I feel challenged that church isn't meant to be a gathering, but rather a movement of people.
People that are empowered by the Hope we have in Christ.
People that are filled by the power of the Holy Spirit.
People that are unified by their love for God.
People that are mobilised by the grace of God on their lives.
People that are active in the gifts and talents they possess.
People that are emboldened by the vision that God has placed on their hearts.
And as I reflect on this, I ask myself "what role do I play in this?"
So after journeying with it, I realise that it's a very personal thing. All of this doesn't come from a sermon on a Sunday. And it doesn't come from a text message from the pastor.
It comes from encountering God on a personal, one on one, devoted manner.
It DEVELOPS through discipleship. That's the role of the church. To equip, empower, release.
That's what we're doing!
Come and be a part of it!
(It doesn't happen all on a Sunday morning!)
We start off with the best intentions, but then life happens!
I don't feel guilty or wrong for not keeping up with the monthly practice I had when I first started 5 years ago of writing on this blog
It was like many things, an adopted task from my predecessor. I'm not saying it's a bad thing to continue, but as I've immersed myself in the role of senior pastor I've discovered what it is to be me. The outworking of the role in me has taken a much different shape, and that's not a bad thing; it's just different. But understand this: My identity is not wound up in the role.
In fact, I've discovered of late that I don't put on my 'pastor hat' when I walk through the doors and remove it when I lay down at night.
I've found that in this role, I care. I turn up every day passionate to impact this community because I care. I answer the phone and send the text messages because I honestly care.
And why I care is because I've realised and encountered the love and care that God has for me.
But He went one further and let me in on a secret... That intense and overwhelming love He has for me... He has that for everyone.
So how can I not see people through those eyes?
I genuinely care, not for what I can get out of it, but what I can see our God put in!!!
So as the title implies, I have not kept up with the monthly task. Mainly it's because I have taken opportunity to invest in other ways. And invest I will. Because the cross was the investment made for me.
Let's see when I find the time to write another one of these ;)
What season are you in? John chapter 15 talks about being connected to the vine. For those of you who might not be able to follow the metaphor, Jesus is referring to being focused on relationship with the Father. Are we actually connected in?
It's quite interesting, the use of social media to connect people. I can communicate so easily now with friends and family overseas and interstate. We laugh and chat and it is such a blessing in so many ways. But, at the end of the day they aren't with me when I sit in my home and hang out. They aren't able to give me a hug on my birthday. They aren't there to sing with me at church. So it's this way of staying up to date, but not really experiencing the depth of connection that is possible in being in the same location and sharing in the moments of life together.
Our relationship with Jesus can often become a quick phone call. An instant messenger. Maybe in some circumstances when we see someone preaching from the platform we clap and encourage but it just equates to clicking "like" on one of God's posts.
We know that He's there. He's contactable at anytime.
But actually, He is RIGHT HERE sitting next to you. He wants you to encounter Him. I've heard of it happening in a wide range of ways. I've experienced it myself in different ways. But most of the time for me it's been an openness in my Spirit when God has come and moved me. A resounding "YES" to Jesus.
When we stop and give Him that time, and ask Him to reveal Himself to us, He will be there. It may not always be how we imagine it, but when we say Yes to Him, He doesn't miss an opportunity.
What season are you living in?
Let it be a season of growth as you stay connected to the vine. As He sits with you today, be sure to sit with Him. Be present in His presence.
Let's be honest, sometimes stuff happens.
Sometimes life gets a little heavy or busy or just flat out crazy.
It has been a long while since the last blog post. A LOT has happened! And A LOT has passed. Mostly good, but some things to mourn as well.
When starting off the journey as a senior pastor of a church, I ran with energy, gusto, passion! But as life has continued, some would say that some of that has passed.
I can honestly say it hasn't.
It may seem that the way that we first arrived seems different to how we are now, and that is true. But I believe that we have ALL grown through that process. As life has ticked on, we have learnt how to love better, to give more generously, to preach and teach more effectively, to be open and honest in greater ways and so on.
My energy output may be different, but it isn't. I believe it's focused in other ways :)
But a conversation in our team recently has been around 'is there some stuff we need to un-learn?'
Life has taught us many things, but I've had to let the Holy Spirit search me and show me things that I have become accustomed to that do not bring honour to God. Things that, as I share it with our youth ministry, God isn't celebrating with us.
He's LOVING us in it all, but is He celebrating those habits that get in the way? Those attitudes that limit us? Those thought processes that prevent a blessing in a particular area of our lives?
Are we letting the God of the universe, who sees everything and knows everything, to ACTUALLY search us in our quest for righteousness?
I know the hand of discipline from the Lord. Although it isn't always pleasant, I am honoured and blessed to have a Father in heaven who loves me to that degree. Teaching me to be who He's called me to be.
But what's happening to us in all of that?
It's been a while, but I don't want to go back to the start of it. I want to continue in this journey of walking out the plans and purposes that God has lined up for you and me!
A famous old saying that has coaxed many people to place a bet. But it's always been known to mean that we need to back up what we say.
The power of the tongue is life and death! The Bible likens it to the small rudder on a massive ship. The contrast in size is massive, but the impact it has on destination is astonishing.
Not to take away from that, but talk has become very cheap in recent times. It is easy to make outlandish statements and even fly off the handle in interactions but still have no accountability or consequences.
We can have desires to build God's church, and we know that God uses us as His hands and feet. Yes, unless the Lord builds the house the workers labour in vain, but it is our efforts that He desires and our hearts in all of it.
It's easy to say that the church should be doing this, or it'd be great to see the church do that. But what has He given you to see that come into fruition?
You may have the desire, but when do you put legs to what you say. Better yet, when do you put your money where your heart is? Or is your heart where your money is?
God is in control. He is the ultimate power, and we can rest in the fact that He is looking out for you and me. I think of the scripture "He saw the disciples straining at the oars, because the wind was against them. Shortly before dawn he went out to them, walking on the lake. He was about to pass by them..."
For starters, Jesus saw them straining. In your life today, Jesus sees you in all of your trials and tribulations; your stresses and pressures. He sees the sweat on your brow and the pain in your heart. And He has felt it all before you!
Be validated in the fact that you are not alone, He sees you, and He gets it.
The next part of the scripture is just as exciting. Not only does He see us, but He comes to us. We can receive the miracle. We can receive the provision for our situation from God. BUT it may not look like what we think it looks like. I'm sure the disciples weren't thinking "Walking on this water would be easier. If only we could walk on this water."
God will take care of all of our needs. It's hard to see and believe when we have hopes and prayers for people close to us that pass away due to sickness, or are hurt through accidents in life.
God moving in your life may not look like what you think it should or desire it to look like, but He is moving.
And that is what happened to the disciples. He moved, and one person (Peter) responded.
God sees you! And has made provision for you. He is moving. Call out, reach out and find out!
How good is a pot luck dinner? You know, when the invite to a party says "bring a plate to share"? I love those get-togethers. It's amazing to see what ideas people come up with, what they eat and how they present/prepare it! It opens up this whole diverse experience. I attended a pot luck style wedding when I was a young teenager and boy was the spread impressive. So much to choose from, it was amazing!
In our church. we have a very diverse group of individuals who have the opportunity to bring who they are to the table. That may mean being open and vulnerable amongst other Christian individuals that are going to inspire them and encourage them in their relationship with Jesus. For others it's allowing God to use the gifts and talents that we have to benefit others in the house. Sometimes the church has an outlet for that, sometimes we can create one, sometimes we need to be flexible to be a part of a team project, and other times we need to wait for the right season. Probably not great to start a surfing social group in the middle of winter! But who knows? Jesus does. We need to allow God to lead us in all that we do, say and start when it comes to bringing who we are to the table.
Another thing that we can bring to the table may not be a skill set, but is often a passion or vision for something in the church and subsequently the community.
As a pastor I love these discussions. When people talk about what they're passionate about and how the church can help empower, equip and encourage people to be released into such things. Of course there's always the issue of timing and resources, but don't stop the discussion! Whatever we have and whoever we are, we have plenty to bring to the table. The enemy would have us believe that we are of no worth, that it is a waste of time, that there are better uses of our time, that the road ahead is too tough, that it's too much effort, that others will do it, and so on.
We are the church. Not the church people, THE CHURCH. And the Spirit of God desires to use ALL of us! Pray, and ask God what it is that He is leading you into. What is it that you're passionate about, and do that for the good of the Kingdom of God!
The evil in this world would prefer to have you busy on worthless, fickle things. It'd prefer to have you sitting in complacency.
Get one thing through to the depths of who you are- you are saved by grace. This life and it's goodness is undeserving to us except by the grace of God. And with the true revelation of that, we can only live to serve and share the good news. That it's free. Are you saved? Then live like it! Be the truth to this world! And revisit what you're bringing to the table. Bring what God is calling you to!
When we decide to follow Jesus, there is faith involved. When we send our loved ones off to work, school, holidays, camps, sporting adventures etc. we do so with faith that they will be safe and sound. When we decide in our hearts to go out of our way to demonstrate the love of Christ to people, we have faith that it will be received and/or achieve a grand purpose. When Jesus carried out any miracles, there was definitely faith involved!
We have a constant battle in the natural (and supernatural) between the thoughts and evidence of atheism and the thoughts and evidence of Christianity. There's been a to and fro between the two camps where cases against each are being added to, but there is no definitive example that proves or disproves the other. Now, many Christians will give examples of God's miraculous power being evident in their lives which proves the existence of God to many, but for some reason many will twist the facts to create doubt of it's transcendent nature.
When I look back on my life, I can see that I was that "wretch" mentioned in the famous hymn Amazing Grace. I was definitely lost and now I am found! Praise God! The grace of God is absolutely amazing and I've seen His patience in my life time and time again, in many different ways.
And looking back I thank God for the people that were put in my life that poured into me, loved me, prepared me with wisdom, taught me, showed God's amazing grace towards me and so on.
I credit God for where I am today, living blessed. But I know that He has worked through some willing humble servants of His Kingdom. I look at how this is reflected in the Bible. Jesus was sent to this earth to restore mankind unto God. This was represented in the crucifixion and the empty tomb.
It can be said that Jesus' life was geared towards that very point in time. But it also needs to be seen that Jesus' life was as much about His ministry to the disciples as it was to the cross.
Jesus poured out, loved, prepared wisdom in, taught and showed God's amazing grace towards the 12 disciples (and the others!). It is so important to put ourselves in a similar place with someone we can trust in God's kingdom.
Ecclesiastes 4:7 says "Again I saw something meaningless under the sun: There was a man all alone; he had neither son nor brother..."
God has called us to be in relationship with people. Jesus could DEFINITELY have completed the work set for Him (the cross) without the disciples, but He showed us that the Christian walk is about relationship; with Him and with others!
John 13:35 "By this everyone will know you are my disciples, if you have love for one another"
There are so many benefits from doing life and being vulnerable with others. Yes, it does open us up to be hurt also. But hardening up towards the Word of God in one area will only see people longing for their joy to be complete, and never finding it.
Do life with people!
As a teenager, I used to say "No expectations, no disappointments". My parents would express their frustration in hearing me say such things to which I would shirk and continue on about my business. To be frank, I was not in a good place mentally during this time of my life. I was definitely guiding myself through a range of changes, stress and pressures that I was not accustomed to. Efforts were made by may parents to help me out in these situations but at that time, they were not the people that I wanted such support from.
After I made a series of healthy decisions, the greatest being to be vulnerable before God and to truly put my faith in Him, I realised that my statement about my expectations had to go.
I finally found myself saying "God, I give up trying to do this my way as I always come up hungry; never fully satisfied with the outcome. Please, I feel torn and tired. I long for the good things that Your Word says are stored up for me. Give me direction!".
God poured out His love upon me like I had never experienced before and challenged me that day with a question. "Will you fix your expectations?"
"Now faith is a confidence in things we have hoped for and an assurance in what we do not see" Hebrews 11:1
Without my expectations being high, my faith was dry/not apparent.
I did not choose to put my faith in the things unseen because I did not feel I had the emotional energy to raise such expectations. I was struggling to smile at the people I loved.
But God changed all of that.
Now I find myself with an amazingly beautiful and inspirational wife, three gorgeous children that melt my heart when they show me their love for God and leading a church that continues to blow my mind in how they prioritise God in their lives and foster that in the lives of others. I never pictured all of this on that day, but I chose to raise the bar in my life and be done with the lies that I had been sold about my self-worth. That day back in 2006, and the following weeks changed my life.
Today can be that day for you.
2015 is yours to make of it as you will.
I've found that God's will is something that I have become accustomed to, and it comes with peace and joy as opposed to the stress and pressure that came about from my own.
If you can dream it, He can dream it bigger!
Raise your expectations and let your faith grow, grow, grow!!!
Senior Pastor at Eternity Church.