your scars bring you closer to God

We all carry scars with us. But do we remember the pain, or have we received Gods great unconditional love.

Whatever you’ve been through, God carries you.

We need to see our scars through a new light. The invisible scars of our painful experiences don’t exclude us from receiving God’s love – his grace is sufficient – our scars can draw us closer to Jesus, who has the scars of the cross on his hands and feet.

Scars qualify you – they don’t disqualify you from God and his work in the world. We see this in the bible stories of Moses, David, Jacob, Hannah, etc.’

Psalm 34:18 tells us ‘the lord is close to the broken hearted and those with crushed spirits’

We have to know difference between wounds (that still need healing) and scars (that are already healed) and invite Jesus in time heal and restore our lives.

Scars remind you of whose you are – in John 20 Jesus shows his scars to the disciples – he is reminding them that he was wounded for their salvation. Jesus scars remind us he is God who died to save and restore us.

Have you been broken or wounded by the world? God is very close to you. His heart of love is wide open to you – receive his love today. Pray to him and listen for his voice. Stop and wait for his healing presence. He is close to the broken hearted and those who have been crushed in the world.

A voice in the darkness

Ever felt like you are stuck in a dark place? Then this post is written just for you….

Gods first words in the human story were words spoke in the darkness – words from the darkness. Spoken by God. Spoken to breathe life into the darkness.

Out of the darkness these words were uttered:

“Let… there… be… light!”

And there was light. The first light in the universe came from the voice of God in the darkness. Gods first breathe in the universe created light.

This was the beginning. The first beginning. The first of many beginnings. This is the work of God in our lives. God enters into the darkness, unperturbed or disturbed, to bring light, growth, love, joy, peace that surpasses understanding, and all other manner of blessings as he wills.

Whenever God wants us to grow he leads us into the darkness where we are led by the spirit into the place of deepening faith and holy trust. And into our darkness He speaks ever so gently… let there be light, and Christ enters our darkness. He walks in it with us to lead us through the dark wilderness into his promised land for our lives.

Where there is darkness today God is already at work. New life will spring up at the sound of his gentle voice. Do not listen for a booming voice in the darkness. Look for the still small voice of the Spirit speaking and breathing the new life of God. God is speaking light into your darkness.

Can we have Certain faith in an uncertain world?

How can we ever know that the Gospel of Jesus and the words of the bible are really true? I mean, they were written thousands of years ago in a culture that is so different from ours – no phones, no bank accounts, no McDonalds! It was orally passed down before it was written down! How can we believe that today?!

I hear this a lot. It doesn’t surprise me any more. There’s no simple answer except to say that faith is both simple, yet difficult. It’s hard to believe facts that you can’t verify easily (unless you have a time machine, which so far we don’t Dr!).

It’s hard to believe when you have not yet experienced the power and presence of the Gospel in true encounter with God.

As a Church we need to be encountering God more than we do. We should be seeking to meet with God daily. Our experience and our bible understanding need to come together to infuse into faith that is solid and certain. The Bible claims we can have certainty of what we have been taught, and we place our faith/trust in those teachings. This does not mean there is no doubt – Thomas was not removed from Jesus for doubting – in fact he was blessed as a result of it. Perhaps doubt is part of the strengthening process of faith?

In the Gospel written by Luke he writes the book to show the stories surrounding the life and work of Jesus in order that…

…you might know the CERTAINTY of the things you have been taught (Luke 1:3-4).

Our faith can be certain and steadfast. We can know the certainty of what we believe. Remember, there can still be some doubt – faith is not the removal of doubt: it is trusting God in the midst of it. In the aftermath of Christmas we have opportunities to share our faith with friends and family – it’s a time of year when discussions about Jesus are in the social consciousness.

I pray that we will take these opportunities to share our faith with confidence in the Gospel, understanding of the truth, and sensitivity to those we are sharing with.

Walk with Jesus closely

“Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him,”

  – Colossians‬ ‭2:6‬ ‭ESV‬
It isn’t enough to just receive Christ – true Christians will  walk in Christ. 

What does this mean?

A disciple of Jesus will stay close to his teaching 

A disciple of Jesus will allow that teaching to permeate their heart, resulting in transforming change of character and conduct

A disciple of Jesus will essentially become like Jesus because they are walking closely with him

God is big enough…

Have you ever faced a circumstance of life that has proven to be rather difficult? Life is like that sometimes:

Sometimes we find ourselves in a ‘circumstance’.

Sometimes things just don’t work out.

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The natural thing to do in such times is to attack or retreat:

We lash out at those who are hurting us. We fight. We shout and scream. Although it’s often our first response, we find that this hurts us more than it hurts those we aim to attack. Hatred and attack never do you any good. They only make matters worse.

We might be inclined to retreat. We run away. We want to hide. This also hurts us more than those who place us in a circumstance. It hurts us because we find ourselves running away from the opportunity to grow.

We grow by handling the circumstance circumspectly.

We grow by looking at our own part in the formation of the circumstance.

We grow by trusting God IN the circumstance rather than apart from it.

dark clouds

Where there is a dark cloud on the horizon there is the still small voice of God calling out to you.

Where there is a goliath taunting you, there is God preparing a ‘David’ within you to handle it God’s way.

Where there is hatred and hurt there is the love of God that covers a multitude of sins.

Where there is the desire to run away there is the presence of God in which to healthily hide away. This is temporal, and from this place we come out stronger in God’s love, grace and mercy to handle our storms.

Jesus is not just for the good times you face – he’s there for you in the hard times too. He really is.

Psalm 91 reminds us that it is in the very presence of God that we find strength and protection. God is big enough to handle every circumstance you have ever, or will ever face. He is your strength and your refuge. He is your strong tower. His great promises are your strength and your protection (Psalm 91:4).

Whatever your circumstances today, may you know the reality that God is big enough to bring you through.

Psalm91v4

What is a follower of Jesus?

As I read the early chapters of the Gospels, I see Jesus speaking the same command to almost everyone he meets: follow me!

For decades Christians have understood this to mean “say a prayer of repentance and commitment to Jesus, attend church regularly, and live a generally good life”.  There is a problem with this. Jesus never led someone through a ‘sinners prayer’ followed by a command to attend church services.  No, he said, “follow me.”

What he meant was “forsake all that you have put above and before me; devote yourself to living life my way, according to my teachings, and my example. Become my disciple. Let me show you a better way to live – free from the trappings of hypocritical living and dead religion. Follow me into a life of service and love of God and others.”

We see this through all four Gospels – Jesus sought to bring transformation into people’s lives. He wanted them to live a life that was all about him – a life that says “It’s not me that’s living my life now – it’s Jesus.”  To follow Jesus is to put him at the center and to make him the supreme ruler of all that you are and all that you do.  It is to allow him to lead you, by his Spirit, out into the world as an agent of transformation in the lives of others.

Jesus gave the keys to following him to his disciples.  They are found in Matthew 28:18-20:

Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth.  Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.  Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

Being a follower of Jesus means:

We recognise his authority in and over our lives

We allow him to be Lord. We acknowledge his complete control and relinquish our dilution of control. We let him lead us. We follow him – he does not follow us!

We make disciples

Notice that disciples are commanded to go and make disciples. Following Jesus means calling others to follow Jesus. We are his witnesses given the mission of sharing the gospel and showing the world what he is like. Disciples mature and multiply.

We get baptized

We align ourselves to Jesus publicly through the act of baptism. He asked his followers to baptize new followers. This was the ritual for new believers in the early Church when they put their faith in Jesus and became his disciples. As we look at the Gospels, the Acts of the Apostles, and the epistle writings we cannot help but conclude that baptism was not an option – it was an expectation Jesus had upon those who would follow him. Followers of Jesus are baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

We obey Jesus’ Commands

The disciples were told to both teach and obey Jesus’ commands. Followers of Jesus will take joy and great delight in obeying Jesus teachings.  It is essential that to teach others to obey Jesus, we must first be doing obeying him. Every follower of Jesus is by nature a leader – we are to lead others into obeying Jesus and surrendering to his way of life – which is the best and most fabulous way to live life!  To lead others we must first be doing.

Jesus expects his followers to obey what he taught – it is not an add-on to our faith or for the over zealous. We need to apply the Bible to our lives in a way that honors Jesus and places him at the centre of our lives.  Simply put, followers of Jesus obey him!

We go to the world

We share Jesus with a lost, broken, and hurting world. Throughout his life, Jesus took the gospel into public spaces. Today, we seem dedicated to keeping the gospel inside church buildings, but Jesus did the opposite. He shared God’s good and practical love in markets, next to bathing pools, in town centers, on mountain tops, on beaches, at a watering hole, on a road; at meals, at parties, sitting in the temple courts, and more.

Jesus expects us to take the Gospel practically and verbally to all the nations of the world. Are you seeking Jesus in order to hear where he wants you to serve him: Is it in your own community longterm?  Is it abroad?  Is it to move to another town that has little or no Gospel influence and voice? We are to take the Gospel where it is needed.

We Follow

Jesus’ disciples sought his wisdom, insight, and direction.  They went where Jesus took them and went where he told them to go. They trusted him enough to submit to his discipline. They didn’t always understand him. They messed up. They learned. They grew. They walked and talked with him. They preached the gospel after his ascension. They took him out to the world.

Why not read the Gospels to see what Jesus taught and how he lived. Then, continue on in the New Testament by reading Acts to see how the first disciples followed Jesus and stayed devoted to him and his teachings.

Perhaps there is a need to get back to the basics and consider our own commitment to Christ. Jesus is looking for disciples who will follow him and make him the most important part of their lives so that he is in control of every part.  It’s not always easy – you could say it’s a discipline at times – but it’s also the adventure of your lifetime.

This blog was originally written by Stuart for www.gcdiscipleship.com – Gospel Centred Discipleship is a fabulous website filled with useful articles and books on Gospel, discipleship and Missional Living. Their vision is to publish resources that help Make, Mature and multiply disciples of Jesus.

Disciples of Jesus L.A.S.T.

Following Jesus is HARD work! If you’ve been on the road with Jesus for a while you know I’m telling the truth, and if you’re just starting out… Don’t worry, it’s worth it 🙂 I have seen many friends (and some family too) starting out with Jesus and giving up when the going got tough. Life’s pressures can crush our spiritual passion. Other commitments get in the way of commitment to Christ. The allure of new relationships can lead away from relating with Jesus. In this there is a warning for all of us: stay close to Jesus at all costs.  One of my aims with the Gospel Praxis Project is to encourage believers to live Christ’s core commands so that we walk closely with, and like, Jesus. Jesus himself was acutely aware that following him and his commands was a hard thing: His parable of the sower illustrates this well. When Jesus was arrested his closest followers fled for the hills, hiding in fear of their lives. One of the gospels states that his best friend (Peter) followed from a distance. Following from a distance always leads to trouble – Peter denies Jesus three times that night! Jesus knew he would do this. Jesus knows us really well!!! So how do we cope when faith is tough? How do we become disciples who last? The following four points are an indicator of how we can develop Discipleship Resilience to live a life of faith to the full, and to the end.

Learn

Jesus passed his teachings on to his initial disciples. They in turn passed them on to another generation of Jesus-followers. And so on… Followers of Jesus LEARN how to live by learning form HIM. We live close to the scriptures and we learn God’s way of living from all of scripture. We have been given the scriptures to live according to God’s pattern for humanity. Now there are those who will disagree with me and state that the bible is not really the word of God; that it was written in a time that we no longer understand; that it is no longer relevant; that it can mean whatever you want it to mean. I believe this line of thinking is subtly destructive for believers, the church, and the world we are seeking to love and lead back to God. I think God that the scriptures have been given to us, inspired by the Holy spirit and passed down form generation to generation of believer. Jesus himself claimed that the Holy Spirit would teach us all that we need to know, and this is true in the experience and biblical teaching of the people of God from bible times all through history. God reveals his word to us as we surrender to the scriptures teaching and the illumination of the holy Spirit – both are required to help us LEARN in order to stay close to Jesus. The Holy Spirit will NEVER lead us in a manner contrary to what is written in the scriptures. To Clarify: We need to LEARN from God’s word what God says  as we submit to the Holy Spirit’s inspiration and leading.

Apply

Application of the Word of God is essential to spiritual resilience. Applying the teachings of Jesus (through the whole of scripture) is to our inner being what exercise is to the body: it makes us stronger, sharper and provides us with the mettle we need to persevere in faith. Learning is in itself not enough: Knowledge alone puffs us up with pride at what we have learned. Application humbles us as we realise that learning needs to be integrated with all of life. It’s not enough to know that God values every person – we need to apply that truth in all our relationships and interactions. This will reveal our true character as we realise that applying learning is difficult. This is where the Holy Spirit prunes our lives to make us more fruitful of the kingdom of God. To clarify: We need to Apply our Learning to real life in order for learning to develop into Spiritual fruitfulness.

Share

Jesus seemed to know a lot of stuff about the world, about god, and about what god meant in the holy scriptures. He was immensely wise and perceptive about how the world functions and about how people (even religious people) use power fro their own gain and reward. But Jesus chose to be different. Rather than thinking that knowledge and learning are power, he set out to share EVERYTHING God had given to him. Jesus lived what he taught. Jesus shared what he taught. Jesus shared his live and his teaching with anyone who would come to him. There are always people in our lives who want to follow us because they see hope and life within us. They may not know the reason for that life and hope unless we share it with them. The gospel is powerful because it leads to salvation. It is powerful because when we learn and apply it our lives are transformed from the inside out. we are not given the Gospel of Jesus in order to have a great life: We are recipients of the gospel firstly so that we can be in close loving relationship with God, and secondly so that we will share it with any who would come close enough to learn it. Living our faith develops confidence in God as we lean on him to live and share Jesus with the world. We share our knowledge of Jesus and the Gospel through our thoughts, words and actions: People will ‘read’ us to see the true motives behind what we do. They will watch to see if our faith is real. They will observe how we conduct ourselves. They will listen for our words of faith that match our lifestyles. We are called by Jesus to take the Gospel out into all the world. We are called to share Jesus. To Clarify: We grow in spiritual confidence as we live and share Jesus and his great Gospel.

Trust

I started off this article by saying that being a follower of Jesus was hard, and it can be. Peter sure knew about that – he always seemed to mess things up – yet he never gave up when he messed up. Like the time when Jesus comes out to his boat, walking on the water like some ghostly figure through the mists. Jesus calls him out onto the water, and Peter not being an intelligent man jumps out the water actually expecting to be able to walk on it because that’s what Jesus was doing. He walks on water! But the waves and wind come to his attention (as they do in the busyness of our lives) and his eyes are taken off Jesus (as ours often are) and he beings to stop trusting Jesus (we are so prone to this!). One way we can grow in our trust of Jesus is to spend regular time with him in prayer. We need to be talking with him, and more importantly, taking time to listen to him. Jesus does call us to trust him and it is difficult to do. The writer of Hebrews said fix your eyes on Jesus, the author and finisher of your faith. Wow! Fix your eyes in simple faith on Jesus. Keep looking to him. Keep trusting him. don’t put your trust in your income alone. Don’t look to other props of life to sustain your faith – just keep looking to and trusting in Jesus. This may defy logic and reason at times (just like Peter walking on water) but don’t worry… Jesus is there to hold you up. To clarify: We grow stronger in our walk with Jesus as we look to him in simple trust and faith.

L.A.S.T.

Learn from Jesus and be led by the Holy Spirit as you surrender to God’s word. Apply your learning in real life. Share your faith to grow your faith. Trust Jesus and keep looking to Him. And perhaps, you will begin to grow more like Jesus just as those first disciples grew closer to Jesus.