Peace

What a frantic season Christmas can be. Busy days, every day. Stress brought about by many factors; financial worries, inter family conflict, for others memories of days gone by that cannot be repeated because some someone loved is no longer there.

It can be a microcosm of the balance of the year. A life that is anything but at peace. Expectations and hopes have not been met. The fear of uncertain days haunt us – sleep, peaceful sleep anyway, eludes us. And peace of mind seems unobtainable. Try as might at night we toss and turn our minds are over busy and anxious.

The Bible says though that peace is obtainable, that it is available it isn’t elusive. Pau writing to the church at Philippi writes, ‘Be anxious for nothing, 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 comprehension shall guard your hears and your minds in Christ Jesus.’

Peace is available. Not an ordinary peace but a supernatural peace. A peace that boggles our mind a peace that we can’t understand but a pace that can experience. A peace that is not dependent upon our circumstances, but a peace that is available and promised to us despite our circumstances.
God cares for you. His concern is for you much more than for your circumstances.

What are we asked to do. We are asked to pray. Come face to face with God – worship and adore him, he deserves it. Come to him with an attitude of thankfulness – don’t come to him straight away with your request spend time with him first. Honouring him worshipping him being grateful for what he has done.

Then bring every problem to him. Take them to him, you are invited to. Lay them before God, be specific , let him know eery details. Then wait and expect God to act. And he will – not necessarily by changing your circumstances but by changing you in your circumstances. He will bring you peace, and as he does what a witness to him you will be.

This week expect God’s peace , ask for it and live peacefully

Philippians 2:5- 9

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature[of a servant, being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death – even death on a cross!

​Yesterday was the second Sunday in Advent and we looked at the price, the power and the promise of love/.

The price of love that Jesus paid was humility and obedience. A humility and obedience that saw him die so that we can live. We need to stop and think about how great this is; the creator God humbling himself to the point of dying for me and you. It’s this humility that God asks of us – not that we think less of ourselves, but that we think of ourselves less – looking to serve others, selflessly.

The power of love is one that transforms lives. For Jesus the power of his love for us took him to the cross when he could have said ‘no’. He chose to go where he didn’t have to go for our sake not his. HIs love transformed the lies of his disciples, and throughout the centuries his love as when accepted and understood has transformed the lives of millions.

The promise of his love is forever – nothing can separate us from the love of God, not even death. It endures forever.

As we go into this week, are we prepared to pay the price of love? Are we willing to live humbly and obediently for Jesus? Are we willing to live selflessly for others as he did for us?

Are we loving others in such a way that their lives are been transformed? Are we demonstrating and showing love that reaches out and touches others?

Are we secure in the knowledge that God loves us? Are we living as a people who know we are loved by the creator God? Is that ‘knowing’ been evidenced by our ‘doing’?

We will not have the ability to love others well until we know how well how completely we are loved. We are loved totally and unconditionally by the God who knows us better than we know ourselves.
​If you are struggling with the knowledge of God’s love, then spend time with him. If he died for you as he did, then don’t you think he wants you to know the depth of his love? ​Ask him today to remind you of his love -ask him to show up and surprise you.
Ask yourself today how am I loving others – how am I being obedient as God asks me to be.

The Travellers Psalm

On 20 November we read through Psalm 121. One of the Psalms of ascent, and a beautiful Psalm. It is referred to as both the travellers Psalm and the soldiers Psalm.

As we read it we have this image of a pilgrim, a sojourner, a traveller walling among the mountains and as he does so, and as he looks around him he sees mountain after mountain. ‘I will lift my eyes to the mountain where does my help come from’ Who cares for me, seems to be the plaintive cry. But as the question is asked, the answer is given – the one who cares is the one who made the the heavens and the earth.

The creator God cares for his creatures. He does not leave us, he does not forsake us. His care is 24/7 – he is the careful God, not the careless God.

God watches over us continually – he doesn’t drift off to sleep – his attention is undivided – it is personal – it is gentle.

He watches our coming and our going – he watches all of life’s progress for us – as we leave the house and enter the house – whether we sleep, work or play – he is with us.

He is our very present help – he guards us from birth to death. It doesn’t mean that we wont suffer the ills that life throws at us, but it does mean that we are never alone. His plans for us are for eternity.

This is the God who out of his great love sent his son Jesus to be our saviour, and our friend We need never be alone again, we can always be safe in the arms of Jesus

Is this the God you know. Is this the God you trust and is this the God who you are allowing to transform your life?

As you too journey through life as you look at the mountains in front of you, and around you, are you aware of the attentive presence of God?

God has spoke light into your life, now let that light shine

2 Corinthians 5:17(ESVUK)

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

I told a story last Sunday about St Augustine who in his life before his encounter with Jesus led a very promiscuous life style.
One day as he was out walking a former girlfriend saw him and called out, ‘Augstine, Augustine, it is I’, the story goes that as Augustine kept walking he responded, ‘but it is not I.’

The truth that Augustine understood was that when he came to believe in Jesus he was no longer what he was, he had become a new creation. This new creation didn’t involve a process it happened with immediate effect when Jesus become his Lord. Paul use of this word creation, takes us right back to the creation event. ‘In the beginning the world was formless and empty, and darkness covered the dark waters.’ (NLT) But into this darkness God spoke and said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light.

This same creative power is at work in us. God steps into our darkness, our primeval chaos and he brings light. God is at work for us, he is on our side. It is God who calls, it is God who does the new work in us that brings us into light. And that light is the knowledge of the glory of God. That light is ur knowledge of the Lordship the Kingship the divinity of Jesus. That light is the knowledge that through the grace of God and his salvation work through Jesus on the Cross we are saved, and what we were we no longer are. We have crossed from death into life.

This is the work of regeneration it is the root from what our Christian life grows, the work is completed we are saved, the process has begun we are becoming the people God intends us to be. Often referred to as being sanctified, we are set apart for God’s service and we are learning obedience.

We focus on this process, this desire to be better and better, and trying to be better and better is exhausting. We are aware of our sinfulness (because we have been made new), we get discouraged when we see others who seem to be doing so much better than us.

It’s at those moments we need to remind ourselves we have been made new, the old has passed. The wok has been done and the work is continuing.

Because are are new creations, because the old has passed away, we need to live like it. We need evidence in our life that who are is not who we were, but we also need to believe it. We have been made new, our past no longer defines who we are.

2 Corinthians 4:6 (ESVUK)

6 For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness”, has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

God has spoke light into your life, now let that light shine

Enlarging our tent

Luke 4:18-19
‘The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.’
On Sunday we continued with our theme of enlarging our tent. A really encouraging look at what God is asking of us, to be open, spacious to see people outside the family of God move to being inside the family of God. Moving from observation to participation, from isolation to inclusion.
In doing this we looked at these verses from the Gospel of Luke where Jesus sits in front of his friends and family and says what you have been looking for is here. I am the one who has come to bring good news to the poor, to give sight to the blind to give freedom to prisoners and relief to the oppressed.
I am the one, he says, who is going to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.
We were reminded that for Israel this year of the Lord’s favour was one where debts were forgiven, and every 50th year peoples lands were returned to them. This was known as the year of jubilee where trumpets would sound and the dispossessed would get their inheritance back. It was a unique and beautiful series of laws to protect people from those who would oppress them. It never actually happened, the trumpets never sounded in the whole history of Israel. God plans of care and protection of the oppressed never came it never arrived – until now. Jesus says now it is available to you. Now and forever the impoverished the blind, the prisoner the oppressed (which literally means the crushed) are able to have the favour of the Lord. Jesus doesn’t talk simply i physical or economic terms, these metaphors of poverty, blindness, imprisonment and oppression, all spoke of people who are separated from God – but now we have the opportunity to be reconciled (to be brought back into relationship) to God. That’s the Lords favour. And we noticed that the message is a positive one. Jesus says this is what I will do – doesn’t talk of God’s vengeance or anger – he focusses on God’s love and grace. He says this is what God is for – he is for you, he is on your side.
If we are to see our tent stretched – the curtains opened then we need to focus on what God is for too – not what he against but what he is for.
This week if you have an opportunity to talk to someone about Jesus (and there will be opportunity) tell them about what Jesus is for – tell them Jesus is for them to bring them back to him and to shower them with his favour – a favour of sight, and riches of his inheritance and freedom.

Making the Tent Bigger

Isaiah 54:2 ‘Clear lots of ground for your tents! Make your tents large. Spread out! Think Big!’

On Sunday we looked at this passage from Isaiah and we looked at how it motivated a young man (William Carey) over two hundred years ago to step out for God, and in doing so he brought the light and the life and the love of Jesus to countless thousands, and his legacy of going and loving continues.

He believed in a Big God, a God who would equip him to do what others said he couldn’t. He accomplished far more than he could have imagined.

This God who said Make your tents big, is a God who is looking for his people to go into the world and share his good news. We’re not to hold it to ourselves. He is also the God who when he says go, will equip us with what we need to see the tent grow. He is a God who is faithful to his word and true to his promises.

William Carey looked at these verses in Isaiah and he knew that his God would go with him. These verses enabled him to expect great things from God and to attempt great things for God.

He went where it was uncomfortable. He went where there was a cost and obstacles. He went because he believed this is what God called him to do.

He attempted great things for God, because he expected great things from God.

Today what is God calling you to do? What has he equipped you to do? Have you asked him? Are you ready to serve him? How will you serve him? Do you know what gifts he has given you? Because he has gifted you.

God calls us to go into the world and make disciples. Are you praying asking God who he wants you to speak to? Ask him for an opportunity to share what God has done for you this week.

Lets spread the tent of ABC

You can serve God. You pray, you can give, you can go.

Next Sunday we will be doing our collection for Self Denial. Please bring along your waka and your monetary gifts.

God loves us and he wants us to tell others of his love.

Have a great week – have big expectations and share what God has done.

Pray

As we enter into our time of self denial, how truly awesome it is to be reminded of the privilege and the power of prayer.

We are all called to a ministry, the size of it doesn’t matter. This morning we looked at Elijah going to Zarephath. Sent by God to meet, to dwell with and to minister to poor woman and her son.

Elijah had been resting for a while by a brook, God told to to get up and move to a city in the country of his enemies. He went from a place of resting to a place of testing. In that place he learnt to rely more and more on God, and he saw God providing for him in powerful ways and he saw God use him through the power of prayer to bring life in the middle of death.
Are you in a place of testing now? Are you trusting God to provide for you, to surprise you, to move you to a new place.

The place of testing is God’s refinery, he is shaping you so that you will come out better than you were when you went in. God does not waste any experience.

Ask ourself what your relationship with God is like. Are you working at it, are you willing to be used by him. Is living for Jesus the defining cause in your life.

Does your heart reflect the heart of God. Are you praying for those who are suffering, are you believing in a compassionate God. Are you praying passionately for God to act, for his Spirit to descend in such a way, people will know something is happening.

Is there someone like the poor woman at Zarephath that God has brought you in to contact with for you to pray for, Is there someone who is dying for their lack of knowledge of the life giving gospel of Jesus that you have been given by God a responsibility to pray for?

Do you believe God will hear you and answer your prayers?

If we are serious about God been engaged in our world, we need to get serious about praying.

Elijah, after his period of testing went to a mountain and changed a nation. What can God to with you, if you are patient with him and dedicate yourself to prayer.

Bitterness

Hebrews 12.15 See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.

Bitterness is destructive. As we read this verse from Hebrews we see this strong command to not all a bitter root to grow.

Bitter people are hurt people and that hurt can come about as a result of so many events and circumstances. We can be hurt by things people have said, by things people have done, and by things that have been taken from us.

We will not go through life without been hurt.

I know that I have held on to injustices (real and sometimes perceived), and how quickly doing so can lead to bitterness. Bitterness in turn has effects on us and on people around us. It can rob us of a sense our peace, the root of bitterness can take hold of our mind and we can’t seem to shake it.

As a result bitterness can affect us physically and emotionally. Sometimes we can’t hide it, it appears on our faces, and it affects the way we act. We become critical, we become angry, we become defensive, we become judgmental, it can cause us to build walls. We protect ourselves from hurt by not allowing people close to us.

The bitterness becomes a constant companion it has taken root. S.I. McMillen, in his book “None of these Diseases” said: “The moment I start hating a person I become that person’s slave. I can’t enjoy life…he controls my thoughts…I can’t escape his/her grasp on my mind. He or she may be many miles away, always in my mind.”

Bitterness leads to hatred.

How do we combat it? Derek Kidner writes that ‘An obsession with enemies and rivals cannot be simply switched off, but it can be ousted by a new focus…’

So what should that focus be? Look at what Paul wrote to the Ephesians in 3:17-19

“And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.”

Let a different root take hold of you, the root of love. And as we do that learn that we are to forgive others as God has forgiven us.

Here are some practical steps.

1.Choose to live in the present and not the pastWe can’t change the past, but we can change how we will deal with it going into the future.

2.Choose to forgive those who have hurt you. We are called to forgive as God has forgiven us. Ask God to help in doing this.

3.Remember that in the injustice, God is present. God is the God of justice, and he cannot be unjust. As someone wrote, God is reoccupied with justice, he sent his son to the cross.

5.Choose not to retaliate. Vengeance is God’s business, not ours.

We need to remember that God is a sovereign God, and this means he is sovereign even over the evil things people do. Look again at the story of Joseph in Genesis and what he says in chapter 50. God will use even that evil act, that harmful word, that event that has robbed you of something to ultimately work out his plans for you. He will always work to accomplish what is for your best. Romans 8.28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

This week think about that metaphor of the root as it relates to bitterness. Is there something you need to deal with? Is there something you are holding on to because you can’t or you don’t want to let it go.

Is there a seed of bitterness that you are aware of that might be taking hold of your life?

Don’t let bitterness take root. Dig it out and throw it away.

Quoting again something I read this week (i’ve forgotten where I found it)

‘Bitterness is a sin, and sin is never ok. If you live with bitterness it is because you choose to.’

I’m very conscious as i write these words that overcoming bitterness can be difficult and a process, and processes take time.

If you need help please ask we have people who will support you and pray for you, and if professional help is needed (as it can be) then seek it

Blessings

Forgiveness

On Sunday we had a Q & A session looking at the question of forgiveness. In light of what has occurred in Nice, France recently and other acts of evil on a large scale, what is our Christian response. Are we to simply forgive? Are we to forgive automatically?
Below is an article I’ve written for a local community paper. Maybe you could read this and give some thought to important questions about forgiveness. Does God forgive unconditionally? Do certain have to be met before we can forgive? What do we do about forgiving people who have died? What do we do about people who have ‘sinned’ against others but not us? Can we forgive them? What about people who we feel have sinned against us, but they don’t se they have done anything wrong?

Forgiveness is not easy. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

‘’The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.’

Mahatma Gandi

I wonder what we make of this quote? I think we would agree that no one finds forgiveness easy. The concept has difficult questions that surround it. In the 23 November 2015 issue of Time magazine the headline article was ‘What it takes to forgive a killer’.

The story focussed on the murder of 9 people during a church prayer meeting at Charleston, Carolina in June 2015 and the church’s and community’s response to that heinous act. In the course of the article the follwing questions are asked:

“Can murder be forgiven, and if so, who has that power? Must it be earned or given freely? Who benefits from forgiveness—the sinner or the survivor? And why do we forgive at all? Is it a way of remembering, or of forgetting?”

These are thoughtful and important questions. It seems that we rush to forgiveness, but often questions like these are not asked first. We rush to it (forgiveness) because it seems noble to do so.

Of course the rush to forgiveness is not true of everyone, and indeed in the context of the Charleston shooting there were those in the church who struggled with forgiveness, and understandably so.

The trouble is that forgiveness involves a process, and often in that process some important observations about forgiveness are forgotten. Forgiveness does take time to unpack. Often the act that requires forgiveness has resulted in deep hurts, deep emotional scars.

To be true to these scars we have to acknowledge that forgiveness isn’t about denying that a wrong has been done, it’s not about excusing behaviour and sweeping it under the carpet and it’s not about pretending that the wrong has never been done.

Forgiveness has multi faceted components and they can’t be dealt with here. But an observations is important. Christianity has as it’s most basic assumption that we all have a need for forgiveness and that God offers it. The Bible says a lot about forgiveness. It says that there is a God who is willing to forgive in order for us to be brought back to a healthy relationship with him. A relationship that is ultimately for our good.

But at the heart of God’s forgiveness rests our willingness to ask for it and admit our need for it.

Christianity says more, not only do we need forgiveness but because we have received it from God, we are to be willing to offer it.’

Forgive us our sins as we forgive others

On Sunday we had a very brief introduction to the concept of forgiveness. A word many of us will be familiar with, but a concept that is difficult.

When Jesus teaches us to pray there are two things relative to forgiveness that are apparent:
God assumes we will forgive other;
God is willing to forgive us
When we pray this prayer we are, as Charles Spurgeon put it, reading our ‘death-warrant when you repeat the Lord’s Prayer.” Why? Because we are not forgiven unless we are forgiving.

We will explore this more in the coming weeks, because forgiveness is much more complex and nuanced that we tend to understand.
What we know is that God loves us so much that he longs for us to be in relationship with him. That the gift of forgiveness is God’s way of bringing us back to a relationship with him. A relationship with God without asking for forgiveness is impossible.
Isaiah 59:2 ‘But your sins have separated you from God; your sins have hidden his face from you so that he will not hear’

We need forgiveness and we need to offer forgiveness. It sounds too simple, and if something sounds to easy we can dismiss it. But God’s word tells us 1 John 1.9 that if we confess our sins God forgive us our sins. If we don’t believe that then we are not believing in God.

Forgiveness is all about reconciliation. Us with God and us with each other. It is central to the Gospel message.

As we go forward on this, I’m praying we will understand more of what God has done for us and be motivated to be forgiving ourselves and see lives transformed