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. 

On Christmas Eve we drove down to Wellington to spend Christmas with my family.  We watched the amazing Christmas Eve service in the car, on 3 devices, while driving through the middle of nowhere towards the city.  We thought it might have been a first having our pastor preaching in a tunnel so took a video of us as went through Victoria tunnel and pulled up to our motel to feliz navidad. 

Traffic was mostly good, well better than I had expected but we decided to trust the gps on what would be the fastest way to get there.  The gps told us that the best way was to bypass taupo and head down the back side of the lake.  Which was great when we were paying attention to that special voice mispronouncing everything.  But not so great when we completely ignored it because we were distracted by Hamilton songs and missed our turnoff.   We were redirected along about a 20 minute route along some lovely windy bumpy country roads before reconnecting with the correct road.

Staying close with Jesus is like following gps.

Proverbs 3:5-6 Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.

TPT version puts it like this:

Trust in the Lord completely,
and do not rely on your own opinions.
With all your heart rely on him to guide you,
and he will lead you in every decision you make.
Become intimate with him in whatever you do,
and he will lead you wherever you go.

When we can only see the next step or two on the map of our life God can zoom out and see the whole picture.  He stands at the end of your life, the destination, and calls you each step of the way to follow Him.

I love the disciples reaction when Jesus calls them to follow Him.  In their case they literally were following Jesus – they were walking roads and going to towns and witnessing first hand Jesus doing ministry, healing people, touching people, loving people.

Peter and Andrew were fishermen and Matthew 4:18 says that they were casting their nets when Jesus called them.  Follow Me, He said and I will make you fish for men.  Verse 20 says they immediately left their nets and followed Him.  In Matthew 9:9-13 we read that Jesus saw Matthew sitting at his tax collectors booth collecting tax and Jesus disrupted his life and said follow Me.  Immediately Matthew left his job and his life and followed Jesus.

Following Jesus isn’t the status quo.  He changes your life.  He gives you a fresh start.   He invites you into a new family and a new way of life.  Being a Christian isn’t an optional extra, it’s not a nice thing we do on Sundays, it’s not about being a good person.  We follow Him in response to His great love and His great grace that took Him to the cross to die in our place so that we can have peace with God and eternal life.  He did everything to make the way to God and how we live our lives is in response to that love.

This is Jesus’ invitation to each one of us “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.  Luke 9:23

Sometimes following Jesus will not make sense.  Elisha’s command to get a bow and point it out the window didn’t make sense in the natural. 

Leaving their boats didn’t make sense for Peter and Andrew.

Taking that job might not make sense to the world but does in the plan of God.

Not dating someone because they’re not a Christian but they’re cute doesn’t make sense to the world but does in the plan of God.

Tithing.  Reading the bible.  Prayer.  Raising our hands in worship.  The might not make sense to the world but they do in the plan of God.

Making church a priority and ignoring the beach and the things that could compete for this time slot doesn’t make sense to the world but does in the plan of God.  

Look – let’s get really real here.  One of the most common questions I get asked as a youth pastor is how do I get my teenagers to love God and come to church.    At River Youth our mission is to make life long disciples who know God and make Him known.  But that doesn’t just happen at youth.  It doesn’t happen when they hit year 7 and can come.  It isn’t a done deal when they finish year 13.  Because one of the biggest influencers in whether they’ll stick to it and become life long disciples is set by you guys, the parents and your attitude to church.  Is church a priority?  Is it important?  It is a greater priority than dare I say it a sports team or a birthday party or a drama class?  I went there.  Sorry not sorry.   It might not make sense to the world but in light of eternity…. 

Moving to Auckland in 1999 didn’t make any logical sense in my world.  I had no job.  No where to live.  All I had was a red Daihatsu charade and what I could cram into it.   But God had a plan and on the first Sunday I went to church I overheard the lady behind me saying to a friend she needed a boarder.  I turned round and introduced myself.  I moved in the next day.  The next day I had a job interview and got the job.   6 months later I walked in the doors at the River and the rest is history.

Obedience makes sense when you see the big picture and you recognize that the God that says I know the plans I have for you, plans to bless you and give you a future and a hope, really does know the plans and the steps and the way and that if you want to get to where you wanna go it makes sense to follow the one with the map.

I’m not sure what Jehoash expected would happen when he said My father! My father!” “The chariots and horsemen of Israel!”

But I don’t think he expected Elisha to tell him to get his bows and arrows.

2 kings 13:15-17 Elisha responded, “Take a bow and arrows.” So he got a bow and arrows. 16 Then Elisha said to the king of Israel, “Put your hand on the bow.” So the king put his hand on it, and Elisha put his hands on the king’s hands. 17 Elisha said, “Open the east window.” So he opened it. Elisha said, “Shoot!” So he shot.

You have to give king Jehoash credit though.   It’s like a game of Elisha says.

Elisha says get the bow and arrows and he did.

Elisha says open the window and he did.

Elisha says shoot and he did.

Elisha says hands on head… you get the picture.

For each command the king responds with obedience.

Like I said earlier Jehoash is not one of the good guys.  He follows the pattern that the kings of Israel set out who do life their own way, rebelling against God and His standards.  But here is, visiting Elisha, wanting something from God.   It doesn’t matter who you are or what you’ve done with God you can have a fresh start and turn it around.   

The bible is quite black and white sometimes.

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

And 1 John 2:5-65 But those who obey God’s word truly show how completely they love him. That is how we know we are living in him. 6 Those who say they live in God should live their lives as Jesus did.

At the start of this y ear I kept on being drawn back to a curious passage, and by curious I mean weird, in 2 kings 13:14-19.   This is possibly an account that you will not find in the E100 bible plan – the essential 100 passages – or a kids Bible.  It’s one of those stories you read and you know there is God stuff in there but its hidden because it’s weird, so you flick the page.  Or is that just me?

But I know that on every page and in every passage God wants to speak to us.  He wants to show us who He is and what He can do in our lives.  He wants to teach us how to live right and live holy.   Every passage can renew our mind to become more like Jesus, and that’s the big goal.

Let me give you some backstory on who the main players are.

Jehoash is the king of Israel – which to make a long story short – means he’s probably a bad dude.   Back in 2 kings 13:11 it says that He too sinned against the LORD and followed the evil example of other kings, who had led Israel into sin.  No a great character reference.

Then we have Elijah who was a prophet of God and did lots of amazing things for God, calling down fire, praying for rain after a 3 year drought etc.  We have Elijah with a J and Elisha with an S and my goal this morning is to not mix them up!  As prophets Elijah and Elisha gave divine insight to the leaders and the people of Israel not just about spiritual things but about politics and real like strategies that led to them winning real life wars and battles.   Elijah was Elisha’s mentor and Elisha served him for about 8 years before Elijah had a dramatic exit from this world to the next without dying and passed the mantle onto Elisha.  

Before he was caught up into the air in chariots of fire Elisha asked Elijah for a double blessing, a double portion of the power of God on his life and in 2 Kings 2:12 as he watches Elijah fly up to the sky he says “My father! My father!” “The chariots and horsemen of Israel!”

So here we are in 2 kings 13:14-19

Now Elisha had been suffering from the illness from which he died. Jehoash king of Israel went down to see him and wept over him. “My father! My father!” he cried. “The chariots and horsemen of Israel!”

15 Elisha said, “Get a bow and some arrows,” and he did so. 16 “Take the bow in your hands,” he said to the king of Israel. When he had taken it, Elisha put his hands on the king’s hands.

17 “Open the east window,” he said, and he opened it. “Shoot!” Elisha said, and he shot. “The Lord’s arrow of victory, the arrow of victory over Aram!” Elisha declared. “You will completely destroy the Arameans at Aphek.”

18 Then he said, “Take the arrows,” and the king took them. Elisha told him, “Strike the ground.” He struck it 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 defeated Aram and completely destroyed it. But now you will defeat it only three times.”

Being the start of the year my inbox was flooded with 10 ways to kickstart your life and set goals and crush 2021 type emails.  Most of them I ignored but one caught my eye and I signed up for a 7 day goal getter challenge.  It came with 7 days of journal prompts.

They should have named it 7 days of excruciating personal questions designed to make you want to throw your phone at the wall and run and hide under the covers pretending that these questions don’t make my skin crawl challenge.


The Lie: I Have to Have It All Together

How does this lie keep you from living up to your potential?

Hello, that’s not the light and fluffy challenge that I thought I wanted…. Questions like that are uncomfortable! 

Because in reality there are no quick 10 steps to success or magic formulas to transforming your life.

Which is why I find it really interesting that king Jehoash says the exact same thing that Elisha said to Elijah before he was taken up to heaven as if they are the magic words to unlock unlimited success. “My father! My father!” he cried. “The chariots and horsemen of Israel!”


When I first became a Christian prayer was a weird thing.  The only prayers I knew of were written down in catholic prayer books. I didn’t know if there were spiritual words that I was meant to be using.   I didn’t know if normal people could pray and if we were allowed to make up our own prayers using our own words.   Honestly my youth group leader was so patient with me.  Yes Claire, you can make up your own prayers.  You can pray about anything, anytime and anywhere.

When I was a bible in schools teacher I used to say that to my kids and there was always one… miss, can ya pray in the toilet?  You sure can I would say. 

When I started it felt like I was talking to the air, was someone really listening?

Then I began to see God answer my prayers.  I began to see changes.  I began to change.  

“Our prayers may be awkward. Our attempts may be feeble. But since the power of prayer is in the one who hears it and not in the one who says it, our prayers do make a difference.” – Max Lucado

Prayer isn’t just an empty box to fill in on your morning checklist. Every day you get to speak to the One who created and is sustaining a universe that makes you look like less than a grain of sand in comparison.

The same God who knows the names of every star knows your name.

The same God who is holding the universe in the expanse of His hands is holding you in His hands.

Prayer is so much more than the puny, ordinary thing we make it out to be. That’s because the One we’re praying to is not only so much bigger than we’ll ever be able to comprehend. and so much more willing to respond to us than we’ll ever be able to comprehend as well.

There are spiritual prayer principals such as

Matthew 7:7-8 Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.

2 Chronicles 7:14 14 if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.

But they’re not magic formulas.  God is not santa claus or a fairy Godmother.  He is inviting us into a relationship and prayer is the communication and connection.

I’m not sure what Jehoash expected would happen when he said My father! My father!” “The chariots and horsemen of Israel!”

But I don’t think he expected Elisha to tell him to get his bows and arrows.

See Part 2 tomorrow 🙂

Photo by Tairon Fernandez on

Anyone feeling a little bit cautious as we start the year?  Because global pandemics don’t observe the calendar and have a new year new you mentality.  If you were to tell me at the start of last year what was ahead… well, I might of laughed at you or suggested that you’d been binge watching too many dystopia movies.  But here we are. 

Stronger.  Shaken.  Surviving.    Setting our eyes on our Saviour who rules and reigns and holds the seasons in His hands, who sustains us and saves us.

There is just something about a new year though right.  New year resolutions, new year new you, new hair. 

There is something within us that naturally leans into starting new things and creating new habits and redefining vision and setting goals.

I was reading an email from author Jon Acuff on Wednesday and he was talking about how a high school teacher was taking their class through his latest book Finish.  It’s all about setting goals and finishing goals.  The teacher shared with Jon that the high school students didn’t set goals because they saw goals as a band aid for people with problems.  Put on some covid weight, set a goal, lose weight. Got in debt, set a goal, pay it off.   

He goes on, and I love this:

Do you know what a goal really is though?

A goal is a passport to a new life.

A goal is a ladder to a big dream.

A goal is a road map to anywhere you want to go.

Goals are a massive key you give yourself to unlock all the doors that stand between you and whatever you care about the most.

He finishes up by saying: That’s what a goal is. If you told me you didn’t have one, I’d ask you what you want life to be like. I’d dare you to dream a little bit. I’d dare you to lift your head up from 2020 and gaze a little at 2021.

As we stand here today at the start of 2021 – we look out at a blank canvas.  We look out on potential.    We look out into the unknown.

So how do we step into a new year with all that we know about last year and all that we don’t know about this year to come?

Corrie Ten Boom said it best, “Never be afraid to trust your unknown future to a known God.”

 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,
    and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17 When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

Luke 2

Photo by Trinity Kubassek on

When we imagine this story we often put the Christmas card shepherds into the picture.  Cute, colour coordinated, peaceful shepherds with cute fluffy sheep.

But in the first century, shepherds were generally looked at as dodgey, dishonest people.  They weren’t peaceful or respected.  Or colour coordinated.  They weren’t the pleasant Hallmark faces we’re used to seeing this time of year.

Which makes it even cooler that the very first people to hear the good news about the Saviour, from angels, is the shepherds.

They don’t go to the king.  Or to the rich people.  Or to the people who had it all together.  The influencers or the popular peeps. 

God chose that the first people He would tell about the Saviour coming was the low of the low.   The rejected.   The ordinary.

The birth of Jesus is about God coming to us in our everyday lives and saying to us, “Don’t be afraid, for look, I proclaim to you good news.”

  • It’s about God meeting us in our pain and loneliness.
  • It’s about God meeting us in our frustration and anxiety, our depression and our doubts.
  • It’s about God meeting us Monday and Sunday and Friday and every day of the week.
  • It’s about God wanting to be a part of our lives every day.

I think that’s why God sent the angels to the shepherds – to let us know that Jesus was for all people, even the most ordinary.

The second thing I want you to notice is from verse 15.  The shepherds after seeing the amazing angels and hearing their message decided to go to Bethlehem to check it out for themselves.

It’s not enough to just hear about Jesus.  It’s not just enough to get around Jesus stuff by coming to youth or to church.    You have to make it real for yourself. 

The shepherds heard about Jesus.  From angels.  But they still went and personally met Him.

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Worship Wednesday

1000 Things

May 2021
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