I am a self confessed Marvel Nerd.  I have watched all the Marvel movies at least once and most more than once, apart from Hulk but that’s not real canon in my books.    We have done a couple of midnight showings of new releases and have loved 2021 the golden year of Marvel tv with Wandavision, Falcon and the Winter Solider and Loki.  

Okay here are a few did you know about Marvel movies:

Did you know that Tom Hiddleston auditioned for Thor – even put on 20 pounds of muscle – that’s commitment – but lost out to Chris Hemsworth but was asked right away to play Loki – and for us fans, aren’t we so glad!

Speaking of Chris Hemsworth – he has 5 prop hammers around his house including one of which sits in a bathroom as a toilet paper holder.  Chris Pratt has one of his Star Lord Jackets, but the most notable prop steal goes to Robert Downey Jr who has the 30 foot A from the Avengers building in his office in venice.  He didn’t steal it, he joked that he wanted it and they gave it to him for his birthday.   Another funny RDJ fact is that he kept food hidden all over the lab set, and apparently nobody could find where it was, so they just let him continue doing it. In the movies, that’s his actual food he’s offering, and when he was eating, it wasn’t scripted, he was just hungry.

And hopefully we all know that we never leave a Marvel movie without staying to see the end credit scene. 

Coming up in the Marvel universe of shows is What If?  What If flips the script on the MCU, reimagining famous events from the films in unexpected ways.  What if peggy carter got the super serum?  What if T’Challa was Star Lord?  What if spiderman saved his uncle ben? What if tony stark died in Iron Man 1?

The possibilities are endless.

But life isn’t like the movies or a the MCU.  We cant rewrite our history or mess with the timeline.

That can give us both feelings of hope but more often than not discouragement.   We can feel stuck in a cycle of shame and be dealing with the repercussions of our life choices.   Sometimes we can feel like things are never going to change and that life is always going to be this way.

Whatever happened happened.  The good, the bad and the ugly.

As Christians however we can have a God perspective that gives us a hope not based on our past, our future or ourselves but based on the promises of God that strengthen us from the inside out.

Romans 8:28 says

God works all things for good for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.

The big what if is what if we believed that?

What if we believed there was no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because Jesus has set us free from the law of sin and death. 

What if we believed that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. 

What if we believed that God is for us, who can be against us and that we are more than conquerors because nothing can separate us from the love of God?

You see we can read these amazing verses but they can “lose their power” as we become familiar or if we don’t let them drop the 6 inches from head to heart.

These verses, and in fact all of Romans 8 – are written not to just make us feel good, oh that’s nice, im encouraged, they are meant to fuel total and complete life change, in the way we see ourselves, in the way we see God, in the way we see the world, in the way we see every aspect of our life.

Sometimes we believe a lie and come into agreement with thinking that diminishes God’s power and ableness to be God in our lives.

So often there are things that we have come into agreement with – lies that we have believed about who we are, lies about our past, lies about our future, lies about who God is – that we need to break up with and really get the truth from God.  We have given those lies power but we need to break up with them and come into agreement with the truth of who God is, of who He says I am.  We need to trace the lies and replace them with the truth.

There is no condemnation.  I am free from sin.  Nothing will separate us from the love of God.  If God is for me who can be against me?  God works all things for good.

All through Romans Paul is leading us to this moment.   We have had that realization that without Jesus we are screwed, we’re lost and our very nature is broken, but we’ve been rescued and now have peace with God and a brand new start with a brand new identity.

Romans 8 shows us what that new identity looks like.

  1.  We have a new legal status

Starting with Romans 8:1 there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ – those who are Christians – ask yourself this.  Do you think God is disappointed with you? 

I was listening to a podcast – not about serial killers and cold cases – but about youth ministry and the guest was talking about a group of students who had all grown up in Christian families, were regular at church and plugged in with youth group and serving but who like all humans, struggled with habits they knew were sin.  The youth pastor asked them to put their hands up if they thought God is disappointed with them.  Hands went up all over the place.  

Maybe that is something we’ve thought too.  

We can relate with Paul who touches on this in Romans 7.  I do things I don’t want to do and I don’t do the things I want to do.  I’m messed up.  I’m flawed.  The struggle is real.   Therefore – there’s that old preacher adage, if there is a therefore find out what it is there for – and I think Romans 8:1 connects to this part of Romans 7.  I don’t do what I want to do and I do the things I don’t want to do but there is no condemnation for those who have given their lives to God.   This is a now present tense – not for when we clean ourselves up or sort our stuff out.  It’s not for when we are perfect or we act like good Christians, its now right as we are.    It’s a new legal status.  Before we were condemned but now we are declared not guilty and innocent not because of our own good works or try hard efforts, but 100% because of Jesus.

But if we think that God is disappointed with us we picture Him as stern and unwelcoming.   Nothing paralyzes us like guilt and shame.  Hebrews 4:16 says let us approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace for help at the time of our need. 

At our time of need – at our time of brokenness, at our time of failing – we can come right into the presence of God and find grace and help.

Matt Chandler says:  The litmus test of whether or not you understand the gospel is what you do when you fail. Do you run from God and go try to clean yourself up a bit before you come back into the throne room, or do you approach the throne of grace with confidence? If you don’t approach the throne of grace with confidence, you don’t understand the gospel. You are most offensive to God when you come to him with all of your efforts, when you’re still trying to earn what’s freely given.

There is no condemnation.  God doesn’t cross His arms and say “you again?” “Haven’t we talked about this?”  He doesn’t eye roll and look down on us.   

Romans 8:15-16 says  So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children.[h] Now we call him, “Abba, Father.”

2. We have a new family

That word Abba is not a reference to a famous Swedish band, but is a personal term of intimacy.  It’s closer than Father, closer than Dad.  It is – dare I say it – daddy God. 

Jesus was the first person to use this term – Abba.  He experienced God as tender and loving, courageous and kind, near, compassionate and forgiving.  Abba, a colloquial form of address used by little Jewish children toward their fathers and best translated “Papa” or “Daddy,” opened the possibility of undreamed-of, unheard-of intimacy with God. In any other great world religion it is unthinkable to address almighty God as “Abba.”  This is the closeness we have been invited into – to be as close as child to parent, as close as Jesus is to His Father in heaven.

Now I’m aware here that some of us may not have had great examples of what a Dad can be like.  Some of us may have fathers that left the family or were abusive or worked so hard that there isn’t much of a connection.   Because of that disconnect between our reality and what that word should mean we can have trouble picturing God as our Father, as the best father ever.    God will never abandon you, never let you down, is never too busy for you and wants you to know His love and care like a child that runs into her Daddys arms and feels safe and protected and loved.

3. We have a new way of thinking

What if we believed what God says?  What if we let God rewrite our story and rewrite how we think?

Romans 12:2 calls this renewing our mind.

The NLT says Don’t copy the behaviour and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think.

I love the way the Message says it too: Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out.

Have you ever noticed when you’re watching youtube or any streaming platform that more of the same videos go into your queue or appear on the suggested watching list.  If you watch lots of cute cat videos – cue more cat vidoes. 

In the same way our mind defaults to think about more of the same of what we’re thinking about.  If we’re filling our mind with negative thoughts – cue more negative thoughts.  If we’re filling our mind and actions with things that please the flesh as paul says, cue more of the same.  

What we dwell on in our minds will shape the way we live our lives. What you set your mind on shapes your character and behaviour.  We live in the stories we tell ourselves.

Romans 8:5-8 Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God.

What does it look like to have our mind set on God?

To set your mind is more than simply thinking about something. It means to focus intently on something, to be preoccupied with it, to let your attention and imagination be totally captured by something. Wherever your mind goes most naturally and freely when there is nothing else to distract it—that is what you really live for.

Earlier this year the River Youth leaders had a leadership session as part of the big day out with ps Graeme may and one of the most challenging things he spoke about was our calendar.  If I got hit by a bus and you looked at my calendar and how I filled up my day it would tell you who I am and what I am living for.   How much of that calendar would be filled up with family, church, personal time with God, friends – the things I say I value vs Netflix, Instagram, other things that.  Challenging right? 

What are our minds dwelling on?  Worry?  Fear?  Marvel movies?  Lust?   Anger?   Meanness?  Judgement?  

Another thing I am a nerd on is personality types.  I remember doing my first one when I was about 19 as a youth leader at my church in Dunedin.  I confess I was not impressed with my results.  Everyone else on the team were cholerics – powerful leaders, or melancholics – deep thinkers and I am a sanguine.    I googled sanguine this week to get the description right – highly talkative, enthusiastic, active, and social.  Translated in my as a 19 year old as a fluffy social fluff fluff.  I was not impressed.

Since then I have reconciled myself to the reality that that is who I am and it is a superpower and I’ve done other tests that help me know myself better and how I process emotions and information. 

I am wired to be optimistic.  I am wired to be enthusiastic.  I am wired to believe the best and to be confident that it will be okay in the end.

But I know that there are personality types that are wired to question everything, to be critical, to be cautious and realistic/negative.

What Romans is saying in every chapter is that no matter how we are wired we get a brand new nature when we are born again and then we continually choose to think different and live different.

We all have different challenges in this and it looks different for every person but the reality is the same.  We set our mind on following the Spirit of God. 

Ephesians 4:21-22 Since you have heard about Jesus and have learned the truth that comes from him, 22 throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception. 23 Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. 24 Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy.

At some point, we all have to choose, between what the world wants us to be, and who you are.  We are under new management.  

We don’t overcome or change our mind set by our own strength.  We are empowered and strengthened by the Holy Spirit to be transformed.   

Ezekiel 36:26 I will give you a new heart and a new mind. I will take away your stubborn heart of stone and give you an obedient heart.

Transformation begins with pointing our minds at what we should be focusing on. 

Colossians 3:2 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.

Hebrews 12:1-2 let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.

Philippians 4:8 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.

I remember thinking that that verse in Philippians was so naff.  That was totally one you see on a poster with kittens that you hang in your toilet.  But as I’ve matured I’ve realized that that is one of the most powerful verses for dealing with the way we think and healing our thought patterns.  We can get into negative thought spirals that then cause our bodies to react with anxiety and depression and while its not as easy as a b c – thinking about what we thinking about and changing the way we think can be an incredible tool.  Neuroscience are discovering that this is the way we are wired and that we can make healing steps as we retrain our brains to think in different ways.

4. We have a new perspective

Romans 8 shows us a whole new way to think and gives us fresh perspective on life right here right now and the big picture.  Which includes the good times and the hard times.

No one enjoys suffering – you’ll end up on the other podcasts I listen to if you’re like that – but the Bible feels so counter intuitive when it says count it all joy when you go through all kinds of hard trials. 

Time and time it reveals that through the suffering God is shaping us and transforming us from the inside out. 

Romans 8:28 So we are convinced that every detail of our lives is continually woven together for good,[a] for we are his children who have been called to fulfill his designed purpose.

Romans 8:18 I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.

God reframes suffering for us.    Sometimes it can feel so random.   Sometimes we make our bed and have to lie in it.  But even then we can be confident and assured that God has got it.  If we love Him and are His kids then He has the endgame.  The battle is not over.   God has a way of bringing good things out of wrong turns. Nothing is wasted with God.   

Sometimes when we are suffering it can feel like God is so far away.  We can be disappointed and discouraged.   Suffering hurts.

I love the raw honesty of David in the Psalms.  There are so many that begin with David saying life sucks, you suck, I suck, everything sucks, I hate my life, everyone hates me, Im drowning and the world is burning around me.   There have been a few that I’ve read that I’m like well tell us how you really feel there Dave… but he always reaches that point of going BUT, But you are with me, you are my rock, you will rescue me, I put my hope in you God, you are good.

God is good all the time.  We might not be having a good time all the time but God remains good and faithful.  Will we only praise Him and serve Him if He is blessing us?     As Christians we don’t get a get out of jail card when it comes to suffering but we have a God that walks with us each step of the way.  Knowing Him personally while in our hard times is the key to becoming stronger rather than weaker in it. 

As Christians we hold onto hope.  We hold onto the truth that behind the scenes God is at work turning all things around for good.   We keep praising Him.

Romans challenges us to live this inside out transformed way, to live in our new identity.   As I said last week the whole book is a journey in transformation – starting with our desperate need for the grace of God, that puts us all on the same playing level, no one is able to be good enough or work their way into God’s good books, but that Jesus died for us to make a way and that then radically changes our status with God and with each other as we deal with our sin and our issues.

Paul ends Romans 8 with these verses:

35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36 As it is written:

“For your sake we face death all day long;
    we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”[j]

37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,[k] neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Who can separate us from the love of God? 

Can trouble, hardship, persecution, famine, nakedness, danger or sword… you know this sounds like Pauls list in 2 Corinthians 11:23-28 of the crazy circumstances he had experienced as a Christian and servant of God.  Shipwreck, flogging, stoning, beatings, in danger in the city, in danger in the country.  It’s almost as if Romans 8:35 looks back to these real life experiences and its as if Paul is saying “I know that this love of God is real because this is my story, even in the worst God was right there, even in the hard times God was sustaining me”.  Hard times don’t reveal an absence of God.  Good times don’t reveal the favour of God. 

He takes it further neither death nor life, angels or demons, no spiritual power, no attack of the devil, no season of oppression,  the present nor the future – so what I do today or what I face tomorrow.  He goes one step further – in case you think something might separate you Paul says neither height nor depth or anything in the whole universe can.  He stretches the boundaries to include anything else he hasn’t mentioned – anything you can possibly imagine or face, God has it covered. 

Did you guys hear about the Gorilla Glue lady this year?  It feels like this is an only in America true news story no offence Americans.  But here was this lady who had run out of hair spray and she wanted to spray down her hair for her long braided pony tail.   So she used Gorilla Glue Super Strength Adhesive Spray.  When she had finished spraying she had no idea she would end up with hair that wouldn’t budge. At all.  She was stuck with her ponytail hairstyle for over a month, frozen in place and fearing for the worst. She had accidentally created what can only be described as a helmet on her scalp. In her viral video, she clicks her nails against her scalp, and it makes a sound like a marble countertop. Originally posted on TikTok, her video was a plea for help and a warning to those who might consider Gorilla Glue as an alternative to hairspray. As of this writing, it has been viewed more than 50 million times.  She went to the ER, tried all types of solvents and ended up having to have a 4 hour 15 thousand dollar surgical proceeure done, and of course her braid cut off.  Nothing was separating her hair from the gorilla glue.

Well corny point I know, but the love of God is stronger than any Gorilla Glue.

The love of God is right there in the middle of the mess.  In the middle of our hard season.  In the middle of our failure.  In the middle of our success.  In the middle of good times.  In the middle of a health crisis.  In the middle of losing our job or breaking up a relationship.  When our kids go off the rails, when we go off the rails or we do that sin again or we have depression or anxiety or we’re feeling content and comfortable.  When we feel like we’re drowning or walking on water.  God is right there.  His love never fails, it never gives up on us.   God’s love knows what we need right now.  It’s big enough to deal with the famine, hardship, nakedness, demons, the present and whatever life throws at us.  

Here is the challenge for each one of us.  It feels like it is a With great power comes great responsibility call.  We can hear these words and read these words in Romans 8, but will we live these words.  Will we let them penetrate our heart so that we live from that position as a much loved child of God?  Will we set our minds and hearts on the things of God, choosing to see the world from His vantage point?  Will we shake off the guilt and shame that tries to hold us back and receive the new legal status of forgiven and set free?

There is that question at the start of Romans 6.  What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase?

If my actions don’t help my salvation – if they don’t contribute to my eternity – does that justification give us licence to sin however we and as much as we want because none of that matters anymore.  We’ve been made righteous by someone elses actions so our actions don’t really matter any more to how I get to heaven and if we look at it this way then we’d actually be helping God in a way because we’d be multiplying the amount of grace that God would be extending to us to cover all of our sin.   The more I sin the more God looks good because of His grace.  The more I sin the more loving and merciful God looks as He forgives me.

If there is nothing I can do to out sin God’s grace and forgiveness – if its all about what Jesus has done and not what I’ve done – then shouldn’t we just go out and sin more?  

But it’s a legit question.  When your behaviour does not determine your course into eternity, what argument do you give someone for why they shouldn’t sin?

You cant tell us to fight against sin because our eternity depends on it.  Because it doesn’t.  If it did depend on it our salvation would be by works.  By faith alone we are 100% righteous  before God in our heavenly account.    

This is the tension – God did everything for our salvation.  All we do is say YES and even God is right in the middle of that.  But then how we live our lives matter.  All the things we DO are responses to His great love and His great grace.  All the things we do to try and live right are responses to everything He has done.

The way we live our life matters.   You see God doesn’t just choose the things to be sin with an eney meany miny mo.   He didn’t just set a randomizer and go this list is sin and this list is not sin.   God gets to define what sin is because He is outside time and all wise and all powerful and all loving.   He knows us inside out and upside down.   God defines what sin is because sin hurts us and our relationships and our lives.  He isn’t a killjoy setting up in heaven trying to ruin our lives.  It sounds like a cliché to say that God loves us and wants us to have the best life.   The best life is a life surrendered and led by God.  It follows His ways and lives within His design and boundaries.

Grace doesn’t make sin safe. 

We cant choose Jesus to be our Saviour and not our Lord. 

I think the big question Paul is addressing is why shouldn’t I sin and how do I stop it? 

I don’t know about you but the reality for me is that when I got saved I didn’t become perfect.  I still sin.  I’m still selfish.  I’m still a rebel.  I still have issues.  

Why does my old nature manifest itself more often than I would like to admit?  Why do words still come out of my mouth that are still ungodly.  Why do thoughts still go through my mind that are against God’s ways?  Why do I do stuff that are more from the old way than from the new person I want to be. 

Paul jumps into this in Romans 7 – the things I want to do that please God, I don’t do and the things I don’t want to do, I do.  

But now I have a new nature. I have been set free.  I’m a sin fighter now.  

We are not left powerless.  All through Romans Paul tells us that sin is no longer our master, that we are dead to sin, that sin no longer rules us.

Romans 6:6, 12-14

Could it be any clearer[b] that our former identity[c] is now and forever deprived of its power? For we were co-crucified with him to dismantle the stronghold of sin within us,[d] so that we would not continue to live one moment longer submitted to sin’s power.[e]

Sin is a dethroned monarch; so you must no longer give it an opportunity to rule over your life, controlling how you live and compelling you to obey its desires and cravings.[g] 13 So then, refuse to answer its call to surrender your body as a tool for wickedness. Instead, passionately answer God’s call to keep yielding your body to him as one who has now experienced resurrection life! You live now for his pleasure, ready to be used for his noble purpose.[h] 14 Remember this: sin will not conquer you, for God already has! You are not governed by law but governed by the reign of the grace of God.

What does this look like in real life?  How do we live in the new right ways God calls us to and how do we defeat that temptation for sin?

1,  Sin Sucks

Sin sometimes looks so attractive.    

When I had all my serious food allergies there were some foods that were easy to give up.   I was allergic to seafood – fine.  I hate seafood.  I was allergic to bananas, that’s okay, I’m not super into bananas.  But I distinctly remember one day my husband making hot buttered toast with vegemite and though I dislike vegemite intensely – in fact in our house we used to tell the kids when they were real little that vegemite was from the devil, until one of my kids asked how they squeeze it out of him to put it in the jars…. But I started to crave and I mean irrationally crave hot buttered toast with marmite, the holy spread.  Like I started to pace and all I could think about was marmite on toast and literally I had to go and sit in another room and do things to distract myself from the temptation. 

Sin isn’t like the seafood or the vegemite.  It packages itself and knows our weakness and entices us to give in. 

But the reality is sin sucks.  It destroys relationships.  It hurts us and others.  It separates us from God and His plan.   All we need to do is turn the news on or scroll for 1 minute on social media to see the side effects of sin and how sin is wrecking the world and wrecking lives.

Sin is a deceiver and a destroyer, and God hates it for that reason. Just as you hate it when your child gets hurt, so in a far greater way God hates it when we hurt ourselves by our sin.

My first job was as a fruit picker at Jone’s Strawberry Farm over the Christmas holidays when I was in year 12.  Every day I’d get up super early and bike to the Strawberry farm and spend 7 hours on my hands and knees crawling down the rows of strawberries.   Sounds easy right…  in the hot sun, bent over.  And if it rained the rows would become trenches of mud and stinky brown water.  Of course there were some benefits – one for the bucket, one for me.  Now I did this job for the massive wage reward of $3.45 per hour.  $24.15 per day.  $120 per week.  Which as a 16 year old felt awesome but was hard worked for. 

Romans 6:23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in[a] Christ Jesus our Lord.

The wages of sin is death.  We need to see that sin sucks.  No sin is going to benefit or bless us. 

We need to see sin like God does.  Our sin saw His son beaten, spat on, stripped naked and nailed beaten and bloody to the cross for one of the most brutal executions known to man in all time.

When we begin to see sin like God does it doesn’t seem so attractive anymore, right?

2.  See God

I have one good reason why you should walk away from temptation right now.  God is better. Francis Chan.

God is better than anything sin offers. 

This grows when we spend time with God and see Him more and more. 

Knowing that God is better comes when we see Him and spend time with Him and hear His voice and feel His love and know His heart.  No one can do this for us.  This is why we read our Bibles regularly.  This is why we worship.  This is why we come to church.   

John 14:15 says If you love me, obey my commandments.

Feed that love.  Stir up that love.  Love God more than we love our sin.   If we find that sin is winning more and more then we need to evaluate how are we with God?  Are we feeding our faith?

3.  See yourself

Sin doesn’t just happen.  There are triggers and patterns.  Sometimes we use sin to fill gaps in our lives, to cover places we feel empty or broken.   Pray, God show me why I sin.   Scary prayer right?  

In Psalm 19 David writes:

But who can discern their own errors?  Forgive my hidden faults.

13 Keep your servant also from willful sins;  may they not rule over me.

Then I will be blameless,  innocent of great transgression.

14 May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight,

    Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.

When we begin to see why we sin we can then address it with God, with the help of a mentor or accountability partner, with our connect groups.  We can avoid the triggers and pray specific prayers and formulate a specific strategy to overcome sin.

4.  Strategize

Roman 6:13 Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness. 14 For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace.

Sometimes I wish the way to stop sinning was just to stop sinning.  Just stop it.  Do not offer.  And for some sins it will be like.  We can just will it and do it. 

It can seem like sin might have moved in and set up home in us, but that doesn’t mean we have to serve it meals, do all its washing and hand over the TV remote.  We do have the power to limit its influence.   

We don’t have to keep watching the TV channel in our head. We can switch the programme. We can stop thinking negative, harmful or sinful thoughts.  We can make sin pack its bags and kick it out the door.

It can also feel like our life is like an onion, we deal with one sin and feel like we’re winning and then boom, another layer.  That is humanity.  The main thing is we keep on making choices FOR God and against SIN as offer every part of our life to God.

Making a strategy might not seem like a spiritual way to deal with the sin.  Often we expect God to be like a fairy godmother who waves his wand and magically turns the rags of our thought life and actions into a ballgown of righteousness.  But we partner with God and we are transformed day by day as we love Him.

Sometimes that strategy be to have someone pray for us.  Never underestimate the power of prayer to overcome sin and to strengthen us to make right choices.

Sometimes it will be for us to confess our sin with someone we trust and have regular conversations about it to help us be accountable and give us tools and strategies to win.  Sometimes we need professional help, like seeing a counsellor or therapist or a life coach. 

Sometimes it might be to delete that app, cancel that account, end that relationship. 

Sometimes it might be to go do something else, go for a walk, read our bible, do something to distract ourselves.  

5. Surrender.

For some sins realizing we are no longer slaves to sin, taking back our power, and combining it with the power of God, helps us overcome.  Sin is no longer our master.  Sin is no longer the boss of us.  But there are other sins that seem to have more of a stranglehold on our lives.  For those cases the way to stop sinning is to surrender and accept that we cant stop sinning on our own.

Surrender acknowledges the power of God to transform us.

Surrender believes in the power of God to transform and change us from the inside out.

Surrender says not my way but your way God.

Surrender says that God is my master now, not sin, not myself. 

Surrender invites God into the mess.

1 Corinithians 10:13 says No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.

God provides a way out.  God provides strength.  God provides wisdom.  God provides grace.

In it all we need to surrender.  We can make a plan and surrender to God.  God provides a way of escape, but we’ve got to take it.

What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? 2 By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?

As Christians our eternity and right standing with God is not based on our behaviour but because of that great grace we choose to live the way God calls us to, we choose righteousness, we choose transformation.

So how do we change our expectations?

Examine your expectations.  Where are you at with God?  Are things still real and fresh or are you finding yourself going through the motions?  Going through the motions dulls our expectations.  Its just another Sunday service.  Its just another quiet time.  Its just another prayer.  If we could peer behind the curtain and see that there are angels ready to be dispatched because we prayed, if we could see the heart of God towards us and see that He had position us for breakthrough and change at the click of a finger and that Jesus is right now praying for you and that nothing is impossible for those who have faith we would live differently.   We lull ourselves into low expectation and then wonder why nothing changes.  Do you know every time you come to church it is a divine opportunity to see God move in your life.  God isn’t sitting up in heaven going oh wait, its Sunday in new Zealand already.   He is intentional about encountering us.   Every time we have words of knowledge and altar calls at the end of the service is a moment where you can meet with God and see change.  Its not just coming up the front.  It is a moment where you can have your until moment – until I was healed I was sick, until I encountered God I was stuck.   Worship is not just 2 fast songs and 3 slow songs that we do because that’s what we do.  This is your moment to meet with your heavenly father who loves you and who sent his one and only son to die for you who wants to empower you and encourage you and heal you.  Church, I think we need to examine our expectation about what we are really doing in those moments.    It is never same old same old, it is never routine, it is never status quo it is meeting with the almighty God who is the waymaker, promise keepr, light in the darkness.

Faith first, understanding second.  Hebrews 11:3 says “By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.”  Faith first, then understanding.    We want to shrink God down to what we can see, touch and understand.  He doesn’t fit into any of our boxes.  Which is good news.  Because that means that He can do it and fix it and change it and rescue us a trillion zillion different ways.  Psalm 139 says How precious to me are your thoughts,[a] God!
    How vast is the sum of them!
18 Were I to count them,
    they would outnumber the grains of sand—
    when I awake, I am still with you.

If we could comprehend even 1% of God’s goodness and His thoughts towards us our brains might literally explode.

Expectation is in a who, its not a what.  We put our faith and our expectation in the gloriousness of Jesus.  It is His power, His majesty, His grace, His compassion, His ableness, His character, His glory.  He took the boys lunch and blessed it and broke it and it fed the multitudes.   Faith doesn’t mean an absence of fear.  Its not mess free. It means facing fear and trusting that God’s goodness is greater.”  Jesus is better than we can imagine. 

Feed your expectation.   I love reading the Bible to discover who Jesus is and that affects my expectation.  I see His compassion.  I see His wisdom.  I see His power.  I understand His heart and character.  So I can lean into expectation that He is my healer and provider and saviour because that is who He is.

Expectation expects.  It actively looks to see God’s hand at work.  It believes and trusts that God is at work.   It partners with God to see change and to be solution thinking.   The disciples completely overlooked the unexpected source of provision in the feeding of 5000 because they didn’t expect that Jesus could do anything with it.  What if we were there in that moment and had expectation that Jesus could work a miracle we’d be looking for the opportunities and the breakthrough.  I heard Sam Monk, equippers pastor the other week talk about how in the last 30 weeks they have swapped venues 26 times.   They outgrew the building they owned so now hire out facilities in the city.  Every week they have to set up and pack down.   But he realized that in the inconvenience of having to set up and pack down and put all their gear into trucks every weekend that they had an opportunity.  All their gear was in trucks. And the equippers revolution tour was born which has gone up and down the country into high schools with the gospel.  They’ve had over 3000 decisions for Jesus.  Expectation looks and expects for God to be moving.

If expectation is something you’re struggling with, if you’ve realized that you’ve become meh with God that its not fresh and fiery then you know what the solution is.  Ask. 

Ask the Holy Spirit to come and fill you with fresh expectation.  To light a match.  We sing lots of songs with powerful words, lean into them and tell your heart and mind, you know what I believe this.  I believe in miracles.  I believe that God is amazing and awesome and powerful.  I believe that He’s with me. 

God loves to reignite our expectation and faith.   Don’t settle for where you’re at now but lift your expectation.  Wake Jesus up now!

34 When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things.

35 By this time it was late in the day, so his disciples came to him. “This is a remote place,” they said, “and it’s already very late. 36 Send the people away so that they can go to the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat.”

37 But he answered, “You give them something to eat.”

They said to him, “That would take more than half a year’s wages[e]! Are we to go and spend that much on bread and give it to them to eat?”

38 “How many loaves do you have?” he asked. “Go and see.”

When they found out, they said, “Five—and two fish.”

39 Then Jesus directed them to have all the people sit down in groups on the green grass. 40 So they sat down in groups of hundreds and fifties. 41 Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to his disciples to distribute to the people. He also divided the two fish among them all. 42 They all ate and were satisfied, 43 and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces of bread and fish. 44 The number of the men who had eaten was five thousand.

Mark 6:34-44

What did the disciples expect was going to happen here?    Pretty much that the people would be hungry and disappointed.   That this was an impossible situation and that lets get blunt, that Jesus couldn’t do anything to change it.

You know, we can be so judgement to the disciples – we scoff at them, silly disciples, didn’t you just learn from what happened before, didn’t you see the amazing stuff that Jesus can do… but how many times are we suffering from spiritual amnesia just like they are.  We forget the times that God has come through for us.  We forget the times that Jesus has healed us.  We forget the miracles that Jesus has done in our lives.   So when we find ourselves in another storm, facing another problem, we forget to invite Jesus in, we have low expectations.

We look at our lives and the world and we see all the issues and mess and it can seem as overwhelming as looking out on a crowd of 15000 including women and children who all are looking to you to feed them. 

Faith doesn’t remove the problem – it invites God right into the middle of it and looks to Him for creative solutions.

Expecting God to move in our lives means we live in that tension and ambiguity.  There is a problem but I know God is big enough and powerful enough and compassionate enough to move and I’m believing and praying and seeing Him.

My healing story is a testimony of believing God was good and powerful and kind and near until He healed me.  In the middle of the challenges and the unwellness I was living in UNTI just like the blind man was blind until Jesus healed him and the lame man was lame until Jesus healed him and Lazarus was dead until Jesus raised him to life again. 

That until season can be difficult and we have to feed our faith so that disappointment and discouragement don’t rob us of the expectation that God is exactly who He says He is, the one who answers our prayer, the one who loves us and never leaves us, the one who split the sea and knocked down the walls of Jericho. 

The disciples looked at the problem and did the math and worked out that the situation they were in with the crowd was impossible.  It would take half a years wages to feed everyone. 

We need to learn the mathematics of heaven. 

Five loaves, two fishes.  A boys lunch.  

The miracle provision came from an overlooked source.   A kid with his lunch box.

Someone saying yes I believe, yes here am I use me, yes I’m available for you to use God.  Someone saying here is my small offering, take it and use it God.  Someone saying here’s what I bring and surrender to you God.  Someone inviting Jesus to intervene in the issue.

Expectation believes that God can use anyone and anything.  He uses the ordinary to do extraordinary things. What are we overlooking because we are putting our expectation somewhere else.   We’re expecting things to change if we do xyz but God is saying this is the way and the truth and the life.  We’re expecting that if we get our ducks in a row or we work harder and smarter and if we get ourselves together then God can move and use us but maybe God is saying who you are today and what you bring is enough

So a couple of weeks ago I chipped my front tooth.  I have no idea how but I was putting lipstick on one day and I was like hey, there is part of my tooth missing. 

Now I confess Im a bit of a dentist phobe because dentists use needles.  I am not good with needles.  Whose with me here? 

One time I went to the dentist because I had a tooth ache I ended up having a molar pulled.  Went in for the consultation and boom lets do it now.  Had the dreaded injection but as the dentist was trying to pull my tooth out I was white knuckling it and he had to stop.  SIX injections later I was like just do it, it was still mega painful but the pain injections were not helping.  It was crazy.   The nurse couldn’t believe that I could still feel it and I could feel everything.  By 6pm that night my face was numb and I couldn’t feel a thing but in the moment… yikes.

I had gone to that appointment expecting one thing and walked out with something totally unexpected happening.

Its like when you shop on the internet.  Don’t you just love those buzzfeed articles – 20 people who didn’t get what they expected when they shopped online – you know, with guy who thought he was buying a massive persian rug for his living room who got a teeny tiny rug for a dolls house, or all the women who buy these amazing prom desses online and it arrives and its NOTHING like what the photo says.

The other week a friend and I went to the movies.  We went and saw the movie The Father, with Anthony Hopkins and the amazing Olivia Coleman.  I didn’t know anything about the movie but looking at the poster of this lovely old man and his lovely daughter I expected it would be a lovely movie about father daughter friendship.  Anyone else seen this movie?  Anyone else too confused and disturbed to cry?   For those not in the know, spoiler alert, its about the fathers decline with dementia.  

I expected one thing but my expectation was misplaced and wrong.

I’ve been thinking about expectations a lot.  Not in the context of online shopping, dentists or movie posters but about how we approach God with our expectation.

Have you ever asked yourself what do you expect God to do?

What do you expect Him to do right here right now in this service here today?

What are you expecting Him to do in your family?

What are you expecting Him to do in your future?  With your finances, with your calling?

Now I’m not talking about an entitled expectation – that kind of sends the check list of to God like He’s santa claus and then stomps our feet when He doesn’t obey on command… I’m talking about faith expectation.

I learned a powerful lesson in this at our His Presence Conference about 8 years ago.   The week prior to conference I had been part of a team who had repainted the connect area and had been super busy with all the details and things that had to be done.   It wasn’t until the Saturday morning as I stood in worship, with paint splotches still on my hands and arms that I had joined the dots and gone, wow I’m in conference.  This is my moment to encounter God and get more for the season ahead.  I was caught up in the busyness of preparing for the conference that I hadn’t thought about what God was going to do in it.  I had no expectations. 

The speaker got up after worship and started with some words of knowledge – I want to pray for someone with carpel tunnel he said and someone stood up and I was like yay carpel tunnel people!  I want to pray for someone with arthritis and some people stood up and I was like yay arthritis people.  Then he said I want to pray for someone who has severe food allergies.  I stood up.  At that time I was allergic to, well most things.  On my first round of allergy testing out of 20 things I was allergic to 18 of them and as testing continued the list grew.   Wheat, diary, nuts, grass, cats, fruit, seafood…..  it was bonkers.  I had been prayed for lots of times and people would say afterwards, do you want to try and eat something and on the inside I would say you want to hold my hair back while I chuck up the next few days, you want to look after my kids while I’m out of action for the next week?  I would politely decline.  But that morning it was like I felt God’s yes on that question.  I felt God’s yes that I was totally and completely healed.  That I could eat and well, not die.  So, much to everyones delight and horror I ate something that was filled with all the bad things that I couldn’t eat.  Oh my goodness it was amazing.  So delicious.  And there was no reaction.  A reaction would happen within 10 seconds of eating normally for me.  And there was nothing.

Since then I eat normally.  The things I couldn’t eat before I eat now with no problems.  It’s amazing and I so thank Jesus for healing me.

That moment in the conference taught me to expect great things for God.  Sometimes they take time and our expectation dulls because its almost like we’re afraid to reach out and believe.

But sometimes we haven’t even engaged our expectation.  Sometimes we have no expectation of God doing anything.  We haven’t invited Him into that space or problem.  We haven’t invited Him into that part of our relationship that’s falling apart.  We haven’t invited Him into that place where we keep on falling down.  We haven’t invited Him into the mess of our lives. Sometimes our expectation is that nothing is ever going to change, I’m always going to be this way.

This morning I want to encourage each one of us to turn our expectation up.  We serve an amazing God who created the universe with a word, who breathed out the stars and knows them each by name, who sees all and knows all and is personal and near and powerful and wise.  

Grab your bibles and turn to a familiar story in Mark 4:35-41.  I’m reading from the NIV today.

That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.” 36 Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. 37 A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. 38 Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”

39 He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.

40 He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”

41 They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!”

Some of Jesus disciples were professional fishermen.  They would have been used to storms and used to being on the water.   When this is your job you train for storms right, storms don’t freak you out right.  Its part of the job. 

But it got to a point where the storm was raging and the boat was being swamped with water.   So some time had passed in the storm and the disciples were trying to deal with it.  Where is Jesus at this moment.  He is sleeping.  In the storm.  Don’t you envy people like that?   I think in most marriages there is one person that can fall asleep in 47 seconds and sleep soundly, nothing wakes them up, and there is one person that takes much longer and any noise wakes them, am I right?    Jesus is asleep and the shouts of the disciples to each other to keep bailing and pull on that rope and all the crashing noise of the waves and the wind did not wake him.   All my lovely husband has to do is breathe facing towards me and I’m awake.  But Jesus is sound asleep. 

Now like I always say, I wish the bible had more information, more words, more detail.  Like I would like to know the specific length of time the disciples battled the storm before they woke Jesus up. 

It gets to a point where nothing is working for the disciples anymore.  The professional fishermen are freaking out.  You know its bad when the person whose job it is to know what to do is freaking out.  It seems like some time has passed that they have been battling the storm.  Maybe hours.  They’ve been bailing and battling.  As a last resort they wake Jesus up.  Jesus, don’t you care that we’re going to drown.  We’re all going to die says the TPT. 

Im sure we can all think of a time in our life when we felt like that too.  We aren’t facing literal storms made of water and wind but our real life storms might be what’s happening with our kids, our mental health, our finances.  Covid has shaken the world and while we are super blessed here in New Zealand to go to rugby games and concerts we’d be naïve to say it hasn’t affected us all in some way and added pressure to life.  The storm might be in your mind and you’re battling waves of anxiety that make you feel like you’re drowning and that there is no way out.   

Storms reveal the cracks right.  Cracks in a boat is not a good thing and cracks in our life will sink us as well.  Jesus in His grace uses those moments to transform and strengthen us, to repair the cracks and make us whole.

James 1:3 says ‘My fellow believers, when it seems as though you are facing nothing but difficulties, see it as an invaluable opportunity to experience the greatest joy that you can! For you know that when your faith is tested it stirs up in you the power of endurance. ‘

Whatever storm we’re facing Jesus is right there.  He is with you, He will never leave you or abandon you.  We can expect Him to be working on our behalf because He loves us.

What was the disciples expectation?  They were all going to die.  Jesus included.   

What was their expectation?  Nothing was working and it was a complete disaster.

Seriously, their expectation of Jesus was pretty low.  Here we have the man who made blind people see, turned water into award winning wine, healed lepers, delivered people of demons, raised people from the dead.  Here we have the man who they are coming to believe is the Messiah, the Saviour.  He has done amazing things in their presence, miracles and things that blow their minds.  He has said that nothing is impossible.  Jesus is right there in the boat with them but their expectation is that they are all going to drown.  

But what did Jesus do?  He spoke to the storm and it stopped.  Right that minute.

Now I hope you’ve joined the dots here. 

Jesus could have done that hours earlier if they had woken Him and I say made Him aware of the situation Sometimes our expectation is that nothing is ever going to change, I’m always going to be this way, but I’m sure Jesus was aware of what was going on.

Jesus had the power and authority over the storm.  Jesus intervened when they invited Him into the issue.

Jesus intervened when the disciples invited Him into the issue.

How many times are we battling our storms and fighting our battles and things are falling apart but we’ve left Jesus sleeping in our boat?   We believe in Jesus, we call ourselves Christians, we come to church, but we’ve left Jesus sleeping in the boat because we don’t really expect Him to be able to actually change anything. 

Jesus can speak to the storm of your life and bring a peace that defies the circumstances.  He can do the impossible in your family.  He can bring light where there is darkness. 

We need to lift our expectation and invite Him into the middle of our storm.  He is not a last resort.

Confession time – I love true crime.  I listen to true crime podcasts to go to sleep and my kids will often find me watching some weird documentary on Netflix about murder mysteries and serial killers….  But I hate scary movies that have like spooky stuff in them.  When I was about 12 I had a sleep over at my friends house and the exorcist was on tv and we stayed up late to watch it even though my parents had said you are forbidden to watch THAT movie…  Confession number two, we stayed up late to watch it, it was on at like 11pm at night – but I ended up being so freaked out that I hid under the blankets and fell asleep about 7 minutes into it.  And yes, of course my parents found out and I was grounded.

There is no doubt that culture is becoming more and more enamoured with things in the supernatural realm.  We love scary movies about ghosts and vampires and witches and supernatural things.    You only have to turn on Netflix and you’ve got shows like Lucifer and Sabrina the teenage witch and you can buy Ouija boards in the board games section of mighty ape and fishpond.   If you follow pop culture you may have also heard that nike in collaboration with a rapper produced a satan shoe which includes a pentagram and 666 as part of the design.

People are intrigued by stories of physics, of ghosts caught on film, and the notions of “things-that-go-bump-in-the-night” are less frightening and more accepted as part of the world in which we live. 

At the same time as we are fascinated by angels and demons and supernatural things we also put it into the that’s a fairy story or a way they used to explain things back before science and medicine.    In our western world we like everything to make sense so we explain away supernatural things but if you were to be from Africa or Asia the supernatural is much more accepted and expressed.   

The supernatural world, angels and demons, God and Satan, are very real. 

Invisible things influence our visible lives.

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Well its being an interesting few weeks am I right? Did anyone have tsuamni on their predictions for what 2021 would look like?

Being level 3 and having my highschooler at home from school Friday started pretty slow in our house. It’s was pretty surreal waking up, checking the phone and the first things you see are people marking themselves from the north island tsunami. I’m like, what did I sleep through?

Thankfully we live on a hill but your mind does go through the checklist… plagues, murder hornets, earthquakes, what on earth can be next???

Now here’s my Segway. Tsunamis are caused by earthquakes or volcanic eruptions under the water. They’re caused by an event that happens in one place at one time. Boom. But the tsunami are the waves of effect – like massive ripples in the pond – that continue to, wave after wave, cause destruction.

Picture it like this. Shame is the tsunami effect after an event. Something we do or something that happens to us is the earthquake. It then triggers these waves of shame that influence and bring destruction.
This morning we are continuing in our heart check series and we are talking about shame.

The Merriam Webster Dictionary defines shame as “a condition of humiliating disgrace or disrepute.” People who experience shame feel worthless, embarrassed, humiliated, and unclean.

According to Brené Brown shame is an “intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging.”

The words guilt and shame are often associated together and many think that they have the same meaning. However, guilt and shame have different meanings and they affect our us differently. The feeling of guilt comes when we’ve acted wrongly or done something, and it convicts us as “I did something bad.” The feeling of shame comes when we’ve done something or when we feel embarrassed, and it attacks with the lie that says “I am something bad.” Guilt focuses on the actions, shame focuses on the person.

We have all felt shame at one time or another. Maybe we were teased for mispronouncing a common word or for wearing the wrong thing at the wrong time, or when a teacher calls us out in class for daydreaming, or perhaps we messed up at work. Shame is what we can feel if we’re one of the 1 out of 5 females and 1 out of 7 males who have experienced sexual abuse to some degree. Shame is what we can feel when our relationships fail, when we lose our job, or our kids go off the rails. Shame tells us we are worthless and broken, that we are not enough. Shame is so powerful that it can impact the whole trajectory of a person’s life. People who live with shame often avoid relationships, vulnerability, and community. People who live with shame often feel worthless, depressed, and anxious.

Shame also has very physical consequences for our brains and body. When we shame or judge ourselves, or if we’re shamed and judged by someone else, the brain goes into a fight-or-flight response. It releases a cascade of norepinephrine and cortisol, which shuts down the learning centres of the brain and directs all our resources to survival pathways.

We can see right back in Genesis 3 we see shame after Adam and eve ate the apple. All of a sudden they were naked and ashamed. They hid from God.
Shame came into the world in the blink of an eye. Because of sin, everything became skewed. The way we interact with God and others, the way we view ourselves, our worldview, our work ethic, our word choices, our thought life—all of it has been affected by sin and shame.

We’ll come back to them later. Let’s jump into John 8, one of the most powerful moments where we see someone go from shame to shameless. We see how Jesus would handle our shame and our lives.

John 8:3-11
Then in the middle of his teaching, the religious leaders and the Pharisees broke through the crowd and brought a woman who had been caught in the act of committing adultery and made her stand in the middle of everyone.
4 Then they said to Jesus, “Teacher, we caught this woman in the very act of adultery. 5 Doesn’t Moses’ law command us to stone to death a woman like this? Tell us, what do you say we should do with her?” 6 They were only testing Jesus because they hoped to trap him with his own words and accuse him of breaking the laws of Moses.
But Jesus didn’t answer them. Instead he simply bent down and wrote in the dust with his finger. 7 Angry, they kept insisting[e] that he answer their question, so Jesus stood up and looked at them and said, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.”8 And then he bent over again and wrote some more words in the dust.[g]
9 Upon hearing that, her accusers slowly left the crowd one at a time, beginning with the oldest to the youngest, with a convicted conscience. 10 Until finally, Jesus was left alone with the woman still standing there in front of him. So he stood back up and said to her, “Dear woman, where are your accusers? Is there no one here to condemn you?”
11 Looking around, she replied, “I see no one, Lord.”
Jesus said, “Then I certainly don’t condemn you either. Go, and from now on, be free from a life of sin.”

Drop the mic.
Here we have a woman not only who is feeling shame internally but who is made to feel shamed. She has been dragged into the middle of everything with everything broadcast to the world. We don’t know the behind the scenes – we don’t know if this was a one night stand or if she was having a relationship outside of marriage. We don’t know any of the circumstances. We only see this snapshot.

Shame that we feel is bad enough. We are sometimes our own worst enemies. But when other people shame us it’s like the validate everything we think about ourselves. They fan all those negative feelings and push us away and accuse us.
Did you know that the church should be the most shameless place you come with the most shameless people you meet? This is a shame free zone. This is the place you run to when life falls apart. This is the place you find acceptance when you’re hurting. This is the place that says you’re welcome, you belong here, it’s okay when everything is not okay.
We have all done stuff and messed up but as the family of God we have been forgiven and set free and we should pass that on.

Shame told this woman that she was flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging but Jesus invites us all into a family built on grace.

I know how I’ve dealt with shame in the past. I have condemned myself. I have picked up my own rocks. That inner voice would put me down and tell me I was worthless. I avoided hanging out with friends and people because if they only knew what I had done they wouldn’t like the real me.

Shame is like that cupboard we all have, or that drawer, or that box, that we stuff things into and shut the door, shut the lid, and hope no one looks in there and we’ll deal with it later. Or it’s like that Tupperware container of leftovers that we’ll throw away later… and then it grows legs and walks out of the fridge am I right? I count myself an expert at the I’ll deal with it later strategy. I have tried to put it in a box and compartmentalize but then I find its tentacles touching the other parts of my lives.

I want to take a moment to separate the event that causes the shame and the shame itself. The woman had done something wrong. Sometimes in our lives the epicentre of shame is something we do. Other times it’s something that is done to us, but it causes the tidal wave of emotions that then hold us back and hold us down and make us feel like we’re drowning.

This was me when I was 17.

When I was 17 I was sexually attacked by a guy who was my boyfriend. Im not going to go into specifics but it caused a shame that was very real and was like a tidal wave that wrecked destruction in its path for many years.
Shame affected how I saw myself. It affected how I saw other people. It affected what I thought other people thought of me. It affected a whole heap of things.

Logic told me that it was not my fault. But the shame pointed its finger back at me with accusations and blame.

I remember reading John 8 as a new Christian for the first time.
Instead of some nameless faceless woman in the story, she was me.

This is where we can see Jesus deal with our own personal shames. It’s not just a story in the bible. It’s not just something 2000 years ago to some woman in some village in some country far far away. This is an invitation for each one of us right here right now to see real change in our real lives.

Put yourself in the middle of this story. Imagine if you were dragged in front of a crowd and the thing you feel shame about was broadcast.

Jesus invites us to leave the shame behind, to drop the rocks and to walk into a new life. To be shame-less. To live wholeheartedly.

Wholehearted living, simply put, means living and loving with your whole heart. According to Brené Brown, wholehearted living “is about engaging in our lives from a place of worthiness.” It’s understanding that yes, we are imperfect, vulnerable, and afraid, but we are also brave and worthy of love and belonging.

It sounds easy right?

We all know what shame feels like but how do we deal with it?
How do we exchange shame for wholehearted living?

  1. No condemnation
    In the John 8 passage we see Jesus attacking shame with grace. He tells the religious leaders that whoever has no sin themselves to pick up a stone and stone the woman. No one picks up a stone. They turn and leave, convicted by their own guilt. The amazing thing here is that there was one person who could legit stone her. Jesus. He had no sin.

Jesus said “where are your accusers? Is there no one here to condemn you?”
11 Looking around, she replied, “I see no one, Lord.”
Jesus said, “Then I certainly don’t condemn you either. Go, and from now on, be free from a life of sin”

Romans 8:1 says: there is now no condemnation [no guilty verdict, no punishment] for those who are in Christ Jesus [who believe in Him as personal Lord and Saviour].

Shame condemns us but Jesus sets us free. There is no condemnation.
Forgiveness is a free gift from God to us – all we need to do is ask.
God offers amazing forgiveness

Psalm 103 says as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our sin from us.
When God forgives us, it is as if those sins are as far away from us as the east is from the west. It is not that God is suddenly forgetful, but He does not hold those sins against us or over us.

I love Hebrews 4:16 Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need

Our time of need is when that thing happens to us or when we make that mistake that then leads to shame. God will not turn us away; He will not pick up a stone. He invites us to be shameless.

Being free from shame happens at that place where we meet with Jesus and hear Him say to us personally I don’t condemn you. Go, and from now on, be free from a life of sin”

  • Compassion
    How many times have we being in a situation when a friend comes to us and says oh my goodness, I’ve messed up so bad, xyz has happened, and ive ruined everything. How many times do you then reply back, yes you’re right, you suck, you’re dead to me, you should be so ashamed of yourself? Hopefully not many if not any! We usually sit with our friend and talk things over and remind them that they are loved and it’s going to be okay and that they’ll get through it. We extend compassion.
    Yet when it comes to our own life and our own failings we usually are our own worst enemies. We would never talk to a friend like we talk to ourselves.
    We need to practice compassion on ourselves. We are human. Stuff happens.
    Compassion doesn’t mean we give ourselves a get out of jail card and just carry on in the mess – it means we intentionally change the way we behave and speak to ourselves.
    With self-compassion, we give ourselves the same kindness and care we’d give to a good friend. We need to exchange our critical self talk for compassionate self talk – reminding ourselves of God’s grace and goodness, that we are forgiven which makes us worthy and loved and valued.
    We need to Forgive ourselves for feelings, thoughts, or actions of our past. It is easy to beat ourselves with hindsight about the insight that we lacked at an earlier age.
  • Capture every thought
    2 Corinthians 10:5 says We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.
    We take captive the moments when we blame ourselves and we put ourselves down.
    Instead we make Philippians 4:8 real Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.
    We capture every shame thought and stop it in its tracks and we replace those thoughts with things that are positive and true.
    We take captive every thought of shame and replace it with grace, forgiveness and what God says.
  • Community.
    Shame tries to isolate us. We feel we are unworthy of love and belonging. The antidote to this is realizing that we have worth and we do belong and then to find that place of fellowship. We are created for relationships. We are made to be connected. Having good people around us that will speak life and hope and truth to counter the lies shame tells us is a good thing.
  • Courage
    It takes courage to leave the shame behind and to step into shameless living. It takes courage to ask for help when things are not okay.
    It takes courage to accept Jesus’ invitation to go and sin no more, to step into a new life.
  • Covered
    Back in Genesis we read about Adam and Eve, being naked and ashamed. We read on in that chapter that they attempted to make covers for themselves from fig leaves.
    Like Adam and Eve, we continue to hide our shame on our terms and using our methods. We temporarily try to relieve the stress shame causes, compensate what we have lost, distract us from reality, and numb ourselves from what really is going on.
    We’re not using fig leaves like adam and eve but we use:
  • Busyness
  • Addictions
  • Entertainment
  • Perfectionism
  • Religion
    As attempts to cover our shame.
    We read in verse 21 God’s solution. He covered them. He made clothing for them out of animal skins.
    In the same way God covers us with Jesus. When we accept Jesus as our Saviour we exchange our rap sheet for His perfect record.

For myself leaving shame behind meant dealing with the layers of emotions and self talk. Through prayer. Through talking to my pastor. Through counselling. Through people that encouraged me that God was bigger and God was good and that God is our healer. I had to learn to be kind to myself and that that moment in time did not define who I am and who I would become. When shame tried to put me in a box, Jesus was calling me to live healed and whole.
Shame is often hidden. I don’t know what shame you carry. I don’t know how shame is having an effect on your life. If you carry shame because of things that have happened to you, I want to say I’m so sorry. I don’t know what caused the shame. But I know that someone offers a way out of it. We need to drop our own rocks and receive the grace that Jesus extends. That grace replaces the shame with freedom. It replaces the unworthiness with the reality that you are worthy, that you are enough, that you matter.

I have been really blown away by Luke 15 the last few weeks.  I keep getting drawn back to it and I’ll be driving and I’ll be thinking about it and I’ll be praying and I’ll be thinking about it and I’ll be in worship thinking about it.  It’s really captured my attention and my heart.

So the tea is there is this guy who gets his inheritance from his dad before his dad dies and who pretty much wastes it on parties and stuff.  He blows it all.  He ends up broke and working for a farmer feeding his pigs and eating the pig food.   So he decides he’s going to go home because his dad’s servants get looked after better to see if he can become a servant there.  He works out this whole speech to say sorry and please dad let me work on your farm because he didn’t feel worthy to be a son anymore.

Verse 20 says that while he was a long way off his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him and ran to his son. 

Okay now that may not sound like a big deal.  But picture a man wearing middle eastern robes, like a long dress tunic thing running.  He would have had to pick up his hems to run.  And that was not a done thing.  Jewish men didn’t run.  Respectful jewish men didn’t run.  Like ever.   Unless they were being chased by a lion probably.  But in general, it wasn’t the done thing.  

But this dad, seeing his son from a long way off, ran to Him.   He hugged him and didn’t even let the son finish his prepared speech, he welcomed him back into the family, loved him and forgave him.

In the same way, this is what has been blowing my heart away, when we are a long way off and we decide to take a step towards God, he sees us and HE RUNS.  He runs towards us and He invites us to come close.  He welcomes us into the family.  He throws a party.  He celebrates. 

Sometimes we think of God as a grumpy old dude far far away.  But God is not like that.  Jesus coming and dying on the cross to make the only way for us to know God is God running fast towards us. 

We sing a song called reckless love that talks about God’s love towards us.   

Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God
Oh, it chases me down, fights ’til I’m found, leaves the 99
And I couldn’t earn it
I don’t deserve it, still You give yourself away
There’s no shadow You won’t light up
Mountain You won’t climb up
Coming after me
There’s no wall You won’t kick down
Lie You won’t tear down
Coming after me

God has done everything so that we would know that love, really know that love.   He made the first move.

Then Elisha said, “Take the arrows!” So he took them. Then Elisha said to the king of Israel, “Strike the ground!” So he struck the ground three times and stopped. 19 The man of God was angry with him and said, “You should have struck the ground five or six times. Then you would have struck down Aram until you had put an end to them, but now you will only strike down Aram three times.” 2 Kings 13

At first reading I was like dude, poor Jehoash.  How was he to know how many times to strike the ground?   

But as I thought about it I came to these conclusions.  Jehoash was seeking answers from a prophet.  He already had done something weird and prophetic by shooting the arrows out the window.   He would have realized that this wasn’t just an ordinary moment but a significant defining moment.

But he only shoots 3 times. 

King Jehoash quit.  He shot 3 arrows and then stopped.  He gave up.  Elisha’s reaction implies that it’s a matter of faith and courage.  He is gutted that Jehoash didn’t follow through.  He’s like you started well, but you gave up.  You stopped!  You should have used all the arrows!  Dude!   Elisha from his prophetic standpoint, saw the greatness of the opportunity, the abundance of favor which God was ready to grant, and the way in which God’s favor was limited and narrowed by Jehoash’s lack of zeal.

It’s not just about starting, it’s about finishing.  It’s about being intentional about the goals.   It’s about following Jesus every day.

Lets just pause here to say that God will never give up on you.  He will never quit.  Jesus went all the way to the death on the cross to win salvation of us and He will never give up on us no matter what we are going thorugh.

Galatians 6:9 says Let us not be weary in doing good, for we will reap in due season, if we do not give up.

There are defining moments in each of our lives that put us at a fork in the road.

The choice is faith or fear.

The choice is faith or freaking out.

In those moments we have grace to choose God, to choose faith, trust and hope.

How do we FEED our faith?  When we feed our faith, we starve our doubts.

1.  KNOW the promises of God.  The most effective way to do this is reading your bible regularly so that when its hammer time that you KNOW them and have the promises at your fingertips, and most importantly, in your heart so you respond with faith not reacting in fear.   The best new year resolution you can make is to know God and make Him known and that can start with making an intentional rhythm to read the bible.   

I know I said that there are no magic formulas in the kingdom of God but God has spiritual principals and time and time again its says that you’ll be blessed when you seek God, you’ll blessed when you put Him first, you’ll be blessed when you read His word, you’ll be blessed when you live obedient.  

2.  WORSHIP God and remind yourself of His goodness and greatness.  Let worship remind you of the truth our feelings forget.  Worship engages our emotions and stirs faith at a heart level.

3.  TURN UP THE TESTIMONIES remind yourself of the times that God has been faithful before in your life.  I love the way that the Israelites built altars.   They weren’t so much like how we would picture an altar at say a more traditional church, like the Anglican church with an altar up the front but they were built as memorials to the faithfulness of God.

Time and time again people built altars to remember a significant encounter with God.  When the Isarelites crossed the Jordan River.  When Abraham came to the promised land.  When Jacob saw God surrounded by angels in a dream. 

Life moves by so quickly and we can easily get amnesia about those breakthroughs and moments where we see God move.

The altars were places and physical reminders of the great things God had done.   Though I’m not suggesting you take a pile of rocks and put the up in your back yard, I am encouraging you to connect with the testimonies of what God has done for real in your real life.   This will add fuel to your faith, God you did it here, you moved, you changed things, you opened doors, miracles happened. 

Knowing that God has come through for me over and over again in the past helps me to trust him with my present and future. Even though I may not know what He is doing right now, I know what He has done before. He is good. He does good. He is faithful. He is trustworthy.

4.  SURROUND yourself with good people who will practically help and purposefully pray for you, people who will encourage you to live by faith.  Maybe an awesome new year resolution is to join a connect group or church in 2021. 

Faith will tell you to have patience when everything else is telling you to panic. Faith will tell you to hold on when everything else is telling you to let go. Faith will tell you to push forward when everything else is telling you to pull back.

It made me ask myself. “If I were Jehoash, would I strike the ground with the arrows more than three times?”

Am I someone that pursues a God goal intentionally?

Am I feeding my faith?

Am I making prayer a priority?

Is my relationship with God real behind the scenes as well as in my highlight reel?

2 Kings 13:17 Then Elisha said, “The Lord’s arrow of victory, yes, the arrow of victory over Aram. You are to strike down the Arameans in Aphek until you have put an end to them.”

It’s interesting to note that Elisha declared that Israel would win these battles even though no battle had being fought on a battlefield as yet.   The victory was declared in the bedroom first before the fight was won on the battlefield. 

Private victory precedes public victory.    Its personal before it’s on the platform.

I’m a firm believer in making a decision before you need.  Determine what decision you’re going to make so that when you’re in the moment you’ve already made your choice.

This applies to the things that will be jumping to your mind like drugs and alcohol, but think about it in the context of relationships, integrity, honesty, gossip, anxiety.  What decision have you made about your thought life?  About what you watch on Netflix? 

Determine to make the decision that you will love God.   Make that decision in advance that you will be at church every Sunday.  That you will live your life with integrity.  That you will ready your bible every day.  That you will not give up.  What you decide today can determine what direction you point your life in.   What you decide today determines your destination.

Galatians 6:7-9 What you plant will always be the very thing you harvest. 8 The harvest you reap reveals the seed that was planted. If you plant the corrupt seeds of self – life into this natural realm, you can expect to experience a harvest of corruption. If you plant the good seeds[e] of Spirit-life you will reap the beautiful fruits that grow from the everlasting life of the Spirit.  9 And don’t allow yourselves to be weary or disheartened in planting good seeds, for the season of reaping the wonderful harvest you’ve planted is coming!

I am not a gardener.  In fact we managed pretty much kill a houseplant we were asked to plant sit for my mother in law.  One month.  Rest in peace.  But I do know the principal.  What you plant and nurture will grow.  Planting and nurturing takes place in the private.  It’s behind the scenes.  It’s often not glamorous.  There’s no lime light.  No applause.  

This is where vision is important.  

Vision gives significance to the otherwise meaningless details of our lives.  Too many times the routines of life begin to feel like brick upon brick.   But take those same routines and responsibilities and view them through the lens of vision and everything looks different.   The choices we make either draw us closer to our vision or push us farther away from it. If we’re unsure of the vision, then we won’t know how to make decisions that carry us in the right direction. Clear vision illuminates the path in front of us as we select which roads to travel down in life.

Vision puts everyday actions into our everyday real life that aim us in a direction. 

Vision shows us where to shoot.  And in Johoaeh’s case, vision should have shown him to keep on shooting.

It’s the wax on wax off, paint the fence focus and daily discipline of Daniel in karate kid that means that when its fight time the private practice becomes public victory. 

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Worship Wednesday

1000 Things

October 2021
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