Entries Tagged 'Life' ↓

Moving Forward

desert_hikingSometimes the next steps after a major victory, or change in season can be the most treacherous. They’re the times when we often let our guards down

This little story about the Israelites, after passing through the Red Sea, has some simple little instructions for how to keep moving forward when you’ve just gone through a change in season, or just enjoyed a big victory in life.

22 So Moses brought Israel from the Red Sea; then they went out into the Wilderness of Shur. And they went three days in the wilderness and found no water. 23 Now when they came to Marah, they could not drink the waters of Marah, for they were bitter. Therefore the name of it was called Marah. 24 And the people complained against Moses, saying, “What shall we drink?” 25 So he cried out to the Lord, and theLord showed him a tree. When he cast it into the waters, the waters were made sweet.

There He made a statute and an ordinance for them, and there He tested them, 26 and said, “If you diligently heed the voice of the Lord your God and do what is right in His sight, give ear to His commandments and keep all His statutes, I will put none of the diseases on you which I have brought on the Egyptians. For I am the Lord who heals you.”

27 Then they came to Elim, where there were twelve wells of water and seventy palm trees; so they camped there by the waters.

Here’s my take on what to do after the Victory, or change, in order to keep moving forward:

v.22 – After the Obvious victory, don’t settle. Keep moving forward. Even if it looks like the next part will be tough.

v.23 – Don’t be so quick to name/label a situation or a season. It’s not always as it seems.

v.24 – The people were driven by their thirst to complaining and fighting, but Moses was driven to seek God. Don’t forget to keep seeking God, despite having just had a big win – remember that it was He who caused it, not You.

v.25 – The Tree = Jesus. Allow Jesus to act as a filter – a purifier – He will always turn a bitter situation into a sweet victory.

v.26 – Listen, then Do. Listen then, Do. The instruction is repeated because it’s important. It’s not actions that sustain us but the very voice of God. He IS speaking, but are we always listening. The temptation after a positive win in life is to stop listening for the voice of God as much as we did when things were hard, and the victory was not yet had.

v.27 – Look for the established waters. 12 speaks of government and established systems. 70 (or 7 x 10) is perfection and completion. Drink from established systems of spiritual nourishment and you will find yourself in the shadow of (His wing) perfect complete covering. In other words, we’re not meant to do this journey alone.

No matter where you lead from in life, always look for those who have gone before you on this journey, they are like established wells, and shady palms. It isn’t weakness to learn from others – it’s wisdom.

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Fear of the explained

20120726-132517.jpg I just sat with a doctor and a bible college student and had the most interesting conversation about science, medicine, evolution, the universe and miracles. I love these types of conversations, they get my mind racing in a million different directions and activate thought processes that so often lie dormant.

In the midst of our discussion – which so reminded me of Rabbis debating/discussing life and God – I asked the question; are Christians actually afraid of explanations, because we fear that to explain something might take away from God?

Hypothetically, we were discussing what it would mean if we prayed that God would levitate our Café Latté (from Blackboard Coffee of course) off the table and it actually happened. And then, what it would mean if we could come up with a completely scientific and “rational” explanation of how that could have happened. Does the fact that we can explain it – as well as the belief that God orchestrated it – take away from the miracle of it actually happening? Ultimately does it take away from God.

Or what about an actual event. Jesus calms the wind and the waves right? We believe that. We also know that he knew that moment was going to happen. So when did he orchestrate it? There in the boat? Or from the very foundation of the earth? Could it have been that because He is all knowing and knew what the disciples would need at that very minute that He orchestrated a storm to stop raging, and everything that needed to happen for that event to take place was set in motion from the creation of the earth? What if it was just a matter of timing? Does knowing that make it seem like a cheap trick, or does it make Him seem even more awesome that he planned that event from the beginning of time?

See what blows my mind is, what if we’re doing that today. What if we’re so afraid that if we have the answers to something, or can explain it scientifically, that we’ll take away from the awesomeness of God?Because the problem is, we’ve seen this before.

“The earth is Round”

“No it’s not, it’s flat, and if you believe that, it’s of the devil, and you’re against God”

Uh-oh, guess what. Turns out those whacky (demonic?) scientists were right about that one.

But did finding out that the earth was a ball and not a pancake take away from God, or did it make us marvel at Him more and More?

Because what I’ve observed in my very short amount of time on this ball, is that the more we discover (and can explain) the bigger God gets.

So next time you look up at the stars and marvel at how big the universe is, or how amazing and intricate the human body is. Don’t worry, some day it’s likely that someone will be able to explain to you exactly how that works.

And knowing it..

Explaining it..

Won’t take away from God, it will only cause you to stand in awe of Him even more. And then the real question becomes, not “God, how did you do this?”, but “God, why. And why me?”

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Finding the Will of God

What exactly is God’s Will? It’s one of the hardest questions you will ever ask yourself and yet it should be one of the most frequent. We’re often hesitant to trust our lives completely to God for fear that He may want to change our plans. The reality: He will change your plans…if you let Him. Experience should tell us that His plans are infinitely better than ours anyway. And yet we frequently set ourselves as the architects of our destiny.

But here’s an interesting question about the will of God: If it’s God’s will to do X, then how come Y. You hear this all the time: “If it’s God’s will that none should perish, why do some perish?” Or, here’s a tricky question: was it God’s will for Judas to betray Jesus? If we answer “no” we find ourselves trying to explain then how Jesus could be betrayed (which had to happen) without anyone committing that particular sin. But if we answer “yes” we have to admit that God wanted Judas to commit a sin! The reality is that we cannot easily answer this question with our english word ‘will’. The New Testament Greek actually uses two words for the will of God. The first is Boulema, which speaks of God’s unchangeable, immutable will (His Plans). The second word is Thelema, which speaks about God’s desires and what he wishes for us (His Character). So the answer to the question; ‘was it God’s will for Judas to betray Jesus?’ – Boulema: yes; Thelema: no.

The first step in seeking God’s will for any situation in life, great or small, is to check your relationship with Him. If you want to know what God would think about a particular situation then you have to get on the same page as His thinking, His Character, His Thelema. But maybe your question is on a grander scale. Perhaps you’re thinking about your destiny or ‘your calling’. “Do you want to find God’s call on your life? Then pay attention to how God has gifted you” (T&C Sine, Living on Purpose). It should be no surprise that God’s ultimate will for our lives, His Boulema for us, is in complete alignment with our gifts, abilities and even desires. Perhaps this doesn’t make logical sense for us at the moment. Maybe you’re saying, ‘that’s all well and good, but there’s no money to be made from my ability to xyz’. But here’s the deal, and you can only ever find this out completely by fully trusting that God is for you – if He has purposed you for a task, hasn’t He also equipped AND PROVIDED for you to complete it? Maybe it doesn’t look like it on the surface, but my experience and the testimony of many who have taken this leap tells me that he DOES care for you more than the grass, the lilly and the birds and he WILL provide.

Joy Dawson says in her book ‘Forever Ruined for the Ordinary': “We will never experience intimate friendship with God until we have learned to be obedient to the constraints and restraints of the Holy Spirit in matters small and large”. Wow! Never? Oh, you can be in relationship with him, and you can be (mostly) in obedience to Him. But I want to be on the same page as Him. I want to be fulfilling the amazing call that He has placed on my life and in order for me to find that I have to KNOW his boulema and EXPERIENCE his thelema. You cannot ever divorce the reality of needing to know God’s ultimate plans for you from needing to experience his character, nature and love towards you.

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Change for the sake of Change

Have you heard the saying “don’t just change for the sake of change”? I disagree, sometimes the reason for change should be change itself.

I sat down with one of our pastors yesterday morning as we pondered a new layout for our auditorium and cafe. We got to talking about how people would perceive and react to a visible change in the building, especially something so obvious as seating. We both came to the conclusion that change was a good thing, and here’s why:

1. Change keeps your eyes focussed
It’s amazing how many things in life become routine and habit and (dare I say it) tradition. Without becoming consciously aware of those things they invariably become things we get ‘precious’ about. Funny how so many disagreements in churches started over something like the colour of the carpet, or the order of service. Changing those things every once in a while, for the sake of change, helps us to pick up on those aspects that were becoming ingrained into our culture and allows us to evaluate their purpose and priority.

2. Change keeps your ears attuned
Did you ever just move your bedroom around for the sake of it and then when you lay down on your bed things sounded different to how they used to. Sometimes I think God is trying to say a new thing to us for a new season and if we don’t allow ‘change for the sake of change’ to become a part of our culture then we often let things in life that were, at one time positioned for a good purpose, become sound-proof barriers to what God is trying to speak to us about today.

3. Change keeps your mouth (speech) fresh
Whenever I visit my favorite cafe, or shop or park I find I notice less and less about it. Especially the specific details that I noticed on my first and second visits, like ‘what was the view like’, or ‘what decor did they use’. The less I notice, the less I talk to my friends about those places. Now, those things aren’t important in themselves, but funny how when they change the layout of my favorite cafe, I’m inspired once again to talk about the place with my friends and family. A ‘change for the sake of change’ can often be the catalyst for a renewed sense of inspiration and a desire to share those places/things with others.

4. Change keeps your feet moving.
Do you remember how you drove here, what roads you took, what the weather was like while you were driving, how many red lights you stopped at? Habit and routine, although helpful at times often numb us to the details of the journey. When a system, a place or an organization makes a change you have to re-engage all your faculties to be able to navigate your way though it once again. The act of doing this awakens you to many of the aspects that have dulled over time and yet, were at one stage, the things you noticed most.
Drive a different way to work. Leave at a different time. Make a different meal. Visit a different shopping centre. Sing a different song. Read a different translation (ooh..). Study a different book. Say hello to someone at church you’ve seen before, but never had a conversation with.

God is never stale. Jesus constantly surprised his followers. One of the hardest things the pharisees found about Jesus was that he was so unpredictable, at least according to their established systems. Maybe he wasn’t so unpredictable, maybe he just knew that changing for the sake of change would open people’s eyes, unblock their ears, get them speaking about something new and get their feet moving….to follow him.

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Forgiveness and Mercy

A friend of mine asked me to give her some thoughts about the death penalty from a pastor’s point of view for a paper she was writing. It asked me to specifically consider Old Testament law. So here we go…

Using passages from the Old Testament to determine how we should make law under the new covenant is difficult, because the old covenant was so different and only ever pointed the way to how we should live as children of God. The laws from the time of Moses existed to show us how much we need God, and how, because of sin, we aren’t fully able to make good decisions on our own and therefore need God to step in and help us out.

When Jesus came he offered a way of life that was freedom from the law but was actually more work. He said if a person asks for your cloak, give them your tunic too. If a person slaps one of your cheeks, turn the other way and let them slap the other. The Christian life is not just about following a set of laws anymore, it’s about following an example of a Man who was God – Jesus. Now we don’t follow a law set in stone, but the law of grace.

Grace tells us that we live lives that are poured out for others. Everything about our lives is given to others and is focussed on others.

So the question is should we have the death penalty for murderers. Actually the real question should be, how should we treat people if they let us down. You see people make mistakes all the time, but the law of grace says we can ‘cover over’ those mistakes because we don’t focus any more on how you let us down, but on how much we can give to you DESPITE the fact that you let us down and probably will again. Then the next questions is, Well how much is too much? Surely there is a line that people can cross when the grace-life can’t cover it anymore. Actually the Bible tells us that Grace is “sufficient” – in every circumstance. It also tells us in Romans 8 that NOTHING can separate you from the love (grace) of God.

OK then, so if we are to live lives that are focussed on others and defined by grace then what should we do about murderers? Well, is grace enough in every situation? Yes. Can any sin (e.g. murder) be too much for grace? No. And if we are truly focussed on others, would we ‘want’ that person to be killed to satisfy our own selfish need for revenge, or our own sense of justice? No.

What makes it difficult of course is that we still all have to live together in society in a fallen world. Of course there must be penalties to discourage people from doing wrong. But when we focus first on them, we realise that if we are truly wanting them to repent (which means turn their life around) then killing them too isn’t going to help us do that.

It’s really hard to live this life. Like I said – the law was hard, but the way of grace is harder. Especially if you’re the family of the person who was killed. The truth is, our sin nature wants us to be the judge, but God says that only he can truly judge. Where does that leave us then? Only to love, and show grace. It’s not easy – but God empowers and enables us to do it.

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A change of Season

Funny how they call this “the Christmas Season”.  The word season comes from the Latin – Sationem.  Meaning “to plant, or to sow”.  In an agricultural society the time of year when you sowed seed was the major event of the year.  Everything lead up to and was focussed around that time of year.  Not, tending to crops, not reaping harvest – but sowing.  Why would your primary focus be on the end result when those things could only happen if you first sowed seed anyway.

And so today we mark four different “seasons” of the year, and we have the ‘Christmas season’, ‘football season’, ‘hunting season’ and so on.  But what we’ve lost, etymologically speaking anyway,  is a way of viewing life based on beginnings.  You see, for the farmer, every time he sows – it’s a new beginning.  And without that “Season” there is no continuation.  Once he’s tended to, and harvested the crops from the last season he needs to focus his attentions on preparing for the next one.  Now maybe that’s just a repeat or replica of the last one – but more often than not circumstances have changed and the way you sowed last season might not be appropriate now.

Maybe that’s why we get so hung up on change, differences and uncomfortable shifts.  We’re used to this idea that summer is summer, and winter is winter and why can’t last year be like this one.  But if we don’t learn to recognise the changes that are needed and we “sow” in the same way we did last year our crops may not grow in the most effective way, if at all.

When Jesus spoke to people about the best way to do life he often spoke from the perspective of an agricultural society – after all that was their reality.  In fact there was this one time when He came across a fig tree that was acting “out of season”.

Mark 11:13
Seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to find out if it had any fruit. When he reached it, he found nothing but leaves, because it was not the season for figs.

And then in a seemingly random act of divine arboricide he curses the tree and it ends up withering and dying.  What’s going on here?  Well two things you need to know; 1. When a fig tree is in full leaf it also contains figs.  Leaves = fruit, simple.  2. Mark records it himself, and based on the time of year, it’s true – it wasn’t fig season.  So Jesus sees this fig tree in full leaf in the distance and being hungry decides to pick it’s fruit, which should, on account of it’s appearance, be there.  However, because of the season this tree has no fruit.  But why the anger towards this innocent tree.

On a kingdom scale I believe Jesus is talking about the way His church needs to be.  No more just a show (the law) that produces no real fruit.  Jesus is so much more concerned about what fruit we produce than the way we look.  After all, if people come to us hungry because it looks like we have the answer to their hunger problem but all they find is ‘showy’ leaves.  Pretty soon they’ll leave dissatisfied.  Even of we manage to convince them of all the benefits of the leaves; shade, shelter, appearance – they’ll eventually die of starvation.  Isn’t that what religion does?  It’s preens in it’s self proclaimed glory, but when the people come hungry it offers no real food.

On a personal level, Jesus is talking to us about not only being what we appear to be, but also acting out of season.  I imagine that when the last fig had fallen from this tree that tree was sad that this ‘season’ was over.  When it was time to let go of the leaves that were meant for that specific purpose it couldn’t because of all of the fond memories it had of the amazing fruit it had been able to give out.  And so it clung to those past times in a vain hope that it could resurrect them one day if only it could convince enough people that “those were the days”.

What this fig tree failed to realise was that we cannot be defined by last season.  As much as we may try to hang on to it, seasons are, by definition, new beginnings.  Even if they appear the same, you have to start again.  You have to work out what it means for you to “sow” this time around.  What’s changed about the landscape you’re on?  What environmental factors will change the type of seed you sow this year.  Who do you have working in your fields now that might determine the way you tend to your crops?

Don’t just make This Christmas “Season” the same as last year’s.  Find out what makes it unique.  And when you pursue that, God can work with you.

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