An Upside Down Kingdom!

John 12:24-25 “Truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Whoever loves his life loses it, but whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.”

Jesus words are both compelling and convicting. His kingdom is an upside down kingdom to the popular voice of self-centeredness and self-absorption that we are saturated with in our culture. Jesus says that in order to truly live, you must love this temporary world less for the sake of others eternities. A life surrendered to Christ doesn’t exist for ones self but for the benefit of others. Following Jesus isn’t “me first” but “Christ first” and the application of that is in the way we relate to and treat others. 

Why Australia needs a Great Awakening!

Australia has never had a nation wide awakening of the Gospel and it desperately needs it. Why? Because the general population is dead in sin.

Throughout history other nations like Wales, Scotland, England, Nigeria, Argentina, South Korea and the USA have been awakened by God’s Spirit working through the proclamation of the gospel and the prayers of the saints.

Australia is one of the most popular and prosperous nations across the world and yet we are one of the most spiritually impoverished nations on the planet. We are steeped in materialistic comfort and spiritual apathy. We are consumed with our houses and holidays and care little for eternal matters. While we seemingly have everything, we seem to be more bored and miserable than ever before.

I had the privilege of visiting Calcutta, India in 2012 with Compassion Australia and had one of the Indian professional development program students comment, “I want India to become like Australia because Australia is heaven.” I understood where he was coming from but I thought to myself, “Ahh, you probably wouldn’t think this if you knew the spiritual climate in my nation.” I remember hearing Ps Wayne Cordeiro respond to a Chinese Christian on a ministry trip to China when it was said to him, “I’m praying that China will become like America”, Wayne said, “Well, I’m praying that America will become like China.”

There is the misguided perception that western nations like the USA and Australia have it all going on for them. While this may be true from a material perspective, it is very far from the truth when it comes to the decline in mission, church attendance and biblical fervency.

I have a strong conviction that Australia needs pastors, preachers and believers to remain on these shores and pray and proclaim the gospel and plant churches like never before. We are more pagan than ever before but never has there been such an opportunity in our history when the church can rise up and march forward into mission engagement than right now.

We are facing the same dynamics of the early church in the book of Acts. It’s in these pagan lands that the faithful, powerful proclamation of the Gospel abounds in much fruit and kingdom advancement. I refuse to believe that just because the spiritual plains seem harder here than other lands, that the Holy Spirit can’t move as he has in other countries throughout history. We have got to stop making excuses and continuing contending for the gospel, whilst we contextualize it in Melbourne, Sydney, Perth, Adelaide, Brisbane, Hobart,  Darwin and beyond.

If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land. (2 Chron 7:14)

Grace!

Cross the Line!

Luke 19:10 “For the Son of Man came to seek and save the lost.”

There comes a point in every Christians journey when they need to decide what sort of Christian they want to be. What am I talking about? Jesus said, “Which of you desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man who began to build was not able to finish.”

There is a cost and a call involved in following Christ. You can decide to play it safe and be a nominal Christian who attends Church but doesn’t actively live out their faith and evangelize others in the gospel or you can choose to CROSS THE LINE and be the real deal and embrace the cost and reach out to people who don’t know Jesus.

The cost of following Christ can look like persecution and criticism from others, both close and far to you and the call looks like laying your life down to make disciples of others. I have experienced the reality of both of these in my walk with God.

As a full time pastor of a local church I could very easily hide behind the facade of the pulpit and not venture out past my own office to reach out to people far away from Jesus but the truth is, everyday I have a choice to make regarding the thousands of people that walk past Activate Church in our local shopping centre. Not only that but I could choose to not embrace all of Jesus teachings and develop a safe reputation within my local community or I could choose to cross the line and lay my life down for Jesus regardless of what people may say.

You can’t truly follow Jesus and do it half-heartedly. You are either all in or all out. One of the blessings of my life is being raised in a strong Christian home but at the same time one of the challenges of my life is being raised in a strong Christian home because I can easily forget the reality of being completely separated from God and what that feeling must be like.

I was sitting in a staff prayer meeting the other day and my eyes were opened again to the full realisation of the life Jesus has called me to. In my spirit, all I could hear was, “Cross the line… cross the line… cross the line…” I had a choice to make, Was I going to play it safe in my office or venture out and talk to someone about Jesus? Was I going to preach what God really wanted me to preach on Sunday or tone it down so that it was more tasteful from a religious perspective?

I can’t play it safe. I’m either all in or all out. I’ve crossed the line. How about you?

Insight!

Doing Church with guests in mind!

Acts 10:23 “So he invited them in to be his guests.”

Acts 10 is an important chapter in the history of the early church because it transitions the church from focusing on itself and it’s own cultural heritage to focusing on the Gentiles and God’s heart for all people, not just the Jews. Peter’s vision of the great sheet descending with all kinds of animals to eat was a powerful metaphor for ministry to the Gentiles. Peter’s encounter with the men from Joppa, with Cornelius and the outpouring of the Spirit accompanying the proclamation of the Gospel gives us insights today into doing church with guests in mind.

What direction is your vision heading in? Too often our vision is focused inward, rather than outward. Peter’s vision from God was about others, the Gentiles. Authentic visions from heaven will be more about others, than they will be about us. Check the compass of your vision. If your vision is more about you then it is about others, you may have the wrong vision.

God will send guests your way if your vision is in alignment with his plan – Immediately after Peter’s vision, the Holy Spirit sends three Gentiles to Peter to ask him to come and share God’s Word with them and their master, Cornelius. Why should God send guests to a church where no-one in the church has them in mind? They’ll only get disappointed and potentially hurt. When our vision is in alignment with his plan for the salvation of lost people, guests will be sent our way.

Presume that God is already at work in guests lives – Peter was told that Cornelius had a supernatural encounter with an angel. Often we think that God’s not at work until we meet them cause apparently we are God’s answer to the world’s problems but the truth is, people are more ready than we realize. Trust that God has already been at work in their lives and gone before you to prepare the way for your ministry to them.

Invite outsiders in to be your guests – Peter invited the three men to be his guests. Build an invitational culture into your life and ministry. Make it easy for guests to connect with your life group and church. Don’t make guests jump through 10 steps to access the gospel, take them straight to it and bring them into your world.

One guest is a doorway to a whole new network of people – When Peter met Cornelius, his influence expanded to everyone that Cornelius knew. One of my team said to me once, “I don’t know where the people are going to come from.” I said, “That’s easy, through the relational networks of the next guest that walks into our church.” Everyone of us has a network of people that we are connected to that also has a network of people that they are connected to. One person is a doorway to many other people. As God works on one person, he also creates space for you to minister to the other people in that persons life.

Keep the focus on the message of the Gospel – Peter didn’t teach some weird doctrine to his new friends. He kept the message simple and straight = Jesus Christ and him crucified. He kept true to the Gospel and to what he had personally witnessed to. The Gospel works but we need to stay centered on it.

Don’t shy away from the supernatural – As Peter was speaking to them, the Holy Spirit pours out powerfully on them and they start to speak in tongues. Now right here is where many seeker-friendly churches draw the line because it’s presumed that this is not what people are looking for but it’s what God does when he is given room to move in people’s lives. As people hunger for God, He shows up and performs the miraculous. Never make excuses for moving in the power of the Spirit. Let God be God and get out of the way.

Lastly, be prepared for criticism from religious people – When Peter returned to Jerusalem with news of what God had been doing amongst the Gentiles (11:2-3) he was severely criticized for hanging out with the uncircumcised party let alone ministering to them. Satan hates people getting free and he will even incite religious people to look down their nose at you to try to stop you from doing church with guests in mind. Love these people and be gracious with them but keep doing church with guests in mind and God will continue to bless your ministry.

Insight!