Family is Built, not Discovered

Ben —  September 26, 2016 — Leave a comment

In a world of division, separation, disunity and isolation, a spirit of togetherness is a beautiful and Godly thing. 1 Peter 3:8 “Finally, all of you should be of one mind. Sympathize with each other. Love each other as brothers and sisters. Be tenderhearted, and keep a humble attitude.”

One of the reasons I believe in the local church is that we can do more together than separate. It is our togetherness that determines our capacity. Church growth is not about getting more people from outside in. Instead, it is having those that are in the House, take on the responsibility to build a family community that is so healthy and so full of life, that it bears fruit and grows naturally.

I think there is this myth out there of finding the ‘right church’. It is this mythical place that we hope we will stumble upon that will love us and meet all of our needs. What if instead of hoping to discover it, we decided to build it? Genuine community is intentionally created, it can’t be achieved by a single pastor or a church program – it takes all of us.

So how do I go about building this family? It has to be a priority that finds its way out of the pages of the Bible and into the pages of our schedule. To get really practical, this means
• You come together for church events and meetings beyond a Sunday. Sunday to Sunday church makes it very hard to build long term family. I have found it takes one more event during the week too.
• You make time in your calendar for people outside your biological family (expand your definition of family)
• You value important moments in other people’s lives (birthdays, anniversaries, funerals)
• You intentionally always have someone you are building a new friendship with.
• You open up your home and your heart and eat food. Let your kitchen get messy!

Stop waiting to discover the perfect church and begin building the church family God has placed you in!

The Woman at the Well

Ben —  September 22, 2016 — 1 Comment

John 4 records a conversation between Jesus and a lone Samaritan woman. We don’t even know her name but her particular one-on-one conversation with Jesus is the longest one recorded in all Scripture. The setting for their conversation was at a well where Jesus stopped to rest midway on a journey. Jesus asks her for a drink as she draws her own water into a bucket, and then uses this moment to illustrate an important lesson on where we each draw on, in our own lives.

Often without realising it, we drop our buckets into wells in our lives to draw contentment and purpose. Often these wells are filled with pain, regret and consequences. For this woman, men had been her well – trying to find satisfaction in relationships. At the time she spoke with Jesus, she had already had five unsuccessful marriages. Success, careers and money are other common wells that we can try to draw from to sustain our lives. A life lived together with Jesus is the only well that will bring an eternal quenching of the thirst for hope, fulfilment, identity and contentment.

The last image that John leaves us with is that the woman leaves behind her bucket as she and Jesus leave the well. The earthly vessel that she had been using was made redundant now that she had found true life in Jesus’ words. Have you left your bucket behind?

The Vine and the Branches

Ben —  September 12, 2016 — Leave a comment

So often we think that faith comes in the form of a book, a church event, a sermon or a conference but in actuality, none of these things are actually the source (although all of these things are great!). John 15 recounts one of Jesus’ most potent and beautiful teachings on the source of our faith – the vine, the branches and the fruit. Jesus describes himself as the vine, God as the gardener and us as the branches. The purpose of the vine is to grow strong branches that bud, flower and bear fruit. Jesus wants us (the branches) to have this fruitful life, and act as His conduit and vehicle to bearing fruit.

However fruit can only be produced when it is connected to the vine, the source of its water and nutrients that are necessary not only for fruiting but for the branches very survival. A branch separated from the vine quickly goes brittle – it is dead and unable to sustain any life itself. Jesus tells us that the key to living a life that is abundantly fruitful is to ‘remain in Him’ meaning to stay in close relationship with Him. If you want to see more fruit in your life (this may come in the form of answered prayer, joy, loving people and consciously avoiding a lifestyle of sin), then deepening your daily dependence and connection to Jesus is the answer.

Faith for Victory

Ben —  August 30, 2016 — Leave a comment

The journey of faith is a race. It’s one we are called to finish and finish victorious! The cross is the ultimate symbol of victory and the entire Bible looks to and from this event. This victorious mindset should change the way we live and view life – we are already champions through the work of Jesus.

1 Corinthians 9:25 “And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to win a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown”

We have just finished the Olympic Game where athletes have trained their entire life for the chance to win a (perishable) medal. Throughout the brutal regime of training, there most certainly would have been moments when they wanted to throw in the towel and give up. We need faith to finish our race. Hebrews 11 recounts men and women of the Bible displaying faith against the odds. Faith does not mean the absence of challenges in life, but rather a product of the journey.

Hebrews 12: 1 – 2 provides answers to the faith dilemma, about how we can respond when we feel like giving up.

“We are surrounded by a great a cloud of witnesses…” There is something about running in front of a stadium that spurs us on to strive that little bit harder. In the stadium of heaven, there is an atmosphere that inspires us and encourages us to push on

“Lay aside every weight and sin” Beware of distractions that can weigh you down, just like athletes who are dressed in streamlined outfits to minimise wind resistance

“Run with endurance” Recognise the journey of faith is not a sprint but a marathon. It takes time and training to develop spiritual fitness

“Looking unto Jesus” Ultimately, our mentor and role model is Jesus. He stands at the finish line waiting for us, having run the race and endured the challenges himself, ready to present us with an imperishable crown of our own.

Faith through Doubts

Ben —  August 22, 2016 — Leave a comment

We often associate faith with perfection and not with words like doubt, weakness or uncertainty. I have a conviction that faith is for real people like you and me, and that means faith is for people with real questions, real doubts and real uncertainties. How do you respond when you don’t understand why God allowed something? How do you respond when it just feels like you have no more faith left in you?

One of Jesus’ disciples Thomas, also openly struggled with his doubts about who Jesus was. Thomas was a person who was torn – he loved Jesus, left everything in his former life to follow Him, witnessed many of Jesus’ miracles, yet he still had this lingering doubt. Where did this doubt come from? He was hurt, confused and disappointed after Jesus’ death, and he was a person who craved physical evidence as described in John 20:24 – 31.

Thomas was pursuing a sign from God that would ‘fix everything.’ This has shipwrecked a lot of Christians who progressively get more desperate for a sign than for God Himself, and open themselves up to any kind of teaching. In verse 26 and 27, Jesus appeared to Thomas and invited him to look at His wounds from the cross. At this point Thomas had no more need for this evidence and simple cried “My Lord, my God!” acknowledging Jesus as God. This was the turning point for Thomas, the moment he really met God despite walking with Him for several years. The extraordinary thing is Jesus’ response to Thomas’ doubts. Jesus doesn’t rebuke him but instead goes looking for him and reaches out to him. It gives us a real insight to the graciousness of God.

Don’t allow your doubts to hold you back from a life of faith. None of us have perfect faith and God knows that. Instead embrace them, and allow God to slowly turn those questions of doubt into convictions of faith.

The Power of Giving

Ben —  August 14, 2016 — Leave a comment

In my own church we do two significant financial offerings each year. We see our church as visionary and these offerings as spiritual moments that we share together as a family that can leave a legacy that can echo for generations to come. When it comes to finances, Jesus makes it very personal, and links it to our hearts.

Matt 6:24 (NKJV) “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon”

In other words, we can use our money to serve God, or our god will be money. We have a culture that is obsessed with stockpiling ‘stuff’. Nothing breaks the hold of ‘more, more, more’ than giving, and that’s why participating in offerings is so important. We were not put on this earth to amass treasures for ourselves but to let treasure pass through us and back to a greater purpose.

Remember this. Every time you give to God

  • It creates an abundance mentality, and demonstrates that money does not have control over you
  • It releases breakthrough (think of the five loaves and the widow with the small jar of oil)
  • You sow seed for a harvest
  • You resource the local church and the Kingdom of God

Faith for Provision

Ben —  August 3, 2016 — Leave a comment

Provision is where God supplies the resources, power and opportunity to fulfil the vision He has given us. Our faith for provision can often be tested in natural ways, such as believing for breakthrough in our careers, finances or personal dreams. In Genesis 22, Abraham was taken on a tremendous faith journey by God, when he was asked to sacrifice his son Isaac on the altar. In the previous chapter, we are told how miraculous it was that Abraham was given a son, and now Abraham faced losing him. Despite this, Abraham rose ‘early in the morning’ to begin this journey – he didn’t delay or negotiate with God. Abraham’s language was that of faith ‘my son and I will come back to you.’ When Isaac asked where the lamb to be sacrificed was, Abraham replied ‘My son, God will provide for Himself the lamb for a burnt offering.’ There are many parallels in this story that foretell of the sacrifice of God’s own son Jesus. Our greatest need in life – the need for a Saviour – has already been provided to us. Can each of us find that little bit of faith for daily provision, considering our eternal provision has already been met?

So how do we grow in our faith?

  • Obedience – just as Abraham showed. Do I truly trust God’s word?
  • Sacrifice – giving something that’s precious to us (whether it be time, finances or otherwise) puts a natural test to spiritual concepts
  • Seeing God’s provision – helps to germinate that tiny mustard seed faith
  • Each faith hurdle we overcome – confirms we are progressing. Faith is designed to be stretched

God knows and loves each of us, and He has unlimited resources. Where He gives vision, have faith that He brings provision.