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

 

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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

Pray With Purity

 

Pray with purity.

The heart is a mystery. Jeremiah 17:9 says it is deceptive above all things.  Proverbs 4:23 tells us to guard it, for everything we do flows from it. We may not think so, but sometimes we may have a wrong agenda when we pray for others. We shouldn’t pray that others become the person we want them to be, so they’re easier to deal with, or fit our criteria of holiness, but who He wants them to be. He works differently in every heart and although we may not see immediate fruit or repentance in others, we can’t judge others growth by our timetable or results. We see only others’ actions or hear their words, but God knows the depth of their heart and true motivations. They are not to be remade in our image. They are already made in His. Our prayers and love will bring that truth to the fore.

Psalm 51:10 asks the Father, “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” Psalm 139:23-24 has a similar request. It says, “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” We don’t always know our sins, or true motivations.

Just because we’re praying, we may think that we are more holy than those who rarely pray, but the Word teaches us to always examine our heart. What are our true motivations when we pray what we pray for? Yes, it’s good to pray for our ministries, but are we praying to be successful in the world’s eyes, or praying to be more recognised, or praying to have a “better” ministry than others in our church? If we are not closely communing with our God, our prayers will reflect our limited view. In John 15:7, Jesus says, “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.” When Jesus says, “if,” we need to pay attention, because He is paying attention to the state of our heart when we approach Him. We can not hide our motivations from His sight. When Jesus taught us to pray in Matthew 6, the first few words are all about His name, His kingdom, and His will. We must first humble ourselves in His presence and be sensitive to the Spirit. Be flexible, and pray for God’s agenda, not ours.

We must recognise too, that our prayers will not always be the same. They shouldn’t. Sometimes we may cry and intercede, at other times we may be silent and listen, or dance with joy at His glory, or repent and seek to know Him more intimately. Just like every conversation and interaction within our friends is not always the same, neither should our prayers be. Intimate friendships aren’t built on repetition. They are thriving, living conversations. They are valuable and varied. They key is to come before Him in humility.

We must first listen and then pray according to His will. Your friend may desperately need a better job, because their current one is filled with strength and challenging colleagues, so do you ask God for a new, stress-free job for them, or do you ask Him to strengthen them to be a good witness in their workplace? Firstly, we must seek His will, and then we pray in accordance with that. We can’t give God advice when we pray. God sees what we don’t. Trust that His will be done, regardless of the situation.

Yes, God wants what’s best for us, but what we consider to be the best is often based on temporary conditions. Max Lucado once said, “If God has to choose between your eternal safety, or earthly comfort, which do you hope He chooses?” Remember, God is far more interested in your growth than your comfort. Look at every great person we know of in the Bible; Paul, Daniel, Job, Esther, Jesus, and so many others. They were rarely comfortable, but they were powerful, because they clung to God during their pain and suffering. He led them through it, and made them better for it. They learned to rely on the eternal God regardless of temporary circumstances. God will do what is necessary to achieve our ultimate salvation, simply due to the fact that He loves us that much. He wants to spend eternity with us. Yes, we will suffer but that’s not all we will do. If we humble ourselves and allow His plan to come to fruition, we will be refined, transformed and become even better vessels for His glory.  Pray in line with God’s perspective, and ask Him to forgive and change us if we pray, even subtly, that our will instead of His be done, for salvation is much more valuable than satisfaction.

“But who can discern their own errors? Forgive my hidden faults. Keep your servant also from willful sins; may they not rule over me.
Then I will be blameless, innocent of great transgression. May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight,
Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.”

Psalm 19:12-14

“Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God and receive from him anything we ask, because we keep his commands and do what pleases him. And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us.”

1 John 3:2

To Know You

to know You

Really, it’s that simple. Knowing Christ means surrendering to Him, and His ways. Loving Him means obeying Him.

Jesus came to declare that religion is dead, but He is alive. We are alive too – really, fully alive as He says in John 10:10. It was the Pharisees that Christ spoke against, with all their rules and strict moral codes, as that kind of thinking and living constrains. It doesn’t set free. It blinds eyes and brings frustration, not freedom.

When Jesus was asked what the greatest command was and how to live forever, He responded with a pretty definitive answer, quoting from Deuteronomy 6:4-5 and Leviticus 19:18.  The account is mentioned in Matthew 22, and Mark 12.

Luke 10:25-28 puts it this way:

On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

“What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”

He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’”

“You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”

Jesus could have launched in to a lengthy diatribe with a long list of required actions, but what he describes are actually the results of a life of active faith, in communion with the Father. Just to avoid any confusion, he then gives us the parable of the good Samaritan straight after this, and in so doing He defines who our neighbour is (anyone in need, not just those we want to help when convenient or uncostly) and gives us a standard with which to measure our love for them. “Love your neighbour as yourself.” At first glance, it may seem a strange thing to say, but we know that Jesus obviously knows exactly what He’s saying. Don’t we all love ourselves? Actually, no. Not really. Not all the time. Our love for ourselves as a Christian must flow from the security that we are His; that we have a purpose, and that we are loved and forgiven. God’s love for us is not swayed by how many people we bring to church or how passionately we evangelise. We must realise that we are loved by God because He first loved us, even before we knew Him or did anything remotely related to church or ministry. Armed with that love, we are then able to love others. If we love ourselves based on our performance, we will love others in the same way too, and that kind of love isn’t transformative for anyone. The love we have for others and ourselves, must be based on who He says we are, not what we do or don’t do. Learning to forgive ourselves is vital to the Christian walk. When we confess and repent, God forgives us, so there’s no need to carry around the burden of shame or condemnation. His love frees us to love with His love.

Of course, love is also an action. If we love without allowing it to stir us to greater compassion, then we are not loving as He does. Love is not a theory. It is a daily practice.

This call to love God in freedom rather than outward, measurable methods may seem odd to some, because as the Pharisees revealed, (as did the Israelites with making a golden calf to worship), our human mind sometimes wants to worship what we can see, rather than the invisible God. Loving Him with all our heart, soul, strength and mind requires we hold nothing back. He didn’t for us. It means loving God with our emotions, will, choices, desires, resources, time, etc. Love until there’s nothing left of us, so we can be filled with more of Him.

As John the Baptist said in John 3:30, “He must become greater; I must become less.”

Knowing Him and loving Him are not boxes to be ticked once accomplished. They are lifetime goals without an end. Like our Father, they are eternal.

“Since you died with Christ to the elemental spiritual forces of this world, why, as though you still belonged to the world, do you submit to its rules: “Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!”? These rules, which have to do with things that are all destined to perish with use, are based on merely human commands and teachings. Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence.

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.”

Colossians 2:20-3:2

“Whoever says, “I know him,” but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in that person. But if anyone obeys his word, love for God is truly made complete in them. This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did.”

1 John 2:4-5

Not Just A Staff

PLACE IT AT THE CROSS

“Lord, help me to let go,” is a bold prayer, but a glorious one. We all have things that bind us to things other than Him – jobs, people, money, even our ministries. Anything is in danger of becoming an idol if we focus more on it than on Him. Place it at the cross; don’t let it replace the cross. God can use what you give Him, so choose something to give. Let us be empowered by the truth that a boy’s lunch fed 5000 people (John 6:1-14), and a sling and stone killed a giant (1 Samuel 17).

When Moses questioned his abilities and calling, God asked a question in return. (Exodus 4:1-17). It was a question so simple, He didn’t need to ask. “What is that in your hand?”

God knew the answer – a staff. He created it, saw Moses pick it up, whittle it and carry it. God wasn’t after an answer. He wanted a reaction.

That same staff was used to part the Red Sea, strike a rock to see water gush forth from it, and was held high over Israel’s victory on the battlefield. In Moses’ hands, it may’ve been just a tool for a shepherd, but with God’s power and guidance, it became a tool for the glorious Creator. It was no mere staff, but was used by God beyond its intended purpose.

What do you have that can be given from your hands and placed in His? Often it’s the simple, everyday gifts or opportunities that we overlook that can be mighty when surrendered to Him. You have a car with a spare seat on your Sunday drive? Bring someone with you. You work in the same city with someone from church? Lunch and build a bond together. That old guitar in your garage you haven’t played in years? Maybe your faithful home group musician needs assistance.

If what is in your hands aligns with what is in God’s heart, prepare for something amazing and unexpected for His glory.