Wow! It's only 8 weeks until Church Unite 2015 and all our teams are excited for what's in store. Have you registered?
While Church Unite is a free event, you will still need to register as we expect it will be sold out.
Click here to register for the 4pm service.
Click here to register for the 7pm service.
We're pleased to let you know that the next prayer event leading into Church Unite on October 25 will be held next Thursday September 3.
Where: Bayside Church, 99-101 Argus Street, Cheltenham
We hope that you will be able to join us as we pray for the Church Unite 2015 event and for the city of Melbourne to be transformed by the love of Jesus. It won’t be the same without you, so pop it in your diary today!
The Church Unite Team
Posted at 04:44 PM | Permalink
A new day.
A fresh start
A clear page
Wonders waiting to be discovered.
New dreams yet to be born.
Visions still unseen.
Wisdom from God's world.
Yesterday is gone.
Only a memory now.
Tomorrow's not yet here.
A future unrealized.
Always beyond our grasp.
The distant horizon.
Live in this moment.
Right here right now.
The present is what we have.
Pregnant with possibility.
HE is here.
All you need.
Walk in faith.
Love is here.
Trust and wait.
Seize the day.
Drink it full.
All the way.
Brave and strong.
Free at last.
Climb your mountain.
Sing your song.
Reach for the sky.
Life is adventure.
Scary for sure.
Well worth living.
This is your day.
The Australian Christian Book of the Year Award is given annually to an original book written by an Australian citizen. The award recognises and encourages excellence in Australian Christian writing. The ACBOTY Award carries a prize of $3,000 for the author, and a framed certificate for the author and publisher. Entries are judged with an eye to the:
Entries are read and judged by a panel selected by the SparkLit Council.
The letters and journals of both chaplains and soldiers animate this account of the work of chaplains in every theatre of war involving Australian troops. While the role of the chaplain has changed over time, the common task remains the ministry of God’s Word and the sacraments to soldiers, burying the dead and representing an alternative reality to the conflict, chaos and suffering. Increasingly unfashionable in some spheres of society, chaplains continue to be valued in proportion to the proximity of battle. Gladwin does not flinch from portraying chaplains who behaved disgracefully nor from facing up to the problem of fatalism amongst some Australian troops. However, acts of heroism by ‘the soldier without a gun’ abound and provide Christian communicators with a treasury of inspiring, home-grown stories. This is a history of national importance and an insight into the Australian character.
To read about the other eight books short-listed, visit sparklit.org
Only one hunderd years ago the average human life span was less than 50 years. Today, we are one of the first generations to live long enough to have two considerably lengthy halves of life. Even at the age of 50, although you will have already had 30 years of work and contribution, you have a possible additional 'second half' of another 30 years or more of contribution. In our first half we tend to focus on whatever we define as 'success'. It's wise to have a good 'halftime' experience in order to reflect on our life and ensure that our second half has a greater focus on 'significance'.
Bob Buford writes about this life perspective in his best-selling book Halftime: Changing Your Game Plan from Success to Significance. Building on this concept, the Halftime Institute exists to assist people from all walks of life to pause, reflect and discover what they want to achieve in the second half of their life.
Halftime Australia is led by my good friend, John Sikkema. They provide a range of services including coaching, personal mentoring and round tables with groups of people seeking this similar clarity.
I highly recommend this organisation to you, knowing it will greatly benefit your life, as it has mine. Why not give John a call and see how Halftime could assist you in your life journey.
Paul at Athens
The apostle Paul gives us an insightful example as to how to engage with our culture during his time in the pagan city of ancient Athens as recorded in Acts 17. He spent time in the synagogue, in the marketplace and then was invited to the Areopagus to engage with the philosophers there. These places can represent three different environments or spaces in our own world today.
The result? Some people sneered or mocked, especially when hearing about the resurrection, others wanted to hear more, while others put their faith in Jesus (vs.32-34). We see these same responses today when people hear the Gospel.
There is much we can learn from Paul in living out his faith in these three very different environments, each of which has relevance for us. Today, we will focus on the marketplace.
Most people spend over half of their waking hours in the ‘workplace’. Everyone works, whether we get paid or not, including students, stay-at-home parents, and retirees. God himself is a worker (Gen.2:1-3; John 5:17) and we are created in his image to work as his representatives on the earth (Gen.2:15). Work, despite the effects of the curse, is to have dignity, value and meaning. Unfortunately, we have been affected by a dualism that divides between the ‘sacred’ (the synagogue) and the ‘secular’ (the marketplace) when in reality all of life is sacred and part of God’s domain (see Col.3:17). God is just as interested in our Mondays as he is in our Sundays!
A few years ago, in our teaching series entitled Your Work God’s Work, we looked at a theology of work. The purpose of work is to: (1) glorify God, (2) serve people, (3) provide for meaningful contribution, and (4) generate wealth. Of course, work isn’t everything. You are not your job. We need to balance work with the other aspects of our life, including family, church, rest and recreation. However, because of the importance of work, how we work really matters (see Col.3:22 – 4:6). Qualities such as diligence, integrity and love usually lead to opportunities to share our faith in Jesus with ‘outsiders’. Each of us needs to be ready to give an answer (Greek apologia, from which we derive the concept of Christian Apologetics) for the hope we have (1 Peter 3:15).
When speaking to these pagan people, Paul stated that, “God is not far from any one of us” (Acts 17:27). This directly challenges the concept of certain people being “far from God”. The truth is that God is close to each person and we simply need to pray for them to awake to the reality of God’s existence and love for them. This is usually a process and occurs over a period of time. Our part to play is simply to join the work God is already doing in people’s hearts and lives.
The first Christians preached the same Gospel of Jesus Christ (1Cor.15:11) yet they expressed it in significantly different ways depending on their audience. For instance, Matthew emphasises ‘the kingdom’ while John focuses on ‘eternal life’ and Paul on ‘justification’. These are not different gospels. Contextualisation requires us to think about how the good news of Jesus meets the needs of a particular person, as well as how it confronts their idols (things they pursue to meet those needs but that, in the end, don’t truly satisfy).
Also, check out Halftime Australia.
Once upon a time it was announced that the devil was going out of business and would sell all his equipment to those who were willing to pay the price.
On the big day of the sale, all his tools were attractively displayed. There was Envy, Jealousy, Hatred, Malice, Deceit, Sensuality, Pride, Idolatry, and other implements of evil on display. Each of the tools was marked with its own price tag.
Over in the corner by itself was a harmless-looking, wedge-shaped tool very much worn down, but still it bore a higher price than any of the others. Someone asked the devil what it was, and he answered, "That is Discouragement." The next question came quickly: "And why is it priced so high even though it is plain to see that it is more worn than these others?"
"Because," replied the devil, "it is more useful to me than all these others. I can pry open and get into a person's heart with that when I cannot get near him with any other tool. Once I get inside, I can use him or her in whatever way suits me best. It is worn well because I use it on everybody I can, and few people even know it belongs to me."
This tool was priced so high that no one could buy it, and to this day it has never been sold. It still belongs to the devil, and he still uses it on people of all kinds.
Galatians 6:9. Let's not allow ourselves to get fatigued doing good. At the right time we will harvest a good crop if we don't give up, or quit. The Message Bible
See also: Discouragement - A Poem
No matter how old you are now, you are never too young or too old for doing something meaningful and significant with your life.
Here’s a short list of people who accomplished some amazing things at different ages of their life:
The apostle Peter wrote a letter to some Christians in the first century AD. In it, he said this:
1 Peter 3:15-16. "In your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander."
The Greek word translated "answer" is the word apologia which means to give a defense, a reply or an answer for the faith or hope we have in Jesus Christ. It is where we derive the English word "apologetics". Christian apologetics is a field of Christian theology which presents reasoned bases for the Christian faith, defending the faith against objections.
One of the leading Christian apologists today is Ravi Zacharias. His ministry, Ravi Zacharias International Ministries, has a vision to reach and challenge those who shape the ideas of a culture with the credibility of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Distinctive in its strong evangelistic and apologetic foundation, this ministry is intended to touch both the heart and the intellect of the thinkers and influencers of society through the support of the visionary leadership of Ravi Zacharias.
We are privileged to have Ravi Zacharias and Michael Ramsden speaking at CityLife Church over the weekend of 22-23rd August, including a two night seminar on Sunday and Monday evenings, which is open to the public. Everyone is welcome.
* Details of meeting schedule and topics
I love the story of a man who had dealings with two British prime ministers, William Gladstone and Benjamin Disraeli. He said of Gladstone, “Whenever I came away from a conversation with him I was left with the feeling of how brilliant he was.” He said of Disraeli, “Whenever I came away from a conversation with Disraeli I was left with the feeling of how brilliant I was.”
Disraeli probably earned the right then to quip:
"The greatest good you can do for another is not just to share your riches, but to reveal to him his own.”
How can you bring out the best in other people today?
When you enter a room, don't have as your underlying script, "Here I am!" but rather "There you are!"
Born into poverty, Abraham Lincoln was faced with defeat throughout his life. He lost eight elections, twice failed in business and suffered a nervous breakdown.
He was known to have said:
“Success is going from failure to failure without losing your enthusiasm.”
Michael Jordan was one of the greatest basketball players ever to play the game, leading the Chicago Bulls to 6 NBA championships and winning 5 MVP awards.
Near the end of his career, he said this:
"I've missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I've lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I've been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I've failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed."
We live in a rapidly changing culture that often seems at odds with the character of God's kingdom. Some Christians choose to reject the surrounding culture, escaping to live separate lives. Others seem to embrace the culture uncritically and end up no different than the world around them. Could it be that a better approach is to engage with the culture - to be in the world but not of it. The apostle Paul modelled this exceptionally well during his time in Athens, especially at Mars Hill - a place full of idols, altars and pagan philosophers. Where is your Mars Hill and how well are you engaging with it? That's what we'll be talking about this month at CityLife.
Here is a summary of week 1 - a message given by Josiah Conner.
Change your culture; or your culture will change you (Acts 17:22)
Embrace/Escape: We are often pulled to blindly embrace or escape our culture
There is a tension that we all find ourselves in. It emerges out of this question: What does it mean to be in the world but not of the world?
At times we can be pushed to two extremes. Firstly, we can think the best thing is to escape our world and surround ourselves with safe and good people. The second extreme is to blindly embrace the world uncritically. Neither of these is what Christ has called us to do.
1. What examples have you seen of Christians trying to escape the world? What are some reasons for and against this?
2. What are some examples of Christians trying to embrace the world? What are some reasons for and against this?
3. Consider which of these extremes you find yourself drawn to in this season of life and why.
Bible: The Bible reveals how God plans to reveal His wisdom through the church.
The Bible shows how God created the world good (Gen 1) but humanity took the good things of God and used them outside of His purpose, wreaking havoc on everything (Gen 3). But God set about redeeming the world back to its original purpose by calling humanity to be part of His redemption story. He called Abram to leave His culture and create a counter-culture (Gen 12). He called Israel out of Egypt and made a covenant with them so they would be holy (Ex 19). He called people like Daniel to be an example in a foreign culture (Dan 1).
Jesus steps into the tension (escapist/embrace) and shows us humanity’s purpose. Jesus was in the world but not of the world (John 1:4, Luke 7:34, John 15:18). He also called His followers to do the same (Matt 5:14, John 17:9, Mark 16:15).
4. What does it mean to be in the world but not of the world?
Paul: Paul models a third way of relating to the world: Engagement. Paul shows in Acts 17 a way of relating to the culture without embracing or escaping: Engagement. Paul was in the world but not of the world. Read Acts 17:16-34.
5. What observations do you make from Paul’s sermon?
6. Why did Paul quote one of their poets?
Engage: The Holy Spirit helps us take the good of culture and leave the rest.
We are called to change our culture and not be changed by our culture. Jesus does not call us out of the world but he does call the world out of us. We can engage our culture by using the tools that God has given us to engage our culture with:
a) Scripture: The scriptures are a light to helps us navigate the culture.
7. Read Ps 119:105: How can we better embed this in our lives?
8. What movies are out that are about the scriptures? Can we use them to point to Jesus?
b) Reconciliation: The culture has the good waiting for us to call it out
9. Read 2 Cor 5:17-20: What does it mean to be ministers of reconciliation?
10. Many people say there are 7 Spheres of culture: Religion, Family, Government, Media, Arts/Entertainment, Education, Business. How can Christians better engage these areas?
c) Spirit: We are to be led by the Spirit in engaging our culture
11. Read Gal 5:16-26: What does it mean to be in step with the Spirit?
[Notes by Josiah Conner - @josiahconner]
Right now we are reading through the Gospel of Luke as a church. Each time I read the Gospels, I never fail to see something new about Jesus and the way he brought transformation to people who he came in contact with.
After Jesus calmed the storm, he said to his disciples, "Why can't you trust me?" (Luke 8:25. Message Bible) That's a good question to consider after God brings you through a tough time.
Luke goes on to say:
Luke 8:26-27. They sailed on to the country of the Gerasenes, directly opposite Galilee. As he stepped out onto land, a madman from town met him; he was a victim of demons. He hadn't worn clothes for a long time, nor lived at home; he lived in the cemetery. Message Bible
I started to move on to the next story but felt to slow down and have a closer reflection on those simple three words - "They sailed on ..."
"They". This speaks to me of team, of community, of friendship, and of partnership. Life and ministry are not to be done alone but with other people. Jesus and others are in your boat.
"Sailed". There are two main ways to get across a lake - rowing or sailing. Rowing is through our own strength while sailing is a different approach altogether. It's about catching the wind. It requires dependence, proper positioning, sensitivity and discernment. We are to be Spirit-driven people.
"On". We haven't arrived yet. There is more to come - experiences, transformations, miracles and challenges. Although there are times when we need to pause, to rest and to reflect, God's purposes are about moving forward - not backward or staying where we are.
1. Take time today to encourage three people in your 'boat', expressing gratitude for what they mean to you.
2. Pray for an increase of the Holy Spirit's work and power (wind) in your life.
3. See yourself as moving forward together - with your family, your friends, your small group and your church community.
"They sailed on."
It is with great pleasure that Compassion Australia invites you to hear Australia’s leading social researcher, Mark McCrindle, present his insights encompassing the increasingly complex issues surrounding ‘The Church in Today’s Australia.’
You may well have heard Mark McCrindle speak previously on ‘Sunrise’, ‘A Current Affair’, or other news and talk shows, regarding the social trends within our Australian culture. He has also presented at several Denominational State and National Conferences, bringing a particularly Christian perspective to bear on his research. The unique element within this half-day seminar will be Mark’s specific focus on Melbourne’s changing trends. his will provide clarity on the various shifts taking place in our broader social landscape, highlight changing areas of need within the various levels of society, and give innovative suggestions for creative ministry opportunities that arise within those areas of changing needs.
This is a unique opportunity to ensure that the key people in your leadership networks are up to date in their understanding of the direction our society is moving, the changing needs that these trends are creating, and the proactive steps they need to be taking to engage effectively with the Gospel mandate of Jesus’ mission for personal and community transformation.
Venue: NewHope Baptist Church, 3-7 Springfield Rd, Blackburn North.
Cost: $45 per person (includes light refreshments, morning tea, and luncheon)
Registration opens: 8:30am (light refreshments available)
Time: 9am-1pm (lunch included)
At our staff prayer meeting a few weeks back I was prompted to think and pray about three things as we began a new term of ministry: Fuel, Focus and Faith.
In Ephesians 5:18-20, the apostle Paul tells us to, "Be continually filled with the Holy Spirit." Like a vehicle whose petrol tank gradually moves towards empty and like a technological device whose battery gradually dies down, we too have limited capacity and energy. It is vital that we stop and fuel - allowing ourselves to draw on the un-ending strength God provides.
See also Renewing Your Energy
One of the wisest person who ever lived said this:
Proverbs 4:25-27. Fix your gaze directly before you. Give careful thought to the paths for your feet and be steadfast in all your ways. Do not turn to the right or the left; keep your foot from evil. NIV
Focus is essential. We live in a world of continual distraction that can so easily pull us aside from what is important. It takes effort and discpline to concentrate, to be fully engaged, to live in the here and now, to be completely present.
In the gospel of Luke, we read about a Roman Centurion desiring his child to be healed by Jesus. he said this to Jesus: “Just say the word and it will be so” (Luke 7:6-10). Jesus commended his simple trust and his understooding of authority.
Despair comes from believing that tomorrow will be the same as today. Faith realises that in one moment, God can change everything! Just one word. Today's reality is not the last word. The story is not over. Have faith in God. He is bigger than any challenges you are facing right now.
Three simple questions:
1. Are you running on empty? Is it time to fuel?
2. How's your focus? What is distracting you right now?
3. How's your faith in God today?
Every year we put a special conference on for the volunteers and leaders of CityLife Church. God has called us to be a movement of people committed to seeing lives transformed by the love and power of God. This will be a time of fresh inspiration and encouragement for you on your journey. It's one of the few times we get to gather together as a family of congregations.
This year we have Erwin McManus, founder of Mosaic church in Los Angeles, speaking on Saturday morning and for our weekend church services. Friday night will include worship and prayer times, as well as an opportunity to hear some of the exciting stories of transformation taking place in our congregations and ministries. Then I will share a message to encourage everyone as to how they can grow in their confidence as a leader.
For more details, why not register online now.
Erwin McManus is the Lead Pastor and Founder of Mosaic, a church located directly in the heart of Los Angeles. He is the Author of "The Barbarian Way" and the bestselling "The Artisan Soul". Erwin is an iconoclast known for his integration of creativity and spirituality. He is a husband to his wife Kim and a father to his three children, Aaron, Mariah and Patty. He believes the church exists to declare the name of Jesus and build a place called home for the many who do not have one.
Erwin has spoken a number of times at CityLife Church and we are privileged it have him as our guest speaker for this year's INSPIRE conference, a gathering for all our church volunteers and leaders.
Visit Erwin's web site for more information.
God can use a life without limbs
to show the world how to
live a life without limits!
Last weekend, we were pleased to host Nick Vujicic at CityLife Church. We had record crowds and 100s of people responded to the message about the hope that is in Jesus. Nick was born without arms or legs and given no medical reason for this condition. Faced with countless challenges and obstacles, God gave him the strength to surmount what others might call impossible.
Nick's ministry Life Without Limbs is all about sharing this same hope and genuine love that he has personally experienced with people all over the globe. He's been invited into very unexpected places to share about his faith in Jesus Christ and literally millions have responded. Traveling extensively to over 57 countries and still counting, Nick has been extremely humbled by the continuous opportunities that the Lord has given him to share his testimony.
In Psalm 139:13-14, the Bible says, “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.”
Because of the ministry of Life Without Limbs, God has used Nick in countless schools, churches, prisons, orphanages, hospitals, stadiums and in face-to-face encounters with individuals, telling them how very precious they are to God. It is his greatest pleasure to assure people that God does have a plan for each and every life that is meaningful and purposeful, for God took his life, one that others might disregard as not having any significance and He has filled him with His purpose and showed him His plans to use him to move hearts and lives toward Him.
Watch Nick's message at CityLife.
Read more about Nick and Life Without Limbs.
Do you feel like your life is cluttered? Are you a hoarder? Do you have stuff everywhere and the piles are only getting bigger? Do you feel overwhelmed? Maybe it's time to de-clutter.
For some assistance, why not check out The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up. This #1 New York Times best-selling guide to decluttering your home from Japanese cleaning consultant Marie Kondo takes readers step-by-step through her revolutionary method for simplifying, organising, and storing.
Here are the main take away ideas:
Is is time to de-clutter your home ... and your world?
Jesus taught his disciples how to pray. Matthew records his teaching like this ...
Matthew 6:9-15. Pray like this: Our Father in heaven, may your name be kept holy. May your Kingdom come soon. May your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven. Give us today the food we need, and forgive us our sins, as we have forgiven those who sin against us. And don't let us yield to temptation, but rescue us from the evil one. If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.
This is not so much a prayer to recite word for word, though we often do so. It is also a pattern for prayer. It's like a pathway that Jesus calls us to take as we engage in conversation with God.
Consider prayer in these steps:
Let's reflect on the mystery of healing today.
There is a close connection between love, forgiveness, healing and peace.
God revives the humble and contrite … leading them to comfort.
Only five of Jesus' healing events in the Gospels involve people dying. The main stories are for the blind, deaf, dumb, paralysed and possessed.
In many ways, these can be metaphors for common experiences of life - spiritual blindness, deafness, dumbness, paralysis, and deadness.
Do you need God's healing today?
God doesn't change past events but he can heal the memory of them. Don't submerge yourself in the past event, becoming trapped in continual replay. Instead, detach yourself from it and talk to Jesus about your feelings, then and now. Open up to his healing touch.
Scriptures to Meditate On
Exodus 15:26. I am the Lord who heals you.
Psalm 103:1-5. Let all that I am praise the Lord; with my whole heart, I will praise his holy name. Let all that I am praise the Lord; may I never forget the good things he does for me. He forgives all my sins and heals all my diseases. He redeems me from death and crowns me with love and tender mercies. He fills my life with good things. My youth is renewed like the eagle’s.
Psalm 147:3. The Lord heals the brokenhearted and bandages their wounds.
Luke 4:18-19. The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, for he has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released, that the blind will see, that the oppressed will be set free, and that the time of the Lord ’s favor has come.
See also Healing Today
NAIDOC Week is a celebration of the history, culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. It’s one of the most important events in the Indigenous calendar, and you might be surprised to hear that it all began with a letter to the churches of Australia.
The letter was sent by William Cooper, a legendary Aboriginal Christian leader and rights activist. In it he asked the church to observe what he was calling ‘Aboriginal Sunday’ - an annual day of prayerful awareness of Aboriginal people and their God-given place and future in this land.
From 1940 to 1954, ‘Aboriginal Sunday’ was observed by churches throughout Australia. It was initially held on the Sunday before Australia Day and was referred to as a 'National Day of Mourning' in recognition of the suffering and dispossession of Indigenous people since colonisation. In 1955, the date was changed to July and has since evolved into the week of celebration known as NAIDOC Week (named after the National Aborigines and Islanders Day Observance Committee).
Australian churches continue to have a role to play in honouring William Cooper’s request and all of the Aboriginal men and women who have struggled for the survival and dignity of their people. During NAIDOC Week, you might like to consider a way to honour Aboriginal people or bring its significance to the attention of your own friends and faith congregation.
Why not take a few moments this week and pray for Indigenous Australians - for them to know the healing, hope and reconciliation that Jesus came to bring to all humanity. In addition, why not take the Australians Together journey, as we seek to bring indigenous and non-indigenous Australians together for an even better future.
[Thanks to Stewart Bogle, Executive Director of Concilia, for the above text. ]
The power of the sea.
Seasons come and go.
The sands of time.
Human achievements are but castles in the sand.
Shaped by relentless movement and motion.
His love never fails.
His faithfulness reaches beyond - from generation to generation.
The finite meets the infinite.
Most followers of Christ understand the need to pursue truth and avoid error. Some take it upon themselves to find error and point it out to others. CityLife Church has a fairly standard Statement of Beliefs that clearly shows our commitment to what could be called "orthodox Christianity". Our teaching team speaks from this foundation. We believe that the Bible is inspired by God and is authoritative in matters of belief and practice.
From time to time, one of our teaching team may quote someone in a message and it raises questions from a listener or congregation member. This can lead to some interesting conversations. In one such recent dialogue, I raised three questions:
1. "If a person quotes someone else, does that mean that they endorse everything else that person has said?"
2. "If you disagree with a person in one area, does that mean that everything else they say is invalid or not worth listening to?”
3. “Are you comfortable being in a church where diversity of belief around various debatable theological matters is okay?”
A few brief comments about these questions:
Question 1 - "If a person quotes someone else, does that mean that they endorse everything else that person has said?"
The logical answer is ‘no’. The apostle Paul quoted Cretan poets in his letter to Titus (Titus 1:12) and Greek philosophers in his speech at Athens (Acts 17:28). By doing so, he was not endorsing everything else they said or believed. In addition, he did not feel the need to pause and say, "By the way, let me tell you everything about this person that I disagree with." He used these quotes because they were true and because he believed that they would assist him in connecting with his audience and building his message, which was always aimed at lifting up Jesus and promoting the good news he had come to bring.
For some people, however, it seems that the answer to this question is ‘yes’. They go down rabbit holes to discover everything the person quoted believes or has said and then by abstraction declare that the speaker has promoted error. It’s actually not a logical argument.
Paradoxically, in a recent conversation with a person, they quoted a statement by John MacArthur to me. I paused and then asked them whether they knew that MacArthur ran a conference last year called "Strange Fire" in which he stated that the charismatic movement was demonic. I asked the person whether by quoting MacArthur they were supporting this anti-Pentecostal sentiment. Silence. No answer.
Question 2 - "If you disagree with a person in one area, does that mean that everything else they say is invalid or not worth listening to?”
The logical answer is ‘no’. For example, the best selling book The 7 Habits of Highly Successful People is one of the best life management books ever written. Yet some people have told me we shouldn't read it because the author, Stephen Covey, was a Mormon. If your math teacher wasn't a Christian, could you not learn something from them? Another example: People such as Billy Graham and Bill Hybels are not Pentecostal like I am, but I have gleaned so much from them as followers of Christ. In fact, when I chaired the Willow Creek Association here in Australia for 5 years, I was always amazed at how few Pentecostal church leaders would come and hear from Bill Hybels. He has one of the most outstanding leadership and evangelistic gifts in our generation.
Unfortunately, some people believe that if they disagree with someone in one area, his or her entire life/teaching is not worth engaging with. I find this very sad.
An analogy I have used for years is that listening to sermons or lectures or reading a book is a bit like eating fish. You eat the fish but spit out the bones in the process. Very few things you hear are pure fillet. Just don't throw out the entire fish!
Question 3 - “Are you comfortable being in a church where diversity of belief around various debatable theological matters is okay?”
For CityLife, the answer is ‘yes’. We have a clear set of beliefs but we allow diversity around a whole range of issues, mostly matters of biblical interpretation. However, for some people, this is not something they are comfortable with. They are looking for clear 'black and white' answers and strong promotion from the pulpit on a whole range of theological issues.
For instance, in our ORIGINS series a few years ago, we talked about creation. The author of Genesis clearly tells us 'who' created the world and 'why'. They do not tell us 'when' or 'how' the world was created. That was not their intent. When it comes to these last two questions, there are a variety of views in the Christian church today, including young earth creationism, old earth creationism and theistic evolution (see my BLOG post on Creation). CityLife believes that God created the world but we don't have an official stance on how old the earth is. We are comfortable with this diversity and see it as a strength.
When it came to disputable matters, such as eating meat, Paul did not seek to create 'meat-eating churches' and 'non-meat eating churches'. He urged people to form their own convictions then learn to live peacefully and respectfully with others who differ. We seek to do the same. Obviously, not everyone finds that comfortable.
Let me pull this post together with a final example. There are different views of the meaning of the 'atonement' and the work that Jesus did on the cross (see my BLOG post on Why Did Jesus Die?). 'Substitutionary atonement' is one such common view. It suggests that God is angry because of the world's sin but he chose to take his anger out on his Son, killing him instead of us. No doubt, there is truth in this but this view, pushed to an extreme, can make God out to be some sort of 'cosmic child abuser', which is not a true representation of the heart and character of God. A variety of theologians are thinking and writing about this, so in my recommended reading list, I suggested a few books. Firstly, The Nature of Atonement: Four Views by editors James Beilby and Paul Eddy, and then A Community Called Atonement by Scot McKnight. I also included the book Stricken by God: Non-Violent Identification and the Victory of Christ edited by Brad Jersak and Michael Hardin. This latter book is a compilation of articles by a wide range of authors speaking into this important debate. By doing so, I am not promoting everything every author included in this book has ever said or believes. For instance, Marcus Borg, who died recently, was a liberal theologian who did not believe in the literal resurrection of Jesus. I do believe in the literal resurrection of Jesus and therefore I would disagree with him on that issue. Hopefully, most people would know this because we talk about the resurrection of Jesus regularly in our messages at CityLife. So, I am not, by some sort of abstraction, promoting disbelief in the resurrection by including this book on the reading list. However, I am saying that if you want to have a good think about the different views of the atonement, taking these perspectives into consideration is part of a robust process of study and reflection. That's all. Every serious theological student would understand the need for this.
Yes, let's be like the people of Berea who checked out what Paul was saying with the Scriptures (Acts 17:11). But let's avoid moving from discernment to judgment (see my BLOG posts on Heretic Hunting and Discern Don't Judge). Let's not become 'theological police' or 'heretic hunters'! Remember, we all "know in part" (see my BLOG post on The Joy of Not Knowing it All). None of us knows everything, so we need to always have an attitude of humility that is open to learn, even from our critics and/or those who see things differently than we do. Our teaching team welcomes feedback and are always happy to answer any questions or clarify any misunderstandings. We want to continue to grow in our ability to communicate God's truth in a way that changes lives through the power of the Holy Spirit.
My dad used to say, "We can be right in our doctrine and wrong in our attitude and we are wrong." Love, how we treat people, is of utmost importance (1 Corinthians 13).
P.S. For further reading, check out Across the Spectrum: Understanding Issues in Evangelical Theology where author Gregory Boyd shows the range of Christian beliefs (each believing they have the correct interpretation!) on matters such as: inspiration, providence, foreknowledge, creation, the divine image, atonement, salvation, sanctification, eternal security, the destiny of the un-evangelised, the Lord's Supper, baptism, charismatic gifts, women in ministry, the millennium and hell.
Today is the 1st July and the first half of 2015 is history!
Like a halftime at a sports game, mid year is a good time to stop ... or at least pause ... and reflect.
Ask yourself some questions:
Why not set aside some time for prayerfully meditating on these questions and your first half of the year. Then write down your impressions. Make some decisions our of your reflections.
Remember, what you tolerate, you will never change.
Here's to an even better second half of 2015 for you!
Elisabeth Elliot pass away a few weeks back (June 15th, 2015). She was one of the most influential Christian women of our time. For a half century, her best selling books, timeless teachings and courageous faith have influenced believers and seekers of Jesus Christ throughout the world. She used her experiences as a daughter, wife, mother, widow, and missionary to bring the message of Christ to countless women and men around the world.
Her first husband, Jim Elliot, was killed in 1956 while attempting to make missionary contact with the Auca of eastern Ecuador. Elisabeth famously went back to live among the Aucas in order to share the love of Christ. I still remember hearing and being impacted by their story as a teenager through their book Through the Gates of Splendour.
Take a moment to reflect on a life well lived.
Insightful Quotes (source):
Here are my own favourite confidence builders, gleaned from years of life and ministry experience:
1. SEE yourself as God sees you. Your words and actions are a reflection of how you see yourself. Therefore, you cannot constantly live and/or minister in a manner that is inconsistent with the way you see yourself. If you think you are a "grasshopper" you will act like one (Numbers 13:33). If you think you are more than able, you will act with that confidence. Gideon had to change the way he saw himself in order to conquer fear and become the mighty warrior God saw he could become (Judges 6:12-14). See yourself as God's child - deeply loved and of great worth, value and significance (Psalm 139:14). You are loved, called and empowered by God! God makes heroes our of ordinary people.
2. LEARN all you can. Ask and receive wisdom. Gain knowledge. We are all confident at something because we learned how. Anything is easy when you know how. Receive training. Prepare well. The better you prepare, the more confident you will be. Gain confidence in new areas.
3. Gain EXPERIENCE. Past successes provide confidence for today. Get a few wins under your belt. David's defeat of the lion and the bear when no one was looking gave him confidence to run towards Goliath the giant in the presence of crowds of people looking on. Start where you are and take baby steps of faith. If you aren't managing well what you currently have been entrusted with, why expect more? Learn from your failures too.
4. Allow OTHERS to Speak into Your Life. People tend to become what those closet to them believe they can become. Our friends/peers have a great influence on us. Are the people around you confidence knockers or confidence builders? Spend time with positive people who believe in you and encourage you to be all you can be in God.
5. Don’t COMPARE yourself with others. Learn from others but don't copy or imitate (2 Corinthians 10:12). Find your own voice. God doesn't want clones! YOU are unique. Be the best you can be for God’s glory. When it comes to skill or knowledge, there is always someone better than you and someone not as good as you. Simply be the best you can be. God’s gift to you is your potential. Your gift back to him is what you do with it. You will be held accountable for only what you received. I can't be someone else but I can be ME! So can you.
6. Cling to GOD. Our confidence is to be in God. That's how David defeated Goliath when everyone else was paralysed with fear and intimidation (1 Samuel 17). Through prayer and dependence on God we can draw on the assistance of the Holy Spirit who is our Helper. God gives grace to the humble. Trust in God - HE is able to do way above what we could ask, think or imagine.
Confidence rarely strikes us like a lightning bolt. It often begins with a simple choice - to step out and BE confident in God! May you have a fresh encounter with God today … resulting in a fresh impartation of confidence for life and ministry.
You can boldly declare:
Your confidence can grow.
What from? Here's a list that I collected from our recent staff meeting:
What builds your confidence? Take some time to think about it. It's important to know how to build yourself up or encourage yourself in God.
Tomorrow I'll share what I've learned about developing confidence.
Your confidence will come under attack.
What from? Here's a list that I collected from a recent staff meeting as we all brain-stormed around our life and leadership experiences:
What destroys your confidence? Take some time to think about it. What's holding you back or holding you down at the moment? We all need to know our enemy if we are going to overcome and develop the confidence God calls us to.
Tomorrow we'll look at some confidence builders.
The quality of confidence can be defined as: faith, belief, trust, assurance, certitude, being sure, undisturbed calm. It is a spirit of faith that is certain of success, yet not afraid of failure.
Every person used by God reaches their potential through confidence in God - despite difficulties, challenges and obstacles.
Encounters with God
Think of what happened to these people after an encounter with God:
Confidence before God leads to confidence within yourself then confidence before others and even confidence in the face of opposition.
Of course, we want to avoid over-confidence, which is more about self-confidence than confidence in God. False confidence can lead to arrogance, presumption and boasting. Pride goes before a fall but God exalts the humble.
Lack of Confidence
Most leaders I know deal with a lack of confidence. They face regular feelings of fear, unbelief, doubt, inadequacy, inferiority, insecurity, and intimidation.
Timothy was a young leader with a good faith from a godly heritage and good character but he was shy and lacking in confidence. That is why the aposlte Paul wrote to him and said:
For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline. 2 Timothy 1:7. NIV
The apostle Paul models a godly confidence when he says:
“I can do all things (that's confidence!) through Christ who strengthens me (that's dependence!).” Philippians 4:13.
Confidence (like passion and faith) is NOT permanent! You can gain it, you can lose it, you can maintain it, you can build on it and you can grow it.
Tomorrow we will look at some confidence knockers then some confidence builders.
This week, we want to reflect on the area of confidence.
Let's start by reading and meditating on these statements from the pages of Scripture.
Ephesians 1:18. I pray that your hearts will be flooded with light so that you can understand the confident hope he has given to those he called — his holy people who are his rich and glorious inheritance. NLT
Ephesians 3:12. In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence. NIV
Philippians 1:6. Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. NIV
Psalm 27:3, 13 Though an army besiege me, my heart will not fear; though war break out against me, even then I will be confident … I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. NIV
Psalm 71:5. For you have been my hope, Sovereign Lord, my confidence since my youth.
Isaiah 30:15. This is what the Sovereign Lord, the Holy One of Israel, says: Only in returning to me and resting in me will you be saved. In quietness and confidence is your strength. NLT
Hebrews 5:16. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.
Hebrew 10:35. Do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded.
Hebrews 11:1-2. Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for.
1 John 5:14-15. This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him.
This coming week, we have our next Encounter Week, a time of prayer and waiting on God as we seek his face and a deeper work of his Spirit in our personal lives and our church. God’s work at Pentecost (Acts 2) continues until today.
Here are some thoughts to assist you in your times of prayer:
Day 1 (13-14th June) - Healing
God has revealed himself as “Jehovah Rapha”, the Lord our healer (Exodus 15:26. Psalm 103:3).
Day 2 (15th June) - Family
We have recently completed our Modern Family teaching series. This year we covered topics such as pornography, homosexuality, marriage and family relationships. Families come in all shapes and sizes. They are where we experience some of our greatest joys yet also our deepest pains.
Day 3 (16th June) - the Holy Spirit
Jesus told his disciples that it would be good for him to leave, as he would then send the Holy Spirit as their comforter and helper (John 16:7). Jesus was able to be present physically with them but the Spirit is able to live within the life of every follower of Christ. The Spirit comes to transform us into the image of Christ and empower us for life and ministry.
Day 4 (17th June) - Prophetic Insights
The spirit of Jesus is the gift of prophecy (Revelation 19:10) and one of the signs of the coming of the Spirit was a release of prophecy (Acts 2:16-21). Prophecy is a revealing of the heart and mind of God – through dreams, visions or inspired words.
Day 5 (18th June) - Transformation
Our vision as a church is to see over 10,000 stories of transformation by 2016. These include stories of people coming to faith in Jesus, being baptised, beginning to serve, as well as community people ministered to and churches being planted overseas. Right now we have over 4,000 of these kinds of stories recorded, which we give praise to God for.
Day 6 (19th June) - Salvation
God does not want anyone to perish but that all come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9). That means he is at work reaching out to each person with his love. No one is ‘far’ from God because he is near to each person (Acts 17:24-28). The Holy Spirit comes to convict people of sin and reveal Jesus to them.
Day 7 (20/21st June) - God's Presence
God is spirit and his exists everywhere in the universe at once and yet the universe does not contain him. There is nowhere we can go from his presence. His name is Emmanuel = “God with us”. This is called the ‘omnipresence’ of God. There are also times when God reveals himself to us or we become aware of his presence in a personal and powerful way. This is called the ‘manifest’ presence of God.
Ten tips for supporting someone who is grieving:
• Offer practical support such as meals, shopping, gardening, errands, lifts, etc. especially in the early days.
• Accept that everyone grieves differently. Grief is a normal and natural response to loss but everyone grieves differently.
• Don't judge. There is no right or wrong way to grieve. Especially don't say "you should..." or "you shouldn't..."
• Accept a wide variety of emotions such as sadness, anger, confusion, fear, guilt, relief, etc. Such varied emotions are a natural response to the death of a loved one.
• Listen well. Bereaved people often need to talk about their grief and sometimes it's okay to just sit in silence.
• Use the name of the lost loved one. Allow the bereaved person to talk of their loved one and to use their name.
• Avoid platitudes such as "At least you have other children", "it was meant to be", 'It's God's will', "Maybe God wanted another angel", etc. Well-meant statements like these are unhelpful and often hurtful.
• Don't say "I understand" or "I know how you feel". Individual grief is so complex that no-one can really understand how an individual feels.
• You can't fix it. No one can take away the pain and sadness but knowing that people care is comforting and healing.
• Don't assume. People who are grieving aren't necessarily showing it.
[Source: The Compassionate Friends Victoria]
Right now, our vision as a church is to see over 10,000 stories of transformation. Recently, we have had a number of moving stories about individuals coming out of domesitc violence situations. These are people who once felt isolated, hopeless, and helpless. Now they feel cared for and looked after. These stories provide hope for anyone affected by domestic violence.
Domestic violence (sometimes referred to as ‘family violence’ or ‘interpersonal violence’) is defined as “a pattern of coercive or controlling behaviour used by one individual to gain or maintain power and control over another individual in the context of an intimate relationship. This includes any behaviours that frighten, intimidate, terrorise, exploit, manipulate, blame, injure, or wound a person.”
It is estimated that at least 1 in 4 women is a victim of domestic abuse in her lifetime. There were 65,000 police reports of domestic violence in Victoria last year (almost double those reported in 2010). In Australia, the police deal with a domestic violence matter every 2 minutes. It can happen to anyone, regardless of your background.
“Violent abuse” refers to “using physical violence in a way that injures or endangers someone.” Physical assault or battery is a crime, as well as serveal other forms of domestic violence, whether it occurs inside or outside the family. The police have the authority and power to protect victims from physical attack. The victims of violent abuse have the right to protect themselves and their children.
Domestic abuse is dangerous in ALL its forms (not just physical violence) - including willful intimidation, sexual assault, stalking, verbal or emotional abuse, economic control, psychological abuse and isolation. Physical violence is sometimes easier to recover from than psychological or emotional injuries that cause a person to feel worthless. Threats of abuse can be as frightening as the abuse itself.
As a pastor, I need to confess that the Church, in general, hasn't always handled this issue well. We have often failed to believe that it can happen in Christian homes. There has been erroneous teaching about ‘submission’, ‘authority’, and ’obedience’ in the home, as well as misunderstandings about forgiveness and repentance. This has often created a culture of silence and acceptance. Here at CityLife, we are committed to doing a better job at helping to prevent domestic violence, confronting it when it does occur, and offering help to those involved – both the victim and the perpetrator.
Central to the Christian message is that we believe in the good news of Jesus Christ. The Son of God took on human form, lived amongst us, so that we can have life, and life to the full! Any sort of abuse or violence hurts the heart of God. It is the very opposite of his sacrificial love. Abuse twists God’s good intention for marriage, the family and human relationships. God’s Word contains clear declarations against any form of physical or verbal abuse, including that of spouses or children. Psalm 11:5. “Those who love violence, God hates with a passion.” Instead, we are called to show kindness, generosity, and love to one another.
If you are being abused, you need to know that abuse is not God’s will or part of God’s plan for your life. Enabling one person’s cruelty to another is not the will of a just and loving God. You don’t have to remain silent anymore. Please tell a friend, a family member, a pastor or ministry leader, or the authorities. You do not deserve this. It is not your fault. You are the victim of abuse and violence and it is wrong. You were created in the image of God and should be treated with dignity, love and respect You do not need to put up with it. It is not acceptable. If you don’t feel safe, please seek professional help in making a safety plan for yourself and the children. This may include leaving the situation or obtaining an intervention order. No person is expected to continue in an abusive environment.
If you are the one causing the abuse, you need to know that it is never okay to hurt or threaten to hurt anyone. Please get some professional help. Talk to someone you trust. Get some accountability.
Domestic/family violence causes great damage in people’s lives. It has to stop. For anyone affected by domestic violence, we have counselors and pastors trained to be able to help you and offer support and strategies for you to move forward. Please call and ask for help.
Father, you love us as your children and your desire is that our homes, our families, be places of love, care and encouragement – not places where we experience fear or abuse. I pray for wisdom and courage for those affected by domestic violence. Help them to take a step towards freedom today. For those caught in a cycle of abusing others, I pray that you would convict them and bring about change in their life. For us as a church, may we be a community of faith characterized by loving relationships. In Jesus name. Amen.
Some thoughts worth reflecting on:
Jesus once said: “Beware! Guard against every kind of greed. Life is not measured by how much you own" (Luke 12:15. NLT)
Do you feel like you need to simplify? Here is some reading you might find stimulating and challenging from a range of authors and thinkers:
Some final words from Jesus:
John 14:27. “I am leaving you with a gift— peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid." NLT
May you know that peace in your life today.
I love these thoughts penned by the apostle Paul over 2,000 years ago:
Ephesians 2:8-10. God saved you by his a grace when you b believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago. NLT
God's love is so amazing. He saves us by his grace, not because of anything we do or have done. It's a free gift.
Not only does God love us, he is also at work in our lives. Paul describes us as God's 'masterpiece'. The Greek word he uses is the word poema, which means 'work of art'. Yes, you are a work of art (not a peice of work!). Every day, God is present and he is at work in your life, whether you realise it or not.
Any creative work, whether it be a painting, a building, a piece of technology, or a design, takes time. In the middle things can appear a little messy, chaotic and disorganised. It's the same with our lives. Sometimes we may even wonder where God is or what he is up to. But he is at work.
In another place, Paul says:
Philippians 1:5. And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns. NLT
God always finishes what he starts. That's good news for us.
Know today that (1) God loves you and (2) he is working to make something beautiful of your life so he can shine his light through you to your world.
Last weekend I shared a message with CityLife Church entitled "A Conversation about Homosexuality." I highly recommend that you watch or listen the message. Below are some summary notes that accompany the message.
The Church in Conflict
Sometimes we have an overly pristine view of the early church as a church in revival where they were always of “one heart and mind” (Acts 4:32) as they followed God together. This is partly true but there were also times when people complained (Acts 6:1), when leaders had sharp disagreements (Acts 15:36-44), and when churches argued and debated about various controversial matters (Acts 15:1-35). In the latter case, time was given to consider the contribution that Scripture, tradition, and experience each made to the debate. For example, in the issue of whether the newly converted Gentiles should be circumcised or not, they used their God-given reason to realise that their experience of seeing Gentiles filled with the Holy Spirit in the same way as at Pentecost required them to see their Scriptures and Jewish tradition differently than they had up until this time. Talk about a paradigm shift!
Over the centuries, various controversies have required a similar approach by the church of Jesus Christ. It took centuries for slavery to be abolished and for Christians to see that just because the Scriptures assume and address slavery (for instance, in the apostle Paul’s instructions for slaves to obey their masters) doesn't mean it endorses it. It took years for the Christian church to realise that Paul’s admonition that women keep silent in the church and not usurp authority over the men (in a context where false doctrine was spreading amongst the women in the church at Ephesus) didn't mean that women couldn’t lead and minister in a healthy Christian community. Of course, some churches have not come to this understanding. More recently the issue of divorce and remarriage has been a hot topic. Many churches have now come to accept that some marriages do break down beyond repair and that divorce is not the unpardonable sin. In each of these cases, we all know what the Bible says. But what does it mean and how does it apply to our lives today? These questions are not questions about the inspiration or authority of the Scriptures but rather they are questions regarding biblical interpretation or what theologians refer to as ‘hermeneutics’. This is the reason why there are differing views in the church today. Does this mean that truth is relative or continually up for revision? Not at all! But it does mean that we need to walk in humility, continuing to listen to the text of Scripture, the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and the collective wisdom of the community of faith.
One of the most hotly debated issues of our time is homosexuality. The term ‘homosexuality’, a word added into the English dictionary in the year 1892, refers to sexual attraction and/or behaviour between people of the same (‘homos’) rather than the opposite (‘hetros’) sex or gender.
Our sexuality is an important part of our humanity. In regards to sexuality, it is important to differentiate between sexual attraction (which may be momentary), sexual orientation (which is determined by a continual and persistent similar form of attraction) and sexual behaviour (what we do in response to our desires). Having sexual attraction is not sinful in and of itself. It’s what we do with those desires that matters most. The vast majority of people have only attractions for the opposite sex while a smaller percentage of people experience attraction only to the same sex (anywhere from 3-5% of the population). An even smaller percentage of people experience both opposite and same-sex attractions (referred to as ‘bi-sexual’) or have no discernible sexual attractions at all.
Debates continue as to where sexual orientation comes from. Is it biological or environmental? Is it a product of nature or nurture? Do we discover it or decide it? There is no convincing scientific evidence to support either view, which means that there is most likely a combination of factors that shape our sexuality, rather than a single explanation. Regardless of the source of our sexual attractions or orientation, we can and do choose our behaviour and how we respond to any attractions we may experience.
There are a variety of opinions as to whether a person’s sexual orientation can change or not. Experience indicates that some people can and do experience change while others do not. Those who do may see a reduction in the strength of one type of attraction more than a complete or instant change. Sexual orientation is not some kind of a switch that you can just simply turn one way or another.
The Bible and Homosexuality
The Bible is the source of guidance for matters of faith and practice for all followers of Christ (2 Timothy 3:16). There are a handful of biblical texts that address the matter of homosexuality:
The Church and Homosexuality
When it comes to interpreting and applying the biblical texts referring homosexuality to our contemporary situation, there are a huge variety of views and approaches by evangelical churches and Christians around the world today. These could be simplified into three basic approaches:
1. Change. Some churches/Christians believe that homosexuality is always a choice and therefore people can and should repent and change their same-sex attractions and/or behaviour. The views in this approach range from condemnation of the person (even denying the concept of ‘orientation’) to a promise of healing for ‘sexual brokenness’ (through some form of prayer ministry, counseling or reparative therapy). [The most exhaustive book upholding this view is The Bible and Homosexual Practice by Robert Gagnon]
2. Acceptance. Some churches/Christians believe that same-sex attraction is not a choice for everyone and therefore may not change. Those with same-sex attraction are accepted as they are without shame and encouraged to live celibate lives of sexual abstinence within a supportive community. Churches with this stance are called 'welcoming but not affirming' churches. [To understand this view further, I suggest reading books such as Welcoming But Not Affirming: An Evangelical Response to Homosexuality by Stanley J Grenz, Redeeming Sex by Debra Hirsch, or Washed and Waiting: Reflections on Christian Faithfulness and Homosexuality by Wesley Hill]
3. Affirmation. Some churches/Christians believe that same-sex attraction is not a choice and that celibacy is not a gift that everyone has. They believe that the biblical references against homosexuality are primarily about abusive relationships (for example, homosexual rape, male prostitution or pederasty, which refers to sexual relations between a man and a boy). They see promiscuity as wrong but that a same-sex loving, committed, monogamous relationship is acceptable before God. Churches with this stance are called 'welcoming and affirming' churches and as a result are usually supportive of either civil unions or same-sex marriage. [To understand this view further, refer to Changing Our Mind by David Gushee, an evangelical ethicist, or the more in-depth The Bible, Gender and Sexuality by James W. Brownson]
These approaches are held by churches/people who declare Jesus as Lord and believe in the authority and inspiration of the Scriptures. The difference in views result from the differing interpretations and applications of the Scriptures in this matter. Despite the enthusiastic endorsement of their adherents, each view has some unique difficulties and challenges. For instance, the Change approach can cause great damage to people who don’t see any change, ranging from feelings of failure to suicidal tendencies. The Acceptance approach involves a high personal cost for those who don't feel that they have the gift of celibacy. The Affirmation approach requires a complete rethink of everything we’ve known about gender and sexuality, as well as the interpretation of the biblical texts (more of a paradigm ‘leap’ than a paradigm ‘shift’, in the words of David Gushee).
CityLife Church takes a combination of Approaches 1 and 2. Some people are confused about their sexuality for various reasons and so we would begin the conversation by exploring environmental or circumstantial factors that have shaped a person’s sexuality, which may be addressed through prayer and counsel. If there is not a change over time, then we go with Approach 2. CityLife is a ‘welcoming but not affirming’ church community. The reason for the choice of this stance is our concern about the lack of compassion and the damage sometimes caused by the Change approach and our discomfort with the hermeneutics that is required for an Affirmation approach.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. What should a Christian do if they believe they have same-sex attraction? Talk it through with a Christian pastor or counselor. Counseling can help you understand who you are (emotional roots and family dynamics) and what has shaped you, as well as the frequency and intensity of your sexual attractions. The outcome may not be a conversion but rather a decrease of one type of an attraction and an increase of another, or for some people there may be no change at all. Either way, don’t go it alone. People of faith throughout the centuries have lived single, celibate, and fulfilled lives. They had a close relationship with their Father God, a cause to live for, and many close friends. We are complete ‘in Christ’ not through marriage or sexual experience. Know that Jesus does not shame you or reject you because of your temptations and feelings. He never married and faced daily pressure and temptation. He understands what you are going through. He is there to help you.
2. How should we respond to someone who tells us they have same-sex attraction? Avoid over-reacting or responding with hurtful words. Don’t reject the person or withdraw love. They may be confused about their sexuality and possibly feeling condemned. Ask questions and seek to understand. Encourage counseling. For parents or family members, there may be feelings of anxiety, failure or even anger. Don’t reject your children. Make the relationship the priority, even though you may disagree.
3. Can a person in a same-sex relationship attend our church? Yes,our church is open to all people regardless of where they are on their spiritual journey. However, once people discover that we are a ‘welcoming but not affirming’ church that may affect their decision to continue or not.
4. Can a person with same-sex attraction be a leader? Yes, a person with same-sex attraction (and not acting on those attractions) would be able to be a leader within CityLife. It is the same with a single heterosexual person who has sexual attractions and is not acting on those. However, we would not bring into leadership someone involved in a same-sex relationship (just the same as we wouldn't bring into leadership a person living together with a partner of the opposite gender and not married).
5. What about same-sex marriage? The Australian Government already provides a range of benefits for people in de facto relationships, including same-sex couples, and a relationship register has been created. As Elders, we support the traditional definition of marriage as between a man and a woman. We encourage people to form and voice their own opinions on this matter to the various political leaders and lawmakers. No doubt, society's views about 'marriage equality' are changing.
6. What if a CityLife member or leader has a different view on this issue to the church? We are a church community where there are variety of views and opinions on many issues. Unity is not uniformity. We have people in our church with personal views in each of the approaches mentioned above. If individuals differ personally with CityLife’s stance on this issue, we respect their right to do so, but ask that they be supportive of our approach within the church community. A united approach by the church leadership and pastoral team is vital so as to avoid confusion for people. The issue is not disagreement but how we handle our disagreements. If we do so in a mature, loving and non-divisive manner, potential damage to the community can be avoided.
Where to from here?
Homosexuality is a complex subject. However, it is vital that not avoid talking about it, even if it makes us uncomfortable. So how do we respond to all of this?
1. Educate yourself. Ignorance is not bliss. Humility acknowledges that we are all on a journey of learning and discovery about God and his ways. We all know ‘in part’ (1Corinthians 13:9-12). Pray, read widely, ask questions, listen to people’s stories, reflect, and learn all you can about this matter. Be informed.
2. Be compassionate. Show empathy and seek to understand. All of Jesus’ teaching applies here: love your neighbour as yourself and do to other people as you would have them do to you. It may be helpful to put yourself in the place of a same sex attracted person growing up in a Christian community. Many same-sex attracted people feel rejected by those who express anti-homosexual sentiments. Recognise that in any group of 20 people, at least one person may feel that they are same-sex attracted. Your words and attitudes affect them deeply. Christians are to be known by their love.
3. Engage in conversation. Church should be the safest place for people to have open and honest conversations. Attributes such as integrity and authenticity are vital in the creation of meaningful relationships and community. Discuss and debate the issue but don't attack or throw mud at people, especially over social media. Let’s talk about this – in constructive ways.
1. Reflect on your schooling years. What were your experiences/impressions of people who were ‘gay’?
2. Why do you think that this issue is such a heated topic in the Christian church today?
3. Do you think people in the Church community consider homosexual sin worse than heterosexual sin?
4. Reflect on the different approaches churches/Christians take in regards to homosexuality today. How do you feel about the stance that the eldership has outlined for our church?
5. Read about the Jerusalem Council in Acts 15. What can we learn from how these early Christians processed such a heated disagreement?
6. Reflect on the ‘Frequently Asked Questions’. Do you have any additional suggestions or thoughts?
7. Spend time in prayer that we will be the kind of church community that Jesus had in mind.
The asylum seeker issue continues to hit the news here in Australia and beyond.
On June 29 at 7:30 there is a free debate in the city of Melbourne.
Business Faith Law and Morality: The Asylum Seeker Debate.
What is Your opinion?
The asylum seeker issue needs resolving. We encourage you to take advantage of this opportunity to listen to expert opinion and have your considerations and suggestions discussed.
What is the role of Faith and a United Faith Community in the Asylum Seeker debate?
Are Asylum Seekers an Economic opportunity or threat?
Does Business have a role to play in the Asylum Seeker debate?
Do we have a Moral obligation to assist Asylum Seekers?
Is Australia’s policy to discourage some Asylum Seekers Legal?
Experts, to lead us in discussion:
Contact bflm.eventbrite.com.au to reserve your FREE ticket and read more information. $9 flat rate car parking is available.
On Monday, 18th May we launched a new church web site - www.citylife.church
The basic design of our website hasn’t changed too much in about 10 years. This release is primarily aimed at getting our site into a modern design. There is a lot more information to be added to the site and areas that will be improved, but it lays the groundwork for those things.
The new site includes:
Special acknowledgement to Chris Martin, our Communications and IT Director, along with Ferdy and Gina, who have invested a huge amount of effort to develop this new site for us. They rarely sit down on the job, and their teamwork and cooperation has been a pleasure to watch. Coding is an incredibly detailed job where every character matters – one character missing or out of place can cost you hours. We really appreciate all their effort, and the great attitude they do it with!
We fight the drug of porn with the power of love
Steak: We have taken the good gift of sex and turned it into something it is not.
Steak: food is for eating (we have twisted sex into something it isn’t).
1. Think about the ways that sex has been twisted away from God’s intention.
2. The dictionary defines pornography as: Sexually explicit writing, images, video, or other material whose primary purpose is to cause sexual arousal. Think about what kinds of pornography there are in our world.
3. Have a read of the statistics about pornography below. Consider whether these statistics are greater or lower than what you expected.
Scripture: The Bible tells us sex is sacred and is not to be cheapened.
The Bible is a book about God’s love for the world. Sex is a gift of God given with a purpose (Gen 1:26,31) but humanity through sin took it outside of its purpose. People tried to come back to God by their actions but it was the hearts that God was after (Prov 4:23, Matt 15:16-20, Matt 5). Sex is not just physical, it is spiritual (1 Cor 6:15-20, Eph 5:1-14).
1. Read through the Scriptures above. Reflect on why sex is more than just a physical act.
2. Do you think God or the Bible is against sex?
Stats: Porn kills love
Here are some of the main ways that pornography kills love.
1. Brain: When we look at pornography it releases dopamine in our brain that rewires them to crave the feeling more and more. This is like taking drugs. We are the product of our habits (good and bad). Pornography becomes addicted to the good feelings of sex outside of the purpose in a loving committed relationship.
2. Relationships: Looking at pornography creates false perception of reality where we learn to expect what we see/read in pornography over real life. It creates distorted views of men and women. It decreases intimacy in marriage.
3. Injustice: participating in porn consumption creates the need for a system of injustice. While we may not be looking at the terrible aspects of pornography, they are all part of a system that makes abuse against women, child slavery and sexual abuse possible.
4. Spirit: porn pushes us away from the only one who can truly transform us. When you engage in pornography it pushes you away from God and community.
Are these statistics and consequences of pornography something you were aware of?
Shift: Fight porn with love
For those who are struggling here are some great next steps:
1. Choose: change starts with a choice. It may sound simple but what we tolerate we will never change. We need to make a conscious decision to change.
2. Talk: one of the great lies of the enemy is to make those struggling think they are the only ones struggling. We cannot do life on our own. We need community. As a church we need to create space for people to be real about their struggles and help lift one another up. (James 5:16)
3. Walk: Change your habits. There are some real practical ways you can change your habits. You can replace the bad habits with positive ones. Below are some great resources to assist your change
4. Journey: remember that change and growth is a journey. We are being transformed each day. Whatever our struggle, we must follow the example of Paul in Philippians (Phi 3:12-14) by forgetting what is behind and pressing on.
Response to Sin
How we respond to sin (of any kind) says a lot about our understanding of God and His grace. There are two extremes we want to avoid:
1. Rubbish: (kick someone while they are down). When someones is struggling we do not want to condemn them. If our first response to sin is retribution and not redemption than we are living under law and not grace.
2. Reinforce: (pretend it doesn’t matter). The other extreme is to overlook the sin. When we pretend sin doessn’t matter we cheapen the grace of Jesus.
The way that Jesus modelled is the best way to respond to sin (John 8)
3. Redeem (speak to the person they are yet to be). Jesus met people where they were but called them to something more. We want to speak to the potential in people. God met us at our worst and called children of God. We want to be a community that meets people wherever they are and calls them to their God given identity.
At CityLife, we usually share a teaching series each year about family matters. Family is where we experience many of our greatest joys, yet also some of our deepest pains. Over the years, we have spoken about singleness, marriage, parenting, sexuality and last year we discussed the sensitive topic of divorce and remarriage (the videos are available on our church web site). This year, we’ll be talking about family and relationships again, while also looking at the topics of pornography and homosexuality. It all starts this coming weekend.
While we are thinking about family, how about taking some time this week to pray for:
I finish with some wisdom from the pages of Scripture for all of our relationships:
“Love never gives up. Love cares more for others than for self. Love doesn't want what it doesn't have. Love doesn't strut, doesn't have a swelled head, doesn't force itself on others, isn't always ‘me first’, doesn't fly off the handle, doesn't keep score of the sins of others, doesn't revel when others grovel, takes pleasure in the flowering of truth, puts up with anything, trusts God always, always looks for the best, never looks back, but keeps going to the end. Love never dies” 1 Corinthians 13:4-8.
May God fill us afresh with that kind of love today!
Who would’ve thought that one photo could cause so much trouble?
It wasn’t the first time I’d been criticized for my friendship and solidarity with the Muslim community, in fact I’d had some threats of violence when I spoke up about Halal certification but this one took it another level. Had I renounced the gospel? Sure, being friends with Muslims, but praying in a mosque? Did I even believe in Jesus anymore? The beard didn’t help any.
Had I taken the instructions “love your neighbour as yourself” and “love your enemy” too literally? Too far?
1 John 3. This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.
We know what loves looks like by only one measure. Jesus Christ. We only know what loves looks like because we know Jesus and what it looked like for him.
And if I had a Bible for every time I’ve heard a Christian use their love for everyone as an excuse to be bigoted, hateful, insular, selfish, fear-mongering, greedy and self- interested I’d be the library at the Vatican.
You’ve heard it like I have. This flippant Christianese about loving people for whom we hold our deepest prejudices and ugliest hatreds.
Let me say this -
If it sounds like hate, feels like hate and makes people feel hated then it’s certainly not love.
There’s not some special form of love that only Christians get to know about that looks and feels a lot more like hate for those that it is directed towards, but in some super spiritual secret way is still love.
If it looks like prejudice, feels like prejudice and keeps us as far away from people as prejudice does, then it’s prejudice.
There’s not a special form of Christian love that looks like prejudice, feels like prejudice and distances and dehumanises people like prejudice but in actual fact is some secret kind of love that only Christians know of.
There’s no special kind of love where you get to be horrible to people, or pretend they don’t exist, a kind of love where you stay in your insular and ignorant world, judge people you’ve never met, protect yourself from difference and religiously maintain your privileged way of life and self-righteously sheltered paradigm.
There’s a reason that doesn’t sound a lot like love.
Because it isn’t love. It’s prejudice wrapped up in faith.
It’s ignorance wrapped up in religion.
It’s bigotry masquerading as Christianity.
It’s selfishness appropriating the name of the selfless one to excuse greed and insularity.
It’s our rampant desire for a comfortable, self-interested life using the one who gave up the trappings of heaven to set us free as an excuse not to give a damn about anyone except ourselves, our situation and our perspective.
That’s not love it’s blasphemy.
But seeing as that little rant doesn’t relate to anyone here in this room I want to move on and talk about some things that are a bit more insidious, a bit less overt and obvious but are nevertheless important to reflect upon if we are to apply this wild measure of love to our work in the community and world.
“This is how we know what love is: Jesus laid down his life for us.” There’s a CS Lewis quote that I find helpful to explain it in practice
“Love is not affectionate feeling, but a steady wish for the loved person’s ultimate good as far as it can be obtained.” ―C.S. Lewis
Another way of putting that could be “good intentions are not the same thing as love”.
Why? Because if we don’t do the hard work of turning good intentions into real outcomes for people then it’s likely that the “good” in “good intentions” is more about how good we feel about what we’re doing.
There’s a danger that we’re in fact congratulating ourselves for the intention to do good deeds, the videos we made to celebrate them and the likes on our Instagram account of ourselves with poor children rather than doing whatever it takes for the good of the people we say we love.
The phrase in CS Lewis’ quote “As far as it can be obtained” is key for us, I think. Love seeks the ultimate good of the loved person “as far as it can be obtained”.
Here are some very practical things that love does when love has the intention to work for the “ultimate good ... as far as it can be obtained”.
1. Love intentionally escapes the echo chamber. In love we realise that it is easy to be surrounded by people, ideas, books and stories that affirm what we believe, the way we think, our theology, missiology and ecclesiology and we end up in a situation where we think anyone who isn’t doing it like us, or with us, must be naive, uneducated or willfully incompetent.
The echo chamber is when we find a bunch of like-minded churches, with similar culture to our own, and so do what they’re doing – it must be the right thing because they had a sick video and their people love it.
Love is not an excuse to be uneducated, or narrowly educated. Love is a steady wish for the loved one’s good as far as it can be obtained. As far as it can be obtained means being aware of the danger of the echo chamber where all our ideas, practices and projects are constantly being affirmed by those who we have become mirrors of.
2. Love is teachable and actively seeks out learning and critique. Love makes sure we’re at the cutting edge of community engagement, aid and development and have made every endeavor to learn from the best practitioners in the world about how to maximize our engagement with the people we say we love.
Love is not an excuse to do things badly. Love is not an excuse to be ten years behind. What I mean by this is that love won’t just send money, people and hours to any foreign aid and development project, or local community development work, driven by an emotional response we call love.
Love will, in seeking the loved one’s ultimate good as far as it can be obtained, actively seek to understand what it world’s best practice today and invest in that best practice.
If you don’t know what results-based accountability, asset-based community development or collective impact mean, it’s time to learn.
When we’re still behaving like the white Saviours who can solve all the world’s problems for them the photos look great but It’s not love.
3. Love maximizes outcomes no matter what the cost – because it’s about the recipient and what they get out of our love acting towards them and not about us and our desire to feel like we’re good people.
In a small church community like mine, hundreds of people hours and thousands of dollars are invested in helping the people we love. In larger churches it’d be thousands of hours and tens or hundreds of thousands.
Across this room, across Australia, it’s incredible to think how much human and financial resource flows from our love for others.
Love, seeking the loved one’s ultimate good as far as it can be obtained, pays the price of ensuring this investment does the most good it possibly can. That sometimes leads to conflict when we learn that our favorite projects aren’t aligned with good development principles, or that our community engagement isn’t helping but is feeding a dependency mindset.
Love sometimes means educating people that there are better organisations, projects, activities to invest their time and money into, and others that need to be abandoned, or radically re-imagined.
Love is not an excuse to avoid the conflict that comes from assessment, accountability and education. In fact, love makes those things essential because love doesn’t ask, “How does this activity benefit me and my church?” or “How does this keep people in my church happy and comfortable?” love says, “How can I best obtain the ultimate good for these people we say we love?”
This is how we know what love is – Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. What would you give up for love of people?
Changing the way it’s always been done? Escaping the echo chamber and being challenged by new ideas and paradigms? Being willing to take your people on a journey towards world’s best practice despite the uncomfortable changes on the way?
Maybe it’s risking your reputation, like Jesus being seen with sex workers, tax collectors and sinners as we do whatever it takes to make our community engagement about them and not about us and our church-culture measures of success.
This is how we know what love is. Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. Thanks.
[Source: World Vision's National Church Leader's Summit - February 2015]
To all the mums out there, Happy Mother's Day!
We wouldn't be here without you. What amazing people you are. My mother passed away over 25 years ago now and I still miss her.
Nicole's mother, affectionately known as 'Oma' passed away 7 years ago and we still really miss her. Mothers are very special people!
The photo to above is an old one of my dad and mum (in the red top), and Nicole's dad and mum (light blue top)]
Here are the lyrics to a song I heard many years ago called Love Them While You Can by Chris Christian (available from the iTunes store).
[Vs.1] They tied our shoes, took us to school, patched our worn-out jeans
They soothed our tears and calmed our fears, and listened to our dreams
Somewhere along their golden years, their hair has lost its sheen
The notes to hymn one hundred ten crackle when they sing
And now they are alone, no children's voices fill their empty homes
[Chorus] We must love them while we can, we must love them while we can
For time just seems to hurry by, and the days slip into years
And the moments that we have will disappear
So love them while we can
[Vs.2] The folks that taught us our first words, still have much to say
The silver secrets of the world, lie beneath those crowns of grey
As they approach the end, we change our role from children to best friend
[Bridge] We always thought they'd be around Until the end of time
Until day we wake and find ...
[Chorus] We must love them while we can, we must love them while we can
For time just seems to hurry by, and the days slip into years
And the moments that we have will disappear
So love them while we can
Do you ever worry? A better question is probably, “What do you worry about?” Worry can come from many sources - our health, finances, relationships, the future, etc. There are many things to worry about that are real and relevant to our lives. To “worry” means to fret, to fear, to be afraid, to be anxious or to be overly concerned. Worry is simply ‘negative meditation’ or ‘negative imagination’. One worry feeds another so much that it becomes impossible to think of anything other than the risks and threats that could lie ahead. The more we worry, the worse we feel; and the worse we feel, the more we think in a worried and anxious way. We lose our joy worrying about things that may never happen, or that turn out not to be as bad as we had imagined, or things that were never that important to begin with. Worry rarely helps.
Once again, as we turn to God’s Word as recorded in the Bible, we have lots of good advice and encouragement for finding freedom from worry. Jesus tells us not to worry nine times in his sermon on the mountain (Matt.6:25-34). He doesn’t want our minds to be preoccupied with the cares and concerns of life. The “worries of this life” (Matt.13:22) can become like thorns which choke and strangle the life out of God’s word, causing us to be unfruitful.
How to STOP Worrying
Specify your worries. The first question you should ask yourself is, “What am I worrying about?” Specifically define your worries clearly in writing. Make a list. Writing them down gets them out of your head. Be clear and specific. Admitting and defining your problem is the beginning of the answer. Confess your worries and confront them. Don’t deny their existence or run away from them. If you do you’ll never conquer or overcome them. Accurate diagnosis is 50% of the cure. When fears and worries remain nameless, it becomes almost impossible to deal with them. They tend to grow to unrealistic proportions. Much of our anxiety is usually not specific, but more a sense of unknown and uncertain possibilities that may lie ahead.
A study was done on the things people worry about. Here are the results:
40% of the worries people had never happened or will never happen.
30% of the worries were things in the past for which nothing could be done.
12% were worries about health and worry actually worsens your health.
10% were petty or minor worries.
8% of the worries were about anything substantial or legitimate.
Of that 8%, half, or 4%, of all worries, were out of their control. The other 4% concern something a person could do something about.
Therefore, research tells us that 96% of what we worry about is irrelevant. It’s not worth worrying about!
Don’t worry about the unimportant. Don’t fill up your life with worry about trivial things. Ask yourself, “How important is this thing I’m worrying about”? “Will this matter in five years time?” Put your worry in a long-term perspective. “How bad or dreadful, really, is this thing I’m worrying about?” Don’t make a mountain out of a molehill. “How much is this worry worth?” Don’t spend more worry on it than its worth. You need your energy for more important things.
Don’t worry about the unlikely. Don’t waste your energy on problems that don’t really exist. Most worry is not only bad for you. It wastes time and energy. Many people lives are filled with tragedies that never happened.
Take action on your worries. The next question to ask is yourself is, “Is there anything I can do about it?” If “yes”, work out what you could do, or how to find out what to do. Make a list. Turn worries into actions. Do something about your worries and fears.
There are two types of things not worth worrying about: those that you can do something about and those that you can’t. Turn your worries into problems; then solve them. The antidote to worry is purposeful action. You can’t worry about something if you are working to take care of it. Worry is useful if it makes you sit up and take notice OR if it motivates you action. All other worry is pointless.
Take some action to address the situation causing your worry. Any further worry is unproductive, so drop it.
Offer up a prayer to God. Paul tells us … “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Phil 4:6-7. NIV) The Message Bible translates these verses this way: “Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.”
Place your trust in God. “Is there anything you can do about it?” If “no”, then stop worrying and place your trust in the Lord (Prov.3:5-6). Co-operate with the inevitable and things beyond your control. Yes, there will be dark days, storms of life and unanswered questions. However, responding to life’s situations is your choice. No one can do it for you. It is an issue of trust.
Learn to live with uncertainty. Uncertainty is difficult to handle when the situation is uncontrollable or you can’t predict what will happen. There will always be things beyond our control; however, God is in control. Your life is not controlled by fate, accident or chance. Even the people and circumstances around you are under the domain and sovereignty of God. Nothing happens to you without God knowing and permitting it (see Rom.8:28). Let this motivate you to put your trust completely in God.
Why shouldn’t we worry? It’s bad for us and does us no good - unless it leads to action. It takes away our joy. What a worry worry is! The only thing we should worry about is worry itself - like the only thing we should fear is fear itself. But most of all, worry tends to get us focused on our own needs, rather than the needs of others. We become so preoccupied with our own concerns and problems that we are of no use to anyone else. In Matthew 6:33, Jesus tells us what to do instead of worrying – “Seek first the kingdom of God”. Get busy advancing God’s kingdom. God has called us to make a difference in the world - to reach out to others in need; to serve and help; and to share the “good news” about Jesus.
1. Reflect back on your life and consider various things that you have spent considerable time worrying about. What happened? Was the worry worth it? How did things turn out?
2. Read Matthew 6:25-34 where Jesus taught on worry. If Jesus were speaking this today, what would be some of the common worries he might have mentioned?
3. Think about how taking positive action helps conquer worry. Consider how prayer helps conquer worry.
4. Reflect on the concept of ‘trust’ in God. How does this help conquer worry? Read Proverbs 3:5-6. What is the promise? What are the three conditions to the promise?
5. Finish by praying specifically focused on things that you are currently concerned about.