He Reigns

he-reigns

I live in Australia, but like the rest of the world, we are still talking about the new President of America. Trump is a surprise win, a controversial choice and an imperfect human. However, so are we.

Beyond the fear, anger and division, God remains the same. If Clinton won, He would remain the same. Beyond limited human leaders (whether they be good or bad), God has, and will, outlast them all. His reign and His kingdom is secure. I’m reminded of Psalm 146:3 which says, “Do not put your trust in princes, in human beings, who cannot save.” We hope for the best from our friends, family and leaders, but our trust must always be placed in Him. He won’t let us go, and He won’t let us down.

Christians can grow in the most persecuted places where their very way of life is under threat daily. When Jesus was born, King Herod was a child killing leader; most of the Old Testament kings were power hungry madmen, and in Paul’s day he continued to write letters to his brothers and sisters to teach them to obey their nation’s leaders – whether they liked them or not.

1 Peter 2:17 says,  “Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honour the emperor.” Those words are even more astounding when we consider that Peter wrote this during the time Emperor Nero ruled and detested Christians with great violence and persecution. Jesus calls us to not only tolerate our enemies, but to pray for them and love them. A difficult task to be sure, but when we love without compromise and when we fear and obey Him above all, miracles can happen. God has proven time and again that He can use any person, and any circumstance for His glorious, ultimate purpose. In the midst of confusion or disappointment, it may not seem like it, but 2 Corinthians 4:18 calls us to, “fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”

So what can we do? We can trust that God knows what He’s doing, and we can pray for all the leaders in our lives, as 1 Timothy 2:1-2 calls us to do. “I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.”

In Romans 13:1-2, Paul says, “Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgement on themselves.” For someone who had faced as much time in prison for his faith, and being persecuted and physically punished as Paul did, these words carry tremendous weight.

Beyond prayer, we are called to be obedient to the authorities. This may seem obvious, but that means we don’t text and drive or sneak into movies we haven’t paid for, or any of those things that we may think are ok. Remember, God has called us to a higher standard. He wants us to be obedient to the earthly authorities, but to obey Him above all. Christ never compromised due to His obedience to the Father, and love for us. We, too, must live with a similar submissive and reverential approach.

We can be confident, knowing that the King we serve doesn’t lie or change His mind. Numbers 23:19 tells us, “God is not human, that he should lie, not a human being, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill?”

Beyond the fleeting panic and shock of leadership changes, God is above it all, and He’s with us through it all. He sees what we do not. He sees the past, present and future. He calls us to stay strong in Him, to cry out to Him and to know that He is the King above every king. His reign shall never end, and knowing that, we can live with great peace and confidence.

“In the Lord’s hand the king’s heart is a stream of water that he channels toward all who please him. A person may think their own ways are right,
but the Lord weighs the heart.”

Proverbs 21:1-2

“It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in humans.”

Psalm 118:8

 

He Is Good

he-is-a-good-father

Oh, so very good. That word doesn’t do Him justice of course. No single word can. When we think about the word “good,” it’s comforting to know how often, and when it is used in the Bible.

When God created the heavens, and the earth, you know what He said? That’s right. “It is good.” In John 10:11, Jesus states that he is our “good shepherd.” In Matthew 7:9-11 Jesus challenges us to perceive God’s unchanging goodness towards us.

“Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” I love it when we see an exclamation mark in Jesus’words, to really drive the point home to our stubborn, forgetful hearts.

Ephesians 2:10 says that we are, “God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God has prepared in advance for us to do.”

Those of us who became believers in  a certain era may remember how often we used to declare, “God is good,” while the other party would say, “all the time,” and we’d respond with “God is good.” It’s a simple declaration and a reminder of His goodness towards us.

How joyful it is to know that we serve a good God, who has created good things and has good work prepared for us to partake in. Like the song (and now book) says, He is a good, good Father! When we know with confidence that He has good in store for us, we can be set free from worry and anxiety. We can be rest assured that His heart towards us is good, regardless of our finances, health, marital or employment status, popularity or any of the other factors in our changing and fragile world. One thing that never changes is God’s good heart towards His beloved children. God is a generous Father, and a lavish and abundant Giver. He knows our needs and hears our heart cries. We may not always get what we expected, but when we doubt God’s generosity, wisdom and timing, that is when we are in danger of sinning and attempting to make things happen in our way and time. When that impatience and frustration occurs, just pause and reflect upon God’s goodness. Remember all the times He’s helped, protected and led you in surprising ways; in ways that only He can, and also remember that the best is yet to come.

He knows what He’s doing with you, for you and through you, and you know what?

It

is

good.

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

Romans 12:2

“Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit.  Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.  Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.”

Matthew 7:17-20

“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”

2 Timothy 3:16

“Do good to your servant according to your word, Lord.
Teach me knowledge and good judgment, for I trust your commands.
Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I obey your word.
You are good, and what you do is good; teach me your decrees.”

Psalm 119:65-68

Eternity With Him

just-think-about-this

I don’t have much more to say than that really.

In our darkest moments, may we think about this. There is no greater love than His for us. This life is a glimpse of what’s to come. We have all experienced moments of unbridled joy and freedom in the midst of His presence. Now, imagine that gloriously magnified in heaven, without any sin or shame or fear or tears or guilt or pain. The Bible doesn’t say much about heaven, other than that it exists. It is our mysterious, ultimate destination. It’s where we are going. It is our truest home and it will be an unfettered joy to discover all that it has to offer – colours, sights, sounds and smells we have yet to embrace. And we get to spend our eternity there!

There’s a great lyric in Hillsong United’s song Touch The Sky, which goes, “You traded heaven to have me again.” There is great strength and constant hope in the relentless fact that God did what was necessary to retrieve us from darkness and damnation. There was only one solution to the problem that kept sinners from intimacy with a perfect Father. God knew the cost it took, and in Christ, He willingly took it. His life for ours. Christ took the punishment we deserved for the treasure we didn’t.

That marvellous truth is worth reflecting upon, and rejoicing in. We don’t see heaven now, but by faith we know with certainty that one day, we shall.

“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.”

John 3:16

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.”

1 Peter 1:3-6

 

God’s Grace

BY THE GRACE OF GOD

Grace is God seeing you, beyond your mistakes. Grace is forgetting your past, to forge your future. Grace is God not only withholding the punishment we deserve, but giving us the victory we do not deserve. Grace is freedom beyond human effort. Grace is found only in the arms of our loving Father.

Before we knew Him, we were enemies of God.

“Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation— if you continue in your faith, established and firm, and do not move from the hope held out in the gospel.”

Colossians 1:21-23

But now? Well, this is what Jesus says about us now.

“You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.”

John 15:14-15

From enemies to friends. That’s what grace does. It welcomes and transforms. It’s Jesus touching the leper. It’s Jesus protecting the adulterous women. It’s Jesus cooking breakfast for the disciples who abandoned Him. In short – it’s Jesus. We are able to offer mercy, grace and forgiveness because that is precisely what we have received. It is grace that allows us to participate in His victory although we didn’t participate in His suffering.

Christians often define grace as “unmerited favour,” which is true. It’s God doing for us, on the cross of Christ, what we could not do for ourselves. From our sinful position, we have no influence over God, and He is under no obligation to come to our rescue. Yet He does – now and forever.

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

Ephesians 2:8-10

“For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.”

John 1:17

“Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. 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.”

Hebrews 4:14-16

The Mission

 

THE MISSION

Christ’s final words after his resurrection and before his ascension to heaven were to his disciples. Called the Great Commandment, it is shown in Matthew 28:16-20.

“Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshipped him; but some doubted. Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” “

It is great in both scope, and importance. It is ambitious, as all great missions are, but to understand it, we must understand the One who gave it. He loves to love. We may not all be missionaries or preachers. We may not all be evangelists or teachers. We may not all write worship songs, and that’s great, because God has equipped us differently. God loves variety. It’s more effective in sharing the gospel. Ephesians 4 tells us that we have different  roles but, “from him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.” We are different parts of the same body, all with different attributes, and we use the gifts He has given us for His glory, which frees us from the need to compare ourselves with others.

All Christians today are the eventual result of the obedience of those 11 disciples. Because they “made disciples of all nations,” we are now believers. We are the result of an ongoing spiritual set of dominoes. Others influenced and taught us the ways of Christ, and we have the opportunity to carry on that calling, and do the same.

The Great Commandment comes from the great Commander. In John 15:5 Jesus clearly states the important of communion with Him when he says, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”

You should have godly desires and goals for your ministry but what is God’s will for it? No matter how wise the advice you’ve been given is, or how much experience you have, always seek His direction and blessing. Remain in the vine. Don’t seek Him only when you start something new. Remain. Seek Him always. Don’t become complacent. We can not predict His next move. He may surprise you.

Attempting to build a church or  a ministry can become an idol. It can transform into an aim which has a foundation with impure motives, whether that be trying to be bigger or better than another church, or trying to use its growth as a measure of success.

Serving God is a tremendous joy and privilege. It should never be a task we dread, and if it starts to, we must be honest with Him. We all need the rest and refreshment He promises. We may start with noble intentions, but if we are not careful and not open to guidance and encouragement when necessary, ministry can easily become just another task to accomplish. If it doesn’t bear the fruit we expect it to, we may become frustrated and resentful towards others or even God, so we need to guard our heart and be honest. If you’re a leader, no-one expects you to be prefect. Don’t be too hard on yourself. It’s okay to be worn out at times, but don’t suffer in silence. Don’t give the enemy something to work with. Be accountable. Take a break if need be. Ask for help. (You may be surprised at the willingness of others to assist you.) Rest. Enjoy life, but most importantly – spend time with Him. Remember, the church you attend, even if you’re the pastor, it’s not yours. Just like our money, our time, our marriages and even our bodies aren’t ours. All we have comes from the One who gave it all for us. Return it to Him. Work with God, not just for God.

“You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. This is my command: Love each other.”

John 15:14-17

“Do you not know? Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom.
He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles, they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”

Isaiah 40:28-31

“Then they gathered around him and asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”

He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight. They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.” “

Acts 1:6-11

He Restores

He redeems

Don’t tell God what He can’t do, for He is able to prove you wrong. Moses received a calling from God, but then told Him the reasons why he couldn’t do it. Let’s look at this exchange from Exodus 4:10-11.

“Moses said to the Lord, “Pardon your servant, Lord. I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue.”

The Lord said to him, “Who gave human beings their mouths? Who makes them deaf or mute? Who gives them sight or makes them blind? Is it not I, the Lord? Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say.”

God knows what He can do, and He knows what you can do with Him. Just because you’ve never been a great public speaker, or singer, or writer, or preacher, or teacher, or mentor or whatever, doesn’t mean you won’t be. Your past doesn’t dictate your future. David had no experience slaying giants, but that’s one of the greatest things he’s known for. Joseph had no experience running an entire nation, but he was the second in command in Egypt during the time it needed strong leadership the most. Paul was famous for targeting Christians and being a strict servant of the law, but then became a man who united the church and spoke of the power of freedom in Christ. Peter was known as a man of hasty and fear-driven decisions, and yet became an eloquent and bold speaker.

That last example is spectacularly described in Acts 4:13:

When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.

Wow. They were ordinary men, but all could see that they were people “who had been with Jesus.” May our lives be described in the same way.

You have gifts inside of you that need to be activated, or re-activated. Don’t let them lie dormant. Paul encouraged Timothy as a young leader of his church to “fan into flame the gift of God.” God tells us the same thing today, and everyday. What God desires is humility and willingness. He’s not looking for the most talented or best looking or influential. Like the prophet Samuel who looked at Jesse’s sons until finally choosing David (1 Samuel 16), we are reminded that God values and honours different attributes than the world.

” But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” “

Don’t agree with what the world says about you, and don’t let your mistakes haunt you. God forgets them. So should you. The only things God reminds you of are His loving and truthful character. He is a God of second, third, fourth, etc chances. Like the prodigal son, we are never so far that God can’t see us and embrace us when we return to our identity and purpose in Him. He is our Redeemer and Restorer. You may have left relationships, ministries or opportunities in such a way that you can’t see any hope of restoration. Thankfully, God sees what we do not, and when we align our perspective with His, stand back and watch out, for His glory is coming!

In Ezra, we see how God moved the heart of king Cyrus to welcome back the exiled Jews to start building a temple to God in Jerusalem. Their enthusiasm only lasted so long however, and after opposition and focusing on building their own houses, rather than God’s, the project was abandoned. All that was built was the foundations. It was a forgotten monument to their forgotten Lord. Everyday for approximately 16 years, the people would’ve seen it, yet ignored it and considered it unimportant, compared to their own projects. However God never forgets His people or the mission He gives them. It wasn’t until almost 20 years after God first moved the heart of king Cyrus and the exiled Jews to start building the temple that it was finally completed.

Haggai 1:2-9 picks up where Ezra left off, and shows God rebuking His people’s wrong priorities. 2:4-9 show His faithfulness and encouragement, and for those of us who wonder if we can ever get back what we lost, may Haggai 2:9 offer you great strength. If we repent and obey, we will not only receive what we lost, but even more so.

“The glory of this present house will be greater than the glory of the former house,’ says the LORD Almighty. ‘And in this place I will grant peace,’ declares the LORD Almighty.” “

And if still you doubt that God is a God who restores, just read the last chapter of Job.

“And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.”

1 Peter 5:10

“The Lord replied to them:

“I am sending you grain, new wine and olive oil,
enough to satisfy you fully; never again will I make you
an object of scorn to the nations.

“I will drive the northern horde far from you, pushing it into a parched and barren land; its eastern ranks will drown in the Dead Sea
and its western ranks in the Mediterranean Sea.
And its stench will go up; its smell will rise.

Surely he has done great things!
Do not be afraid, land of Judah; be glad and rejoice. Surely the Lord has done great things!
Do not be afraid, you wild animals, for the pastures in the wilderness are becoming green.

The trees are bearing their fruit;
the fig tree and the vine yield their riches.
Be glad, people of Zion, rejoice in the Lord your God,
for he has given you the autumn rains because he is faithful.
He sends you abundant showers, both autumn and spring rains, as before.
The threshing floors will be filled with grain; the vats will overflow with new wine and oil.

“I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten— the great locust and the young locust, the other locusts and the locust swarm — my great army that I sent among you.
You will have plenty to eat, until you are full, and you will praise the name of the Lord your God, who has worked wonders for you; never again will my people be shamed.
Then you will know that I am in Israel, that I am the Lord your God, and that there is no other; never again will my people be shamed.”

Joel 2:19-27

Allow The Word To Work Within You

Allow the word to work within you

Sometimes we think of the word “return” negatively. If we buy something that we don’t like, we return it to the shop. However it can also be a good term, such as when we return home after a voyage.

Isaiah 55:10-11 tell us that the Word of God returns to Himself.

As the rain and the snow
    come down from heaven,
and do not return to it
    without watering the earth
and making it bud and flourish,
    so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,
so is my word that goes out from my mouth:
    It will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
    and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.

The King James translation says, God’s words, “shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.” Nothing God says or does is wasted. It is always for our benefit. The Word was given to us with a definitive purpose and we are blessed to have it. To live life without it would be extremely challenging.

So, if God’s Word doesn’t return to Him empty, it obviously returns to Him full, but full of what? Simply put, when we soak in the Word and let it do its powerful, enlightening work within us, we can offer up more of ourselves to God. The Word shines the light of truth upon the dark, concealed places within us – the ugly places that need healing. The more that the Word reveals within us that needs change, the more of our thinking and priorities we must give to Him.

It’s like a game of tennis, with an endless back and forth; a limitless loop of give and return. God continues to give us Himself in new ways daily, and we in turn give ourselves to Him. Our relationship with God is a lifelong series of God giving, and us returning. He gives us gifts, which we return to Him in service. He gives us grace, which we return in living with joyous freedom. He gives us love which we give to Him and others. He offers His Son, and we offer our praises.  We are chosen vessels, with the tremendous privilege of being used by Him for His glorious purposes.

1 Thessalonians 2:13 says, “And we also thank God continually because, when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as a human word, but as it actually is, the word of God, which is indeed at work in you who believe.”

That’s very encouraging. The Bible is not like any other book, so we can’t treat is as such. It is not a textbook, or a novel, or a history book, or a how-to book. It is the word of God which works within those of us who believe it, and unlike every other book we’ve read (unless we travel in literary social circles perhaps), we actually know the Author! Its words give us direction, truth, freedom, wisdom and joy. We learn about Christ, the Father, the Holy Spirit, and those believers who have gone before us. In its pages, we are presented with the majesty of creation, the saving grace of the gospel, and the mysterious end of all things. 66 books written in three different languages (Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic), by about 40 different authors (including prophets, fishermen, tax collectors, etc) over approximately 1500 years – and it all points to who God is, and who we are in Him. That’s due to the fact that as 2 Timothy 3:16 states, “all Scripture is God-breathed.” It has power beyond any book, and thus it alone has, and continues to, inspire endless books, songs, and sermons, let alone all the lives it has saved and transformed. We never stop learning from it, but we must examine the condition of our heart when we approach the Word. How many discussions and choices has the Word prompted within your life? How has it stirred you to do the right thing, and stopped you from doing the wrong thing? How many times has God brought a specific verse to your mind to help you, or someone else? How often do you meditate upon it? How many Scriptures can you remember compared to how many facts you can easily recall (sports scores, Hollywood gossip, etc)? How often do you actually obey the Word rather than just read or listen to it (James 1:22)? Is the Bible the first thing you read in the morning, and the last at night? Has your Bible been untouched for days, or weeks, only to be looked at when the preacher asks you to open it during a sermon? These are all challenging questions we must ask ourselves. The Bible is such a precious gift. It is a glorious representation of God’s character and story. People have been persecuted, tortured and killed for its translation and promotion. We must embrace it with joyful thanksgiving.

God deposits the Word inside our hearts for the purpose of it working within us, so it does not return to Him empty. That’s why when we pray for the preaching, teaching or reading of the Word, we don’t only pray for the speaker, but we pray for the listener. We need soft, humble hearts to let the Word dwell within us and do its work. We can reject it, or we can accept it. His truth may be challenging or convicting, but it’s also life. As Jesus taught in the Parable of the Sower (Matthew 13), the choice of how we accept the Word belongs to us. We must not fight the Word when it settles in our heart, or dismiss it just because we find its truth inconvenient, uncomfortable or unpopular. Our sinful heart will always want to rebel, but we need to choose to allow the Word to fall upon a life that is willing to be transformed, and repent and change as needed.

With the work of the Word coming alive within us, it returns to Him having achieved His purpose, leaving us changed as we further reflect His likeness.

“Oh, how I love your law! I meditate on it all day long. Your commands are always with me
and make me wiser than my enemies. I have more insight than all my teachers,
for I meditate on your statutes. I have more understanding than the elders,
for I obey your precepts. I have kept my feet from every evil path
so that I might obey your word.

I have not departed from your laws,
for you yourself have taught me. How sweet are your words to my taste,
sweeter than honey to my mouth! I gain understanding from your precepts;
therefore I hate every wrong path. Your word is a lamp for my feet,
a light on my path.”

Psalm 119:97-105

“With this in mind, we constantly pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling, and that by his power he may bring to fruition your every desire for goodness and your every deed prompted by faith.We pray this so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.”

2 Thessalonians 1:11-12