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Wednesday, 23 December 2015

A New Hope

There are two things I have been thinking about this past week. One is Star Wars - given how the new film has smashed box office records and is a great Star Wars film (a favourite franchise of mine) - and the other is the Miss Universe contest. The second is because of the controversy which 'stripped' Miss Colombia of a crown that was never hers to begin with.

What do these two topics have in common? They're stories of hope or hopelessness. In the case of Miss Universe, when I watched the footage of how Miss Phillipines was correctly announced following the ever more infamous blunder of crowning Miss Colombia I noticed how her happiness at placing second was then replaced with shock and joy of being crowned truly. I also saw how every woman rushed to commiserate Miss Colombia, robbing Miss Phillipines of her true victory celebration. It was a scene where no one really won for the two ladies were robbed of their moment of proper celebration and the announcer will never be able to truly live down such a great blunder (although I am glad he had the courage to do the honourable thing and announce his mistake himself rather than send someone else to do this). There was a mixture of hopelessness and hope in how this whole scenario clumsily played out.

Then there is how Star Wars VII is smashing the box office. People complain that the new film mirrors the originals too closely - despite incredibly great performances by the actors and stellar visuals. But that's the thing, no Star Wars film has ever had a jawbreaking plot of twists and turns (save potentially Episode V with it's big 'I am your father' reveal). So what is it that makes Star Wars such a massive franchise? I know Jeanille and some other friends find it silly and a touch ridiculous and I don't really mind that, because as a film series and merchandising giant it is. A story of aliens and mystic warriors in space is odd and weird. But what truly seems to set it apart is the battle of good versus evil seen in the light side versus the dark side. A thing which is appealing to a large audience. Essentially there is hope seen in these films that good can triumph over evil, no matter how far gone evil may be. And without spoiling anything I will say that the new film is all about hope: hope for a better film in the franchise, hope that good will triumph, hope that a new future can exist. And I believe it's because of this theme of hope that this film is breaking records.

We live in a dark time of war and violence. It seems that every news report is a negative story. As we celebrate Christmas is important to remember what Christmas stands for. And I'm not talking about the pagan celebrations that the date was stolen from. I'm talking about  celebration of a new hope for mankind. A hope that lives on for all who believe in Jesus and his promise that one day this world will be made anew and that the darkness in the world will be vanquished so that peace may reign. I want anyone reading this to feel that hope and remind themselves to celebrate that hope this Christmas as a reminder that joy has been brought to the world despite anything. Four weeks ago I was feeling a touch hopeless about a job situation, now I have some hope founded in Christ. Two weeks ago I had a moment of hopelessness before I proposed to Jeanille. Again Christ brought me hope. What more can Jesus Christ do for you in this season and on into eternity?

Luke 1: 30-38

30And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favour with God. 31And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. 32He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, 33and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”

34And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?”

35And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God. 36And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. 37For nothing will be impossible with God.” 38And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.

For nothing will be impossible with God. Let that be your new hope this Christmas and into the new year. Have a great holiday celebrating this great new hope!

Monday, 14 December 2015

Why Did I Ever Doubt You God?

A few days ago I had a moment where I was hurting, in pain and doubting God's promises. At one point I yelled out, attacking the enemy who would try and bring such emotions against me. I was trying to build my faith in my own strength in some ways but God was already working behind the scene to build up my faith again.

You see, my faith was low because I doubted that God had really put into my heart the date that I had chosen to propose to my girlfriend. In short, because she had been a little mad at me for something and was busy ignoring me. But despite the doubt that plagued me, God was giving me a faith despite my circumstances. 

And when, finally she contacted me again to find out where I was and I had to tell her that I was at her apartment with a surprise I knew that God's plan was working its way into effect. Especially when she opened the door to candles and my small attempt at intimate romance and chose to run to my arms for a long hug for the first thing. And when I showed her the room all decorated with little details, and read through two journals of photos and words about our journey together I was reminded again of what a promise from God she is. And then finally I asked her to marry me and she said 'yes with all my heart' and I knew that truly no weapon of doubt or anything formed against me can stand because my God is for me and not against me.

And then today following a whirlwind, romantic weekend of informing everyone about the news, I finally received an email asking me to my first interview. The location might not be where I expected, but I know that this first interview is where God planned it to be and if it becomes something more then He is good. If it does not then He is good anyway.

At the moment I am wiping away tears of joy because truly my God has just shown me his power and greatness of His timing in my life. He has surprised me this year with more than I could have dreamed or hoped. It's been a stormy journey like the one Chris Hemsworth's character goes on in In the Heart of the Sea, but like that character I have come to realise that there are some things so much bigger than me and my own journey. Because ultimately God is the one who charts my journey and He is the one I will hold onto. I know the answer to why I ever doubted God - I am just a man. But again I, in awesome wonder, stop and consider how great He is...

Psalm 18:2 - The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold

Monday, 30 November 2015

He Pays the Cost

I was scrolling through the internet today and happened to stumble on an article about a man fined twice by police for forgetting his licence and then not locking his car. It was an odd little article but what interested me was how unjust so many people seemed to find the situation. The consensus seemed to be that the police needed to be spending their time on other crimes and that too many people get off with heavier crimes.

This is what that article taught me however: the law exists to punish you regardless of whether someone commits a crime worthy of greater punishment. If you break the law you pay the price. In the same way we all broke the law of sin and death, but the price was paid for us by Jesus Christ.

My challenge to anyone reading this brief post is for you to question whether you have broken the law of sin and death - the law of being good enough to be perfect in your every action and thought. If you have then your punishment is a fine so heavy it can only be paid and wiped away by the sacrifice of Jesus. I challenge you to ask yourself whether you need that payment and to ask God freely for it. It's a payment free of grace that only costs a life of lordship.

Monday, 16 November 2015

Do Or Do Not - There Is No Try

It's been a while since I last blogged, due to many busy aspects of my life. However, this idea for a blog post has been running around in my head for a while and now it is time to finally publish it in the digital domain. I have no doubt, however, that when Jeanille reads this and realises that it's focused around a Star Wars reference she will shake her head and think something along the lines of: you're so predictable.

I was watching Episode V recently, followed by Episode VI in a minor marathon while at home, and heard the famous line by Yoda once again "Do or do not - there is no try!" This was in response to Luke saying that he would try to use the Force and it's a line that has always confused me in its simplicity. But as I considered this line again, the truth of it hit me that the same thing goes for our lives and our walks with God.

You see, sometimes we will know that God is asking us to do something and instead of doing it we will say 'I will try.' Often what follows is a half-hearted effort of our own strength and willpower that ends up failing. But you see, if God tells us to do something in faith and we only 'try' and fail then we still haven't 'done'.

Think about the story of Peter when he stepped out of the boat, onto the water and began to walk to Jesus. In the moment he too walked on the water, he didn't just 'try', he did. There isn't really any option to just try things with God you see. There is either success or failure - and sometimes our failures are successes in God's eyes, not merely moments that we tried and failed. Remember how James 2:17 states that "Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead," James here is in some way saying that faith requires us to do not to do not. If we 'have faith' but don't act on that faith then our faith is meaningless and we are not trying or doing but rather doing not.

Right now the world is hurting over acts of terror situated in the Middle East and Europe. I have seen countless arguments over who is to blame - whether it is one terrorist group or another, whether it is Paris or the West, whether it is the entire Muslim community etc. But what does it profit the world to continue pointing fingers of blame and hatred at one another? That is the way of the great spiritual thief Satan who, as John 10:10 says "comes to steal kill and destroy." But as John 10:10 concludes, Jesus came that all might have life and have it to the full.

When the world, or evil in the world, tries to take away light and life, are we to point fingers at who is to blame? Are we to simply do nothing? There is a choice we all have to make when faced with tough realities - whether we choose God's way - the way of Jesus on the cross - or our way/the way of the thief. There is no 'trying' one way or the other, God doesn't allow us the option of 'trying out' a Christian life, but we can choose: His way of peace and security in the face of unknown adversity, or our own twisted path of unrighteousness and instability. I know what path I choose, I chose it long ago, and my challenge to anyone reading this is to ask youself, will I be someone who does chose the way of Godly love, or will I be someone who chooses to not do as God would and to live in fear. The choice, as always is yours - do or do not, there is no trying.

Wednesday, 21 October 2015

It's Not Crazy: It's God

My girlfriend recently was given an offer for a job that she initially did not even apply for. When she heard about this she told me how 'crazy' it was. I laughed at the thought, because from my perspective it wasn't crazy it was God. I've noticed how God has been opening her up to the supernatural and reminding her of her true identity as a daughter of His as she continues to grow in her faith and considering that when she initially came to Australia she could not even find a single job easily, I consider this a sign of God's willingness to bless her with more than enough.

You see if there's one thing God has shown me this past year it's that He moves in ways that we don't expect - but when He moves it's clearly Him doing the impossible and for a reason. Sometimes that reason is to teach us lessons, sometimes it's to bless us, sometimes it's because we have an enemy that attacks us with lies and destruction and God needs to step in for us as a warrior.

In fact if I look back at the past four years of my degree I can see so many ways in which God moved in odd but divine ways. He led me to a job, got me into a program which enabled me to travel to the USA, showed me a beautiful and talented girl by the name of Jeanille and helped me to sure up my degree so that I would be able to graduate on time. I have no doubt now that as I look for work God will guide me to the right place - and that my presence there will make it the right place. But ultimately no matter what I will praise God, knowing that when things happen that seem crazy good or crazy bad God has my life in His hands and it's Him that I need to look to first and foremost.

Again: it's not crazy it's God!

Monday, 14 September 2015

Bowing to a Higher Authority

So last night a funny thing happened on the way home: we had a change of Prime Minister. It wasn't too surprising for me - most political reporters had seen the change coming well in advance and so I was informed that it was likely to happen that evening. However, it was disappointing that the change of leader happened in the way that it did. It spoke of an undermining of power and a total lack of integrity. I know some people would say that politicians don't have integrity but I do believe strongly that a good leader doesn't undermine the established authority simply to gain their own.

God has been teaching me about the nature of authority these last few weeks. Having been on teaching placement - and hence in a position of authority - I have come to realise that having leadership and authority creates a need for an individual to make their own life right before they can lead. And to lead means to be in a position of authority and responsibility - which is what I have been in my school. I have a Year 8 class in which I have felt that the students love and fight to usurp the authority of any teacher and in which I have felt slightly before that I lack the authority over them that I should possess.

However, there has been a shift in my attitude as I have continued to pray over the situation that has gone on with this class. I can't say that it has been a drastic change - it's more gradual. What I can say is that as I have recognised that there is a higher authority over all I have been able to walk in supernatural power, rather than just in my own physical and emotional authority in my position. In short - I am choosing to bow to the highest authority over all and recognise today that He is supreme.

1 Timothy 2:1-4 says: "1 I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— 2 for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. 3 This is good, and pleases God our Saviour, 4 who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth."

So, no matter what you think of what is going on in your world and what natural authority you have or is being taken from you remember to bow to the highest authority. Pray for those in positions above you and respect their leadership. In doing so you respect God himself and His sovereignty.

Thursday, 10 September 2015

Between Dream and Desire, God Moves

All of us have dreams. Dreams fascinate us while we lie awake - and are as such the topic of poetry such as when Edgar Allan Poe writes 'is all that we see or seem but a dream within a dream' - or when we sleep we become enthralled in them. Some of us remember those dreams better than others (I rarely remember mine). Either way the point of the matter is that we all do dream and we use the term 'dreams' for our goals and visions of our life and what we want it to be. Some of us, like with dreaming in sleep, have greater clarity with our life and our goals. Others have far less clarity and are more content to drift through life - a goal in mind but not necessarily a set way to get there.

I am more of the latter, whereas Jeanille as I have come to realise, is more of the former. She also happens to remember her dreams unlike myself and has a greater picture and concept of what she wants from life. I of course, was not necessarily a part of that plan at first. I say this to make a point that all of us dream and plan very differently. My dream is to become an author - or rather my dream is to have a voice in writing that can reach a variety of people. My dream differs from some of the desires I have though: desires to become the best man I can be, the desires to become the best teacher I can be, the desires to marry and have a family etc. But sometimes the desire and the dreams do meet - I desire to write for a large audience and to be a leader of them for example.

The following are two verses highlighting a little of what God says about our dreams:

Matthew 6:33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. (The context being about worrying about what we will eat or what we will wear - worrying about tomorrow)

Proverbs 16:3 Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established.

God wants us to surrender up our work, our very selves to him. Sometimes it hurts because we look at our dreams and we think we have to kill some of our desires in order to obtain the dream we treasure the most and want to prioritise. Sometimes it hurts because we have to kill our dreams to gain the things we desire out of life. Ultimately though, what needs to happen most with any dream and desire you have is for God to be in the middle of the two - to be in between your dreams and desires. Because in between our dreams and desires - in the middle of our lives - there it is that God moves for us.

If you surrender up your dreams and desires to him ultimately you will find your truest desires - what your heart really needs. My dream to become an author might never be met on Earth - but ultimately that dream is connected to the desire to have an audience with whom I can show off the creative gifts that God has given me and therefore find fulfilment. As Psalm 37:4 states, "Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart."

So today my encouragement is for you to trust first and foremost in God with any dream or desire that you have that is not being met. If it hurts because you feel that there is some separation between your desires and your dreams then let God come into the middle of it all. There you will find peace and true fulfilment. Even if your dream here on Earth isn't met maybe you will see that the dream or desires that live within that dream will be met in eternity. Because after all, eternity is such a long time for the greater fulfilment of dreams!

Tuesday, 8 September 2015

The God Who Doesn't Come As Called...

I was having a discussion with Dad and Jeanille the other day and a concept was dropped that made me think about a particular idea: that being just how much we want everything to go our way when we want it. It's a concept that extends to God and how we think our life should be and comes from the story of Lazarus.

Let's start looking at this story from John 11: 1-6
1 Now a man named Lazarus was sick. He was from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. 2 (This Mary, whose brother Lazarus now lay sick, was the same one who poured perfume on the Lord and wiped his feet with her hair.) 3 So the sisters sent word to Jesus, “Lord, the one you love is sick.” 
4 When he heard this, Jesus said, “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.” 5 Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. 6 So when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days, 7 and then he said to his disciples, “Let us go back to Judea.”
 The first point that arose from this conversation was the fact that there is an implication in the words of the sisters, "Lord the one that you love is sick." The implication being that there are other people that Jesus did not love so much as Lazarus and that it was important for Jesus to drop everything and come to see Lazarus because of his love for Lazarus. If we move on we see this idea reinforced a little again:
17 On his arrival, Jesus found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. 18 Now Bethany was less than two miles from Jerusalem, 19 and many Jews had come to Martha and Mary to comfort them in the loss of their brother. 20 When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went out to meet him, but Mary stayed at home.
21 “Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.”
23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.”
If you had been here, my brother would not have died. These are words full of blame and feel like they're designed to guilt trip Jesus as we read them. A blaming of Jesus for not having dropped everything and rushed straight to Lazarus' side. Yet Martha still knew that God would give Jesus whatever he asked of Him and admits that at the end.

If we move to verse 37 it says 'But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?”' Here we have many people who openly admit that Jesus has the power to cease death and cause healing but that Jesus had to have come earlier at a time appropriate for them. Yet all this clearly has an impact upon Jesus because verse 38 onwards talks about how Jesus was "once more deeply moved."
38 Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance. 39 “Take away the stone,” he said.
“But, Lord,” said Martha, the sister of the dead man, “by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days.”
40 Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?”
41 So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. 42 I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.”
43 When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!”44 The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face.
Jesus said to them, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.”
You see, here is my conclusion to this story and why it is so important for us today still. So many of us are content in our lives for Jesus to come and prevent us from dying. In other words, to stop the little problem that's bad for our health (physical or spiritual) and killing us in that moment but we aren't always content to fix the problem before it leads to something killing us. I'm not fully sure whether Lazarus had a lifestyle that contributed to his death but the moment that he was sick it's apparent that Mary and Martha wanted him to come immediately to heal the man that he loves. But Jesus didn't come immediately, or the day after, no - he came when Lazarus had lain in his tomb for days.

Ultimately here's the lesson: Jesus/God/The Holy Spirit - all three aspects of God - don't act just because you want them to. Our God is not some genie in a bottle. Some people want to flip everything on their head and make God their doG to come when called and do whatever trick they want Him to. Here's the thing though, when God does act? It's with real power - it's not just the power to prevent you from dying, it's the power to completely resurrect you. So my challenge is for us to be people who don't just treat our awesome God as someone who will do whatever we want but to recognise that every answer to prayer is a blessing of grace. We don't deserve it, but it's because his heart breaks for us that God pours out his love in true abundance. We simply need to receive it truly.

Thursday, 20 August 2015

What Is A Christian To Do In a World That Rejects Their Beliefs?

I read an interesting article just before which connects to all the different ideas I wish to talk about in this blog. Apologies for not having written a blog post for a while again however, I just started my five week placement and have been exceptionally busy organising everything so that I am not working or too involved in activities that I cannot reschedule during this period. Anyway, onto the post which I just read:  http://bit.ly/1MB4SnO

The post talks about a push to refer to children with non-gender specific terms. I have no issue with this, however what I have an issue with is the concept of 'banning' the terms boy and girl or other terms which are specific. The article talks about not doing things and doing things in case people are offended, however this worries me. I'm worried that we as a society are going to reach a point where it becomes offensive to speak the truth and therefore the truth is hushed away. It's not the article itself, so much as the idea behind it, the idea of censorship and of getting rid of ideas which have biological backing without even questioning whether the idea behind this is as positive as believed.

The byword of the age is 'bigot', and it's a word which is unswervingly thrown at an individual whenever they express a belief contrary to the rest of society - particularly if that belief has Christian values connected to it. Ironically, those who use the term in such a way are themselves bigoted, given that by currency of the dictionary the term bigot is anyone who is intolerant to those holding different opinions. So guess what: we are all bigoted in some way, shape or form because at some point in our lives we hold to a truth unswervingly and we are intolerant of those who stand opposed to that truth.

Either way there is one common mistake I believe that Christians make in a world that calls us bigoted and denies our truths. That is, we attempt to impose our truths on this very same world. We condemn the world with our actions, calling out their sin and their every action as moral bankruptcy. Yet this is not what Jesus told us to do in the Great Commission whatsoever he didn't tell us to change the world from the outside, he told us to change it from the inside "Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit," Matthew 28:19.

Brian Houston said it well in a blog post of his own, "If God had wanted to condemn the world He would have sent a condemner. But He didn’t, He wanted to save the world so He sent a Saviour. John 3:17." However, it's because of this that sometimes Christians go the other way. We adopt everyone and endorse their worldviews and lifestyles when they enter the Church as perfectly acceptable Christian lifestyles. But again, the Church is not called to be the same as everyone else. We are called to be holy - righteous - sanctified. We are called to be set apart, to preach truths from the pulpit that aren't accepted by the rest of the world because deep down I believe everyone knows that they are not righteous, that they need salvation, that they aren't good enough on their own.

So here is what a Christian is to do in a world that rejects our beliefs: we endorse people but not their beliefs. We love people, but not their every action. We do not condemn a world that doesn't want our opinion or want us to meddle with their ways of life (would you tell your neighbour how to raise their children?) but rather we must stand out as holding onto a different truth and not just going along with the political correctness and lifestyles of the world. After all, we are here to guide people to salvation with love: we all need a saviour and how can we do that if we are as lost as everyone else?

Thursday, 23 July 2015

A Faith Of One's Own

My girlfriend, Jeanille, is a big fan of the messages of Joel Osteen and as I mentioned yesterday that I was watching one of his messages that she shared: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gtwX3xJl-pI
It struck me today that there is more I wish to talk about to do with the idea of Christians who judge him and other famous pastors or preachers. First let me bring to you the idea of how you truly recognise false prophets which Joel Osteen has been accused of being. It's found in Matthew 7:16 "By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles?" Now I don't know about you, but a church full of people coming to God in one form or another and worshipping Him seems like the fruit of someone serving God. Someone else said it better in this post about why Joel Osteen has been successful: http://www.charismanews.com/us/40377-the-joel-osteen-most-people-don-t-know

Now I'm not standing here to write a defence of Joel Osteen, or any famous pastor for that matter, in fact I'm actually sitting down as I type this. But I am typing an argument to Christians and exhorting them to stop judging fellow believers because you don't believe they are, essentially, Christian enough. William Booth said this: "The chief danger that confronts the coming century will be religion without the Holy Ghost, Christianity without Christ, forgiveness without repentance, salvation without regeneration, politics without God, heaven without hell." However, I would also say that another danger is that we as the Church become so distracted by our bickering over differences and 'who is right or wrong' that we forget what our real call is to do: go and make disciples. Essentially, making disciples - teaching others about the good news of salvation and following Jesus as Lord is really a part of the essential reason we were created; to worship God. 

I'm not saying that you should go the other way and essentially believe everything that people like Joel Osteen say. In fact I would discourage it. I simply believe that he, as part of the body, has his own way of spreading the gospel. Maybe we should spend less time looking at and judging the faith of others and more time on what we ourselves believe. 

Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 13:10-12 " ..10 but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. 11 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. 12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known."

When I was a child my faith was based on what my parents believed. As I grew up into a man I developed my own faith and relationship with Jesus Christ and that gives me revelations on particular topics and ideas that others may not see. Not better revelations or more perfect revelations (I still only know in part) but they are my own revelations. My encouragement is that we can all continue to grow up and think like adults, developing our own faith and relationships with Christ. And while that happens let's not judge what God is doing through someone else, unless the fruit of that is opposite to what God's word states. 

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Superheroic Grace

I watched Ant Man the other day. Anyone who knows me, knows that I am a huge fan of fictional works: particularly science fiction or fantasy fiction and I have a huge love for superhero fiction. So to that end I really loved the quirky humour and action of Ant Man and how well Paul Rudd played Scott Lang as a character. But that said, this is not an advertisement or a review of Ant Man. Instead, I simply want to use something I saw in the film to explain a point in this latest blog post of mine.

When I watch a movie I love to look for the positive themes in it. Those themes that link back to the idea of the gospel. I'm not saying I get my doctrine from films because that would be ridiculous. What I am saying is that the God inspired world view I already possess leads me to go into films to dig out the positive themes that portray an idea or belief better than I had seen it before. So with that in mind I love superhero films for the ideas of how you get ordinary or extraordinary people struggling with their newfound or long-held powers or abilities and the responsibilities that come with them.

I won't spoil the film for those who still want to see it (it's good and I will probably see it again!) but there was one moment in the film I want to touch on. In this moment, the main character is being offered the chance to seize the Ant Man role and become a hero, but he rejects that idea and tries to run from it. To that end his mentor, the one offering this chance, points out the type of man he is. He reveals how the protagonist is someone who, when the going gets tough and the money runs out, turns back to crime.

I was thinking about this and it hit me that we as people are exactly like that. God offers us the chance to be heroes and walk a life of power with Him. But often when the going gets tough, when we face the annual persecutions of life we turn back to a life of crime: a life of sin. The truth is that sin is a crime against God, anything we do that is a rebellion against God. God stands there and offers us a brand new 'born again' life (2 Corinthians 5:17 "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.") but so often we turn it away to slip back into old habits and ways of thinking because it seems easier.

One of these ways of thinking is criticism. I was watching a video from Joel Osteen recently and comparing it with the hate and mistrust that some Christians proclaim against him. I know many who claim he doesn't preach the gospel or God, but then watching that video I saw exactly the opposite multiple times. What I did see is someone who is a success because he is seizing the offer of God to be a born again hero of faith. I'm not saying that we should raise the famous pastors and Christian leaders on pedestals, I'm simply saying that we shouldn't judge how one person follows God's plan according to the specific plan God has for us.

Just as there are multiple different superheroes in the Marvel universe, so too are we all called to a life of power with God - but not necessarily to do the same thing. Romans 1:16 states that "For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek." 1 Corinthians 4:20 says that "For the kingdom of God does not consist in talk but in power." You can say all that you want, but the real sign of living according to God's design is in how we live our lives according to the belief in God's power for us. I'm not talking about living as if we're invincible (to use my metaphor maybe that's not our superpower) but it's about living according to the faith we have and the knowledge we have in God.

The moral of Ant Man was essentially that every person gets a second-chance. We too have been offered a second-chance by God's great love. Romans 5:8 says this "but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." God wants you so much. Isn't it humbling that the greatest and most powerful being in all the universe and all time wants to be with you? Wants you to be with Him? Don't we, in a sense, owe Him a response to His humility and grace? If you want to respond to Him appropriately then what He wants is for you to truly accept that his son, Jesus Christ is Lord and died and rose again for you. Believe it, confess it and accept it. You will see that you will turn your life from being someone who always slips into the easy way out of turning away from God to someone living a life with the power to follow His will and plans.

I'm not saying that life is easy or will be. Don't get me wrong. I know many Christians who go through struggle and tough times. I do too from time to time. The question is: do you want to go through struggle separated from and antagonistic to the creator of the universe or do you want to walk hand in hand with his favour and power? I know what side I'm choosing.

Wednesday, 15 July 2015

Struggle? Hardship? Trial? Think Again: God Fights For You!

I had an interesting little reflection today about what the human struggle is really about. This follows on from my previous blog post 'How is Your Worship?' in which I discussed the 'This is Water' speech by David Foster Wallace (DFW). In this speech DFW also discussed how we never really think about the struggles that other people go through. That when one person cuts you off in traffic you want to curse them and not think that perhaps they are having just as rough a day (or more rough) than yourself. 

The same goes for when people come against us and attack us. I had a situation today (to do with others) that made me think about this. We have a tendency to want to attack back, to fight. But the Bible says in Ephesians 6:10-12 "10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. 12 For 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." Our battle isn't against people and this is where we have to start.

In Luke 6:27-29 Jesus commands the following: 27 “'But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. 29 To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either.'"

This is completely contrary to normal human feeling and rationality. Justice dictates that we give back what we have received in turn. That we hurt those who hurt us: such is the ruling of a broken world. But Jesus, God himself as man, commands that we do good to those who do bad. There is a dichotomy to how God does things to how we do them.

And you know why God wants us to bless others? It's because He himself will be and wants to be the one to fight our battles for us. Isaiah 59:15 -17 says this:

"15 Truth is lacking,
and he who departs from evil makes himself a prey.
The Lord saw it, and it displeased him
that there was no justice.
16 He saw that there was no man,
and wondered that there was no one to intercede;
then his own arm brought him salvation,
and his righteousness upheld him.
17 He put on righteousness as a breastplate,
and a helmet of salvation on his head;
he put on garments of vengeance for clothing,
and wrapped himself in zeal as a cloak."

This correlates to the idea of the armour of God in Ephesians 6 in which righteousness is a breastplate and salvation is a helmet for the Christian believer. But here it is also an armour which God himself wears into battle as the righteously vengeful God. God fights for us and He gives us His own armour to wear. To paraphrase Romans 8:31 "If God is for us, who can be against us?"

Some of us feel that there are trials which are too much for us. Struggles which we can't overcome by ourselves. Potentially this is because we aren't stepping back and recognising that God is the Lord over this situation. But maybe it's also a different attitude that holds us back. Maybe God is testing us and we need to recognise that He believes and knows that we can overcome these situations.

As 1 Corinthians 10:13 says "13 No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it." There is no trial or test which you will go through that God does not believe you can handle or endure. Sometimes you just need to change your mind to the new mind of Christ.

I finish with this from 2 Corinthians 5:16-20: "16 So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come:a The old has gone, the new is here! 18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19 that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 20 We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. 21God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God."

God desires for us to be His chosen people, to worship Him alone. In order to do this we must truly recognise that Jesus Christ died and rose again for us, so that we can be NEW CREATIONS. And if you are not a Christian but are wondering what you have to do it's as simple as believing that Christ rose again and confessing with your mouth that He is Lord of your life. This process involves turning from your old ways of sin and living again as a New Creation. Someone who no longer thinks the way they used to. You won't be perfect now, but you will be one day.

To any believer reading this I challenge you to shift your paradigm. Think as a New Creation and remember that you are more than a conqueror. Give your battle to Christ who fights for you, and recognise that you can handle whatever trial you are going through right now because God himself will not let you fail. You may not overcome on your own, but with God all things are possible!

Monday, 13 July 2015

How's Your Worship?

I started my first day back at uni for my final trimester today. In my first lesson they played a video by David Foster Wallace (DFW) called This is Water which he begins with the following story: 'There are these two young fish swimming along and they happen to meet an older fish swimming the other way, who nods at them and says "Morning, boys. How's the water?" And the two young fish swim on for a bit, and then eventually one of them looks over at the other and goes "What the hell is water?"' 

This story was one great opener for a brilliantly eloquent speech in which DFW explored just how dependant some of us are on what it is that we believe we know, what it is that we believe to be true. The idea that the most obvious things in life are sometimes the hardest things to recognise and give a name to. What these fish were swimming in one fish knew to be water but perhaps they only recognised it by the feel of it and the result of it. DFW later gives an example of how a believer might see something as a sign of faith but the atheist might see natural reasons for such a thing happening. 

Interestingly, DFW was by all accounts closer to an atheist in his religious views but he said the following interesting idea at the end of his speech: 

"Because here's something else that's weird but true: in the day-to-day trenches of adult life, there is actually no such thing as atheism. There is no such thing as not worshipping. Everybody worships. The only choice we get is what to worship. And the compelling reason for maybe choosing some sort of god or spiritual-type thing to worship—be it JC or Allah, be it YHWH or the Wiccan Mother Goddess, or the Four Noble Truths, or some inviolable set of ethical principles—is that pretty much anything else you worship will eat you alive. If you worship money and things, if they are where you tap real meaning in life, then you will never have enough, never feel you have enough. It's the truth. Worship your body and beauty and sexual allure and you will always feel ugly. And when time and age start showing, you will die a million deaths before they finally grieve you. On one level, we all know this stuff already. It's been codified as myths, proverbs, clich├ęs, epigrams, parables; the skeleton of every great story. The whole trick is keeping the truth up front in daily consciousness.

Worship power, you will end up feeling weak and afraid, and you will need ever more power over others to numb you to your own fear. Worship your intellect, being seen as smart, you will end up feeling stupid, a fraud, always on the verge of being found out. But the insidious thing about these forms of worship is not that they're evil or sinful, it's that they're unconscious. They are default settings.

They're the kind of worship you just gradually slip into, day after day, getting more and more selective about what you see and how you measure value without ever being fully aware that that's what you're doing."

It fascinated me because this is precisely the idea I've been talking about in my blog posts to do with God and worship. We were made for worship and even a man who is practically an atheist, like DFW, can recognise that we naturally slip into forms of worship. Of course he continues to state that all different religions (and ethical values) are pretty much the same when it comes to something that is good to worship. That is where he and I differ. 

I want to finish this blog post by agreeing that yes we do indeed fall into patterns of worship and many of these things that we worship are weak and pitiful. However, I believe that there is only ONE good thing to truly worship. And that is God because He by His very nature is good. So the question I have to you is this: how's the worship? Because you might be like those fish, swimming around in water without even realising it. What are you worshiping? And is it good to worship? The thing is you can choose what you worship but I would challenge you to think about placing your worship in the one source with eternal return: by surrendering your life in worship to the sacrifice that Jesus made upon the cross. And if you wish to do that all you need to do is confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and confess with your mouth that God raised Him from the Dead. So: how's your worship?

Wednesday, 8 July 2015

Made To Worship In Spirit And In Truth

This past weekend I went to visit Hillsong Melbourne with Jeanille - she wanted to get a bit of a change while we both didn't have any service requirements and I had never been before. Either way, so we visited the church and heard a great message from Joseph Prince about tithing and communion. Hillsong have, as a whole church movement, been in the media in a negative or critical light recently during their conference. This is due to the presence of Justin Bieber at the conference and because of the actions of A Current Affair.

On the Sunday, Brian Houston announced the millions of dollars that people had generously given to help contribute to more projects for Hillsong. He finished this off by praising God and giving him all the glory for the generosity of people and saying that there are many people out in the world who don't understand why people would give so much and so generously. As Brian Houston stated, people cannot understand because things of the Spirit can only be understood by the Spirit. In other words this is Christianese for the idea that when God sets out to do something, only through God's help can other people understand why such things happen.

This lead me to reflect briefly on why Hillsong has become such a large movement with plenty of money to spend. This being the main reason that people and media like A Current Affair attack Hillsong so readily. You know what I believe? I believe it's linked to the fact that the number one thing that Hillsong as a church have existed for and been known for is praise and worship music.

People were made for praise and worship. Sometimes we give this praise and worship to other things like wealth, fame, partners, family, work etc. or allow it to be dictated by circumstances. Sometimes we do both: see how Nick Kyrgios has been blasted when he failed compared to how he was worshipped when he was winning big (same with other big name athletes). The one being that we were truly made to worship however is God himself. And by putting worship to God first there are rewards that come from that.

This idea was followed up in the message that Joseph Prince shared on Jesus being the High Priest who stands in for all the people and of the order of Melchizedek forever (read more on that in Genesis 14 and Hebrews 5 to 7). He pointed out that much like how Melchizedek gave a tithe and held communion with Abraham after victory, so too tithes and communion come after the victory for us. Jesus has the victory so tithing and communion (Christian rites in a sense) are not things we do to look better before God but they are acts of worship. You don't give your money to God to be blessed but because of the attitude you give with God blesses that act of worship back.

In John 4:24 when Jesus was speaking to the Samaritan woman he points out this: "God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth." My encouragement to any Christian reading this is to become someone (and I'm writing this for myself also) who worships God first and foremost. To anyone who is not a Christian and may be confused by what I have written or who feels challenged, I ask you to look into the Bible, find out who Jesus is for yourself and realise that all that worship and praise you have given to material things or other people only belongs to one person: God himself incarnate - Jesus Christ!

Friday, 3 July 2015

I Worship The One Unfailing God

I came home this morning to hear about the tragic news of Philip Walsh, coach of the Adelaide Football Club. It was shocking, sudden and completely unexpected. Yet, it wasn't the only shocking thing to happen to me in the previous 24 hours. Only 12-14 hours earlier I had been called and told that I might not be able to graduate from my course in 2015. This was a frustration to me to hear and a shock as I had pinned a lot of my hopes on being able to graduate and look for work. But with both pieces of shocking information you know what I did? I prayed to God. Not because I am strong or because bad news doesn't surprise me but because it did, because I am human and frail, and because I needed to trust that He holds my world when it comes to my future and the futures of all involved in tragedy.

The thing that made the Philip Walsh case worse for me to hear was the fact that it was his own son who was arrested for the murder. It's never great when you hear about a murder - but when it's so public and touches on an area that you have some connection to it feels more personal and deeper. It shocks you to hear. And to think that a son could potentially kill his own father like that hurts me. But I guess it also helps me to understand what it is that God sees and feels when we attack and hurt him with our very actions. With the ways in which people daily turn from Him, choose to live apart from Him.

I guess I wanted to post and say that the little revelation I have is that when shocks and tragedies come, no matter how big or small, it becomes important to me to turn and pray. To choose to worship than to live in the tragedy. To honour God with my actions rather than rising in rebellion. Some might laugh at that idea, 'why would you voice words to a God who surely has other things to do?' they might mock. Well I do it because he is my rock and comforter and my security: the truly unfailing God even when my future or the current day seems lost for a moment.

My favourite film this year is Inside Out to this point. Not because of the colour and imagination or great characters but mainly because of the theme and story. The idea being that all emotions are valuable, not just happiness. In a society which is so dominated by the quest for pleasure it's devastating to many people when pleasure gives way to pain. But in my eyes pain is still useful: it's useful to tell us just how much we need God. The only true response to a broken world is not to hide ourselves in more luxuries but to turn in worship to the only unbreakable thing: the promise that if we confess with our mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in our hearts that God raised him from the dead that we will then be saved (according to Romans 10:9). We must do as it says in 2 Corinthian 4:18 "So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal."

Pain, shock, tragedy, disappointment. They do exist. I have been having plenty of fun in my life. I've had great experiences. But I've also had my share of the disappointments of other people and the world. But despite such things I don't fix my eyes on the current world but on the future eternity and that makes a huge difference in how I respond.

I'll leave you with this video from The Lion King. I know it's not a Christian video but it does express to me a very Christian idea about Christ. He truly lives in me and that leads me to respond to life in the way I do. Have you considered the idea of letting God live in and through you?


Tuesday, 23 June 2015

For A Smaller And Greater Prize

Last week (exactly a week ago today) I went to a prayer and Bible study session where I was hit by a powerful revelation from the scripture we were reading in Luke 5. However, I was struggling to work out how to phrase this revelation in blog format. That is until today, after something my wonderful and insightful girlfriend Jeanille said to me last night about how we can look back at previous heartbreak and realise that they help us to appreciate the true riches that God might have in store for us in later years. So this is a blog post about giving up. It's a blog post about giving up the bigger prize for the smaller, yet greater prize ahead.

So the section of Luke 5 I want to focus on is from verses 4-11 here in the ESV: "4 And when he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, 'Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.' 5 And Simon answered, 'Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets.' 6 And when they had done this, they enclosed a large number of fish, and their nets were breaking. 7 They signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink.8 But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus' knees, saying, 'Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.' 9 For he and all who were with him were astonished at the catch of fish that they had taken, 10 and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. And Jesus said to Simon, 'Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.'11 And when they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed him."

So let me break that down: first of all Jesus is hopping into this boat owned by fishermen, people who have this whole trade of fishing for their livelihood and food. Jesus then tells the fishermen (particularly Simon Peter) to go out into deeper water and start fishing again. He tells the fishermen how to do their job after they have had one unsuccessful whole night of catching nothing (reminds me of Pastor Ken's message about the long dark night on Sunday but more on that later). But here's where the start of faith begins. Peter has the faith to say that, 'Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets.' The start of faith (active powerful faith) is when we look at the circumstances and say, "Lord it doesn't matter what has happened before, if you tell me to do this then I will!"

So Peter and the other fishermen follow Jesus' instructions, and they catch so many fish that they have to get help from the other boat. They went from nothing to a monopoly of fish - all because they trusted Jesus' commands. This leads Simon to recognise that Jesus is not just some ordinary man, there's more power and authority to what Jesus is doing. So Peter falls before Jesus and confesses what a sinful individual he is. And here is where I had my interesting revelation about faith and the smaller but greater prize: these first disciples marvelled at the catch they had taken, I imagine for them it was a jackpot of fish - something to thrive on for days, maybe weeks or months to come. And you know how they respond to this mega catch? It's verse 11: "And when they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed him." 

That's right, they left everything to follow Jesus. That includes the mega catch of fish. Now imagine you win one million dollars thanks to Jesus in a similar situation. Would you be so keen to leave that all behind and follow Him? I mean that's something you could bank, invest and live off! Yet these men up and followed Jesus because of the promise of something greater. They had a powerful encounter with Christ and their lives were changed. What was that promise that Jesus gave them as an alternative prize then? It's this: "'Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.'"

It's a call to eternity, a promise that sometimes that giant catch that we can see staring us in the face is actually not for us. This was not a miracle for those first disciples to enjoy the physical fruits of. But it was a miracle to encourage those who are witnesses of what Jesus did through such a miracle. If you ever find yourself starring at a miraculous provision from Him but it is taken away from you, or you realise that you have to give it up, remember that the God we serve - the three in one, mighty to save, redeeming God - is a God who provides eternally a far greater reward. In the natural, fishing for men - that call to discipleship - might seem like a small reward (What about my mega catch of blessing Jesus? You might ask) but it is ultimately a reward which leads people to Christ and brings us eternal family and wholeness. In following Christ you may give up one bigger physical prize but you will never lose sight of that smaller, greater prize.

I want to stop there to briefly encourage anyone who doesn't know Christ to begin the journey of coming to know Him as Lord. While there is a cost and it may feel like you are giving up a jackpot for something smaller, ultimately there is a far greater reward ahead. All you need to do is take that first step of faith and row out your boat like Peter did. If you do know Christ (and yes I know a mixed bunch of people read my blog posts) then this should serve as an encouragement to you if you feel like you have left behind heartbreak and disappointments in your life. If you have regret over leaving behind the big catch then just remind yourself that God always has bigger and better plans ahead, even if they don't always seem that way. And that one day you can look back and realise that every piece of your life was preparing you for the life God has for you today and in eternity.

Let's push on together for that smaller, but greater prize. The choice today is ours!

Thursday, 11 June 2015

God-Given Potential

I was thinking last night about the idea of potential. Reflecting upon my dreams and aspirations and the potential I have to be able to reach them and an idea crossed my mind which I wanted to share in a blog post here.

We all have a lot of potential, we all have dreams and goals and natural talents. Some of us seem to live up to that potential better than others. We look up to the Michael Jordans of sport or the Charles Dickens of literature and the Beyonces of the music world and go 'there's someone living out their potential at the top of their game.' But here's a thought that challenged me: are they really?

What were we all made to do? Let me bring up two scriptures. Firstly Colossians 1:16 "16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him." This verse points out that EVERYTHING, not just somethings or almost everything, but EVERYTHING was made for Jesus - for God to enjoy. And if we go back to the very beginning in Genesis 1:27 "So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them." We were made in the image of God, for God.

If we go another step and move on to another verse in Ephesians 2:20 it state that "For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them." So here's the challenging thought: living up to our potential is not about living up to the possibility of what our natural gifts can do. Or rather it is not only about living up to the full possibility of what our natural gifts can do.

It's for this reason that I admire people like Gary Ablett Jr. He's potentially one of the top five best AFL players of all time if not the very best due to living up to his full natural athletic ability. Yet, it's not just his natural talent that causes him to be so inspirational. It is how he openly worships God by displaying his faith through leading his teammates in prayer before games and not hiding the fact that Jesus is a key part of his life.

My reflection is this; we all have within us the potential to change the world in some way and make a difference eternally. We might not all be able to fully live up to our physical or intellectual potential due to certain roadblocks, but we can live up to the potential God implants in our life through the connect between grace and faith. I linked to the following article on Facebook yesterday: http://www.faithit.com/why-shia-lebeoufs-faith-might-not-look-like-yours/ which really explains and challenges the idea of how grace does a different work in every person.

I would like to take that statement about grace further and state this: only through God's grace can you reach your full potential. I don't know if anyone I don't know reads these posts or whether any non-Christians do but I would love to challenge you if you do not know Jesus to see that his grace is there to help you live a life of true God-given potential. For those who do know Jesus here is the new challenge: to start living up to that potential. It's easily said but harder done but you know what, I want to start that and continue everyday - getting that little bit closer with every step.

Monday, 1 June 2015

I Won't Try to Fix You

Interestingly, earlier on I read through an article about Bruce Jenner. Or should I say Caitlyn Jenner due to his 'transition'. Unlike many other people around I don't rejoice that Bruce is 'free'. I am saddened by the situation because it doesn't solve the deeper issues. Earlier this week I also had an interesting discussion on homosexual marriage legislation (I will express my opinion that I believe God is the only one who truly defines marriage very willingly) where I questioned the popular idea that marriage is just about 'love'. Because in my eyes society has 'love' all wrong by turning it into something which is more about chemical lust.

Hence the title for this blog post of mine. I will and I won't apologise to anyone offended by the ideas here. If you're offended maybe it's because you have bought into a popular mindset that ignores God in favour of a more superficial life. Maybe it is also my way of trying to explain this idea, but please understand that it is never my intention to deliberately hurt or offend anyone but it is my intent to explain and provide hard hitting truth.

The truth is that nothing I can do can fix you. Nothing you can do can fix you. Bruce Jenner went out and had surgery to try and fix himself, to feel 'free'. However the real issue is not in his skin but deeper down, the idea that he doesn't feel masculine enough because of other issues which have told him that really he is actually a woman. It's no longer about biology but about psychology and 'feelings'. In essence what Bruce Jenner has done in becoming Caitlyn Jenner is to say that God has not wonderfully designed him to be the person he is meant to be.

You know what it is that makes us feel ill at ease in our own bodies? The consequences of a sinful world. So as I wrote in this title, I won't try to fix you. I won't try to give you any kind of surgery to reassign you. But I will recommend you to the master surgeon who heals the deeper wounds that legislation and surface surgery cannot fix. Do you want to meet him? His name is Jesus and he heals all the brokenness deep down and truly reassigns you: from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of light! If you want to know more then ask me any question you have. If you already know Him then my encouragement to you is to direct others to Him so that He can fix their brokenness that lies deep down!

Edit: This post is not intended to be a harsh dig at transexuals, gays, lesbians etc. I have a deep respect for all people and I feel that too much emphasis is placed on particular issues and ideas as sin by Christians rather than on recognising that deep down it is the heart issues that Jesus cares about. Jesus healed some people by telling them that their sins were forgiven because he knew that the surface issue of a broken body wasn't the real issue. So I'm not writing this blog post to say that you are particularly broken, odd, weird etc. This is not a shaming post or something intended to single people out.

This is a post that uses something I read about recently (i.e. Bruce 'Caitlyn' Jenner) in connection to the fact that Jenner reportedly said that 'she' was now free to explain that I believe this idea of freedom is false. True freedom, true healing, only comes from Christ. If you think I am judging particular people hear this: everyone needs Christ and His healing/freedom no matter how 'perfect' they are. Just because someone has an 'obvious sin' doesn't mean that you are any less a sinner. So I am not standing here to judge Jenner for 'her' actions in getting surgery but rather to express that I see such a thing as a more visible symbol of a broken world in which we all need Christ to truly free us. I would ask you to turn towards Him rather than anything physical.

Sunday, 3 May 2015

Glorify God In The Disappointments!

This last week I have seen plenty of events making international and local news. Events which have been disappointing from my natural perspective. However I wish to share an interesting revelation I had about disappointment and the way in which God works.

The first disappointment was the sorrow of the massive earthquake which rocked Nepal and killed thousands of innocent individuals. The second was the decision of the Indonesian government to execute, rather than continue to jail, eight convicted drug smugglers. The third disappointment was the loss by decision experienced by Manny Pacquiao.

Each of these three events were disappointing for different reasons. The first was purely disappointing because of the sheer tragedy of the event. The second was disappointing because I, like many other Australians, had hoped that the two Australians might be given a second chance to continue to reform other prisoners (i.e. to preach the gospel and continue the good work God was doing through them) rather than be senselessly executed. The third was disappointing not purely because Manny lost, but because of the nature of the loss - with Floyd Mayweather Jr. acting in such an arrogant manner and running and clinching for most of the 'fight' rather than fighting like a real champion.

The revelation I had however is this: God's plans are so much bigger than any disappointment in life. Ephesians 6:12 says "For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms." Each of these three disappointments could lead people to want to be angry with other people, or with God, but the revelation I had is that our real struggle is deeper. It's not against the causes of an earthquake, or the executioners of prisoners or with arrogant prize-fighters. The real struggle is with the spirits and attitudes behind such events.

Obviously this doesn't remove the disappointment, but it's important to know that even if something disappointing happens, that God has bigger and better reasons and plans than we ever know. It's not about WHAT happens, but HOW you let it happen. And that to me is all the difference. You can't control a natural disaster, but you can control how you react to that disaster. You can't control the fact that the death penalty unfairly exists, but you can control how you go to die. You can't control the fact that in a boxing fight one guy fights in a way which is technically fine but yet may not be honorably fine. In fact you can't control anything in life really except your own response to how things happen.

And in all these disappointments I have seen friends responding with compassion to the victims in Nepal. I have seen outcries of anger at the Indonesian government of course, but I have also seen the legacy that those two men left behind in preaching the gospel and forgiving those men who executed them. I have seen people frustrated over how the fight went with Mayweather 'running and hugging' and acting in a manner that is far from a champion (I'm one of them). But you know what I also saw? I saw Manny Pacquiao use the biggest sporting stage this world has likely seen to proclaim boldly that 'Jesus is the name of the Lord' and that all glory belongs to a God who can make something from nothing.

You know who was able to do something similar in the Bible? Job! In Job 1:21, after losing everything, Job has the most powerful revelation of God's grace and the fact that he is mighty and in control. "And he said, 'Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.'" I hope that I can learn this lesson too that Job understood: that everything belongs to the Lord - and His name is as Manny Pacquiao proclaimed is Jesus.

As I am learning: 1 Corinthians 10:31 "So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God." And that's what I want to do, in season and out of season, and through every disappointment and excitement!

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Having A Sacrificial Heart of Worship

Two Saturdays ago, I went to a seminar on discipleship. The main point that I grasped hold of from this seminary was this: we can focus so much on building the church but Jesus instructed us to 'go forth and make disciples' and that he would build His church. This got me thinking in relation to a whole bunch of other things that I have been learning...

A core call of the church is discipleship: not awesome correographed dance/light/music shows, not fantastic preaching, not any cool or awesome thing that we could make or do. And why are we called to discipleship? I think it's because discipleship is an act of worship and our hearts are made to live lives of worship. Yet so many churches place focus on having a great Sunday service, rather than on building relationships and inspiring their congregations to be engaging and making disciples... And that's not just starting someone on the journey but following through with them so they lead someone else on the journey of following Christ!

It's difficult, it's really difficult. For me to do it I have to give up time and I can be like Martha in the Bible so easily: Luke 10:38-42 "38 Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. 39 And she had a sister calledMary, who sat at the Lord's feet and listened to his teaching. 40 But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.”41 But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, 42 but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”

But that's where it is all about the sacrificial heart of worship! I'm always wanting to encourage people now to be reaching out to who they can and I'm pushing myself to try and do it too where possible. I know there are times recently when I've met and prayed with non-Christian friends simply because I know they needed it, even though to do so was a drain on my time and energy. I love hearing from Jeanille that she engages with her workmates in meaningful conversations about God and church, I love hearing from Jay too that he does the same with his neighbours. I love hearing that all kinds of people in our church are starting to do it, despite their own inadequacies, failings and brokenness. God is moving as we sacrifice our lives in the act of worshipping.

Last Wednesday I went to United Prayer and there the message was on this verse: 1 Corinthians 10:31 "So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God." The essential point is that whether you think something is too mundane for you to glory God in, glory Him in that anyway! Praise him when you do something that you do everyday, praise him by the way you drive on the road, praise him by the way you write your essays. Whatever you do, do it for his glory and worship and praise Him!

Last night at EQUIP we looked at Acts 13:22 where it says "22 And when he had removed him, he raised up David to be their king, of whom he testified and said, ‘I have found in David the son of Jesse a man after my heart, who will do all my will.’" I thought it is so powerful that God here has said that David is so much a man after God's own heart that he would do God's will! Not a 'he might do my will' but he will do. Our God is an active God looking beyond the failings of men and women to their hearts: looking for hearts which predominantly worship Him in spirit and truth.

And that's what I want to do. I want my heart to be right before Him so that I will do His will and not my own. I want to be a disciple maker - who makes disciple making disciples. I want to worship in the services on Sundays. I want to love my family and Jeanille how He wants me to love and honour them! I want to have a sacrificial heart of worship like how Abraham did where I can lay it all down to be killed and have faith that He will be faithful to return it from death and utter ash.

I had a revelation yesterday that when God gives us commands it's not because he simply wants us to follow rules and regulations to be strict but because he wants what is best for our hearts. And his rules are best for our heart and soul if we follow them and do what He asks. So my challenge to you is to look at something and ask yourself how you can sacrifice to Him in order to better be free to live worship. I know I'm going to start that challenge myself!

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

God Looks At Your Heart

1 Corinthians 4:20 For the Kingdom of God is not just a lot of talk; it is living by God's power.
I tend to be a passionate type of person - which is a strength and a weakness in its own ways. Like for instance how I sometimes catch myself responding to news reports emotionally, angry at how twisted the world is. Just earlier this week I found myself hearing about the crimes of the suspect in the murder of a 17 year old girl and caught myself thinking 'this is the type of crime that deserves the death penalty.' But then I retracted my thoughts (after all I don't really believe in the death penalty) as God said clearly to me 'don't you think my grace is enough to redeem everyone? Even this individual?'

As 2 Corinthians 12:9 says "But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me." It's this that enables me to humbly admit that I am weak - according to my own admission of anger towards human injustice I commit a murder of a man within my heart (see Matthew 5) and I deserve death just as much as any criminal. I deserve eternal death - we all do - and when you come to realise this you realise the true power of grace. That I was dead in sin but now can be alive to Christ to live a life of authority.

 In 1 Samuel 16:7 God informs Samuel that His ways are not the ways of mankind: "But the LORD said to Samuel, "Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart."" It is this look at the heart that is so truly important to God and it's something I continue to learn (and as I was reminded last week God's mercies are new every morning).

My challenge to you is to REMEMBER. To remember the grace God has given you, in order that you might be able to give out that same grace. God cares not about where you are at physically - he cares so much more where you are spiritually in your heart. He wants you to put Him first because it is what you were made for: to walk not in words or broken actions but in the life of God's power. And that's what I want to do more and more and more :)

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Equipped to Fear God

Jack was born on the 23rd April, 1992, into a happy family. He had a two-years-older brother and a three-years-older sister and as the youngest boy was the baby of the family. There was just one small thing, like the rest of his family Jack was a zombie. A zombie - like everyone else in the world.
It wasn't so recognisable when he was born, certainly, he looked like any other baby. But as Jack aged and grew, the zombie side of his personality grew with him. At the age of two his teeth began to rot, and a foul odor developed around his mouth. At the age of five he broke his leg - permanently so that he was always dragging it with him like a personal issue wherever he walked (or rather hobbled). By the age of thirteen Jack looked just like the rest of his zombie family: falling to pieces, rotting to the core, every action in life tearing pieces of his flesh apart.
He saw many arguments between his parents, each one ripping the brains and the hearts of his mother or his father irreparably (though they tried to stitch themselves physically together as best as they could). He saw the brokeness in his brother and sister, sinking into alcohol - the drink burning a slow hole through what mess was left of their decaying livers. He felt hopeless, rotting and dead.
By the age of eighteen, Jack had tried everything to make himself feel alive. He tried relationships of varying kinds and levels of commitment. He tried alcohol and other recreational drugs. He tried distracting himself with movies, video games and musical pursuits. But nothing worked.
Until at the age of 22, Jack met a man unlike anyone else he had ever seen. The man looked like any other zombie, but remarkably there was something about his flesh that was clean and pure and free of rot. The odd bruise and scar mark decorated his body - but the stench of death was nowhere to be found. Jack found out that the reason for this clean, fresh look? The blood of the one perfect man to ever walk the planet - the only man without the zombie plague.
Of course the previous is a little allegorical story concept that came to me based on something Ken said yesterday during EQUIP - that really, without Jesus all of us are the walking dead. That we are rotting away and each of our actions destroy and cut and burn us all the more. Some of us try and kill the deadness with other things like drugs, exploring our sexuality, movies, video games and so many other things - but without Jesus it only makes it worse.

Ken was also talking about the fear of God, mentioning how it's meant to be a type of holy respect. He made the comment that so many of us put God into a box, because it's more convenient to turn God into the type of God that we want. We decide he can't be all knowing because somehow His being all-knowing means that we can't have free will (although I consider that a logical fallacy). We decide he can't be all powerful because we want a God who is more like the Roman, Egyptian, Greek or Norse gods - like an immortal human in the sky. The problem is that you cannot respect a human made god because a god which is designed by you is no god whatsoever. To be God is to be alien, holy, above and beyond the flawed nature of humanity. The very fact that God became fully God and fully man in the invested incarnation of Jesus is sheer insanity - it's awe-inspiring and wonderful and should be respected. But again, some of us turn instead to other things.

I know that I have turned to other things at times. I am guilty of indulging my own humanity rather than worshiping the greatness of God. I am thankful that I serve a loving and gracious God who forgives, but I still lack a full revelation of the greatness of God. I need a true balance between the God who loves me, and the God who created a universe with words. In other words, I want to truly worship the God who deserves it - turning from my zombie habits (not eating other people's brains and hearts and fruitlessly stitching up wounds that will not heal) - and live a life of power, not of effort.

I didn't quite finish my above story. If I was to continue writing it, to tell about Jesus allegorically it would run something like this (and there's a really great series of books by Ted Dekker which tell the same kind of allegory - Black, Red and White): But not only was this man perfectly free of the zombie plague. The only man who could ever truly be free, he chose to sacrifice His freedom and become one of the zombies taking the plague upon himself so that through His death He might create the perfect antidote in His blood. For such a perfect man to die was the greatest sacrifice - a sacrifice of love so that others could be freed from the curse of being one of the walking dead. His only command being that those who received the cure were to tell others about this new, free, way to live. And so Jack was left with a choice: accept the cure and the responsibility to tell others about their savior, or to continue to live as one of the many living dead... 

You see, Jesus gave up his all - he became like us and bore a cross for all. Isaiah 53:6 "We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all." His resurrection provides a powerful antidote to our own eternal suffering and provides a new, resurrected way for all of us to live - As Philippians 3:10 says "I want to know Christ--yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death," And yet the only thing that is asked of us is that we spread the message about this cure. My encouragement is that you become equipped and reminded of how great a God we serve and that you too can follow his one simple command of sharing the blessing He gives to you!

Thursday, 12 March 2015

The Echoing of Eternity


In the past month, two notable pop culture icons passed away. The first was Leonard Nimoy, famous for his acting portrayal of Spock in Star Trek. The second, early this morning, was the fantasy author Sir Terry Pratchett. Both men left a huge impact behind on people's lives with their creativity and spirit (though I am not aware as to where either men stand in a relationship with God).

There's also a sadder story of someone who left an impact on people's lives. You may have heard about the teenager who left to the middle east to join Islamic State and ended up (from reports) being used as a car bomber. He too left an impact - albeit a horrific one - one that I have been thinking and questioning about. My question roughly being one that puzzles over how anyone could be so lost as to destroy themselves for a cause. For me to be radical for God is to live a life of true happiness and joy - not of hatred that leads me to kill...

On the radio this morning as I drove home, someone mentioned the phrase 'echo in eternity' which instantly reminded me of the famous quote from Gladiator: "What we do in life echoes in eternity." Why I referred to two men who have become popular figures, or a boy who destroyed himself mistakenly, in this context should become rather apparent. I am indicating lives which have their own echoes in eternity. 

Now some Christians look at things like alcohol, partying and films or literature as a waste of time. They might ask me why I would add to the celebration of lives famous for films and books. My answer would be this: that all lives are worth celebrating, because all lives are created by God and should be for God. The ability of an actor to bring joy to someone's life is a great thing and so to is the ability of the author - though they might seem trivial perhaps in the one small moment they touch someone's life positively they might bring that person closer to God. You never know, after all God created our talents to reflect His glory. The problem is that often people use such talents and lives selfishly - ignoring the great fact that this life is but an echo in eternity.

As 1 Corinthians 10:31 says "So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God." This is my encouragement for you today - a kind of memento mori (a remembrance of your mortality) but not in a sobering way, in a way that encourages you to bring joy to the world around you. Be the echo of eternity in someone's life: use your gifts to bring positivity and joy to the people around you. I want my writing and communication gifts to be used in Church in anyway sure, but I also want them used everywhere - much as I want to be everywhere I am needed - to glorify God.

Thinking about the fact that this life is not even a mere scratch on the whole concept of all time that has ever been and will be - let alone eternity - can be hugely daunting. It can leave you thinking and questioning what kind of difference you can make. Well as David Mitchell wrote in Cloud Atlas:
"He who would do battle with the many-headed hydra of human nature must pay a world of pain & his family must pay it along with him! & only as you gasp your dying breath shall you understand, your life amounted to no more than one drop in a limitless ocean!" Yet what is any ocean but a multitude of drops?"

It is a quote I love because it points out that life is full of little meaning, pain and hopelessness - that is if you live your life not serving God. It further hints at the fact that you can make a difference as part of a whole group of people together making that difference. Alone you might not feel like you are making a real echo in eternity - but you are never alone if you have the Creator of the universe listening to you. If you live to glorify Him, if you seek Him first, then you become more than just an echo: you become a pleasing cry in His ear - a cry of worship!

Tuesday, 10 March 2015

He Declares That He Knows His Plans For Me

Life can be a very distracting thing. I know that in the past thirty minutes my passion for superheroes has led me to rewatch a couple of trailers (in anticipation of the release of Age of Ultron in one month's time). Or the fact that I have movies and tv-shows to distract me from the time. But despite life's distractions (and some of them can be great and crazy and fun don't get me wrong) we are all called to one big deal - one great commission - to make disciples.

I've been thinking recently in connection to this about the Bali 9 duo who have had so much conjecture around their fates and been turned into some kind of political hostages between Indonesia and Australia. It's disappointed me to see some people so casually say 'they knew what they were doing' in reference to their executions. Just because people knew what they were doing doesn't mean that brutal justice needs to be so casually considered - if those people were in the same position I doubt they would think that way. However, this led me to see that for many people the natural position of the human condition is justice. We want brutal cold justice - unless it's served to us.

Another issue I was led to think about is how easy it is for individuals to judge something then that is happening in another person's life. It is easy to judge the external things that you see in someone's life and only feel pity or sorry for that which you can see. In other words, it is easier to have sympathy perhaps than it is to have empathy. I was reflecting on this issue in relation to the verse in Jeremiah 29:11 through to verse 13.
"11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 12 Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart."
So often Christians use verse 11 to support the idea that God knows what He is doing in their lives but continue to live their own lives. It's almost as if, because God knows His plans, we can continue to live with our own plans and everything will end up okay. But I'm not so sure that's what this passage means. The context was during a time when the Lord was prophesying a difficult time for His people but that He would be with them. I see this passage as God's way of letting us know that He has everything sorted despite our own choices yes, but that there is an element that demands too that we seek God. It demands that we seek with all our heart and then we will find Him, and in Him our hope and future. The problem comes when we separate ourselves from seeking God and decide that we have everything sorted on our own and that God can clean up the mess afterwards (like the helpful parent that he is).

The same thing goes for justice. We want justice for other people, but we don't want justice for ourselves and the cruel things we do. According to God's justice we all should die an eternal death for the lies we tell, the hateful thoughts we think and all the sins that we do - because sin is our way of saying that we do not need God. Even the pharisees who lived according to the law sinned because they forgot the reasons for the law - to point out to them that they needed a relationship with their God - and yet when this merciful connection appeared in the form of Jesus, they had Him crucified. And still God's plan was met through this crucifixion (and later the resurrection which confirms that Jesus is God) because it provided a righteous sacrifice so that justice for all of us was served once and for all so that we don't have to live dealing out cold justice - but an act of mercy.

At church the point has been raised the past few weeks that when we ask 'why does evil exist?' the bigger question is 'why do we allow evil to exist?'.  God has given us mercy - not justice - so why are we so often fixated on dealing out justice and punishment? We should be dealing in love and forgiveness. I look at what God is doing with Andrew Chan and I am reminded again of God's grace for all - I might not fully understand God's plan there but I know that He knows the plans that He has for Andrew Chan as He knows the plans He has for me.

If you read any article about Andrew Chan's past it makes for powerful testimony - http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/world/bali-nine-andrew-chan-revisits-his-past/story-e6frg6so-1227248567336 - but each of us have our own powerful testimonies too. Andrew Chan has found that God has a purpose for him to reach out to inmates and preach the gospel, because while he might be in prison he has been set free inside. Who am I, who are we, to judge what God is doing there? I know it is human nature to judge but God is the divine judge and He calls each of us worthy and redeemed if we call His son Lord and savior.

I began this post by saying that life can be distracting, but that we are all called to make disciples. I continued to talk about how God has his own plans for us but that this is not reason for us to sit back on our laurels. Rather, it is a reason for us to seek God with all that we are, in all that we do - and at the same time a reminder to not judge God's plans in another person's life that we don't understand. I don't understand why God is allowing these things to happen to the Bali 9 guys now - but I do know that God will make His name known. In fact God told me this, He told me clearly that 'I will make my name known'.

He will make His name known - the greatest thing is that He chooses to make His name known through us. He wants to invest into us and give us a choice to spread the good news of a reformed and redeemed life - a life of internal freedom and connection to Himself. But He wants you to make His name known through the strategic places He has put you the universities, the workplaces, the homes, the cities, the countries. There is a mistaken belief that only some are in the 'Christian Church Ministry' - no, we are all called to minister the gospel and there is not some code of doing 'wrong or right' for the church so long as you follow God's plan for your life and preach the gospel loudly where you are and with whatever gifts you have.

I know that for myself I have talents in speaking (argumentatively at least) and writing and so I try to use them to expressly point out God's glory - I don't do it as much as I should or as often but I want to work on that and get closer to perfectly reflecting who God is to me. My challenge to you is to find out what your own gifts are and to start ministering in your own situation - start asking questions and giving answers or even if you do not know an answer speak the truth. The worst thing is for you to be completely silent in any way, because in the end He knows His plans for you and He is above and beyond embarrassment, fear or shame. Anything that goes wrong because of your 'stuff ups' will turn out all right - but just 'do not go gentle into that good night...'

Monday, 2 March 2015

Equipped and Empowered

Yesterday we began our first session of a new Church study series called 'EQUIP' which is all about providing teaching to, as the name suggests, equip individuals with a greater knowledge of essential messages, themes and ideas of the Bible. I had done half of some previous course which this new material is based upon, and as many of you know I also have intellectual leanings, so it was a course I was eager to join and participate in.

I should also mention that on Sunday my pastor, Ken, who is leading the series for the most part, also shared a message about living by faith - that our faith is not blind, nor should it be dead. It should be one of the most real things to us because it should be an integral part of our life. From these two different teachings a new way of viewing some very old thoughts struck me. And I want to share these thoughts.

I am no theologian by any means but I do have a strong passion for philosophy and showing that philosophy and Christianity are not distinct but instead can and should align (another topic for another time). So for much of my young life this lead to a predisposition to living with a lot of head-knowledge of God and more gradually God has been turning this head-knowledge (this intellectual knowledge) into a more intimate knowledge. I suppose you could say it's Him turning the potential energy into real energy...

So after Sunday and Monday I was again reminded about the importance of knowing God truly and deeply. You can argue on an intellectual level all you want about whether God exists or not: I know that He does. You can argue on an intellectual level how active He is in this world: I know how active He is. You can argue about anything but it's all surface arguments: He is so much deeper than that. Now, that might sound offensive or arrogant and maybe it is, but that is the thing about who God is: He has to be known, He wishes to be made known and He will make himself known. Hopefully through the people who love Him - but if not He will make a way.

Isaiah 53:6 states that "We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all." The biggest revelation from that verse reading it again yesterday was that phrasing "turned to our own way". We're not even being impassive towards God, we're not being neutral - each of us has in some stage of life turned away from God and to our own designs. We have made ourselves God.

Another passage from Jeremiah 29:11-13 says that "11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 12 Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart." This passage has been repeated several times across the past week (which usually means God is pointing something out to me) and it has struck me that, yes, God knows His plans for us but we need to actively call on Him - we need to turn from turning to our own ways and turn to His ways and we will find Him.

We will find God because of Jesus Christ - the aspect of God who as the son became man and died the death we should all face. The death that enemies and rebels to a High King should face. He is the definition of an investor because He invested himself into us from the beginning when He chose to breathe His spirit into man to separate him from the animals. He took that investment to a new level, becoming a part of creation and yet still separated from that...

What I wanted to say really is that I was reminded about what it's all about. Obviously it's all about God - but I mean I was reminded what living on Earth is all about. Some people get the idea that Christianity is all about 'believe in Jesus, live a good life, die a good death (or be a martyr) and then go off to heaven'. Those same people are content for Christians to believe what they want but don't want us to tell them what we believe. Because what we believe is offensive - it's offensive because it's truthful. It's a truth that says 'you have turned away from God, but God in His love turns towards you, giving you a chance to be remade and live a renewed life of power.'

2 Corinthians 4:6-7 "6 For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
7 But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us."

We Christians are nothing but men and women, willing that God will shine through our actions. Whether that be a public declaration of our faith in getting baptised, whether that be through standing up to proclaim that He is not dead when someone mocks Christianity, whether that be some passionately strung together words on a blog post that people see. Whatever it is - proclaim His light through your actions. Too many people want us to keep our faith to ourselves but you see the point is that Christianity is meant to be shared, because those who hear the truth will be set free.

Essentially my encouragement that I received and want to share is a reminder to not hide the light but to let it shine boldly in every single way. Whatever way you can. For me right now the way I can do that is by letting everyone know not WHAT I believe in but WHO I believe in. I have plans to write an allegorical style story that hopefully works out but even if it doesn't God is bigger than that and God is bigger than my career (another tool to spread the message). Because He has and does continue to equip and empower me for a life lived with Him and that is the best thing.