Spoilt…

Recently my wife emphatically reflected out loud,  “We are spoilt!” I wholeheartedly agreed. We were sitting at table following our evening meal. The past three years had been difficult. My recovery from heart bypass surgery hadn’t been all plain sailing.  However, we had received wonderful support throughout. It had come from all quarters, the medical professionals, family and friends.

My wife went on to ask, “Why us?” I thought afterwards I could have responded with, “Why not us?” However, I didn’t but responded with the thought that we had been spoilt so that we could spoil others.

I had in mind the passage in Ephesians where the Apostle Paul writes, “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us.” Ephesians 1:7‭-‬8 NIV

In difficult times we had experienced the lavishness of the riches of God grace and we in turn could help others experience some of this richness.

But wait, there’s more. Only a few days earlier I had been rushed to hospital with what I thought was a possible stroke. Once again the emergency health system kicked in to ensure I received the best possible care. Following my arrival  in emergency I was quickly diagnosed with Bell’s palsy. With the tests completed, and medication prescribed I was released from hospital the same day.

Again the sense of being spoilt came through, the immediate treatment by medical professionals then the follow up support from family and friends.

Three weeks later I attended a neurology clinic for a follow up appointment. While unexpected I was pleased to discover it was the same neurologist, David, who had attended me in emergency. After a few questions and a few facial exercises on my part David expressed his surprise at how quickly I had recovered from the palsy. I explained that we had a wonderful circle of friends, who were praying for me. He posed the possibility  of an MRI scan to see if there was some other underlying cause to the palsy however, he first wanted to talk to his supervisor.

David left the room and after several long minutes returned with his supervisor, Thomas. David explained that he had difficulty in convincing his supervisor, and Thomas wanted to see for himself.  Thomas asked me to blink both eyes and while he noted a slight delay in the eye on the affected right side of my face. He confirmed David’s assessment regarding my recovery and left, leaving David to finish the consultation. David handed me a slip of paper, which he had signed, explaining that he didn’t need to see me again, wished me well,  and to hand the slip to reception on my way out.

I felt SPOILT! The whole experience was amazing and I celebrated simply by quickly sending a text message to family and friends, and then enjoyed a cup of coffee before heading home to tell my wife.

Another passage written by the Apostle Paul  in Ephesians came to mind, “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.” Ephesians 3:20‭-‬21 NIV

Be asssured God wants to spoil us, to lavish the riches of his grace upon us.

But wait, there’s even more. These events have occured in the context of my being the primary carer for my wife. My ill health directly affects my capacity to care for her and in turn her quality of life is affected. So together when we say we have been spoilt we speak from first hand experience.

Not only is God our Rock, our Refuge in a time of need, He is our Provider in the midst of our needs. And does this lavishly.

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Counting Your Contentment Cash

Counting Your Contentment Cash was the final sermon topic of our Pastor for Children and Families before she concluded her ministry at one2one Church of Christ.

I was taken by the profoundness yet simplicity of Kay’s presentation based on Philippians 4:11-13, I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.

Previously each of the children in  the children’s ministry were involved in constructing a duct tape wallet the making some contentment cash for their wallet. The cash was cards and the children were invited to write on the back of the cards the things they were thankful for.

Remember the words of Jesus when he explained that the kingdom of God belongs to little children and unless we receive the Kingdom of God like a little child we will never enter it.

Kay explained that the essence of discipleship is taking what we read in the Bible and translating it into real life. Using her granddaughter to test the construction of the duct tape wallet and contentment cards confirmed the possibilities when shortly after an argument with her mother Kay discovered her granddaughter  sitting alone quietly in the lounge room with wallet in hand.  When asked what she was doing the grandaughter replied she was counting her contentment cash.

We could well do the same. God has given us an abundance of contentment cash.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding, he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ.

Ephesians 1:3‭-‬10 NIV

Kay’s sermon can found at Counting Your Contentment Cash.

Church Boring?

Church boring? How can an encounter with the majestic, awe-inspiring, living God ever be considered boring?

God is not dull and following Jesus is a daily adventure.

The problem may lie with the setting, the style and content of our worship. However, it may also lie wthin ourselves. We need to engage our minds, in fact our whole person needs to be involved in the worship experience, all of our senses, sight, touch, sound, smell and taste.

When you worship come expectantly into God’s holy presence.

“Let us go to his dwelling place, let us worship at his footstool,…”

Psalm 132:7

All the nations you have made will come and worship before you, Lord; they will bring glory to your name. For you are great and do marvelous deeds; you alone are God.

Psalm 86:9‭-‬10 NIV

I will be glad and rejoice in you; I will sing the praises of your name, O Most High.

Psalm 9:2 NIV

Acknowledgments:

R C Sproul, Meeting With God, for the inspiration for this post.

Andrew Thomas, Photographer,  for the image.

Discovering God’s Compassion for a Lost World…

Our Discovery group recently concluded it’s deliberations on the the Old Testament book of Jonah.

It’s an amazing story resulting in a whole city, the city of Nineveh, seeking God’s forgiveness.

In a recent post, Disruptive Grace, I wrote, “The disruptive grace of God has not been and is not confined to biblical times. The Spirit of God continues to bring disruptive grace today. People’s lives are dramatically changed, individual people, communities and nations around the world are radically and fundamentally changed.”

And while Jonah is another biblical example of God’s disruptive grace a read of Steve Addison’s, Movements that Changed the World, will quickly give you a historical view of the movements of the grace of God up to the present day.

During these movements individuals, communities and nations are influenced by the Spirit of God and remarkable change results.

God said to Jonah, “And should I not have concern for the great city of Nineveh, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left—and also many animals?”

Jonah 4:11 NIV

While the magnitude of the change was remarkable God’s personal, persistent and patient dealings with Jonah are remarkable. Jonah knew that God was gracious and compassionate, and would be, “slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity.” Jonah 4:2‭ NIV

In the beginning God looked upon His creation and said, “It is good.” However, through the disobedience of humankind sin entered the world and a change of seismic proportions occurred.

God, the Creator, gracious and compassionate, is not thwarted. He has a plan and is actively redeeming His world. He will bring it to completion in His appointed time.

The pinnacle of His redeeming work was the act of redemption was completed when Christ was crucified, and now to this day the saving grace of God is available to anyone who would believe.

Like Nineveh, like Jonah,

“The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”

2 Peter 3:9 NIV

August Interlude…

Day Six:

My August Interlude for 2017 has come to an end and I return home to Ballarat -it’s purpose of personal rest, relaxation and reflection has been fulfilled.

During my daily wanderings, from my base in Torquay, along the surf coast from Lorne to Barwon Heads I have been inspired by my observations. Listening has been a constant companion -listening to the voice of the God of creation, the one true God, the Rock of my salvation.

The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge. They have no speech, they use no words; no sound is heard from them. Yet their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world. In the heavens God has pitched a tent for the sun. It is like a bridegroom coming out of his chamber, like a champion rejoicing to run his course. It rises at one end of the heavens and makes its circuit to the other; nothing is deprived of its warmth. The law of the Lord is perfect, refreshing the soul. The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple. The precepts of the Lord are right, giving joy to the heart. The commands of the Lord are radiant, giving light to the eyes. The fear of the Lord is pure, enduring forever. The decrees of the Lord are firm, and all of them are righteous. They are more precious than gold, than much pure gold; they are sweeter than honey, than honey from the honeycomb. By them your servant is warned; in keeping them there is great reward. 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 19:1‭-‬14 NIV

Disruptive Grace…

The word disruptive conjures up images of hooligan sports fans, or drunken revellers spilling out onto the street in the early hours of the morning displaying behaviour without consideration  for the harm they may inflict upon persons or property.

Disruptive technology maybe another thought, and the disruption it brings to accepted business practices such as Uber and the taxi industry. Years ago the advent of the quartz movement and digital technology brought seismic upheaval to the Swiss watchmaking industry. 

See https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quartz_crisis

There are many examples of disruption where the pattern of the past has been cast aside.However, take a few moments to ponder the disruption brought by the amazing grace of God.

God’s grace is disruptive. It brings change of seismic proportions to the patterns of behaviour of individuals, communities and nations.

In biblical times Zaccheaus the grasper became the giver, Paul the persecutor became the preacher, the nation of Israel under the young King Josiah turned from its wicked ways, and the people of the city of Nineveh on hearing the word of warning from Jonah, repented and received God’s mercy.

The disruptive grace of God has not been and is not confined to biblical times. The Spirit of God continues to bring disruptive grace today. People’s lives are dramatically changed, individual people, communities and nations around the world are radically and fundamentally changed.

God hasn’t stopped. He is very much alive and active in today’s world, and his grace remains disruptive and amazing!

Let’s keep it simple. If God has extended his grace to you then extend that grace to someone else. It maybe in the form of a smile, an invitation, an offer of help, a gift of food, or simply the gift of your time to listen. What a privilege.

Neil told me, when I asked, that I smiled first. I wasn’t quite sure. Our paths converged recently on one side of a pedestrian crossing. I smiled, he smiled and I asked if I could walk across with him. By the time we walked to the other side the seeds of friendship were sown.

My friends waiting in the nearby cafe were beckoning through the window for me to hurry up. We exchanged cards, Neil left and I entered the cafe to meet my friends. They had been debating whether I already knew Neil or whether it was the first time I had met him. I played along and allowed them to debate a little longer before declaring it was the first time.

It was a few days later while I was visiting Neil and his family in their home he confirmed I smiled first.

God’s disruptive grace changed both our lives that day,  and the invitation, extended during my visit, for Neil to join me and my friends for Discovery Bible Study next week went straight into the calendar of his smartphone – that’s disruptive technology.

I’m looking forward to introducing Neil to my friends. They are wonderfully inclusive. Together our lives change.
God’s disruptive grace demands a new pattern…Place Your Life Before God…become a disrupter.

So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.

Romans 12:1‭-‬2 MSG

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.  In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:

Philippians 2:3‭-‬5 NIV

That’s disruptive behaviour that brings with it God’s disruptive grace.

But Wait, There’s More…

Tim Shaw became the face of Demtel International and popularised the saying, “But wait, there’s more…,” for the Australian TV viewing audience.

In recent posts I have described my experience with Discovery Bible Study groups and have encouraged others to start a discovery group.

But wait there’s more!

Discovery Bible Study is one tool, or strategic action, in a whole disciple-making or church planting movement.The disciple-maker is open to meeting God-prepared people, people who are seeking and hungry for the gospel or people who have already received  Christ as their Saviour and want to learn how to share the gospel. Discovery Bible Study, with it’s obedience-based  methodology, becomes the instrument for reproducing disciples, who reproduce other disciples.

“Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them.”

John 14:21 NIV

Again a quick search of the internet will reveal a wealth of resources on disciple-making or church planting movements. For starters Steve Smith’s article, CPM Essentials on a Napkin, http://www.missionfrontiers.org/issue/article/kingdom-kernels2, and the book, Contagious Disciple-making: Leading Others on a Journey of Discovery, by David an Paul Watson, are highly recommended.