Spirituality

Reflections on Psalm 139 (Part 4)

As we said when we began these reflections, the writer of Psalm 139 was facing many challenges from unjust people and oppressors. In this context, a hymn of adoration was crafted, declaring that (1) God is always with us, (2) God's affections are towards us, and (3) we have a unique purpose. In concluding this journey, the psalmist offers a prayer to God: An Open Book Vs. 23-24. Investigate my life, O God, find out everything about me; Cross-examine and test me, get a clear picture of what I'm about; See for yourself whether I've done anything wrong— then guide... Read more →


Reflections of Psalm 139 (Part 2)

As we continue our reflections on Psalm 139, we move on from the awareness that God is always with us to the understanding that you, like every other human being, are made in the image of God. Let's read on ... Vs.13-15. Oh yes, you shaped me first inside, then out; You formed me in my mother's womb. I thank you, High God — you're breathtaking! Body and soul, I am marvelously made! I worship in adoration —what a creation! Your Identity - A Child of God We all long for a sense of identity and significance. We often search... Read more →


Reflections on Psalm 139 (Part 1)

This beautiful Psalm begins by boldly declaring that God knows all about us, will never let us go, and has been involved with us from our earliest beginnings (vs.1-18). The latter part of the Psalm provides the context - one of feeling the injustice of people who go about doing wrong and need to be held to account (vs.19-23). When we are faced with life's contradictions, with personal challenges, or opposition from others, it's good to remind ourselves of these truths about God: God With Us Vs.3-5. I'm never out of your sight ... I look behind me and you're... Read more →


Another Work Week ...

As we come to the end of the weekend (a long one for those living in Victoria and Tasmania, Australia), another work week awaits for most people. It is interesting that in the ancient Hebrew mindset, the day begins in the evening - with rest (see Genesis 1 where it repeatedly says "... and the evening and the morning were the first day"). We are to fill our tank (with physical, emotional, mental and spiritual energy) and then work from this position of fullness. This is in stark contrast to the common Western worldview that sees the evening or the... Read more →


Trinity

A few years ago, when I was on a week-long prayer and silent retreat, I had just finished dinner and I walked out to the retreat centre's garden area. A lot of it was over-grown and unkept but there were some beautiful spots. Great places to sit, meditate, reflect and pray. I had this image of being invited into fellowship with the Trinity. I put 3 chairs in a semi-circle in front of where I was sitting - one for the Father, one for the Son, and one for the Spirit. It was quite impacting. I could feel their warmth... Read more →


Is it time to SLOW DOWN a little?

Many years ago, not long after moving to Chicago into a new fairly high pressured ministry position, John Ortberg asked his mentor, Dallas Willard, “What do I need to do to stay healthy and alive spiritually?” Long pause. “You must ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life”, he said at last. Another long pause. “Okay, I’ve written that down”, John told him, a little impatiently. “That’s a good one. Now what else is there?” John had many things to do and this was a long distance conversation, so he was anxious to cram as many units of spiritual wisdom into the... Read more →


Spiritual Disciplines - Growing Spiritually (Part 8)

A Few Important Qualifications Here are a few important truths about ‘spiritual disciplines’ (from John Ortberg): “Spiritual disciplines are not the barometer of spirituality”. The true indicator of spiritual well-being is growth in the ability to love God and people (see 2 Thess.1:3). The real issue is what kind of people were becoming NOT the exercises of spiritual disciplines we may be engaging in. We engage in spiritual disciplines not because they prove how spiritual we are but because they can lead us into God’s life. “Spiritual disciplines are not necessarily unpleasant.” Sometimes, we wrongly think that for an activity... Read more →


Spiritual Disciplines - Growing Spiritually (Part 6)

Here are some more spiritual disciplines ... 6. Solitude. Solitude is intentionally spending time alone with God away from people and from busyness or distractions. We choose to be alone. It is one of the most important and fundamental of the spiritual disciplines, especially if we are to do some of the other disciplines well. Jesus spent a lot of time in solitude throughout his life (Mt.4:1-2; 14:23. Lk.4:42; 5:15-16; 6:12). Jesus taught his followers to do the same (Mk.6:30-32). Take some regular time for solitude, preferably each day. Begin the day with some time alone with God. Take breaks... Read more →


Spiritual Disciplines - Growing Spiritually (Part 5)

Another spiritual discipline ... 5. Serving. A very important discipline is the discipline of ‘serving’. It helps us to work hard against our ingrained bent towards self-centredness. Naturally, we’d all prefer to ‘be served’ than to ‘serve’. However, in the kingdom of God, God calls us all to be servants – to take on the nature of Christ and to choose to serve others, willingly and joyfully (Mt.20:25-28. 1 Cor.12:7. 1 Pet.4:10). We are called to serve - at home, at work or school, in our neighbourhood and in our church family. When we don’t adopt the posture of a... Read more →


Spiritual Disciplines - Growing Spiritually (Part 4)

Some more spiritual disciplines ... 3. The Bible. The Bible is the Word of God. It contains his thoughts about life. It is our guidebook for life – how we are meant to live in the kingdom of God here and now (2 Tim.3:16-17). God’s Word is given to us not just to give us ‘information’ but to help bring about a ‘transformation’ in our life. Paul speaks about us being cleansed by ‘the washing of water by the word” (Eph.5:26). Read, study, memorise and meditate on the Word of God (Ps.1:1-3). Get his thoughts into your heart and mind.... Read more →


Spiritual Disciplines - Growing Spiritually (Part 3)

Spiritual Disciplines Spiritual disciplines are like ‘habits of effectiveness’ for the spiritual life, much like exercises, are used to develop habits of effectiveness for other areas of life (sport, music or language). Richard Foster says, “The disciplines place us before God so that God can transform us.” They get us in God’s presence so he can grow us. A ‘discipline’ is an activity within our power that enables us to accomplish what we cannot do by direct effort. The effect of the discipline is to enable us to do what needs to be done when and as it needs to... Read more →


Spiritual Disciplines - Growing Spiritually (Part 2)

Spiritual Growth is a Process When we commit our lives to Christ, a new life begins (2 Cor.5:17). We are “born again” or have a chance to start over. It’s not just turning over a new leaf. It’s getting a new life and a fresh start. We now have a new nature and the indwelling Holy Spirit. God then begins a process of change in our lives (Gal.4:19). This reality shouldn’t make us slack but it should make us both patient and persistent in our spiritual journey. Spiritual Growth is a Partnership Spiritual maturity occurs through a team effort between... Read more →


Spiritual Disciplines - Growing Spiritually (Part 1)

This term we are doing some training with our staff on genuine spirituality. I'd thought I'd put a summary of our teaching up on the BLOG for everyone's benefit. Spiritual Growth As we get to know God, his desire is to transform and change us to be like him. We were created in God’s image and likeness. Through sin that image was broken. God is now restoring us to his original intentions. This process of change is what the Bible describes as ‘sanctification’. To ‘sanctify’ means to set apart for holiness, to purify, to make free from sin. To be... Read more →


Jesus: I AM the Vine

John 15:1-6. “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and... Read more →


Your Home Base

Luke 5:16. As often as possible Jesus withdrew to out-of-the-way places for prayer. The Message Bible This is an amazing description of how Jesus lived and did ministry. He loved solitude - by the sea or in the country, on a boat or in a garden. This required withdrawal from people, busyness and activity. It was his home base - the place he continually returned to. He spent as much time there as possible. Out from here, he left to do ministry and serve the people God had sent him to. His life was full of conversation with God -... Read more →


Living a Life of Gratitude

Prayer and Praise When our kids were little, we used to drive the whole family north from Melbourne up to Queensland in the summer holidays to visit their grandparents. It was a multiple day trip and one of the things I hated to do was stop for petrol. After all, all those trucks, caravans and slow pokes I had been passing throughout the day, would now be passing me. My wife, Nicole always fills up for petrol with about 1/4 tank remaining. I tend to see how far I can go on a tank of petrol. I’ll never forget one... Read more →


How to Connect with God (re-post)

Jesus told his disciples to “abide” in him (John 15:5). They were to stay “connected” at all times. The apostle Paul’s one goal in life was to “know God” (Phil.3:7-11). His prayer for the church at Ephesus was that they might “know Him better” (Eph.1:15-17). But how do we get closer to God? How can we experience God in a more intimate and meaningful way? Different people give different answers: “Get up early and spend hours in prayer”, “Stay up late and write in a journal for hours”, “Fast regularly”, “Go on spiritual retreats all by yourself”, “Memorise lots of... Read more →


Stages of the Life of Faith

God’s kingdom is often described in an organic way and is seen as growing larger and stronger (Mark 4:26-29. Luke 13:18-19). The church is also seen as growing and maturing (Ephesians 4:15-16). Individual followers of Christ are also called to grow in their relationship to God (Colossians 1:9-10; 2:6-7). Personal and spiritual growth occurs over a period of time and always involves a process that is very much like a journey. Many people find it helpful to have a roadmap or at least a loose guide for their journey of faith. In their insightful book, The Critical Journey, authors Robert... Read more →


Showdown in the Desert (pt.2)

Lessons from Jesus’ Temptation Yesterday, we looked at Jesus' showdown in the dessert. Today, let's glean a few lessons for our own lives from this story. 1. We are in a spiritual war. We live in a spiritual battle zone between God and Satan, the kingdom of light and the kingdom of darkness. There is no neutral ground. We will either overcome or be overcome. The battle will intensify as history proceeds from this time until the return of Jesus. Before the world was created, a number of theologians believe that one of God's archangels was cast out of heaven... Read more →


Showdown in the Desert (Pt.1)

Jesus has prepared well for impacting his world through total surrender, a strong relationship with his Father and the empowerment of the Holy Spirit. The final aspect of his preparation is a showdown with the devil himself. Immediately after the “mountain-top” experience at his water baptism, Luke describes Jesus as “full of the Spirit”. The Spirit then “led” Jesus into the desert or wilderness (in comparison to the garden paradise where Adam and Eve were tempted). Jesus fasted (ate no food) for 40 days. During these 40 days he was also tempted or tested by the devil. The three specific... Read more →