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Saturday, September 8, 2012

Being where God wants you to be! - INTRO

Maz and I arrived here today - and it certainly lives up to its name; it is very much a Neopolitan city, full of colour, vitality and much much more. We came here forgone reason- to see two places that are well known yet inexperienced by both of us. Maz has visited here many years ago but this is my first time. Tomorrow we take a guided tour of Pompei and on Sunday we will visit the Island of Capri. Beyond these two experiences, we have little interest in this place other than to take in what we can.  Maz has sustained an injury to here foot while away and today pulled a muscle in her back in transit to the airport so our walking needs to be limited and this has given me much time the last few days to reflect on the where it is that God has called me to be.

My Facebook status a few days ago reflected something of the Spirit's prompting in my life in recent weeks. Away from the immediacy of ministry responsibilities in Melbourne, I have reflected on what it is that drives much of my approach to life but I will come back to that thought in a short while.

In the meantime, allow me to reminisce a little.  Some say of me that I am driven by something or someone and that is why I approach life and work the way I do.  Others have said to me over the years "don't you have a life?" as if to say that there is more to life than "work". In my mid teenage years I sensed Gods call upon my life to serve him with all that I had. Initially I thought that would be as a PE teacher, using sport to communicate the truth of the gospel. God clearly took me in a different direction and I commenced Nurse training, met Maz and together we responded to Gods call for local church evangelism. I recall returning to the nurses home late one Sunday night to be greeted by some nurses in my group surprised that I would be "at church" so long. I explained that I had driven a few of the young people home and they lived in different directions. They could not understand why I would use so much time up driving tens of kilometres returning young people home. When I explained that this was part of what God had called me to to, they agreed that my approach to life was very different to theirs. Thirty three years later, things have not changed much. The context and specifics may vary but the internal conviction that continues to set my life agenda remains the same - God's call upon my life to live and breath for his glory.  Over the next few days I will post some reflections on "Being where God has called you to be" and in the process argue for the legitimacy and godliness of being driven by this call.

Thursday, May 31, 2012


A recent 'insight' that stemmed from a comment by a respected church leader during a mentoring session has highlighted for me a key step in growing as a disciple of Jesus Christ; the importance of surrendering our vision to the Lord.  Jesus' words as recorded in Luke 9:23 are central to the life and work of any disciple of Christ.  “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me." Radical abandonment of self for the cause of the gospel is our focus as a church community in 2012 and surrender of 'your' vision is central to this radical lifestyle.  Let me unpack this a little.    When God spoke to me through a brother in Christ about the importance of God's leaders surrendering their vision to the Lord, my further prayerful reflections enabled me to hear God afresh - and to see what it is that hinders so many of us from allowing God to do the things he wants to do in and through us.  I knew that God was saying to me that I needed to surrender the vision I have of what I want God to do in and through GWAC, because this Church is HIS church and he will build his church.  The potential for me to limit or manufacture what God is doing in the life of GWAC is great.  As God's appointed leader at GWAC I am called to serve God's vision for us by serving you, his people and therefore enabling you to fulfill the vision he has given you. So often I find God does a work in me as as part of the servant leadership he has called me to at GWAC and I believe this is one of those times.  God challenged me with the importance of me surrendering my hopes and dreams to him, in part because that is also God's challenge to all of you who see GWAC as your 'base-camp' for global missional endeavour. 

At a personal level, what are your hopes and dreams for the future?  More than simply asking God to bless what you have in mind and heart, God is still calling you to deny self and follow him; surrender your vision.  In a wonderful way God will take your offerings and make of them what he wills.  I think we find this difficult for a number of reasons.

  • Paranoia concerning control - we actually do not believe that God can and will do the best in and through us so we foolishly seek to 'muscle' God.  I know it sounds crude but I see it all the time (and that is no understatement).  I see evidence in my life and in yours, and I share that with a profound sense of humility.  We have to stop 'man-handling' or women-handling' God. Surrender involves trust!
  • Our 'hunger' for the things of this world - In the one news bulletin on TV, we will see images of a massive crowd of malnourished and dying people clambering to get food off the back of an aid agency truck followed by a crowd of Melbourne shoppers clambering to get the latest phone or tablet (and I don't mean paracetamol)
  • A narrow or 'blinkered' perspective of life - when a prominent person died a year ago, a tweet spread across the globe "One man dies and millions cry; yet millions die and no one cries".  
  • Failure to allocate time and space to grow in our intimacy with God - we crowd God out with all the other things that occupy our life.  You will not be able to surrender your dreams and hopes and aspirations unless you take the time to name them before God, lay them down and spend time reflecting on his goodness and love.  Surrendering vision does not mean giving up on possibilities - it simply means we seek God's will and purpose and to do this we must spend time in prayer, humbly seeking Him.  Too often I hear people talk about their need for "me time"; I believe a more biblically balanced approach is seeking more "God-time" because when we seek genuine God-Time, God will lead us into green pastures, beside cool streams, embrace us in dark valleys and provide a feast for us and give us rest when needed.
  • We look at people and circumstances as objects of opposition or relationships we have to foster, instead of opportunities to love as Jesus loves and serve as Jesus serves.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Appreciating how God has shaped me

Learning to appreciate and value how God has shaped us can be a very sobering exercise. There is much temptation to be someone that we are not. Day 32 of 40DOP provides great encouragement to recognize your abilities and and discover your gifts. While I agree that one way of discovering your gifts is through experiencing service opportunities, I believe that appropriate stewardship demands that we do better than simply try and see. Rather than simply encouraging people who do not know their gifting, to experiment in different areas of service, I would encourage people to take the time to read about the various gifts mentioned in the scriptures, talk with others about what they observe in you and spend time prayerfully reflecting on how God appears to be leading and guiding you.

Where possible, it is crucial that we allow God's word to shape us and form us - that is how God primarily works through his Spirit in our lives. He is not restricted at all to this but it is the way he has chosen to usually work. Given this, what can we glean from the scriptures about discovering and using our gifts in service.

First, Paul urges that we 'do not remain ignorant about spiritual things'. By this it is clear he is speaking about spiritual manifestations; that is the gifts (1 Cor 12:1, 3-11) The gifts have been given, and Paul wants us to be knowledgeable about this fact. Secondly, 1 Cor 14:1 instructs us to "go after spiritual gifts". The context implies 'go after with intent to use'. Thirdly, Paul instructs in Romans 12 that we should be aware of and serve in our gifting. "if prophecy, then according to the faith given you" etc. If your gift is teaching, then teach! There appears to be an expectation that we will serve in the area of our gifting and that we will become knowledgable about the gifts we have been graced with. In general, we are called to serve and so we should serve with a cheerful heart irrespective of our gifting - if there is opportunity then we serve. But to simply infer that we just start serving and see what happens is to ignore the community aspect of gift discovery and the value the scriptures place on serving within your gifting. It seems to me the most appropriate way for us to be responsible in discovering and using our gifts is for us to serve God church and in the process seek feedback, gain biblical insight, and prayerfully reflect on what I am learning about how God has shaped me.

An attitude of 'try and see' is a good way to have a go and see what God does. If it is the main way we intend to discover our gifting it will be quite limiting. God's word needs to instruct us. How we feel about a ministry experience must be put through the grid of scripture. All this means that we need to commit ourselves to serving and start serving and at the same time we need to be students of God's Word and receptive to God's people and their feedback. It is a discovery package.

The observation assessment tool available from GWAC is a great way to seek insight from family and ministry friends. Getting the considered thoughts and observations of people who are close to you while you are simply living your life for God will begin to point you in the right direction.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Don't shrivel up and die!

I was reading in The Age this morning about the challenges we have with successful organ donations here in Melbourne.  "Due to the current stress on the system and the risk of negative fallout from being unable to facilitate donation, it has been necessary to constrain some initiatives in order to prevent an even more rapid rise in the donation rate,''  Organs, when left apart from the body shrivel up and die.  Severed from the body without blood supply, organs die.  The "body-life" image that the apostle Paul uses illustrates the importance of diversity in ONENESS.  Rick Warren puts it this way, "Disconnected and cutoff from the lifeblood of a local body, you your spiritual life will wither and eventually cease to exist."  The Bible reminds us of how God has made us to function.  "In Christ, we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others." (Rom 12:5)  If you are part of the 40 Days of Purpose, that's our current memory verse - so learn it now.  Let the truth of God's word sink deep into your life - it's what I am doing. The reality "In Christ" is that I am intimately connected with my brothers and sisters.  It's not that I have done something significant to bring this about - rather, it is a consequence of what God has done "In Christ".  And it means I belong to my brothers and sisters.  That is an incredible statement to make and even far greater to internally own. 

Of necessity, this realisation MUST change the way I view and relate to, my brothers and sisters in Christ.  It can be no other way really; there can be no other outcome, other than an interdependent relationship within the organism called the local church and the world-wide church of God.  If we are serious about not simply reading the Bible as the word of God, but also applying it in our lives and relationships then we will be serious our place of belonging in the local fellowship of Gods people. 

First and foremost, we need to be serious about God's call upon us to value the local church and to commit ourselves to belonging to the fellowship.  I would go a little further, however.  Any wider ministry that a believer might have, should be seen as an extension to your connection with the local fellowship.  Paul's missionary journeys came out of the local fellowship - he was set apart and sent from them and he regularly returned to them.   When new local churches were commenced, elders were set in place so that leadership and teaching could be provided and that God's people in that place might live within the local expression of the body of Christ.  God is on a mission to redeem his people and he will do this first and foremost through his church. 

God has committed himself to build his church.  If local and global 'ministries' do not find their life blood in, extend from and feed into the local church a warning light must go on.  Equally, if individuals believe that 'dating' the church, hopping from here to there to hear different speakers and meet new people at the expense of stable, growing and maturing relationships in one local fellowship of Gods people, the same warning light must be recognised.  Almost without exception, when the Bible speaks about "the church" it is the local fellowship that is first and foremost being referred to.  That's were it starts and it's where each of us needs to live in, be sent out from and go back to.  It's how God intends for us to live life.

Monday, May 23, 2011

The priority of love expressed in time.

I went to a celebration of the life of the wife of a colleague today.  Sheryl is deeply loved and will be greatly missed by her family, friends and her church family who have the privilege of bridging both categories.  Quality time spent loving people is of primary importance.  Love was expressed in beautiful words and moving images as people gave thanks to God for this precious women.  Time, love and care were words that dominated what was spoken. The auditorium was packed and they spilled into the hall and when it was full the remaining people spilled back into the auditorium.  People wanted to be together, to mourn and grieve together, to worship God together and give a collected "thankyou" to God for the gift of this women.  Humanly speaking, she left us way too early.  From the perspective of eternity however, she is where we all long to be. 

What matters most - LOVE!  Let's not wait till someone dies before we post it on their Facebook - or however else we communicate with them.  Take time today to express your love and care and demonstrate the value of the shared relationship.  From a human perspective, the best expression of love is time and the best time to express it is now. Day 16 in Purpose Driven Life could not be more timely!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

The danger of focusing on feelings

There are so many positive experiences for us to enjoy in life here in the west that we can be duped into thinking somehow that we have been especially blessed, and we therefore have what we have.  In a subtle way, we see it as justified reward for good works or good attitude of something.  However, reverse that positive experience and how do we feel?  betrayed, alone, rejected; the list goes on and on.

We must seek God, not experience.  At the end of week two, in our journey to better understand God's purpose for our life, seeking God is a cool place to pause and reflect.   When we seek God, we focus on God and not ourselves.  I have found the words of Job incredibly challenging: "Naked I came and naked I depart; the Lord gave and the Lord takes away; may the name of the Lord be praised." (Job 1:21)  Focusing on God and what he has done and what he will do sharpens our resolve to serve God with our lives; it's what Romans 12:1-2 is all about.  It is what our persecuted brothers and sisters appreciate and it is what is so easy for us in the western world to forget. 

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The basis of our frendship with God

I realise that the "Purpose Driven Life" devotion book is designed to be read one chapter a day - however, if you are following the sequence with us, then please read day 11 and day 12 NOW and give prayerful relection to your learning from today, tomorrow.  I say this because day 11 unnecessarily breaks the flow into day 12 and we run a great risk of wrongly interpreting the beautiful teaching Jesus gives on what it means to be a friend of God.

When we read day 11 and 12 together we can harmonise the central teaching -  God indeed does want us to enter into a special relationship with him, but we do need to be clear about how we become friends with God.

First and foremost, Jesus tells us that we are HIS friends if we obey him.  This is the starting point of our friendship.  Our understanding of what he has done on the cross and our need to respond in obedience and surrender are crucial.  It is not about works - it is about surrender the significance of the reminder today that we can be friends with God is that this friendship stems from obedience to God, and everything else flows from that.

Second, we continue the process of remaining friends with God by constant conversation with God.  Rick Warren's reminder of the need to "Practice the presence of God" is a good and helpful one.

Third, we need to meditate on the word of God and apply it in our lives.  It almost completes a circle - application leads to obedience.

Getting things clear and in order is important.  Don't wait till tomorrow to start a friendship with God based on obedience - because without an attitude of surrender and a desire to be obedient in that surrender, friendship is not possible.  Rick does remind us of what the writer of Psalm 25 wrote - "Friendship with God is reserved for those who reverence him"  My renewed confession and surrender is crucial for my relationship with God - Jesus says it straight and clear. The second part of chapter 12 offers suggestions for cultivating this friendship with God, so enjoy the stimulation and encouragement.