Same Church... Same Heart...Same Passion... New Name

Same Church... Same Heart...Same Passion... New Name

After 12 years, Nelson Bays Church has changed its name to Christ First Church. One of the things we discover in Scripture, is that whenever God changed a person’s name it was to establish a new identity for them, and it was a declaration of intent – what God intended for them to be and become. The same is true for this local church.

We want to be identified as those who truly put Christ first in every way, but we also know it’s a name we will (and need to) grow into.

For us though it’s all about Jesus. We want to make much of Jesus. Our mandate as a church is to know Christ and to make Him known; where knowing Christ is our greatest joy, following Christ our greatest pursuit, and glorifying Christ our greatest goal.

We believe the name ‘Christ First’ better reflects who we are as a church, what’s important to us, where we’re going and what we’re wanting to achieve and live in.

This is an exciting time for Christ First and in many ways signifies a new season for us as a church; one of increased opportunity, effectiveness and fruitfulness.

As we go into our preferable future, let’s all keep Christ in the forefront of all we do; ensuring we seek Him first (Matt 6:33) as we strive to be a church that is Christ-centred in every way.

And Jesus said when you pray

And Jesus said when you pray

Martin Luther once said, “To be a Christian without prayer is no more possible than to be alive without breathing.” He is also quoted as saying, “I have so much to do that I shall spend the first three hours in prayer.” He understood how essential and important prayer was to his wellbeing and maturity.

Prayer is important. Prayer is a priority. Prayer is central to our relationship with the God-Head. Prayer is how we communicate with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. When we read the Bible, that’s often how we will hear Him speaking to us. Through prayer, we get to talk with God whenever we want to, and share our hearts, thoughts, fears, hopes and dreams. 

Jesus prayed often. He would withdraw and go to a quiet place to connect with His Father. He understood how necessary and important it was. The Bible tells us that Jesus prayed regularly – early in the morning, while it was still dark, when faced with a trial or temptation, and while He went about his daily life (Luke 5:16; Matt 26:39,42; Mark 1:35; John 17:19; Luke 23:34). Jesus is our perfect example.

In Luke 11:2-4 Jesus set out a pattern for prayer. I am not talking about regurgitation, parroting this prayer religiously every day; but rather this was given to show us how to pray and connect with our Heavenly Father.

 “And he said to them, “When you pray, say: “Father, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread, and forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation.”

As I re-read this scripture, I was reminder again that I have a Father in Heaven that I can turn to anytime, who knows all things, sees all things and is able to work all things for my absolute good. It reminded me that I have a Father who is majestic, all mighty, all powerful and completely ‘in control’. He sits in Heaven and He watches everything; nothing takes Him by surprise. He is different from humanity. He isn’t limited by anything. He is eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, and He is fully invested in me.  

It also reminded me that my life needs to be centred on Him. That means He needs to be my focus, my prize, my treasure; the one I’m captivated with and by. If He is, then no matter what happens or doesn’t happen, I am not tossed about by my emotions, fears or feelings.

I was struck again by how much He loves me; that He didn’t leave me alone but sent the precious life-giving Holy Spirit who convicts me, cleanses me, changes me, comforts me, counsels me and challenges me to be more like Jesus.

When I read ‘Your Kingdom come’ (I know this speaks of the rule and reign of God), I am profoundly aware that I am a spirit with a body and not a body with a spirit. What do I mean? I am born again by the Spirit and I realised that I have the Spirit of God residing in me and that means I have the full capacity and capability of His power at work in me and through me. That means wherever I am, I carry Him with me and whatever the needs are in any given place, I can pray; and His power is released, and His Kingdom can break in – break in to marriages, finances, health, relationships – and it can be changed in an instant! I don’t have to wait for Heaven, but I can right now live in the presence and power of my Heavenly Father and see things changed for the good. I am not limited by my humanity because its His power at work in and through me.

My source for everything is Him. Every need is met in Him and Him alone. Nothing else can satisfy. Nothing else can ever supply what I need – emotionally, mentally, materially, physically, spiritually – only Him. He is my provision; my protection and He is a Promise Keeper. What security that brings!

That’s why I need to pray. Prayer is the God-provision of my every need and it’s the God solution for every single issue I face. When I pray “Father” I am declaring He has this because He loves me. When I pray for His kingdom to break into my situation, I am praying for His Will and Way to breakthrough. When I pray for His provision, protection and promises to come about, I am remembering and declaring that He is the only one able to do anything and He is the source of everything. When I pray for forgiveness for myself and release it to others, I am reminded of His faithfulness in forgiving me. And when I pray deliver me, I am reminding myself that this is my promise keeping Father and I can confidently wait for His deliverance and provision because He will always hear me and provide a way out. And that’s why prayer is so very important. Prayer changes things but mostly it changes me.

Weapons of our warfare

Weapons of our warfare

As much as God has given us a mission and a mandate while on planet earth; we have an enemy intent on robbing, killing and destroying God’s great plan and purpose. As a result of following our Commander in Chief, Jesus, and living disciplined and obedient lives; we are a threat to the enemy and his purposes. Fortunately, we haven’t been left to fend for ourselves. The Lord isn’t sitting in heaven, holding His head in His hands, hoping somehow that His church will advance and overcome the enemy. The Lord has equipped us with some amazing armour and weaponry.

Ephesians 6:14-18 says, “Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.”

This armour and weaponry is only available to people who have accepted Jesus Christ as their Lord and Saviour. You must be spiritually renewed to make use of spiritual weapons. The apostle Paul was in prison at the time of writing this, surrounded by Roman soldiers dressed in their armour and weapons. God spoke to him through that every day experience and gave him a wonderful download that has helped Christians ever since. The truth is, we are at war! You and I have an enemy, but we have been equipped to face that enemy. We don’t need to ever fear him.

Paul starts with an instruction to “stand firm”. A simple definition of standing firm would be “to hold out, to resist, to withstand.” The call for us as believers is to hold our ground, to maintain a winning position, to be steadfast and upright as we live our lives on planet earth. It means we must never doubt we have an active enemy who is always looking for someone to destroy. Which means then that we must take our positions and be prepared for his attacks. Paul then explains what Heavenly weapons we have in our possession to help us do just that. For me the first three make up the uniform or clothing of every Christian, and the last four are our weapons to fight with.

·         With the belt of truth buckled around your waist. Truth is essential for every Christian. It’s only truth that can set free. We are to wear truth, be the truth, live the truth, speak the truth and believe the truth as Christians. Truth is essential in standing against the enemy. We can’t have any grey areas in our lives or areas of compromise. We need to believe the Word of God is truth and we need to live in that truth all the time. It’s truth that needs to undergird every other part of our armour and weapons.

·         The breastplate of righteousness in place. A breastplate protects all the vital organs of a body that sustain life. This isn’t our own righteousness, which God equates to filthy rags, but the righteousness which comes from God. We stand in His righteousness and not our own. It’s a righteousness received by faith. It doesn’t depend on how you feel or even what you’ve done or haven’t done. It’s a righteousness (a right standing) brought about by the selfless act of Jesus. This breastplate of God’s righteousness is our best defence against a lying evil enemy.

·         Your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. Isaiah speaks about the beauty of a Christian’s feet and about their feet being ready to go and do what the Commander asks of them. In chapter 52 verse 7 we read, “How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, “Your God reigns!” Part of our armour and weaponry is to be equipped and ready with the Gospel, so that we can share the gospel wherever we are and wherever we go. We inflict the greatest damage on the kingdom of darkness when we are ready, available and prepared to share the gospel.

·         Take up the shield of faith. This is our first weapon as a Christian. Faith is our shield against the lies of the enemy. Every time we are discouraged, depressed, disheartened or tempted to believe his lies, we are to raise up our shield of faith. What do you do with the shield? We use it to deflect the enemy’s attacks. Our faith shield will “extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one”. The enemy will persistently and continually come with his lies, condemning thoughts, guilty feelings, fears and harassment, but we are to continually respond with faith and counteract his accusations and deception.

·         Take the helmet of salvation. A helmet protects the head of a soldier. In days of old during a battle, it was used to identify which regiment a soldier was from. The helmet of salvation identifies us as a son or daughter of God. When we become saved, we receive the helmet of salvation that identifies us as a child of God; but it also tells others who we are. Salvation answers the who we are and whose we are question. The helmet of salvation protects our minds from enemy attack. If you’ve accepted Jesus as your Lord and Saviour, you have been saved. The enemy will try and rob you of that assurance by discouraging and condemning you but keep that helmet on so that his lies won’t penetrate your mind.

·         The sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Very simply put, this is saying that the Spirit of God provides you with a sword and that sword is the Word of God; powerful and effective, dividing bone and marrow. It gets right into us and cuts away all doubt, fear, anxiety and hopelessness. That means you need to meditate on Scripture, hide Scripture inside of you, and then use Scripture to counteract the enemy’s attacks.

·         And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. Prayer is a powerful and effective weapon against the enemy. Prayer calls on the hosts of Heaven to back you in overcoming the enemy. Learn to pray! Pray in your native language and prayer in the Spirit. Sometimes our English language is limited, but as we pray in tongues power is released, and breakthrough comes.

Paul then closes this section with the following words: “With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.” When you and I pray for others we can become a powerful weapon in the Father’s hand to help others win their battles. You and I have a responsibility to look out for the soldiers around us; to watch their backs, to protect them in prayer, and together to neutralise the enemy. Let’s put on our uniforms and take up our positions. Let’s pick up our weapons and use them to resist and overcome the works of the enemy.

En Garde Church! En Garde!

En Garde Church! En Garde!

We are fast approaching the end of 2018 which means we will soon be entering the holiday season. They call it the silly season, as often it’s a time where we lose the ‘God-plot' for our lives. It’s a time where we often over spend and over eat. It’s a time where we can let our disciplines slide (spiritual and natural), and a time where we let our guards down. Which means it’s a strategic time for the enemy to launch his attack on God’s children. Which is why we need to remain on guard!

In days of old, “en garde “(French for on guard), was used to warn a fencer to assume the position and prepare for an eventual attack. It was a warning to take their position and be ready to ward off any potential attacks. It was a call to be alert and ready to respond to their advance.

It’s a call that I hear the Father saying to His Church right now, “En Garde Church and hold your position”. The Father is encouraging us to get into position, prepare for attack, stay in position, hold our position and take ground from our enemy who seeks to rob, kill and destroy. Our enemy is very real, and he never goes on holiday or gives us a time out. He isn’t loving, kind, merciful or considerate. He doesn’t care if we are tired, weary and in desperate need of a holiday. He is watching and waiting for us to be off guard, so he can launch his attack against us.

Scripture gives us a necessary strategy to thwart the enemy’s attacks: Ephesians 6:10-13 tells us to “be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might”. We are to “put on the whole armour of God so that we can stand against the schemes of the devil.” These components for warfare against our enemy are essential for every believer if we are to stand and win.

Firstly, Paul is telling us to “be strong in the Lord.” My dad was a career soldier from the age of sixteen years old. He arrived at training camp a young man without skill and left a fully trained soldier. Before he was sent to war, and before he could use the weaponry that was available to him as a fighting soldier, he had to first go through basic training. In basic training he was taught first and foremost obedience to his commander’s instructions. He was then taken through a fitness course that made him mentally and physically strong as a person. All this was in preparation to be a fully trained soldier. They didn’t just give him a gun and send him out; they trained him first and equipped him with everything he would need for war.

As Christians we aren’t called to be strong in ourselves, but rather to “be strong in the Lord.” You were never meant to fight the enemy alone. Rather we are to get to know our commander in chief – Jesus – intimately; for us to get to know His voice so we can hear His instructions. We are called to press in to Him, press on in Him and press through with Him. We go to war against our enemy strengthened and equipped by the Lord. It’s His strength that so powerfully works in us. Which means God is constantly discipling us so that we become more like Jesus. He is also our source of power, strength and courage. Being strong in the Lord works in tandem with “in the strength of His might.” Jesus himself is our source of power, courage and strength. It is Jesus, who empowers us to stand, fight and to win. So, plug into Him! Stay plugged into Him!

The scripture continues in verse 11 with an instruction to “put on the whole armour of God” And this truth is reinforced in verse 13 where it says, “Therefore take up the whole armour of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.” Not only are we as Christians trained for war but we are equipped with the necessary armoury. It’s this armour that enables us to withstand attacks and equips us in spiritual warfare. And when an attack comes, its for us to know that we have the full backing of Heaven behind us and spiritual weapons available to us; and that no attack, no scheme of the enemy will prosper or succeed. But we need to stand in the Lord’s strength and power. I receive the Lord’s strength, might and power as I train with Him.

Verse 12 follows with, “we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” Which gives us a very clear picture of a very real enemy. We get an understanding that every Christian will face enemy attack at different times in their lives. We aren’t to fear those times, nor to fear the devil. He is a fallen angel (Luke 10:18) with limited power (Luke 10:19). The devil is destined for “the lake of sulphur and fire” (Rev 20:10). But Peter reminds us in 1 Peter 5:8 to, “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” This verse is a reminder that though invisible, this enemy can be recognised, and we are to remember that we have been thoroughly equipped to overcome him and his plans. People are never our enemy; the devil and his fallen angels are. Stay alert, aware and be “en garde’’ at all times. Protect relationships in your families and in this church family as the enemy will at this time attempt to bring offense, anger, unmet expectation, hurt, unforgiveness and division. Fight for your relationships. Protect them with everything you have. Do not let him in. Be on guard, don’t give any ground away and don’t let him in. En garde church! En garde!

New Beginning

New Beginning

Can you believe that it’s nearly the end of 2018? Wow, this year has sure flown by. 2019 is almost upon us and the sense in our hearts is that the Lord is releasing a new beginning; a fresh start. It’s a brand-new season full of prophetic promise and potential. You can feel the shift as it’s happening. New things are upon us.

 A new beginning is just like a new baby being born. When that baby is born, loads of changes and many adjustments are needed. It’s the start of something new and it brings to an end many other things. Some of these changes will be easy, some more challenging; but a new season requires new things from us all. 

 The Bible also speaks about new beginnings. In Isaiah 43:18-19 we read, “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past.  See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” 

 In order to embrace the new beginning, the new season, the fresh start in God; God is asking that we let go of some things from our past season(s). The reason for this is that He wants us walking into the new without hindrance, limitation or baggage. We can’t move forward unless we do what the apostle Paul encourages us to do in Philippians 3:13, “forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead”. 

 The question then is what do we need to forget and let go of in order to embrace the new in God? It will mean different things for different people but here are a few possibilities:

  • (Our) Past

As human beings, we have a tendency to hold on to the past. Many things have happened in our past, both good and bad. Many of those things influence our futures resulting in us walking with a limp. Our past experiences can affect the lens we view the future with. They can affect the filters we use when we are faced with change and new things. Our dirty lens and clogged filters can distort our view of the future. Often that lens and filter is one full of regret, disappointment, pain and even guilt. This results in us carrying a burden which affects how we run our race. But the Word says that we are to “cast our burdens onto Jesus for He cares for us” (1 Peter 5:7). If we don’t, we continue to live in the past and cannot embrace the new. 

  • Procrastination

This is a big thief of our new beginning and future. Edward Young says, “procrastination is a thief of time.” Do you realise why? Time never stops, it doesn’t slow down and is always moving. Once time is gone, it can’t be regained. Time is therefore a resource that can never be replaced. Procrastination is full of excuses. You might say, “I will tomorrow or next week; or someday, sometime in the future”. But according to Isaiah 43, we need to start NOW; with no delay or excuse. Get rid of everything that hinders and so easily entangles you and embrace your new beginning - now! Life is short and none of us know how much time we still have left on planet earth. Let’s not waste time; it’s so very precious!

  • Prayerlessness

Prayerlessness equals powerlessness. Jesus was full of power because He kept prayer central to His life and ministry. He did nothing without prayer. Prayer is the key to power. The early disciples new that; that’s why they asked Jesus to teach them to pray. They saw what a high priority prayer was to Jesus and how it affected the outcome of His ministry. When we cease to pray, we cease to advance. Don’t wait until you feel like praying. Prayer isn’t a feeling, it’s a choice. Choose to pray, whether you feel like it or not and you will advance, taking back ground from the enemy. And when you pray, keep at it, because prayer will release more of God’s power into the new.

  • Passivity

Passivity simply defined means to slob around, to be lazy, idle and to lie about. It’s another word for doing nothing. Passivity makes you indecisive. Passivity results in avoidance, excuse making, and causes you to neglect your disciplines. Eph 5:16 tells us to “make the most of our time because the days are evil.” Let’s activate our gifts, our disciplines and ourselves and keep on moving forward with the Lord. 

  • Phobia (fear) 

Phobia is another word for fear. Fear of the new, fear of change, and fear of the unknown causes us to not walk into new beginnings and seasons. If we are going to walk into the new now, we need to deal with fear and let go of our fear. It means making a conscious decision not to be afraid. It’s choosing to trust that our Lord loves us and only has the best in store for us. His plans are to prosper us and not to harm us; to give us hope and a future (Jer 29:11-13). Fear limits us; it hinders us; it contains us. Faith in a loving God, who only has good things in store for us, means that we trust Him with the unknown new beginning because we know He only has good in mind. If we live in fear, we will be handicapped and that will affect the capability and the possibility of the brand-new beginning and season.

  • (No) plan

God is a God full of plans and purpose. You and I need to discover His plan and purpose and do everything to follow it and walk in it. There’s a saying, “if you fail to plan, then you plan to fail.” If you are unclear of the plan or you are distracted from the plan, you will end up following someone else’s plan; be it another person or the enemy. That spells failure. Get on board with God’s plan and purpose for this new beginning and the season ahead. 

This new beginning is one full of new things. It’s a future full of the potential of new blessings, new opportunities, new testimonies and new breakthroughs. Resolve today that you will let go of whatever holds you from embracing the new. Decide today that you are letting go of everything that hinders you from entering the new. Make every effort to get on board with God’s great plan and purpose; you won’t regret it! 

God's Pause Process

God's Pause Process

The Bible is full of the accounts of men and women of faith, who waited a very long time before they saw God’s breakthrough. A very simple definition of waiting is to pause or delay; it’s an interval.

So, if you feel like your life is on PAUSE you are in great company.

Look at Noah, he was told by God to build a gigantic ark that would save mankind from a flood. Noah had never seen rain before, but in obedience he built a boat to God’s specific instructions. He was mocked and ridiculed, but still he pressed on in obedience to God. And when it was completed he waited for the rain, and then waited and waited. Eventually the rain came; it flooded the earth and only those on board were saved. You remember the story? The animals went in two by two and his three sons and their wives joined him on the boat. Which meant that his entire family were saved from death. Imagine what would have happened to humanity if he had given up?

Another example would be Mary and Martha as they waited for Jesus to come and heal their sick brother Lazarus. It took Jesus days to come, and by that time Lazarus had been dead in the grave for three days. You might have thought that was the end of the story. But it wasn’t too late for Jesus to raise him up from the dead. Jesus had a plan and not even death could thwart it.

Then we have David. He wasn’t born a king. He was the youngest son in the family. In fact, when the prophet Samuel came to anoint the future king of Israel, his father totally overlooked him as a viable option. And then even after being anointed King, it still took David 22 years before he became King over all of Israel.

Then we have Jesus as a great example of waiting. He had to wait 30 years before he was released into his call and ministry. That ministry was jam-packed for 3 years and then he was put on that cross where he died for every human being; thereby fulfilling His great plan of providing a way out of sin and death. But even Jesus had to wait.

So, we are in good company if we feel like our lives are on pause and we are waiting. The truth is, waiting for God’s breakthrough can seem like an eternity. It can feel like that breakthrough is never coming. It can feel like you are forgotten. It can feel like maybe you didn’t hear the Lord correctly and possibly made a mistake. It can feel quite devastating.

But, God always breaks through. In 2 Samuel 5:18-20 we read, “And David inquired of the Lord, ‘Shall I go up against the Philistines? Will you give them into my hand?’ And the Lord said to David, ‘Go up, for I will certainly give the Philistines into your hand.’  And David came to Baal-perazim, and David defeated them there. And he said, ‘The Lord has broken through my enemies before me like a breaking flood.’ Therefore, the name of that place is called Baal-perazim.”  God is the God of the breakthrough.

So, what do we do in the delay, in the waiting and the pause moments of life?

  • Embrace the moment. Don’t fight it. No one triumphs over God, ever! God’s process can’t be manipulated or short circuited; it will run its course.

  • Persevere through the apparent obstacles. Never give up or pull back but keep on keeping on; working out your faith with fear and trembling until you receive the prize. James 1:12 “Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.”

  • Keep walking with faithful and patient obedience. And when you have done all to stand, keep standing and keep doing what you need to do until your breakthrough comes. Keep looking at biblical examples and follow them, because it is through “faith and patience that we inherit the promises of God” (Hebrews 6:12).

  • Humble yourself and yield to the workings of God in your life. James 4: 10 says, “humble yourself before the Lord and he will lift you up.”  Matt 23:12 says, “whoever humbles himself will be exalted.”

 And what is God doing in the delay, the pause moments of our lives?

  • God is dealing with any pride and making sure we understand the need to humble ourselves.

  • God uses waiting to reveal our true motives. There is nothing like the pressure of waiting to bring out the best or the worst in people.

  • God is building faith and patience in us as we wait for our promise. Patience and faith increase in you with every victory you have. Eventually you have bigger faith and greater patience as you trust for the more in God.

  • Waiting builds anticipation and excitement as we wait for the breakthrough. Think about a child waiting for their birthday. They anticipate their gifts and birthday party with great excitement and delight. The longer the wait, the greater our anticipation and appreciation.

  • Waiting builds our character. Isn’t that what Romans 5:3-4 says? “Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.”

When your life seems in “pause-mode” and you are waiting for God to breakthrough, you can get frustrated and want to pull back. But don’t! Hold the course, keep doing the basics, keep your disciplines in place, keep your eyes on Jesus and keep hoping in Him. Your breakthrough is coming! Prepare and position yourself and wait with hope-filled expectation. Don’t lose heart and never give up. Be patient and yield to His processes. The God of the breakthrough will break through for you.

 

Your faith of greater worth then gold

Your faith of greater worth then gold

In 1Peter 1:6-7 we read, “In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed.” (NIV)

This a truly encouraging scripture! It’s written to those who have a faith in Jesus. Because of our relationship with Him, no matter what happens in our lives – no matter the trials, tribulations and tragedies – the enduring hope is that one day we will be reunited with Him and everything else will dissolve and fade away. While recently reading it again, the phrase “in a little while” jumped out at me.

Peter is writing to Christians who are being persecuted for their faith and are undergoing severe suffering. Instead of commiserating with them or sharing sympathetic words or even entertaining a pity-party on their behalf; he tells them, “In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith...”

A little while - can seem like a life time or even a life sentence when you are faced with trials. It can seem like a never-ending season, especially if years have gone by. It can cause all types of responses in people. Some might ask the question, ‘how long Lord, how long?’ Others may question whether God can save the day and protect them from their ordeal. Is God good, others may ask? Some might question if God was even with them. In the context that Peter is writing, they might have asked if God truly cared that they were living in the far regions of a foreign land; lonely, without family and friends? Why would a loving God send them there? Wouldn’t a caring, compassionate and loving God bring about a breakthrough and end their trial? “Why me Lord” might be a haunting question as we walk the long night of waiting.

Recently, someone asked me a question regarding a health scare I was facing. They asked, “Do you ever ask God, ‘why you’?” I could honestly say I hadn’t. In fact, I said to her, “why not me.” Being a Christian doesn’t mean we will live a fairy tale existence with absolutely no trouble in it. There are Christians all over the world, even in our city who have been confronted with trials and tribulations I cannot even imagine or begin to comprehend. The reality is no matter who we are, we are guaranteed to face them. But what is so comforting, is that we are never alone in whatever we are facing. Our Heavenly Father loves us, he never abandons us or leaves us alone. He is fully committed to using whatever we face to draw us closer to him and to strengthening our faith. Everything he allows in our lives is not to break, destroy or weaken us; but rather to strengthen us and our faith in him. God is not a puppet that we can pull the strings and he does what we want, when we want. Faith isn’t some magic formula that can get us whatever we want from God. No, He is God! He is the Potter, we are the clay.

It is by faith we are saved, and it is by faith that we continue to work out our salvation daily. The quality of our faith is important to God and he is committed to purifying it. He allows trials to do this. Faith is the ability to trust God even when life isn’t going well or going the way we would like it to go. Faith is patiently waiting and persevering through the delays, no matter how long; and never doubting God has us and will work it all out for us because he loves us. Faith is believing that our loving Father has a bigger plan and He can work through any situation to bring about good in our lives. Ultimately our faith is being tested in the trials, just as fire tests and purifies gold, and when our faith remains strong, we can rest in this confident assurance: “It will result in much praise, glory and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world.”

Our God is always faithful; and always means always – that’s for all eternity. He is faithful even in persecution, in loss, in delay and in every challenge, we face. We need to believe that wonderful joy is ahead because He will come through for us in the end. So, let’s heed Peter’s advice and be truly glad.

 

Spiritual Load-shedding

Spiritual Load-shedding

In South Africa we experience a phenomenon called load shedding. In essence what that means is that Eskom, the national power company, shuts off power to various areas for a few hours at a time. This happens mainly because there is not enough electricity to meet the growing demand. Eskom then schedules rolling blackouts, called load-shedding, interrupting the power supply to communities and businesses during peak hours. What that means then, is those entities have to make a plan during the hours of no power, otherwise they sit in darkness and aren’t able to do anything productive.

It made me think about our lives as believers. Sometimes life brings more demands upon us than we have the resources for. One thing after the other happens and it feels like we’ve been plunged into darkness; there seems to be no light at the end of the tunnel. Eventually you are simply worn out, exhausted, depleted and lacking in every way. It’s like a spiritual load shedding!

I think God uses those times to remind us that we don’t have what it takes without Him. He allows those dark times in our lives to get us to realise just how much we need His power. The Holy Spirit is our Power Source. However, when we allow the troubles, trials and tribulations of life to overwhelm us and we try to live life in our own strength, that’s when we have a load shedding moment. And it’s these moments that teach us of our deep need to stay connected with our Power Source.

To live and to serve the way God wants us to, we need to stay continually connected to the Power Source. If we don’t, we are plunged into darkness and that’s where the enemy operates most effectively.                                                                                                                                                            So how do we do this?

The bible says in Matthew 28:11, “Come to me, all who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” The first thing to remember, if we are to stay connected to our Power Source, is to come to Jesus. Which means choosing every day to spend time with Him. It’s being intentional. It’s making that choice every day to be in His presence; otherwise we will lack power and eventually run on empty. That’s when we get weary and overloaded. 

Secondly, find your place in the church and use your spiritual gifts. Spiritual gifts are given to us by the Holy Spirit and they are used to do and fulfil his will. 1 Cor 12:4,7 says, “There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.” Spiritual gifts keep you plugged into the Power Source. If you unplug, you can’t operate in power you don’t have. And remember they are gifts. Gifts are meant to be given away and not kept for yourself. Spiritual gifts demonstrate the Holy Spirit’s power is living and active in you. 

Thirdly, let the Holy Spirit change you from the inside out. It’s the Holy Spirit that makes us Christlike. Galatians 5:22-23 “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.” It’s about living a submitted and yielded life to the Spirit. It’s about dying to self and letting Christ live in us. Which means we need to intentionally choose to deal with self and embrace becoming more like Him every day. This is not something we can do in our own strength. We can only pay that price by staying connected to him.                                                                                                                                                            2 Corinthians 3:17-18 "Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit."

Let’s not run out of power and energy because we choose to do life by ourselves. It’s so much easier with Him. Stay plugged into your Power Source and keep drawing everything you need from Him. He has everything you need. His power will never run out, ever!