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You know Jesus took up His cross for one reason.  You.  Insert your name here.  He went to the cross because of His great love for you.  Insert name here.  Because without His death paying for our sins we’re screwed.  He died so we could come close, so we could follow Him, so we could be called children of God, so we could become friends with God and have peace with God.

Being a Christian isn’t a nice idea or an optional extra for life, it is completely and totally necessary for this life and for next.  It opens the door to heaven when we die.   It opens the door for us to know God right here, right now.

God isn’t far far away like I had thought, He is so real and so close and right now He is giving you that invitation to come close and to know Him for real.  We sometimes call it giving your life to God.  He gives you a fresh start.  He takes away our sin and makes us clean on the inside.  He gives us meaning and purpose.

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Right now, we are living history.

There has never been a time when the world has been so affected by the one same big event.  We are living through a moment that will be written about in history books. You will tell your grandkids about the time the world shut down. Documentaries will retell the story for generations to come.

But right in the middle of history being made, we are celebrating the a far greater moment in history, a moment that has massive significance not only for us personally but for the entire universe –  Jesus’ death and resurrection.

I know some of you have been Christians for a long time and I know also that some of you here are newbies to the Christian thing – but it doesn’t matter if you’ve being a Christian for 50 years or 5 minutes – or even if you’re just asking questions at this stage – this is what we build our life on – who Jesus is and what Jesus did – we can never get tired of hearing about what Jesus did for us upon the cross and it is good to remind ourselves of the power of His promises and the reality of His work in our lives.

Read the rest of this entry »

How many of you have seen a video where someone has a plate of water and pepper and they then wash their hands and hey presto the pepper moves this in the past few weeks?

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I want us to think about that science experiment but instead of it being germs and soap let’s think of it all the fears, anxieties, temptations, sins and all the things that want to pull us down and affect us negatively.

It’s often all around us – peer pressure, negative thinking, bullying – and now with the added pressure of all the stuff going on around the world and all the mixed messages about it – it’s hard to know what is true and right.

 

This is where the soap comes in. The soap is like the Word of God in our lives.  It’s like it coats our life with peace and truth which protects us from the attack of the enemy, the lies around us and the lies we tell ourselves.  It counters the negative thoughts and the anxiety and instead gives us hope and a sense of purpose.  This is why spending time with God is so vital and important.  It’s not an optional extra.  It’s not something we take lightly because we know the benefit it will make to your lives.

 

Philippians 4:6-8 says:

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

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.

 

When my kids were way younger Tony my hubby got made redundant.  He rung me and said that the whole company was closing and that everyone was being sent home.  Those phone calls are not fun.

For you it might be stuff going on with your parents, or health problems, or stuff at school.  It might be how people treat you or mental health stuff going on.  You might be feeling anxious about what are you going to do when you grow up and leave school, or about relationship pressure or things that you’re seeing on social media.

After I finished talking to Tony I just sat on the couch a bit stunned.

All the negative thoughts flooded at me and surrounded me.   Where would our money come from?  What about our mortgate?  All the crazy adulting thoughts!

 

I had been listening to some worship and having a prayer time so began praying again.  I turned the worship up loud and just let the words of the songs wash over me.

 

In a way – it was like putting soap over my heart and mind.   It was like reminding me of God’s truth and God’s promises.    It changed the way I thought.  It changed how I felt.

 

After a short while I was feeling peaceful, I was feeling hopeful, I was feeling confident.

 

Worship and prayer and the Word of God gets us on the same page as God.  It reminds us that He is good and great.  That nothing is impossible for God.  That nothing will separate us from God.  That in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who[a] have been called according to his purpose.  That Jesus has overcome the world.   All of that is straight from the bible and it’s not just cute sayings or clichés or nice words but powerful truth that you can bet your life on.

 

It’s all good and well to have the bible on your phone or your bookcase if you don’t read it.  It’s like that soap sitting on the table by that kid doing the experiment.   Until the kid puts the soap on his finger nothing changes, nothing happens.  Until you read the word and absorb it nothing changes, nothing happens.

 

Until you pray, nothing happens.   Until you worship nothing happens.

 

But when you pray, when you worship, when you read your bible there are mighty supernatural forces at work – God is at work!  The Holy Spirit is at work on you on the inside!

 

 

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OK…confession time. I am afraid of spiders.  Big spiders.  Small spiders.  Daddy long legs.  Big fat hairy bodied spiders.  All spiders.  I used to have reaccuring nightmares about spiders crawling along my pillow when I was a kid.  If I see a spider in my room then I call for help.  I once woke up and saw a big fat black spider crawling fast up my wall.  I literally jumped over tony and onto the other side of the bed and woke tony up and made him get it.  At 3am.   I have in fact slept on the sofa because of a spider.

Here’s another one for you…

In the 2011 Rugby World Romania had to change their team at the last minute because their wing Catalin Fercu withdrew due to a fear of flying.

Fercu, who has 51 Test caps and was afraid of making the the long-haul 40 hour flight to New Zealand.

Now we can look at that and say wow, that’s extreme!

Let’s start with the definition for fear. FEAR is an unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain, or a threat.

Here are 5 things that fear causes us to do:

#1 – Fear causes us to reduce the size of God and elevate the size and opinion of man. Read the rest of this entry »

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“We tend to think that what we do when we come before God is to present only those parts of ourselves that we feel relatively comfortable with. And, if we think God doesn’t know those other parts, we are horribly misinformed.” Joe & Suzanne Stabile

I read this quote on fb about 2 weeks ago and its just rambled around in my head,.  Poking me.

 

In John 3 we read some of the most famous and favourited verses of the bible… but as we read on we read some of the most uncomfortable verses.

 

 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. 19 This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. 20 Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. 21 But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God. John 3

 

The AMP reads it like this:  the Light has come into the world, and people loved the [c]darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. 20 For every wrongdoer hates the Light, and does not come to the Light [but shrinks from it] for fear that his [sinful, worthless] activities will be exposed and condemned. 21 But whoever practices truth [and does what is right—morally, ethically, spiritually] comes to the Light, so that his works may be plainly shown to be what they are—accomplished in God [divinely prompted, done with God’s help, in dependence on Him].”

 

Now before we point fingers out to the world… lets look in the mirror.  Speck meet log.

 

We love the darkness.  We often hide parts of ourselves.  From others.  From ourselves.  From God.

 

It can be scary thinking that God sees all and knows all.  He sees all the ugly parts of me.  The parts I don’t want to even acknowledge.

 

But the gentleness and the lovingness of God means that he isn’t just after our behaviour, He is after our hearts.

 

In the last 2 verses of Psalm 139 David prayed, “Search me, God, and know my heart.  Test me, and know my anxious thoughts.  See if there is any offenseive way in me and lead me in the way everlasting.” V 23-24

 

Now that is an incredible prayer to pray.  Risky.  Because God answers prayer.  That prayer is an invitation for God to go into all those places we hide, to strip away all our masks and to point out all our flaws – not to shame us, not to break us, not to push us away, but to draw us closer and to restore us and to heal us and to transform us.

 

The prayer really has 3 parts.

Search my heart.

Know my anxious thoughts.

Uncover my sins.

 

 

And see if there is any wicked or hurtful way in me,

See if there is any path of pain I’m walking on,
and lead me back to you

 

 

To live in the light we need God to search our hearts.   There is a really common saying “they’ve got a good heart” but the bible says that the heart is deceitful above all things.  Meaning, the heart is a liar.  Without being born again and even to some extent afterwards am I right our heart leads us astray and deceives others and deceives ourselves.  Our worst enemy is often ourselves and the patterns of thoughts and behaviours that are our default settings.

 

It’s a brave person that prays Search my heart.  Test me, know my anxious thoughts.  See if there is any offensive way in me.   It gives God permission to point out any sin that’s dwelling within us.

 

When we’ve first become Christians it’s a lot like renovating.  You fix the big obvious things.  We are about to embark on a bathroom renovation and it feels scary.  Not because we’re replacing our bath and vanity, but its what lurks underneath, hidden away that might cause all the drama.   In our early years as Christians we deal with the big things and we see amazing transformation but then as we walk on with Jesus its more about the little things.  You know what though,  those little things are often the big things.  One little leak in our bathroom…. Yeah who knows what we’ll find!  The little things can have huge consequnces.

It’s our attitudes.  Its our pride.  Its our selfishness. Its our laziness.

Last year a personality test called the Enneagram blew up all over social media.  Being the ENFP otter sanguine I am I immediately jumped on board.  Any ennagram fans here?  So, long story short I’m a 3.  3’s are the performers or the achievers.  We are awesome and we know it.

There is a life cycle of aomeone that does an ennegram test.

 

  1. confusion – the enneawaht?
  2. wonder – wow, this thing reads my mail!
  3. evangelism – everyone must do this!
  4. complexity – the more I read about this thing the more I realize I don’t know about myself
  5. suffering – oh no, this thing reads my mail!
  6. growth – the enneagram helps me see my blindspots and who I really am

 

 

I totally went through this life cycle.  I saw the ennegram everywhere and was like do I need to do another personality test…?  The answer for me will always be yes.  They’re so much fun!   I quickly zoomed into the wonder/evangelism phase as well as the oh my goodness the memes are sooo good!  But then as I began to read more and listen to podcasts I discovered that there were places of me that were uncomfortable and hidden in plain sight.  The enneagram aptly calls them the shadow side.

 

The enneagram was the tool God used to search my heart.  To know my anxious thoughts, to show me the offensive places, the places God saw already.   For you it might be though a mentoring relationship – when you give someone permission to speak into your life and to be honest with you about you.  Or a book you read, or something from the Bible that jumps out and slaps you in the face.  It might come as you get connected in a connect group or during worship, or during the real life every day circumstances of your life that God uses to reveal the shadow side and call us into the light.

 

When we let God into those places He transforms us.   When we let the light of God shine into those dark places of our lives He makes us more like Jesus.   He makes us mature and secure.

 

In a way we’re all like Lazarus – called out the darkness of the tomb into a whole new life, but some of us choose to walk around in our graveclothes still.

 

Im not saying we have to be perfect for our light to shine – quite the opposite.   As we live authentic lives, covered in grace, it tells an amazing story about how real and loving and good God is.  Our scars tell a story about the one who right now in heaven has scars on his hands because he died on the cross to set us free and bring us near to God.

 

Davids prayer Search me, test me, know me is challenging.  Lets be people who choose the light instead of the darkness.  Choosing the light trusts that God is good and that God knows best for my life and best for my journey and best for my wholeness.

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We so often want to hide our light because we’re maybe worried about what others might think of us.

We’re more concerned about our own reputation and comfort than the eternities of real people.

But people are after real love, real healing, real supernatural encounters, real answers, real hope, real purpose and all of that can be found in a real relationship with our real God.

In the same way as blind bartimaeous called out loudly as he heard Jesus go by and in the same way as Zacceuss ran ahead and climbed a tree and even as the woman with the issue of blood pushed in people are crying out and searching and pushing for those things that only God can provide.

They look in the wrong places, climb up the wrong trees and grab the wrong hems to find what they are really looking for.

When we see people with the same filter God does – as people needing Jesus – as people God loved so much that he gave his only son – then it helps us turn our light on.

I think we sometimes hide our light because we forget the darkness is real.

 

that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 20 We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. 21 God made him who had no sin to be sin[b] for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

 

If I was God I would have cloned Todd white.  Of given the job to the angels.  But God chose you and me, real flawed ordinary people to share the good news.

Todd White, awesome evangelist, says he isn’t a professional evangelist, he is just a full time Christian.  When we make evangelism a task instead of a lifestyle we relegate it to the to-do list, or the maybe-do list.   We put our evangelist hat on when it suits us instead of living all the time on the ready, in the role, ambassadors representing Jesus everyday, in every way.

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Photo by Dalila Dalprat on Pexels.com

“Live in such a way that those who know you but don’t know God will come to know God because they know you.”

 

As Christians we should be the most positive, compassionate, wise and caring people in our world.  Not because there is anything special about us but because there is something special about God living within us.   We should be the safe place for people to turn to when their world falls apart.

What we do, what we say, WHO WE ARE, makes a difference.  As Christians we should be different from the world.

 

It’s the times that we change the conversation from tearing someone down to building someone up.

It’s the times we turn up to church even though we could have slept in.  It matters.  It shows that church is a priority.

It’s the decision we make to do relationships with purity and respect the way God says to.

It’s the attitude we serve in when someone asks you to move the chairs, or fill in for the car park guy who couldn’t make it, or when your boss asks you to do something.

It’s the respect we show in the classroom or staff room or office.

It’s the language we use.

It’s the times we actually forgive and move on and grow.

It’s the loops we allow our thoughts to ride on…. Do we let them loop around like a record player saying you’re a failure, worry worry worry, who do you think you are… or do you smash that record and start a new loop that has the voice of God that says you’re an overcomer, God’s got this and that He loves you and has a plan and a purpose for your life.  The words we speak and what we think about most determine what we believe.  And what we believe will leak out in our actions and words, in the way we live.  They will preach.

Small things eh.  They tell a story about who we are living our life for.

Never discount how much of an impact these small acts make on those in our world.

 

Benjamin Franklin wanted to interest the people in Philadelphia in street lighting. He did not call a town meeting nor try to persuade the people by talking about it. He acted upon what he considered a good idea. He hung a beautiful lantern on a long bracket in front of his house. He kept the glass polished and carefully trimmed and lit the wick every evening at the approach of dusk. The lamp helped the people see the pavement ahead; made them feel more secure at night. Others began placing lights in front of their houses. Soon Philadelphia recognized the need for street lights.

In the same way we live in the light and allow the light of God to transform our lives it makes a difference to those around us and shows them that there is a different way to live, a better way.  And more importantly that there is a God who loves them and is worth knowing.

 

Seth Godin, a marketing guru says that people like that are sneezers – they catch onto a new thing really fast but more importantly they let everyone in their world know – they’re like an infectious bug that is then sneezed into everyone in the room so before you know it, you’re all sick. The aim of marketing is to get the sneezers excited about a product/service so that they’ll ah ah ah achooo it out into the world.

When there is a great sale on at the mall, or a new burger joint opening down the road, or a new movie opening or you’ve just had your hair cut by the most amazing hairdresser ever – don’t you tell everyone? We naturally sneeze what we’re into to the people in our lives.

 

When my daughter started intermediate they had a “get to know me” type project where they had to bring items that were special to them and that showed what culture and communities they were part of.   I was really impressed when she took her bible along and talked about church and being a Christian and how that was important to who she is.  I was even more impressed when at a meet the teacher evening another parent approached me and asked if I was Eva’s mum.  Her son had been so inspired by her bold stand for Jesus in front of her class that he wished he had done the same because he was a Christian too.   Her action, her turning on the light, encouraged and inspired someone to let their light shine.

 

close up photography of a lightbulb

Photo by ARUNODHAI VINOD on Pexels.com

Confession.  I cant see in the dark.   I obviously didn’t eat enough carrots as a child.  I own that and own the fact that I will turn on every light in the house to get from one end to the other or use my phone torch to light the way.

 

Recently we brought a new bookcase for our hallway – aka a new obstacle to navigate and avoid.  For some reason shortly after that I thought I had gained magical powers of seeing in dark or that you know, the 15 years of living there would mean that I would have muscle memory of how to get from the living room to the bedroom so I left the lights off.

 

But I had not reprogrammed the new bookcase into my mind and Everything went great until my pinky toe slammed into the new bookcase with the force of Thor’s hammer.

Little toes are important.  And they hurt when smashed into bookcases.

 

As I sat on the bed nursing my purple toe, I realized: I do this all the time. Not THIS specifically, but this kind of thing.

 

I live my life with the lights out, thinking I have a handle on the world, that nothing bad will happen, and no one will get hurt. And without fail, I always end up stubbing my soul’s toes. And it always hurts.

 

John talks about this idea of walking in light vs darkness in a really cool way. He says that to walk in light means to have fellowship with each other, and to be purified from sin, but to walk in darkness is to pretend we have no sin. Walking in the light is about admitting we need Jesus and we need each other, but walking in darkness is about trying to do it on our own, thinking we have things under control when nothing could be further from the truth.

 

The world doesn’t change when we turn the lights on. That hallway was the same in the dark it’s been every time I walked down it. What changed was the way I saw it. That’s how it is when turn on the spiritual light in our life, too.

 

John 12:46 I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.

 

John 8:12
Once again, Jesus spoke to the people and said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows Me will never walk in the darkness, but will have the light of life.”

 

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There is a quote by St Francis of Assisi that says “preach the gospel at all times and if necessary use words.”

And I usually hate that quote.

Seriously.

I think people have used it as a spiritual cop out for actually talking to people about Jesus.   That they’ll just live their life and people will just look and see and just get it.

I’m more the peach the gospel at all times and use your words as well!  Im more the subliminal message gospel by osmosis thing doesn’t fly so speak up and be radically bold and just be real and tell your story.

But.

Our lives can often speak louder than what we say with our lips.

Our lives speak loudly.

Our lives can either back up what we say with our lips or can tell a whole different story.

Tonight I want to challenge you to live a life that loudly shows people that God is real, that He is good, that you can find hope and love and grace with Him, that living for Jesus is the best way to live and that He has real answers for real problems.

 

“The point of your life is to point to Him. Whatever you are doing, God wants to be glorified, because this whole thing is His. It is His movie, His world, His gift.”  — Francis Chan

Your life speaks loudly when you have faith to step out and do something for God, just as Peter stepped out of the boat and walked on water.

Your life speaks loudly when you say yes to God like the boy with his lunch that fed the 5000.

Your life tells a message when you choose to trust God in the face of your problems – like Joshua and the Israelites did when they circled the city of Jericho with its massive walls in silence for 7 days.

Your life tells a message when you make a choice to do what God wants even if its counter culture, like Daniel and his friends did when they refused to eat the kings food or bow down to idols or give up praying.

The Bible says in Philippians 2:15

Live clean, innocent lives as children of God, shining like bright lights in a world full of crooked and perverse people. So that you may be blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and perverse generation, in which you shine as lights in the world

 

Breaking that down it says live lives that reflect who God is.  Live lives that shine for Him.  Live lives that are clean and pure so that you stand out in a generation of darkness, a generation that lives for themselves, a generation lost.

What kind of message is your life speaking?

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Photo by Rahul on Pexels.com

Every man and woman who believes in Jesus are called to shine, to know God and make Him known.  Its not just for special people or for pastors.  It’s for all of us.  We are all in ministry.  We are the senior pastors in our world.  This life is my ministry. My ministry is my life. This morning as you are at home with your family, your ministry is already happening. As you go to work, your ministry is already being lived out. Your ministry is happening wherever and whenever you live and are present in another’s life.

People are hungry for encounter with the real God.  Within each person is a desire for forgiveness and innocence.   Salvation isn’t an optional extra for life, it is a necessary essential, just as a parachute is a necessary essential for people about to jump out of a plane.  As saved people we are called to tell others about the wonderful kindness and eternal rescue that we have experienced.  God didn’t give the job to the angels but He gave it those who live the Gospel to tell the Gospel.

I think we know this but we hide our light for a few reasons and I want to give us 3 ways we can flip that switch.

  1. We forget we’re forgiven and don’t need to be ashamed anymore. I love what happened in Paul’s life – you can read about it in Acts 9.  He used to be called Saul and his passion project was to go around Israel arresting and executing Christians. For real. Then He met Jesus and got saved.  He became a Christian. He didn’t let what he had done before hold him back and the people were shocked, they literally said “hold up, isn’t this Saul who killed Christians?”  We all make mistakes.  None of us are perfect.  That is why Jesus came.  He is the only perfect one.  We all have flaws and make mistakes.  We all have good days when we feel really on fire and amped and its easy to shine, and we all have days when it feels like we shouldn’t have gotten out of bed because everything we did and do was wrong.  We are all growing.  There is grace to cover that.  But that’s also the joy – authentically living it out – living in grace is an amazing demonstration to a world that is hungry for grace.
  2. We forget the sense of urgency – eternity is like real estate, its all about location location location and we get one life to make that decision as to where we spend it. We need to pray God show me your heart for the lost people in my life.
  3. We don’t know what to say, or how to say it. We don’t need to be Bible scholars, able to exegesis about the greater meaning of the third toe on the beasts left foot, but I think it is important to know your Bible – for personal reasons, you’re learning not just facts about God, but you are learning His promises and guidance for your own life, but also so that you have some answers to peoples questions.

1 Peter 3:15 Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have

Some people have religious backgrounds, others have studied philosophy and in this postmodern age everyone has an opinion on spirituality but the Word of God reveals to us WHO God really is and WHAT He has really done.   The answers found in the Bible will challenge and convict and get all the way in because they are just not ordinary words but contain power from God.

In a way we’re all tailor-made with keys and strategies that help communicate the Gospel.   I’m not talking about just personality and being an extrovert, but about a way of connecting with people and communicating the Gospel.  Your story matters and is powerful and is your story of how God loves and rescues.  Whatever your story looks like know that when you share it, when you tell people about the real things God has done and is doing, that it has an effect.

I asked some of my evangelistically wired friends what they do when talking to pre Christians, if they had a personal style in evangelism.  One friend replied that he likes to use creation and science to open peoples eyes to the reality of God.  Another likes to pray and introduce people to God through Holy Spirit encounter.  Ray Comfort, international evangelist, uses the 10 commandments and tracts to communicate the need for a Saviour.   When I was working in a customer service team before I had my kids I tried to just be myself.  So when people asked me about my weekend I’d say I had an awesome time hanging out with friends and had church on Sunday.  I’d talk about stuff going on in my life and how God had helped me.  Every now and then one of my co workers would instead of asking me what I wanted from McDonalds down the road would ask if I wanted to help her get mcDonalds… code words for talk about her life, code works for asking advice, code words for me to watch for those transition moments.  Sometimes they came, sometimes they didn’t, but they all knew I was a Christian and that it was real for me.

One thing we can also do is to intentionally look for those conversation transitions.  Learn to recognize the moments in a conversation where you can talk about God, or flow the conversation in another direction.   Learn how to ask open questions about what they believe and then reply with your own story.  It takes practice to learn how to do this and the more often we do it the more comfortable we can become.

Also, our job may not be to close the deal.  Every conversation we have with someone can be another rung on the ladder as someone journeys closer to God.

Remember – our job is to plant seeds and water seeds others have planted – it is God who grows the plant!  Every conversation you have is doing something!   Each time you talk to someone God is doing something.  He is doing a hidden work in their hearts to draw them to Himself.

 

What works for you?

 

 

 

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