Monday, October 31, 2011

Refiner's fire

   I will refine them like silver
   and test them like gold.
(Zechariah 13:9)

Being made pure and refined by God is a beautiful thing. Think of the beauty and value of pure gold and pure silver. Something pure is free from imperfections and blemishes and things to dilute or marr it.

But think of how gold is purified. It may be melted in fire many times over before it is completely free of impurities.

Now, fire. That doesn't seem so pretty. So the actually becoming pure - not so easy. It will mean testing. It will mean the heat will be on. It will mean that a lot of impurities may come to the surface to be removed.

But that's the important part - they will be removed, burned away. And what is left is pure. What is left is you, as God created you to be, without all the junk.

The fire does not destroy you. It does not burn indescriminantly. It only burns away what is not meant to be there. The process of refining is worth the end result.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

pure and useful

When God looks at us, he sees someone pure, someone covered and redeemed in Christ's blood. We can approach him without fear because of Jesus.

If this wasn't so, we would all still having to be going through the rituals of a high priest to be able to even get close to God. There are chapters and chapters dedicated to just describing all the rules of the set up of the tabernacle and the requirements of the priests, down to the type of thread in the clothes they wore. A person had to be clean and purified to approach God - or we see what happened to those who approached God without being pure. Such as the guy who tried to stop the ark from falling and was struck dead because he touched it.

Those sort of examples seem horrifying to us. He was just trying to help! was my first reaction. But it is meant to emphasize to us the absolute holiness of God.

But that doesn't need to make us fearful, now. Because of Jesus, we have been purified. We can freely approach God. What a marvelous, amazing gift and blessing. We can go boldly into his presence, like a child to their father.

While in the old testament the priests made regular sacrifices in the tabernacle where God dwelled, on behalf of all the people - now we have a High Priest who made the ultimate sacrifice. And now God dwells in US. (That is us, as in you and me - not the U.S.)

Though we still act sinfully, we do not need to be ashamed before God. He sees us as purified. why do I still need to live a certain way then. Doesn't it not even matter. If it's by grace we are saved - why do anything?

The answer to that question, one that if we are honest with ourselves we have probably all considered at some time, depends on what we think life is about.

Is it just a waiting room where we sit on an uncomfortable bench until the heaven train comes to pick us up?

Or is it something meant to be lived, a time to serve God, a time to be of use in the kingdom of Heaven, while we wait for that eventual enternity?

Because then I think all the 'stuff' we think God is telling us to do, is actually his provision of a way of life that makes things easier on us. He knows that if we live the way he has told us is right, then we will live freer and happier and more purposefully.

2 Timothy 2:20-21 - In a large house there are articles not only of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay; some are for noble purposes and some for ignoble. If a man cleanses himself from the latter, he will be an instrument for noble purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work.

We are pure and without shame before God - we are sinners, but that doesn't any longer exclude us from God's awesome presence.

But if we want to be free and unburdened in His presence, to realise the joy of the purity and freedom that God has already attained for us - then we'd be wise to stop fighting against the way of life God recommends.

Those people who say "If God forgives anything, I'll just live however I want and then just repent on my death bed" are missing the point. If the last second repentance is real, then Yes, those people will still be with God like those who became a Christian at age 2.

But it's not just about where we are when we die - if we live only for ourselves, what fullness and fulfillment are missing out on while we are living on earth?

Monday, October 24, 2011

Dotting the t's and crossing the i's

Dot your T's and cross your I's.

Sounds pretty silly doesn't it. Read it again if you missed it. It's easy to do if your read it or someone says it fast. It sounds like it's supposed to, until you realise that it's backwards.

It sounds like the saying that means get everything perfect and do it just the right way. But it actually makes no sense. If you did that - put dots on t's and crosses on i's - you would be achieving the opposite of getting things perfect.

Religion can be like that. We think a set of rules and doing everything just the right way will make it all work. But it's actually backwards. Religion can actually sometimes cause us to achieve the opposite of what we are meant to.

But the enemy likes to say it to us fast. Make us skip over it quickly, so we think we are seeing and hearing all the right things, so it must be right. He makes us miss the fact that it is all in the wrong order. All the right parts in the wrong places makes a big difference sometimes.

Rules cannot take the place of relationship. Doing all the 'right' things doesn't take the place of a right heart. Ritual doesn't take the place of devotion and love.

The devil likes to make us believe his version of things where we are still sinners in chains, who have to get the paperwork right to get free. And then he reminds us constantly that we don't know how to get it right.

Striving to get everything perfect actually gets in the way of what God has for us - because we never can get it perfect. We'll never attain that goal. Trying to will only distract us from really knowing God.

Because God is the only one who can make things perfect. God is the only one who can put things in the perfect order, the right parts in the right places. He has already done that for us.

Grace means that God's got everything covered. If and when we mess things up, it doesn't matter because God has already done it all. He's already crossed those t's. And he has won. He has triumphed over sin and death.

Because of Jesus, when God looks at us he doesn't see a messed up person who can't manage to live up to His rules. He doesn't see a failure in need of punishment. He sees a child, a pure, white, cherished creation. And he loves you.

Don't you just want to lay down everything you've been carrying and searching for to get it right, lay down the lies and the misdirection you've been struggling with, and just bask in that love?

Peace and joy. (Romans 5:1-11)


But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Spreading the good news

I used to hate the word 'evangelize'. To me it brought up images of super outgoing people getting in other's faces speaking at them about stuff they didn't want to hear.

For me it was kind of a personal prejudice - I have to admit I was envious of the people who had the self confidence and out-going personality that made conversation with strangers easy.

But I also wondered what it achieved. I wondered if sometimes it was counter productive.

I know how uncomfortable I feel when random people approach me trying to talk to me about stuff. Even if it's about things I care about - being surprised on the street is not normally the place I want to talk to about it. So I normally decline politely and keep walking. Or try to avoid eye contact completely. (I want to apologize to everyone I ever walked past who wanted to talk to me... I probably make it way more awkward.)

But I've kind of changed my mind. Please don't start approaching me trying to sell me anything. But when it comes to evagelism, I'm not so afraid of the word anymore.

I realised - do I want people to know Jesus? Do I believe God wants people to know Him?

Then it's not about me. It's about them.

Those people who are searching and needing to hear the good news. The best news. The only news that really matters.

And you know what, it's not random. I think that putting ourselves out there willing to speak means we are giving God permission to use us - and He knows those people who need to hear it and when.

Approaching random people and talking at them still won't work for anything. But approaching people who God has already been speaking to, or who are in some stage of a journey in knowing Jesus - that's not random.

It's possible, but I don't think we are going to get 'conversions' every time we speak to someone about God. I don't actually think that's even the aim.

But being unafraid to speak about Jesus means another step, another piece, another moment in someone else's life that may just be helping to point them in the right direction.

Like Esther, if we don't do it, someone else will.

Not all of us are gifted at it - some people will walk the city streets on a Friday night and talk to all sorts of people. For others, we can start with those close to us. Those we maybe walk by, or say hello to, or buy our coffee from every day. Or even our friends, who maybe know we go to church, or that we are some 'Jesus' person, but with whom we've never actually had a conversation about faith before.

Start as small as you like. But start. Start speaking the name of Jesus, who the world so desperately needs. Don't keep Him to yourself.

1 Corinthians 2:4
My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit's power

Peace and joy. (Romans 5:1-11)


But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

No Service?

The other day my phone signal kept disappearing. I was just in my own house, in my own living room, where I normally get perfectly good reception.

And yet, there, in clear letters across my phone screen - no service.

I had no internet that day either.

I felt completely disconnected. And there was nothing I could do about it.

Sometimes I feel like that with God. Like the signal's dropped out.

I know there should be a connection, because I've had it before. Just like normally I get a signal in my living room. But it's gone.

And sometimes it feels like there's nothing I can do about it.

On my phone, I can press all the buttons and reset all the settings as much as I like, but if I'm in a dead spot or the network is down it won't make any difference.

And sometimes it feels the same when I'm trying to talk to God. I can try all the 'buttons' I know - play music, read my Bible, sit quietly, pace, dance or even rage.... but I can still feel like I'm in spiritual dead spot.

And I'm sure I'm not alone in feeling this way - wondering what happened to the signal, and how do you get it back? Is there something wrong with me?

But there's nothing wrong with the phone - it is still functioning. And there's nothing wrong with anyone else's phone. I'm not receiving calls or messages, or getting on the internet. But that's not because people aren't calling or sending, or that the internet has disappeared.

It's the network.

If God is the caller, and my phone is me, then maybe it is the church that is the network. Communication lines are down. The system isn't functioning like it should. We should be in community, in fellowship.

But instead we are all on our own feeling disconnected. Everyone's trying to communicate but nothing is getting through, and so we are isolated.

Church should not be the place we go to look good on Sundays. It shouldn't be the place where we feel like we need to put on a happy face. It shouldn't be the last place people want to go when they are hurting because they fear being judged. It shouldn't be the place where people have replaced how to really talk and listen to God, with rituals and religion and light shows.

We need to get back online. God wants to fix the network for us, if we'll let him.

Maybe, in the mean time while we are figuring out what's one awry, we shouldn't wait for our phones to reset and receive calls again. We should get out of our living rooms and go to where each other are.

Maybe when I feel like I've lost the signal that lets me download that 'Jesus' feeling, I should go out and find Him where he is at. With the people He died for.

Peace and joy. (Romans 5:1-11)


But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

God is not a secret

How would you feel if you got to pick a car out of two options - only to discover later that there was a third one, an amazing one, that you never knew about. Would it seem fair for others to say "Well, it was your choice - you could have chosen that third option." What would you respond?

Quite likely, you would say - "How could I choose it if I never knew about it?"

Now think about our faith.

We hold on to it like it's our personal possession. We've discovered it, but we act like everyone else will have to discover it on their own. We're 'in', that's all we need to worry about.

And why doesn't everyone else hurry up and realise what they're missing? We want them to notice we've got something they don't, and to want what we have - but then we aren't willing to go out there and tell them what that is.

It's like a whole bunch of people smugly watching us choose one of two cars, when they know that there is another one that would be perfect for us if only we knew about it - yet saying nothing.

Instead, we try to be comfortable for others. To water down and downplay our 'Jesus Freak-ishness' so as not to offend.

No wonder people don't want Christianity - most of what they see is far from genuine, so they don't even know what following Jesus really means.

We spend so much time catering to what other people think they want, that we forget to show them what is actually real.

“A lot of times people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.”
Jobs was talking about why he never designed products based on focus groups—what the average consumer thought they wanted in a phone or computer—but I think it applies to Christian communities, too. Sometimes we try too hard to be all things to all people, rather than just going all-out with the vision that’s been planted in us. It’s important to listen, but it’s also important to not get distracted and confused about the goal: Not giving people what they think they want, but living out the love and showing them what they didn’t know they wanted." From Kristin Tennant at 'Half Way to Normal'.

We very easily compromise, because we believe what others tell us about what they think they want.

But we know what is possible. We know what is real and true. We can't wait for others to ask us for something they don't even know exists.

They aren't going to. It's like the third car. If you don't know it's there, how can you ask for it?

And I'm not advocating Bible bashing, or even preaching on street corners.

We need to take hold of what we know for ourselves, really take hold of it and live it out in faith. Faith means believing that what we have is actually worth sharing no matter the cost.

Then we actually have something to offer those who are lost and searching, and don't even know what they are missing.

Jesus is not meant to be a secret.

Peace and joy. (Romans 5:1-11)


But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.