Stretching arms out in Love

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Is there beauty in death.
Is there life after final breathe?
Is there love in his sacrifice?
Can I really shamelessly lift up my eyes?

Can I worship jesus, the lamb who was slain?
Can I hear him from heaven calling my name?

I am the least, the last, and the lost.
Called out to follow whatever the cost.
To love God, neighbour, and enemy.
To stretch arms of love as he showed me.

Can I worship jesus, the lamb who was slain?
Can I hear him from heaven calling my name?

– Stuart McCormack

Find a way, not an excuse

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I find that I require little reminders like this on  a frequent basis.  It’s easy to stop trying, to sit on our laurels,  to just give up.

It’s easy to  find excuses for non-achievement,  non-fulfilment and non-productivity.  We seem to be wired to shift blame from ourselves onto other people or situations.

As long as we do this we will always be in a state of internal conflict.  Our drive for happiness will contend with our desire to quit.

Some goals and dreams are too big and important to be quit on: Goals such as having strong,  loving relationships; growing professionally; becoming a better person; passing that exam; etc.

Don’t quit.
Don’t make excuses.

Do persevere.
Do make a way.

Achievement is a choice. A series of choices to be precise!

May you have strength to make hard choices over and over. And may you choose always to never make excuses.

Rediscover Wonder with Rob Bell and walk upon the Oceans

I was speaking with a friend on the phone today and he asks how I’m doing. I answer with the usual cliches and responses and then I stop. I stop and say “I’m struggling to hear God these days – I have for a while”. And I don’t expect my friend to judge me and tell me I just need to pray about it because Ellis is one of the few people I know that I am totally real with and who never feeds me cliched responses to issues I face. So he listens as I spout verbal vomit and when there’s nothing left I have this realisation that God has actually been quietly ministering and whispering all along.

One of the voices I’ve been listening to recently is that of Rob Bell. Now I know that there are some out there who will judge me just for mentioning his name but that’s okay because God loves you and me and Rob Bell (God’s love is a great leveler of people, don’t you think?).

Bell has awakened within me a desire for a simpler, less orchestrated faith over a demanding ritualistic performance driven faith. I’m enjoying the way he weaves scripture into the colourful fabric of life. I want to look again at the world with child-like wonder and create at the feet of Father God – isn’t that what God made us for? – to go out and multiply the wonders of creation through expressing the gifts, intellect and love he placed within us.

Here’s some ‘classic Bell’ to let you see how he has encouraged me recently:

Another way I realised God has been whispering to me is through a song by Hillsong United. It’s called “Oceans” and the video is at the end of this article. The song is based on the tale of Jesus calling Peter out to walk on storm-ridden waters.

There was a storm.

Waves crashed.

Wind blew.

But Jesus was out there walking on water, calling Peter out.

I realised God was calling me out.

He was working in the stress of my current job insecurity, my hectic family life, recent hurts at the hands of spiritual leaders, and my tiredness as I study a Masters degree.

He was saying “it’s okay. The storm is here, but so am I and I’m simply calling you to trust me as you are on stormy waters. Walk to me and walk with me in these troubled seas. I’m with you and I won’t let you drown”.

God knows what we need when we need it and he walks with us even when the storms crash down upon our troubled heads. He delivers, rescues and restores.

I’m thankful today for Rob Bell, Hillsongs United for a cool song, and my mate Dave for allowing me to be who I am and to vent. Ellis’s website is at Bittorrent Gospel and he is worth following on Twitter at @littlewarrior. How about you? Perhaps the storm is fierce? I can’t promise answers, but somewhere out there Jesus is out on the water calling your name.

May we hear and respond to Jesus’ great love, amazing grace and boundless mercy as we seek to rediscover wonder and walk upon the oceans.

Without the bible

Church – Bible = Death of the Church

This may seem over-simplified but let me explain: Faith comes by allowing yourself to  be subjected to the scriptures. Without the scriptures being unfolded in gatherings the gathered church cannot thrive spiritually.  It may grow numerically if the leaders are skilled leaders or organisers, but the spiritual life of that church will be choked like a seed stuck in weeds.

How did Jesus respond to life’s temptations: “it is written”! Written where? In the scriptures.

When Jesus spoke in the synagogue what did he do? He opened the scroll of scripture,  read it and explained it to those gathered.

For the church to glorify God (all-life worship), grow as disciples and go out in mission with the gospel of Jesus the words of God must be opened, read and clearly explained in layman’s terms.

Without scripture we will spiritually choke and die.

Tears of the Saints: Why it is essential every Christian is involved in Mission

In this post I want to highlight two barriers to Christians sharing the gospel, followed by a short video to stir our hearts with God’s love.

It is so easy for us Christians to lose sight of the fact that Jesus sent his disciples into all the world (Matthew 28:19-20; Luke 10; etc.) to spread the good News that he lived, died and lives on in order to call all people (from every ethnic people group) back into close relationship with God the creator and Father of all creation. Somehow we allow our lives to be focused on a variety of things that draw our attention away from what is of first importance.

TRIVIA

Like everybody else followers of Jesus are drawn into the nitty-gritty of each new day. As a professional youth coach I am acutely aware of how easy it is for us to focus on minor aspects of life and how we can blow things up to create mountains out of molehills.

How often do we spend time and energy focusing on our favourite TV series (‘Homeland’ for me!) rather than spend time with Jesus seeking first his kingdom?

How often do we fill our conversations with trivia rather than seeking do grow deeper in relationship with those around us for the sake of loving the individual and sharing the Gospel?

Trivia may not kill us, but it might just gently choke the life of Christ from your heart as your heart becomes cluttered with things that do not really matter.

THEOLOGY

I love theology! I studied it at degree level. I continued (and still do) to read it for 15 years after graduation. But… Good theology does not save people – The Good News about Jesus does! there is a tension in this: The Gospel needs to be grounded in Theological truth, but theology is not the first thing – Gospel is. We understand the Gospel best from a living relationship with Jesus, rather than knowing the right things to say. We need to know what we believe, but this is nowhere near as important as knowing Jesus up close and personally.

TEARS OF THE SAINTS

In this updated version of a video made a few years ago we see a number of reasons why we SHOULD take the Gospel into our world. My prayer is that our hearts might be broken with God’s love for the lost and lonely of our world. God’s love goes deeper than our trivial pursuits and our theological understanding.

Please watch the video and leave comments below if you are touched by what it shows.

May we Go into ALL the world as Disciples on Mission with the Gospel of Jesus, to the glory of God

5 Reasons why Christian Mission is Essential to the World

Christian mission differs from every other mission because it takes the person of Jesus into all the world. Christian mission is essential to the world. There are many reasons why we need to be involved in Christian mission. Here are but a few example reasons. Feel free to add more in the comments below:

It spreads the Gospel of Jesus into a world full of need

Christian mission is a message about a man who is God. Only God can meet the needs of the world. Our mission calls the world to turn back to God in order to bring him into the mess of every person’s life. Without Jesus the world will be spiritually and practically hungry and thirsty – all societies need Jesus.

It calls Christians out of comfort into dependency on Jesus

Living a life of mission is not easy. It is a hard path. Read any missionary biography; speak with those who do share their faith – it can be very difficult. Jesus did not promise comfortable faith: He invites us into a faith which requires perseverance and faith which will be tested. Mission causes us to leave our comfort zone and into situations where we need to rely on Jesus to survive.

It calls the Church to stand up and speak out

The mission is a message about a man called Jesus. Every message needs to be presented. We need to stand up and act out the gospel, but we also need to articulate and speak out the Gospel to the world. How will they know unless they hear?

It relies on our weakness and God’s strength

The mission of God is fraught with difficulties. When we stand up and speak out there will be times when we are out of our depths and comfort zones: In these times we are functioning in our weakness, but we also can rely on the strength of God to do what he has called us to do. God’s strength is made evident in our weakness.

The World is lost without the Gospel

It is the most obvious reason. the gospel compels us to participate in the mission of God because it highlights that the world is lost: lost in darkness; lost to relationship with God; lost in the meaningless of life without God. LOST!

Gospel – The Story of the World

Today I want to share with you what I believe because I trust it with my whole heart. My belief goes back in history to before the time Jesus was born. It goes back to the beginning of time.

The World
It was a time when the world was dark, and empty. There were no trees, rivers or seas. There were no birds, lions or honey bees. There was just the deep darkness of nothing. Out of the darkness the voice of God spoke – and as he spoke things began to happen. The world began to form – who knows how it really happened? The important point is that God began to form the world with his words. After six God-days the world was created, and so were we. God looked at all he had made and he said, “It is good!”

Time and Seasons
God created the world and with it the seasons. The seasons marked the passing days and months and years – even time was made by God. Each season brought new fruits and food stuffs. Sunshine came and went with each day as mankind enjoyed the world God had created.

A love story
So far this is sounding like a nice story about another time and another place. And up till this point it is, but this is where this story becomes our story. The first humans had it all: They loved the world they lived in. They enjoyed life to the full. They walked with God in the cool of the day. Imagine… walking with God and he’s speaking to you like a friend. Life was perfect. The world was perfect. Everything was perfect.

Conflict
But the first humans were not content to walk with God: they wanted to be like God, and when the opportunity came they did what God told them not to do – they ate from the wrong tree. There were hundreds, even thousands of fruit trees and they were told to leave one of them alone, but they did not do it. They ate the fruit God told them to leave.

Separation
God tells them to leave the garden. Sin comes into the world. Pain comes into the world. Struggle comes into the world. Shame comes into the world. Guilt comes into the world. And these things separate the humans from God. God loves them and wants them to be with him – walking with him, but their hearts have been made dark by their wrong-doings.
They are now walking in darkness. Every human born into our world also walks in this darkness. We are separated from God.

How can we return to God? Some people have tried being good all the time – but we fail very quickly when we try this. Sometimes we try to convince ourselves there is no God – but the world alone is evidence for God’s existence, not to mention other things we could say if time was on our side. Often we just convince ourselves that we just don’t care, or it doesn’t matter.

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The love story continues
It all seems hopeless. In our story can we ever return to God? Will we ever be able to walk with God? Well, thousands of years pass by. There are a few that continue to believe in God. There are even those that were awaiting the arrival of the “Messiah” – God’s chosen one who would break the darkness and bring God’s love and light into the world. These people believed that God loved humanity too much not to do something. Would God act?

The Hero
Then Jesus stepped into time. He proved he was God’s chosen one in many ways: miracles; his great teaching about love; his life (he fulfilled over 300 prophesies given by many people over hundreds of years); his death; and by rising from the dead. Only the chosen one of God could do this. Why?

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Love
To show the world that God created that it was not alone in the darkness. The love of God was made real. It was in Jesus – His death proved God’s love for you and me. Jesus is the hero in our story. He is the enlightened one. The rescuer. The light in the darkness. God did this because he loves you. Have you ever thought about what that means? GOD LOVES YOU! Here is the truth – let it light up your heart today. Perhaps you have never thought that God loves you and wants to be your friend. “I wish I could walk with God in the garden”, you may be saying. Because of what Jesus has done we can say to God, “Be the light in my life today”. Invite him into your life to show you how much he loves you. This is not someone else’s story – it’s your story.

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The end of the story?
Every story needs a happy ending. I wonder if the story of your life and my life will have such an ending. Only you can tell the end of the story. Jesus is the undeniable light of the world. I believe his love can light up the darkest heart. I believe his love can transform the most difficult situations. I believe that there is nothing we can do to stop God from loving us. Ask the rescuer to shine his love and light into your heart. Make every day a day where you chose to walk as close to God as possible – he’s waiting to walk with you: all you need to do is ask him to come and walk with you. His light may be the difference you are hoping for this year. How will your story continue?

Confidence (in God and His Word)

Have you ever been asked to do something that you just have no confidence to do? I’m generally a confident person – at least that’s the image of me that people perceive. I had this job selling computer software. the product was brilliant – I wanted to buy it and was sure a lot of people would want to buy it too! My manager explained that to meet the sales targets I would have to manipulate clients into making a sale. This method of sales compromised my faith and I lost my confidence to sell the product. When I made phone calls I did it half-heartedly. I could not do it and I VERY quickly lost confidence in the company – I was now not confident. Needless to say I quit after one week!!

If we are do anything well, and with Godly integrity, we need to be confident that we (a) believe the bible and (b) are confident in God.

As Christians we are called to ‘make disciples’ who will walk in Christ’s footsteps. This also takes confidence – we need to be confident in God . We need the assurance that He is all he says he is, and will do all he has promised to do. This is one reason the young people are going to study what the bible says about who god is (and isn’t). Are we confident in God? Is our faith set on Him? Is our walk with God relational – does God inspire us towards a fruitful happy missional (living as a missionary to the world around you) Christian life?

We are also called to ‘preach the good news’ to all people everywhere (and as St Francis of Assisi says, “use words if necessary”). Are we confident that the Bible is God’s word for all people everywhere? Are we able to share our faith with conviction and passion, knowing with confidence that God will never let us down? Our lives are meant to follow Jesus’ example of reaching the lost around us – as we live incarnationally in the world we show people the reality of Christ! And that’s a reality the world needs to see!

A lack of confidence in God and in his divine word  will undermine our faith and our message. May we be confident in God, who never fails us, and in His word that reveals God to us. May the Spirit of God reveal God’s truths to our heart and soul so that we can confidently say with St Paul:

I am not ashamed of the Gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes.

May we, young and old, confidently affirm at the beginning of this year our unwavering faith in God, and in his word.

Leadership and the Gospel

I have been around churches for 38 years at the time of writing. I have experienced many churches, faith groups and forms of Christian community. Some have been positive and a true source of blessing; some negative and abusive; some neutral and nice. But one thing they all have in common is that they are formed under the influence of their leadership – one way or another Leadership.

My hope with this site is that it might become a place where conversations occur and connections are made regarding the value of positive leadership styles which will enhance Gospel impact with regard to personal lives, processes of discipleship and mission strategy.

I believe there is need for Christian leaders to be value-led and servant-modelled. Their values and servant-hood needs to be centred upon the person and teachings of Jesus in order to be as effective in releasing the church to understand, grasp and apply the gospel in all aspects of life, faith and society. The Gospel has failed to massively impact society as a whole in our generation and we need to be asking WHY this is the case.

Within the scriptures all the NT writers centre upon the Gospel of Jesus Christ. As I observe many contexts and have experienced many expressions of the Church I am concerned that their is a disconnect between the following components:

  • Our understanding and application of the Centrality of Jesus
  • Our understanding and application of ‘the Gospel’
  • Our understanding and outworking of Discipleship
  • Our understanding and practice of mission in today’s world

I hope that we can explore these together and come to understand how they can and do fit together in perfect balance to glorify Jesus and extend the kingdom of God preached by Christ and the apostles in every generation.