Failing Successfully

February 18, 2019

I want to conclude our series on success in your life and new horizons in 2019 by talking about the elephant in the room for all this talk of reaching your dreams… failure! If you start to move towards the dream God has for you, at some point you will fail. But successful people fail successfully…

 

No one likes to fail, but this morning I’m going to suggest to you that failure is not you’re enemy, it’s your friend!  John Maxwell tells us that, on average, successful people fail two out of every five times they attempt something and unsuccessful people fail three out of five times. So failure is something we all experience, and it’s not final until you decide it is, until you give up. Instead, it’s a learning tool for the wise!

 

Everybody fails, not once, over and over again until the day we die. So why does failure destroy some and seem to build others up? It comes down to what we talked about last week, looking at the giant instead of the solution, our God! Remember,

 

1 John 4:4 (ESV Strong's)

Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.

 

NOT WHAT YOU SEE, HOW YOU SEE IT!

 

With failure, it’s not what you see, it’s how you see it. Your perspective is what counts. Here’s Paul,

 

2 Corinthians 4:8-9 (ESV Strong's)

We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed;

 

For Paul, who was beaten, rejected, stoned, shipwrecked and betrayed, perspective was everything. Even when failure and defeat, pain and abuse were seemingly on top of him, he said,

 

Romans 8:18 (ESV Strong's)

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.

 

What a perspective on what the rest of the world calls hardship and failure! It’s not what you see, it’s how you see it. Thomas Edison failed 1,000 times in his attempts to invent the light globe. When challenged he said, “I have not failed, I have just found 1,000 ways it won’t work!”

 

If you look at it right, a problem is not really your problem, it’s your opportunity to shine. Christians should be like teabags… our true colour should come out in hot water. But often, we fall apart when we fail, just like everyone else.  Why is it that we don’t see failure correctly?

 

1.      OUR PAST

 

What we have experienced in our past colours how we see our current problems. If we have failed before, especially it is was often, or very public, unless we change our mindset we are likely to fail again. If we have succeeded, it gives us confidence even if we face failure.

 

It’s time today to make the past past at last. Whatever you’ve done, however you’ve failed, whatever sin has previously controlled you, take your eyes off that and look to what God has for you.

 

Isaiah 43:18-19 (ESV Strong's)

“Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.

 

2.      OUR PRESENT

 

Sometimes we look at our current circumstances and they convince us that we will fail. Listen, circumstances do not determine destiny… decisions do. Whatever giant you face today can and will be subdued and even destroyed if you see him in God’s perspective. Heres Paul again…

 

Philippians 4:11-13 (ESV Strong's)

I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.

 

3.      OUR PERSON

 

How you see yourself determines how you will triumph over failure. If you see yourself as a big person, you will tackle big problems. If you think you’re a small person, you’ll only tackle small problems.  Failures might stop you temporarily, but only you can stop you permanently.

 

So how do you see yourself? Successful? Pretty? Strong? Kind? This morning, why not step outside of yourself and see yourself as God sees you…. David wrote,

 

Psalms 139:13-14 (ESV Strong's)

For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother's womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.

 

You are not an accident and you are not a failure. God chose you, yes you, from before you were born, and His hand is upon you. In His power you can move into His destiny for you. You are a winner, so start acting like it!

 

Without God we have no purpose and without purpose we are destined to fail in life. But your perspective changes when you stop and realise that the creator of the universe, the one who spoke and planets and stars sprang into being, this same creator made you, loves you, and He has a plan for you!

 

CHANGING PERSPECTIVE

 

Perspective is how we choose to see things, and it is affected by other things. What you see is not always what’s real, because sight is affected by so many other inputs that make it surreal.

 

The world in which we live tries to manipulate and squeeze us into what it wants, and it wants us to fail in life, it wants us to aim low, to follow the trends, to be part of the masses! The enemy wants failure to rule your life, he wants relationships to fail, marriages to fail, he wants kids to stumble into drugs and illicit sex and mess their lives up. Look around, he’s doing a pretty good job, right? Why, because people disobey the one who loves them and they let the devil squeeze them into his mould. I mean, everyone’s doing it, so should I, right?

 

Romans 12:2 (ESV Strong's)

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind,

 

Renewing you mind involves you tossing out the bad stuff and filling it with good stuff, and this changes your perspective on everything… then suddenly failure is a comma instead of a full stop!

 

Philippians 4:8 (ESV Strong's)

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

 

So what are some of the areas we need to change perspective in?

 

1.      LOOK FOR LEARNING INSTEAD OF LEISURE

 

Our modern world is on a quest to eliminate or numb pain, we don’t like it, and will do anything to avoid it. We take pills to numb it, we watch movies to escape it, we get drunk to avoid it, we get high to ignore it. We want a life of leisure, with zero pain and zero strain. But the Bible says,

 

James 1:2-4 (ESV Strong's)

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

 

Growth without pain is an oxymoron… not an idiot with a blow torch, it means you cannot have one without the other. Benjamin Franklin said, “Those things that hurt, instruct.”

 

The Bible does not call us to kick back, relax and have a comfortable life until we die. The symbol for Christianity is a cross, not a cushion. James calls us to embrace and be joyful in pain rather than avoiding it, because pain, hurt and even failure can grow fruit that lasts for eternity!

 

 

2.      LOOK FOR HOLINESS INSTEAD OF HAPPINESS

 

Our society is completely obsessed with happiness. We strive for it, we pay for it, we seemingly will give up anything to just be happy! But success, fame, money or power does not make you happy.

 

In a secular society happiness is the aim of living. In a spiritual society, holiness is. Australia needs people who seek holiness, not just our own happiness.  People who stand for what is right is this corrupt, sin soaked, depraved world. Our society says it values the rights of kids to be happy. But today, kids don’t know what sex they want to be, they are encouraged to try everything and anything out and experiment with sex and drugs, and we murder 70,000 children a year under Medicare. This nation desperately needs holiness in us!

 

Philippians 2:15 (ESV Strong's)

be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world,

 

Today God is calling for you to shine in this crooked and perverse world!

 

 

3.      LOOK FOR SOLUTIONS INSTEAD OF SYMPATHY

 

So many in our society accept failure because they would rather have sympathy than solutions. When they fail, instead of getting up and trying again, they offer up excuses and beg for sympathy. Australia is a society of victims, and our bad behaviour and poor decisions are excused away by a victim mentality. Crimes, abuses, anger, and selfishness are all put down to a tough upbringing, the wrong influences and substance abuse.

 

I remember one of my daughters at the age of 3 being caught red handed, sitting in a sea of Easter egg pieces and foil, claiming that her naughty doll did it. Right from the start, we blame others!

 

Listen, I understand these things can affect you, but if you see yourself constantly as a victim, you will never be a victor!  Victims blame others, but victors accept responsibility and learn, The Bible says,

 

Romans 8:37-39 (ESV Strong's)

in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

 

Victims looking for sympathy are always also looking for someone to blame. How often do you see it. People make bad decisions, people pursue their own selfish desires, people ignore God until their life falls apart, and then they blame Him!

 

Proverbs 19:3 (ESV Strong's)

When a man's folly brings his way to ruin, his heart rages against the Lord.

 

Don’t look for people to blame and don’t look for sympathy, look for solutions, and they will be found in the power of the Holy Spirit in your life.

 

MY FRIEND FAILURE

 

What you focus on determines success and failure, as we saw last week when Kurt Wollander was so focussed on not falling that he fell to his death. If you treat failure as your foe, you take every mistake too seriously and will collapse under anxiety! Remember, successful people fail 2 times out of 2, and unsuccessful people fail 3 out of 5.

 

If you see failure as a friend, you can react positively to it, you can be honest and open about your mistakes, and you can learn from your failures. Seems a shame to waste them, right?

 

Psalms 37:23-24 (ESV Strong's)

The steps of a man are established by the Lord, when he delights in his way;

though he fall, he shall not be cast headlong, for the Lord upholds his hand.

 

I have failed in so many ways so often in my life. But I’m a tenacious sod, so I don’t easily give up! Fiona and I worked hard to make a lot of money, were advised to place it with a group called Storm Financial, and we lost the lot in a month.. everything, including our home. While others collapsed, gave up, got divorced or even took their own life, we decided to trust God. It was the most expensive education I have ever known, but now God is restoring our finances almost daily.

 

If you’ve failed, stop feeling like a victim and start feeling like a victor! Start changing how you see yourself, your failures and God, and realise that failure isn’t final, and a set back is just a set up for a come back! So how should you see failure you’ve suffered, either recently or in the past in the right way?

 

1.      SEE FAILURE AS A MOMENT IN TIME

 

Failure needs to be but a moment in time, not a monument you bow before for the rest of your life!

People build monuments to failure in their lives time and time again, and they inscribe words on the monument, words like, “I tried it, and it didn’t work. They said it couldn’t be done, and they were right.”

 

People are like that with Christianity. “Yeah, tried Christianity, didn’t work.” Could have been the wrong church, the wrong decision, but they tried once then gave up. It’s like a grown man refusing to walk because, “I tried that once and fell, so I’m not doing that again!” Anything worthwhile in life take a decision to keep trying until it works, not giving up at the first hurdle. Failure is giving up, building that monument and staying there for the rest of your life paying homage to it!

 

Other inscriptions on monuments to failure include things like, “I wish I’d never done that.” People spend their whole lives wishing they could redo a decision. Wish I never married him. Wish I never invested in that. You did it, it failed, it’s a moment… move on!

 

People often wrote on their monuments, “it’s the way I am, I cant change.” People who build great monuments to failure in their life refuse to take the blame for their construction. The insane blame game is alive and well in our society, but God says,

 

Proverbs 24:16 (ESV Strong's)

for the righteous falls seven times and rises again, but the wicked stumble in times of calamity.

 

The righteous fall but rise again because they know failure is a moment, not a monument. It’s a moment in your life, don’t make it a monument. Shake the dust off and move into your destiny!

As Abraham Lincoln wisely stated, “My great concern is not whether you have failed, but whether you are content with your failure.”

 

2.      SEE FAILURE AS INTERNAL, AND NOT FINAL

 

Many people see failure as something outward, something others will judge them by, but you wouldn’t judge a cake until it comes out of the oven, and neither should you judge anything as a failure until it is ready for public consumption.

 

Remember Thomas Edison and the 1,000 failed attempts for the light globe. He did not tell the world every time he failed, he told them of his failures once he succeeded. Sure, you fail and you might share it with a friend, but don’t shout it from the rooftops! Most failures should be internal.

 

Gideon had failures, he was from the lowest clan of the lowest tribe of Israel, threshing grain in secret because he was so fearful of the Amalekites. Yet an angel visited him and said,

 

Judges 6:12 (ESV Strong's)

 “The Lord is with you, O mighty man of valor.”

 

God did not see the failures as final, and when Gideon went public he was an awesome success for God!

 

Consider the record producer who told the Beatles that 4 piece bands were out of vogue. Or the Hollywood producer who scrawled Reject on the movie screenplay for Gone with the Wind;  Or how about Mr. Roebuck, who sold his part of the Sears-Roebuck department store firm for $25,000 because he thought the company would never fly. Sears now sells $25,000 worth of goods every sixteen seconds.

 

Fail, fail quietly, but keep going, because you can tell others about the failure when you succeed!

 

3.      SEE FAILURE AS A TEACHER

 

Failure is not a stone wall you cannot climb, it’s a stepping stone to greatness.  Most Biblical heroes failed at some point, but they didn’t stay there! Psalm 23 talks about walking through the valley of the shadow of death, and failure can feel like that. But hey, keep walking, don’t camp there!

 

Galatians 6:9 (ESV Strong's)

And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.

 

You will reap rewards, including wisdom, and including your God given destiny, if you keep going, using your failures as stepping stones rather than barriers, using your failures as the rungs of a ladder reaching for the stars!

 

YOU MUST BECOME A SUCCESSFUL FAILURE

 

A farmer had a mule fall into a pit one day, and because he could not dig him out, he decided to just bury him. So he heaped a shovel full into the hole, and the mule shook it off his back. More and more shovelling and shaking happened, until ultimately the mule could step out of the hole. What was intended to bury him proved to be his salvation.

 

Failure is only failure when you give up.  Keep going, see failure as a friend not an enemy, and you will reap a reward in due time.  But above all, be like Rocky was, “I ain’t goin’ down no more!”

 

Tom Watson, Sr., who founded IBM, had a top junior executive who spent $12 million of the company’s money on an experiment that failed. The executive put his resignation on Watson’s desk, saying, “I’m sure that you want my resignation.” Watson said, “No, I don’t want your resignation. I’ve just spent $12 million educating you; it’s about time you tot back to work.”

 

Today, some of you here are haunted by failure. Maybe it’s a failed marriage, a failed business, a failed life. I promise you, God can restore. He promises…

 

Joel 2:25 (ESV Strong's)

I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten,

 

Today is the day that we change how we see failure, and we pick ourselves up and we start again!

 

If your life has been significantly affected by failure, it’s time to start failing successfully, and to realise that a set back is just a set up for a come back!

 

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Bringing Down Goliath

February 10, 2019

Bringing down Goliath is the next part of our New Horizons for Success series. Any time you pursue a dream, especially a God given dream, you will face at least one probably more giants in the way. This giant is  big, he’s ugly and he’s in the way of your success. Bring him down or he brings you down, He stands there, taunts you, mocks you and threatens you, jeopardising any  chance you have of success in your vision. Maybe a pain, a fear, a person, a sin, a huge stronghold of some sort in your life. We all have to deal with them, or they deal with us!

 

A giant is a seemingly insurmountable barrier or difficulty in your life, but you can win against your Goliath. Turn to 1 Samuel 17, and let me buzz through the story, much of which you would, know …

 

DAVID FACED A GIANT PROBLEM

 

According to the Bible, Goliath stood over 3.2m tall, and wore heavy armour and had a big, nasty spear.  He terrified everybody…

 

1 Samuel 17:10-11 (ESV Strong's)

And the Philistine said, “I defy the ranks of Israel this day. Give me a man, that we may fight together.” When Saul and all Israel heard these words of the Philistine, they were dismayed and greatly afraid.

 

David, a lad visiting his brothers at the front, refused to be scared and said,

 

1 Samuel 17:26 (ESV Strong's)

For who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God?”

 

David tried Saul’s armour on, rejected it and approached the giant with just 5 stones and a sling shot. You know the story. Then something entered Goliaths head that he never thought of before, and David defeated him.

 

What giant, what seemingly insurmountable problem do you face right now? A persistent sin is a giant, lack of faith could be a giant. Criticism, fear, depression, apathy, these can all be giants in your life. You’ll never walk into your destiny without defeating them, so today is the day we decide to take those suckers down.  Today is the day we put our giants to the sword. Are you with me? Let hunt Orc!

 

ARE YOU POSITIVE?

 

Many people think if you’re just positive you can beat these guys, but positive attitudes, positive thoughts or even positive confessions on their own are not enough to defeat the giants in your life. However, having the right, positive mindset is a great start.

 

Hidden within the vast resources of our minds is a tremendous ability to store and retrieve data, so complex that scientists still do not know all its capabilities. However, one thing is clear: we view ourselves in light of what we believe to be true. If we construct a negative belief system concerning who we are, then we will act negatively. If we keep God central, we will have an unbelievably positive mindset…

 

Isaiah 26:3 (ESV Strong's)

You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.

 

I remember Fiona going to church one day and someone asked her how her week was, and she replied, “Do you want faith or positive confession?” Some people really believe in positive confession to the point where is becomes fake it til you make it. I believe there is a balance between positive words with a positive mindset and being real.

 

Facing a giant in your life and confessing it isn’t there is fake faith, it’s flawed faith and ultimately it will let you down! As I struggled to learn faith years ago God showed me Abraham…

 

Romans 4:19-21 (ESV Strong's)

He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was as good as dead (since he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah's womb. No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised.

 

Abraham didn’t wish away barrenness, he didn’t positively confess “I am virile,” he looked the facts straight in the eye and didn’t fake it or lie about it but acknowledged his body was as good as dead. But, and here’s the But, He then said my God is bigger than my old, dead body.

 

Don’t face your Goliath wishing he wasn’t there, confessing he doesn’t exist or pretending he is smaller than he is. Look him straight in the eye and say, “I know you’re there, you’re mean and you’re out to kill me, but my God is bigger and stronger, and in His power I will defeat you!

 

David stayed positive as he approached this battle, and as he headed to the showdown with Goliath, the first thing he did was go to a brook and select 5 stones. As we face our giants this morning, whatever they are, here’s 5 stones you can pick up to defeat said giants in your life, the ones that stand between you and greatness in God…

 

STONE 1- THE PURPOSE

 

The first stone to pick up is the purpose  you are facing the giant. What’s your reason, what’s your motivation? Why bother facing Goliath at all? We said last week that a great cause, a great purpose, a great vision for success can hold your commitment straight and true, even under severe attack!

 

PURPOSE will cause you to have:

 

PRAYER- those with purpose pray more because their purpose is bigger than they are.

 

UNITY- the right purpose will drive you into the arms of those with a similar purpose.

 

RISK- When you have a purpose, you’re suddenly prepared to risk more… we call it faith! Moving from this property is a risk for this church, but we have a purpose, we have a dream, and no risk, no reward!

 

PLANNING- Having purpose causes us to plan more, and plan more carefully and effectively.

 

OBSERVATION- A purpose makes you observe more around you. Ever decide you wanted a particular car, and from that point on you sees hundreds of them on the road?

 

SACRIFICE- A purpose drives you on more than others, and you will sacrifice more to achieve it.

 

EXPECTATION- A purpose causes your expectation to rise. It drives you to expect miracles, and expect success!

 

Your purpose is the first stone, the start of defeating giants in your life. So check your purpose. What is it that drives the dream you have? Find your purpose for living in God, and you will conquer giants.

 

Proverbs 19:21 (ESV Strong's)

Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.

 

The right purpose, God’s purpose, is the first stone to attack a giant with.

 

 

STONE 2- THE COST

 

Luke 14:27-29 (ESV Strong's)

Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him,

 

People ask me how they can tell the difference between God’s voice, the devils and their own voice. Here’s a hint.. your own voice is always what you want, the devil always says, like Nike, “Just do it,” buy now pay later, and God always asks you to count the cost!

 

So before you charge in against this giant, step back, take a look at him and count the cost. Let’s look at any sin, say immorality. On one side of the ledger there’s a thrill, a risk and a few moments pleasure. On the other side is guilt, shame, loss of relationship with God, loss of reputation, loss of relationship with your spouse, your kids, your grandkids, your friends, venerial disease, unwanted pregnancy, losing your finances, destroying the trust people have in you. Count it.. it’s a no brainer!

 

To defeat a giant, especially a sinful giant in your life, step back and count the cost and suddenly you will see the consequences clearly. You’ve picked up the right stone! Weigh it carefully and realise that when you count the cost, when you weigh up the consequences of defeat by him, the resultant carnage makes you triumphing over him the only option.

 

And there will be costs to count along the way. There will be attack, there will be criticism at times, there will be people trying to undermine your faith as you reach for your dreams, but decide now that it is a price worth paying to defeat the giant.

 

 

STONE 3- THE COURSE

 

The 3rd stone to pick up is charting the right course to defeat the giant. Planning is not sinful, charting your course is smart, and if you fail to plan you plan to fail. However, in your plans, you need to seek God’s plans not your own, so read the Bible daily, get godly advice and be ever open and listening to His guidance.

 

Jeremiah 29:11-13 (ESV Strong's)

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.

 

When you know God’s course, you need to chart it, move towards it and declare it. Sharing what you believe is God’s purpose for your life is scary, because now others can challenge you on it! I’ve declared to you that my dream for Ignite is for it to grow, and as such we need to move from this building. It’s scary, but unless I step out and believe, no one will follow!

 

So if you have a vision for your life, chart it out and share it with others. Yes, it’s a risk, and yes , it’s terrifying, but you won’t defeat the giant standing in the way by running away! David said,

 

1 Samuel 17:31 (ESV Strong's)

David said to Saul, “Let no man's heart fail because of him. Your servant will go and fight with this Philistine.”

 

Every person who has achieved a great dream knows the trauma of first publicly declaring it. And when you do, get ready for a fair dose of criticism and even worse, advice!

 

You step out in faith to face the giant, and someone always says, “Hey, let me tell you how to do it!”

 

1 Samuel 17:38-39 (ESV Strong's)

Then Saul clothed David with his armor. He put a helmet of bronze on his head and clothed him with a coat of mail, and David strapped his sword over his armor. And he tried in vain to go, for he had not tested them. Then David said to Saul, “I cannot go with these, for I have not tested them.” So David put them off.

 

David found Saul’s armour too big, too bulky and ill fitting. He couldn’t  fight in that stuff! And you will find that when you declare your course, others will criticise and offer advice that is not God’s will for you.

 

I couldn’t tell you how much criticism I face as a pastor. Much of it is encapsulated in godly words, and often it comes from sincere hearts. “God told me to tell you to do what I want you to do.” As a pastor, even when I have a victory, someone feels compelled to tell me where I am wrong and how I should do it right, at least in their eyes.

 

My antidote to all of this confusing God Talk is to have a close, tight team I trust. I run everything by my wife, my team, my board, leaders and admin teams. That way I can stay on course and not be influenced by those who for whatever reason have an axe to grind about something. Ignite is going to stay the course and keep serving God as He leads us to.

 

Pick up that stone and chart your course with confidence, and listen for the Lord’s voice in His Word, in godly advice, closely following Him. But don’t listen to everybody! You will never kill giants in your life if you need everyone’s support. Give others time to understand and accept what you’re going to do, but don’t expect them to always agree with it. I’ve discovered that every person who has never killed a giant will tell you that it’s impossible. They will tell you it can’t happen. Stay the course and trust God, not man and not someone’s personal agenda.

 

 

STONE 4- THE CONCENTRATION

 

The 4th stone to pick up is concentration… what are you concentrating on, what are you focusing on? So many of us see the giant, and so we concentrate not on the solution, but on the giant himself!

 

Karl Wallenda was a world famous tightrope walker, successful for many years. He died walking between 2 buildings in Puerto Rico in 1978, falling 75 m to his death.

 

His wife commented after his death, “All Karl thought about for three straight months prior to walking across the tightrope was falling. It was the first time he’d ever thought about that. And it seemed to me that he put all of his energies into not falling, rather than walking the tightrope.”

 

When he stepped onto the rope that day he was concentrating on not falling, so much so, that he did fall. When we focus on the pitfalls instead of the prize, we often fall. When we focus on the giant in front of us instead of the solution, we are destined to fall!

 

So what was David’s focus as he faced Goliath? What was he concentrating on?

 

1 Samuel 17:45 (ESV Strong's)

Then David said to the Philistine, “You come to me with a sword and with a spear and with a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied.

 

Was David intimidated by Goliath? He possibly was, but was he overwhelmed? No chance! Why not? Because David was focussed on God, not the giant!

 

What you concentrate on, what you focus on is the difference between positive thinking and positive faith. And my Bible says,

 

1 John 4:4 (ESV Strong's)

Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.

 

Like Wallander, many people focus constantly on the problem, not the solution. They become obsessed by the giant, and the giant controls aspects of their life. Sickness is a classic example. You get seriously ill, and your whole life becomes a series of doctor’s appointments and taking drugs on time. It’s so hard to focus on Jesus when all that other stuff, none of it bad, demands constant attention.

 

So on the road to your destiny, giants will rise up. The giant of sickness, the giant of want, the giant of a persistent sin, or a demonisation or a loss, or an addiction, or a relationship collapse. These giants can be defeated, but not if you constantly centre on them! No, today it’s time to stop looking at that giant, shift your focus, move your concentration to Jesus, because He is greater and His power can break the bondage of those giants.

 

 

STONE 5- THE CHARGE

 

James 2:17 (ESV Strong's)

So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.

 

You can prepare, you can stare down the giants, you can plan and you can scream at them, but ultimately until you actually charge them, you will never defeat them. The 5th stone is to charge. In Hebrews 11, every example of faith given involves action. Faith is nothing without action. So don’t run away, don’t wait for them to bring you down, go get them and show them that the Lord is boss!

 

1 Samuel 17:47-48 (ESV Strong's)

all this assembly may know that the Lord saves not with sword and spear. For the battle is the Lord's, and he will give you into our hand.” When the Philistine arose and came and drew near to meet David, David ran quickly toward the battle line to meet the Philistine.

 

David ran towards the giant, when everyone else had run away. Why did he run? Because he was so confident of victory, he charged! I’m believing that today you get so charged up that you decide to charge the giants you face.

 

So there’s 5 stones you can pick up like David to face your giant.  The purpose, the cost, the course, the concentration and the charge! David had no sword, no shield, no armour, just 5 stones and a slingshot. Someone suggested that taking 5 stones instead of just one could be lack of faith on David’s part, but I don’t believe so. According to 2 Samuel 21:22, Goliath had 4 brothers, all giants. David was going to take out the whole family!

 

BREAKTHROUGH IN THE LAND OF THE GIANTS?

 

I remember watching a TV show years ago called, “Land of the Giants.” In it all the people were little and they faced giant people everywhere they went. Sometimes in your life, that’s what it feels like. Sometimes everywhere you turn has a giant on the road, not the jolly green variety, but the big, ugly, nasty and intimidating kind.

 

Ignite is here as a church to point you to Jesus. We are people who have walked the road, faced the same giants and seen our God triumph over said giants! Been there, done that, got the T Shirt. And many here have faced and defeated the same guy you face today. They want to stand with you as you face your own personal Goliaths. Today is the today of breakthrough for you.

 

Psalms 27:1 (ESV Strong's)

The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?

The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?

 

In 1954, there were medical articles that said that the human body can’t run a four-minute mile, that it was physically impossible for the body to withstand that much pressure. But in 1954, Roger Bannister, a young medical student, went out and ran a mile in under four minutes, and once he did that, in the next 2 years 213 men ran under four minutes… all because one guy broke the barrier.

 

One guy conquered the giant, and then everybody did it! We are better together, and as believers, we are better together, conquering giants together!

 

Whatever your giant, people here have faced and beaten him, and they can help you do the same!

 

Have you been abused? People here have beaten that. Are you facing a persistent sin? People here have beaten that too. Fearful? Yep, some here have faced that. Bankruptcy, marital breakdown, loss of job, sickness, feeling hurt, all these have been conquered.

 

So today, what giants do you face? What major obstacle on the road to your dreams do you need to defeat? As believers, we are stronger when we stand together. It’s time to conquer your giant!

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Vision for Success

February 4, 2019

Vision for success is the next area I want to talk about for this year as we move towards the New Horizons God has for us.

 

HELEN KELLER WAS ASKED ONE TIME WHAT would be worse than being born blind. She quickly replied, “To have sight and no vision.” Yet look around, our world is full of people who lack vision, who are stuck in the mundane with no hope and no vision for the future.

 

John Maxwell said, “The poorest person in the world is not the person who doesn’t have a nickel. The poorest person in the world is the one who doesn’t have a vision.”

 

Without a vision the people perish… the Hebrew word for perish means to self destruct by cutting loose or going off the rails if you like. Hence the ESV translates it as…

 

Proverbs 29:18 (ESV Strong's)

Where there is no prophetic vision the people cast off restraint, but blessed is he who keeps the law.

 

THE FOLLY OF FATALISM

 

So people without a vision just self destruct. It is pure fatalism, whatever happen just happens, and I might as well enjoy what I can while I can.  They work in a mundane job, or not at all, and then when the weekend comes they turn to cheap thrills like sex, drugs and drink because it’s the only joy they can find, and they have no dream, no vision for their future.  As Paul says,

 

1 Corinthians 15:32 (ESV Strong's)

If the dead are not raised, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.”

 

But without hope, without vision, you’re dying already! Successful people are motivated by a dream beyond what they currently see, unsuccessful people are only motivated by the here and now! They live for the next paycheque, the next holiday, the next Saturday night clubbing. They think they’re alive, but they are really dead inside.

 

Leonard Ravenhill wrote, “The two prerequisites to successful Christian living are vision and passion, both of which are born in and maintained by prayer.” Today I want to ignite, or Re ignite, the vision and passion within you. Were not here to play church, were here to seek God, reach for our dreams and save the world!

 

THE STEPS TOWARDS A VISION FOR SUCCESS

 

Psalms 37:23 (ESV Strong's)

The steps of a man are established by the Lord, when he delights in his way;

 

I can tell you that if you ask the Lord for a vision, He delights in that, and He can and will order your steps in a way beyond anything you have ever experienced. So what are these steps towards vision?

 

1.      I THOUGHT IT

 

Everybody dreams, and we all start here. Something flashes across your mind and you say, “I wonder if,” or “Wouldn’t it be great if…” we all dream dreams. Some of our dreams are worldly or selfish, like getting that guy or girl, or buying that house, but I want to talk about dreams you have of doing something great for God. Leading people to Christ, praying for the sick and seeing healing, traveling to missions, preaching, building a connect group or team, running seminars, giving millions away, whatever.

 

We all experience this. I speak to Christians all the time who tell me they have no vision for their life, for their future. But they can see vision, they can dream dreams and it starts here. The trick is, what is your mind full of?

 

Colossians 3:2 (ESV Strong's)

Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.

 

If you don’t read the Bible and pray, you simply won’t know His voice as He speaks to you.  Read the Bible Reading Plan daily and watch your mind be set on Him, and then the right dreams will being to flow across your mind all the time.

 

2.      I CAUGHT IT

 

The next stage is when one of those visions captures our attention and gets us excited. It doesn’t just fly across your consciousness, you start to imagine what it would be like for this dream to become reality.

 

3.      I BOUGHT IT

 

This is the turning point, because this is when you couple actions and faith to begin to reach for your dream. It takes risk, it takes courage, but at this point you buy into it, and you put some kind of deposit down on the dream becoming true!

 

James 2:17 (ESV Strong's)

So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.

 

So many people stop here. They are not prepared to buy in, to invest effort, time or money to see the dream become reality.

 

In my life I’ve had to invest time at University to become qualified. I’ve had to invest money to buy a car or house. I’ve had to invest time to become a pastor. No one gets anywhere without buying in, so whatever the dream in your heart, don’t just sit there and look at it… buy in and go for it.

 

I want to lose weight and become fit. I bought an exercise DVD, but it doesn’t work… I’ve watched it ten times already and feel no fitter. What’s the problem?

 

4.      I SOUGHT IT

 

The next stage is when you don’t just invest in it, you begin to become desperate for it. You seek it, and you start to want that vision to come true with all your heart.

 

Half hearted, half baked, double minded commitment to Christ and His vision for your life will never cut it! So many people dabble in Christianity, just attend church with no dream for what God has for their future, no hope in their heart to become someone great for Jesus.

 

James 1:5-8 (ESV Strong's)

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.

 

Every single one of you has greatness within. If you have a dream or vision in your heart to do something for the Lord, seek it with all your heart. To become pastor here, I had to buy in by giving up some lucrative jobs in my profession. We took a financial hit, but we are prepared to do this because we trust that the Lord will not let us fall, and He has not! But now, it’s not just about paying the price, it’s being whole hearted, totally committed to seeing God’s work here at Ignite grow and become all He has destined it to be.

 

People tell me to calm down, play it cool, I mean, how much do you want this church to grow. But I will not calm down, and even now I’m getting fired up! You can criticise me all you like, but hey, why not join me?

 

5.      I FOUGHT FOR IT

 

Whenever you have a dream in your heart for your life, someone will try and discourage you from achieving it, especially if is it taking some time to come to pass. Delay is not a death sentence for a dream!

 

Habakkuk 2:3 (ESV Strong's)

For still the vision awaits its appointed time; it hastens to the end—it will not lie.

If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come; it will not delay.

 

This is the point you need to step up and fight for the dream.  King Jehoshaphat, facing a vast, overwhelming army felt fear, but God said…

 

2 Chronicles 20:15 (ESV Strong's)

Thus says the Lord to you, ‘Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed at this great horde, for the battle is not yours but God's.

 

Yes you have to fight for your dreams to come true, but not alone, because when you step up to fight God fights for you!

 

Romans 8:37 (ESV Strong's)

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.

 

So if you are discouraged, wondering if your God given vision for your life was a mistake, or you misheard, or if God maybe has changed His mind, then today is the day you say, “I’m stepping up to fight for my dream!”

 

 

6.      I GOT IT

 

The final stage is when you’ve got the dream, you’re living the dream, you can touch it and feel it. This is where you can rejoice in the Lord because He brought this dream to pass, not you and your ability, God and His calling, anointing and strength. Never believe it’s all about you!

 

Now once you are at this point, it is not time to stop. This is the moment you seek God and ask Him for another, bigger, wider, deeper, more amazing vision of what you can do in and through Him!

 

The day I started as pastor of this church 3 1/2  years ago, there was 42 people in the room, and 7 told me it was their last day. Inauspicious start, right? Now almost every week the room is filled to capacity, so much so that we have to do 2 services. Have I arrived as a pastor? Nope, Ignite has only just begun!

 

Next we look to moving to a larger, better building, with more room and more toilets. Then we look towards planting churches in communities without a strong church, and even then, there is still far more in God for us.

 

Philippians 3:7-8 (ESV Strong's)

But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ.

 

Once you have your dream, dream bigger! Everything else is not worth it, seek God and His dream for your life!

 

THE POWER OF A VISION

 

A vision from God might stop you self destructing, but it can also empower you and guide you as you go on in life. Remember, delay is not death for a dream, and God has perfect timing because He sees the entirety of life, not just the immediate. God’s perception is greater and His timing is different, right? Pretty much always longer too…

 

A man was praying and he said, “Lord, if it is true that to you a minute is like a thousand years, then a penny is like a million dollars. Lord, can I have a penny please?”

 

Sure says the Lord… in a minute!

 

2 Peter 3:9 (ESV Strong's)

The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.

 

Don’t get mad when God takes longer than you want, because He’s not being slow to annoy you, He has a plan you cannot comprehend. If you trust Him and move towards His vision for you, He can and will guide you. If you give up or stand still it’s harder for Him to lead you. The rudder works only when the boat is moving, not when it is becalmed, so start moving towards that dream today! Here’s what vision can do…

 

1.      VISION CAN STOP YOU

 

Paul was zealously persecuting Christians until he had a profound vision on the road to Damascus

 

(ESV Strong's) And when we had all fallen to the ground, I heard a voice saying to me in the Hebrew language, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.’

 

This turned his entire life around, so if your life is not where you want to be right now, the right vision can completely transform your life. Maybe you’re stuck in or coming out of a horrible situation, broken relationship, abusive home or lousy job. Maybe you’ve been away from God or away from church, and have lost your vision for greatness in God. Let God speak to you today and you will kickstart the greatest adventure of all towards the plans God has for your life!

 

However, you will not achieve your dreams in life by half hearted commitment. Paul gave up everything to pursue his dream. There is always a price, but God is looking right now around this room for those willing to step up and reach for their dreams…

 

2 Chronicles 16:9 (ESV Strong's)

For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to give strong support to those whose heart is blameless toward him.

 

2.      VISION CAN GUIDE YOU

 

Paul, intending to go to Rome, until he saw a vision of a Macedonian man in Acts 16 and it changed the direction he was heading. As you pursue your vision, always stay flexible and be listening to the Lord, because very often your vision will change and develop as you are open to Him.

 

Isaiah 30:21 (ESV Strong's)

And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it,” when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left.

 

Having your vision change is not a sin. Failing to pursue it is. So go for it, but listen and be ready to change and develop what God has placed before you.

 

3.      VISION CAN STRENGTHEN YOU

 

Paul faced many hardships, but what kept him focussed and moving forward was the vision he had to reach the world for Christ. Stoned, shipwrecked, beaten up, scorned. Why did he keep going? Then he writes this…

 

2 Corinthians 4:8-9 (ESV Strong's)

We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed;

 

God’s vision for your life will strengthen you in adversity and keep you keeping on.

 

4.      VISION CAN STRETCH YOU

 

Last week we saw that God often stretches us. When you’re stretched, as so many of us are right now, knowing we are moving towards a great vision and destiny that God is preparing for us encourages us to stretch even more.

 

Philippians 3:13-15 (ESV Strong's)

But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you.

 

Mature Christians stretch, and what keeps you stretching, what keeps you reaching for the prize is the vision in your heart.  Look at your life and ministry. You haven’t arrived, and either have I, there is so much more to reach for in Christ!

 

Let me finish by asking…

CAN YOU BE HAPPILY DISCONTENTED?

 

Who are the happiest people? Young people? The wealthy? The famous? No, the happiest people are the ones pursuing their dreams. They discover that by giving themselves to something bigger than they are, they’re giving themselves the drive to rise above their daily problems. If you want to know real happiness, dream a dream that is bigger than you are; find something you can lose your life in.

 

Luke 9:24 (ESV Strong's)

For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.

 

Listen, God has a destiny for you, and it is not to just squeak by in life until they put you in the ground. God’s not saying “hold the fort for I am coming,” He’s saying, “Stand up, stand up for Jesus!”

 

God’s destiny is one of greatness for you, not barely hanging on until you get to heaven, and it’s there for you if you would only take your eyes off what you see around you and place them on Christ! Take your eyes off your daily troubles, your petty squabbles and your mental wobbles and focus them on Jesus!

 

You’re not too young, God raised David and Samuel as kids. You’re never too old, God gave Abraham a son at 100, and used Moses to set His people free at the age of 80, and at 85 Caleb said, “Give me that mountain!”

 

Even today you’re never too old to pursue your dream.  Colonel Sanders, discovered “finger lickin’ good” chicken at 70, the same age that Ray Kroc introduced a Big Mac to the world. Picasso was still painting at eighty-eight, and Thomas Edison was 85 when he invented the mimeograph machine. At 88, John Wesley was still traveling on horseback and preaching. Why? Because he had a dream!

 

Every one of should have a dream of something great you can do for the Lord. My job, my privilege, Ignite’s privilege is to encourage you and give you the opportunity to live that dream! You might not think your dream fancy or profound. It might be just to serve in the kitchen, or go to the Philippines on missions, or lead a class in kids church, but all of these are dreams God can answer. So what’s your dream?

 

You might say, pastor, I don’t even have a dream. I have no clue. That’s ok, you know, because if you seek God you will get a vision for your life in Him. But until them, if you haven’t got your own dream, come and join us in ours. Come share the journey and watch your dream bud out of our dreams here at Ignite.

 

Please, don’t waste your one and only life wishing it away or settling for second best. Don’t float through your one life wasting it, trying to feel better about yourself. No, you are worth more than that! God says that and I say that!

 

Remember the stages of your dream… I thought it, I caught it, I bought it, I sought it, I fought for it and I got!

 

If you have a dream in your heart of something you want to do for Christ in your lifetime, stand up now.

 

If you don’t have a dream, I want you to come to the front and let us pray with you. Even if you don’t attend this church, I can’t just let you walk away without a vision for your life.

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Stretch to Success

January 27, 2019

Continuing our series on success in 2019, I want to talk about stretching, which is always painful, never comfortable but always productive and useful unless you overstretch. If you grab a rubber band and place it around, say, some pens, if it it loose it is not effectively holding them together. A rubber band is only useful when stretched, and so are Christians!

 

James 1:2-4 (ESV Strong's)

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

 

But can we really experience joy in trials, in tests and in stretching?

 

THE BORN IDENTITY

 

Leonard Ravenhill relates that a group of tourists were in a village in Europe, and one of them asked an elderly villager, “Have any great men been born in this village?” The old man replied, “Nope, only babies.”

 

We are all born the same… as babies… Different opportunities, Different personalities, different hopes and dreams, Different potentials… But every person who has ever achieved anything in life has stretched for it.

 

Success is due to our stretching to the challenges life throws at us. Failure comes when we shrink from them. There’s no such thing as a man who was born great. We were all once babies, but God sees His unlimited potential within you. He sees what you could be if you obey Him. When Jeremiah was a child God said this…

 

Jeremiah 1:5 (ESV Strong's)

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you;

I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”

 

WHY DON’T WE WANT TO STRETCH

 

If stretching is going to make us great, why do we resist it? What stops us from stepping out and stretching towards greatness. Here’s the top 4 reasons why people, perhaps even you, don’t stretch (Other than the pain).

 

1.      FEAR

 

The biggest deterrent is without doubt fear. We don’t know the end result, and fear of the unknown is what often stops us from stretching towards greatness.

 

Isaiah 41:10 (ESV Strong's)

fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God;

I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

 

2.      SATISFACTION

 

Sometimes we are just too satisfied with life. Too comfortable, too complacent, too attached to what we see and experience around us. Stretching is painful, so we wouldn’t want that! Yet trust me, if you think you’re satisfied now, then you ain’t seen nothing yet, because the Bible says…

 

Psalms 107:9 (ESV Strong's)

For he satisfies the longing soul, and the hungry soul he fills with good things.

 

Don’t be satisfied with less than what God has for your life!

 

3.      LAZINESS

 

Sometimes we know we should stretch, but we just cannot be bothered. Me in the gym.

 

The man told his doctor that he wasn't able to do all the things around the house that he used to do. When the examination was complete, he said: "Now, Doc, I can take it. Tell me in plain English what is wrong with me." "Well, in plain English," the doctor replied, "you're just lazy."

"Okay," said the man. "Now give me the medical term so I can tell my wife.”

 

Proverbs 13:4 (ESV Strong's)

The soul of the sluggard craves and gets nothing, while the soul of the diligent is richly supplied.

 

4.      LOW SELF WORTH

 

Some people just think they are not worthy enough to attempt or stretch towards greatness. They say, “I’m no good, useless, I can’t do anything.” But David writes,

 

Psalms 139:13-14 (ESV Strong's)

For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother's womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.

 

5.      NOT WANTING TO BE DIFFERENT

 

Conformity is such a part of our modern world, many are afraid to stretch and be different! If you stretch, you’re no longer ordinary, if you stand up for what you believe, you are out of sync with many of your friends and associates. Your destiny is not to conform to their pattern (Romans 12:2)! You’re not ordinary, God says,

 

1 Peter 2:9 (ESV Strong's)

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.

 

These are many of the reasons we resist stretching, but if we truly want to serve the Lord, if we really want to become someone great for Him, we cannot stay as we are! It’s time to stretch church!

 

THAT’S A BIT OF A STRETCH

 

Stretching is always painful, so here are 3 common areas of pain you might encounter when you stretch.

 

1.      CRITICISM

 

Every one of us has stretched in the past, and have discovered that this position leaves you open to attack and criticism. So, you stop stretching and start withdrawing to a position of safety. Every person soon realises that stretching equates with pain, and so before too long many stop stretching.  Those who continue to stretch will find themselves vulnerable to criticism. About Jesus Peter said…

 

1 Peter 2:23 (ESV Strong's)

When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly.

 

When stretching you will be criticised, sometimes by people close to you whom you love. But don’t stop stretching to answer critics, but rather, as they say in football, answer your critics on the pitch. The best reply to their criticism is to play great, keep going and produce fruit, good fruit and lots of it!

 

2.      MISUNDERSTANDING

 

Often people whose own motives might be wrong will feel threatened by us if we are stretching to be our best or become greater. They react by questioning the validity of our motives, accusing us of doing our best for some impure purpose. Listen, don’t let the dissenters be the deciders!

 

Proverbs 16:2 (ESV Strong's)

All the ways of a man are pure in his own eyes, but the Lord weighs the spirit.

 

I recently faced this, being accused of impure motives by a leader outside our church. I knew it wasn’t true, and perhaps it said more about him than me, but when your motives are pure it still hurts! I had to believe that my team here and God know my motives for serving you as the pastor of Ignite. They can think what they like, I know what motivates me!

 

3.      FAILURE AND DISCOURAGEMENT

 

The reason we often refuse to step out and stretch for the Lord is the fear of failure. We all have it. I’m worried half the church will leave because we are changing the times and doubling services. But if we don’t stretch, we won’t grow, and I am committed to growth in this church.

 

Don’t ever let failure become final. Be aware that discouragement is failure’s partner. The best way to pull yourself out of discouragement is to surround yourself by people who are encouragers. That’s what this church is about… building up and encouraging you to greatness…

 

Proverbs 24:16 (ESV Strong's)

for the righteous falls seven times and rises again, but the wicked stumble in times of calamity.

 

Failure is never permanent until you make it so. So lock in here at Ignite and keep getting up!

 

WHEN TO STRETCH AND WHEN TO REST

 

Athletes will tell you that you cannot stretch all the time, lest you cause injury. You stretch, you strive, and then you rest. Trouble is, most of us stretch a little and rest a lot, because the stretch hurts and the rest doesn’t!

 

Rest is needed to recover, and get ready for the next stretch. But why do so many people stretch, then rest, but decide to stay in the rest position for years? Here’s four reasons.

 

1.      SURROUNDED BY TURKEYS

 

It’s often said, how can I fly with the eagles when I’m surrounded by turkeys? If you surround yourself with boring people who never stretch, you go like the company you keep…

 

1 Corinthians 15:33 (ESV Strong's)

Do not be deceived: “Bad company ruins good morals.”

 

This is why many elderly people decline when they enter care, because no one and nothing stimulates them. If you want to stretch towards greatness, surround yourself with exciting, vibrant and lively people, because they will keep challenging you to stretch (church should be this).

 

2.      STUCK IN A RUT

 

We can get stuck in a rut, which is only a grave with the sides knocked out. We all face boring tasks, but for some people, their whole life is boring and mundane, and they go through life on autopilot, unmotivated and disengaged. That’s why we always need new goals, new visions, or new dreams.

 

For many people church is a mindless thing they attend each week, because that’s what they do. I’m a pastor that needs to stretch, and if you attend here I’m going to stretch you too, but in the long run you will grow into all that God intends for you. Life in general and the Christian life in particular should never be boring, because there is always more in Christ to learn, to do, to grow into…

 

Philippians 3:14 (ESV Strong's)

I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

 

3.      WE TAKE SHORT CUTS TO SECOND BEST

 

So many stop stretching because they have decided to take short cuts, even though they know the result is second best! They get use to settling for their lot in life, and the short cuts they take to achieve it. Short cuts can suck the desire to stretch out of you and ruin your potential.

 

Colossians 3:23-24 (ESV Strong's)

Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.

 

I want to stretch towards everything God has for me, not get lost down some blind alley I thought was a shortcut. Ever taken a wrong turn and got lost?

 

Many people pursue get rich quick schemes thinking they will be rich in a few months, but find they do their doe. Lotteries are built around the quick path to success, but most lose their money, and for the few who win, they generally are broke again within 2 years. Some parents take the short cut easy road when it comes to disciplining their children, but they pay the price when their kids become teens.

 

Many times we under prepare then wing it. I could deliver a sermon where I quote one verse then wing it, but you’d probably detect this shortcut.  God has challenged me to prepare not only my heart but also to spend hours preparing the message, saturating  it with scripture. I don’t want shortcuts in God’s Word, and neither do you! I want to make everything I do 100% devoted to serving Christ!

 

4.      WE THNK WE’VE ARRIVED

 

I noted recently that when people move from volunteer to paid employee their performance usually goes down! Why? Because they have achieved their goal and cease stretching.

 

1 Corinthians 10:31 (ESV Strong's)

So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.

 

Marriage is like that. You go out of your way to look good and show your partner love, until you get married, and because you’ve arrived, you get slack! I heard about a couple in counselling and the wife said, “He never tells me he loves me.” The man replied, “I told her I loved her when I married her, and if I ever change my mind she’ll be the first to know.”

 

When you serve Jesus, you’ve never arrived, you need to keep stretching towards greatness!

 

THE GREAT HOPE IN STRETCHING?

 

Many people pursue happiness as their ultimate goal, but what really makes you happy? Being comfortable, being safe, being complacent might feel like happiness, but the happiest people I know are those who stretch towards greatness, those making something of their lives!  Stretching actually brings great hope. It’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey, and however uncomfortable, however stretching, the journey should be what brings you joy.

 

Romans 5:3-5 (ESV Strong's)

Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

 

Some hope in people… if I could just find the right husband, the right wife, the right boss, then I’ll be happy. Some hope in the past, the good old days, when everything was rosy and no one ever suffered. They look back with rose coloured glasses, and forget all the wonders we now have. They remember the simplicity, they remember the good things but conveniently forget the bad. We now have internet, cell phones, colour TV, Airconditioner’s and toilets inside. The good old days weren’t that good.

 

Some long for a problem free life, then they’d be happy. This also is a false hope… it’s the problems and the conquering of them that makes you happy, not their absence! There’s tremendous joy and satisfaction is stretching and overcoming difficulties in life.

 

BURN YOUR SHIPS

 

I was recording a song last week for a new album, one I have always loved. The words say… I have decided to follow Jesus, no turning back, no turning back.

 

On April 21st, in the year 1519, the Spanish explorer Hernando Cortez sailed into the harbor of Vera Cruz, Mexico. He brought with him only 600 men, a tiny force to conquer a nation. Over the next two years his vastly outnumbered forces were able to defeat Montezuma and all the Aztec warriors and conquer Mexico for Spain.  How was this incredible feat accomplished, when two prior expeditions had failed to establish a colony on Mexican soil? Here’s the secret.

 

Cortez knew that he and his men faced incredible odds. He knew that the road before them would be dangerous and difficult. He knew that his men would be tempted to abandon their quest and return to Spain.

 

So, as soon as Cortez and his men had come ashore and unloaded their provisions, he ordered their entire fleet of eleven ships destroyed. His men stood on the shore and watched as their only possibility of retreat burned and sank. From that point on, they knew there was no return, no turning back. Nothing lay behind them but empty ocean. Their only option was to go forward, to conquer or die.

 

For this church, going to 2 services is a stretch, for me and many of you. Yes we are trialling this for a few months, but whether 2 services, or relocating, or anything else, I have decided to follow Jesus into our destiny, no turning back!

 

Matthew 16:24 (ESV Strong's)

Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.

 

The greatest commitment you can make right now, for your church, for your family, for your life, is to take up your cross and decide to stretch and keep stretching, no matter what, no turning back!

 

I know many of you have made that kind of commitment to the Lord, as have I. However, some of you are fearful of God stretching you. You are fearful of being stretched and the pain involved, but today you need to lift your eyes to see the New Horizon God has given you. He is calling you to greatness, and today I want to pray for those who see this call to stretch and want to say to God, “I have decided to follow Jesus, no turning back, no turning back!”

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True Success in 2019

January 21, 2019

Who among us doesn’t want success in our lives? Thing is, most of us don’t even know what success looks like. Is it the big car, the big house or the fat bank account? Is it the perfect family, 2.4 children, or the perfect career or is it fame, fortune or fun?

 

The dictionary defines success as “the accomplishment of an aim or purpose.” Or “the attainment of fame, wealth, or social status.” That’s worldly success, it’s the power with which to acquire whatever one wants in life, preferably without violating the rights of others.

 

A Christian definition of success needs to go beyond just getting what you want without hurting others. Success is more than just power for you; it is the privilege of contributing to the betterment of others.

 

God has plans for you, and as we saw last week, abiding in Christ and reading His Word daily will cause you to be successful in every area of your life.

 

Joshua 1:8 (ESV Strong's)

This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.

 

HOW TO FAIL AT BEING SUCCESSFUL

 

Here are three reasons why people fail to become successful in their life.

 

1.      SOME DON’T FEEL THE NEED TO SUCCEED

 

Some people are secure; they don’t need to prove anything. They’re happy, content, and they like what’s happening to them, happy with their lot in life. But if God has great plans for you, then stopping short is short changing yourself, and others around you. If you’re content with everything in your life, then you will never be all you can be, because whatever we achieve, there is always more in Christ!

 

Romans 12:11 (ESV Strong's)

Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord.

 

2.      SOME ARE AFRAID OF SUCCESS

 

Sometimes we are afraid because success puts pressure on us to continue to succeed. A person who gets straight As on a report card sets a pattern of achievement and must keep achieving. Sometimes we just don’t want to be responsible, so we shrink from success. Some think that success will isolate them and see them lonely, different or shunned by others. Risk is another reason; people don’t want to stick their necks out.

 

There are many more reasons, but the main point is that some people are afraid of success.

 

Isaiah 41:13 (ESV Strong's)

For I, the Lord your God, hold your right hand;

it is I who say to you, “Fear not, I am the one who helps you.”

 

3.      SOME ARE SUSPICIOUS OF SUCCESS

 

Some think that to be a success, you have to be full of pride, that you can’t be humble and you can’t be spiritual. Look at Abraham, Joshua, Nehemiah, David, Solomon, Paul and many others, and you will see that’s simply not true. People who are successful and humble are a joy and inspiration to others around them!

 

Jeremiah 9:23-24 (ESV Strong's)

Thus says the Lord: “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth.

 

So success in the right way is good, and it is also God! We should not be content but be striving for more in God, and we must not be afraid or suspicious of success, because no matter where you are at now, God has more for you, and has called you to even greater things to do for Him.  So here are some steps to achieving success in your life and walk with the Lord…

 

S= SELECT YOUR GOAL

 

Many people want success, but they don’t even know what success looks like! Do you know what Christ has for you in your life?

 

Research shows that approximately 95 percent of us have never written out our goals in life, but of the 5 percent who have, 95 percent have achieved those goals. In 1953 at Yale University, 3 percent of the graduating class had specific, written goals for their lives. In 1975, researchers found that the 3 percent who wrote down their goals had accomplished more than the other 97 percent put together.

 

Proverbs 16:9 (ESV Strong's)

The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.

 

So, by all means select your goal, but if you want true success in life, select a goal that is not really yours, it’s God’s goal for your life. Like Paul and his goal…

 

Philippians 3:14 (ESV Strong's)

I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

 

So what does a godly goal look like?

 

Firstly, your goal  must include others. No goal is worthwhile if it is just for you. Set a goal big enough to include and help other people. Next, it must be worthwhile. A frivolous goal is a worthless one, even if you achieve it.  Your goal must be measurable. You need a way to see if you are making any progress towards it.

 

Finally, your goal must be expandable. Don’t set your goals in concrete. If your goal is not expandable, it’s expendable. As we grow, we see the picture more clearly, and we continually need to “up” our goals, to progress them into something even greater. It’s a sad day when we think we have achieved all our goals and have nothing else to do.

 

U= UNLOCK YOUR POTENTIAL

 

Most of us have far more potential than we think, and than we will ever realise! If you are in Christ, when God looks at you, he doesn’t see your failure, He doesn’t see your past sins, He sees potential. A person can sit and count the seeds in an apple, but only God can count the apples in a seed!

 

Ephesians 3:20 (ESV Strong's)

Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us,

 

Remember, you are joined into the unlimited power supply of the vine of Christ. And God sees amazing potential in you, but what are the steps towards unlocking this potential?

 

1.      LOOK UP

 

Take the time to look around and see if there is someone who seems to be fulfilling their potential more than you.

 

As Aussies we are particularly skilled and the tall poppy syndrome, chopping other more successful people down to size. This is a stupid trait we need to eliminate from our culture, because we should not only build up others, but get beside them and learn how they became successful, and use that information to strive for our own brand of success in Christ.

 

I modelled much of how I face life’s situations on my dad, who always seemed wise, graceful, generous and strong in all his dealing with people. I look up to him and others and try to learn from them.  They might stretch me a bit, but it means I’m growing into the person God wants!

 

Hebrews 13:7 (ESV Strong's)

Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith.

 

So who do you look up to, especially in the Christian walk?

 

2.      GIVE UP

 

To reach your potential, you must be prepared to give up at any moment all that you are and all that you have in order to receive what God has for you.  Many people don’t understand this. They want to hang on to what they are and at the same time be all they can be. You have to let go.

 

Moving into God’s destiny always costs. Abraham gave up his home to follow God, Moses gave up riches, David gave up security, Paul gave up tradition. Andre Rieu gives up 4-5 hours a day to practice the violin, even when touring. He’s fired up, and prepared to give up time to invest in his craft, and so should you!

 

Even Jesus gave up His glory with the Father to fulfil His destiny and give His life for all of us.

 

Philippians 2:6-7 (ESV Strong's)

who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.

 

 Am you empty yourself of your own desires? What do you have to give up to move towards spiritual success in your life? Is it time, to invest in a quiet time? Is it people who are holding you back? Is it a stubborn attitude that is stopping progress?

 

3.      FIRE UP

 

If you want to see success in 2019, get fired up! Get excited, get enthused!

 

Romans 8:18 (ESV Strong's)

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.

 

Wherever you are at right now is nothing compared to what God wants to achieve in and through your life. What’s the next thing you want to do for Him? What’s the next Bible book you want to study? What’s the next role you want to fulfil in church? Who is the next person you want to share Christ with? There is more, always more, for you as a person and for us as a church, if we’re fired up… ignited!

 

 

4.      SHOW UP

 

Many people run when they face challenges in their lives, but successful people show up and face those challenges down. They show up for that course, they attend that connect group, they strive to never miss an opportunity, even if it seems hard.

 

Isaiah 41:13 (ESV Strong's)

For I, the Lord your God, hold your right hand;

it is I who say to you, “Fear not, I am the one who helps you.”

 

Fear knocked at the door. Faith answered. There was no one there. Show up and face whatever life throws at you to reach your God given potential and destiny.

 

5.      STEP UP

 

To become successful and reach your God given potential, it takes courage and it takes faith to step up, step out on a limb and step into your destiny.

 

Many people come to church and get fired up, but when the moment comes they are too scared to step up and take a chance.

 

A young man working for an advertising firm in Kansas City grew tired of drawing two bit cartoons, eating beans and living in his office. He drew a character called Oswald, the lucky rabbit, and it was stolen from him. Desperate to succeed, he gave up his job, moved to Los Angeles with a dream of starting his own movie studio. But it all went wrong, and he was advised to give up the dream and just go broke. That was until he watched the mice feeding on garbage in the corner of his dingy, dirty office, he took a risk, drew a cartoon mouse called Mickey, and at that point Walt Disney pursued his dream and saw it all come true, saying,

 

I dare to take risks, and pursue my vision until it comes true.

 

Matthew 14:29 (ESV Strong's)

He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus.

 

Are you willing to step out of today’s boat and into what God has for you? MANY CHRISTIANS HAVE THE RIGHT AIMS IN LIFE; THEY JUST NEVER GET AROUND TO PULLING THE TRIGGER.

 

What risk is God calling you to take this year? I don’t want to die until I have attempted something so outrageous that without God it is destined to fail!

 

6.      GO UP

 

If we look up to a person who is reaching his or her potential, if we give up anything that hinders us from being our best, if we fire up our desires until we are no longer satisfied, if we show up to our challenges and not become fearful, and if we step up and take a chance, then we will go up. We’ll go up to the top of our potential—but only after we look up, give up, fire up, show up and step up.

 

So that’s U= Unlock your potential.

 

C= COMMIT YOURSELF TO GOD’S PLAN

 

Jeremiah 29:11 (ESV Strong's)

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.

 

If He has a plan for your life, to prosper and not to harm you, then get on board and get committed to the plan! So how do you find and get committed to God’s plan in your life?

 

Firstly, if you don’t get to know God, you can’t trust Him when things get tough. If a street person asks me for $100, I won’t give it to them, because I don’t know them. If my wife asks me, I will give it to her because I know her and I trust her. To trust someone, you need to get to know them, and to get to know God, you need to read His Word and come to church.

 

Once again, a plug for the Bible Reading Plan … use it every day, and over the next few months you will be amazed at how you grow in Christ, and how much you get to know Him, and therefore trust Him!

 

Next, what are your gifts and desires, because God’s plan will often align with these. What do others in church see in you, what gets you excited. What are you ministering in right now. Chances are that God’s plan extends from how you are currently serving, or how you would like to serve.

 

C= CHART YOUR COURSE

 

If God has a plan for your life, is it wrong to make your own plans? Well sometimes God wants you to stop and wait, but the Biblical word for wait is qawa, which is an active, not a passive word. It means keep on going expectantly. It means keep doing what you’re doing and trust God.

 

So make your plans, but as you chart your course, be flexible enough to let God guide you. Paul made plans to go straight to Rome, but a vision appeared which caused him to modify his plans and head to Macedonia. It is far easier to steer a moving ship then a stationary one, so make you plans but get ready to change…

 

Proverbs 19:21 (ESV)

Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.

 

E= EXPECT PROBLEMS

 

If you find a path that has no problems, you will find it leads nowhere. You will face problems, and you should rejoice in these because it means you are on the right path.

 

James 1:2-4 (ESV Strong's)

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

 

When you face adversity, you can either change the problem or the person. The best way is to change yourself, the person, and as you become more Christlike you will find yourself overcoming problems along the way.

 

S= STAND FIRM

 

When you commit to serving Jesus, stand firm, and let nothing move or deflect you from your commitment…

 

1 Corinthians 15:58 (ESV Strong's)

Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.

 

Napoleon Hill, in his book Think and Grow Rich, records that he studied five hundred of the wealthiest men in the world and concluded that all wealthy men are persistent. Winston Churchill, who stood firm against the evil and might of Hitler, say this… “Never, never, never give up!”

 

S= SURRENDER FIRST

 

If you want success in your life, surrender first to Jesus. Most people turn to the Lord when things get tough, they look to Jesus only as a last resort, but to be truly successful, turn to Him first…

 

John Maxwell says, “Surrender to God the first part of every day, the first day of every week, the first portion of your income, the first consideration in every decision, and the first place in all of your life. When we surrender to him, then we have a power that really caps off the formula for success. Surrender is what brings power. We fight for power and we lose it; we surrender and we find it.”

 

Matthew 6:33 (ESV Strong's)

But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

 

God is speaking to people in this room right now about surrendering, and giving up something that seems precious and placing yourself, no holes barred, totally committed into His hands.  If you’ve been holding onto what you know and are comfortable with, today is the day to surrender it all!

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Abide in Christ

January 14, 2019

ALast week I talked about the New Horizons we face as a church, so today I want to drill down into that and look at how we as individuals can make a difference in this world this year, and see true fruit that lasts in our ministries, church and lives.

 

As I started my Bible Reading Plan last week, I read Psalm 1, and it refers to the man blessed like this:

 

Psalms 1:3 (ESV Strong's)

He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season,

and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers.

 

Wouldn’t you love to see that as a description out your own life, and this church? So how can we prosper in everything we do, and yield huge amounts of high quality fruit that lasts?

 

John 15:1-10 (ESV Strong's)

 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in his love.

 

ABIDE WITH ME

 

The word translated abide in John 15 is the Greek word menō which means to stay, endure or remain in a given place, state, relation or expectancy. It means to wait and remain attached to the vine. So what was Jesus saying?

 

The image of a vine was often used for the nation of Israel, but in this case, Jesus clearly identifies Himself as the true vine, and us, you and I, His church as the branches. To summarise the chapter, Jesus is saying stay attached to Him, don’t separate and go it alone, and that you either bear fruit, or get prune off and destroyed. Does this mean I grow apples out of my ears?

 

Jesus was talking about living a fruitful life, but what does He mean by fruitful?

 

Galatians 5:22-23 (ESV Strong's)

the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.

 

Living a fruitful and prosperous life is about producing those qualities, what we might call positive, active attitudes on a daily basis in our lives. And Ignite Church’s fruitfulness is the sum of all of us producing said fruit in our lives personally.

 

John Maxwell in his book, “Be All You Can Be,” suggests that when we abide 5 PRs appear…

 

  1. POSITIVE RESULTS: When you begin to inject these fruitful attitudes into your society, you’re going to see constructive, tangible and positive results.

 

  1. POSITIVE RELATIONSHIPS: You will begin to develop fruitful relationships with others, and people will love being around you.

 

  1. POSITIVE REACTIONS: When your attitude is positive, even if things go badly or someone unjustly attacks you, your reaction is going to be positive, and before you know it, other’s reactions to you will be positive also.

 

  1. POSITIVE REINFORCEMENT: Life is like a mirror; what you show is what you see; what you put in is what you get out. When you encourage others, you’ll find that they will encourage you. Attitudes are contagious.

 

  1. POSITIVE REJOICING: Jesus said in John 15:11. “These things I have spoken to you that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full.”

 

HAPPY TO BE FRUITY?

 

Christians often tell me they’re not really happy; they say they’re unfulfilled. They talk about not having joy in their lives. I get the impression that seeking joy has become their main purpose in life. But here’s the thing… joy (or happiness or fulfilment) comes to us not when we seek it, but when we put the right principles into practice in our lives. Joy and happiness and not ends in themselves, they are by-product of doing what is right, of abiding in Him and seeking first His Kingdom and His righteousness!

 

So how do we as the branches know we can be fruitful, and sustain our fruitfulness? Here’s 7 things about the vine…

 

1.      OUR POWER SOURCE

 

We need to realise that our potential for fruitful living is unlimited because of our power source. Jesus says in John 15:1 that He is the power source, He is the vine.

 

Galatians 2:20 (ESV Strong's)

I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

 

Many of us try to live a good life, but we have it all wrong, because we cannot do this in our own strength. It’s not my resources, but Christ’s resources in and through me!

 

I remember on one rare occasion I vacuumed the house, that I stretched the cord and then found my appliance died. I thought, “Oh great, now the vacuum is dead,” but then I realised that it works better if plugged in, and I had accidentally unplugged it. My vacuum became a broom because it was disconnected. Unplug from the power source, and you cannot produce the fruit you want to produce in your own strength.

 

2.      OUR PROPRIETOR

 

In John 15:1, Jesus says that He is the vine, but God the Father is the vinedresser. But God is more than an employee, He is the actual owner of the vineyard.

 

Ever heard the term, “Skin in the game?” It means you have ownership, and suddenly when you own it, the results become very important, because you’re invested! No one washes or services a rental car before they return it, but if you own a car, especially if you’re a rev head and cars are important to you, you service and clean it regularly.

 

Some Christians fear connecting to God  because think that if they abide in the vine then God will make them endure pain, adversity and strife instead of joy. They forget that God says,

 

Jeremiah 29:11 (ESV Strong's)

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.

 

Ownership makes a difference. God owns us, so when he looks at our lives, he looks at them not as a casual observer but as an investor, and He is invested in us prospering and producing quality fruit!

 

3.      OUR PRUNING

 

Our potential for fruitful living is unlimited because Jesus is our source. The fact that God is our owner or proprietor adds to that potential. One of the things God does as skilful and knowledgeable vinedresser is to prune or purge us. He knows that pruning, while it might be painful at the time, greatly increases our potential for fruitful living.

 

John 15:2 (ESV Strong's)

Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.

 

The Greek word for prune is kathairō;  meaning to cleanse, to prune; to purge of filth impurity, or to prune trees and vines from useless shoots. Your Father as the vinedresser, removes everything that hinders your usefulness. He knows that if he doesn’t cut back the deadwood, all of our resources will go toward producing more wood and we won’t be fruit producers.

 

I have found that fruitful, productive people are continually being pruned, going through whatever God the experts sees fit to make them more fruitful.

 

And God knows exactly what to prune from our lives. He might even now be placing His finger on a persistent sin in your life, or a destructive relationship that always stops you being fruitful. It might be a dependency, it might be a comfort zone, but whatever it is, let Him prune it away, however painful, because that is how God produces fruit and that is the end game!

 

4.      OUR PARTNERSHIP

 

Our potential for fruitfulness is also tremendous because of our partnership. We do not sit idly by watching the fruit appear, we are an active part of it and we too need to be fully invested!

 

I am a terrible gardner, and I stand in awe of people like Betty who seem to have a green thumb. I’m not a bad gardener because I lack intelligence, and with google and garden centres, none of us really lack the knowledge. I’m terrible because I just don’t care! I stick something in the ground, and it’s Gods problem from there.

 

A pastor one time looked at a beautiful garden and commented to the gardner how awesome God was creating all that. The gardener replied that he had a part in it too, and you should have seen the mess when God had it to Himself!

 

John 15:4 (ESV Strong's)

Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.

 

Ten times in verses 4–10 we see the word abide. Basically Jesus is saying, “Connect with the vine, and everything will be fine.” It is our privilege to partner with God in bearing fruit.

 

This should affect how we see everything. The growth in this church… it’s all His, not mine or yours. Your family, your job, your home, your finances, you must realise that it’s not all about you, it’s your willingness to partner with Him that bears the fruit. Don’t take all the credit!

 

John Maxwell tells the story of the mouse who crossed a bridge over a deep ravine with an elephant.  As the elephant and the mouse crossed the bridge, the bridge shook.  When they reached the other side, the mouse said to the elephant, “Boy, we really shook that bridge, didn’t we?”  Of course a mouse can’t shake a bridge, but when it teams up with an elephant, yes it can.

 

5.      OUR PROMISE

 

John 15:7 (ESV Strong's)

If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.

 

Notice two things, first that the promise is conditional: if we abide in him. Second, our asking needs to be according to his Word.

 

What Jesus is really saying is that if we abide in him, then our delight will be in him, so much so that we will ask all things according to his will. This verse is not, as some will tell you, a formula for getting what we want from God. I’m so sick of hearing people trying to manipulate God into doing their will instead of them abiding in Him and doing His will!

 

God is not your celestial Santa Clause. He does not have to bring you what you want, and all your prayers, good behaviour or manipulation does not make Him your servant!

 

Psalms 37:4 (ESV Strong's)

Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.

 

I get up every morning and have a quiet time. I spend the first hour or so with the Lord almost every day, and I do this because I want to abide in Him! I am reading through the Bible plan. I cannot tell you how many times something I read in my quiet time comes out in my day somewhere. I just delight in God and His Word every morning, and He leads and guides me through the day, and my desires merge with His!

 

6.      OUR PURPOSE

 

John 15:8 (ESV Strong's)

By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.

 

Our purpose in life is not to pursue happiness but to bear fruit and thus bring God glory. In the same chapter Jesus says,

 

John 15:16 (ESV Strong's)

You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.

 

We must not be floundering around trying to be rich or famous, or just trying to survive the day and get through life. No, we have been chosen, appointed by God, for fruitful living. Those active, positive attitudes, like love, joy, peace, etc, ought to be becoming a part of our lives. Then others notice and want them too!  The problem so often with us Christians is that we do not show these positive attitudes that can make us salt and light in our world. Christians should be like tea bags… our true colour comes out in hot water. We don’t bear the fruit God wants us to, because we are missing our purpose!

 

Billy Sunday said, "More men fail through lack of purpose than lack of talent."

 

7.      OUR PRIORITISING OBEDIENCE

 

No Christian becomes fruitful without obedience. Our potential for fruitfulness is tremendous only when we prioritise obedience.   

 

John 15:5-7 (ESV Strong's)

I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.

 

Clearly God is pretty serious about obedience, and that little word “if” is disturbing. Jesus doesn’t say, “If I do not abide in you.” He’s promised He is there for us. His question is, “Are you going to be connected to me? Jesus has the power; He has the strength; He has the wisdom to implant in us; He has all the resources that we need to become fruitful, and he’s ready to deliver. All we need to do is to stay connected him. It takes effort, and it takes obedience!

 

THE COST OF CONNECTIVITY

 

Why don’t we always abide in Him? Why do we disconnect? Pure lack of obedience!

 

We think that we can do it on our own; we begin to have an unhealthy self-confidence instead of confidence in Christ.  When we do not have active, positive, fruitful attitudes, it is because we aren’t plugged into the vine. Christians should not have to psych themselves up every day or get inspired once a week at church, we should stay connected every day and develop active, positive, fruitful attitudes… every single day!

 

If we prioritise obedience, becoming fruitful will be as natural as breathing because  the relationship is right, and the connection is right.

 

Why should God lead you into a full productive life if you refuse to obey Him? If you think you can achieve everything God wants for you in your own strength, go ahead, knock yourself out! You will quickly understand that, if you are disconnected from the vine that is Christ, if you are not obedient in spending time with Him, spending time with His people and obeying Him, then you are destined for disaster. And even if you achieve success, you will discover the prize worthless ultimately!

 

Listen I know that connectivity costs, but we must not focus on the cost, but focus on the fruit, the destiny God has for you. Nothing is achieved by anyone without cost.

 

FORMULA FOR FRUITFULNESS

 

Jesus gives us a three-word formula for fruitfulness in John 15. These three words are the ones I want you to remember, because they are the key to fruitful living.

 

  1. REMAIN: The first word is remain.

 

John 15:4-5 (ESV Strong's)

Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.

 

Throughout John 15, Jesus tells us to remain. “Remain in Me,” Jesus says.

 

What is Jesus referring to? He’s talking about our willingness to take time with him in prayer and in study of the Word. We need to let Him begin to be part of our lives and work on our lives. If you really want to live a fruitful life, there is no short cut. Come, join us in the Bible Reading Plan, start it and determine in your heart to not stop, even if you get discouraged. I promise you, no, God promises you that your life will never be the same if you read His Word and pray daily.

 

  1. RECEIVE: The second word in the formula is receive.

 

Jesus says in John 15 that if we remain in him, we will begin to receive certain things. What we’ll receive is good, fruitful and yes, prosperous living.

 

Jeremiah 29:11-13 (ESV Strong's)

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.

 

When you seek Him, when you remain or abide in Him, then you prosper, and not just financially, but in every way right through your life, relationships, destiny and everything!

 

  1. REPRODUCE: The third word is reproduce.

 

If we remain in him, we’re going to receive what he has for us; then and only then will we begin to reproduce such fruit in our lives. When we obey and remain in Him, others will see the difference and want what we have. We begin to reproduce fruit in the lives of others, and Ignite Church is the sum of all of our fruitfulness. We can and will grow and produce fruit in the lives of our community if we all learn to abide in Him.

 

THE 30, 60, 100 FOLD FOLLOW UP

 

I often hear Christians asking God for fruitfulness, and claiming the promise Jesus talks about in the parable of the sower…

 

Matthew 13:23 (ESV Strong's)

As for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it. He indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.”

 

God sows His Word into our hearts, that is what the parable is about, and He wants to see fruit. So if you want to make a difference in this world, if you want to see spiritual fruit which lasts for eternity, long after your job, your business, your success and everything else, then here’s what you must do…

 

COMMIT TO A PRODUCTIVE LIFESTYLE

 

Step out in faith, try something different, something scary. Climb out on the limb; that’s where the fruit is. All great accomplishments have to begin with an initial decision, so join me now and make up your mind that you’re going to be a fruitful Christian, that you’re going to begin to reproduce for Christ.

 

COMMIT TO THE WORD

 

Last week I challenged you to commit, with me, to Reading our Bible Reading Plan every day. Today I repeat that challenge… if you want to truly start abiding in Him, the first, tangible step is to commit to spending time with Him. So join us in our Reading Plan, if you don’t already have one?

 

What you plant determines the fruit, so plant the right thing. Plant Gods Word into your heart, starting right now, and let’s commit together to growing fruit here at a Ignite, in our homes, in our businesses, in our relationships and in our eternities.

 

John 15:8 (ESV Strong's)

By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.

 

What promise are you asking God for this year? What fruit are you seeking to bear, and what are you planting?

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New Horizons in 2019

January 9, 2019

It’s the start of 2019, and I think with a New year it is appropriate to ask the question, “Where are we going?”  Where are you headed in your personal life, your family, your work, and where are we headed as a church, as a community of believers here at Ignite? Certainly at the end of last year we faced difficulties, especially in the area of coping with the numbers coming to church here. So we need to put things in place both for the short term and also the long term.

 

As I prayed into this over the summer, the Lord spoke a phrase to me that has lit up my life… New Horizons. I believe God has new horizons for us to move into this year. New for me, new for you and new for this church… I’m here for the long term, to see God transform Ignite into the church He wants. Interestingly, I also after writing this learned that the name given to the NASA space probe that has just sent back images from the furthest distance anything manmade has ever travelled is also called “New Horizons.”

 

FORGET THE FORMER THINGS

 

Isaiah 43:18-19 (ESV Strong's)

“Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old.

Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?

I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.

 

As people, it is very tempting to dwell on the past. In 2019, nostalgia is alive and well! We always talk about the good old days, but I was there for many of them, and they just weren’t that good! Simpler perhaps, less pace and pressure maybe, but without all of the mod cons we associate with good living today, such as mobile phones and the Internet.

 

Many of you will fondly remember the days of black and white TV, pot bellied stoves and cars with carburettors you could service yourself, but you conveniently overlook 38 degree days without aircon, washing clothes by hand and outhouse toilets.

 

You see, we always look back with rose coloured glasses, seeing the good, and many times blocking out the bad. We look back with fondness and thankfulness, as we should, while often forgetting the tough times. And that’s fine… Look at the many times New Testament Christians looked back on Jewish history in Acts, being reminded of the great things God has done in the past.

 

When I became pastor of this church 3 years ago, with the church facing overwhelming financial obligations, I told the Lord that I was not prepared to oversee an average church. We faced unbelievable hurdles, had to raise a quarter of a million dollars in 9 months to save this church and God did it! This church is nearly 4 times the size of the one I stepped up to lead, but this is not the end, God is taking us together on a wonderful journey as we serve and love Him, and our community. Ignite is not just my story, it’s your story, so rather than watch it happen, I want to invite you to be a part of the great things God is about to do here at Ignite in 2019.

 

Look at how the church has grown, how leaders have been trained and raised up, how the community has been touched, how the Word of God has been proclaimed, and all of this in some difficult and trying times!

 

But if we rest on our laurels, we are wearing them in the wrong place. In 2018, I personally and our church generally received several awards and honours, but if I rest on those and fail to build on those, then we will never be raised to what God wants us to be. No, church, it’s hats of to the past, but coats off to the future! Forget the former things and let’s shoot for the stars!

 

WHERE ARE WE GOING?

 

What future? What is it that the Lord has put there for us? Where are we going? And who with?

 

Proverbs 29:18 (ESV Strong's)

Where there is no prophetic vision the people cast off restraint, but blessed is he who keeps the law.

 

First let me say that, whatever happens, we need to stick together. I know of so many powerful, committed Christians who, for completely valid and justified reasons, become dissociated or dislocated from church. I have had dislocating shoulders, and I can tell you the pain of a dislocation is extreme.

 

Many believers here on the Coast experience this pain of being dislocated from church, and Ignite has a vision to be a safe haven for those kinds of folk, providing a base where they can rebuild their spiritual lives and their service for the Lord safely, reequipping and reenergising them to become all they can be in Christ!

 

So whatever we face , let’s covenant to face it together, and to let nothing deflect us from unity and truth. In a world that is ridiculously quick to be offended (eg: Facebook world), let’s be slow in being offended!

 

So where we going? If I have no idea where I am going, even a GPS cannot get me there! In the future, I see us moving to a new, larger premises with more car parks and more toilets. I see a strong, stable Ignite Centre from which to grow, with hundreds of people meeting every week and many growing ministries that will impact nations.

 

Don’t accept the lie that if the church grows we will lose community. Already I know God has created a unique environment and atmosphere here at Ignite, one based on love and unity, and as we grow, we need to not lose this but rather amplify it! If we stand in unity and love as we have been doing, 2 services, a change of venue, even differences of doctrine should not compromise community!

 

But I also see beyond this, to a time where we can plant dozens of churches in communities across the Coast and beyond. I see leaders trained and raised up to serve. I see whole communities won to Christ by our faithful witness in their midst. Together we can do more for Christ!

 

REACHING FOR NEW HORIZONS

 

So what does God have for us in this New Year. I believe that, like the people of Israel entering the

Promised Land, we have new, fresh and glorious horizons and opportunities before us, and we should be excited, not fearful about coming into 2019.

 

Deuteronomy 31:6 (ESV Strong's)

Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.”

 

So how do we move towards these new horizons and face these new challenges? How do we not only preserve but build upon the great things God has done here at Ignite? Here are 7 ways we can move ahead towards our destiny as a church.  We do it by…

 

1.      BEING A CHURCH

 

Matthew 16:18 (ESV Strong's)

And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

 

The church is God’s solution to a dying world. Church is not Plan B, it is God’s plan to reach a world heading to destruction. But mankind has taken God’s plan to reach the world and turned it into institutions, into lovely buildings, into great performances with lights and smoke and theatre. At the end of the day, we have to be a church!

 

Every move of God comes in 4 parts, a man, a movement, a machine and a monument. It starts with a man, a John Wesley, a William Booth, a Brian Houston, a passionate, anointed man of God. In time he creates around him a movement, full of the same passion and drive, taking the world for Jesus. But over time this wanes, and the structure put in place to sustain the movement becomes a religious machine. Things look the same on the outside, but people are not as passionate. Then finally, after years of being a machine, the movement becomes a monument to past greatness, as we see in many of the established denominations.

 

We must never lose sight of the fact that we are the church, and we are God’s solution to the world’s problems, so let’s face 2019 as what we are called to be… not machine or a monument, not an institution, not an organisation, not a religion or a political party or a charity… we are the church, God’s solution.

 

2.      BEING A COMMUNITY

 

Church is not a building, it is not an institution, it is you and I… Church is a community, a family, the body of Christ!

 

1 Peter 2:5 (ESV Strong's)

you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

 

God has established a unique and wonderful spiritual family here, living stones in a spiritual house, where people love and care in a genuine way for each other. Many people say, please don’t grow, we like a little church. But listen, growth does not mean we have to lose what this church is built on!

 

As any institution especially churches grow, structure must be put in place to enhance that growth. I planted some tomatoes, and they grew all over the ground, and before long the fruit was rotting and going bad. When I built a trellis, the plant grew up this structure and the fruit was preserved, and multiplied.

 

Structure in church is only valid if it supports the genuine, organic growth of community. Problem is, if structure successfully supports healthy growth, we then glorify the structure, not the true growth.

 

Our strength is in our oneness, our community of love and support. Every one of us has to guard this, even if we change structure, like having 2 services or a new building.

 

3.      BEING SERVANTS

 

Mark 10:43-45 (ESV Strong's)

But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

 

A servant heart must be the hallmark of Ignite Church. This does not mean that as a pastor I am yours to command, but it does mean that all of our leadership, from the pastor down, serves selflessly and humbly. I am one man, and I work in my secular professions 4 days a week, so I cannot do everything for you.

 

Neither should I! We have teams of humble servants who can care for you better than I can. I know many of you have dreams of ministering, doing something great for the Lord, and if that’s you, let me tell you that you’re in the right place.  If you want to grow into your ministry, any ministry, in this church or beyond, then the fastest way is to serve someone else’s ministry. If you come to Ignite and serve with all your heart, God can and will raise a mighty ministry in and through your life.

 

4.      BEING A VOICE

 

We live in an age of tremendous moral decline, and I for one and this church will not float idly by into the moral abyss we call 21st century Australia! In 2019, despite already being criticised by some, I will not stop proclaiming God’s righteousness to this nation. Now more than ever, we need to be the prophetic voice of God to this community and this nation. I’m not here to keep the peace, I’m here to proclaim the truth!

 

Romans 1:16-17 (ESV Strong's)

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew ofirst and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”

 

In this coming year. I will not back down from what I believe is God’s truth and righteousness, even if I am a voice crying in the wilderness. Despite laws our leaders pass, I will proclaim God’s Biblical standards without apology, even if others attack me. I do not have a political agenda, but I have a moral and a spiritual agenda, and I am not ashamed to proclaim these truths, the truths of God’s Word, even in the face of opposition, from outside the church or even from within. New horizons mean that this church must continue to proclaim God’s truths, not in condemnation and legalism, but with love and conviction.

 

We must all continue to be a voice to our sick, wayward nation that is heading towards destruction! It was a bush on fire that turned Moses aside, and it will be a church ignited and in fire that will turn a nation aside, that’s heading to hellfire!

 

5.      BEING IN UNITY

 

Unity is a cornerstone of Ignite Church. Paul writes,

 

1 Corinthians 1:10 (ESV Strong's)

I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment.

 

I have a zero tolerance for disunity at Ignite. Now understand, that doesn’t mean You cannot disagree with me, because unity does not mean we agree on everything, but it means we can disagree, agreeably.

 

A Canadian farmer lost his 2 year old boy in his corn field, and called all the men from neighbouring farms to help him search. He told the men to spread out to try and find the boy, but be careful not to trample the corn which was ready for harvesting. As the temperature plummeted to below zero and after fruitless searching, the farmer told the men to join hands and trample through the ripe grain, even if it meant destroying the crop. The soon found the boy, curled up in a hollow, dead from hyperthermia. The farmer turned to the men and said, “gentlemen, we should have joined hands sooner.”

 

Now is the time to join hands in unity, even if it means you don’t get your own way. If you love anything, your opinion, your beliefs, your doctrine, or your preference more than you love people, we will have disunity. If you love people more than your own desires, we have unity.

 

I appreciate that most people here do not let doctrine divide us. If it is not a core doctrine, if it is not a salvation issue, we can hold different opinions and still be in unity. Our standard must be the Word of God. But we must be careful to never hold any interpretation of God’s Word so tightly it is at the expense of unity. Whether it is tongues, baptism, the style of music, communion, the building, the way things are done, never love these more than your brother.

 

John 13:34-35 (ESV Strong's)

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

 

The world will know we are His by our love for one another, not by how vehemently we hold to certain doctrines or fight one another. If it is not about God’s righteousness or salvation, as Paul says in Romans 12:10, prefer one another!

 

6.      BEING FOCUSSED ON JESUS

 

At a recent charity event I met Australian cycling legend and Olympic gold medalist Anna Mears. She told us she invested more than 70 hours a week for 4 years, training to win a race that takes 10 seconds. Now that’s focus!

 

Hebrews 12:1-2 (ESV Strong's)

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith,

 

This year, we don’t look backwards at great achievements, as great as they have been, but we look forward at Jesus and His new, fresh goals for us. You cannot drive a car looking in the rear view mirror, so this year we must look ahead and  keep our eyes focussed on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.

 

Philippians 3:13-14 (ESV Strong's)

But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

 

So we will focus on Jesus and His Word, proclaiming that. We will not veer to one side, we will not focus on what other churches may emphasise. You will not find me chasing political agendas, chasing signs and wonders, chasing gifts, finances, demons or culture, all of which is fine, but it’s not Ignite!  We must keep the main thing the main thing and stay focussed on Jesus and the Word of God.

 

7.      BEING FRUITFUL

 

So many believers, and many churches also, are not effective in reaching others for Christ. I know our emphasis here at Ignite is providing a church home or unity, love and nurture for those who dream of being great for God, a home where dislocated Christians can send down deep roots and grow and thrive once again.

 

But must always be effective in reaching our people for Christ, and we must pray and believe for fruit. Let’s not just say it, let’s do it, but not by programs and techniques, but rather by people who are so inspired, so empowered, so ignited and on fire for Jesus that fruit just follows! As Jesus said,

 

John 15:4-5 (ESV Strong's)

Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.

 

Listen we can have a nice church, nice programs, nice groups and nice people, but the true measure of our church is our fruit… quantity and quality! People ask me if I want to see signs and wonders here, and I answer yes. But I don’t want gold dust, angel feathers and crazy excesses, the signs I am looking for are God changing lives, healing people, restoring relationships, filling people with power to live holy lives and seeing people saved. They are the signs I seek!

 

Maturity in the life of a Christian is hard to measure and quantify, but it is easy to see. I think we all agree that, whatever you believe the initial sign is, the true measure of being filled with the Spirit is the fruit of the Spirit. Abide in Jesus and you bear fruit, so our emphasis needs to be abiding in Him!

 

THE WAY AHEAD… ARE YOU FULLY COMMITTED?

 

This year is a year of New Horizons, and the challenging thing about the horizon is that the closer you get to it, the further away it seems… but we must never stop moving ahead.

 

This year I believe God is going to lead us on to incredible success in the things that really matter. If we are obedient, if we abide in Him. As Jesus said,

 

John 15:16 (ESV Strong's)

You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.

 

That’s a great challenge, but according to that verse, we can ask and if we ask in His name, which is not just a string of words but it means ask according to His will, if we abide in Him and

 

Matthew 6:33 (ESV Strong's)

But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

 

This year, our destiny stands before us, and together, we have the greatest opportunity to see Ignite Christian Church become what God has destined us to be!  If we seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness, if we do not compromise and lose focus, if we covenant to obey the Word of God, then He will build His church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

 

THE EYES OF THE LORD

 

Today, at the start of 2019, the Spirit of God is looking across this auditorium. He is ready to lead us on to new horizons, He is ready to build a church that impacts this and other nations, but the question is, are you in or out? Do you want to be a part of what God is doing, or not?  His eyes are looking for those who will follow Him.

 

2 Chronicles 16:9 (NIV-WS)

For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him.

 

His eyes range across this room this morning, and I simply ask the question, are you one of those whose hearts are fully committed to serving Jesus in 2019? If you want to make a difference in this world, if you have a dream in God, we can see it happen together.

 

Are you the person who will say “Choose me, Lord?” Or can you not be bothered and just want to attend church? Will you join me in saying, “Lord I will serve you, no matter the call, no matter the cost, no matter the commitment”?

 

Bill Borden was heir to a fortune, a star college athlete, good-looking, and committed to Christ. As a student, he heard a call to reach Muslims, and following graduation he announced he was giving his immense inheritance to the cause of world missions. He joined the China Inland Mission, but his widowed mother wondered if Bill had done the right thing, giving up fortune and homeland. Bill wrote, “In the quiet of my room that night, worn and weary and sad, I fell asleep asking myself again and again, ‘Is it, after all, worthwhile?’ In the morning as I awoke, a still small voice was speaking in my heart, answering: ‘God so loved the world that he gave his only beloved son.… ’ ”

 

Bill Borden arrived in Egypt, but immediately contracted spinal meningitis. He was dead in two weeks, but he left a final message on paper stuffed under his pillow: “No Reserve! No Retreat! No Regrets!”

 

The story of his sacrifice was retold in newspapers across America and the publication of his biography resulted in a hundreds of young people offering themselves as living sacrifices for the Lord of the harvest. His was the shortest but most powerful mission experience ever!

 

As we face new horizons in 2019, we can either stay the same, stay safe, sta-tus quo, or we can step up and change the world.  I’m asking you to stand with me today and into this year, to go beyond being a spectator, an attender or even a member.  Are you content with the blessings we already have? Or will you say with Bill Borden, and with me, “No Reserve! No Retreat! No Regrets!”

 

Let me offer a tangible call to commitment… will you join me this year in reading the Bible every day with our me Bible Reading Plan?

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Ps Melva Kajewski- Determined and Dressed

January 7, 2019

Join Ps Melva for this fascinating and fun look at the truth.

This was shared by Melva on the last Sunday in 2018, and what a way to finish the year!  Check it out and be blessed now!

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Ps Keith Heale- The Nativity

January 7, 2019

Just before Christmas is a great time to focus in on what the season is truly about, and that is the journey Ps Keith takes us on in this exciting message of hope...

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God’s Tests

December 10, 2018

As the end of the year draws near, most students have completed their examinations. I don’t like exams. I remember sitting in the exam hall, chewing my pen, pondering these impossibly complex questions about stuff I will never have to deal with ever again for the rest of my life!

 

I found some really funny test answers kids have given, so I thought I would share them with you…

 

Bob has 35 candy bars. He eats 9. What has he got now?    DIABETES

Why are there rings on Saturn? BECAUSE GOD LIKED IT SO HE PUT A RING ON IT

Use the word climate in a sentence. THE HILL WAS SO BIG I COULDN’T CLIMATE

What ended in 1896? 1895!

Alice places a prepared slide in her microscope, but when she looks down it she cannot see anything. Suggest one reason why not.  SHE IS BLIND

How do you change centimetres to metres? TAKE THE CENTI BIT OUT

What did Mahatma Gandhi and Gengis Khan have in common? UNUSUAL NAMES

Name 4 heavy metals. METALLICA, LED ZEPPELIN, ANTHRAX, MEGADEATH

 

Hopefully you would do better than those guys. But what might you experience in school, a College or University is just a representation of what you live out every day! You may not have known that God has exams and tests, but He does… Look at Abraham and Isaac, look at the Canaanite woman…

 

Matthew 15:26-28 (ESV Strong's)

And he answered, “It is not right to take the children's bread and throw it to the dogs.” She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters' table.” Then Jesus answered her, “O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed instantly.

 

The great things is that, if you fail a test, you don’t fail in the whole of your life. God is for you, not against you. God loves you, and wants you to become everything you can possibly become in Him. So if you fail a test in life, you simply get to resit the exam, again and again until you pass.

 

So don’t be surprised that God tests you, instead rejoice, because, pass or fail, He loves you, …

 

1 Peter 4:12 (ESV Strong's)

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.

 

Therefore, it is in our interest to pass God’s tests, don’t you think?

 

WHY DOES GOD TEST US?

 

If none of us like tests, and sometimes you barely hang on, why does God test us? To answer that question, we need to step back and ask what it is that God wants for our lives.

 

Any marketing expert will tell you that the main thing all people are interested in is “What’s in it for me.”  Whether it is buying a car or house, choosing a church, pursuing a career or even choosing a wife or husband, people naturally ask what’s in it for them.

 

Why? Because we tend to put ourselves first. Kayleigh doesn’t suggest I give her a lollie, she doesn’t even ask for a lollie, she tells me she needs a lollie. What we think we need is the most important issue to us.

 

When you first come to Christ it is all about your needs. I need to be saved, I need God to give me this, I need help with an addiction, I need help in a relationship, I need, I need! However, as you mature in Christ, you learn to take your eyes off what you need and place them on the One who can meet that need, trusting Him to meet every need you have.

 

Paul promises,

 

Philippians 4:19 (ESV Strong's)

And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.

 

We as people seem intent on supplying our own needs, not waiting for God to supply our needs, so we try our best and only come to Him when we can’t do it by ourselves. So God tests our faith all the time, to take our eyes off ourselves and our abilities and to develop the character He wants in us.

 

1.      HE TESTS US TO DEVELOP TRUST

 

Psalms 20:7-8 (ESV Strong's)

Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.

They collapse and fall, but we rise and stand upright.

 

Our natural tendency is to trust in man, in ourselves, in things we can see and understand. Some trust in institutions like governments, some trust in people’s benevolence, but the way to truly become someone great in this world is to trust in the Lord. Develop your trust in God and you will develop the character He wants in you.

 

2.      HE TESTS US TO TEACH US PATIENCE

 

Psalms 27:13-14 (ESV Strong's)

I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living!

Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!

 

I don’t know about you, but I have a wait problem. I want God to teach me patience, as long as He does it quickly! As a man of action, waiting  is probably the hardest things for me to do!

 

But God will often use waiting to teach us the spiritual fruit of patience. Someone of great character is generally not impatient or impetuous, because they have passed the test of waiting.

 

3.      HE TESTS US TO CONFORM OUR WILL TO HIS

 

Let’s face it, we are stubborn and rebellious people, who are more interested in what’s in it for me than becoming Christ like. Left to ourselves, our will puts our interests and our comforts first, and everything in this world tells us that that is what we should be doing. Buy this phone, drive this car, you deserve the best!

 

Romans 12:2 (ESV Strong's)

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

 

When we stop conforming to the pattern of this world, when we allow the Holy Spirit to renew our mind, then we begin to discern God’s perfect will, and our will starts to conform to His will!

 

If we seek God’s will first, all the things we worry about have a habit of just falling into place for us.

 

Matthew 6:31-33 (ESV Strong's)

Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

 

4.      HE TESTS US TO EMPOWER US

 

I cannot live a triumphant Christian life in my own strength, and neither can you! God never intended for you to sit His exams, failing miserably every time. No, here’s the best news of all… He rigs the exam.

 

At Uni, I had limited time and they could ask an unlimited number of very curly questions, so I decided to study as much as I could, then ask God to rig the questions, tailoring them to the material I had studied. He actually did this!

 

And in life’s exams, He can rig them for you as well. He doesn’t write the answers on your sleeve, but He supplies His Holy Spirit to live within you and help you pass the tests of life!

 

Romans 8:26-27 (ESV Strong's)

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.

 

HOW DOES GOD TEST US?

 

It is an accepted fact that you cannot improve that which you cannot test. Developing anything of value, a products, service, relationship, even a ministry, requires testing so you can discover how to make it better. God allows tests of character to determine our faith or to test our devotion in order to teach us humility and prepare us for greater responsibilities. We even should test ourselves...

 

2 Corinthians 13:5 (ESV Strong's)

Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realise this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test!

 

Remember, God does not allow tests in our lives to rain or our parades, or give us a hard time, but He lovingly allows us tests to develop our character and walk with Him. So how does He test us?

 

1.      DIFFICULT CIRCUMSTANCES

 

We all face difficult circumstances at some point, and the longer they last, the greater is the test! Joseph was sold into slavery, faced hardship, false allegations, imprisonment, lasting years, yet he passed the test with patience and endurance, showing love to the ones who had caused it…

 

Genesis 50:20 (ESV Strong's)

As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.

 

2.      PHYSICAL AND EMOTIONAL HARDSHIP

 

Suffering pain of any sort is a test, be it physical, emotional, relational or financial pain. If you want to see a Biblical example of someone passing the pain and hardship test, you need look no further than Job, who lost everything financially, suffered personal attack from his wife and friends. And was covered in sores, yet was able to say,

 

Job 13:15 (ESV Strong's)

Though he slay me, I will hope in him; yet I will argue my ways to his face.

 

You may have faced this, or be facing this right now! Fiona went through this when we lost everything, and we had to leave our designer home for a tin shack in Nambour, in the summer, where it was so hot that she broke out in a heat rash. She said, thanks Lord, now I even have the skin disease like Job! The turning point in this exam for her was when she decided that thank God for something every day, starting with the electronic gate so people couldn’t see how miserable she was!

 

3.      DELAYED FULFILMENT OF HIS PROMISES

 

Delayed fulfilment of God’s promises can be one of the sternest tests of our faith. Joseph experiences it for years, and of course Abraham and Sarah waited many years for their first child. Habakkuk was another who complained about God’s overly long timetable…

 

Habakkuk 2:3 (ESV Strong's)

For still the vision awaits its appointed time; it hastens to the end—it will not lie.

If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come; it will not delay.

 

4.      PERSONAL ATTACKS

 

I can attest that personal attacks can be a tremendous test of character. Being falsely accused, having your reputation trashed, having negative words spoken against you has happened many times in my life, but these tests give you a great opportunity to respond in a godly way… that’s how you pass!

 

1 Peter 2:12 (ESV Strong's)

Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.

 

Attacking them back, arguing your innocence, trying to speak reason to them achieves little. Living a shining, godly life is what counts, knowing no matter what happens, you have behaved with integrity.

 

Years ago a local pastor attacked me when I left his church, and called every other pastor on the coast to prevent me ministering in their churches. I decided to say nothing in reply and let God vindicate me. My local ministry just dried up. At that same time, and opportunity opened up and, though I rarely ministered here, I began to minister internationally.

 

God tested me, I passed, and then He opened incredible opportunities. So if you are being attacked, don’t fight back, let God vindicate you… then you will pass the test!

 

5.      BLESSINGS

 

Sometimes being blessed can actually be a test in itself, because the pass mark is when we rely on God, not our own abilities. Often Christians who become successful in business, forget about God! Prosperity can be a sterner test than poverty!

 

King Solomon was the wisest man who ever lived, the richest and most powerful king of Israel. But he had 700 wives and 300 concubines, an unwise decision…

 

1 Kings 11:3-4 (ESV Strong's)

He had 700 wives, who were princesses, and 300 concubines. And his wives turned away his heart. For when Solomon was old his wives turned away his heart after other gods, and his heart was not wholly true to the Lord his God, as was the heart of David his father.

 

So beware the blessing test! If you are blessed in finances, health, business, relationships or church, stay humble and keep seeking God lest your blessings cause you to fail the test!

 

6.      A CHALLENGE TO OBEDIENCE

 

In Genesis 22 Abraham passed the test of his obedience when God asked him to sacrifice his only son. At the last moment an angel stepped in and said…

 

Genesis 22:12 (ESV Strong's)

He said, “Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him, for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.”

 

King Saul, however, failed the obedience test when he was told to devote Amalek to destruction, choosing instead to keep the spoils for himself. He then tried to cover his sin by claiming he was going to sacrifice the spoils to the Lord, but Samuel said,

 

1 Samuel 15:22 (ESV Strong's)

 “Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord?

Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams.

 

When God tests you by asking you to be obedient, you need to be obedient!

 

7.      A GREAT TEMPTATION

 

Temptation is a massive test of your obedience to God. You might think you cannot cope, that the temptation pressure is too great to bear, that you might cave in under it at any time, but God has this promise,

 

1 Corinthians 10:13 (ESV Strong's)

No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.

 

So if you cannot stand under this test, find a way out and run like crazy. Fleeing sin is better than succumbing to it, and fleeing it might help you pass the test!

 

8.      A PERIOD OF SPIRITUAL DRYNESS

 

Sometimes we are tested by an extended period of spiritual dryness, and some of you are here at that point right now. You might be flat, uninspired, you might feel tired and distant from the Lord. You’re skipping quiet times and rarely pray. When facing the dryness test, you can see your faith shrivel up and die, or you can decide to thirst for God…

 

King David felt this way in the wilderness of Judah and wrote,

 

Psalms 63:1 (ESV Strong's)

O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you;

my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.

 

HOW TO PASS THE TESTS

 

Any one of those tests could come your way at any time. Whether it is dryness or success, attacks or hardships, pain or obedience. To grow in the things that matter in eternity, you need to pass the tests. Not just one or two… all of them. So what can you do to start passing all of those tests?

 

Remember, God allows times of testing into our lives to develop character and trust. Being tested is not necessarily a sign of His anger, disfavour or judgement, it is often a sign that you are truly moving with God, and He is preparing you for something great!

 

Romans 8:28 (ESV Strong's)

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

 

All things… even the tests of life!

 

Let me finish with 4 things you can do to start passing your exams…

 

1.      SEARCH YOUR HEART

 

Psalms 139:23-24 (ESV Strong's)

Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts!

And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!

 

The first step in passing your exams is to have close, serious look at your own life. You turn up here at church looking pious and holy, but examine your heart and see if there be any offensive way within you. If there is, confess it and move on, but don’t cover it over! Allow God to shine His light into the darkest crevices of your soul and let Him clean up your heart from the inside out.

 

2.      KEEP IN STEP WITH HIS SPIRIT

 

Time is one of the great testers of our faith, and we tend to either lag behind God, or if you’re like me, run ahead! Timing is everything, and God is eternal and gets time in a way we simple cannot!

 

After listing the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5, Paul writes this…

 

Galatians 5:24-25 (ESV Strong's)

And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.

If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit.

 

Micah 6:8 talks about walking humbly with your God, step by step with Him. Don’t get impatient, don’t get resentful and stop demanding things of God. To pass the test you have to learn to faithfully wait. With patience, even if your situation is painful, boring or limited.

 

3.      STAY ON TARGET

 

In the original Star Wars, as the good guys are attacking the Death Star, the pilots are screaming at each other to stay on target. Lasers are flying everywhere, danger and imminent destruction are all around, but they had a job to do, to put that proton torpedo into the small shaft and blow up the Death Star!

 

So when you are tested, stay on target. The worst thing to do is to look at the circumstances and let them dictate your destiny. Peter stepped out of the boat with faith, but the waves and wind took his attention off Jesus.

 

Psalms 119:15 (ESV Strong's)

I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways.

 

Read His Word daily, get your life into God, serve and bless and live for Him and you’ll find you’ll be passing tests!

 

4.      SEEK FIRST THE KINGDOM OF GOD

 

If you want to pass tests, seek God first. When I hear of all the things believers are pursuing in their lives, my heart breaks because unless they seek the Lord and His Kingdom first, they are headed for disaster.

 

We worry if we don’t have things, don’t achieve things or we can get lured into the things of the world.

 

Matthew 6:31-33 (ESV Strong's)

Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

 

If you seek God first, He either gives you the desires of your heart, or they fade away into nothing because they weren’t that important after all.

 

Job was tested, and he said confidently,

 

Job 23:10 (ESV Strong's)

But he knows the way that I take; when he has tried me, I shall come out as gold.

 

God through Zechariah told the remnant of His people

 

Zechariah 13:9 (ESV Strong's)

And I will put this third into the fire, and refine them as one refines silver, and test them as gold is tested. They will call upon my name, and I will answer them.

I will say, ‘They are my people’; and they will say, ‘The Lord is my God.’”

 

Today some of you here have tests, big tests. If that’s you, I want to pray for you and stand with you in this test. I want to see you triumph over this test, pass with flying colours, and it is easier to do that together rather than separately. It might be a relationship, it might be a testing job situation. It could be family, it could be financial, it could be a huge temptation, but if you are facing a test today, stand up.

 

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