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be-strong-courageous

Courage leads to faith.  Courage puts you in the seat of the roller coaster and straps you in but faith is knowing that you’re going to zoom, its the confidence that its designed right and that every mechanical thing is working and functioning and that in 25 seconds you’ll be able to breathe at normal speed again…

 

Courage caused Jonathan and his armour bearer to leave the safety of the snooze under the pomegranate tree, but faith took them into the battle and the victory.  Once they heard the enemy say “come on up here” they knew that God was at work and that nothing was impossible.

 

Elijah’s faith was in a God who would answer by fire – on an altar drenched with water.  Natural circumstance did not matter or deter his faith.

 

Moses knew that God had called him up onto a mountain of fire and thunder and went up and encountered God.  His faith was in the God who had called him would keep him and sustain him and the Bible says that he was up there for 40 days and 40 nights with no food or water.

 

Faith says if God said it then it will happen.  It believes that God is good and the best is yet to come.  It believes that God is at work all the time and in all things and that He works out all things for good.

 

Faith isn’t a what – it is in a who.  We have faith in an incredible God who breathed out the stars, who created the universe, who knows how many hairs you have on your head and knows all the thoughts and dreams of your heart.  We have faith in a God who loves us so much that 2000 years ago Jesus came and lived a perfect life that we could never live and he died the death we should have, punished for the sins of all the world, for your sin, my sin.  Sin is the dumb stuff we do, the things that push us away from God.  God is perfect and holy and could have just left it at that but He wanted to be our Father and to be our friend.  So Jesus came and lived and died and took our place – its like he exchanged his perfect rap sheet for our rubbish rap sheet and now we can be called innocent and not guilty.

 

This is who we have faith in.  The God who has done everything to make us His friend.  The God who created you on purpose with a purpose.  The God who holds the universe together and is at work yesterday, today, tomorrow.

 

be-strong-courageous

Then Elijah said to all the people, “Come near to me.” So all the people came near to him. And he repaired the altar of the Lord that was broken down. 31 And Elijah took twelve stones, according to the number of the tribes of the sons of Jacob, to whom the word of the Lord had come, saying, “Israel shall be your name.”[b] 32 Then with the stones he built an altar in the name of the Lord; and he made a trench around the altar large enough to hold two seahs of seed. 33 And he put the wood in order, cut the bull in pieces, and laid it on the wood, and said, “Fill four waterpots with water, and pour it on the burnt sacrifice and on the wood.” 34 Then he said, “Do it a second time,” and they did it a second time; and he said, “Do it a third time,” and they did it a third time. 35 So the water ran all around the altar; and he also filled the trench with water.  1 kings 18

 

We’ve got to get ready in the simple every day parts of our lives.  If you want fire in your life you don’t just go “boom here I am, I’m ready” – you prepare.

 

The amazing encounter with God, the fire falling on the altar came after the altar was rebuilt, after the trench was dug, after the wood was cut and after the ox was prepared.  All of these elements take work.  Digging.  Building.  Hard Labour.   Elijah had to prepare for the fire to come.

 

Paul puts it like this – fan into flame.  Press on.  Run the race.

 

Chop the wood.  Pray.  Read the Bible.  Go to church.   Serve.  Give.  Worship.

 

Do the everyday things to make your life an altar for the fire to fall.

 

Chopping the wood takes time, effort, and consistency.  It is often done in the unseen places, in private preparation.

 

Have you ever watched a movie and been amazed at the transformation of an actor?  I know things like that fascinate me and I am a geek so often will look up stuff about the behind the scenes information about movies and actors.

 

For example, Hugh Jackman used to run on a treadmill at the gym and sing at the top of his lungs to prepare for Les Mis.

 

Ewan McGregor and Liam Neeson spent so many hours training with their lightsabers for the highly coordinated battles that they had to actually slow down the footage because they were too good.

 

Here’s a geeky thing for you:  when Star Wars – The Phantom Menace was released in 1999 2.2 million employees in the US skipped word to see the movie.  This unauthorized absence was estimated to have cost the US economy $293million!

 

We see the finished product and enjoy the entertainment but behind the scenes someone has spent hours preparing for that role.

 

Your life is telling a story and this year is a brand new chapter in that adventure.

 

What are the everyday private things, the behind the scenes things, the decisions, the actions, the disciples, that frame your life and prepare you for the highlight reel moments?

 

What are the habits that you have curated that build your life a life of faithfulness?

 

What are the intentional actions that you do to build your marriage, to love on your kids, to connect with those in your world, to grow in your calling and steward the life that God has given you?

 

Character is learning how to make the little choices along the way that ultimately add up to who we become. It’s learning when to say yes and when to say no.

 

Building a lifestyle of worship, of faithfulness, of passion and purpose chops the wood and gets you ready for the fire to fall.

 

It’s like you’re painting a massive target on your life saying here am I Lord, send me!

be-strong-courageous

This year to live out the things that God has planned for us we are going to need courage and faith.  God is calling us to stretch out our tent pegs and to step out of the boat.

 

We have to have courage to embrace change.  To believe in the impossible.  To have the converstations with people about Jesus.  To pray and believe for healing.  To apply for the new job.  To put your hand up for new opportunities.

 

Moses had to have courage to go up Mt Sinai.

He was one man out of a whole nation and he said I am not afraid I will go up on the mountain and meet God because he knew the heart of God, he had a personal relationship.  The reward of his courage was he met with God face to face, he met with God like no one else has in history.  We have to have courage to go hard after God, to make that decision to carve out time to spend with Him, to pursue His presence and to want more, even if those around us hold back.

 

Jonathan Edwards, 18th Century theologian and preacher wrote 70 resolutions when he was 19, which he read once a week to remind himself for 35 years, more than 1,800 times before his death in 1758.   All of his resolutions have been summed up in these two statements:

 

Resolution One: I will live for God.

Resolution Two: If no one else does, I still will.- Jonathan Edwards

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If we knew the people that God had worked through in the past we would be encouraged about His ability to work through us.

Think about it…

Mary was an unwed mother.  Oh the shame.

Matthew was a tax collector who ripped off his own countrymen to line his own pockets.

David slept with someones wife, got her pregnant and the murdered her husband.

Jonah ran away from God.

Elijah was depressed and suicidal.

Jacob was a liar and a cheat.

Peter the disciple and first leader of the early church was flaky.

Paul, who wrote at least ½ of the New Testament, orchestrated the genocide of Christians in the early church.

Lazarus was dead!

In fact God doesn’t often pick the most intelligent, qualified person in the room. God often chooses the least qualified so it’s evident they’re not doing things out of their own strength but out of His.

Insecurity robs not only us of the reward of serving, the reward of making a difference, but it robs those we are called to minister to and connect with.

We’ve got to stop comparing our behind-the-scenes with everyone else’s highlight reel.  Comparison involves constantly worrying about what people think about you and it is a really fast way to forgetting what God thinks of you.

We have got to deal insecurity and its BFF comparison a death blow.

The way to do this is to counter the lies they tell with the truth of God.

I am a son of God.  I am a daughter of God.

I am called and chosen and equipped and empowered.

The Holy Spirit lives in me, the Holy Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead lives in me.

God gives me wisdom.

It’s not by my might, nor by my power but by the Holy Spirit.

Every time that negative thought creeps in, every time it tells you that you don’t matter, or that you’re not important, or that you cant do that like they can, or you’re not good enough, counter it with the Word of God just as Jesus did in the desert when the enemy questioned his identity and purpose.

“It is written” and “the Bible says” are 3 of the most powerful words you can ever say and they will change your life.

About 12 years ago I did a preaching course run here at church by our previous pastor.  Everyone else in the group was deep and meaningful and spiritual.  And then there was me.  Comparison tried to make me conform to how everyone else did it.  But gun noises and Lost references kept on popping out of me and I had to embrace who I was, give comparison and insecurity a punch in the face and be myself.

It’s the same situation Gideon faced himself in.  The angel of the Lord appeared and said “Mighty Man of Valour” and Gideon said who me?  Insecurity answered instead of faith.  Thankfully Gideon allowed God to transform his identity and self image so that he could play his part in the deliverance of Israel from the MIdanites.  We know Gideons highlight reel, we can read it in the Bible, but once upon a time he stood at the beginning of his story with the challenge to play his part.

Goodness, stepping out can be a scary thing.  Being real and giving something of yourself can be vulnerable.    But if we stopped every time we felt fear or insecurity then we’d be living very dull lives.

David in Psalm 53:6 says When I am afraid, I will put my trust and faith in You.

He’s saying when I’m insecure, I will put my faith and trust in You who is greater, in You who have called me.

He’s saying when I look down on myself, I will put my faith and trust in You God.

When I compare myself to others, I will trust you God.

I will do it afraid.

There is a powerful scene at the end of Cinderella – the 2015 live action movie – where Cinderella looks at herself in a mirror as she goes to meet her prince charming… not dressed in the ball gown but in the rags of a servant.   The narrator asks this question.

Would who she was really be enough? There was no magic to help her this time. This is perhaps the greatest risk any of us will ever take—to be seen as we truly are //  Cinderella 2015

That is the big question.  Will you take the risk?  God loves who you are, He likes who you are and I think we do too.  Kick insecurity and comparison to the curb.

 

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“Every Christian is, in one way or another, involved in the unseen war. There are no bystanders, no spectators. It makes no difference how clearly you perceive the realities of the conflict or if you even believe in the existence of demonic spirits. Whether you participate as a combatant, a captive, or an instrument of the enemy (even an unwitting instrument), be sure of this: You are in it, and the stakes are very high.” Harry R. Jackson, Jr. (The Warrior’s Heart)

Whether you know it or not, if you are a christian or not, you are in a battle. There is no spiritually neutral ground. There are two primary mistakes when it comes to talking and thinking about spiritual things like spiritual warfare—over-emphasis and under-emphasis. Some blame every sin, every conflict, and every problem on the invisible world, on demons that need to be cast out. Car breaks down, it’s a demon. Wifi goes down, it’s the devil. Boss is unhappy with you, it’s a demon. You’re out of coffee… you get my point. Others completely ignore the spiritual world even though the Bible tells us it is real and that there is a battle going on. We have an enemy and he is messing with us sometimes but we are not powerless or victims in it, we don’t need to freak out or be afraid, because God has given us tools and Jesus came to defeat the devil and He did!
So how do we know what is battle and what is life? How do we know when we’re been attacked or just having a bad hair day?

Ephesians 6:12 says For our wrestling is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.

Our battle isn’t against flesh and blood, the things we can see with our natural eyes, or rather the people we see with our natural eyes because I don’t know about you about many of the times when I’m in a battle behind the scenes the enemy is using people in my world to mess with me.
The battle we see with our eyes is the conflict we’re in at work, or that person that is talking behind your back, or the constant arrrghh going on at home with the kids and hubby. The battle is our fears and feelings that rise up in the midst of those conflicts – the sense of rejection and fear, the feelings of hopelessness and worthlessness.
In this battle the devil loves throws accelerant on the fire. You were dealing with a match sized flame and then boom he throws on a cup of petrol and those thoughts and feelings are raging out of control.

Now in this battle I cant control the reactions of people but I can control my response. I can control my thinking. Sometimes our natural reaction is to go gung ho wham bam thank you mamn but God calls us to submit to God, resist the devil and he must flee. It’s in our surrender first to the ways and will of God that empower us to resist. It’s in our dying to ourselves – our natural reactions – that honour God. It’s in surrendering to God to grow in the situation, to humble ourselves to own our part in things and to become wiser. It’s in letting God have His way in our actions and thoughts.

The heat of the battle refines our hearts and minds and makes us more like Jesus.

“Only you can decide how your fires will affect you. Will you be sanctified or scarred” – Beth Moore
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At HKC Youth this term we’ve been looking at the behind the scenes stuff – the spiritual stuff that goes on behind the scenes in our life, how that affects here and now, what we can see, how we feel, how we act, and how we are not victims but how God has given us tools to equip and empower us for any situation.

A couple of weeks ago one of our awesome youth leaders did a phenomenal message about the armour of God – who can remember the different parts of armour?

One of the parts that especially challenged me and made me go mmmmm was when he wrote on each nerf bullet a tactic or strategy that the enemy uses to mess with our minds.

Shame.

Fear.

Insecurity.

Guilt.

Hate.

And he shot them out of his nerf gun at his brother who was wearing his helmet of salvation and had his shield of faith up and the bullets just bounced off and were deflected.

Our shield of faith is made up of all the truth we know about God.

He is good.

He is for us.

He is powerful.

He gives us peace.

He heals us.

He is at work to make all things good.

When the enemy fires a lie at us, fires a dart at us, his aim is that it will hit us, penetrate us, wound us – kill steal and destroy us.  That we’ll get hit and then we’ll buy the lie and it becomes the way we think.

But faith identifies the lie and replaces it with the truth of the Word of God.

Jesus did this when the devil tempted him in the desert after he was baptized.  The devil would say “so if you think you’re the son of God do this or do that” and Jesus would hold up his shield of faith and say “it is written in the word of God” and the lie would just bounce off.

There is power in declaring who God is.  Regardless of our circumstances, regardless of what it looks like, God is faithful, He is good, He is mighty to save. When we declare Who God is, our circumstances have to bow to the truth.

But sometimes we have our own lies.  We have our own issues that fight against God.

The war is within us.  My will vs God’s will.  My ways vs God’s way.

There are things that I don’t want to do, that I end up doing.

There are things that I want to do, but I don’t do them.

An old Cherokee is teaching his grandson about life. “A fight is going on inside me,” he said to the boy.

“It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil – he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride,  and ego.” He continued, “The other is good – he is joy, peace, love, hope,  humility, kindness, , empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you – and inside every other person, too.”

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?”

The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.” Read the rest of this entry »

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Everyone loves a good love story.

The Princess Bride.

Tangled.

The return of the jedi.

 

If you flick through the tv channels you’ll see evidence of our cultures fascination with love stories.

The Bachelor.

Married at First Sight.

First Date.

 

Not endorsing any of those programmes – especially as these ones often end up unhappily ever after!

Hosea is one of those books that probably should come with a PG rating, and would make reality tv viewers go nuts on social media but is my favourite book of the Bible.  It is a phenomenal picture of the gospel and of God’s unrelenting, everlasting, never stopping, never giving up love for us.  The name Hosea even means Salvation and is the same name as Joshua and Jesus and as we read Hosea we see that not only his words, but that his whole life was a prophetic message to Israel.

The book of Hosea is a love story.  Of the epic romance movie kind.

I’ve been doing some research bout love stories and romcoms this week.  There is a formula for romantic movies did you know.

Boy meets girl.

Boy and girl like each other but must overcome obstacles to be together.

Plot twist.

Happy ending.

 

The book of Hosea follows the genre well.  It focuses on one of the craziest things that God asked anyone in the Bible to do. God told a man named Hosea to marry a woman who had a “shady past” and thus, boy meets girl.    God loving good Christian boy Hosea meets worldly atheistic good time girl.  But the craziness doesn’t end there.  Plot twist number one.  Gomer abandons Hosea and sleeps around, becoming a professional hooker, having kids by these other men. Plot twist number two.  The good times run out for Gomer, and she ends up being sold into sexual slavery.  Plot twist number three. God tells Hosea to go and buy her back and bring her back into his home and to share his love with her again. Believe or not, Hosea obeyed! What was God up to? And will there be a happy ending by the time the credits roll?

The human story was to teach people about His Story. It’s a story that definitely gets our attention, and it’s an incredible reminder of God’s radical love for us. Read the rest of this entry »

Does anyone here when they watch movies find that they are linking the movie to stuff in the Bible or seeing parallels between the gospel and the characters in the movie?  Just me?

 

How many times have we seen a film where a handful of brave souls take a stand against evil? Consider The Lord of the Rings, where the fellowship is pitted against the forces of Mordor, or the recent Star Wars, which features a light side and dark side.  It’s Xavier vs Magneto.  Autobots vs Decepticons.

One of the most heart-wrenching moments in The Chronicles of Narnia is when Aslan surrenders himself to save Edmund. It’s a horrible, beautiful moment when power of love is on full display.   How many times have we seen one of the good guys give up their life, or think they’re giving up their life, or give up something else important, in order to save the day?  Beauty and the Beast.  Saving Private Ryan.  Batman vs Superman.

We love seeing the underdog win.  We love seeing the flawed hero overcome their struggle to win the day.  We love happy endings.

Cinderella meets her prince charming.

Nemo and his dad are reunited.

Westly and Buttercup get married.

 

Is it also just me that cries in almost every movie they see?  Tangled.   Yes.  Cinderella.  Yes.  Star Trek.  Yes.  Force Awakens.  No.  Seriously.

And this part in Thor.

I think my favourite Marvel movie so far is Thor.   Thor really is awesome!

Thor in the movie is sent to earth because of his pride and arrogance by his father Odin the All Father to learn some humility.

NOT A PARALLEL to the Bible.

Stripped of his super powers and cut off from his home in the heavens he walks as one of us – an extremely ripped version of one of us but still.

Unable to wield his might hammer Thor comes to accept that he is no longer worthy of his esteemed position as the Crown Prince of Asgard (his home world). Yet when we the good people of earth are threatened by The Destroyer (a super powered Asgardian security guard) Thor steps up to face the threat despite his (relatively) feeble form. He is willing to sacrifice himself to save us.

There are obviously many differences between Thor and Jesus but the similarity of the basic story of the Son of God sacrificing himself in order to save us should be familiar to most of us.

Philippians 2:5-11 says this – this is what Jesus did and who Jesus is….

Jesus who, being in very nature[a] God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature[b] of a servant, being made in human likeness.  And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death – even death on a cross!   Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

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FirstAid

Earlier this month our Kids church pastor and I did a first aid course.  After doing the course we feel empowered and ready to save lives and leap buildings in a single bound.  We did the CPR training – 30 to 2 no matter who, to the beat of staying alive, which sounds much better than to the beat of another one bites the dust.  We bandaged head wounds, knife wounds and a range of broken bones and amputations.   I only killed Jen once in our practice scenarios.  Of course the key to first aid is blankets – do you know how many times we had to use a blanket to complete our assessments and save our patients.  Many times.  But seriously, the key to first aid is knowing what to do in an emergency situation and having some pre-prepared responses that kick in when needed.

After having a conversation with someone the other day I realized that there are parallels between first aid and evangelism.  The key to feeling empowered to step into an emergency first aid situation is as I said, that knowledge of what to do and some pre-prepared responses that guide you through a situation.   I feel confident that if I came across an incident, that because of the first aid training that I would feel competent to step in.  I even dreamed about it the other night!   I did however think it was odd that kylo ren was the ambulance driver….  Welcome to my world….

The key to feeling empowered to step into an evangelistic situation also involves knowing what to do and how to use those skills.   Our confidence comes from being trained and equipped to step in when the opportunity presents itself.

God has called each one of us to be ambassadors and witnesses – to shine His light into the world so that people will see God in the darkness.  It is God who saves and draws people to Himself but He demonstrates His love and grace and lives out salvation in us.

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God has called each one of us to be ambassadors and witnesses – to shine His light into the world so that people will see God in the darkness.  It is God who saves and draws people to Himself but He demonstrates His love and grace and lives out salvation in us.

God has qualified and empowered each one of us to do this momentous task.  It should be done every day in every conversation in every opportunity.  It’s not something we turn off or turn on.  We don’t clock in or clock out. We ARE witnesses.  24/7.  We ARE the light of the world, unhidden and shinning bright. God often uses small matches to light up great torches, no matter how small you feel in this world, He has something big in store for you and will use you in amazing ways.

I know for myself that the key to being a witness and a light is to say YES.  One small word changes my intentionality level and willingness to be used by God.  One small word.  YES.

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