I will give him the honors of a victorious soldier, because he exposed himself to death. He was counted among the rebels. He bore the sins of many and interceded for rebels. Is 53 v 12
Rebel defined: To resist or defy an authority or a generally accepted convention.
Clearly Jesus was a rebel
He tore down religion
Replaced practices with grace
Replaced rituals with relationship
Granted freedom instead of control
Created a team from the most unlikely of people.
Mostly young teenagers.
Trusted them with the message of hope.
No wonder he was counted as a rebel.
He didn't follow the religious or leadership books.
The message of Jesus is totally radical.
Come and die.
It appeals to the rebels in us.
Lets not water it down.
Monday, January 31, 2011
Thursday, January 27, 2011
For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago. - Eph 2 v 10
Reading Mark Batterson's latest book, Soulprint: Discovering Your Divine Destiny
, I was reminded of the story behind the statue of King David by Michelangelo which stands in Florence. Standing over 5 meters tall and weighing over 6-ton it truly is a giant.
The statue was commissioned years before Michelangelo got his hands on it. This huge hunk of marble was attacked by 2 sculptors before the young 26 year old Michelangelo got his skillful hands on it. He then worked on it carefully for 2 years allowing the statue inside to escape from the rock. As a sculptor he believed that the figure was always there inside the block his role was to let it emerge.
Michelangelo created a masterpiece that has stood for all to see for over 500 years. God is creating in His children masterpieces that will last for eternity. He knows us intricately and is working on us continually to allow the masterpiece that he knows we are can emerge.
Its not a slow process. We have been marred by sin, covered in pretense and weakened by insecurities. But buried deep inside is a God masterpiece waiting to be uncovered by the skillful hand of God.
Sometime it seems painstakingly slow, sometimes it seems painful, sometimes you wonder if He knows what he is doing. But make no mistake God is creating a masterpiece that's beauty & wonder will far surpass Michelangelo's marble David.
Wednesday, January 26, 2011
This is a raw post. I haven't worked it all out yet but I need to. For the last few weeks I have been mulling over a phrase that God dropped into my heart and it has been buzzing round my head. I'm not even sure it makes sense but I believe he said that "I have become comfortable in my uncomfortability."
It came as a difficult answer for me to hear to my cry to God for help. A vocational life in church leadership is not for the faint hearted. I have always volunteered in church from my early years but nothing prepared me for the change I experienced when I started "full time" ministry 10 years ago. Church leadership makes you a VERY busy person, and trying to lead a group of Christians, believe it or not can be quite stressful.
So asking God for help and assistance when you think you are giving all you can and still standing still. To hear God tell me I have become "Comfortable in my Uncomfortabilty" did my head in. My first reaction was, God, you've got to be joking, I can't give any more!
So after I calmed down a little I went back and asked what does it mean for me?. Well at the moment it feels like God is saying Billy, you have become comfortable in your busyness. Because you are using it as an excuse to NOT do the really uncomfortable thing. Listen to God and wholeheartedly pursue the dream he has put in your heart. Not a pale shadow of the dream, do the radical and take the risk.
Friday, January 21, 2011
And there he built an altar to the Lord and called upon the name of the Lord. - Gen 12 v 8
Called to leave his home and set out on a journey of discovery and total trust in his God, Abraham lived a faith filled life. On his travels he built many altars to mark his ongoing thanks to God. I am reminded today that the Hebrew word for Altar is:
mizbe'ah, "a place of slaughter or sacrifice.
Following Jesus is the most fulfilling life anyone can live. We receive the most incredible gifts of God's love, joy, peace, mercy and grace. But it is also a life of sacrifice before an almighty, awesome God.
Before Him I slaughter daily my ego and pride that haunts my life.
Before Him I slaughter my need for control that creeps into mind all too often.
Before Him I slaughter my selfish need for approval and pleasing others.
So today again I build my altar to God and put myself on it and ask God to do His work and make His name famous.
Thursday, January 20, 2011
Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever! - Psalm 118 v 29
Just in case I was in any doubt.
(The reason for the photo above? Its called the Steadfast FR443 based in Fraserburgh)
Wednesday, January 19, 2011
Tuesday, January 18, 2011
But as for me, afflicted and in pain—may your salvation, God, protect me. - Psalm 69 v 29
Some how my Christian life seems to find a home more often in this gut wrenching cry of the heart of David we read in this Psalm than the triumphant rhetoric of many preachers.
I find a reality in David's words that at least tell me that even this great man of God had seasons of doubt, difficulty, attack, abandonment and even depression. Not that we should live there but David was willing to reveal himself and his innermost fears to God. Granting a window into His soul for God to do some work.
In turn his turmoil however he arrives at the right place when so often we don't. Instead of a continual never ending downward spiral into the abyss, David finds a fulcrum for a change of heart. God's Salvation.
It's no mistake that the Apostle Paul tells us to "Put on the Helmet of Salvation". So often it would seem that our spirits are crushed when our mind has been defeated. Focusing, dwelling, meditating on the main thing - God's salvation through Jesus Christ is the one thing that towers above every circumstance and thought.
Monday, January 17, 2011
Studying last week in preparation for preaching at MKCC this past Sunday I spent some time reading about his time held captive in house arrest in Rome at Caesar's pleasure.
During that couple of years before his execution he wrote letters to various churches. What I read shed an new light on one of the things he told the believers at Philippi.
It has become known throughout the whole Praetorian Guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ; - Phil 1:13 RSV
When prisoners we kept captive by Caesar under house arrest they were chained 24/7 to a member of the Praetorian Guard, the elite soldiers and personal bodyguards of Caesar. The Guard was changed every 6 hours. Probably to stop a close relationship forming between prisoner and guard.
So Paul under arrest, separated from friends for long period of times, awaiting what was to be almost certain death by execution, sees this as an great opportunity. Every 6 hours he gets a captive audience for 6 hours to tell them about Jesus. Every 6 hours a new "victim". He lived to tell people about Jesus. Amazing. Soon the WHOLE Praetorian Guard knew about his saviour!
Made me thing that some of us have lived next to our neighbours for years, free to come and go as we wish, and we have never mentioned the name of Jesus.
Sunday, January 16, 2011
Then the word of the Lord came to Jonah the second time. - Jonah 3 v 1
I wear a band on my wrist that says "People of the second chance." (They are produced by POTSC)
It reminds me daily that I have been given a second chance by my God. And a 3rd, 4th, 5th......
Continually my disobedience, mistakes, stubbornness and screw ups are met by an avalanche of His grace. He doesn't write me off and he comes to me again like he came to Jonah for a "Second Time" with exactly the same word.
God doesn't change or water down the mission for this reluctant prophet.
If you are a church leader reading this faced with a person who is making monumental mistakes, allow God to work on their life and take a leaf out of God's book and go to them a "Second Time".
And by the way Jonah's heart was not truly repentant as the rest of the book explains. God knew that and still used him amazingly. God is prepared to give us a "Second Chance" in spite of our hearts. Because he is on a mission to use every detail of our lives to make us like His Son - Jesus Christ.
Saturday, January 15, 2011
God called Jonah for a specific mission. It was clear, God didn't leave any doubt. I want you to go and preach to the people in the capital city of your greatest enemy - Nineveh.
Jonah wasn't up for it and decided to go in the opposite direction. I can still remember my old friend William Dillon preaching on this by saying in his broad Northern Irish accent.
DOWN to Joppa
DOWN into the boat
DOWN into the bottom of the boat
DOWN into the stormy sea
DOWN into the belly of a great Fish"
Notice the common denominator.
Walking the opposite way from the direction of God leads to a downward spiral.
Only when Jonah looked UP did he go UP.
Literally he was thrown up.
Wednesday, January 12, 2011
Ex 16 v 1 - 36
Moses & Aaron, great leaders. Amazing men of God. Although unsure of their own abilities at times, through obedience to God, lead a nation to freedom. Wouldn't it be great to have leaders like these.
Unfortunately they encountered the usual testing times as almost all leaders. The people questioned their leadership. These people who lived in slavery and dreamed of freedom for generations. Within 2 months of the fulfillment of their hopes and dreams, a few days of leaving the comfortable refreshing place of Elim and entered the wilderness of Sin, (Always struck me as a great name for a wilderness) their leadership was questioned.
And the whole congregation of the people of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness. - Ex 16 v 2
As a leader it a hazard of the job. Get used to it.
As a leader you know the reason for the desert you know what's on the other side.
But people don't like the desert and wouldn't choose to go there.
Moses knew that it was God that was leading not him.
So he knew it was God the people were grumbling about not him. (v8)
If you are leading from your own strength, wisdom and glory you have a problem. Because the people are grumbling about you. Moses didn't have that problem so what does he do?
He listens to God for the answer to the grumbling. (v4)
God's answer he sends His Glory (v7)
So leader if your followers are grumbling.
Check if its you leading or God leading through you.
Listen to God for the answer.
And let Him show His Glory.
He will do a much better Job than you quieting the grumblers.
His awesome presence strikes the loudest voice dumb.
Tuesday, January 11, 2011
At the moment I am in the middle of a reading plan called Essential Jesus. Today's reading about the first Passover reminded me yet again of how essential he is.
The blood shall be a sign for you, on the houses where you are. And when I see the blood, I will pass over you.. - Ex 12 v 13
By sacrificing a lamb and sprinkling some blood God could see obedience and was prepared to passover a home and not bring judgement. But God does not want to ignore sin he wants to deal with it. That's why Jesus was essential.
But in these sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year. For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. Consequently, when Christ came into the world ... - Heb 10 v 4 - 5
But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God. - Heb 10 v 12
For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified. - Heb 10 v 14
The blood of a lamb would wear off of a door post very quickly. Within a few days or weeks it would be gone and possibly forgotten to be reapplied 12 months later. Jesus blood was spilt once and for all never to lose its power. In the words of the old Charles Wesley Hymn, "Oh for a thousand tounges to sing":
He breaks the power of canceled sin;
He sets the prisoner free.
His blood can make the foulest clean;
His blood avails for me!
Monday, January 10, 2011
John Wesley died nearly 220 years ago but I read today his "12 Rules for Preachers" (Thanks to Church Leader Insights). They are almost timeless. If you are thinking of leading a church or have been a church leader for many years to meditate and live by these rules would be a solid road to travel. In a day of information overload this 200 year old piece of information is the structure that will build a great leader on the foundation of our glorious master Jesus Christ.
1. Be diligent. Never be unemployed. Never be triflingly employed. Never while away time, nor spend more time at any place than is strictly necessary.
2. Be serious. Let your motto be, ‘Holiness to the Lord.’ Avoid all lightness, jesting, and foolish talking.
3. Converse sparingly and cautiously with women, particularly with young women.
4. Take no step towards marriage without solemn prayer to God and consulting with your brethren.
5. Believe evil of no one unless fully proved; take heed how you credit it. Put the best construction you can on everything. You know the judge is always supposed to be on the prisoner’s side.
6. Speak evil of no one, else your word, especially, would eat as doth a canker; keep your thoughts within your own breast till you come to the person concerned.
7. Tell every one what you think wrong in him, lovingly and plainly, and as soon as may be, else it will fester in your own heart. Make all haste to cast the fire out of your bosom.
8. Do not affect the gentleman. A preacher of the Gospel is the servant of all.
9. Be ashamed of nothing but sin; no, not of cleaning your own shoes when necessary.
10. Be punctual. Do everything exactly at the time. And do not mend our rules, but keep them, and that for conscience’ sake.
II. You have nothing to do but to save souls. Therefore spend and be spent in this work. And go always, not only to those who want you, but to those who want you most.
12. Act in all things, not according to your own will, but as a son in the Gospel, and in union with your brethren. As such, it is your part to employ your time as our rules direct: partly in preaching and visiting from house to house, partly in reading, meditation, and prayer. Above all, if you labour with us in our Lord’s vineyard, it is needful you should do that part of the work which the Conference shall advise, at those times and places which they shall judge most for His glory.
Observe, it is not your business to preach so many times, and to take care merely of this or that Society, but to save as many souls as you can, to bring as many sinners as you possibly can to repentance, and, with all your power, to build them up in that holiness without which they cannot see the Lord. And, remember, a Methodist preacher is to mind every point, great and small, in the Methodist discipline. Therefore you will need all the grace and sense you have, and to have all your wits about you.”
Friday, January 07, 2011
The tablets were the work of God, and the writing was the writing of God, engraved on the tablets. - Ex 32 v 16
Whilst God was writing the 10 commandments on stone tablets on a mountainside. His people below seemed to miss the whole totally unaware of the momentous events happening above their heads. The work of God was going on. They decided to worship an idol.
It seems unbelievable to me that with the presence of God descending on a mountain top. Their leader going to meet God that these people could not see the work of God.
But to be honest its not unusual. Like the children of Israel we often want to fit God's work into a box. If it doesn't fit in the box of our expectations that it can't be God.
It can't be God because the music is too worldly.
It can't be God because the WORD isn't being preached properly.
It can't be God because they don't have a weekly prayer meeting.
It can't be God because their is no Bible Study.
It can't be God because ........
I've heard these and more reasons given for why "It can't be God."
It couldn't be God on top of a non descript mountain in the middle of a desert - but it was!
Lord help me always to look for and find you at work even in places I least expect to find you at work.
Wednesday, January 05, 2011
Present yourselves as building stones for the construction of a sanctuary vibrant with life.. - 1 Peter 2 v 5
Jesus is building something fantastic & awe inspiring which will eclipse every known wonder of the world and the universe. Its this thing called His Church.
To do this he needs the material and we, believe it or not, are it.
It must be one of the most amazing miracles ever seen in that Jesus takes broken people like us with all our faults and failings. With our doubts & disappointments and even our gifts and talents that we so often doubt we have. Then he makes something so beautiful and hope giving out of it.
What does he ask us to do? Just show up. Be present. So many of us go M.I.A especially when the heat is on. Maybe that's when he is forging the stone to be a life giving pillar in His relentless Church.
Tuesday, January 04, 2011
Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son. - Heb 1 v 1 -2
God is not in the habit of staying silent. He is not a reluctant God holding out, hanging on the sidelines till he hears a subject that might interest him. He is always talking to us.
- God speaks through His Word
- God speaks through the Holy Spirit
- God speaks through our thoughts
- God speaks through conversations with others
- God speaks through circumstances
- God speaks through creation
- God speaks through preachers
- God speaks through our family
- God speaks through our friends
But he shouts at us mostly through His Son reminding us continually of His love and grace.
Monday, January 03, 2011
And when it comes to the church, he organizes and holds it together, like a head does a body. He was supreme in the beginning and—leading the resurrection parade—he is supreme in the end. From beginning to end he’s there, towering far above everything, everyone. - Col 1 v 18
It seems to be vogue nowadays to say, Jesus we like. The Church? well we are not so sure about. Only one problem with that view. The Bible.
For Jesus the Church is not some optional extra. Head and body go together. Yes we who are part of the church can get it oh so wrong. But Jesus loves the church. It is part of Him. The Bible says its like His Body.
Sometimes it feels to me that church is very fragile. Certainly its local expressions. Sometimes it feels to me like it is a fine thread under enormous strain destined to snap at any second.
A growing local church can so easily fracture and disappear almost overnight. A leadership crisis or split over some less than vital issue. Or maybe just take a long slow descent into nothingness. Not convinced just look at all the huge church buildings that litter every corner of Great Britain that are almost empty.
But then I am reminded that: "When it comes to the church, he organizes and holds it together.."
Thank God that when we are at our best and the church is growing... He holds it together.
And Thank God when we are self destructing and the church is seemingly imploding .... He is still holding it together.
"From beginning to end he’s there, towering far above everything, everyone."
Sunday, January 02, 2011
HT to Desiring God - you can read the rest of the post here.
You see, the character of a life is not set in two or three dramatic moments, but in 10,000 little moments. The character that was formed in those little moments is what shapes how you respond to the big moments of life.
What leads to significant personal change?
- 10,000 moments of personal insight and conviction
- 10,000 moments of humble submission
- 10,000 moments of foolishness exposed and wisdom gained
- 10,000 moments of sin confessed and sin forsaken
- 10,000 moments of courageous faith
- 10,000 choice points of obedience
- 10,000 times of forsaking the kingdom of self and running toward the kingdom of God
- 10,000 moments where we abandon worship of the creation and give ourselves to worship of the Creator.
And what makes all of this possible? Relentless, transforming, little-moment grace. You see, Jesus is Emmanuel not just because he came to earth, but because he makes you the place where he dwells. This means he is present and active in all the mundane moments of your daily life.
He (Jesus) humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. - Phil 2 v 8
Many books and preachers today would lead us to believe that "obedience leads to blessing".
I do what is right, I read His word, I pray every day, I attend church, I give to the poor, I am nice to my family, then we have found the formula to God's treasure trove of blessing.
So when it goes wrong, we get made redundant, we get sick, our family gets sick, our spouse leaves, our daughter walks away from God, a friend dies. Then the question is asked where is God's blessing? What did I do wrong?
Probably nothing! But one thing for sure is that in the middle of trouble its time to take an example from Jesus. Its time to obey as he obeyed. "to death EVEN death on the cross."
Paul's advice to the Philippian believers in there time of trouble (Ch 1 v 27 -30) OBEY.
Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. - Phil 2 v 12 - 13
Jesus won our salvation through obedience we work it out through obedience even through the difficult seasons when we are scared to death of what is ahead.
Saturday, January 01, 2011
But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man,but of God. - John 1 v 12 -13
Jesus had a miraculous supernatural birth.
Carried by a woman but conceived by the Holy Spirit.
Although he became human it was heavenly inspired.
His mission to GIVE THE RIGHT for mankind to become GOD'S CHILDREN.
If you have believed in Jesus you have THE RIGHT to be a CHILD OF GOD.
You have a just legal claim to the position, title and relationship of a CHILD OF GOD.
Why? Not because of anything we have done, but all because of what God has done.
As Jesus birth was supernatural and heavenly so our new birth is supernatural, miraculous, Holy Spirit enabled and God inspired.
Born of God!
That is utterly mind blowing. I am born of God. And I have the RIGHT to be.
So hold your head up Billy and live like it.
Happy New Year!
I've hear it said so many times and read it more than ever through texts, e mail, facebook and twitter.
I am looking forward to 2011.
Looking forward to the fun.
Looking forward to the challenges.
Looking forward to the opportunities.
Looking forward to growing in God.
Looking forward to discovering more of His grace.
Will I be happy in 2011. Yes!
Will there be gut wrenching moments of sadness. Probably!
But my happiness is routed not in circumstances no matter what 2011 holds. My joy comes because of God's sovereign grace.
What is it? It's summed up in a short poem by John Piper:
Not grace to bar what is not bliss
Nor flight from all distress but this:
The grace that orders our trouble and pain
And then, in the darkness, is there to sustain.