Dwell Together in Unity

Ben —  October 17, 2016 — Leave a comment

The enemy wants to divide people in any way, whether that is based on race, age, status or culture because wherever you see unity you tend to see progress. God is a unifier! Psalm 133 describes a blessing (God’s touch of opportunity, increase and provision in our lives) that we are promised when we are unified together with others. Being “together” means much more than being physically present, but means upholding a certain spirit and culture of protected values.

Psalm 133 “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity! It is like the precious oil upon the head, running down on the beard, the beard of Aaron, running down on the edge of his garments. It is like the dew of Hermon, descending upon the mountains of Zion; for there the LORD commanded the blessing – life forevermore.”

There are two images presented in this scripture – the oil and the dew. The oil represents a spiritual blessing in your gifts and ministry. In the Old Testament when people were set apart by God, they were anointed with oil by a priest. The dew represents a natural blessing in all areas of your life such as your health, relationships and finances. The amazing thing about dew is that it can still fall, even when there has been no rain, so you can expect God’s blessing in spite of your current circumstances.

But what does it really mean to build unity? Unity is more than just not fighting with others. To be unified in Jesus takes intentionality, it’s no accident. Jesus is what brings us together, and He is bigger than any of our differences.

Building Together What Lasts

Ben —  October 10, 2016 — Leave a comment

I think that everything of value in life is not so much discovered, but intentionally built. Every day we build on attitudes, actions and habits that influence our friendships, our families, physical health, careers and our faith. God calls us to be builders, to create and not criticize, to be involved and not stand back.

Isaiah  54:2–3 (NLT) “Enlarge your house; build an  addition. Spread out your home, and spare no expense! For you will soon be bursting at the seams. Your descendants will occupy other nations and resettle the ruined cities.”

This scripture really defines were we are as a church, as we build a second campus in our city. It’s just an empty building today, but we are building in anticipation of the eternal impact that Jesus will have on this community.

Six keys to building together with Jesus

  • Build something bigger than just you – 1 Corinthians 3:10 – 17
  • Build what Jesus is building – Matthew 16:18
  • Have a long term view – Jeremiah 29:5 – 7
  • Find a place of involvement – 1 Corinthians 12:18
  • Build something eternal and spiritual – Exodus 20: 24 – 26

Don’t just be a church attender, a church maintainer or a church critic. Be a church builder, like the apostle Paul. Step up and contribute your time, talents and treasure to build something that lasts!

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.