Thursday 30 May 2019

Another Ascension Moment

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50 Then Jesus led them to Bethany, and lifting his hands to heaven, he blessed them. 51 While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up to heaven. 52 So they worshipped him and then returned to Jerusalem filled with great joy. 53 And they spent all of their time in the Temple, praising God." - Luke 24:50-53

We usually focus our Ascension Day messages around Acts 1:1-11 and there is nothing wrong with this. However, Luke also mentions the Ascension of Jesus in his Gospel and it is an interesting take on this glorious moment. 

The significance of Jesus going back to his father is complex and equally crucial for the Church to understand. But just for today I want us to pause on this truth - one of the last things that Jesus did before he left the earth was BLESS his followers. It was while he was blessing them that he was taken into heaven. 

This is such a powerful image for us to hold onto. Jesus' ascension was not the father "ripping" Jesus away from a timid group of people, but rather a planned moment of implying great trust in the disciples. A moment where God willingly hands over the mantle to us.
May we know Christ's blessing upon our lives as we serve the risen, ascended Lord.

Living in Grace

Wednesday 29 May 2019

No Strangers Allowed!?

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When you read the title of today's post you may be mistaken that I am suggesting that we don't allow strangers into our Churches, but please read the quote first before jumping to the wrong conclusion:
"In our world we're much more comfortable with posting a sign like "No strangers allowed" that reflects the suspicion and fear of our time. But perhaps it is time for us to acknowledge our fear, confront it, and turn that very slogan on its head. "No strangers allowed" means that in the Kingdom of God nobody is a stranger, therefore in this congregation nobody is a stranger." - Alan Brehm, The Waking Dreamer, 2009.

How does that sound? Challenging?
In truth we are sometimes worshipping in churches where we feel like strangers. We may know the faces of people, but do we spend time listening to their struggles, trials and deep needs? Christian community is a hard lifestyle to live out, but when we seek to be the body of Jesus, then we should also strive to make sure that no one feels like a 'stranger' in our midst.

Ephesians 2:19-22 (The Message)
 That’s plain enough, isn’t it? You’re no longer wandering exiles. This kingdom of faith is now your home country. You’re no longer strangers or outsiders. You belong here, with as much right to the name Christian as anyone. God is building a home. He’s using us all—irrespective of how we got here—in what he is building. He used the apostles and prophets for the foundation. Now he’s using you, fitting you in brick by brick, stone by stone, with Christ Jesus as the cornerstone that holds all the parts together. We see it taking shape day after day—a holy temple built by God, all of us built into it, a temple in which God is quite at home.

Living in Grace

Tuesday 28 May 2019

Live for something more

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I have noticed that when churches, communities and organisations become so focused on themselves, they start to breakdown from the inside. Petty arguments, disagreements and issues become our focal point and sap most of our energy. However, when we return to the 'reason for our existence' (for Churches that is to Love God and Love Others), we begin to let go of the trivial stuff and realise the importance of our mission.

I could sum this up by saying: When we live for something/someone else, we come alive and focus on what it life-giving instead of the petty issues.

Stephen Gaukroger – “When local churches are absorbed with ‘external’ needs, ‘internal’ issues (such as worship and unity), are not major sources of contention… Let us get our Churches focused upwards to God and outwards to the world.”
What trivial matters are sapping your energy at the moment?

Living in Grace

Monday 27 May 2019

What if this was our Agenda?

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“For Jesus there are no countries to be conquered, no ideologies to be imposed, and no people to be dominated. There are only children, women and men to be loved.” – Henri Nouwen

What if this quote formed a crucial part of our everyday agenda? 
What if we moved away from trying to 'conquer' others with our theology or dogma and just loved them?
What if I stopped trying to impose my ideology on you and loved you instead?
What if I humbled myself and loved you for who you are?

Would this make a difference in our world? I believe it would!

What do you think? Am I being too idealistic or naive? Would love to hear your thoughts...

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbour and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect." - Matthew 5:43-48

Living in Grace

Sunday 26 May 2019

The movement is crucial

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John Stott“Jesus saw; he felt; he acted. The movement was from the eye to the heart and from the heart to the hand.”
 I fear that we no longer 'see' each other and so the movement from the eye to the heart seldom happens. And if it does happen, the movement doesn't always continue to the 'hand.' When we read these words from the famous story of the Forgiving Father,  we note this movement:
"So he got up and went to his father. “But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him." - Luke 15: 20
May we be challenged to allow the movement to be visible - from eye to heart - from heart to hand.
Living in Grace

Thursday 23 May 2019

Better X than Y

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Fill in your own words for 'x' and 'y' in the statement below:

"Better x than y." 

It is an unusual thing to think about, but we actually make these kind of decisions on a daily basis. Let me give you a few examples:

  • Perhaps you wake up feeling exhausted and so you think - Coffee is a better option than Tea today! (Better x than y).
  • You drive to work and find the traffic building up on your usual route - Better take the alternative route instead (better x than y).
  • You stand at the aisle in the shopping centre deciding which groceries to buy - eventually you have to make a call - Better x than y.

Why am I saying all this? Well, let us take a read of Psalm 37:16

 "Better the little that the righteous have (x)
    than the wealth of many wicked (y);
for the power of the wicked will be broken,
    but the Lord upholds the righteous.

The formula of this part of Psalm 37 is more like a proverb than a song - it offers us a choice and the freedom to decide the outcome. For me, it leads to the ultimate reflection of my faith:

Following Christ is much better than living for myself and for the things of this world.

Better Jesus than the world.

Living in Grace


Wednesday 22 May 2019

Trust, Take, Commit

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Much has been written on these 3 significant verses in Psalm 37.

"Trust in the Lord and do good;
    dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.

Take delight in the Lord,
    and he will give you the desires of your heart.

Commit your way to the Lord;    trust in him and he will do this:" - Psalm 37:4-6

However, I want to offer us a slightly different perspective on them today. I notice that each verse begins with a verb - a word that involves some kind of action on our behalf.  If call myself a God-follower I will need to put my faith into action. I do this by living out these 3 things:

1. Trusting in God
2. Taking delight in Christ
3. Committing my way to God

Each of Jesus' disciples needed to make a conscious decision whether they were willing to do this. There were times when some of the fringe believers drifted away because they couldn't live out these 3 things. Being a disciples of Jesus is not the easy option!

What do you think?

Living in Grace

Tuesday 21 May 2019

Peacemakers and Helping those in trouble

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"Consider the blameless, observe the upright;
    a future awaits those who seek peace.
38 But all sinners will be destroyed;
    there will be no future for the wicked.
39 The salvation of the righteous comes from the Lord;
    he is their stronghold in time of trouble.
40 The Lord helps them and delivers them;
    he delivers them from the wicked and saves them,
    because they take refuge in him." -
Psalm 37

As I reflect on this part of Psalm 37, I am reminded of two parts in the Gospels. The first one is when the Psalmist says, "a future awaits those who seek peace" - I was wondering if it is possible to link this up with the words of Jesus in Matthew 5:9.

"Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God." 

The other part is from verse 40, which pointed me to the passage in John 8, where Jesus delivers the women caught in adultery from the hands of the religious fanatics - all they wanted to do was stone her, but Jesus saw her plight and rescued her from their grasp.

Do these verses speak to you at all today?

Living in Grace

Monday 20 May 2019

Do not Fret

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"Do not fret because of those who are evil
    or be envious of those who do wrong;
for like the grass they will soon wither,
    like green plants they will soon die away." - Psalm 37

"Fret" is not a word we use much anymore, but we understand that it means 'to worry.' However, I think it means more than that - the definition of 'fret' is to be 'be constantly or visibly anxious.'  So these words from the Psalmist invite us not to be always consumed with anxiety, especially in light of people who are wicked. The implication is that they will receive their reward in due course.

Jesus used the same sentiment when he spoke to his followers in his great sermon on the Mount:
"Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own." - Matthew 6:34

Question: What is it that you are worrying about at the moment? How does today's Psalm help you to deal with your anxiety.

Living in Grace

Sunday 19 May 2019

While you wait

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How good are you at waiting? I confess that I am not the best - I am quite impatient actually.
In Revelation 21, John gives us a vision of the New Heaven and New Earth - it is something to look forward to and certainly to give us Hope for Life beyond the grave. If you want to read that passage then click here to read it again.

The question I ask is this: "What are we to do, while we wait?" Surely we can't just twiddle our thumbs and sit around doing nothing, while we wait for that glorious day? I think part of the answer lies in Jesus words:

"A New Command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." - John 13:34-35

If could occupy our time by LOVING in the way that Jesus loved, then I believe we will transform the world 'while we wait.'  

These well known words we given by Jesus to his disciples, even after he had told them that Judas would betray him. This teaches us that Love is not a nice thing we offer to people when we are in the mood, but a conscious choice, despite the way they may treat us.

Living in Grace

Thursday 16 May 2019

The Honeycomb

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"Gracious words are a honeycomb,    sweet to the soul and healing to the bones." - Proverbs 16:24

The healing properties of honey are well known. Even in Solomon's days people related good health to 'honey'. Just as we need the miracle of honey to sustain us physically, so the words we speak can add life and health to those who hear our words.

"Kind words are like honey—enjoyable and healthful." - Message
“Kind words are salve to a cankered soul; spread generously.” -Richelle Goodrich

Speak kindly today - you may just bring life to a troubled soul.

Living in Grace

Wednesday 15 May 2019

New ways

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Very few people enjoy change. A handful of pioneers seek out change, but the majority of us take some time to embrace new ideas. And of course there are small group of us who dig our heels in and refuse to accept change at all. I am not sure which group you fall into, but it will usually be in 1 of these 3 groups.

As a Christian community we also confront change - sometimes not as quickly as we should, but we do encounter change. A quick glance at the book of Acts will show us that the early church dealt with changing situations on a weekly basis. I strongly feel that in order for the church to grow and to be Incarnational, we need to be dynamic. Our Message should never change, but the medium we use should be scrutinised appropriately.

·      “When we follow Christ, we must be prepared for new ways to live, new ways to look at people, and new ways to serve.” Bible Commentary

    Jesus was a pioneer of change and look how he changed the world. 

16 “No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment, for the patch will pull away from the garment, making the tear worse. 17 Neither do people pour new wine into old wineskins. If they do, the skins will burst; the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved.” - Matthew 9

Living in Grace