Bottles and Bowls- God’s Promises Will Come True!

June 19, 2017

We've been talking about wait watchers, how hard it is to wait for the Lord to answer His promises. I know that for some of you it's been a hard series and let's face it, none of us like waiting, especially if it is taking a long time.

 

As George Tuent famously said, “I'm in a hurry, and God isn't!” We've talked about and discovered that, far from being idle and letting you stew so you get more and more frustrated, God is actually weaving people and circumstances together to bring your prayers to pass according to His will.

 

Psalms 25:5

Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long.

 

Sometimes the wait is all day long, day after day, and it gets hard and it gets… well, long! But today I want to finish this series with a wonderfully encouraging message about bottles and bowls….

 

COLLECTORS’ EDITION

 

People collect the strangest things. One collector has 24,999 toe nail clippings, and others collect Pez dispensers, celebrities hair, back scratchers (Manfred Rothstein owns 675 of them). Bettina Dorfman has 6,025 Barbies worth over $150,000. One Dutch collector has 6,290 air sick bags from over 1,000 airlines. 11 year old Luke Underwood owns over 7,000 McHappy meal toys, then of course there's things like autographs, beer mugs, coffee cups, Coke cans, stamps and coins.  Graham Barker has over 21 grams of belly button fluff, all home grown.

 

People collect things that are important to them, things they value, even if you think that they're a bit weird! And God is the same… He collects things that are important to Him…

 

TEARS IN A BOTTLE

 

Psalms 56:8

You have kept count of my tossings; put my tears in your bottle. Are they not in your book?

 

What a beautiful picture of a loving Father. God is not enjoying watching you squirm, He's not testing or trying you for no reason, He's not delaying the answer for His own amusement, He actually feels every pain, and He collects every tear. Why? Because He values them!

 

It's an exquisite description of the tender, personalised care of our Lord. He keeps a count of our wanderings or restless tossing during the night, of our fevered turnings from one side to another. I've had nights this week just like that, tossing to and fro trying to get to sleep but worrying about something almost against my will! Either that or heartburn.

 

And God cares so much about the details of our tears of sorrow that He can be asked to keep our tears in His bottle.   John Bunyan said, “God preserves our tears in a bottle, so that He can wipe them away.” When I read that, I wished I had cried more. We need to weep more. Matthew Henry said, “The tears of God’s persecuted people are bottled up, and sealed among God’s treasures.”

 

So what does this verse teach you about God, and about what you are going through or waiting for?

 

  1. GOD CARES ABOUT YOU AND YOUR BURDENS and SUFFERING

 

1 Peter 5:7

casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.

 

When you hurt, God cares. Many people ask God where He was when they faced pain, and the answer is right beside you. If you face trouble and pain alone, you do so by your own choice, because He is there willing to walk with you through it. Does it stop the pain? No. Does it help you cope? Yes.

 

Psalms 23:4

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,I  will fear no evil, for you are with me;

your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

 

Some of you are walking that road right now and it hurts, and He knows that. But He loves you, He collects your tears and He cares for you and urges you to reach out to Him in your pain.

 

2.     GOD CONNECTS HEARTFELT PRAYER WITH TEARS

 

God not only sees your tears, He connects them with heartfelt prayers, and they move His heart.  When King Hezekiah was told that he was about to die, he cried out to God and the Lord gave him another 15 years…

 

2 Kings 20:5

“I have heard your prayer; I have seen your tears. Behold, I will heal you.

 

Don't for one moment think that God is not moved by your pain and tears. He connects with them and they move Him, even move Him to action. And He can create great and amazing things from our tears if you let Him. Our tears can water the soil of our lives to produce great fruit!

 

 

Some of you might know that Fiona endured a very abusive childhood. Without those horrible, painful experiences, she might never have been inspired to found Lily House. Those tears were shed 40 years ago, and God gave her the vision for Lily House 27 years ago, but Lily House was founded 9 years ago. It took a long time for the tears to yield fruit, but they did, in God's timing.

 

 

 

3.     GOD COLLECTS  YOUR TEARS

 

 

We read Psalm 56:8 before, and the image of God collecting our tears and saving each one is beautiful.

 

 

In ancient times, at funerals some people use to cry and collect their tears in a small bottle, which was buried with the deceased. And God is like that with your tears. He sees them and He collects them and He keeps a record of them. He has a book of them, and not one tear falls to the ground, not one pain or hurt is wasted. God sees them all, He keeps a record and He collects them all.

 

Sometimes we feel desperate, but at times we are not. We don't shed enough tears but I'm telling you now, if you've shed tears and are still waiting, He cares and is moved by sincere tears and faithful hearts!  You might think you're tough, you might think that big boys don't cry. But let me tell you, real men cry, and it takes courage to shed tears, just as it takes love to collect them!

 

 

God is not looking for stiff upper lips or religious penitence. You can go to church every Sunday, you can paint on a happy face and pretend that everything is OK in your world, and you might fool your friends and the pastor, but you won't fool God.

 

 

Psalms 51:16-17

For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it; you will not be pleased with a burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.

 

When you are open, when you are brave enough to cry out to God with real tears, God collects them, cherishes them and is moved by them… a broken heart He does not despise!

 

 

 

4.     GOD KNOWS WHAT YOU CAN AND CANNOT BEAR

 

 

We know 1 Corinthians 10:13 talks about God not tempting us beyond what we can bear. This verse is about temptation, but what about pain, persecution, despair? … Does God know what we can bear, and what it takes to accomplish what He is after in us? This is from the Apostle Paul…

 

 

2 Corinthians 1:8-10

For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again.

 

 

God’s Holy Spirit is within you if you are a believer, and His Spirit can lead and guide you through anything that comes your way. If it's too much for you to bear, cry out to God, and He will respond to your tears and help you bear it. If it seems overwhelming and beyond you, even to the point of despairing for life itself, then God can and will make a way for you! His Spirit can take over when you reach the end of your ability to bear it.

 

 

5.     GOD FEELS THE PAIN

 

 

Remember, tears can be prayers just as much as words are, and they travel to God when we can't speak.

 

 

Romans 8:26

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.

 

 

I wonder if those groaning too deep for words include tears? I know I've been so hurt and despondent that tears wouldn't even flow.  We are peering into the unseen world of the Spirit here, but sometimes all we can utter is Dear Lord, and then sometimes we are so hurt, so numb that all we have are tears, or maybe we're even beyond tears. Martin Luther once said, “The fewer the words, the better the prayer,” and I think he is often right. When we reach the end of ourselves, His Spirit is there to intercede for us!

 

 

BOWLS OF PRAYERS

 

 

Revelation 5:8

And when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.

 

 

Not only does God collect our tears, but He also collects all the prayers of the saints in golden bowls, bowls of prayers, that are ever before Him.

 

 

Those prayers are precious… they are in golden bowls, and they are constantly before the Father. Wrap your head around that now, the prayers you pray are ever before the Father Himself! He not only collects your tears, but He collects your prayers and values them too!

 

 

1.      OUR PRAYERS ARE NEVER LOST

 

Some you pray and you feel like your prayers are just bouncing off the ceiling. You might have believed once, but it's taken so long and hurt or frustrated you so much that you feel like you've wasted your time believing God.

 

 

The elders hold the bowls of God because the prayers are precious to Him, because He values them.

 

 

Psalms 34:15

The eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous and his ears toward their cry.

 

That prayer you prayed last week, last year half a lifetime ago is not floating out in the never never. It's not like when you send an email and the address is not quite right and it floats away never to be seen again. Your prayers are valuable, and no matter how long ago you prayed, no matter how much pain you've gone through, no matter how much water flows under the bridge, they are still there in those beautiful golden bowls.

 

 

2.      GOD IS BLESSED WHEN YOU TURN TO HIM

 

 

We've seen in this series how we tend to be independent souls, doing our own thing, taking matters into our own hands. It didn't work for Abraham, it didn't work for Saul and it is not what God wants from you. He is blessed when you turn to Him and share your heart’s desire with Him and when you remember all He has done for you…

 

 

Psalms 103:1-2

Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name!

Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits,

 

 

Turning to God, crying out to God, shedding tears and heart felt prayers to God acknowledges your dependency on Him, and He loves to bless you right back!

 

He doesn't want you to do it all yourself, He longs for you to let Him flow through your life.

 

 

3.      DELAYS ARE NOT DENIALS

 

 

Psalms 69:3

I am weary with my crying out; my throat is parched.

My eyes grow dim with waiting for my God.

 

Some of you feel like that, you're weary and sick of crying those tears. But let me encourage you… God answers prayer. Your prayers are ever before Him, in those golden bowls, but remember, there are 4 possible ways He can answer you…

 

Yes

No

Wait, or

Wait I have a better idea!

 

 

As we have seen, God is not just there to meet your every request. He's not a performing animal or a celestial Santa clause whose job it is to bring you what you want in life, He's God, and He has perfect knowledge and perfect timing.

 

When He delays, it is not to frustrate you or wreck your life. Delay should not be seen as denials, but instead they are golden opportunities to show God that you trust Him.

 

 

Proverbs 3:5-6

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.

In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.

 

 

If you want straight paths, if you want to see those heartfelt prayers answered, trust Him. Read the Word daily, get to know Him, cause you cannot trust someone you don't know! Most of the people I know who are struggling with waiting on God don't spend time with Him every day. They neglect Bible reading, and prayer becomes a lifeless monologue.

 

 

If you want to prosper, if you want those prayers to be answered, even if it's a no or a wait, then get close to God. If you're tired of waiting, make a commitment right now to spend the time with the Lord and read His Word every day.

 

 

 

4.      GOD ANSWERS AT THE RIGHT TIME AND IN THE RIGHT WAY

 

 

2 Peter 3:9

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

 

 

God has a perfect timing. He has a perfect plan for you! Remember those prayers are still in the golden bowls, and He is still God, and they are still before Him.

 

So if His timing is perfect, how do you move your prayers up in His agenda? How do you make Him answer sooner?

 

 

That's the thing, you can't! But here's a secret, if you get closer to God He will get closer to you, and the importance of those tears and those prayers will fade away, because all you want is to know Him! The closer you get to God, the more your will conforms to His, and the closer you get to God, the less important your agenda and timing becomes!

 

 

At the right time, and the appointed time, Those bowls of prayer will be poured out!

 

 

So my question to you is this…

 

 

WHAT IS IN YOUR BOTTLE, AND WHAT IS IN YOUR BOWL?

 

 

What is it that you have prayed for and asked God for? What is it that you've cried tears for. Those tears that the Lord has counted and stored up for you?  He's collected those tears and His heart is reaching out to you today. But what about the prayers in the golden bowls? Are they still there, even if God seems distant and like He's not even listening?

 

 

Here's the thing… He won't take those prayers out of the golden bowl, He will answer them. The only one who can take them out of the golden bowl is you… when you decide to give up!

 

 

We take our prayers out of God's bowl when

 

  1. We don't trust God to answer
  2. We give up on God and try and do it ourselves
  3. We just plain give up

 

 

You trusted Him for salvation once… do you think you can trust Him with your future, with the longings of your heart, with your prayers… with your tears?

 

Today some of you have been praying for something for so long, you feel like giving up… some of you have already given up. Maybe it's someone you love who has rejected Christ. Maybe it's a financial breakthrough, a house, a job, a plus sign in your bank account. Maybe you're lonely, and you've prayed for a partner, someone to love you and stand with you.

 

 

If you believe that God has given you a promise and it is slow in coming, please stand. I want to encourage you to not give up, and if you've pretty much given up, today is the day you place that prayer back in the golden bowl.

 

 

Today is the day when we see a return on all those tears  through the years, today is the day we place our prayers back in the bowl and we believe that God is the Lord, He's our Father and He loves us, and will answer us!

 

 

Lamentations 3:25-26

The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him.

It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.

 

Our team would love to pray with you, and stand with you, because today is a day of miracles.

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Wait Watchers 2- Wait with a Healthy Faith

June 5, 2017

We are looking at waiting, and in particular how you wait for the Lord to come through for you. Last week we discovered that waiting is a part of life, and it is also a part of growing in maturity in Christ. Want to grow into a mighty man or woman of God? Then you will have to face the issue of waiting on the Lord, and waiting with the right attitude!

 

In our Bible readings this week we  looked at Job. He was a righteous man, and did nothing to deserve the pain thrust upon him. And sometimes it's like that for us… we don't get what we deserve, sometimes bad things happen to good people, and that's how life and sin in the world is. I noticed that Job’s wife couldn't handle it… she said,

Job 2:9

Then his wife said to him, “Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die.”

 

But Job would not, because integrity was all he had left!  He refused to curse God, even though he was confused at what had happened, upset and probably angry. What keep him going through this horrible time? What kept him believing God when those around him failed? How, in the midst of loss and disaster, could Job keep trusting God, no matter how long or how painful?

 

Job had a healthy faith. Job’s faith was based on the God he knew and trusted, not on circumstances, not on friends and not on his wealth and success. That's a healthy faith! Now let's look at someone else who complained, cried out, but developed a healthy faith…

 

UNDER SEIGE

 

Habakkuk 2:1-3

I will take my stand at my watchpost and station myself on the tower,

and look out to see what he will say to me, and what I will answer concerning my complaint.

And the Lord answered me: “Write the vision; make it plain on tablets, so he may run who reads it.

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.

 

 

So Habakkuk is a prophet, and he sees the invasion of the Babylonians coming at them like a freight train. Just as Jeremiah lamented this same situation in last week's reading, Habakkuk is seeing it coming. He is on the watchtower looking out at impending disaster , and he's not silent.

 

He'd been complaining to God for 2 whole chapters now, saying things like,

Habakkuk 1:4

So the law is paralysed, and justice never goes forth.

For the wicked surround the righteous; so justice goes forth perverted.

 

He accused God of being unjust in judging His people. Especially that He used the evil, perverted and utterly ruthless Babylonians do so! He said, “OK, were sinful, but they are worse, so how come they get to conquer us when they're far worse?”

 

And that's a valid question, right? How come what You promised me is taking so long? Why am I in weight watchers when that horrible person over there seems to have it all, and they're not even honest or a Christian?

 

Interestingly, in verses 1 and 2, “and look out to see what he will say to me, and what I will answer concerning my complaint. And the Lord answered me:” those two words answer are different in the Hebrew. The Lord’s answer means “to reply, to pay heed to,” but Habakkuk’s answer means “to turn back, to retreat.” So like we discussed last week, the prophet made his complaint, had his rant, but then retreated or turned back to receive the Lord’s answer. There's a lesson here… plenty of people rant and rage, but few go to the next phase of stepping back and listening for God's answer, then trusting Him.

 

So if you are waiting, it’s frustrating, right? It's long, it hurts, you feel like you're in limbo, in a holding pattern, or even going backwards. Like Habakkuk you're mad, you think God is being unjust, you see ungodly people prospering when you're not, so you cry out and complain … and that's OK, because as I said last week, God is big enough and He can handle  it. But when you're done ranting and complaining, it's time to retreat from your supposed moral high ground, sit back and listen.

 

I CAN’T HEAR YOU, GOD!

 

Now ceasing the rant and actually listening is particularly hard in the 21st century. Never before in history has morality been challenged like it is today. As a society, on issues of morality, we have not a clue.

 

Not so long ago abortion was rare, gay meant happy and trans was a type of fat you don't want in your diet. Now our society protects the rights of criminals, but sanctions and even funds the murder of babies. The media wants to redefine what a marriage is to make it something our fathers and grandfathers would never recognise.

We don't know who we are, we don't even know what gender we are, who we should marry or what we believe about pretty much anything. And whatever we believe is likely to change next week. How do we hear God in a moral landscape that is twisted and shifts like sand in the wind?

 

We have one authority, one moral compass folks… the authority that doesn't move every year, doesn't change based on what 60 minutes thinks, isn't subject to Facebook trends or afraid of social media, the authority that doesn't use cute slogans to justify seismic changes in morality, the authority that never changes and lasts forever… the Word of God!

 

If you are waiting and waiting and have no answers, by all means cry our to God and tell Him how you feel, but then retreat or step back, open His Word and pour it into your life. The Bible reading plan is working for so many here, so if you're struggling to wait, don't get mad, don't get discouraged, get into the Bible, get into prayer and listen, obey and serve.

 

We read earlier the first 3 verses of Habakkuk 2, but let's take a look at verse 4…

Habakkuk 2:4

“Behold, his soul is puffed up; it is not upright within him, but the righteous shall live by his faith.

 

So the first 3 verses lead to the 4th, which says the righteous shall live by his faith, and the Hebrew word for faith here is MUNA, which means “firmness, moral fidelity, steadfastness, steadiness.” How interesting… in a world where morals are discarded, where nothing is stable and everything seems wrong and unjust, Habakkuk says the righteous, which is you and I , shall live by firmness, moral fidelity, steadfastness… by healthy faith!

 

If you are waiting today, if you feel unjustly treated or like God is taking too long, this morning I want to build healthy faith into your life, because the righteous live by faith!

 

FAITH TO LIVE BY

 

Faith is a term that some in the church have tried to hijack! Some teach that we can choose the promises we want, forget the conditions and simply try to muster all the belief we can that God will prosper and heal and save and bless us. That He'll give us what we want when we want if only we can summon a mustard seed of faith.

 

We live in a consumer society, where the slogan “What's in it for me” is the basis of nearly every action and transaction. Church, consumer faith is not faith at all. So many have had their faith in God destroyed because they were taught to believe God for something He never promised in the first place.

 

We don't need consumer faith, we need healthy faith, the faith that sustains you when times are hard, when the road is long, when the wait is painful beyond measure. Healthy faith that moves mountains isn't wasted on trivial pursuits and consumer goods, it's the faith that us centred not on me and my wants and my desires and my welfare, but on Christ.

 

Isaiah 26:3

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

 

Trust here means to find refuge in, to be secure, to trust, to hope and to have an unshakable faith in God. Regardless of circumstances , if our minds are on God, our trust is in God, our faith is in God, we cannot be shaken!

 

So what is this healthy faith, the faith by which the prophet says the righteous live by?

 

HEALTHY EMOTIONS AND HEALTHY FAITH

 

2 Timothy 1:7

for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.(sound mind)

 

God’s Word promises that His children can have power, love and a sound mind, although the way some Christians carry on you'd be excused for thinking that a sound mind wasn’t part of the deal! The foundation of a sound or self controlled mind is healthy emotions, and the healthy faith that we are to exhibit grows from healthy emotions, which are constantly under attack by our society.

 

Think for a moment about how your emotions play into your faith. You feel great and you have faith. You feel down, sick or discouraged and your faith wanes. Modern consumerism plays on emotions, our TV and videos tug at our emotions and people are more emotional about even small things now than ever before. Get on Facebook and you will often see a raw flood of emotion which years ago people would never reveal! The anonymity of the internet makes people say things they would never say to your face!

 

Healthy faith is not just trying to believe, not just a feeling, it is a way of life! It builds healthy emotion, not the other way around. Our faith is never independent of our emotions, but it must not be controlled by our emotions. Let your emotions stem from a healthy faith, not the other way around. Healthy faith not only loves God, but trusts Him enough to wait patiently, yes there's that word again, WAIT. Let's have a look at what healthy faith and therefore healthy emotions look like in our modern culture…

 

1.      HEALTHY FAITH FOSTERS SELF WORTH

 

Many Christians feel they are not worthy, despite receiving forgiveness for their sins and knowing that Jesus loves them and shed His blood for them on Calvary. Having a health faith in God helps us to see ourselves as God sees us, as valuable, lovable, forgiveable and changeable. We begin to see that we are not an evolved ape, not a product of chance, but that we are created in the image of God, and that we are chosen to be princes and princesses…

 

1 Peter 2:9

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 marvellous light.

 

He chose you, He adopted you, He gave you His Spirit. Healthy faith takes its eyes off perceived circumstances, off what you think, off how you feel and you begin to see all things, including yourself, as God sees you.

 

2.      HEALTHY FAITH MANAGES ANGER IN LIFE’S STORMS

 

Life is full of troubles, and even if we have faith we face storms of various kinds. Whether it be relationships troubles, divorce, rebellious kids, sickness, finances, stress or anything else, without a healthy faith you are thrown around, you're on an emotional rollercoaster and so many are destroyed by the emotional price these stressors exact.

 

What happens to you in life is not nearly as important as how you choose to react to it. Emotionally healthy people keep a balanced and measured perspective on their difficulties and can respond appropriately. People who fire up, rant rave, write abusive letters, vent their spleen on Facebook or cut others off are generally emotionally unhealthy.

 

James 1:19-20

Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.

 

Healthy faith in Christ creates healthy emotions and this gives rise to healthy relationships. It also enables you to face and conquer events and stresses that others fall apart under, because when healthy faith meets troubles or attacks it responds rather than reacts. A reaction is immediate, emotional, usually disproportional, and causes inflammation of the situation. A response is delayed, measured, thought through and defuses the situation.

 

Proverbs 15:1

A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.

 

This does not mean that healthy faith never gets angry. I’m sure Habakkuk, Job, Jeremiah, Paul and everyone else in the Bible felt anger, but as Paul says,

Ephesians 4:26

Be angry and do not sin;

When properly directed, the energy that anger creates can be very constructive.

 

Anger makes a poor master, but an excellent servant. Emotionally healthy people direct the energy created by anger into constructive activities. If they get angry, they might go for a walk and cool down instead of reacting and saying what can never be retracted or doing things that can never be undone. Anger in my life often gives rise to determination, and that's a great use of a potentially destructive emotion! Wise people with a healthy faith put anger to work for them.

 

So when your faith is healthy, it is not that you never get angry. It's how you respond that reveals the state of your faith! Healthy faith weighs and measures its response. It doesn't react to little things but keeps its eyes on things above!

 

3.      HEALTHY FAITH REDUCES FEAR OF THE FUTURE

 

Fear is an ever present emotion in our world. Fear of terrorism, fear of financial collapse, fear of failure, fear of loss… for some folks, fear paralyses their life, and we are seeing more phobias and mental illness than ever before.

 

Fear of change is a huge fear to many, and a healthy faith lessens one’s fear of change. To live is to grow, so to resist change is to resist growth. Emotionally healthy people are not afraid to change if it means growth, because their healthy faith is grounded not in what they know and are comfortable with but in Christ, and in reaching their potential in Him.

 

Matthew 6:34

“Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

 

Healthy faith has no fear for the future, change or otherwise, because real faith is based not on circumstances, not on what might happen, not on fear of loss if we change, but on the Word of God, which never changes!

 

This church has undergone many changes, and continues to change. If that upsets your apple cart I apologise, but it's not going to stop, because I am going to continue pressing into the Lord and changing where I believe He calls us to change. If that's a problem, I love you, I want to guide you through the changes, but I'm not going to stop obey God to appease you! Change is inevitable if we are to grow, change is growth! Healthy faith does not fear it!

 

4.      HEALTHY FAITH MODERATES STRESS AND TENSION

 

We all face stress and tension, and it's not all bad! Believe it or not, stress and tension are essential for excitement, motivation and growth in life. With a healthy faith, you can trust more and worry less. With a healthy faith, we recognise that our earthly possessions will perish in time, so why waste time now worrying about them? Those with healthy faith and thus healthy emotions spend time on what is of eternal significance, such as relationships and learning about or serving the Lord.

 

Colossians 3:2

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

 

Worrisome people are overwhelmed by earthly  things, but those with a healthy faith realise that earthy things have little eternal significance, therefore they worry less about them! If your eyes are in the eternal, your faith is healthy. Turn your eyes upon Jesus, and the things of earth grow strangely dim, as does its worries and stresses!

 

5.      HEALTHY FAITH FINDS JOY IN GIVING

 

People grasp things. People want things, and take them where they can. It's human nature.  Giving is contrary to human nature, but an essential part of Christian living. Most people always put themselves first, what they want, what they think and where they're going. We call it, “Looking out for number one,” and it is part of business, commerce and even social security, where all anyone thinks about is what benefits they can get.

 

Healthy faith doesn’t take, it gives rise to a generous spirit, because a healthy faith believes God's promise, whether you have riches or not…

Malachi 3:10

Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need.

 

A healthy faith is generous with both time and money, because we realise that as we give, far from losing something, we are placing ourselves in the way of God’s blessings, and God, who cannot lie, will see His promise fulfilled in us!

 

And if you're waiting right now, don't fret and don't grasp. Have a generous spirit, have an open and kind heart and keep giving, keep serving and keep blessings others around you.

 

6.      HEALTHY FAITH IS BIBLICAL

 

Emotionally unhealthy people usually isolate themselves from other believers, or chase after experiences that are without Biblical support and are harmful to healthy faith. As I mentioned a few weeks ago, our Coast is full of people chasing experiences and cheap parlour tricks rather than the faith the Bible talks about.

 

In this church, if it's not in the Bible it won't fly at all! I'm all for everything the Holy Spirit has for us, and I too am praying for manifestations of the Spirit, but I'm praying for salvations, healings and miracles in people's lives, not weird gold dust, angel feathers and aberratant behaviour.

 

Mankind seeks sensationalism, we almost lust for signs, but Jesus faced this too..,

 

Matthew 12:38-39

Then some of the scribes and Pharisees answered him, saying, “Teacher, we wish to see a sign from you.” But he answered them, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah.

 

Paul told Timothy that he needs to examine everything Biblically…

 

2 Timothy 3:14-15

But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.

 

Healthy faith is built on the Word of God, not on sensationalism or cheap entertainment.

 

7.      HEALTHY FAITH GROWS YOU IN GOD

 

Healthy faith always continues to grow in the things of God. Healthy faith grows in the knowledge that God is love, and that God's agenda is to grow us to be like Him.

 

Unhealthy people see God as threatening, overbearing, restricting and controlling. Some see Him only as the God of judgement, destroying the wicked, punishing believers when they step out of line, and if you really know God you'd realise nothing is further from the truth!

 

1 John 4:16

So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.

 

Healthy faith grows to know a loving, caring, beautiful Father who is for you, not against you…

Romans 8:31

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?

 

Yes God gets angry, yes God disciplines those He loves, but He is always loving, and healthy faith grows that love. And the more you know that God is love, the more that in turn grows your faith!

 

8.      HEALTHY FAITH IS BALANCED

 

Work life balance is part of healthy faith and an emotionally healthy life. In Genesis 2:15 God gave people work, but in Genesis 2:2 and Exodus 20:8-11, God made provision for a day of rest. God gives us work and He also gives us play, so a healthy balance is an essential part of a healthy faith.

 

God gave people work in Genesis 2:15. He also gave them play, for He designated one day in seven for rest and worship (Gen. 2:2; Ex. 20:8-11). By keeping this balance, emotionally healthy people learn to work hard and rest well.

 

So now we know what it looks like, how can you attain healthy faith?

 

RESTORING EMOTIONAL HEALTH THROUGH HEALTHY FAITH

 

People who feel emotionally unhealthy are often internalising the pain of past or present situations. It is possible to help heal these unhealthy thoughts and feelings. There are four steps for them to follow to help “pray through” the process.

 

1.      BE HONEST WITH GOD

 

Just as Habakkuk was honest, and Jeremiah was honest, tell God your feelings of hurt, fear even anger. He knows it all anyway, so get it off your chest. And when you're done, retreat as we saw Habakkuk do and listen to God, believing that He will answer you. Habakkuk 2:1

 

2.      CONFESS YOUR UNHEALTHY THINKING

 

Unhealthy feelings give rise to lack of faith, and, call it what it is, its sin. If you had a rant and got it off your chest, if you are fearful or angry or stressed, just confess it and move on. 1 John 1:9

 

3.      ASK GOD FOR A NEW WAY OF THINKING

 

Your faith will not grow if you don't change the way you think, to make it more like Christ’s.

 

So how do you change the way you think? It's easy to say, but hard to do. You stop putting things into your mind that drag you down, and instead you put the Word of God into your head instead…

Philippians 4:8

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.

 

4.      THANK HIM FOR IT

 

Join with Jeremiah and thank God for His steadfast love. It's new every morning for you, so thank Him for it…

Lamentations 3:22-26

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end;

they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.

“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.”

The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him.

It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.

 

If you want to impress God, have a healthy faith! Hebrews 11:6 tells us that faith pleases Him, and in the Bible you will see time and again that God rewards faith.

 

We've been sharing on waiting for God, and the way you can do this is to foster healthy faith in your life. Many of you here have been waiting, and waiting for a long time for God to do as He has promised. But all of us here need to develop a healthy faith, and none of us have arrived. Faith is like a muscle, you develop it by using it, so ask God for the opportunities to stand in faith!

Philippians 3:13-14

Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. 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.

 

PRAYER OF FAITH

In the name of Jesus Christ, I pray, Dear Lord, see me through these hard times. In these troubling times, I am filled with unspeakable fears. I reach out my hand to you now, And ask you to walk besides me.

I cannot carry all my burdens, But I know you can, and will. Please walk beside me. Please guide me. Please help me hold on strong, Through the trials and storms.

Help me hold on to my faith, In even the darkest hour. Stay with me Lord, And show me Your way. In your love and Holy Spirit I abide. Amen.

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Wait Watchers 1- Why and How We Should Wait

May 29, 2017

Imagine being in Manchester over this last week…. Suicide bomber, 22 dead, nearly 60 injured. Now imagine a more widespread terrorist attack that painfully and more permanently alters your daily life. This attack destroys federal, state and local government buildings in your community. Somehow, the terrorists seriously damage local utilities, phone lines, cell phone networks and banking services. They murder many government and church leaders. Still worse, the attackers raze your home, rob you of all your possessions and kill your family members. You have no one left.

Welcome to Jerusalem in 586 b.c., following the invasion by the Babylonian army.

 

This is the backdrop to the book of Lamentations, which is a lament by the prophet Jeremiah over the city and the nation he loved, destroyed, deported, blown apart by a godless, cruel and vicious enemy. Your world, everything you've known and cared for, gone, ripped from your grasp! Nothing seems right, nothing seems fair, and everything seems way too long.

 

So Jeremiah writes 5 poems of sadness, fear, misery and anger towards God.  Today I want to focus on a few key verses in the middle of this gut wrenching lament…

 

Lamentations 3:22-26

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end;

they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.

“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.”

The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him.

It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.

 

I know many of you here are waiting on God. You've asked Him to lead you, you've told Him what you want, and you've started waiting… and waiting… and waiting. Things have taken longer than expected. Way longer. And now you've joined wait watchers and you are sitting there watching yourself wait.

 

You're frustrated , you're angry, you're impatient, you're losing hope! I understand, I've been there and wait is my least favourite word in the Bible.

 

Today I want to start a confronting but honest series called wait watchers. I know many of you need to hear this, as do I, constantly.  I know many of you are in wait mode, in a holding pattern , waiting what seems like an eternity for God to speak, for God to lead. As I share, don't take offence at the words, take it on board and recognise the incredible if painful things God is doing.

 

Now when you think of wait watchers, You might recall some great weight watching slogans…

A mind is a terrible thing to waste and A waist is a terrible thing to mind!
A moment on the lips, a lifetime on the hips.
Bigger Snacks, Bigger Slacks.
Don’t give up what you want most for what you want at this moment.
Eat your veggies-have less wedgies!
He who Indulges, bulges.
If you hang your swimsuit on the refrigerator door, the goodies inside will be easier to ignore.

WHY ARE WE WAITING?

 

Jeremiah, in the midst of disaster, calls us to wait quietly and seek the Lord. He's not the only one found waiting in Scripture. In Genesis 15:4, God gave Abram  a promise, that he would have a child and heir. Cool says Abram, but he didn't know it would take 25 years of waiting to see it come to pass.  And I know many of you here feel God has given you promises, but they haven't happened yet and you are asking the same question, right?

 

When we are faced with waiting, our minds race ahead. Our fingers tap. And often we begin to question: “Where is God, anyway? Life wasn’t supposed to look like this.What is God doing? Why hasn't He answered my prayer?”

 

Question: Might God have a greater agenda than simply answering our prayer? If so, what's the big idea, God? I have come to believe God intends the holding patterns of life to be times of reflection and contemplation that draw us closer to him. They are times of invitation, when God calls us to Himself. They are not His attempts at frustrating us, angering us or or alienating us. They are times when He lovingly, gently teaches us to rely on Him and Him alone. He's a loving Father, and He doesn't make us wait for no reason. He loves us, and has a plan for us. And if we wait, He has a reason. So what could possibly be the reasons God might make you wait?

 

1.     GOD IS ORCHESTRATING THINGS FOR YOU

 

Romans 8:28

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

 

Does this mean God works only the things we like? Only the things we want and want now? It says all things, and this means the good, the bad and the ugly!

 

Even while you sit impatiently waiting, and often whining, God is likely orchestrating things behind the scenes, things you have no idea about, to bring about that which He has promised. Many big decisions in life like jobs, houses, cars and relationships are a complex interweaving of people, personalities and circumstances, and while we are busy complaining that God is taking too long, He is surely working behind the scenes on our behalf!

 

You trusted the Lord for your salvation, His blood shed on Calvary.You trusted Him for your partner, your business, your home, etc. in the past. If you are waiting right now, can you not trust this same Lord that He is working all things for good for you? Rather than complain, why not ask Him to reveal what He is doing, so you can learn to trust Him all the more!

 

2.     GOD IS DEVELOPING FRUIT IN YOU

 

In this world of ATMs, direct access, instant credit, and immediate gratification, the idea of waiting for something seems quaint, almost outdated. We rush through life. Yet waiting quietly for God’s blessings is a discipline that yields tremendous rewards. As we wait, we can begin to see God working in our lives,  and we begin to produce fruit of the Spirit in our character.

 

Galatians 5:22

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,

 

Was patience on that list? Yes it was, and in a world that is crazy for instant gratification, patience is a massive billboard for God on the highway of life! We teach our kids the virtue of waiting because it builds character, then we get mad at God if He makes us wait and teaches the same lesson.

 

But here's the good news. We learned in our series on the University of Adversity that, if we fail a test and fail to develop the right character or fruit, we don't fail the whole of life.  We just get to sit the exam again… and again… and again!

 

My advice is this: Get your heart right, stop being mad at God and learn the lesson and develop the fruit, so you only have to sit the exam once!

 

3.     GOD IS HEIGHTENING EXPECTATION WITHIN YOU

 

Believe it or not, waiting makes us rely on God and enjoy and appreciate the answer even more when it comes through.

 

Look at Hannah in our quiet times this week. She was desperate for a child, tormented by her peers, ashamed by her infertility, miserable and impatient.

 

1 Samuel 1:10

She was deeply distressed and prayed to the Lord and wept bitterly.

 

God heard her, God promised her, and God answered her prayer. And what was the result? She was so thankful, she dedicated her child to the Lord and He became one of Israel's greatest prophets … Samuel!  Heightened expectation makes the answer all the more sweet. You know this with your kids, and you need to recognise this with yourself.

 

4.     GOD IS TEACHING YOU TO RELY ON HIM

 

Those who wait on the LORD shall renew their strength” (Is. 40:31). A time of waiting can be a time of renewal. Waiting on God need not be wearisome, frustrating or miserable.

 

God often makes us wait so that we learn to rely on Him more. When Jesus heard that Lazarus His dear friend was ill, near death, we read this strange sentence…

 

John 11:6

So, when he heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was.

 

Do you think Mary and Martha, Lazarus’ sisters, were waiting? Do you think Jesus could have maybe rushed to His friends deathbed, or at least left on time? Of course, but Jesus said

John 11:4

But when Jesus heard it he said, “This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.”

 

Jesus waited, and His friend died, so that the miracle would clearly be seen for what it was… an act of God! When God makes you wait, He develops not only the fruit of patience, but also hope, expectation and deeper trust in Him. If you wait in the correct way, if you learn the right lessons and wait patiently, He will renew your strength. In fact, your waiting will give birth to a strength you never knew you had, and a faith that will move mountains.

 

5.     GOD IS TRAINING YOU FOR FUTURE SERVICE

 

1 Timothy 4:7-8

Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.

 

Waiting is God’s way of training you for future ministry. Melva told me last week how long she prayed for someone close to her to come to Christ. Now, do you think this lady has a prayer ministry? Do you think she might have a degree of faith that perhaps others do not?

 

I am an impatient person, always have been. Years ago I was almost constantly angry that God took too long to bring about what He'd promised me. Through a series of long, painful losses, including financial, relationships and ministries, I have learned some of the lessons of waiting patiently. And my faith is now far stronger, and my wisdom is now far deeper, because I have suffered and been forced to wait! I'm still in training, not perfected, but not wanting to sit extra exams!

 

HOW ARE WE WAITING?

 

John Piper said, "Patience in doing the will of God is not an optional Christian virtue, because faith is not optional and impatience is the fruit of unbelief. This is no minor skirmish!”

 

How you wait is a bigger deal than you think! Whether you wait for the Lord’s goodness is not open to debate, and is beyond your control.  But how you wait, the attitude with which you wait, is of paramount importance! So how does God want us to wait for Him?

 

1.     WAIT ACTIVELY

 

When God says wait, He doesn't mean sit down and twiddle your thumbs…

Psalms 27:14

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

 

Wait is qawa in Hebrew, and it literally means to bind, to gather or to wait expectantly in hope. It is not a passive, but rather an active word. The inference is that you don't stop what you are doing, you don't sit and sulk, you keep on serving, keep on giving, keep on trusting, you have courage and hope.  You keep on doing what you are doing with as one commentator said, “As if expecting new measures of help.”

 

So if you are waiting expectantly for the Lord, don't stop! Keep living, keep trusting Him, keep rejoicing, keep learning and keep waiting actively because He will never let you down!

 

2.     WAIT PATIENTLY

 

Psalms 37:7

Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way, over the man who carries out evil devices!

 

It is tempting when we are waiting to not be patient, but God calls us to patience. This applies even if other people seem to be prospering, even if bad guys seem to be doing well while you suffer! Patience is a fruit of the Spirit , and I have found that the more patient I am the quicker I learn the lesson and the faster my answer comes.

 

Patience is a virtue that carries a lot of wait… WAIT! So wait patiently!

 

3.     WAIT WITHOUT COMPLAINT

 

Philippians 2:14-15

Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may 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,

 

When you have to wait longer than you like, are you shining as you wait or are you a black hole of misery? If you're like me, you find it hard to wait without complaining… ,

 

Psalms 62:5

For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him.

 

No, if you're like me, you don't wait in silence real good, you like to have a moan.

 

Now look, if you're expressing your anger, your frustration and your complaints to the Lord, He can handle it. He's big enough and has heard it all before. David often did this in the Psalms, and trust me, God is big enough to handle it! My advice to you is rant , rave, tell God what you think. Then get over it. As I said, if you get this wrong you have the joy of sitting the exam again, and again. So if you need to blow off steam, feel free. But let me remind you it doesn't impress God one bit.

 

Hebrews 11:6

And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.

 

Faith impresses God, not our rants, not our anger and not our presumptions.  And when you're done having your rant, humble yourself and pray and seek Him and then you have His attention!

 

4.     WAIT WITHOUT DICTATING TERMS

 

Many people tell God what they want from Him, them get mad if He doesn't do what they want, when they want. Listen, faith is not telling God what and how He needs to do things for you!  Faith is asking His will and obeying, even if it is contrary to what you want!

 

So if you are waiting, ask God for a word from Scripture and stop ordering Him around! I have found myself doing this at times. Something like God, I'm doing this right now and I order You to bless it, rather than Lord, show me what to do. If God gives you a Word from His Word, you can stand on that forever. But beware of claiming promises that He has never given to you. Let Him quicken a Scripture to your heart instead of you ordering Him to perform for you.

 

Proverbs 19:21

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

 

So don't tell Him what He needs to do for you, ask Him and trust Him without dictating terms. Want to see a real prayer of faith..

 Look to Jesus… not my will but Yours be done!

 

5.     WAIT WITHOUT RATIONALISATION

 

We humans are funny creatures… we can't just believe God, we think we need to give God an out, just in case He can't manage to keep His Word! 

 

We pray things like, if it's your will, Lord; not to truly be obedient to His will, but to give Him an escape clause just in case it doesn't come true!

 

When our reasonings differ from what God’s Word has revealed, we usually try to disguise our true motive. We rationalise, saying, Well, I can probably do without the promise, and we do this so we can pursue what we want to do rather than be obedient the the Word of the Lord. In essence we say, If God doesn't come through for me, then I'm not keeping my end of the bargain! That's right, the longer we wait, the more frustrated we get, we start to bargain with God!

 

How much better to have the faith and conviction of the 3 young men facing the furnace…

 

Daniel 3:17-18

If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”

 

They didn't rationalise , they didn't try and bargain with God, they just said, I'm believing, no matter what! If you're waiting for the Lord right now, can you say that too? Can you say whatever I see, whatever my friends say, whatever circumstances say, I'm believing Him, no matter what, and no matter how long!

 

6.     WAIT WITHOUT SELF FULFILLING

 

For me, the longer it takes the greater the temptation towards self fulfilment of God's promises. You know what I mean. God is taking too long, and you just might help Him out a Little bit, right? The do it yourself project!

 

When Fiona and I go shopping, I often suggest that we go to different places in the store to save time. I tell her I'll meet her at a certain aisle. But this often doesn't work. I arrive, she's not there, so I get impatient rather than wait for her, I go looking for her. Meanwhile she arrives, finds me not there, because I'm out looking for her. She doesn't know whether to look for me or wait. It's a mess.

 

I'm a man of action, I get stuff done. I don't wait, I act, with Fiona in the store and with God. So I tell the Lord, “FORGET IT, LORD, I’LL DO IT MYSELF”

 

The classic example in Scripture of this is Abraham. He had the promise, he waited, and waited, and after 20 years, still no promised heir. Sure, he kept believing God, but Sarah came up with a great idea, one she thought of all by herself...

Genesis 16:2

And Sarai said to Abram, “Behold now, the Lord has prevented me from bearing children. Go in to my servant; it may be that I shall obtain children by her.” And Abram listened to the voice of Sarai.

 

Rather than waiting for God, they helped out, and took matters into their own hands. They chose a servant girl, Hagar, to be a surrogate mother for Abram’s son. It was logical, it was helping God, and guess what…  it was sin! And it's the gift that keeps on giving even to the present day.  This “solution” resulted in a complicated family relationship because Abram’s seed through Hagar gave us the Arab nations. Their conflict with the Jews, Abram’s descendants through Sarai, keeps the Middle East in constant turmoil.

 

When you're hanging onto a promise that seems distant or impossible, a wise man resists the temptation to take matters into his own hands and do it yourself!

 

7.     WAIT IN HOPE OR EXPECTATION

 

Romans 12:12

Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.

 

Hope in the Bible is different to the way we understand it.  I might say, I hope tomorrow will be sunny, I hope Queensland wins the State of Origin, but this is not what hope means in the Bible.

 

Biblical hope is a sure thing, a 100% safe bet. When the Bible says hope in the Lord, it means He will never, never, never let you down. When you wait with hope, it is the absolute surety that God will never leave nor forsake you.

 

Micah 7:7

But as for me, I will look to the Lord; I will wait for the God of my salvation; my God will hear me.

 

WAIT WATCHERS

 

Over the next few weeks I want to explore what God really says about waiting. Many of you here are in holding patterns, waiting for the Lord, often angry, sometimes impatient, sometimes faith filled. God is speaking I believe to so many, but let me assure you of this. God is for you, not against you. God has a plan to prosper you, not harm you. He is growing something amazing in you. He has a hope and a future. He has a perfect way and today He is asking you to wait. To be strong, take heart and to wait for the Lord.

 

1 Peter 1:6-7

In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

 

This is why adversity, and waiting patiently, is a bridge to a deeper relationship with the Lord. He allows your faith to be refined by fire—just as gold is—it is heated, and heated, so that every impurity, doubt, anxiety, and frustration bubbles to the surface. Then, when He answers your long awaited, desperate prayers, all of those hindrances to your trust in Him are removed, leaving only purified confidence in His holy ways.

 

Can you trust Him? Can you believe Him for the future He promises? Are you trying to manipulate Him or ordering Him to do what you want? All of this, however desperate you feel, however difficult the circumstances and however angry you become, all of it is sin!

 

Can you keep praying, keep believing, keep pressing into God while you wait expectantly? EM Bounds said, the severer the trial and the longer the waiting, the more glorious the result.

 

James 5:7-8

Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains. You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand.

00:0000:00

Full Potential 6- Taking God Approved Risks

May 22, 2017

Life has been described as a series of calculated risks. We've been looking at how we can reach our full potential in Christ, how we can become all that He has planned for us. We've seen that we need a clean heart and a clear mind, that we need to use our gifts, body and time the right way and that we must surround ourselves with the right friends and influencers, but here's the final step.

 

We have to take a chance! We face a life full of risks, if we are honest. Today is the day you need to decide to step out in faith, and take a chance on God, because life is full of risks…

I get up in the morning, turn on the light. According to one study, every year in the US 500 people die electrocuted by light switches. I walk downstairs, 16,000 people die doing this every year. There's water we drink, air we breathe, and that's before we get on the road in the 2 tons of lethal projectile we call a car. Risk is all around us, folks, like it or not, so let's address this topic head on… I believe we must get ready to act and follow the Lord into God approved and God arranged risks!

 

Now for some folk like me, I just say bring it on. My risk profile is skewed way over the the “Let's have a crack at it” side. But for many, you are fearful of stepping out and taking a chance because of the risk that you will fall or be hurt in some way. This is often because it's happened before, right?

 

Well today we are going to pour faith into your life in a scale you have never experienced before!

 

NO FEAR

 

Do you like to play it safe? Do you insist on guarantees? Are you afraid of change? In life, in relationships, in work, in ministry? Do you like to explore new possibilities?

If you truly are going to pursue your God-given potential, you are going to find yourself in situations and face opportunities that will require decisions and action. Some of those decisions and actions may appear risky to you, but to reach your full potential you must take those risks.

And unless Jesus comes in our lifetime, the only risk free truth is that you're going to die!

 

Does God want you to live a life that is totally risk free? No. He's more interested in your character than your comfort. But hey, you will want to make sure they are God given, God approved risks, not crazy, kamikaze, self destructive mistakes!

 

And the truth is that you have absolutely no way to comprehend all of the possibilities that an all-wise, all-knowing, infinite God sees for you. You cannot know with your finite mind and your limited perspective all that He knows.

 

So do you trust your opinions, or do you trust your Heavenly Father who has stated He wants the best for you, and He will never leave you nor forsake you.

A significant amount of risk is involved in trusting God in all things, in all relationships, in all choices, and in all decisions. Risk is part of the very nature of faith:

Hebrews 11:6

And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.

 

Want to please your Father? Siting in your comfort zone doesn't please Him. Believe in Him, listen to Him, obey Him and trust Him for the results. If you want to bless God, take opportunities He places before you without fear and with faith.

 

Fear knocked on the door. Faith answered… there was no one there!

 

What you see as a risk from your perspective could be the very situation that God wants to use to strengthen your faith. What you think holds the potential for loss or danger, God may very well be using to strengthen your character. What you view as taking a chance, very possibly could be what God will use to carry you one giant step closer to reaching your full potential.

 

RISKY BUSINESS

 

Consider the nature of a risk. It involves the possibility of suffering danger or a loss of some kind. We often associate taking risks with doing something that holds out the possibility of rejection or failure. There are elements of fear and disappointment that are part of every risk we take. The flip side of a risk is the possibility that we just might experience a great blessing or reward!

 

Is the prize worth the risk? Do you have and hold or is there nothing ventured, nothing gained? Do you like where your life is at right now? Are you totally satisfied? Do you risk the life you have for something greater, much greater, than could change lives around you and impact the world?

 

Question: if the prize is reaching your full potential, becoming everything you can possibly become with Jesus, how do we determine which opportunities to pursue in our quest to reach our full potential? We must never make decisions based on the degree of perceived risk. Rather, we are to make decisions solely on the basis of what God says. So the question isn't about the risk, it's about hearing and obeying the voice of God.

 

The truth is, choosing to do something solely on the basis of your limited understanding and ability leaves too much to chance. But pursuing God’s command—acting on the product of His unlimited wisdom and power—is not risky at all. If it is God’s idea, we cannot fail in our pursuit of it.

The challenge we face as opportunities come our way is to understand what God is doing and where He is leading. Taking God approved risks shouldn't have anything to do with the risk, and everything to do with the God approved part! The challenge is knowing for sure that you've heard Him right.

 

HOW DO YOU KNOW IF AN OPPORTUNITY IS FROM GOD?

 

I don't know what opportunity you're facing. Might be a relationship, maybe a job or business, it might even be going to church, stepping out in a new way in ministry.  If you are facing a challenge, opportunity or risk, how do you know what's God?

 

1.      GOD’S OPPORTUNITIES UPWARDLY CHALLENGE WHO YOU ARE

 

When God places His opportunities before us, He always challenges our God given gifts and talents, and our character, and it is always in the upward direction. The Lord does not call us to do something that is the total opposite of who He made us to be. He also won't call us to a challenge that requires more than the abilities and propensities that He already has placed in us.

 

God’s opportunities might stretch us, might make us feel uncomfortable, but they are in keeping with who we are so that we might become even more than who we are.

Isaiah 64:8

But now, O Lord, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand.

 

2.      GOD’S OPPORTUNITIES CALL US TO SOMETHING

 

God doesn't call us to quit something and kick back and slack off for the rest of our lives. Ok, He may not reveal all the details, but He always has a plan, a special plan for you.

Jeremiah 29:11

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.

 

Take Abram for example. God called Him out of Haran, his home, but God didn't leave him there. God led him to a new, strange, promised land, and gave him the promise for his future… that Abram will become a mighty nation under God!

He was 70 years old at the time. Trust me, you are never too old to not be used by God. And God leads you forward.

 

If God leads you to stop something, then He is preparing you for something else, probably something greater! God delights in leading those who have the faith and courage to follow! So sorry, He's not calling you to laziness He's leading you forth to greatness!

 

3.      GOD’S OPPORTUNITIES ALWAYS BLESS OTHERS

 

I'm sorry, but God's opportunities aren't all about you! Yes you'll be blessed as you serve, but ultimately God’s opportunities invariably bless others, those around you. Success in an exam, a course, a business, a ministry or a relationship benefits you, but the aim is for you to bless others!

 

Think of Moses. He was free of the dangers or Egypt, and God challenged him to go back. No wonder he came up with a variety of excuses… I mean, who wants to walk back into the jaws of danger and defeat? He had nothing personally to gain, but God had a nation to be set free!

 

Ultimately he was blessed, leading the entire nation, but when Moses took the risk, it took real courage!

 

And what about Gideon, the reluctant leader, full of fear, threshing wheat in a wine press. When the angel greeted him with the words

Judges 6:12

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

Gideon felt completely unworthy. And every step of the way he showed his lack of faith, fleeces and all, but God saw something in him that Gideon couldn't see! And shaky Gideon saved the nation, with not 32,000 but only 300 men.

 

Look at Esther, the beautiful queen whom God challenged to step up and and save His people. She had benefits being queen, but

Esther 4:14

And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?”

 

If you act on what you believe is a challenge from God and suddenly are gripped with fear or doubt, you need to realise you're in good company! But then, put your eyes back on Jesus. Stop looking at the negative circumstances. Stop listening to the naysayer who doesn’t think you are capable or worthy of anything good from God. Today God is asking you to commit to trusting Him, and blessing others!

 

4.      GOD’S OPPORTUNITIES ARE CONFIRMED BY HIS PRESENCE

 

When Peter stepped out of the boat onto the water, he took a few steps and began to sink. But who was there with him? Who reached out a hand and saved him from drowning? Jesus was there. God’s Spirit was there with Paul when he faced his accusers, His Spirit travelled with Moses, His Spirit led Joshua and Gideon and Esther, and the same Holy Spirit lives in you, and will be with you always!

 

Look at the greatest challenge we all face… the Great Commission. Taking the gospel to the world!

Matthew 28:19-20

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

 

As a believer, the Lord is with you. He leads you into God approved challenges, He remains with you every step of the journey. He does not forsake you nor does He abandon you, even if you have fear, doubt, or hesitation. Stay close to God, listen and obey and you cannot fail!

 

5.      GOD’S OPPORTUNITIES ARE ALWAYS ACCOMPANIED BY HOLY SPIRIT POWER

 

When God challenges you with an opportunity, He will always equip you for the task. So you need to learn how to hear and obey the Holy Spirit. That still small voice that nudges your conscience.

 

And here's the great thing… the action of the Holy Spirit is not just to give you a nice feeling, or a sense of where God is leading. The Holy Spirit is powerful! He's the creative force who can lead you into unbelievable blessing and incredible creativity beyond what you can even imagine!

 

Even this week the Holy Spirit has challenged me to a greater vision for this church. Yes we've grown. Yes there's a buzz in the air, but that's a fraction of what God has planned for us! I am not worthy of leading this church, and I do not have the power to lead you, but God has the power and through His Spirit I'm not going to stop trusting Him as your pastor. I am not good enough, I can do very little by myself, but who says I'm by myself? With His Spirit’s power in me, I can do all things.

Philippians 4:13

I can do all things through him who strengthens me.

 

 We believed God to buy this building against all odds, and we can now believe Him to expand it, and to reach our area for Christ. But I'm going beyond that… I'm praying for millions around the world to be influenced for Christ by our Church. Are you with me? Are you part of that! Is God asking you to step out and take a chance on Him?

 

SO WHY DON’T PEOPLE RESPOND TO GOD’S CHALLENGES?

 

You would think that, if we received Christ, then we would surely know Him and thereby trust Him with what He is calling us to do, right? But the majority of believers don't respond to God's challenges.

 

1.      WE’RE MORE INTERESTED IN OUR OWN PURSUITS

 

Following Jesus means laying down our own personal agendas, desires and needs, and most of us struggle with that. We want what we want, and we often dress that up in religious garb.

 

I love the Lord, and I believe He demonstrates His power. He heals, He opens doors, He encourages and blesses us. But I am sick of hearing about people chasing the so called signs of the Spirit, wanting God to prove His presence here.

 

Listen, God is not a performing dog, and we shouldn't ask Him to conjure cheap tricks to prove He's here to you. The Bible says where 2 or 3 gather, and that's good enough for me! We need to put aside our own desires, agendas and yes, even needs, even the need to have something constantly proved to us, and ask what He commands us to do. We need to base our lives solidly on His Word alone,

 

Matthew 16:4

An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah.”

 

I believe in a miracle working, all powerful God, but the obsession some folks have with so called manifestations is their own agenda. I’m begging for signs and wonders too, but I'm asking for souls to be saved, bodies healed, relationships restored and godly maturity!  To paraphrase JFK, ask not what your God can do for you, ask what you can do for your God!

 

Philippians 2:3-4

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.

 

Christians don't respond to God's challenges because they refuse to lay aside their own agenda!

 

2.      WE WANT TO STAY IN CONTROL

 

Humans are control freaks… yes we are, admit it! We live to control things around us, and hate it when things even feel out of control, right? To grow our true potential in God, we need to take our hands off the wheel and let God steer! If you can trust Him for eternal life, why can't you trust Him for your daily needs instead of trying to control things…

 

Proverbs 19:21

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

 

But still we cling to the pathetic level of control we feel we have, instead of yielding to the all powerful, all knowing, ever present God of the Universe Who is on our side!

 

3.      WE ARE AFRAID

 

Matthew 6:31-34

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.

“Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

 

Are you fearful? Jesus says simply to not be! All the worried, fears and anxieties you struggle with are null and void in the hands of omnipotent God! All those fears… you need to let them go and get ready to step out and take a chance on a God who will never let you down and never let you go

 

4.      WE LISTEN TO THE DEVIL’S LIES RATHER THAN GOD’S TRUTH

 

We all hear voices in our heads, and if we are to pursue the right choices God has for us, we need to discern God’s voice from both the devil and even our own, selfish, self serving voice.

2 Corinthians 10:3-5

For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ,

 

To listen to God’s Spirit effectively you have to know Him, who He is and what He sounds like. And those other voices, don't try and push them away, don't try and reason with them, take those things captive. Don't entertain them even for a minute!

 

5.      WE EASILY RATIONALISE OUR DISOBEDIENCE

 

People are great rationalisers, and we are experts at excusing our behaviour, aren't we? When we fail to follow God into His ordained choices for us, we easily rationalise it away as something like, it's not my time, I'm not worth that or, in true Christian form, I just felt a check in my spirit about it!

 

Proverbs 28:13

Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy.

 

Disobedience, call it what it is, is sin. Rather than rationalising away why you can't or won't follow God, confess it and move on into the destiny He has for you!

 

THE BOTTOM LINE

 

Let me cut the the real reason we fail to follow the Lord into our God approved opportunities…

 

WE JUST DON’T KNOW HIM!

 

It's that simple, we don't know Him well enough. To know Him is to love Him, and to love Him is to obey Him. If you truly know God, I mean intimately like He wants to know you, you will have no issue trusting Him in every situation. The more you know Him, the more you are comfortable trusting Him, even if you are cautious by nature.

 

But getting to know Him takes time, effort and commitment. Do the Bible reading plan. Spend time in prayer. Fall in love with the lover of your soul. If you put the effort into getting to know God, you'll hear His voice and grow in confidence to follow Him into your destiny.

 

So the way to meet this final hurdle in discovering you full potential in God is simply this… get to know God. Put aside your agenda, lay aside your fears, take your eyes off what surrounds you and place them squarely on Jesus. He is here now, He loves you, He's already proven that. He longs to draw you near, He longs for you to trust Him. And I guarantee you, if you commit to getting to know Him, He will begin to lead you into the destiny He has planned for you…

 

Jeremiah 33:3

Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known.

 

REMEMBER YOUR REAL PURPOSE

 

An airplane is meant to fly, a car is built to be driven, and clothes are designed to be worn. You have very little use for a plane that would not fly, a car that would not move, or clothes that can no longer be worn.

Why? Because their purpose is not being realised. It’s a great frustration to have things that are no longer useful. Do you think God might feel that way about us sometimes.

You were designed to know Him and make Him known, not simply to have a comfortable life. You were not created just to get married, have children and a successful career, then grow old and enjoy retirement. These are some of life’s benefits, its side dishes, but it's not its purpose.

The tragedy today is that we have taken life’s benefits and tried to make them our purpose. We’re trying to make the side dishes the main course. The result is that we often find the benefits very unsatisfactory. No wonder.

So if the purpose of life is not marriage, success, happiness, or any of that, what is it? What were we created for? Answer: we were created to know and worship God with an all-consuming passion. That’s it. That’s why Paul tells us to do everything to God’s glory.

 

TODAY GOD CHALLENGES YOU: TAKE A CHANCE ON ME

 

To take God approved risks you need 3 things… Courage, Obedience and you need to know God.

 

If you are going to do anything for God, you've got to trust Him. You trusted Him when you accepted His gracious gift of salvation, you trusted and believed that His blood shed on Calvary covers your sin, so why can't you trust Him with every part of your life? He's the same God, the same One who bled and died for you, the same one who bought you back from death, and the same One who has a plan for your life!

 

So what challenge, what opportunities is the Lord laying before you today? I believe God is speaking to people here, and I believe God is asking you to step out in faith. He might be asking you to try something again, He might be asking you to step up into a particular ministry. He might be asking you to just plant yourself here, rest and grow in Christ.

 

Total commitment, absolute surrender!

 

Whatever it is, I know it's scary, I know it's fearful, but if God is God you need to trust Him. And the only way to learn to trust Him is to know Him better and better. If you struggle trusting God, if you have fear right now about a decision you face, if you feel that God is distant, yet you long to know Him more, then this is your moment. I'm going to ask you to respond to Him. I'm even going to ask you to take a chance, take a risk, and come to the front of the meeting and let people who love you pray for you.

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A Mother’s Faith- Mother’s Day 2017

May 15, 2017

Today is Mother's Day and is I would like to study and celebrate the phenomenon of a mother's faith.

 

A MOTHER’S LOVE

 

Now we know that a mother's faith is born out of a mother's love, and I know in my case my mother's love is to a large part the reason I stand before you today.

 

Many a night as a teenager I went out and my mum’s prayers protected and sustained me. She prayed and protected me from my own stupid decisions and actions. And the grace of God got me out of some difficult situations. I'm sure most of you can relate to something like that.

 

But your mum may not be a Christian, and your upbringing may not have been part of your salvation experience. I mean, you may not even like your mum. You might have wished you were born into slavery rather than your family, but mums, today is the day we want to make it right for your kids!

 

We know what love is, or at least we think we do, but how many of us know that a mother's love for her children is something very special. But when we discuss love, English is a poor way to do it.

 

Think about it… I love my wife, I love the Broncos. I love my mum, I love Vegemite! Love in English is so universal and misused isn't it? I mean, we talk about “making love” when often the two parties don't love each other at all and they are using and abusing each other for sex. That's not love, folks! In the movies or in real life.

 

So to understand a mother's love, let's have a look at the 4 Greek words for love…

 

IT’S ALL GREEK TO ME!

 

1.      STORGE

Not used in the Bible, it refers to love, empathy or affection for something, mainly family members. “I don't like him, but I guess I have to love him!” The same word is used in loving your country or a sporting team. Or Vegemite.

 

2.      EROS

This is sexual love, from which we get the term erotic. Plato suggested that it also applies to attraction without the expression of sex, leading to the term platonic to refer to non sexual relationships.

 

3.      PHILIA

Affectionate regard or intimate friendship is referred to as philia, and it denotes loyalty, friendship and brotherly love. I'm guessing this approximates our concept of mateship.

 

4.      AGAPE

This is the highest form of love or charity, the type God has for man, and embraces a universal, unconditional love that transcends and serves unconditionally regardless of circumstances. It is not affected by whether it is returned or not, it is unconditional love. Usually this is reserved for God's love for us, but not always.

 

John 3:16

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

 

Interestingly, though storge fits for family love, a mother’s love is often referred to, especially in great acts of exceptional motherly love and charity as agape. It's  the unconditional, unassailable, undefeatable, love that is independent of anything you do, say or become, and true motherhood exudes this!

 

Great mums are fiercely protective of their kids. Most mums always see the good in their children, despite what everyone else thinks, and sometimes despite the facts.

 

Mums want to believe in you, whether you believe in you or not. They see the good in their children, even if no one else does. Hitler’s mum Klara took him to church and wanted him to be a civil servant. Napoleon’s mum was married at 13 and accompanied him into exile on the island of Elba.  Osama Bin Laden’s mum wanted him to stop fighting the west and come home to Saudi like a good boy. Donald Trump described his mum as smart as hell and  he said he's had trouble finding women to marry who compare to his her!

 

I read about Ted Bundy’s mother Louise, who loved her son so much that she refused to believe he was a killer, until a series of death row confessions of 36 murders put the matter beyond doubt. These mums saw the best in their children when others saw them as tyrants and killers.

 

Mums believe in us when others give up on us. Mums always want the best for their kids and grandkids, as I bet every mum in this room does. So let me look at a few positive instances of motherly love and motherly faith.

 

St Augustine’s mother was a godly woman who lived around 350AD. She loved her wayward son, and the young Augustine lived with a girl and had an illegitimate child, then followed this by joining a heretical sect for 9 long years. He refused to listen to her, and she was so distraught she prayed and prayed and God gave her a dream that settled her heart, and then a mother's faith checked in.

 

A short time later Augustine came to Christ, and became one of the most significant church fathers of his generation! He was once lost, but then through a mother's faith he was found.

 

That's the great privilege of being a mother. Your faith is stronger, your love is stronger and God loves the faith of a mother! And He bestows not only faith but wisdom…

 

MUM’S WORDS OF WISDOM

 

My mother had a great deal if trouble with me, but I think she enjoyed it… Mark Twain

My mother thinks I'm the best, and I was raised to always believe what my mama tells me… Diego Maradonna

Phyllis Dilla: I want my children to have all the things I couldn't afford… then I want to move in with them!

Erma Bombeck: when your mother asks if you want a piece of advice, it's a formality. Whatever you answer, you're going to get it.

One mum said, My kids call it yelling when I raise my voice. I call it motivational speaking for selective listeners.

Another said, My nickname is mum. My real name is mum, mum, mum, mum!

 

Another quote I found which is what you have to put up with as a mum sometimes… Benjamin Spock: there are only 2 things a child will share willingly. Communicable diseases and their mother's age.

 

So that's mother's wisdom, let's zero in now on a mother's faith.

 

A MOTHER’S FAITH

 

Scripture has many examples of faithful mums, mums who made a difference in the lives of their children and even the world in which they lived. Moses’ mum is one example, placing him in the little basket in the bulrushes, then becoming his nanny when Pharaoh’s daughter adopted him. Rahab, whose faith saved her family. Mary, Elizabeth, Hannah even Deborah, who was described as the mother of Israel and led her troops to a great victory over Sisera.

 

But today I want to concentrate on one situation, recorded in Matthew 15, where the faith of a Canaanite woman saved and set her daughter free from demonic oppression.

 

The background to this passage is that Jews hated gentiles, and actually called them dogs! If you think right back to Joshua and Judges, these were the remnant of the evil nations that the conquering Israelites failed to dislodge. Jews considered them lower than a wombat’s basement.

 

Matthew 15:21-28

And Jesus went away from there and withdrew to the district of Tyre and Sidon. And behold, a Canaanite woman from that region came out and was crying, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely oppressed by a demon.” But he did not answer her a word. And his disciples came and begged him, saying, “Send her away, for she is crying out after us.” He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.” 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.

 

Mums, on this your special day, I want to speak directly to you and ask you about your children, your husband, your family and those you care about. We see in this story that the woman had plenty of obstacles, but she stood in the gap for her child. As I share around this passage, take a moment to think about someone you know in your family that isn't walking with the Lord…

 

1.      THIS MOTHER TOOK A CHANCE

 

The Canaanite woman knew the social stigmas. I mean, she knew everything was against her…

 

Certainly her race was against her: She was a Gentile. Her sex was against her, because most Jewish rabbis paid little attention to women. It seemed that the disciples were against her, and even Christ’s words might have led her to believe that even He was against her.

She could have stopped, she could have given up even before she started… oh, it's all too hard!

 

But hey, it was her daughter we're talking about here. She decided not to give up on her child, and should you!

 

And sometimes we look at people we love who are not walking with the Lord and it all seems too hard! They're doing things we don't approve of, they're making bad decisions, they're breaking our hearts. They might even been attacking us or pulling away from us!

 

Listen mums, this mum took a chance, and I want to encourage you to do the same. Sure, our wayward kids may seem distant from you now, they may be ignoring your advice or rebelling, but the faith of a mother is worth much! This mother's faith won the day, so you need to take a chance and trust God!

 

2.      THIS MOTHER ASKED THE QUESTION

 

This mother's faith drove her to ask the question. They may accuse you of being pushy or overbearing, but sometimes asking a simple question can make people think.

Sometimes even just a look will suffice. I remember being caught doing things as a kid, and mum didn't even have to say anything, she'd just look, and I'd know she knew. Mums do that!

Trust me, guys, you can't fool mum. Mother's know, they have wider fields of view and eyes in the back of their heads. They see everything l hear everything and read between the lines well. And trust me. I'm married to a mother who is a psychotherapist, sometimes more psycho that's therapist.

 

So this Canaanite mum asked the question…

Matthew 15:22

And behold, a Canaanite woman from that region came out and was crying, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely oppressed by a demon.”

 

Speaking to Jesus, she addressed Him as the Lord, the Son of David, a title which only the Jews used in speaking of the Messiah. Although Jesus was the Son of David, a Gentile had no right to approach Him on that basis. That is why He did not answer her at first.

So she had no right to approach, but she did it anyway. And that's the thing: a mother's faith will push through and ask the question, so mums, step up and ask for your wayward children… you'll be surprised at what God wants to do for you!

 

3.      THIS MOTHER SUFFERED ATTACK

 

Listen ladies, if you step out and ask God, expect opposition. You might get it from your kids, you might get it from their dad, their partner, their friends, somebody. You will find your own feelings being attacked, periods when you even doubt that God hears you. It might even come from people in the church who don't believe with you. And just like this mum faced…

Matthew 15:23-24

But he did not answer her a word. And his disciples came and begged him, saying, “Send her away, for she is crying out after us.” He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”

 

The disciples didn't want her around, and she may have even thought Jesus wanted her gone. But she stayed!

 

When you face attack, react like this mother of faith did! He came and she said…

Matthew 15:25

But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.”

 

And mums, I encourage you to just get real and honest with the Lord this morning. Today is Mother's Day, and I sense the heart of God for faithful mums right now. So get real, get honest and say with all your heart, “Lord help me.” I believe that the prayer of a mother's faithfulness for her kids and grandkids is going to be answered by God.

 

4.      THIS MOTHER’S FAITH WAS TESTED

 

Jesus then decided to probe her faith.

Matthew 15:26

And he answered, “It is not right to take the children's bread and throw it to the dogs.”

 

Now it might sound a bit nasty, but in context Jesus wasn't having a shot at her at all. A little but of Hebrew comes in handy here…

You have to remember, she wasn't a Jew, she was a gentile. The Jews looked upon the Gentiles as scavenging dogs, prowling the streets for scraps of food. However, Jesus here doesn't use that particular word when He says dogs. Instead, He used the word for little pet puppies. He didn't call her a rabid street dog or mangy mongrel, He called her a little puppy.

 

The question was, “Would she take offence or acknowledge her unworthiness to receive the least of His mercies?”

 

Mums, don't take offence at anything that say and do, even your own kids. Love them, pray for them, believe for them and claim them for Jesus. I'd rather be offended and see my kids saved than silent and distant!

 

5.      THIS MOTHER PERSISTED

 

This mum’s  reply was not to crawl away and be insulted that Jesus tested her faith, but to press in and persist…

Matthew 15:27

She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters' table.”

 

In these few words she was humbling herself for the sake of her daughter. She was persisting and believing because she loved her child and wanted to see her set free.

 

She said, in effect, “You are right! I am only one of the little puppies under the table. But I notice that crumbs sometimes fall from the table to the floor. Won’t You let me have some crumbs? I am not worthy that You should heal my daughter, but I beg You to do it for one of Your undeserving creatures.”

 

Some of you mums here have prayed for years for your kids, and seen little result. Sometimes it seems so discouraging because they never seem to change, even into adulthood. Maybe they're lost in a bad relationship or substance abuse, maybe they are good people but they've crowded God out of their lives and have no time for Him.

 

Your see, you can be a really good person, a super nice guy, but when you die you'll miss going to eternity in heaven and be the nicest guy in hell. How nice you are, how good you are, how generous to charities or your kids you doesn't get you to heaven. The Bible is clear…

 

Ephesians 2:8-9

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

 

Christian mums here today, you know that, and for many of you this truth leads you to pray for your wayward kids, whether they are successful corporate CEOs or cellar dwelling drug addicts. I want to urge you today to keep praying, to do like this lady did and never give up on your kids, grandkids and even husbands or exes. I can't change them, you can't change them, but God can. You must persist!

 

6.      THIS MOTHER’S FAITH WAS REWARDED

 

And here's the thing. Jesus was so delighted with her persisting, He commended her!

Matthew 15:28

Then Jesus answered her, “O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed instantly.

 

Jesus commended her for her great faith. While the unbelieving children, the Jews, had no hunger for the bread, here was a self-confessed “doggie” crying out for it. A mother's faith was rewarded; her daughter was healed instantly. Interestingly Jesus never complimented the religious leaders or the disciples like this, only a gentile, despised woman.

 

And that, mums, is my challenge to you today. Whatever you are believing for with your family, partners, children or grandchildren, I believe that today is the day when you can stand and believe, and we want to stand with you.

In a moment, I'm going to ask all the mums to stand and come forward and let us pray for your wayward children, grandchildren or even husbands. Let's join together and believe for God to reward your mother's faith today!

 

HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY… TELL ME WHAT YOU WANT, WHAT YOU REALLY, REALLY WANT?

 

The Spice girls said it, but I'm saying it today. So tell me what you want, what you really, really want! Today some of you got breakfast in bed, and many of you got presents, cute things, special things, things that are great but will never last. But I know the heart cry of many of you mums is the salvation of your children and grandchildren. That will last forever.

 

You may have been fighting for them in prayer for years, but I'm going to ask you to stand for them, and let us as a church fight together! If you as a mum have a child or grandchild on your heart and you are praying specifically for their salvation, I'm going to ask you to stand, come to the front and our elders will pray and believe with you for the greatest Mother's Day gift of all… your child coming to Christ.

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Reach Your Full Potential 5- Balanced Schedule

May 8, 2017

We've been studying the steps to fulfilling your full potential in Christ, and we've learned that we need a clean heart and a clear mind, we need to use our God given gifts and form right, godly relationships, and now this is the one I am dreading…

The next step is to have a Balanced Schedule… Ouch, this is going to hurt me and quite a few of you guys too!

Psalm 37:18

The LORD knows the days of the blameless, and their heritage will remain forever;

 

TIME FOR A CHANGE

 

Time is irreversible, it is irreplaceable, and it is God’s gift to you. Life doesn't come with action replays, or a rewind button. This is your life, this is it, your one shot or doing it right, or blowing it! Using limited time wisely is an absolute essential in your becoming all that God wants you to become, and many talented, clean hearted, clear minded people have blown it at this hurdle.

Time is God’s gift to you, and what you do with your time is your gift to Him.

Psalms 139:16

Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them,

the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.

 

The Bible teaches that God measures our days, that He has them preordained and knows the time we have allotted. Time is a precious commodity, more precious than money or gold, yet we all squander it day after day, year after year.

How we choose to spend the hours of our days, the days of our weeks and the weeks ahead of our years is vital to us reaching our potential. Squander time, and you throw away your potential. Manage it effectively, and you can become someone great in the Kingdom of God!

 

THE TIMES, THEY ARE A CHANGING

 

Bob Dylan sang it, and he was right… times are a changing, as they always have, but these days the pressure on us as human beings is more extreme than ever before. And our society preaches a mantra that is completely foreign to the people of God.

 

We are told to work hard, earn lots of money and retire to a great superannuation and a great life. I remember a story told about a simple fisherman relaxing in a hammock on the beach. A businessman came to him and told him he should do more work. Why? replied the fisherman. So you can earn money, then you can buy a bigger boat, employ staff, blitz the fish markets, earn more money, drive a bigger car and live in a bigger house. What then? Asked the fisherman.

Then you can expand, have several boats in a fishing fleet, then you can have several fleets, and have them all over the country, earn more money, then one day after 20-30 years, you can retire back to the beach and relax for the rest of your days.

But sir, replied the fisherman, I am already relaxing by the beach!

 

In Australia, we are told to work hard to earn money to buy things we didn't know we wanted or needed, then put loads of money away so we can retire and finally, at the age of 67, we can start to enjoy a life of leisure.

This is a crock, because things don't satisfy, only relationships and in particular serving the Lord bring true fulfilment that will last for eternity. You can be poor and genuinely live a fulfilled, wonderful, satisfying life! And as I have said to many of you here, God doesn't want you to retire, He wants you to refire!

Ephesians 5:15-16

Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.

 

So we need to examine how we walk… Some versions say to walk circumspectly, which means to weigh risks and consequences before taking action. We must also be wise about what we do and, according to that verse, we must make the best use of time, or as the KJV puts it, redeeming the time.

 

Are you using your time effectively, or are you wasting it, or crowding it out with unnecessary things? Redeeming time means buying it back (as Christ redeems us), and it implies that every second counts!

 

HANG ON A MINUTE

 

Seconds and minutes count! If you waste them, pretty soon you're wasting weeks, months and years!

In 1965 a testimony before a Senate subcommittee claimed the future looked bright for free time in America. By 1985, predicted the report, Americans would be working twenty-two hours a week and would be able to retire at age thirty-eight.

The reason? The computer age would usher in a gleaming array of advances that would do our work for us while stabilising our economy.

Take the household, they cited. Microwaves, quick-fix foods, and food processors will pave the way into the carefree future. And the office? Copiers will replace stencil machines, computers will replace filing cabinets, typewriters and even secretaries.

And now, years later, we have everything the report promised. But strangely, the average amount of leisure time has shrunk 37 percent since 1973. The average work week has increased from forty-one to forty-seven hours.

Why didn’t the forecast come true? What did the committee overlook? Simply this… They misjudged the appetite of the consumer. Yes we are more efficient, but the free time gained for us by technology didn’t make us relax; it made us run even harder. Gadgets provided more time . . . more time meant more potential money . . . more potential money meant more time needed . . . and round and round it went. Life grew louder as demands became greater. And as demands became greater, lives grew emptier.

“I’ve got so many irons in the fire, I can’t keep any of them hot,” complained one young father.

This is what life is like… passing us by if we let it, chasing after things that don't really matter!

James 4:14

yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.

 

100 years from now we will all be skeletons, every one of us. We spend so much time improving our bodies, making ourselves look good, using our talent, but these will all disappear in a heartbeat! No matter how old or young you are right now, it's time to stop and examine how we spend time!

When you reach the age of 70, you will have lived 840 months. That’s 25,550 days or 613,200 hours or 36,792,000 minutes—give or take a few minutes and hours associated with leap years.

All of it is a gift from God, and it's not yours you must be a steward of this great gift.

So let me challenge your management of time in 2 key ways…

 

1.      TIME AS AN INVESTMENT

 

If you think of time as an investment, you will want maximum return for your investment. We invest financially and expect good returns, and we invest in our health and bodies expecting good results, but we often squander our most precious commodity… time!

 

So decide what's important… what's really important, and invest you time into that. Is TV important in eternity? Is Facebook? Is your job? Is your house? Why do we invest such huge slabs of time into things that ultimately do not matter?

 

2.      TIME AS A BALANCE

 

Think of time in terms of bucket of rocks. Put the big things in before you add the little things, otherwise the big things will not fit. You should prioritise your tasks and schedule the important things first. And what are important things? That's the question, isn’t it? Is TV watching important?… not really. Is prayer and reading the Word important? Yes, so prioritise your time!

 

WHAT WOULD JESUS DO?

 

To discover the right way to steward your time, you can do no better than looking at Jesus…

Jesus never justified His schedule, He never made excuses for what He did, and never apologised for not being able to help someone.

Jesus was never hurried or flustered. He took His time, even when Lazarus was ill, knowing timing was all part of God’s master plan.

Jesus did not find His schedule stressful. He got tired, and He took time to recover. He never forced the pace, He was comfortable with how He managed the time pressures He faced.

So to finish this message off, let's look at how Jesus invested and stewarded His time…

 

1.      TIME FOR PRAYER AND BIBLE STUDY

 

Mark 1:35

And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed.

Jesus always, always found time to pray! He started His day with it, and so should you and I!

For many of us, prayer is a last resort. We turn to praying when things are going wrong for us. Prayer should not be a way through crisis, it should be a way of life. It was for Jesus!

 

Philippians 4:6-7

do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Prayer brings peace, it allows God to speak to you and lets you be still even in a storm. I don't just need this when I face a major crisis, I need this peace, this alignment with the Spirit of God every single day, and so do you.

And married to prayer is the study of God's Word.  I am committed to the study God's Word every day, and every morning I spend time in prayer and Bible Study. That's why I designed the Bible reading plan for our church, not to burden you and soak up time you haven't got, but to release you into all God has for you. If you are too busy to pray and read His Word, you're just too busy!

 

John Wesley would rise up at 4 AM every day to seek God for the first four hours of the day.  In his later years Wesley was known to spend up to 8 hours in prayer.

When asked what he did if he faced a busy day, he replied that he got up earlier, because a busy day required more prayer!

So turn of that TV, get out of Facebook, get off the computer and open God's Word!

Jesus prioritised time in prayer and learning the Scriptures, and so should we!

 

2.      TIME FOR FAMILY AND FRIENDS

 

Jesus made time for family and good friends. He attended weddings, feasts and dinners and even in the cross was concerned for his mother’s provision. He had close friends like Mary, Martha and Lazarus, and he had meals with loads of people, from close friends like Lazarus to Zacchaeus. He had His disciples He hung out with day in and day out, and was closest to 3 of them in particular, Peter, James and John.

On His last night alive, knowing He was facing imminent death, He chose to spend it with His closest friends, the disciples. And He said this…

John 15:15

No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.

Jesus valued family and friends, and prioritised spending time with them. And so should we!

 

3.      TIME FOR WORK

 

Jesus had a busy schedule and He made time for His work, teaching, preaching and healing. In 3 short years of ministry, He invested time into His work, training and preparing the disciples for the future, teaching in synagogues and touching people's lives.

We have a responsibility to work. The Bible doesn't teach us to be slackers or bludgers, and the Word retirement is never mentioned in the Bible. What we have to discover is the right balance between working for money and working for the Kingdom. As your pastor, I combine the two, and I'd encourage you to do so also. I put time into being an Optometrist, and overtime into serving the Lord in church.

If you find yourself with less time working, say through retirement, unemployment or great time management, I want to encourage you to use the available time at least in part serving the Lord.

 

Colossians 3:23

Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men,

 

I am committed to working hard and serving the Lord in the church, and in secular work. I endeavour to do everything as unto the Lord, not man. Whatever I put my hand to, I believe that I will see it prosper, because I do it for Jesus, not for money or pride. And He takes my feeble efforts and crowns them with great success, and He will do the same for you!

But here's what I have learned…

Being active does not automatically mean that you are effective.

Being busy does not automatically mean that you are productive.

Being overbooked and overextended does not automatically mean that you are profitable.

Let me confess to you my sin right now… it's the tyranny of the urgent! I once read a small book and realised that my time is often most heavily governed by what appears urgent, not what's important. As a pastor, there are so many urgent pressures, so many people with needs, but I need God's wisdom to discern the important, not react to the urgent!

Ask God to make your work time profitable for the Kingdom, and let Him have His way with your work. But we need to find balance in our work, and I have tremendous trouble finding the balance.

Being a workaholic is as damaging as being slothful. Laziness is not taking time off work, but wasting the time we have on things that do not matter. Watching TV, playing computer games, crafts, Facebook, YouTube, they are all fine, unless they start to dominate your life. But work is the same.

One of the great lessons I have learned being a bivocational pastor is segmentation. At work, I have set hours and I work, and often work hard. But I leave work at work. I have learned to write sermons, have meetings and make calls in between appointments in my working day.

Jesus prioritise work, but He also balanced it to minimise stress and pressure. And so should we!

And don't take your work home and stew on it all night either!

 

4.      TIME FOR WORSHIP

 

Even in His busy schedule, Jesus made time to attend the synagogue and worship with others. We are instructed to gather with believers and to not stop attending church…

Hebrews 10:24-25

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

 

I meet Christians all the time who say they love the Lord but hate church, and believe me I understand that. Often church is long, boring, overly religious, irrelevant in many ways and somewhere between useless and painful. If I make it useless and painful, I apologise.

You can be a Christian and not go to church, but that's not normal. You can be married and not live together, but that's not normal either. If church is a waste of time, find another church, but don't throw away the tremendous benefit of meeting with other believers!

Especially with the caliber of people we have in this church. They can encourage you, care for you, help you in times of crisis. They can challenge you, inspire you and stand with you. Our church is a family, and it's a great family. Sure every family has a weird cousin, but we love each other. If you need a great church, this is it!

If you are too busy to come to church, I guarantee you your spiritual life will suffer. We need each other, and that's how God designed church.

Jesus prioritised meeting with believers, and so should we!

 

5.      TIME FOR RELAXATION AND REST

 

Jesus relaxed and rested often, and so should we!

 

Mark 6:31

And he said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat.

 

In our modern, workaholic lives we need to hear this.  Come Ye apart or come Ye apart… if you don't, you will!

Rest and relaxation will restore your energy, rejuvenate your soul, refresh your relationship with family and friends, and renew your walk with the Lord.

I used to think if I wasn't busy I was idle. I even felt guilty of I took time to relax, because there was always something else to do! But calculated time to relax is not idleness but reenergising.

Just this week God spoke to me in my quiet time…

Psalm46:10

Be still, and know that I am God

 

In the midst of turmoil and strife, overwhelmed with the storms of life, the psalmist said be still. And in Hebrew, the word doesn't mean waste your time, it doesn't mean run from your troubles, it is a command and it literally means cease striving. It means total rest, to go limp, to drop down, to sink to relax and to withdraw.

We all need rest. For you it could mean to go fishing, play a game, spend time with people you love, travel somewhere exotic. It might mean, and I don't understand this,  go shopping!

Matthew 11:28

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.

Jesus prioritised rest and relaxation. He needed it, and so do we!

 

6.      TIME FOR SLEEP

 

I have always thought that sleep was me wasting my time. To this day I struggle to sleep well, and struggle to turn my brain off! I am preaching to myself, because I am a self confessed workaholic. I find leisure hard to take and sleep illusive at times. Without sleep you can only keep life up for so long!

Studies show that in our society most adults are sleep deprived, not just mums! If you get 4-5 hours sleep a night, that's half of what experts say you really need.

During deep, sound sleep, your bodies hormone levels are rebalanced and reset for the next day’s activities, dead cells are replaced with new ones and your immunity is built up to help you fight off bacterial and viral infections. Doctors tell us that sleep is one of the most therapeutically beneficial prescriptions for those struggling with physical ailments, mental disorders, or emotional exhaustion.

In Matthew 8:23-26, Jesus slept so soundly he slept through a raging storm in a boat! Why? Because He knew He needed to rejuvenate His body to serve properly. So take steps to get enough sleep!

In the 21st century, blue light is an issue. Studies show that using blue light producing equipment like iPads, kindles, computers and the like reduces the production of melatonin, and literally wakes you up. So, your Optometrist says, don't use blue light emitting devices in the hour before you sleep, or get blue guard on your glasses!

Jesus prioritised sleep, and so should we!

 

7.      TIME FOR HEALTH

 

Jesus lived a healthy life. He walked everywhere, miles and miles a day. He was fit and healthy. Are you?

Health has 3 aspects… reducing stress, eating properly and exercising appropriately. Do you eat the right things? Do you exercise?

As far as food goes, here's Pastor Darin's  3 golden rules…

  1. If you get it from a drive through, don't eat it.
  2. If it has a mascot, don't eat it
  3. If a native crawled out of the jungle, would he recognise it. If he wouldn't, don't eat it!

1 Corinthians 6:19-20

Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.

Some of us are busy expanding the walls of God's temple! We need to get serious about what we eat and how we exercise, see Lynn Preece.

And this includes what we do with our bodies. God wants you to abstain from things that cause you harm. This includes sexual immorality, drugs, stress or anything else. I remember one little girl who thought smokers must love Jesus more because they want to get to heaven quicker than everybody else.

Jesus prioritised health, and so should we!

 

IT’S TIME TO MAKE TIME FOR WHAT REALLY MATTERS!

 

Time, as we discussed, is a limited commodity. And we all get the same amount. Great men of God get no more time than I do, they just learn to use it more effectively.

 

Do you want to maximise your time? Do you want to reach your full potential in God? Do you really want to change and impact the world for Christ? Do you? Then join me in consecrating or setting aside time for what really matters

Ephesians 5:15-16

Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.

If you like me struggle to balance your time, I want you to come forward and give your time to the Lord. Ask Him to reveal how you should use your time, and let's get this imbalance back into balance.

 

I once made a commitment to the Lord… no Bible, no breakfast. It changed my life. I have had a quiet time, read the Bible and prayed almost every day for the last 30 years, and have never consistently eaten breakfast.  Will you join me in making this commitment too?

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Reach Your Full Potential 4- Right Relationships

May 1, 2017

I've been discussing how you can reach your full potential in Christ, and I am loving some of the feedback. When you share a series like this, you wonder if people are just going to sit there content with wherever their life is at. But I've found many of you want to become significant and even hugely significant in your life for Christ. You want to make a difference. You want to become the best you can possibly be!

I encourage all of you, don't shoot for average. Listen to this old rhyme…

“Only one life, twill soon be past, Only what's done for Christ will last.”

We've seen the steps to reaching your full potential so far are to have a clean heart, a clear mind and to recognise and dedicate to the Lord the gifts He has given you. Today is going to impact some of you very profoundly, because the next step according to Dr Charles Stanley is having right relationships.

Some relationships drain you, others build into you. If you want to minister to people you need both, but your closest allies must be those that build into your life, not drain you.

 

YOU'LL NEVER WALK ALONE

 

Never underestimate the power of influence. What people say and do around you influences you, unless you live in a bubble.

All through your journey in life you have people surrounding you, even if you're an introvert! You'll never walk alone, and you can't walk through life alone. So pause for a moment and consider those closest to you. Do they add to your life, or drag you down? Do they draw you closer to God, or encourage you to take up an old sin again? Are they fun, or do they suck the fun out of the air around them? Do both sides of the relationship contribute, or do you give and they take? Do they make you a better person?

Henry Ford said, “My best friend is the one who brings the best out in me.” One famous marketer I read said, “You are the product of the 5 people closest to you.” So who are the five closest to you, and what influence do they bring to your life?

The problem with people is that they're people. How many of you know that every relationship at some point has the good, the bad and the ugly. You'll never walk alone, but boy, sometimes you wish you could!

And even in church we don't do relationships right. Plenty of conflict, always has been!

Acts 15:39-40

And there arose a sharp disagreement, so that they separated from each other. Barnabas took Mark with him and sailed away to Cyprus, but Paul chose Silas and departed, having been commended by the brothers to the grace of the Lord.

In the church, you don't have to see eye to eye, but you need to walk hand in hand, arm in arm, into the future God has for each of us.

People in your life bring influence. As a pastor I can tell you that I'm influenced every week by people around me. Most are encouraging, many speak into my life and build me up, but hardly a week goes by that someone, somehow tries to shoot me down. Apparently the official uniform for a pastor is a target right over the heart! Don't underestimate influence.

 

WELCOME TO THE PEOPLE ROLLERCOASTER

 

Even People you love and cherish have their moments! Relationships are a rollercoaster ride full of ups and downs. They don't flow smoothly from day to day, year to year, and that's how God designed them. Relationships involve giving and receiving, and sometimes the balance is out of whack. In any relationship, sometimes people hurt people, and what's more hurt people hurt other people more!

Like it or not, life is a team sport. Good times and bad, ups and downs, living life takes a team, and you're in it. This church has relationships that many times are awesome, them sometimes are very strained. People… can't live with em, can't live without em!

Even in Marriage, the closest of all human relationships, I have to tell you sometimes we don't so much enjoy marriage as endure it. We have ups and downs, sometimes more of one than the other. It's the old joke, that marriage is a 3 ring circus… first the engagement ring, then the wedding ring, then the suffering, and its true. Some aspects of marriage are tough. Fiona says in marriage we are perfectly designed to grind, and she's right!

 

PLUS OR MINUS FRIENDS

 

Every relationship has either a positive or negative effect on your life. Obviously, we want to have more of the positive than the negative people around us, but here's the tricky bit… we can't always choose people we interact with.

Think about it… you didn't choose your parents or siblings, you didn't choose your school or church when you were young, because your parents did! As a child you had no opportunity to choose who became a major influencer in your life. You were a kid, they were there!

As an adult, you have the opportunity to make clear and definite choices about who you want in your life.  You can choose who you marry, but you can't choose your children, you kind of get what you get! You can choose who influences your life to a greater degree, but not exclusively. You cannot restrict people you don't like from your work or school, or even church. You can choose your church, but not who else is in your church.  I'm the pastor, and I can't choose just the good ones… part of church is accepting and loving even negative people!

But what you can choose is who you will listen to, who you will allow close to you and who you invest your time in. Years ago, Fiona and I were being pulled every which way by the people in our life, and we sat down and categorised them into positive or negative. Too many negative people and they drag us down, burn us out and stop us helping others in genuine need.

Some people build you up, some drag you down. Some challenge you, others drain you. If you have a desire to minister, you will want both types of people in your life, but too many of the negative influences will lead to burn out and drain your life and energies. You will not reach your full potential surrounding yourself with negative people.

1 Corinthians 15:33

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

So poor choices of friends can ruin your walk with God and your life. We go like the company we keep, so keep the right company. And sometimes we are so ignorant, we ban our children from other kids because we think they're bad influences, yet we tolerate bad influences in our own lives! 

So what characterises the right, positive, godly friend that you want in your life?

 

RELATIONSHIPS TO ACQUIRE- TOP 10 BEST FRIEND CHARACTERISTICS

 

So who is the type of person you want influencing your life? They should…

 

1.      BUILD YOUR FAITH

 

The right friend builds your faith in God, and also in yourself. They help you believe for greater things and pursue higher goals, and keep you looking up…

Colossians 3:2

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

 

2.      COMFORT YOU AND PICK YOU UP

 

We all face pain in life, and sometimes we just need a friend to comfort us. A friend in need is a friend indeed, so sometimes a listening ear, a shoulder to cry on or a hug when you need it can make all the difference.

Proverbs 17:17

A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.

The right friend builds you up when you are feeling down. We all face troubles in life, and having someone to encourage you can make such a difference…

1 Thessalonians 5:11

Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.

 

 

3.      STIMULATE  YOU TO GREATER CREATIVITY

 

The right friend causes an exchange of new ideas and insight which can stir up your creative juices. I know in my life I have friends that stir up my music, preaching and even work creativity, and this is an awesome thing!

 

4.      ENERGISE YOU

 

Friends should, at least most of the time, cause joy in your life. Laughter and joyful conversation produces endorphins, the body’s natural painkillers. So the Bible is right…

Nehemiah 8:10

the joy of the Lord is your strength.”

 

5.      DEFEND YOU

 

A real friend will defend you when you are criticised or persecuted. This is a key point, because if they gossip about you and promote criticism, they are not the positive friend that you want.

Proverbs 16:28

A perverse person stirs up conflict, and a gossip separates close friends.

 

6.      FORGIVE YOU

 

I know it's a shock, but believe it or not you are I have faults and flaws. Sometimes I think I have more flaws that the Empire State Building, but certainly we make mistakes. A good friend is quick to forgive and then move forward.

Friends that keep bringing up sins that should be forgiven and throwing them at you are not ideal. That being said, if you've betrayed their trust, it takes time for them to trust you again. That's not lack of forgiveness, it is wariness and pain in their part (such as in marital affairs, etc.).

Luke 17:4

and if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him.”

 

7.      LOVE YOU AT YOUR WORST

 

A real friend loves you when you are at your worst, maybe tired, irritable or even without your makeup on! They recognise that you may lash out at them when you're not on top of things, and they cut you some slack. Doesn't  make it right, just makes them worthy friends.

 

8.      ACCEPT YOU AS YOU ARE

 

While change and improvement is always possible, the right friend doesn't see you as their fix-it-up project. A relationship based on one party always trying to change the other is not healthy, and many marriages are like this. They walk down the isle, to the altar, while they're playing and hymn, and she inks that's how their marriage will be… I’ll alter him!

Ephesians 4:2-3

with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

Maintaining unity in the church, accepting one another warts and all is more important than being right!

 

9.      CONFRONT YOU WHEN YOU ARE WRONG

 

Real friends accept your personality, but are not afraid to confront you when you're wrong, even if it is hard to hear. Helpful insights and challenges characterise a great friend. The difference here is that they're trying to improve you, not altering what God made you to be.

Luke 17:3

If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him,

 

10.   SERVE YOU

 

Real friends are there to help you become who you should be in your life. They will actually put time and effort into helping you achieve what God has destined for you. Mark10:45

They put you first, before their own interests and comfort. That's what love does!

So these are the relationships to acquire, but what about…

 

RELATIONSHIPS TO AVOID

 

People build into your life, either positively or negatively. Get around positive people, but avoid the minus people. I'm not saying necessarily to cut them off, but avoid allowing them to become the influencers in your life.

 

1.                DIM YOUR VISION

 

Avoid someone who questions everything you try to do and become in Christ.

 

2. DISCOURAGE YOU FROM REACHING YOUR POTENTIAL

 

People who are jealous of your time or abilities should be avoided. Someone who always wants you to do it their way is not going to help you reach your potential.

 

3. MAKE DEMANDS OF YOU

 

Some people are demanding all the time. In particular, they feel they can demand your time, perhaps more than you are prepared to commit to the relationship.

 

4. DRAG YOU DOWN

 

Avoid pessimistic, defeatist people like the plague, because they will always see the negative and find reasons why you can't or won't succeed.

I'm not saying don't minister to them , I'm saying don't let them become influencers.

 

5. DERAIL YOU

 

People who constantly tempt you to do evil, and stop you doing what you know you should are an influence you cannot afford. If you've come from a particular background, you may have a heart to reach your old friends and that's great, but not if you are not strong enough to withstand their efforts to derail your walk with the Lord. Drug culture, pubs, promiscuity.

 

6. DEFEAT YOU

 

Some friends try and defeat you all the time, by frustrating or discouraging you or being constantly in competition with you. You don't need these guys in your life! I once had a friend who was a great dancer, until his wife told him he looked like a pansy. No more dancing ever, her negative destroyed his dream!

 

7. DESTROY YOUR TESTIMONY

 

So called friends who seek to ruin your career, ministry or witness for Jesus are not friends at all. You might want to witness to them, but don't let them too close!

 

CAUGHT IN A TRAP!

 

Some of you are sitting here thinking,”Oh no, I'm trapped in that negative relationship already.”

When you first meet people they tend to be on their best behaviour. They want you to like them, and you want them to like you. So you like them, and you let them close, but what happens if over time the real personality comes out and they're a big fat minus?

This happens a lot in marriage, so girls especially, don't rush in! Even in relationships at church, take your time and choose your close friends carefully. Recognise that even in a Christian marriage your partner cannot meet all your needs. In any relationship, even if you feel trapped, only God can truly meet your needs, not any person.

But what if you're trapped there right now, caught in a relationship that is destined to destroy you. What can you do? 4 possible ways to deal with it…

 

1.      PRAY FOR CHANGE

 

Pray for people. This is especially effective in marriage (Movie- The War Room). In relationships you want to pursue and are committed to, like a marriage, then pray don't say.

 

It's tempting to constantly try and make them change, but this is usually perceived as nagging. You need to believe that God can change them, because He can, so save your fighting for the prayer closet, not the dinner table and not just before church starts!

 

2.      FORSAKE YOUR DREAMS

 

Sadly many people do this. You can give in to their negativity and give up your dreams. You have one life, and if you want to throw it away, you can, but you will regret it for eternity. Don't do this!

 

3.      CUT THEM OFF

 

If someone is constantly bringing you down, criticising, destroying, tempting, hurting or discouraging you, you can choose to sever the relationship, or at least cool it off. If you have friends like this, distance yourself from them. If you have relatives who upset you every time you see them, avoid them… keep them at arms length. Don't let them become influential in your destiny!

Don't send them a resignation letter, don't make a public service announcement, just distance yourself from them if their negative influence is controlling your destiny.

Let me clarify, I am not advocating your destroying your family or divorcing your partner. The decision to separate is complex, and has many far reaching effects, but this particularly applies to friendships. You cannot just cut people off who offend you, especially if you're married to them. But if they are friends, bringing evil influences into your life, you may need to cut them off.

 

4.      QUARANTINE THEIR INFLUENCE

 

In a relationship you must persist with, for example a marriage, if the other party isn't behaving well, pray by all means but quarantine their influence on your life. If you let them stop you from reaching your destiny, they win, and you lose. You lose your destiny.

So if you have negative influencers in your life close to you, you'd love for them to change, but maybe they won't. If they do not or will not change, you can stick with them, love them, care for them, but you have to stop them negatively influencing you.

It's important to have healthy boundaries.

Ultimately you will stand before the Lord, alone. Salvation is free, but the Judgement Seat of Christ is for believers, all of us saved, but many destined to have vastly different rewards…

2 Corinthians 5:10

For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.

Saying, “My friend or husband told me not to” is never going to cut it.

Listen love them, pray for them, but don't let their sin, their hangup or their standards influence you. Draw a line in the sand and say “Enough!” Tell them that you are going to obey Christ, and they can come or not, their decision, but you are doing it!  You need to follow Christ and reach your full potential, whether they come with you or not. So if they don't want to go to church, you can't make them, but don't let them stop you from coming.

Please don't become a casualty of someone else's bad influence!

 

VALUE GREAT RELATIONSHIPS

 

So we've looked at what good relationships look like, and what bad look like. We've also talked about what you can do if you're caught in a bad relationship.

But the central message is this… seek out positive friends and relationships, especially in church, then pursue them, value them and let them bring influence to your life.

 

Proverbs 12:26

The righteous choose their friends carefully, but the way of the wicked leads them astray.

 

Through His body the Church, the Lord weaves our lives together and interconnects us so as the body of Christ, so we become mighty testimonies about God's love and transforming power. Every relationship in some way contributes to God’s transformative work in you and through you. Your relationships will change you, either more like Christ, or less… to reach your potential you need to be wise and strong enough to choose the right friends.

The true measure of a relationship is the fruit

Proverbs 27:17

As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.

Even in church, with godly people and loads of positivity, there will be times of conflict… and what matters most is how you respond to those times.

In Matthew 18 Jesus lays out a clear pattern of how you should respond to those who upset you in church. Jesus spoke these words in the context of forgiveness and caring for the integrity of fellowship. I've seen churches blown apart because of disagreements between 2 individuals. He makes it clear that we will have disappointments and conflict within the fellowship of believers. Yet Jesus was concerned with our response to these conflicts. If we refuse to face the problem, it will not go away; it will simply go underground and fester, giving the evil one a foothold to bring disharmony within the body of Christ (see Ephesians 4:25–27).

We are called to live in the light of God’s presence, which includes bringing our conflicts into the open so that we can properly deal with them. Some people call this practice “keeping short accounts.” This means that we address an offence or problem (committed by us or against us) as soon as possible. We don’t let a “debt” accumulate the interest of bitterness by waiting to see whether the other person will change.

Bottom line, we are not perfect friends in church, but we can be positive influencers of those around us. We can show love instead of hurt, and forgiveness instead of bitterness.

 

Your relationships determine the ways in which you pursue your potential and accomplish God’s plan your life. Have godly, right relationships that God honours, blesses, and uses for His purposes, or get sucked into the wrong relationships, the choice is now yours!

Coast Church is a great place to find positive influencers and friends. Ask God to help you with choosing and developing your relationships. Pray for Him to send the right people into your life, and around you at church. Ask the Lord to help you discern whether a certain relationship is right for you. Trust God to be an active participant for good in every relationship.. And if it's not right, bale out sooner rather than later.

Today, look at those 5 influencers in your life. I want to pray specifically for people who feel trapped in the wrong relationship. To response correctly you are going to need prayer and support. This church is a loving, caring church, full of people who are dedicated to bringing positive, long term blessing and influence to your life.

Secondly, if you feel alone, and disconnected, I want you to come to the front also, and just let our team love you in prayer.

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The Ultimate Brain Transformation

April 27, 2017

Pastor Keith brings another exciting message on your brain, and the steps you can take to transform it and make your brain obedient to Christ!  

Full of technical insight and amazing facts as well as his own brand of anecdotal stories, this message is a continuance of a previous message and blessed so many people in Coast Church.  Listen, learn and enjoy Pastor Keith's valuable insight...

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Easter Sunday- Hope is Alive

April 18, 2017

Welcome to resurrection Sunday. On Friday we remembered the sacrifice of Christ dying on the Cross for us, but today we celebrate the joy of His rising again.  After church 3 people are going to share their baptism with us, and they will illustrate this very time of year. They will go under the water dying with Christ, then come up again to rise with Him.

 

So let's start our celebrations looking back at Good Friday. On Friday we talked about Christ’s pain, suffering and sacrifice for us. But what I want you to do now is to put yourself in the place of the disciples that terrible Friday.

 

They'd seen it with their own eyes, the death of the One they love. They heard Him cry out, they'd seen the spear thrust into His side, they saw blood and water pour out . They knew He was dead, that He'd been placed in a tomb, wrapped in cloth with spices. They’d surely seen the massive rock rolled across the entrance. They probably were aware of the guard on the tomb.

 

HOPE DIES

 

On that dark day hope died. All the dreams of the disciples, all the plans, all the good times had come to nothing. Jesus had healed people, He'd challenged hearts, He’d spoken of eternal life, of His Kingdom to come. He'd fed 5,000, raised the dead, challenged the hierarchy… He'd promised big, but on that dark, miserable Friday He'd died, just like any man might. The centurion said truly this man was the Son if God, but all the disciples saw was a dead body.

 

Today here perhaps your hopes, like those of the disciples, have died. Your dreams of a successful business, your hopes of a loving, perfect partner in life, your hopes of a together family, your inner desires for ministry. Maybe today they lay shattered in the ground. Perhaps you lost that job, maybe your marriage broke down, maybe your family looks ok on the surface but behind closed doors it's falling apart. Perhaps that child you love so much is breaking your heart.

 

Like those disciples so long ago, maybe you've lost hope. Like them, perhaps you feel like you're standing on the boulevard of broken dreams, standing outside the tomb of everything you've hoped and believed for, burying the hopes you once had. The disciples were there, they saw everything crumble right before their eyes, and despair won the day.

 

That Friday Jesus laid His life down for your sin, but thanks be to God He didn't stay there.

 

HOPE LIVES

Hope is alive because the tomb is empty! Today hope lives because Jesus lives!

Buddha is buried somewhere in a tomb. Mohammad , Confucius, they're buried somewhere, but Jesus is not. 3 days later, Jesus exploded out of the tomb. He's alive, and everything He promised those disciples, and everything He promises you, is alive as well.

 

 

Matthew 28:5-6

But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay.”

Hope is a word that we like to kind of throw around. I hope this works, I hope you feel better, I hope for this or that, I hope tomorrow will be better.  The true essence of the word gets cheapened sometimes. Webster’s defines hope as: to cherish a desire with anticipation of obtainment. To the world, hope is to long for something, it’s to anticipate something that you want with all of your heart to be fulfilled. But to the world, hope is often dashed!

Someone has been quoted as saying: We can live forty days without food, eight days without water, four minutes without air, but only a few seconds without hope.

Turn on the news, and hope disappears with every terrorist bomb, every financial forecast, every loss, scandal or controversy. The world’s version of hope is based in what's happening around you, what you want, what you can get, your desires, your needs. It is based in things that do not and cannot ultimately satisfy. But God's hope is completely different.

Hebrews 10:23

Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.

BIBLICAL HOPE

Biblical hope depends not on events, and not on how much faith you can muster. Biblical hope depends on God’s faithfulness, and the resurrection of Jesus Christ celebrates exactly that! Biblical hope can be defined as this: a sure expectation based on the promises of God. This hope is different! This hope is eternal and won’t fail us. Hebrews says that:

Hebrews 6: 19

We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.

The hope that God offers is something to build on, it’s an anchor, it keeps us from drifting after this and floating after that.  It is the rock upon which the Christian stands, one that cannot be moved or shaken. This is the hope of God, and this magnificent hope is forever bound up in the resurrection of Christ that we celebrate today.

When the Bible talks about hope, it is not a maybe, it is a surety.  Hope for the Christian is an absolute fact, it is something we can live for, even something we can die for!

Hebrews 11:1

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

 

THE HOPE VORTEX

In the midst of their darkest moment in life, the disciples were told by Mary and the women that Jesus was alive, but they couldn't believe He had risen. That's what lack of hope does, it steals from you the belief that somehow, someway your dreams might come true!

That's what the devil wants … he wants to bleed your faith dry, and some of you have experienced that. He wants to suck hope out of you so you can't see any way forward. Satan is a hope vampire, a hope vortex, and he wants to suck the hope right out of you. That's what the devil tried to do with Job, and some of you here can relate to feeling like Job at times..

Job 17:11,15

My days are past; my plans are broken off, the desires of my heart. Where then is my hope? Who will see my hope?

Do you feel like that today? Has despair sucked your hope from you? Listen, you're in good company, with Job, David, Joshua, the disciples, Paul and many others sharing the same experience. Without the resurrection all of us would be without hope. But with it hope springs eternal!

If you feel like your hope is gone today, if you're walking through the valley of the shadow or death, keep walking. Don't camp there, and don't give the devil a foothold. Today, Easter Sunday 2017, is the the day when your hope is resurrected, if you are willing!

HIDDEN HOPE

Sometimes hope us hidden. God doesn't take the route we expect Him to take. The disciples learned that. Their hopes, their dreams seemingly crushed, yet in God’s economy a set back is a set up for a come back. Sometimes hope is hidden, but just because you can't see it, doesn't mean it's not there!

God’s great gift of hope took a cross, the very symbol of death and despair and a tomb, the epitome of hopelessness and turned them forever into symbols of life and hope for the believer, that whoever believes in what was accomplished upon that cross and believes in who it was that walked out of that tomb would be saved.

That’s the hope we have. As Peter writes:

1 Peter 1:3

According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,

Today we celebrate the fact that Jesus is risen. And risen with Him is our hope, the true hope, the surety of eternal life, starting the moment we ask Jesus into our life, the hope of living in victory, the hope of restored families, the hope of healings and miracles and fellowship and ministry.

So if you feel lacking in hope today, if your faith is struggling or weakened, look to the empty tomb and see hope resurrected with Christ. For some of us, we need to stop trying to generate faith, and for some we must stop trying to make it happen and do God’s job for Him. Look to Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, because He is alive!

If your hope is truly in Christ this day, let Him live His life through you.

HOPE FOR NOW

Godly hope has 2 aspects… hope for now, and hope forever!

Whatever you face in life right now, whatever fear, whatever drama, whatever pain, sickness, tiredness, conflict or pressure, because Jesus rose again and because He lives you can face tomorrow, because He lives all fear is gone, because I know He holds the future and life is worth the living just because He lives!

Because Jesus is alive, we now have absolute hope to live each day in the power of His Spirit.

Isaiah 40:31

but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.

HOPE FOREVER

Titus 2:13

waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and saviour Jesus Christ,

Because He is alive, we know He will soon return. And He's not coming back as a baby this time, but He will return for those who believe Him in triumph and in majesty and in power. We know from His resurrection that we have a hope not only for His return, but also for life abundantly, eternal life with Him in heaven. That's His promise…

1 Corinthians 15:17-20

And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.

He said if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile, and your hope is dead! But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. This day we remember the Jesus is alive, and we will live forever with Him.

 

HOW TO DISCOVER HOPE IN YOUR LIFE TODAY

 

So how can you discover true hope today, whatever situation you face?

 

1.     BELIEVE IN CHRIST

 

Unless you believe in Christ, unless you ask Him into your life as Lord and Saviour, His power to live a victorious life remains unavailable to you. If you are overwhelmed by your troubles, if you are perpetually down or depressed, don't stay there. Believe in Jesus, believe in what He achieved for you in dying on the cross to bring you back to God, and most of all believe in the resurrection. He can save you today, and it's a free gift, if only you accept Him.

 

John 20:31

but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

 

If you feel hopeless, if you're living without hope, ask the God of all hope to fill you with His Spirit right now!

 

2.     SPEND TIME WITH JESUS

 

You cannot live in hope and live in power if you are disconnected from the Lord. He has a plan and a hope for your future, but you need to stay close to Him and be obedient. If you wander off and do your own thing, not only do you miss God’s best for you, but you stumble away from hope. Take time to pray regularly, set time aside to read and study His Word, and do it every day.

 

John 15:5

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 you want true Biblical hope in your life, plug into God today. Let resurrection Sunday be the day your hope is renewed.

 

3.     LISTEN TO GOD

 

Most Christians say they believe, but most often never pause to listen to what the Lord wants. Like Joshua at Ai, we think, based on previous experience, that we can just go ahead and blunder in and expect His blessing.

 

4.     BELIEVE GOD’S PROMISES

 

 

God lays out promises in His Word, and as we listen to Him and apply those promises they come to pass with the hope and power of the resurrected Christ.

 

2 Corinthians 1:20

For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory.

 

All God’s promises, Old Testament and New, hinge upon the power of the resurrection of Christ. In Him they are yes and amen, in Jesus you can have true hope for the future. The whole of history and all the promises of God revolve around the sacrifice of Good Friday and the resurrection power of Easter Sunday

 

5.     STAND TOGETHER

 

There are so many Christians these days who are not part of a church. They've been hurt, disappointed or bored out of their brains in church. For many, their hope struggles because they are trying to stand alone.

 

Ecclesiastes 4:9-10

Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up!

 

The Bible commands us to not give up meeting together. So find a church to be a part of, here or anywhere. Ephesians talks about the shield of faith. But what many don't understand is how the Romans used their shields. They didn't try and fight alone, but joined their shields together to withstand the attacks of the enemy.

 

Your faith, your belief, your hope is strengthened when you join it together with other believers. So if you want to see true hope in your life, join together with like minded believers and start believing for miracles in your life!

 

 

6.     FEAR NOTHING, INCLUDING DEATH

 

 

Resurrection power means we no longer have to live defeated lives. In the power of God, when we are controlled by His Spirit, we can face any foe without fear. Governments, terrorists, mortgages, people attacking us, anything life can throw at us we can face without fear, including the biggest fear we all have… the fear of death.

 

Death for the Christian is not a full stop, it's only a comma. As I watched my Dad die a few years ago, I sat by His bed for days as he lay dying, and I saw this hope in His heart. Christ's rising from the dead gives us an unassailable hope for the future, forever and ever.

 

Romans 6:8-11

Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.

 

You may not believe that there's a life after death, you may not believe that there's a heaven or hell, but trust me, 10 seconds after you die you'll find out, as will I. If I'm right, I get the share eternity with God in His heaven, and you get to spend eternity separated from Him in hell. If you're right, and there is nothing after death, then I've been blessed to have had a great life, full of hope, full of joy, full of blessings and satisfaction that you'll never know. And you will have existed, nothing more!

 

Steve McQueen accepted Christ and asked to meet Billy Graham. He was heading to Mexico for filming, and shared a short ride to the airport with Billy Graham. He was fighting cancer at the time, and asked Dr Graham how he could be assured of eternal life. Billy Graham underlined

 

Titus 1:2

in hope of eternal life, which God, who never lies, promised before the ages began

 

And gave his Bible to Steve McQueen.

 

The actor passed away a few weeks later. His body was flown back to LA, and he was buried at his request with Billy Graham's Bible open on his chest, and his finger pointing to this verse…

 

Titus 1:2

in hope of eternal life, which God, who never lies, promised before the ages began.

 

Easter Sunday is not about rabbits, Or chocolate eggs. Today, resurrection Sunday is about hope. Hope restored, hope to face anything, hope that fills us, hope that is alive just as Jesus is alive today!

 

The resurrection of Jesus Christ is not just a historical event, and it's certainly not a fairy story. It was the resurrection of hope for those disciples, who moved from despair to abundant joy, and from fear to incredible courage. Of the 11 disciples who witness the death and resurrection of Jesus, the 11 who cowered in fear in an upper room, they were so inspired, they were so filled with hope that 10 of them died martyrs deaths for what they believed.

 

The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the resurrection of hope, the hope that will never fail. It's the rock on which we stand, it's the power by which we live, it's the hope we have for all eternity. This hope is here today for you, if you want it!

 

Colossians 1:27

Christ in you, the hope of glory.

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Reach Your Full Potential Step 3- Use Your Gifts

April 10, 2017

The ability to use your gifts is the third step for reaching your full potential.

This involves a number of steps, and Pastor Darin explores in this message, starting with recognising what gifts God has placed in your life.  And yes, believe it or not,m God placed special, unique gifts into your life from before you were born!

In this series we are looking at how you can reach your full potential in Christ. I know most of you here are not content to just sit and cruise through life, but want to make a tangible and profound difference for Christ in the lives of those around you.

 

The question is, how do you do it? How can you become everything you long to be and fully realise the potential God has placed within you?

 

The first essential was to have a clean heart. We discovered that without obedience on your part, God will not fully open your potential.  The second essential was to have a clear mind, the mind of Christ. We saw that without this, you will not make the wise, God centred decisions you need to make to move towards your full potential.

 

Now concerning these two, I recently read this…

 

The partially surrendered life may be Christian in spirit, but it is secular in practice. It may save one’s soul, but it hardly leaves a noticeable ripple on one’s lifestyle, life view, or the world and culture in which we live. Of what earthly value is Christianity if it leaves no indelible mark on one’s lifestyle? (Patrick Morley)

 

The third essential we will explore today, and this is using your God given gifts and talents.

 

God has given every one of us gifts, and our task is to place them at His feet and learn how to hone and develop them. That's why we have 201, and I am committed as a pastor to helping and allowing you to develop the talents God has placed in your life. What happens is that, in the right environment like this church, God takes your natural talent and develops it into an amazing spiritual gift.

 

I am often asked when we do 201 about the difference between a natural gift and a spiritual one. Thing is, there's a fair degree of overlap between them, and out of your natural talents and loves usually grows an incredible spiritual gift.

 

So what has God gifted you to do? Are you functioning in and developing your gifts? Are you worshipping God by reaching for your full potential in those gifts, or maybe trying to use gifts you don't have?

 

YOU ARE UNIQUE

 

God made you unique, one of a kind. He has crafted unique abilities and talents into you. He given you tools to bless others, unique gifts bestowed upon you from before time began, to allow you to function as only you can function in the unique role He has for you.

 

Ephesians 3:20

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,

 

But some folks want what others have got. Some have been given tools to reach their potential, but they want something different. Some have been gifted as a screwdriver, but they want to saw things. Some are drills, but they want to paint.

 

If you are to reach your full potential, you must discover and begin to develop the God given gifts the Lord has lovingly placed within you. You might want to sing Iike a nightingale, but if everyone else thinks you sound like a gail in the night, you need to think again!

 

All around us people are doing things with good intentions that God never asked them to do. They strive to what their parents wanted, what some well meaning person recommended, what the pastor asked them to do or what needed to be done and no one else would do. They are trying to succeed outside of what God has called them to do. They are square pegs in round holes. Faithful? Yes. Committed? Absolutely. Fulfilled? Not really. Miserable? If we're honest, yes!

 

Take a moment to step back and see things from God's perspective. He called you, placed unique gifts and talents within you, and started developing them. He gave you a love for these gifts, and a sense of fulfilment. He prepared encounters, people, mentors and even trials and obnoxious people to run up against you and train you to develop and apply these gifts. He opened the way to use the gifts. How do you think He feels when you head off in some other direction applying gifts you don't have, even for the best of intentions.

 

And I speak especially to myself and leadership in general, especially pastors. We are usually motivated by need, not by people’s gifts. We make people do stuff not because it fulfils them but because we think it needs to be done.

 

Charles Stanley talks of a minister who loved God and felt called to the ministry. He was a lousy preacher, terrible teacher, hopeless counsellor and an uninspiring leader and his first church fired him. He had no job, no ministry, so a friend who owned a local business asked what he loved to do. The ex pastor replied that he likes numbers, figures and organising people to do specific tasks. The business man employed him as admin assistant, and the man shone, cutting costs and increasing efficiencies. He became chief operating officer, and increased sales 600%. But the man still longed to serve in the church.

 

One day the pastor of a large church asked the businessman if he knew of any admin pastors. This failed pastor became one of the finest admin pastors in the country, helping hundreds of churches grow substantially and financially, launching dozens of ministries and outreaches and blessing hundreds if thousands of people around the world.

 

YOUR NATURAL GIFTS

 

All of us were born with natural gifts and talents. A true natural gifting is present all of your life, but as we grow we often lose sight of these incredible gifts. But God doesn't!

 

1 Corinthians 7:7

But each has his own gift from God, one of one kind and one of another.

 

Here's some categories of natural gifts…

 

1.     APTITUDES

 

These are abilities related to your natural body, muscles, coordination, sight, hearing, muscle mass, metabolism, etc. we all have some natural aptitudes. Some are sporty, some are arty, some deep thinkers. It's how God wired you!

 

2.     INTELLIGENCE

 

 Despite what you may sometimes think, everyone has some degree of intelligence. However, most people use only a fraction of the intelligence God has given them.

 

3.     INTUITION

 

This is sensing things not visible or imagining things not experienced. We all have some degree of this, right? Ever felt uncomfortable about a situation or person but you're not sure why? Women tend to be good at this.

 

4.     EMOTIONS

 

Some have more than others, but emotions are part of you and shouldn't be denied or discarded. God uses you emotions to move your heart to help others, and to allow you to love others deeply.

 

5.     GENDER

 

You are either male or female. This concept is under attack right now, but it's not a choice or a preference, it's an innate gift. Men and women are wired differently. Those who try to change generally do so ineffectively.

 

6.     CREATIVITY

 

We are all creative in some way, just as God is. You might be good with your hands, with your mind, good with numbers, good at cooking, building, music, telling jokes, organising or studying. These natural abilities often form the basis of our Spiritual gifts, when God takes our natural abilities and applies them to eternal situations.

 

7.     INTERESTS

 

You might be interested in music, art, sports, cars, photography or flower arranging. Almost always your interests draw you to an avenue of ministry, and that is part of God's plan. Your hobbies often grow into a way to serve the Lord. I know Andy is using his love of growing things to start supporting a ministry in the Philippines. I know music has been my hobby, but also my ministry. My mum loves crafts and she uses it in the church.

 

8.     LIKES AND DISLIKES

 

Some people love figures, Zac. Some love art, Naomi. Some live to build, Fraser. Our likes and dislikes are often innate, and God uses them to guide us into our full potential.

 

GOD WEAVES IT ALL TOGETHER

 

You are unique, you are made that way by God from birth, and you can't change nor should you want to change these things. Don't try and be what you're not, but embrace who you are! The unique, amazing, talented, wonderful you! Yield your heart to Jesus and watch Him build on your natural gifts to create something really special!

 

And God adds to these even more natural talents or gifts. He adds capacity to some, some can handle more than others. He adds propensity, some are naturally curious, or cautious, or gung ho! He places dreams in your heart and personality traits, some of which are attractive and some are quirky.

 

He gives you a measure of free will, a measure of determination, and He even gives you a measure of faith that He can develop later into an amazing spiritual gift. Some have gifts of communication, some have gifts of being able to network. These too can become amazing assets to the Kingdom of God.

 

Matthew 5:16

In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

 

In addition, God places you in a generation and a location. Sometimes you might feel like you're in the wrong generation, but God doesn't make mistakes (even if you like music from another era). He has placed you here, on the Coast in this church, and none of it is by accident. I have even witnessed what's called geographical anointing, when the gifts of God and opportunities to use them explode only when you move to a given location (Abraham).

 

STAY IN THE FLOW OF YOUR TALENTS AND GIFTS

 

As you grow and develop in Christ from natural to supernatural or spiritual gifts, I encourage you, stay in the flow of your gifts. Know what you love to do, what you're good at doing, and let God develop these talents rather than trying to be someone you're not, whatever the reason. God filled certain people in building the tabernacle…

 

Exodus 35:31

and he has filled him with the Spirit of God, with skill, with intelligence, with knowledge, and with all craftsmanship,

 

God is actually working to a plan, a grand design that He  is weaving you into and through, with your unique talents, gifts and spiritual gifts. Don't run away from your destiny, don't covert the destinies of others and don't try and do God’s job for Him. Let Him develop you in His way in His timing.

 

That's why church is so important. That dream in your heart, my job and calling as a pastor is to give you a lane to run in, the chance to develop your gift and shine for Jesus. Most pastors stick people where they think they're needed, not where they shine. I endeavour not to do this. I have to lay my personal agenda for this church aside and let you reach for the heavens in your gifting to fulfil the destiny that God is calling you to, and that He has been preparing you for since the beginning of time.

 

And no one is too old, too young, too disabled, too impaired or too hopeless for God to use. No one! BUT, you can be too busy, too distracted or too disobedient!

 

HOW TO GROW YOUR GIFTS

 

Ok, let's get practical… how do you grow your God given gifts. Here's some suggestions…

 

1.     TEACHING AND TRAINING

 

2 Timothy 3:16-17

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.

 

The fastest way to develop any talent or gift is to get into good teaching or training. There's a difference, and there's a place for both. Teaching is the theory, the facts, the principles, concepts and ideas. It is generally administered in a course, such as University, Bible College or In some of the courses we run here.

 

Teaching is great, but entirely useless if it stops there. It's just head knowledge.

 

Training is the application of teaching, often administered in a practical way by mentoring. It tends to be repetitive, disciplined and involves practice to make our talent better. One of the great strengths of cults is that they train, whereas we often teach rather than train.

 

To grow your gift, fill your life with great teaching and strong trainers. Even better, make sure you are going to a church where they not only allow you to reach for your dreams, but they provide training and teaching to support and grow you fast.

 

2.     PRACTICE

 

A famous pianist once said, “If  I don't practice one day, I know it the second day and the world knows it the third day.” No matter how good you become, or how good you think you are, practice is still an essential way of developing your gift.

 

Philippians 4:9

What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.

 

Someone with a natural gift for music can become a good musician. But without practice, they will never become a world class musician. Practice grows your gifts, no matter how good you are. Even Jonathon Thirston still practices!

 

3.     DISCIPLINE

 

Discipline is often as much about what you don't do as what you do do.

 

2 Timothy 2:4

No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him.

 

If you want to grow your gift, make time to practice and pursue it as a matter of urgency. Choose to spend time with leaders who train you, choose to come to church to sit under good teaching, do whatever it takes to make your gift grow into the dream the Lord has given you for your future.

 

4.     PERSEVERANCE

 

When God places a dream in your heart and a gift within you, there are only 2 ways you can fail… disobedience and giving up.

 

Hebrews 12:1

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 perseverance the race that is set before us,

 

So many people come to church, attend for a while, hear something they don't like and leave vowing never to return again. So many go from church to church trying to find the perfect church, not realising that if they find it and join it it will no longer be perfect.

 

Thing is, there is not perfect church, just lock in and persevere. Sometimes, more often than you might think, I get attacked and don't want to keep coming to church, but I do it and I persevere because I know that is how the Lord grows His gift in my life!

 

ONE FOR ALL AND ALL FOR ONE

 

THE natural gifts God gives you, the talents He places in you before birth, and all the development He brings to bear in your life can grow your God-given talent into a spiritual gift. But why would you bother to develop your gift? I mean, what's the point?

 

1 Peter 4:10

As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace:

 

The point of these gifts is to bless others around you. Spiritual gifts are not for you to enjoy, although if you pursue them wisely you clearly will enjoy them. They are given to build up the body of Christ. When God takes your natural talent and turns it into a spiritual gift He empowers it to impact people's lives.

 

Take my music, for example. I can sing for many reason, rock it out in clubs or pubs, earn money and record great albums. But when God gets a hold of my gift, suddenly my songs prepare people's hearts for the gospel, or lead people into deeper worship with the Father.

 

Your gift isn't for you, it's for everyone else. If prayer is your gift, it blesses others. Same with prophecy, it's not for you, and it's not to be used as a club to smash others,  it is One of Gods tools to bless His people.

 

Same with any spiritual gift, if you do it for the Lord there is a special satisfaction. Admin skills used in church bless others and also bless you. Music gifts, prayer, prophecy, teaching, evangelism, there's nothing like using what you have to serve the Lord.

 

Our gifts are not for us alone, they're to bless others around us. Everybody has gifts to contribute, and here's the thing, the closer you walk with the Lord, the more your gift develops and grows. The more you selflessly serve, the greater you become in the Kingdom.

 

STEPS TO DISCOVERING YOUR GIFTS

 

1.     ACCEPT JESUS CHRIST AS LORD AND SAVIOUR

 

Have you truly asked Jesus into your heart? Is your sin really forgiven? Do you know for sure that you have eternal life?

 

Ephesians 2:8-10

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

 

Until you commit your life to Jesus, you natural skills and talents will not develop into world changing spiritual giftings! Why? If you are unsure of your salvation, if your life with the Lord is murky and obscure, if you don't make Him Lord and keep on indulging in sin, then your gift will not develop properly. Come to Jesus now and see the change in your life and gifts. If you're not absolutely sure of your salvation, get it right starting right now!

 

2.     IMPROVE YOUR SERVE

 

When we serve, we learn much about ourselves and our gifts, so foster a serving heart and look for opportunities to serve others. In Coast Church, we have great opportunities for all kinds of gifts, from prayer and prophecy to music, teaching, helping others and many more.

 

Concentrate on serving, not on furthering your own selfish ambitions. If you serve only to get ahead, that's not godly serving! Learn to serve no matter the cost, no matter the recognition and no matter the apparent success.

 

Mark 10:43-44

But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all.

 

The fastest way to grow your ministry is to serve a man of God. I saw this with my music. I gave up my own concerts and tours to serve Bill Newman exclusively, and as such have seen incredible blessings and experience amazing wonders.

 

So if you want to grow your gift, do 201 then find a place to serve the Lord.

 

3.     DON’T TRY TO BE SOMEONE ELSE

 

God made you, and He made you unique and He loves you and you have something to give back to the people of God. Your unique gift is you. Do not throw that away to be a poor imitation of somebody else. In your gift, don't try and be someone else.

 

But in your life, imitate mature Christians, sure, as they imitate Christ…

 

1 Corinthians 11:1

Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.

 

4.     TRAIN, PRACTICE AND GROW

 

To develop your gift, make the decision to train and practice as you need to, to see your gift grow the way God wants it to. Get serious about going hard and become the best you can be in your gift.

 

Psalms 144:1

Blessed be the Lord, my rock, who trains my hands for war, and my fingers for battle;

 

This means finding those further along the track in your ministry area and get close to them. In fact, pursue them with everything you have! A lot of ministry is caught, not taught, so put yourself in and around gifted people in the church.

 

Also, stay close to God, because He can lead and guide and train you. I say it all the time, but spend time every day in Prayer and reading the Word. That's how you grow closer to God. And if you grow in the Lord your ministry grows with you!

 

KNOW YOUR GIFT

 

As you keep growing closer to the Lord, start to know your gift more intimately. Know what it involves, know what needs to happen to achieve success and especially, know its limitations.

 

I am really bad at this. I commit to everything, then go hard until I collapse in a heap. After praying about my work load, and after many of you have spoken into my life, and after scriptural confirmation, I have this week decided to pull back on 2 business areas to free up more time in my life and family. Know your limits, folks, and listen to God!

 

So if you want to reach your full potential for God, know and recognise your gifts, spiritual gifts and natural talents.

 

My aim as your pastor is to release you into spiritual service, here in the church, out in the marketplace or across the world! That's why we want you to do 101 and 201. That's why we want you engaged in church doing what you love for Jesus, serving Him and the body loving Him, loving serving and loving life!

 

Ephesians 2:10

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

 

But it all starts with asking Jesus into your life, and knowing for sure that you have eternal life.

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