The great god of our age is ‘THINGS’. Our fallen nature covets THINGS at the expense of God. God gave us THINGS to use and enjoy but instead we use God to obtain and worship THINGS. THINGS are anything other than God himself. THINGS aren’t bad, they are just not God and they can’t satisfy the craving of the human heart for God. God made us for himself alone and our hearts are restless until we come to a place of self-surrender and rest in God. The Self-Life is what gets in the way of our pursuit of God. Anything to do with life that emanates from self = self-righteousness, self-sufficiency, self-admiration and self-pity, to name a few, will make the pursuit of self the holy grail rather than Jesus. What is the cure for such a malady? The cross. Denying self and allowing the cross of Jesus to kill off in us a desire for THINGS will redeem our affections for God and his glory alone. After the cross comes resurrection. The new creation in us will rise again to a place where God becomes our everything. We may have many THINGS or few THINGS but no THING possesses us except our love and devotion to Christ alone!
Too easily we look at the problems in the world and throw our arms in the air, exclaiming, ‘What difference can I make?’ Its the 2nd mile that makes the biggest difference. Whats the 2nd mile? In Jesus day the Romans legislated a practice they borrowed off the Persians to subjugate the people they had conquered. If a Roman soldier saw a Jewish person, he could command them to carry their burden for up to a mile. Most Jews wouldn’t carry a Romans burden 1 inch further than the law required. Jesus said, ‘Go the 2nd mile’. Do more than what is expected of you. Give people more than they expect to receive and God will bless you with more than you expect to receive. The 1st mile is the legalism mile, whereas, the 2nd mile is the love mile. The 1st mile is duty mile, whereas, the 2nd mile is the devotion mile. The 1st mile is the service mile, whereas, the 2nd mile is the intimacy mile. The 1st mile is the convenience mile, whereas, the 2nd mile is the sacrifice mile. The 1st mile is the performance mile, whereas, the 2nd mile is the worship mile. The 1st mile is the mundane mile, whereas, the 2nd mile is the miraculous mile. Jesus went the 2nd mile on the cross and called us to go the 2nd mile for others.
book of the week
Sex and the Supremacy of Christ is not just another book on sex but it lifts our gaze to consider the God who made us sexual creatures for his glory. In a world where sex has become an idol and cheap, this book reflects on the bible’s teaching of such topics as sex and the single, homosexual marriage, restoring the sexually broken and sex, romance the glory of Christ. The editors John Piper and Justin Taylor have brought together several contributers for this project and the content within it has definitely sharpened my thinking on the topic.
quote of the week
Anonymous comment to my blog post ‘Jesus didn’t die for gold dust’, “To unbelievers, gold dust is bull dust.”
news of the week
Activate’s creative director Sam Jervis is launching his debut album, “Heart Aflame” on Saturday May 26, 2012 at Activate Church. Tickets will be available in the near future. I’ll provide a link in the coming weeks.
moment of the week
I was sick earlier in the week but the highlight would have been discipling a new Christian on Thursday night. He is like a sponge, hungry to devour every bit of information and insight he can. It’s refreshing to find someone so eager to grow in Christ. His potential is huge.
Acts 16:25-26 “But at midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them, and suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison was shaken. And immediately all the doors were opened, and everyone’s bonds were unfastened.”
This is a great picture of what the power of praise does in our lives. Paul and Silas were in the middle of a ‘midnight’ season. They had been imprisoned for delivering a young girl of demonic oppression, whom had been used for commercial profit in the city of Philippi. As a result, Paul and Silas had been placed into shackles in the inner prison and left to rot BUT at midnight, what could have justly become a pity-party became a praise party.
Habakkuk 3:17-18 says, “Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet will I rejoice in the Lord. I will take joy in the God of my salvation.”
Anybody can praise when there is money in the bank, opportunities on the go and there’s nothing but daylight ahead but it’s another thing to praise God at ‘midnight’ when nothing is going your way. This is the situation Paul and Silas find themselves in and instead of complaining about their midnight season, they do directly the opposite and PRAISE God instead.
The word PRAISE means to give thanks. Praise is your confession and declaration of thanksgiving for who God is. Paul and Silas’ example teaches us powerful insights into the dynamic of praise in our lives:
Praise is always VERBAL – Praise is a confession, not just a thought. The bible doesn’t understand praise apart from opening your mouth and declaring the greatness of God. Our God is a speaking God. He said, ‘Let there be light, and there was light.’ We have been made after the image of God and therefore, like God, have creative power in our words. When we declare the praises of God, we are affecting change in the atmosphere of our lives. Paul and Silas were praising God in such an overt way that the prisoners around them were listening to them. Paul and Silas didn’t care what anyone thought of them because they knew that the best thing to do in light of who God is and the circumstances they were facing, was to praise God anyhow. There is no power in our praise until we declare it out of our mouth. Praise isn’t a personality thing, it’s a bible thing. We don’t sing, clap, shout and lift our hands because of our personality but because it’s in the bible.
Praise is a CHOICE – It doesn’t have anything to do with your feelings. Midnight in the dungeon of a prison isn’t exactly conducive to feelings of peace and relaxation and yet Paul and Silas chose to assume the posture of praise. Psalm 34:1 says, ‘I will bless the Lord at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth.’ Whatever circumstances you are facing, choose to bless the Lord and fill your mouth with continual praise. Your problems aren’t going to change by blaming God for them but your attitude will change towards them when you start praising God in the midst of them. God inhabits the praises of his people, not the problems of his people. God cares about the things you face but he is not essentially moved by them. He is moved by your faith because without faith, it’s impossible to please God, for he who comes to God must believe that he exists and that he is a rewarder of those who seek him. Praise is the birthing position for breakthrough in your circumstances. God draws near to praisers, not whingers. Choose to become better, not bitter by choosing PRAISE.
Praise will set you FREE – As Paul and Silas praised God, all of a sudden, the foundations of the prison was shaken by an earthquake and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone’s bonds were unfastened. The power for freedom comes through praise. Bishop Jakes says of this passage, “The earthquake wasn’t God getting them out, it was God breaking into their praise. God had to get into where the praise was.” Praise gets your eyes off your midnight hour and onto the presence of God. Praise just doesn’t set you free, it has the corporate power to set others free as well. In your life and calling you will face challenges and issues that will feel limiting and burdensome but when you choose to verbalize your praise, you will experience freedom in your life and the lives of others.
Insight! (My close friend Ps Andrew Newbold has graciously contributed some key thoughts to this blog post)
We’re living in a culture of disillusionment saturated by secularization, post-modernism, paganism, idolatry and individualism. In the midst of all of this, there is no substitute for the local church. What makes the church, the church is connected to mans real need.
Man’s real need isn’t sickness, due to being a victim of circumstances. Man’s real need is to be reconciled to God because of our rebellion (Romans 4:11-18). All brokenness in our lives is a symptom of man’s rebellion in some form or another. Man’s rebellion has caused ignorance and death and yet the church has been given the cure. The church is a specialist body of people not called to reproduce the work of other agencies but to preach the GOSPEL.
Every person on the planet needs an encounter with God’s grace and truth. The Gospel message proclaimed and the Gospel message practiced works because man’s rebellion hasn’t changed. We are all in need of a saviour and how will we respond to the call of the Gospel if someone doesn’t preach to us and practice grace and truth before us.
Preaching is central to Christian worship and where it has become a secondary priority, the church has suffered. Preaching is a calling, not a passing fad of a bygone era. Preaching is being able to articulate the paradox of the human soul and give insight into God’s ideas to the mysteries of life. While the presentation is important, the real substance is found in the value of the insight being shared. Preaching takes the words of Scripture and brings them to life so people’s hearts can be transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit in the word of God.