Evangelism

Evangelism (sharing the story of Jesus) can be a scary word, and with all things that we find scary, it can be easier to avoid than to do. There are lots of reasons why we don’t do it; we’re not confident, we’re worried we wont do it properly, we worried about being made to look silly, or being rejected, and ruining friendships.
These are understandable reasons, and I know I’ve being to scared or embarrassed to share about Jesus heaps of times. This year, we really want to encourage and to help us all to feel more confident about sharing what it is we believe about Jesus. We want others to know him. There isn’t only one way to do it. We all have a story to tell and there are ways we can feel easier about sharing our faith.
On Sunday looking at the first part of Acts 1, we saw three things that the writer focussed on in his introduction.
  1. He reminded his reader that Jesus had risen from the dead. That he had conquered death, and that he demonstrated it by appearing to a number of people. For us everything hangs on the resurrection. As Paul says with out it our faith is pointless. We believe only because Jesus has risen. The evidence for it is an empty tomb, Jesus followers saw him and told others about him, and the church grew. None of this can be explained without a resurrection.  
  2. Jesus sent us the Holy Spirit – wait, Jesus says, until the Spirit comes, then go and be my witnesses. In other words, ‘I’m not leaving you alone, I’m giving you the power you need to do what I’m asking you to do.
  3. Hope – Jesus has said he is coming back, and that those who believe in him will have eternal life. We have meaning and purpose for living. Life isn’t just about now, but about a certain and perfect future. 
These three things can give us confidence about out story. We believe in a risen Jesus, not just an interesting historical figure, but God himself who is the God of the living not the dead. We do have the Holy Spirit to help us, and our story of hope is one that is for everyone.
 
The BIG deal is, our job is simply to tell God’s story and our story as best we can in our time, place and culture. We’re not responsible for people believing in Jesus and being saved, that’s Jesus’ job. 
 
BUT we do have a story and we have been told to tell it. We can do it way more effectively when we commit our efforts to God and seek him, his guidance and direction and power. We want to see Jesus moving in the lives of people, we want to see our church grow. So as a part of that, acknowledging our dependence on God, we will have a time of 21 days of prayer and fasting, and we’ll introduce that this coming Sunday.
 
Be excited!! God can do way more than we can imagine. Let’s really seek him!!

Wood

Exodus 15:22-27
v22 Then Moses led Israel from the Red Sea and they went into the Desert of Shur. For three days they traveled in the desert without finding water. 23 When they came to Marah, they could not drink its water because it was bitter.
 
Gito began with these words, New Year means New Hope. This was a wonderful sermon as Gito reminded us that sometimes life for us is bitter. We find something that looks nice, but leaves people beaten at the end; the abuse of alcohol, gambling, drugs. The news is often negative and that can makes us bitter. Being around criticism, hearing of life’s struggles, work problems family problems and how this can influence us to become bitter.
When we have difficulties we groan and moan, and we see this in this passage, the people found the water bitter and they moaned. Longing to go back to what they had, knowing that that was a life of abuse and slavery.  This desert experience where a people longed for fresh cool water but got something else and with that the question where is God, why has he left us.
 
But we were reminded that grumbling doesn’t change circumstances- instead we have to do something, and the something here was Moses crying out to God, and receiving this odd response, throw wood into the water. And the wood had the effect of making the water sweet and drinkable and refreshing. The wood changed the circumstances of the people, the wood provided what was needed. The wood came to the peoples aid and saved them.
 
Gito drew the comparison with another piece of wood; one shaped like a cross on which hung our saviour Jesus. That with this wood God provided the power for us to be saved. The power for us to have salvation which comes from faith in Jesus. The power to save is not ours, the power to save has been provided by God. The choice is ours to accept it, to know life can be different, to recognise that in life’s desert there is a way for us to drink from the cup of life, that as it happened at Elim (Ex 15.27)  where there was plenty of water and food, where refreshing came God has provided a way out of the desert for us. HIs promise is one of love, joy, peace and hope . God will never disappoint us, when we go through hard times we are to put our trust in God because God is good. So we are  not to give up, but to step forward and accept the love of God and his forgiveness and the power of what he has accomplished on the wood.

You are the only one who can tell your story

Matthew 26.6 “While Jesus was at Bethany, in the house of Simon (known as the ‘the Leper’), a women came to him with an alabaster case of extremely valuable ointment. She poured it on his head  as he was reclining at the table”.

On Sunday we began our journey looking at evangelism, that is telling people about Jesus, sharing with them who he is and what he is done and what he is doing and what he will do (it’s a little more nuanced than that, but that’s a general picture for the moment).

Evangelism is scary. For most of us it’s really difficult we’re not sure what to do or what to say. 

In this passage in Matthew we get a picture of what it can be. An expression of gratitude, and honouring of Jesus, and the courage to not worry what others think. Here is this woman, not named by Matthew, what is significant is what she has done, not who she is. She comes into this home, and does something outrageous, she pours a bottle of perfume on Jesus’ head. No ordinary perfume, but top shelf stuff – a whole years wages is poured out and goes all over Jesus. We know this because in John 12 this story is told and the woman wipes Jesus feet with her hair. She drenches him in this stuff – she doesn’t hold anything back. Imagine doing that, in NZ $ we are talking about the equivalent of $52,000 spilt over Jesus and the ground. It’s a beautiful thing, she has done, says Jesus.

A beautiful thing – against the wishes and the wisdom of Jesus’ disciples, here is an expression of love, and honour and gratitude. Fearlessly displayed!!

How can we be a witness for Jesus? We could start by being grateful. We can be grateful and acknowledge what he has done for us. We fearlessly acknowledge our dependence on him. We don’t hold anything back – we are willing to give all we have for him – why? Because we know what he has done. 

This women is grateful to Jesus for the difference made to her life, and yet the full power of Jesus was still a way off from being displayed. We know this Jesus as the one who died and rose again. The one who has conquered death, the one who has proven he is the longed for and promised saviour, the one who will put all things right, the one who said he would never leave us, and who said he is coming back to take us to be with him forever. 

Isn’t that a whole lot to be grateful for?

What about us? Are we living lives of gratitude for all that Jesus has done? Are we letting people know how grateful we are for what he has done for us? Are we giving freely of what he has given to us?

          

        Gratitude can be difficult In a sense, gratitude is an expression of modesty. In Hebrew, the word for gratitude – hoda’ah – is the same as the word for confession. To offer thanks is to confess dependence, to acknowledgment that others have the power to benefit you, to admit that your life is better because of their efforts.

 

       By showing gratitude we speak of something beyond us. We point to something that is away from us but important to us. By gratitude we we note that we are not the centre of the universe. Are you willing to tell others how grateful you are for what God has done?

           You are the only one who can tell your story. No one can do it like you. No one can describe the wonderful things that have changed in your life since you have surrendered yourself to Christ. It is your story; no one else can tell it.. “‘Return home and tell how much God has done for you.’ So the man went away and told all over town how much Jesus had done for him” (Luke 8:39).

Tell someone who it is you believe in

Here we are at Christmas Eve. We think of all the songs and poems ‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house. Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse’ this sense of building anticipation. In all of this we wonder, what is it that we are really celebrating. 
 
A we who are believers in Jesus, what is it that our friends and families understand we believe? Is it some world view that gives us comfort. We believe in God, and that means we have a belief that on our death we go to heaven. Is that it? Are we living and sharing a life of excitement, something that has to be shared?
 
Mark in his gospel begins his book like this: 

“The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God”  Or to paraphrase it, the good news of Jesus Christ Son of God begins here.

 
The good news is not about an experience, it is about a person Jesus Christ. The Bible is the unfolding story of God, it is the revelation of God and what he has done. That’s the good news. That God is not distant and disinterested, God is present and active. Has been, is and always will be. The gospel, the good news is about God so engaged with us, that he came and lived with us. He did so in such an unexpected humble way that he wasn’t recognised. But in Jesus we see the heart of God for us – his love, his desire to give us a new beginning to live a life in relationship with him. To know that despite the mess the world around us might be, the frightening and painful circumstances we are facing, God is in control and will put everything right.

This Jesus, who Mark knew, proved himself to be God not because he acted from a distance but because he came near – Emmanuel God with us. This Jesus who turned water into wine, let’s keep this party going, this Jesus who, listening to the heartbroken cry of a father for his daughter responded and raised her to life, this Jesus who looked at those who society despised and went and ate with them, this Jesus who looked on the disfigured and scarred, and said be healed, this Jesus who stopped as the blind man cried out and said what can I do for you, and did as he was asked and gave him his sight.
 

This Jesus who revealed powerfully the love of God for us. This Jesus who comes to us in the din of huge crowds, soldiers shaking dice gambling for his clothing, and priests raging with hatred against him, crowds who at once loved him and were drawn to him, who later would turn against him.

This Jesus who was so misunderstood that in the midlde of a shouting and cursing crowd is spit at, flogged, treated with shame and dishonour. Has a thorn of crowns pushed onto his head, and in great darkness drinks the cup of suffering on a cross.

It is this Jesus that Mark begins his book by saying this is the beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ. Why? Because Mark was a witness to the power of God at work in and through Jesus.

What was the purpose of that work? To allow us to begin again. That is the wonderful good news for us. There is a new beginning. Not in our selfish desires, not in us having a God who will do what we want when we want it. Not in a God who fulfils our desires – NO because on our sinfulness we don’t understand what our greatest need is.

Our greatest need is a new relationship with God and a new relationship with each other. And  our relationship to God is based on unmerited forgiveness. Jesus came to fill the gap – a Jesus who will transform our lives and who has begun a new Kingdom.

That’s the exciting good news. We believe in a Jesus who has conquered death, who has shown us there is an eternal purpose to life. A Jesus who loves us so completely that he humbled himself to be with us – to show us we are valued. 

‘That is the beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ son of God. Are you excited? Then make it your goal this Christmas to tell someone who it is you believe in.

Emmanuel

This past Sunday we looked at Mary’s response to receiving the news that her life was about to drastically and dramatically change. It was a three-fold response starting with astonishment. Astonishment that someone so unremarkable, so ordinary, would be the recipient of such incredible grace. A grace that would change her life. She then wrestled with what this meant as it seemed impossible and her wrestling with God’s truth led to her place of acceptance. Acceptance was not a passive response, rather it was an act of surrender. And her wrestling with this happened in community with the friendship of her cousin, Elizabeth. By working through these various stages, Mary’s response was one of adoration, or worship. But she needed to process. She needed to ask questions. She needed the support of someone who could walk alongside her.

Sometimes it is difficult to know how to respond to what is happening around us and to see where God is at work. But, as Henri Nouwen says “True joy is hidden where we are the same as other people: fragile and mortal. It is the joy of belonging to the human race. It is the joy of being with others as a friend, a companion, a fellow traveller. This is the joy of Jesus, who is Emmanuel: God-with-us.”

We have the unique privilege of being in a faith community together. We journey through some dark valleys and see some glorious sunrises together. We do so because we are brothers and sisters in Christ and, because we have the wonderful reassurance that Jesus was, is and forever will be God-with-us. Because we have this wonderful assurance that we don’t have to face life alone, we can offer our adoration, our gift of joy, despite what circumstances or situations we find ourselves facing. As you reflect on Mary’s response, how might God want to speak to you today? And what does it take, for you, to be able to say “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour.” (Luke 1:46-47)

An anchor for the soul, firm and secure

Our first Christmas, when we moved back to Nelson in 2005, was spent at the hospice where my mum lost her battle with cancer. Christmas, for me personally, is always bittersweet. It’s a time of celebration as we remember the birth of our Lord, Jesus, but it’s also a time of sadness as I remember the passing of my mum. For some of you, Christmas may not be an easy time. It can be financially stretching or stressful negotiating oftentimes strained relationships with differing expectations. Sometimes it can be really lonely.

Last Sunday I shared Elizabeth’s story from Luke 1:13, 18-25. She experienced the loneliness of infertility, the disappointment of unmet dreams yet her attitude was one of hope because she knew that God was good. Elizabeth eventually conceived in remarkable circumstances as an old woman, and gave birth to John the Baptist. Her story is one of hope: hope because God is still at work even when we don’t know the outcome; hope because God is good and knows the big picture for our lives; hope because Jesus who knows the frailty and vulnerability of being human, knows what we are going through.

There is a quote from an author I read this week, which says:

Deep grief sometimes is almost like a specific location, a coordinate on a map of time. When you are standing in that forest of sorrow, you cannot imagine that you could ever find your way to a better place. But if someone can assure you that they themselves have stood in that same place, and now have moved on, sometimes this will bring hope.

I would like to encourage you that God knows the coordinates for your life and has found you in the middle of your forest and is standing there, right beside you.

Hebrews 6:19 says “we have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.” As you read this, I pray you will know the comfort of the Holy Spirit and experience the hope that comes from knowing you are deeply loved by God. You matter. Your life matters.

How do you see God at work in your ordinary?

Last Sunday I spoke about Loving the Ordinary and Zechariah’s encounter with the angel as he was performing his once-in-a-lifetime priestly duties. The angel said to Zechariah ‘God has heard your prayer’ (Luke 1:13) and told Zechariah he was going to father John the Baptist. It is a remarkable story of our remarkable God who has a much bigger plan, a much bigger story that He is inviting you to join. Zechariah was doing what was expected of him yet God already had a plan that would change his life, the lives of those around him and ultimately, all of humanity.

We might find ourselves in less remarkable situations than Zechariah. In fact, most days are fairly ordinary, and often repetitive. Yet the ordinary of our lives allows us the time and space to develop trust, patience and joy. It is also an opportunity to develop a spiritual habit, such as prayer. But learning to love the ordinary takes determination, and courage. Sometimes the ordinary of our lives is preparing us for the extraordinary.

This week as I did a google search for something unrelated, I found this quote:

“Let’s see the divine in the ordinary, the big in the small, the meaningful in the mundane and the holy in all things humble.”

How do you see God at work in your ordinary?

Who are those ordinary people God is asking you to love, or walk alongside?

What spiritual habit could you grow in those ordinary activities?

What is God’s story for your life?

Ephesians 4:1 encourages us to “lead a life worthy of your calling, for you have been called by God.”

Remember, your ordinary is extraordinary in God’s hands. You have been called by God, for God. May God bless you as you continue to seek Him and may you know the presence of the Holy Spirit as you faithfully do what is in front of you to do.

Jonah

Jonah, the reluctant prophet. Tasked with a job he really doesn’t want. To tell a nation he hates that God is going to deal with them. Rather than do that, he jumps on a ship and heads off in another direction. Running from God? I’m not sure about that in the literal sense – he know’s he can’t hide from God. In Psalm 139 the Message paraphrase it’s put like this:
I’m an open book to you;
    even from a distance, you know what I’m thinking.
You know when I leave and when I get back;
    I’m never out of your sight.
You know everything I’m going to say
    before I start the first sentence.
I look behind me and you’re there,
    then up ahead and you’re there, too
 
And in Hebrews 4:13 more starkly
 And (no one) is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account. 
 
So he knows he can’t run away from God. The question is, if he didn’t want to do what God asked him to do, why not stay put? Why get in a boat? Clearly he wanted to get away from God’s presence – that objective is repeated twice in verse v3. So what did he decide to do? To go somewhere where God wasn’t known. To hide in a culture where he wouldn’t be confronted by God through all that surrounded him.
We do that too – we sometimes want to ‘hide’ from God – to get out of the glare of his stare. How do we do that? We shut ourselves off from God’s people.We shun church, we don’t spend time with his people – we mix with others. We distract ourselves – we fill our time with activity, and business, and play. None of which is bad – but all of which is bad if it means we are closing out ears to God.
 
Friends, we can’t hide from God. We have a God who in his love pursues us, and he does so for a purpose – to be his voice in this world. Jonah slept in the boat while a storm raged outside. Those in the storm needed him, and couldn’t believe he was sleeping. 
 
Are we sleeping? Are we being indifferent to the storm around us? The world needs us. We have the message of a new Kingdom that is good news. We can’t keep it to ourselves, that’s not what we are to do. We have to share it – because God in his sovereignty will use us way beyond what we can imagine.
 
Church – we can’t sleep. People are in a storm, a Godless storm that leads to destruction. We need to wake up, and tell them that there is a Jesus who loves them and can still the storm.
 
Who needs to hear from you this week. Who is looking at you expectantly, longing for you to wake up and tell them what God wants them to hear, and what they need to hear?

What an awesome GOD

2 Kings 3.18 ‘But this is only a simple thing for the Lord, …’
 
Simple? A dry river bed, a dry valley, no wind, no rain. People and livestock desperate for water. Watch!! See that dry river bed, I will fill it with water so you can drink. For God, that’s simple – nothing to it. It doesn’t rain, it simply fills with water at the word, the command, the direction of the Lord.
 
As i read those words earlier this week again I was reminded of the awesome power of our God. Nothing is too difficult for him. 
 
I was reminded of his amazing grace. Here he was providing refreshment, just what was needed, for a people, a King who did not deserve it. 
 
We go through those times where what we want more than anything else is a break from the dryness of life. We want something that reminds us that God has not forgotten us. We want something that reminds us God is on our side. 
 
As you have been going through this week, how have you been feeling? Drained and tired? Dry and cracked? Sun drenched, and now in need of refreshment? 
 
Who is the God that you trust in? A God that you know will come through for you? A God that, despite your current circumstances, you know has not forgotten you? A God that you know can do way more than you could imagine?
 
Have you checked in on yourself? Are you working on your relationship with him? Are you taking time to praise him, thank him, soaking in his WORD. Are you reminding yourself  how awesome our God is? Are you longing to be obedient to him, wanting him to direct you and guide you.  Are you putting him first? Letting go of your wants, and asking him what is wants for you are? 
 
Are you showing him the dry valleys in your life and asking him to fill them? Are you letting God be BIG. Are you expecting lots from him, or have you decided he can’t do what seems to hard to be done?
 
Where are you at? Is your soul dry? Are your words dry? 
 
As church what are we longing for? Do we expect God to do BIG AUDACIOUS THINGS ? When we call for prayer, where are you? Are you pointing out the dry valleys of the lost, and asking God to drench them with his presence? Are you believing God will grow our church, and asking him what he wants you to do?
 
Is the God you worship the one you long to tell others about? Is he a God that you know nothing is to difficult for him? 
 
Folks, we need to expect God to do wonderful things, we need to believe that he is true to his word, we need to be earnestly seeking him – it’s too easy to slide into the dry cracks, keep our heads down, feeling ourselves becoming dry and not seeking the refreshing he longs to pour out on us – do what he longs for us to do – love him, trust him, praise him, spend time with him – be patient, be expectant and watch has he pours out refreshment in ways you could not have imagined

Why should we live a life in the Spirit, what’s in it for me?

On Sunday we looked again at this idea of ‘life in the Spirit’, we moved on from the how we live it and what it looks like to the why question. Why should we live a life in the Spirit, what’s in it for me? 
 
In doing so we read through Romans 8.1-17 – a lengthy passage with a whole lot of gold buried in it, and we considered three really good reasons why:

Freedom

Transformation

Adoption

Freedom. Paul writes to the church at Rome and he says, There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. No condemnation – we are free. Free from the natural consequence of the weight of the law – a law that we are incapable of fulfilling, and a law under which we are always condemned. We are found wanting, we are weighed and measured and found to be wanting, We dont measure up, we can’t measure up. We know it. Oh we  might fool ourselves a little and think we are doing ok. But when we stop and think, we know we might be good, but we’re not good enough. If the standard is the law, and we’ve got to live by it, then we have to admit, we can’t. And the consequence of that is condemnation . BUT life in the Spirit says, no anymore. You are not condemned, the law has been fulfilled on your behalf. You are freed from it, and you are empowered by the Spirit to be more than you could ever have been. Freedom, that’s life in the Spirit.
 
Transformation. We are transformed. We are no longer what we were. We are no longer lost, we are found. We are no longer weighed down by the weight of the law, we are lifted up  by the Spirit. For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit, Paul says. We are calibrated. We dont think the way we used to, our minds have been changed, reordered. given new life. Our perspective has changed, the way we look at life has been changed. There is meaning and purpose, and it is the Spirit that does that work for us.
 
Adopted. We have a complete change of identity. We are no longer fighting against God, we belong to him in a whole new way. So tightly are we bound to him, that he calls us his children. The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ. We become children of God, we are now entitled to all that he has promised. His promises are now for us. Our future is certain. Doubts as to what life is all about are gone. We are made new.
 
Why would we want life in the Spirit? Because we are free, transformed and adopted. We cannot be without it.
 
Let the Spirit of God remind you this week just whose you are, who you belong to and how loved and  precious you are