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living for Christ?

Some outtakes or summary from Sunday’s talk with our church family…….

From the brilliance of Jonathan Edwards – the puritan, not the triple-jumper! As a young adult mid 1800’s – Jonathan Edwards set down on paper a series of thoughts and practices to help cultivate growth in grace. These resolutions are immense, and Edwards would re-read this list at least once a week to keep his mind focused and renewed. The result: A man of humble godliness, who was to become a significant spark used to ignite one of the greatest revivals known to history. Even many unbelieving scholars admit Edwards may have been the greatest mind to be born on the North American continent.

The seventy resolutions of Jonathan Edwards are still a practical and beneficial tool for spiritual life if a little stuck in 18th century language that makes it sometimes difficult to grasp what Edwards wrote. Here’s some of these refreshed as a scene setter…… “Aware that I am unable to do anything without God’s help, I do pray that, by his grace, he will enable me to do all that will honour Christ.
1. Resolved: I will do whatever I think will be most to God’s glory; and will provide the most good and benefit to mankind in general.
3. Resolved: If ever – really, whenever – I fail & fall or grow weary & dull; I will repent of everything I can remember that I have violated or neglected, …as soon as I come to my senses again.
6. Resolved: To live with all my might, …while I do live.
7. Resolved: Never to do anything which I would be afraid to do if it were the last hour of my life.
10. Resolved: When I feel pain,…… to think of the pains of martyrdom – both of Jesus and of believers around the world; and remind myself of the reality of hell.
14. Resolved: Never to do anything out of revenge…….Never to suffer the least emotions of anger about irrational beings.
16. Resolved: Never to speak badly of anyone, except if it is necessary for some real good.
30. Resolved: To strive to my utmost every week to be brought to a higher spiritual place, and to a greater experience of grace, than I was the week before.
65. Resolved: To declare my ways to God, and lay open my soul to him: all my sins, temptations, difficulties, sorrows, fears, hopes, desires; and every thing in every circumstance.
70. Let there be something of good and grace, in all that I speak.

Matthew 10 v 29-42 shows a pattern in following Jesus.
1. Following Jesus means taking up your cross & laying down your life – v24 and this cross, is ‘not a velvet cross’

2. Following Jesus means Rejection v21, v22 & v36. In survey conducted in 2014 of thousands of British Christians – over half said they’d experienced some measure of persecution for their faith.

3. Following Jesus means Persecution – See v17, v19, v21 and v28
Political correctness, conceived to protect the minority has ended up discriminating against Christian free speech & free expression. Christians and Churches that remain true to orthodoxy will become a persecuted and prosecuted minority. The only way to reverse this is revival……

In the twentieth century more Christians have been martyred than all personnel killed directly as combatants in all the wars in the same period.

4. Following Jesus is worth everything
The great anthem of heaven “worthy is the Lamb” – Put it another way – martyrs cry ‘worth it every time” Notice v37-38, three times Jesus uses the phrase, “worthy of me!” This is the invitation, to live worthy of Jesus!
Alex Early say it this way “He is God almighty, who has got off his throne and has poured out relentless, reckless, scandalous grace on you, not at your best moment but at your worst. What makes him worth all this, why should I suffer and have the world hate me on his behalf, and have a life of controversy – here’s what, I get Jesus in the middle of it”

Will you dare with me :- To live your best year for Christ?
Dare to live your best year with Jesus.

intending?

and here’s the handout from our new years eve gathering….. I’m still chewing over questions 1 & 3 that I scribbled up for us all. What did you love most in 2016? and How might you better follow Jesus tomorrow and in all of the 2017?

So what are you intending in 2017? Spend it well….

Are you ready?*

I groan when I’m asked “Are you ready for Christmas?” It seems to get earlier and earlier each year.

However, Christmas is God’s preparation to meet us. No-one looked forward to the first Christmas more than God. For all eternity He set his heart and mind to coming, dwelling, loving, revealing himself and redeeming humankind at Christmas. Nothing would have stopped him.

The detail of God’s preparation, patient waiting and the oversight of all the characters makes for an unforgettable Christmas story. It unfolds with majesty and purpose. It’s the story that has defined history.

The shepherds were instructed to hurry to meet the baby Jesus. The hills of Bethlehem were where sacrificial lambs for Jerusalem’s Temple were kept, so it is fitting that Jesus, who is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world, is first seen by those shepherds. Ironically shepherds were social outcasts, considered the lowest of the low, living with animals which made them unclean, yet God first welcomes those thought to be unclean and unworthy to come to Him.

The only other guests were the wise men – the noble, scholarly and kingly ones. Those able to bring high-end gifts and to travel more than five hundred miles, A-list people, talented and able to communicate. God isn’t interested in human status – he came to high born and low-level strugglers alike. All were welcome to the birth of his son then, and all are invited to new life through His son now! All are welcome.

Simply put, you are welcome. Christ invites you to know his meaning, beauty and purpose this Christmas. Matthew 2 verse 10 tells us that those first wise Christmas worshippers “rejoiced with very great joy”. This is my prayer and our wish for you this year. However pressured or prepared you are, might you welcome Jesus this Christmas, again or for the first time? He welcomes you and so do we.

*part of our parish-wide CONTACT this Christmas

favourites

God’s graciously challenging me…. Im know Gods tenderness in this.
Seeing this cohort of Alpha guests journey with Jesus is humbling
It’s been a decent coffee week too! Praise be…..
Seeing heaps of new possibilities in our community, in all sorts of way. Amen.
Walking through suffering and pain yet with hope is the grit of pastoral life.
Greater and deeper reading at the moment. More Lord!
Adding six more people to home group life in the last ten days is another kick!
Jacobs story and his complex trickster ways continues to help our church family.
I’m still hungry for a bigger vision of God’s kingdom.
The King of Kings doesn’t flinch because of this crazy election season.
Christians-behaving-badly sadly isn’t new. I remain endlessly hopeful.
Discernment is an underrated gift.
Terry’s chocolate orange segments still cant be counted as part of my five-a-day!
The Missing, is not really easy viewing, ‘while tidying away some admin!’
Truly loving life and what Jesus is about, endlessly nourishes my soul.
Talking and laughing with Julie is a favourite thing!

more?

The invitation of God for us is abundance. Always.
We hear the well-known patter of John 10v10, and the promise of life to the full in Jesus, or we recall childhood exuberance in the singing, “Our God is so big, so strong and so mighty….” And yet we can feel lost to this truth of God’s abundance. Sunday night’s passage called me back to this strongly. John 2 sees another encounter with Jesus surrounded by wedding day disappointment due to a wine deficiency!

Each of the huge six stone water pots, about the full height of an average man, would have contained about thirty gallons. They signify the fantastic abundance of the gifts introduced by Christ. This would have been literally a ton of grapes involved – this measure was 150 gallon or on our terms – 756 bottles in total. Yes that much! Jesus produced 756 bottles for love of us… God’s overflowing measure is that! Also when I was geeking out about the detail… it is worth noting that the Jews always diluted the wine with water, usually three parts wine to one part water. The scale of this abundance might have resulted in over one thousand bottles in effect!

All of this point us to the trustworthiness of Jesus and to invitation that we might believe, verse 11. Through this sign we see the superabundance of gifts available through Jesus Christ……“grace upon grace.”

God’s measure is abundance, not scarcity. God is not a cheapskate! God wants us to be filled to the fullness of God, not just getting by. God wants an overflowing life for you and me…not wasteful but overflowing, and yet our greatest dilemma is that we don’t consistently believe this! Believe abundance – its a 756 measure not scarcity!

I don’t know what abundance looks like for you? Would you let Jesus call you away from a scarcity mindset and a lack of faith? 756 bottles of wine is more than I can comprehend, but it’s the measure of God in Jesus. This is grace upon grace! Here’s to living in this gospel confidence! So this is my prayer:- “Lord Jesus fill my life to overflowing!”

five on Friday

“Many Christians estimate difficulty in the light of their own resources, and thus they attempt very little and they always fail……….. All giants have been weak men who did great things for God because they reckoned on His power and presence to be with them!” Hudson Taylor
1 Liz on the dangerous game of ministry comparison.
2 Nick writes, We are not our failures….
3 Things no one tells you when you get married!
4 Habits to learn early. Valued choices.
5 Neil Cole on more than a one-hour meeting! 

Brexit reality

Waking up today was like no other. Here’s one of my favourite Psalms, reworked…….

God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear,
whatever the economic predictions,
whatever the governmental shifts.
The FTSE and share numbers need not trouble us.
Though layers of turbulence and uncertainty lie ahead.
Though Cameron, Farage and Boris would falter
There is a sure-place,
a confidence we have in our one-true-God.
The never-failing promises of God in Jesus will prevail,
Heaven isn’t insecurely fragile as though under threat.
Whilst speculation, fear and horrid debate still result
Though prideful bluster may increase and access may be at risk,
God will see us through.
Tho’ tribalism may dominate, and this odd-Friday be remembered,
And our nations hopes dip and spike
We’re best trusting the care of our unchanging God;
We don’t need false triumphalism or threatening doom.
By God’s mercy and grace we can have bright forever tomorrows
For the God of Jacob is able and He will see us through.

five on Friday

“Radical obedience to Christ is not easy…….. It’s not comfort, not health, not wealth, and not prosperity in this world. Radical obedience to Christ risks losing all these things. But in the end, such risk finds its reward in Christ. And He is more than enough for us.” David Platt
1 Vocation and that old ordained-lay debate.
2 I like the idea of a biography of a book. 
3 Ten insights into burnout. Lots of helpful input here.
Christianity isn’t dying- it’s sleeping Here’s to revival!
5 Five marks of a fruitful church. Worth reflection.

more

“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us.” Ephesians 3 v 20

God’s ways trump our wildest expectations. We forget this, asking for smaller things, satisfied with humdrum. What an adventure He calls us on! We need to dream bigger for the kingdom of God. When we do, Paul is clear, God supplies more than we need—greater answers to prayer than we ever expected.

How can this be? Paul says it’s the power that works within us. The Holy Spirit lives and breathes and walks with us through our lives. He gives us the power to do great things, by His strength. He will also enlarge our imaginations for the kingdom.

Yes, life is hard. Yes, bad things happen. Yes, we have much to heal from. But if we stay mired in those difficult places forever, we’ll forget to dream. Our vision will narrow and we’ll read the gospels and forget just how astounding they are. People were raised from the dead. The blind could see. The lame could dance. The poor were dignified—all this from the power of our great and surprising God.

‘Lord, enlarge my dreams for the kingdom. I trust You to answer in powerful ways. Have your way in me. Amen.’

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