Archive | January, 2013

Are you focused on now or eternity?

31 Jan

[This video appeared on Fervr January 16th 2013]

Francis Chan uses a rope to explain why we need to think more about the afterlife

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DEVELOPING A MEANINGFUL PRAYER LIFE

30 Jan

Last year I read a book; “A young women after Gods own heart” By Elizabeth George. A couple of the chapters were about prayer. I was really encouraged by it, and since then, I have been developing better prayer habits and praying continually. Prayer is a common struggle so I want to share some tips that I’ve picked up from this book and outside that might help improve your daily prayer with our almighty God.

1. To get started, it is really helpful to develop a prayer diary. This Diary can involve anything. At the front, I put a sheet of paper in that has every day of the week and under each day I fill out a thanksgiving point, prayer for others, prayer for me and everyday prayer. Some other things I put in my diary are missionary prayer letters from our churches link missionaries, our churches prayer points newsletter, a prayer log and prayer list which I will touch on in the next points

 2. As you develop a more regular prayer life, you discover that prayer changes you to have a deeper relationship with God as it increases your faith. Faith can be increased through a prayer log. This is where you write down everything you pray to God for regarding any concerns for example family, friends, decisions and yourself. You will be amazed when you pay attention to how God answers item after item! This prayer log can be kept in your prayer diary where you can record your requests and responses.

3. Another useful prayer list for your prayer diary is a list of the people you want to pray for. Write all the names down. They can be family, friends, missionaries and even enemies. When praying, read each name out to God and pray what is on your mind about them. This makes prayer more selfless. It is encouraging if you ask the people on your list if they have any prayer points, and helpful for you too.

4. Pinpoint your greatest sin, or sinful action and put it at the top of your prayer list. Pray about it every day. Colossians 4:2 “Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.” Confess it to God every time. Ask God to help you remove it from your life. God will help you through it and your life regarding this sinful action will improve. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9

The book I read described a three-step pattern that can help us make better decisions in our life;

a. Wait to make decisions so that you can

b. Write them down on your prayer list and then

c. Wait on God for direction

Elizabeth George has a prayer principal; “No decision made without prayer!” So when you are faced with a decision, instead of making it straight away according to what you feel, make a spiritual decision through and after prayer. Add on your prayer sheet a list of decisions you must make. Be faithful to bring them to God in prayer each day and ask him for wisdom. James 1:5 “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.”

Prayer results in improved relationships as when you pray for others, it forces you to think of others. Prayer is an act of love that changes your heart, and causes you to care more about others as you carry them in your heart. We can pray to God for improved relationships with anyone. For example parents. Ephesians 6:1-3 and Colossians 3:20 tell us to obey our parents. This can be included in our prayers. 1 Corinthians 15:33 and Proverbs 18:24 tell us to choose our friends wisely which can greatly influence our prayers. Concerning boyfriends and girlfriends, 1 Thessalonians 4:3-4, 7 tells us how we should behave in these types of relationships. And lastly Enemies. Luke 6:27-28 tells us to love, do good to and pray for our enemies! No matter who we pray for, prayer can make a difference in our relationships with them. The book I read talked about picking the person you dislike the most, and praying for them constantly for a month. This dislike could be replaced by a growing compassion and understanding.

 Matthew 6:34 and Philippians 4:6-7,11-13, tell us to be content and not to worry.

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” 1 Peter 5:7 says; “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.”

Prayer should be a top priority. Jesus demonstrates this in Mark 1:35 “Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.” We should all set aside time each day. Sometimes this gets hard as life gets busy but something is better than nothing and God wants to hear our voices. Making prayer the first thing you do in the morning can be beneficial as you can dedicate your fresh new day to God which can make a difference in the day. This may mean just setting the alarm 10 minutes earlier. We should take seriously the privilege of prayer and never underestimate its power. James 5:16-18 demonstrates how powerful prayer is. We should pray always (Ephesians 6:18) and everywhere, enjoying God’s presence wherever we go (Joshua 1:9). This is also what God wants – 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

  • “Be joyful always, pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

Psalm 121:1-2 “I lift up my eyes to the hills – where does my help come from? My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth.”

I hope these tips encourage you to develop a prayer diary and to begin regularly committing time to God in meaningful prayer.

Larissa Veron

The power of a dependent father

29 Jan

[This post is courtesy of Phillip Jensen, and appeared on The Briefing Website on 1st September 2012.]

When you are little your father is very big; you are weak, but he is very strong; you know very little and he seems to know everything, you feel feeble compared to his powerful presence.

When your father is very powerful, you are able to do so much. You feel safe and secure in his great arms. You are comfortable, if not confident, to ask him for anything. He takes you to places, shows you things, entertains you, houses, feeds, clothes and educates you.

And when you go to school you can boast about how great your father is—how much greater than other children’s fathers.

But when you grow up and become a father, you realise how difficult life is; how weak and inadequate you are; how complex the world has become; how vulnerable you actually are; how few resources you have to care and provide for your family. Though some fathers in this world are very powerful.

The devil is a powerful father. Or so he seems to his children. His power lies in his lies; for he is the father of lies (John 8:44). A murderer from the beginning, he uses his deceit to accuse both God and God’s children. He accuses God of not having our interests at heart; of not being righteous and merciful; of not forgiving the sinner of his sin. He accuses God’s children of the sins that Christ has already paid for. He undermines the gospel message of complete pardon by continually reminding us of our unworthiness while omitting or denying God’s atoning mercy. Alternatively, he assures us of our own moral righteousness so as to turn us away from Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. He accuses God of narrow minded judgementalism in finding fault with such wonderful people as we are! Sometimes he even claims that if God was loving, he should understand that nobody is perfect and so accept us just the way we are. Whatever the lies he uses, the devil is a powerful father in the way he brings people into his family of slaves and leads them on to death.

Yet the devil as a father is not in the same league of power when compared to our Heavenly Father. Such a comparison is more of a contrast than a comparison. For though they are both fathers – one is of love, the other of hate; one is of life, the other of death; one is of truth, the other of lies. Their power is not to be compared for the devil’s claim to power is part of his lies. His power is a derivative power – he derives it from his children. Whenever his lie is not believed or denied it is stripped of its effect and of its power.

It is not so with God’s power. Our Father in heaven is inherently powerful. Indeed our Father is none other than “the Lord Almighty” (2 Corinthians 6:18). And as James (1:17) says “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.” That is why we can always approach him with our requests because, as Jesus taught: “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” (Matthew 7:11)

Prayer is child’s play. It’s not just that children can do it—it is that prayer is essentially what children do; they ask their father for things and depend upon their father for everything. Prayerful dependence on the Almighty Father is not only expressing our child-like faith but also expressing our confidence that our Father is the most powerful being in all the world. However, while prayer may be child’s play, it is what all men are called upon to do: “I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarrelling” (1 Timothy 2:8).

In response to this command, some of the men in the Cathedral congregations are developing a pattern called 1,2,3. Straight after church they are meeting in small groups of 3, to pray with each other. They are following a simple pattern: each one is sharing a Bible verse they have read in the past week, or one point from the sermon they just heard. They then share with each other one prayer point from their lives. Finally they pray briefly for each other. It only takes a few minutes. They are looking to expand by expanding the number of groups of 3. They keep inviting other men to join them – but when they get to 4 members they split into 2 groups of 2 and seek to find a 3rd member to join them. You don’t have to be asked to join, you can start your own, or ask to be part of a group. You don’t have to be a father to join one of the men’s 1,2,3 groups, but if you are a father you will know how important it is for children to keep in touch with their heavenly father.

Little boys compete with each other about most things even who has the most powerful father. But nobody has a more powerful father than the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. He is the one who welcomes our prayers—it is in our dependence upon him that we have any power to father our children.

What to expect in 2013

28 Jan

2012 was a wonderful year in our teaching programme where we were challenged week by week from God’s word.  One highlight for me was the series on Acts where we were challenged by the zeal of the early church for telling others about Jesus.  Another highlight was the wonderful practical guidance from Proverbs about living wisely in a fallen world.

 

2013 also looks to be a great year.  Some of the highlights will be:

 

1)      Studies in Philippians in Term 1.  We’ll be looking at this wonderful book that was Paul’s teaching to a church whose partnership in the Gospel he truly cherished.  As Paul praises God for these brothers and sisters he particularly challenges them to shine like stars in this dark world as they follow the example of Christ.

2)      At the Big Day Out (23 March 2012) we will be thinking about the big topic of ‘Glory’.  What does it mean to ‘glorify God’?  In what sense can we say that this is what we exist to do?  What does that look like in practice?

3)      Later in the year, amongst other things, we will be returning to the second half of the book of Acts, considering two very different Old Testament prophets in Jonah & Isaiah, as well as some other shorter series.

 

Why not get into a good habit now of reading ahead on these books for your own quiet times?  I pray that they are a great encouragement to you.

 Phil Colgan

How to be an effective evangelist

26 Jan

[This post first appeared on Youthworks website by Tim Clemens on 5th July 2012]

I’m an evangelist! It’s literally my job to preach the gospel and invite people to start following Jesus! Whether they respond or not is ultimately up to God!

But as an evangelist, I think there are two equally damaging extremes towards which we can gravitate. I’ve outlined them below:

1. Never challenge our listeners for a decision

I think this is probably the one I gravitate towards more often. I preach the lostness of man, the reality of judgement, the glory of the cross, the freedom of forgiveness and then stop. It’s as if I just assume the implications of the message are obvious.

Don’t get me wrong, I regularly appeal for people to turn from their sin and put their faith in Jesus, but it’s usually during a talk or from the front of a classroom.

Think about it. Who was the last person you actually invited to follow Christ? Have you ever personally challenged someone to start following Christ?

Our job is not just to preach the Gospel, but having done that, to invite people to follow Christ!

2. Always challenge our listeners for a decision

I think the danger of the second extreme only becomes obvious after a few months or perhaps even years.

Sometimes we can be so eager to have our listeners make a decision for Christ, that it becomes all we care about. With good intentions, we can urge people to pray a prayer of commitment, assure them of forgiveness and merrily send them on their way to Hell.

It’s only after a few months go by that you realise something’s wrong. Where is their fruit? Where is their passion for God’s word? Where is their love for his people? Why do they seem so uninterested?

Perhaps in your eagerness for a decision you unintentionally gave them the impression that if they simply prayed “The Prayer” they’d be ok.

Both extremes are incredibly damaging. The first leads to theologically articulate non-Christians, and the second leads to uneducated non-Christians with a false sense of security! Either way, the end result of our evangelism is the same. Our listeners are still dead in their sins and in danger of God’s judgement!

I want to suggest a third way:

3. Make disciples of all nations

Not surprisingly, it’s what Jesus commands his disciples to do. And it’s what Jesus did. The fact that I’m writing this today is evidence enough that it worked.

Jesus chose 12 men and discipled them for three years. He not only shared the Good News with them but his life as well. They got to watch how he prayed, listen as he taught, and learn as he loved. They had three years of the best Bible study in the world, and then he sent them out, mature in him, ready to do the same.

A disciple is a follower of Jesus. They know who he is, they’ve counted the cost, and they’ve given up everything to follow him.

Jesus wants true disciples! Not informed non-believers or quick decision makers, but deeply devoted, cross-carrying, Christ exalting disciples! That’s the kind of ministry that will see the other side of judgement day.

Disciple making is harder than options 1 and 2 for a few reasons:

    * It takes more time.
    * It involves relationship.
    * It’s less impressive.
    * And it’s costly.

But it’s worth it because:

    * Jesus did it.
    * People actually become Christians.
    * And in the process they learn what it looks like to be “disciple-making disciples”.

I believe it is my responsibility as an evangelist to walk the fine line between these two equal and opposite extremes, and instead, make disciples who will follow Jesus wherever he calls.

Welcome to the New Year

25 Jan

The writer of Ecclesiastes got it right – there is an occasion for everything, and a time for every activity under heaven (Eccl 3:1). The past month has seen us celebrate the birth of the Lord Jesus as the Saviour of the world. What a great season of the year it is!

 
For many of us, Ecclesiastes 3:11-13 sums up the season we have had: 
11 God has made everything appropriate  in its time.  He has also put eternity in their hearts,  but man cannot discover the work God has done from beginning to end.  12 I know that there is nothing better for them than to rejoice and enjoy the  good life. 13 It is also the gift of God whenever anyone eats, drinks, and enjoys all his efforts.
 
The Christmas season has been a season of celebration and enjoying the good life. It has been a season where many of us have enjoyed the hope of eternity that God has guaranteed us in Jesus. It has also been the season we have been struck by the grand scale of God’s plans and marvelled that he would include us – even when we can’t fully comprehend the depths of his works. The season has certainly been a gift of God!
 
But now the season changes – from the party season to the New Year with all it’s promises and it’s challenges. I hope you are feeling refreshed and relaxed as you turn to this new year. As we do, let us turn again to the wisdom of Ecclesiastes to shape the coming year:  
 
When all has been heard, the conclusion of the matter is: fear God  and keep His commands, because this is for all humanity. (Eccl 12:13)
 
May 2013 be a year in which the members of St George North Anglican Church continue to fear God, keep His commands and enjoy the salvation that Jesus has won for all of humanity who have turned to Him.
 
Happy New Year!
Jason

Does your church have a clique problem?

24 Jan

[This post first appeared on the Youthworks website written by Michael Hyam on 25th September 2012]

Have you ever had an experience like this?

You’re new at church, and the gathering has finished for another week. The lights go off, and you’re “strongly encouraged” to head over to the hall for supper. When you get there, music is playing, food is served and most people are standing around talking. This seems like a nice place. As your eyes adjust to the light, you feel your heart racing … “Where do I go? Who do I talk to?”

You try the first group of people. Deep breath … you introduce yourself and they are friendly enough. They tell you their names, ask about you, but quickly return to talking about their weekends or some sport called “football”. You try again with a different group. Same thing, different topic. “That’s it! I am out of here.”

If you’ve ever experienced this, then you know what it is to encounter an exclusive group, or “clique”. 

What is a clique?

A clique can be defined as ‘a small close‐knit group of people who do not readily allow others to join them’.

There is nothing wrong with having a close‐knit group of friends, even Jesus himself had three close friends amongst the twelve disciples (Mark 9:2). However, when a clique forms they are generally, by their nature, closed to others joining them. This is where the problem begins at chuches, schools and youth groups.

God and Cliques

As Christians we believe in one God (Dueteronomy. 6:4) who has revealed himself in three persons (Father, Son and Holy Spirit). Each person of the Trinity is a genuine person who relates to the other. Significantly, this means the God who creates, is also a God who is personal and relational. The essential pattern of personal relationships established within the Trinity, is best described and understood then as a ‘mutual love relationship’. 

Why we often fail at loving others

We are made in God’s image yet affected by sin. As human beings made in the image of God, we are personal and relational beings. As we see in the garden of Eden, before the fall in Genesis 3, God’s creatures delight in Him, delight in their fellow human beings and delight in the created order. This is a model for us of a “community of mutual love”. To love our neighbour as God intended then, is to be committed to their good and to strive to satisfy their needs and desires. However, when sin enters the world through Adam it affects all our relationships. As Paul reminds us in Romans 1, by our sin we reject God’s rule over us (ungodliness) and also His order within creation. Humans will not graciously commit themselves utterly and totally to the good of others. They may be willing to do good at points, but not in the total way required by God. 

Only God can fix the situation

In the Old Testament we see God working for redemption through His establishment of a covenant with Abraham and through the Law of Moses. Ultimately though, we see the affects of sin and the fall reversed in the new covenant through our Lord and Saviour Jesus. Jesus’ love transforms. Through his life and death on the cross, Jesus restores sinners to a relationship with God the Father (Rom. 3:21-26, 1 Peter 3:18) and teaches us again what true love is (1 John 3:16). This eternal and steadfast love is ultimately the basis for our justfication and righteousness. Additionally, our new identity and salvation “in Christ” affects our relationship with our neighbour. Through our baptism in Christ (Rom. 6), and our putting off the old self (Col. 3), we put on the new self and ultimately “the love of Christ” (Col. 3:14).

What we need to do next

As Christians then, our love is to imitate God’s love in Christ. We are to do good to all people, especially to other Christians (Gal. 6:10). Moreover, we are to be patient and kind (1 Cor. 13:4) as well as humble (Matt. 18:1-4). Within the Christian community, where all have been transformed, love is to be mutual (Rom. 12:10).

Does your church have a problem with cliques? What strategies do you try and employ to reduce cliques and encourage ‘mutual love relationships’?