Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Amazing Grace

Easter is an amazing time of the year.  In fact if I am honest, it is my favourite time in the entire Christian Calendar.  As I reflect on the Easter message I am constantly challenged and encouraged in my Christian journey.  

As I was growing up as a teenager I have to admit I was a ratbag.  Life just seemed to be out of control and to be honest, it is a miracle I am still  here and yet despite all of this, here I am.

So why is it that Easter is such an important time for me? Well too be honest it is that time of the year when I reflect and remember what I was, and when I thank God for what I now am. As we enter Holy week for another year I am reminded once again of the goodness of God. As I prepare for our Maundy Thursday service tomorrow I am once again reminded of our amazing God. A God who is faithful, a God who loves me, and a God who gave everything so that my relationship with Him would be restored. You see regardless of my past, God has never given up on me and only He knows the potential within me. That is why I am here now, and as I reflect on the events and the amazing people that have come into my life over the past 30 years, I can now see how God intervened and began to steer me in the right direction. Proverbs 16:9 tells us that "A man’s heart plans his way, But the Lord directs his steps." This is exactly how it has been for me. I thought I knew where I wanted to head in life but God knew better.

As I reflect on the events that took place in Jesus final hours I am reminded of why He had to die and I am so thankful that He made that choice to sacrifice Himself for me.  How can I be forgiven  for what I have done in the past?  How could God ever love me when for so long I rejected Him?  Well it's all about this amazing thing called Grace.  Easter is a wonderful reminder that no matter what we have done, no matter how our paths have gone in the wrong direction; God continues to pursue us, He continues to try and get our attention.  And regardless of what we done, Jesus sacrificial act supersedes everything.  His amazing grace brings healing, restoration and empowerment.  Jesus gave His life so that we may be saved.  He died so that our relationship with God the Father might be restored, and He died so that we may be set free from the bondage of this world.  Easter is about restoration and empowerment. It is about what can be and not what was or what is.  Do you know this Jesus?  Do you know the one that can bring emotional and spiritual healing?  His name is Jesus and "He is the way, the truth and the life..." - John 14:6

My prayer for each person reading this right now is that Easter will be a powerful time for you.  I pray that this Easter will be more than family, holidays and chocolate.  My prayer for each person reading this right now is that 2017 will  be the year when you discover or are reminded that you are loved; you are forgiven; and you can be set free through Jesus Christ.  May God bless you each this Easter.

"For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son,
that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish,
but will receive eternal life." - John 3:16

Sunday, 15 January 2017

A Clean Canvas

Well 2017 if finally here.  I can't believe that I have been in my current appointment for 12mths.  The days just seem to be flying past an incredible rate.  While in NZ recently on holidays I heard a sermon from a Salvation Army Officer that really did get me thinking  about the  year that lies ahead.  As a result of this challenge the following  extract from a sermon preached this week  came into being.  My prayer for each person reading this is that you will have a blessed 2017.



One of the things that I find humorous about the end of a year, especially on New Year’s Eve is the tradition of making New Year’s resolutions. Have you ever made those? I wonder have you found yourself making them for 2017? Why do we do that? Why do people make New Year’s resolutions? Well I think for the most part people want to see something different happen don’t they? New Year’s resolutions stem from a deep desire for change, a desire to break from the status quo. I wonder though, how many people actually keep their New Year resolutions? Sometimes these resolutions never happen because life often gets in the way.   The concept of New Year’s resolution is great though isn’t it? It’s a time when we look to the year ahead with a clean slate. A time when we look to the future with hope that things are going to get better than they currently are.

(Reveal a blank Artist Canvas - Illustration)

In 2 Corinthians 5:17 Paul wrote: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold the new has come.” Now Paul said this in the context of reconciliation with God. He said this because He was explaining to the Corinthians that through Christ and our relationship with Him, our old ways are gone and our lives and our spirits have gone through a time of cleansing and renewal. Through Jesus the sins of our past have been removed and the slate has now been wiped clean. This principle however, also applies to each of us here this morning. For some 2016 was a horrible year but friends I want to encourage you this morning by saying that 2017 is a fresh start. The old year has gone and the New Year is here. I wonder have you given much thought yet to what 2017 might look like? How will this year be different from last year? What are your hopes for your life in 2017? What are your hopes for your church and for Bairnsdale in 2017? 

Friends the good news is that 2017 hasn’t been written yet. For the things that we can change, we have an opportunity to bring about transformation not only in our lives but in the lives of those who live in Bairnsdale through the power of the Holy Spirit. The year ahead then is a year of hope, a year of renewal and growth.  This morning I want to share with you three scriptures that will help you navigate through the year ahead, 3 scriptures that will help you not only in your everyday life, but in your growth with God and in the way that we minister to others.


The first one comes from Matthew 6:25-27,31-33

“Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature? For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things.



Friends we are each loved by God, so much so that God promises to provide for us our every need. You know in our humanness we are often concerned about what lies ahead. We are concerned about the events that might take place and how we might cope with these things. Maybe there are things that you will have to face in 2017 that are quite intimidating. But here in Matthew 6 Jesus reassures us with an amazing promise that we do not need to worry about tomorrow because God has it all in hand. Jesus reminds us this morning that if we seek first the Kingdom of God, then everything else will be taken care of. So my first point this morning as we begin a new year is that God is in control, He is the Omnipotent God; He knows what we need and He knows how to take care of us.


The second scripture comes from James 4:7-8:

“…Submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. 8 Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.”


As we enter a new year and as we look at the blank canvas before us, can I encourage you this year to draw closer to Jesus. As God’s children, our first and foremost priority in life is to continue to grow in our relationship with God. In our scripture this morning Paul reminded us that the old is gone and the new is here. He reminds us not to be controlled by the things of the past. The past does not have to influence our future. How does this happen? By drawing near to God. No matter what happens in 2017, no matter what begins to appear on our canvas, God reminds us to stay close to Him. As God’s children we are most vulnerable when we begin to move away from God. As we reflect on the challenges of 2016 what was it that got us through? Were we moving toward God or away from God at these times? It’s interesting as we read the words of James because you will notice that God is always with us. If this is true then, why does James call us to draw near to God? Who is it that moves away in our God relationship? Us or God? We do. That is why James wrote draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Friends God never leaves us but we have to make the decision to move toward Him, we have to want to grow and change because God never forces himself on us. We are each responsible for our own spiritual growth and God relationship.


And so my second point is this: As the year progresses choose to draw closer to God in all circumstances.


The final scripture as we commence 2017 is this:


Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
And lean not on your own understanding;
In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He shall direct
your paths. – Proverbs 3:5-6


This one is very similar to the verses from Matthew 6. We don’t know what lies ahead of us this year but God does. 2017 may be a hard year and God does not promise us that it will be an easy journey in this thing called life. But one thing He does promise us is that if we trust Him, regardless of how we interpret our circumstance; He will make our paths straight. You see our canvas will not always be full of colour. Sometimes a canvas needs to have a darker colour added to it in order to give definition and character so that the colours that really matter are highlighted. So too with the year ahead. Sometimes there will be dark patches on our canvas; but it is these dark patches that will shape us and give us growth. As the year ahead throws us difficult times let’s not see them as obstacles to make us give up; rather let’s allow God to use them to teach us and shape us the way He wants to.


Friends I don’t know what lies ahead this year for any of us. What I do know is that our 2017 canvas is currently blank and because of that, our year will be whatever we choose to make it. Some things we will be able to change and some things we won’t. Either way, if we work at staying close to Jesus and if in 2017 we are continuing to grow in Him then our canvas is going to look pretty good next December.


And so my final point is this: Trust God in every situation.


You know as I start a new year and reflect not only on the year ahead but reflect on the years past and all that Jesus has done for me; I am encouraged to know that God is a God of second chances. The old is gone and the new is here. I don’t know what your past few years have been like; I don’t know what 2016 was like for some of you or the challenges you have had to face. What I do know is what 2017 can look like for you.

Monday, 14 November 2016

Deep Impact

Life, it’s an interesting journey isn’t it? As I get older I can’t believe how it just seems to accelerate. As a child I remember time used to take forever. That 12mths leading up to Christmas just never seemed to get there. It’s interesting isn’t it? how our age differs our perception of time. Now that I am just over 40, time seems to be travelling at a ridiculous speed, in fact sometimes it feels as though it travels too fast and to be honest, it has got me asking the question “what have I done with my life?” I wonder, have you ever wanted to know how much time you have here on this earth? 

The writer of Psalm 39 asked this question of God when he said “Show me, Lord, my life’s end and the number of my days; let me know how fleeting my life is.” I think when David wrote this Psalm he was asking the very same question: “What have I done with my life, how much time do I have left?”

Paul on the other hand approached this question very differently. He was very aware that time was short, he knew that he needed to use his time wisely. In Ephesians 5 he says: “Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.” Eph 5:15-17.

You know as I have pondered these thoughts recently something very interesting occurred to me.; there are only two things that we can do during our time here on earth that we simply cannot do once we get to heaven? 1. Sin and 2. Tell others about Jesus and invest in people. You know our time on earth is very limited. Psalm 90 tells us that our years may be no more than 70 or 80 but the reality is that no-one knows the time that we have. Time is precious and we have to use our time well. In a world that is straying further and further away from God we need to take the opportunities to share the gospel when they arise. Friends, how are we impacting our world for Jesus today? When our time is up what is it that we want to be remembered for?  It has been said that life is no more than a dash between two dates. If that is the case then how are we using our dash? Are we impacting the world around us and what is the legacy we want to leave behind? Let’s go one step further; if our church was to disappear off the face of the planet tomorrow, would it even be missed? 

When Jesus was on the earth He had a very small amount of time to make a huge impact. Everything He did was intentional. Every conversation, every action and every thought had a purpose and it was a purpose that glorified God. In John 10:10 Jesus says that: “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” What did he mean by that? Quite simply Jesus came that we may have completion. A life not necessarily free from trouble but a life full of Joy, a life spiritually complete, a life lived to the glory of God. Greater is he that is in us than he that is in the world. Friends because of what Jesus has done for us and what He can do through us, we are able to live a fruitful life if we choose to. Our time is fleeting, let’s not waste what time we have left. Let us be a people and a church who has a huge impact on the world around us.


"Don't count the days, make the days count."
Mohammad Ali

Thursday, 23 June 2016

struggling

The last few months have, to say the least, been extremely challenging.  Not only this but I have been seriously questioning my ministry and where I fit in the scheme of things.  The spiritual journey is an interesting one and it certainly presents many different emotions and experiences along the way.  As a child who was constantly moved around throughout my schooling years, and seeing the damage that this has caused, I have found myself asking the question: is this what I want for my child?  Do I want to be constantly moving around throughout my working life or do I want to put my roots down somewhere?

Many find ministry exhilarating and many know without a shadow of a doubt that their calling is secure; me on the other hand, I am beginning to wonder.  Am I really called to what I am doing, was it just a great idea at the time?  How do we really know?  For me the past six years have been a very lonely and painful time.  A time when I have been constantly on a rollercoaster ride of spiritual doubt and emotional challenge.  It is easy to say that God has called me when you are not me, or that God will sustain and provide.  I guess he will, assuming that we are walking in His will and purpose for us.  But what if by some bad choice we are not walking the way God wants for us?  What if the path we are walking is simply our human decision and not a God leading?

It is also easy to say (for those not in the middle of it) that the devil is just having a crack, or you must be doing something right if the devil is giving you so much attention.  But again a question needs to be asked: is it simply the devil having a crack or is there something more happening here?  It is always easier to blame the devil.  In fact you can blame the devil every time something doesn't go the way you think it should.  I really feel that blaming the devil is in some instances nothing more than a cop out.  It's too easy to blame him for something that is simply a life factor.

Sometimes we make life changes because of what we feel at a given moment.  Sometimes we enter into a line of work we think we may be called to when in fact it was just a bad choice.  How do we tell the difference? 

I guess as I wrestle with this over the next few weeks hopefully some answers will come to light.



Wednesday, 17 February 2016

The clothes don't fit

One of the things that kids love to do when they are young is dress up.  I remember as a child I used to play dress ups at my friends house as we played super heroes and the like.  One of the frustrating things playing these games was that my friend was taller than I was.  This  caused a bit of an issue, especially when I tried to put his costumes on my body.  As much as I wanted to wear the clothes so that I could play, one undeniable truth remained; his clothes just wouldn't fit my body type.

Have you ever felt like this?  Have you ever felt like someone else was trying to dress you in their clothes?  This very thing happened to the most well known king in the bible.  King David while still a child went out onto the battle field to take on his enemy Goliath.

38 So Saul clothed David with his armor, and he put a bronze helmet on his head; he also clothed him with a coat of mail. 39 David fastened his sword to his armor and tried to walk, for he had not tested them. And David said to Saul, “I cannot walk with these, for I have not tested them.” So David took them off. - 1 Samuel 17:38-39

So what was the potential problem in this story?  Well simply put King Saul thought that his way was right, he tried to get David to imitate what he thought was the right way to take on the enemy.  The problem is that David was not Saul.  What  worked for Saul would never work for David.  As the story goes on we see  that David threw off the armour and took on the enemy using what he knew best.  He used his skill and his ability and knowledge  to defeat  his enemy.  Had David continued on with Saul's armour he would never have defeated Goliath.

What do we learn from this?  Well often people and the world around us believe that they know what is best.  Sometimes people try to dress us in someone else's clothes.  An example of this is when a particular denomination attempts to imitate another denomination in an attempt to grow their church.  The reality here is that what works for one church will not necessarily work for another.  How one person serves in ministry will also be very different to another.  One of the dangers of any church is that they compare themselves to other churches and then try to copy them.  It is the same with Christian leaders. 

How did David ultimately defeat Goliath?

Well he didn't listen to those who thought they knew best.  David knew who he was in God and he knew whose battle he was fighting. David simply defeated the enemy as David; the way God created him to be.  David fought as David not as Saul.  He also used the weapons and skills that God had blessed him with.  By doing this he was true to himself and was best equipped to take on Goliath.

So what do we learn from David?

Simply, you are who you are.  You can never fill someone else's shoes and to be honest you would be silly to even try.  Every church and every leader is designed to lead a certain way for a certain purpose.  Can I encourage you today by saying don't try to be what you are not.  Imitation may be flattering but it is certainly not innovative or successful in the long term.  God has called each of us as Christians and as the denomination we have been placed in to operate a certain way.  To try and be what we are not will never accomplish what God has called us to do.


 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.
Ephesians 2:8-10



Sunday, 17 January 2016

God-incidences

God....There is no other word to describe Him other than simply amazing.  Over the past week Claire and I have been unpacking our things as we settle into our new home here in Bairnsdale Victoria.  The weather is wonderful and the scenery is simply awesome and I have found myself reflecting on the awesomeness of God's creation.  This week has also presented me with God-incidences that have blown me away. The first took place yesterday when I ran into an old Dysons workmate who I have not see for about 7 years.  Who would have thought that he too would be living in Bairnsdale.  The second took place tonight as again I was privileged to talk with an old workmate.  The conversation was amazing as we spoke about the things of God and I want to tell you that the conversation certainly brought joy to my heart as I heard how God had been working in this persons life.  This conversation was a real encouragement to me as God confirmed the calling that He has placed  in my own life. 
 
This week has  been tough, in fact the last few months  have  been tough as I have battled with anxiety and the attacks of the enemy.  The reality however is this. God will never place us in a place where He is not willing to resource and support us.  God always places us in the right place, at the right time, for His purposes.  So very often though we let our own insecurities and desires get in the way of what God wants to achieve.  In fact sometimes we remove God from the throne of our lives and place ourselves there.
 
Friends, God is always with us, His ways are the right ways and He is most certainly always at work around us.  The trick is though, even for those of us who have been on the journey for some time; is to trust Him completely and to allow Him to use us and shape us in the way that He sees fit.  Friends I don't know  what is  going on in your life, I don't know what God has asked  you to do.  What I do know is that God will  always place you where He  wants you and He is always with us.  Thank God for God-instances that reconfirm who He is.  Thank God that we serve a God that is so  much better than our stuff, so much bigger than our insecurities, doubts and fears.  If you do  not know this amazing God search Him out.  He will never let you down and He will be the best choice  you will ever  make.  Jesus said that He "is the way, the truth and the life..."  Choose Jesus.


Yet I am always with you;
    you hold me by my right hand.
You guide me with your counsel,
    and afterward you will take me into glory.
Whom have I in heaven but you?
    And earth has nothing I desire besides you.
My flesh and my heart may fail,
    but God is the strength of my heart
    and my portion forever.
Psalm 73:23-26

Friday, 4 December 2015

Fear Not

Stress, fear, worry.  Sound familiar?  In a world that seems to be causing chaos it would be safe to assume that these things are just part of life.  As someone who struggles with both anxiety and depression these emotions can often be taken to extreme levels. When depressed you simply don't care about anything; when anxious the opposite is true, you care about everything.  As I look towards the new year and the significant changes that lie ahead, I am finding that my anxiety levels are soaring.  Even the events in our world today can cause us to get worried and fear for the safety of ourselves and family.

This morning however, as I spent time with God in my quiet time I was reminded of a wonderful promise of God that puts everything back into focus.  Psalm 37 reminds us "not to fret because of those who are evil..." (Ps 37:1) and to commit our ways to the Lord (v5).  The reality is that as we travel on this journey called life there are many things that are simply out of our control.  The behaviours and attitudes of others are beyond our control, the actions of others are also out of our control.  What we do have control over however, is our attitude towards everything that happens in our world.  I heard it once said that life is 20% what happens to you and 80% your attitude toward it.
In Psalm 37 the writer reminds us all that we do not have control over the events in our world but what we do have control over is how we respond.  God calls us to continue to trust in Him (despite what goes on around us) and to take delight in Him (v4).

As the end draws near and our world continues to decay it can be very easy to be distracted by the things that go on around us.  Friends this distraction is nothing more than a demonic strategy.  As our enemy draws our attention to the circumstance in our world and in our lives he knows that our eyes will be drawn away from Truth and Hope.  He knows that if he can get us to focus on all that is wrong with our world he can steal our joy and peace.  The Psalmist writes: "For those who are evil will be destroyed, but those who hope in the Lord will inherit the land."  (Ps 37:9)  What a great promise of a certain hope that lies before us.  As we enter into this Christmas season and prepare for the year ahead I want to encourage you to continually look to Jesus and celebrate the Hope, Peace and Joy that can come only from Him.  


Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:6-7