint. They are worshipers of idols. They raise their children in poverty. Many Christians consider this people group either unreachable or beyond the sphere of their calling.

Why?

Because their language is that of white suburbia. Because their customs are as familiar as our childhoods, their dress as unremarkable as the sale rack at Old Navy, their values as fragile as their credit ratings. Their idols are money, possessions, and leisure. Their children starve not for food, but for relationship. And their faces? Their faces look a little too much like our own.

Behold suburbia, the mission field for whom our hearts do not break. We hold them in contempt as those who have heard and spurned the gospel. Their failing marriages, rebellious children, and quiet addictions stir in us weariness and wariness: This is their own doing. This is the fruit of their commonplace lives of capitulation and mediocrity. Suffering and loss may visit them, but they still drive to hospitals and gravesites in late-model SUVs. Why should we pour out our lives on the rocky soil of suburban America when, for the price of a plane ticket, we can till the fertile fields of Africa, Asia, South America?

But who are we to say that one soil is more fertile than another? Perhaps this field is yours to till simply because you find yourself already in it. No plane ticket required, no bold geographical leap of faith, just a slow and steady determination to respond well to the call to “love your neighbor.” Literally. Even if their problems are messy, and mundane, and not the stuff of headlines or documentaries. Even if they never soften to the gospel.

It is good for our hearts to break for Africa, for Asia, for South America. It is good for seeds to be planted by passionate believers in the fertile soil of distant lands. But I pray that hearts might also break for the suburbs, and that God would raise up faithful men and women who will till where the ground is rocky and unforgiving, believing for a harvest that could only be reckoned as supernatural.

Pray with me. Ask the Lord of the harvest, who sows and reaps where he pleases—both far and near.

Lets continue as a church to pray for and seek the lost.

Remember Lot’s Wife

Remember Lot's wife. So says Jesus as he answers questions about the coming of the end of the world, or as the Pharisees put it the coming of the Kingdom of God.

The story Jesus alludes to is in Genesis 19. Here is Lot and his family fleeing from a city that God is going to destroy. It took some convincing to get them to go, si eventually they had to be grabbed by the hand and force out. Flee and dont look back, God says to them.
Lot's wife looks over her shoulders, glances back and wamo turns into a pillar of salt. No warning was given as to what might happen, just the command - don;t look back.
The Hebrew word is much more than a glance back. It refers to an inability to let go of the past.
You may have your own thoughts as to why we can't do that, why we can't let go of past words, experiences, lifestyles, habits, circumstances even when we know that by holding on it can impact us negatively.
It's that looking back in the wrong way that is the problem. And the problem is that we can't move forward with God when we don't let go of the past. We can become like Lot's wife. Stuck in one place, hard and immobile, when it's God's desire for us to move forward and onward.
The challenge is there for us individually and corporately,as church. Are there things we are holding on to, things that we can't or don't want to let go of that are hindering us from being used by God as he wants to use us or being blessed by God as he wants to bless us.
Lot's wife missed out on her salvation. What are we missing out on? What can we do about it? What are we going to do about it.
God's desire for us is to have life in all its fullness. Until we say God I want to move forward then progress will be difficut
God has such good things planned for you and for us. Lets dream as to what they might be, and imagine what God can do with us and through us as we don't hold onto the past but look forward to the future.

Mission

It was a real privilege to have Johannes share with us on Sunday his message on mission. This message was a challenge to us to evaluate where we are at with God, and what we are doing about being his disciples where we are.

 
Johannes looked at the Isaiah 6 and gave us an overview of the context in which Isaiah responded to the call of God, saying ‘here I am send me.’ 
The truth for us is that we are all ‘sent’. God sent his son Jesus and Jesus sends us. We are to the voice the feet the hands of God in our communities, and wherever God sends us or has placed us.
 
It is a real challenge. As Johannes said, though we go back to look at an event thousands of years ago, as much as things change they stay the same.  In New Zealand we live in a society founded on Judeo/Christian standards, but we have moved away from those standards and have become proud, and as we were reminded the Bible is clear that pride leads to downfall. 
 
In order for us to go effectively out into the ‘world’, we were reminded that we need an encounter with Jesus, we need to meet with God. We need to build disciplines into our lives to enable that to occur; to learn those disciplines that take us into a relationship with the Triune God.
 
We are called and we are sent. We can make a difference, God is on our side, and it is he who goes with us. He longs to see people in relationship with him. If that is God’s heart it should be our heart too, and for us the challenge is how do we do it. We can do it by speaking about Jesus, we do it by being on our knees and praying, we do it by being confident that we are his children and he will use us for his glory, we do it by working first and foremost on our relationship with him.
 
Today is a beautiful day, remember whatever your circumstance to praise God and let your praises change you.

Turnaround God

Again we looked on Sunday at the idea of the turn around God. Our God who loves us so much that his desire for us to draw closer to us and for us to draw closer to him. The best way for us to do that is in a spirit of humility,recognising how great our God is and our desperate need of him in our lives.
 
Here is the prayer of Martin Luther that I read on Sunday:
 

“Behold, Lord, an empty vessel that needs to be filled. My Lord, fill it.

I am weak in the faith; strengthen me.

I am cold in love; warm me and make me fervent, that my love may go out to my neighbor.

I do not have a strong and firm faith; at times I doubt and am unable to trust you altogether. O Lord, help me. Strengthen my faith and trust in you.

In you I have sealed the treasure of all I have.

I am poor; you are rich and came to be merciful to the poor.

I am a sinner; you are upright.

With me, there is an abundance of sin; in you is the fullness of righteousness.

Therefore I will will remain with you, of whom I can receive, but to whom I may not give.

Amen”.

There is great humility in this prayer from a man, who despite his faults, was a giant in the Christian faith. We need to pray like this. To confess our sin before God, to admit before God our brokenness to state our desire before God to remain close to him. To remind ourselves we cannot do anything to earn the love or the mercy and forgiveness of God. He has through his grace given to us all we need, what we have to do is acknowledge that need and bow before him.

David in Psalm 51 write: the sacrifice you want is a broken spirit, a broken and contrite heart.

That brokenness isn’t a punishment it’s not because God is vindictive or unkind, it is because when we admit our brokenness then he can begin his work of healing and restoring, or transforming and molding us into the people he knows we can be. The greater our humility, the more acute our sense of sin, the more available we make ourselves to God and his work.

It is because of his great love for you that he died for you. He loves you and wants the best for you.

I want to see the Father

It’s not unusual for us to want to know. We need certainty, we need assurance. Philip, when Jesus said, If you knew me you’d know the father too, said, I’m nearly there I’m nearly convinced, but don’t just talk to me about the Father, show him to me.

Jesus replied if you have seen me, you have seen the Father. He says, I am the evidence. He doesn’t leave Philip hanging, he goes on and tells Philip what the evidence is. He says it’s my character, it’s my words, it’s my works. And, he says, Philip you have been a witness to all of these things.
One of the objections to Christianity is that we can’t see God. And while this sounds like a logical objection, it loses its weight when we think there are many things we believe in that we can’t see. Love for instance.
But Jesus goes beyond the unseen, and says you have seen. And it’s the same for us too. The Psalmist writes in Psalm 19.1, the heavens declare the glory of God and the sky proclaims his handiwork.
The word of God has been revealed to us in the scriptures. His words have stood the test of time. There are millions of Christians who have gone before us who are witnesses to the life changing power of Jesus.
It isn’t the the evidence isn’t around us, it’s that we fail to appreciate the evidence that we see.
This week, as you spend time with family and friends, as you see the sights and sounds around you, as you have special moments, as some quietness comforts you, say to God thank you that you are still at work and you still speak. Ask him to show himself to you in someway, and look at how he might do that.
The Jesus that John writes about, is the Jesus who longs for us to know him, and through knowing him we can know the Father. He wants us to enjoy a personal relationship with him.
Blessings