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We all probably know the verse from Hebrews 13 v 8 “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and for ever”. God does not change and the gospel message does not change. God is still in the business of changing lives.

However, society has changed over our lifetimes and is still changing at an ever-increasing rate. The way we communicate the gospel has to change so it is relevant in our time.

Another well-known verse John 3 v16 “For God so loved the world, that He gave His one and only Son that whoever believes in Him, will not perish but have eternal life”.

Notice who the invitation is to …’the world’. That’s you and me and everyone else on this planet. So who should be offered salvation? Everyone.

We find interesting examples of unlikely people welcomed by God in both the Old and New Testament. Here are a few:

Ruth – a Moabite woman (Moab were longstanding enemies of Israel) Ruth 1 v1-4

Rahab – a prostitute living in Jericho – Joshua 2, 6 v22-25

A Roman centurion whose servant was healed by Jesus – Matthew 8 v5-13

A Samaritan woman – John 4 v1-42

Is anyone so bad, lost, lonely, addicted, abused, confused with identity…..that they are outside the love of God and His desire to rescue them from darkness to light? From death to life? NO!

When God saves us, He takes us as we are. However, He sees our potential to be more than we are and He loves us too much to leave us as we are.

Here’s the challenge – As we welcome new Christians into the kingdom, do we make them aware that life changes are expected by God? How much of this do we tell them before they commit? What happens when God expects them to change at a slower pace than we think is appropriate?  What happens when someone who has a substance abuse issue is unable to maintain abstinence?  What happens when a serial philanderer is unable to stop flirting? (We will explore this further in the next blog.)

The changes come with God’s help (and ours) and with LOVE as the motive. We the church, are all on a journey together, not one is perfect. Let’s support one and prayer for one another on the way

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Life is changing at a rapid pace and seems more complicated than it used to. People are fragile, many are broken and realising that they are broken, are seeking help and answers. Some are coming to church, needing wholeness, forgiveness, healing, reconciliation and restoration. Salvation through the cross of Jesus is the starting point and God works the rest out over time.

When broken people come to our churches (a high number into our smaller churches), what do they find? What kind of welcome do they receive?

Men and women, young people and children are bringing their live issues to God and to us, many of which we may not be familiar with or have experience of. How do we react?

We in the church must of course, acknowledge that we are all broken in some way or another. We all have issues that we need God to fix. Some are obvious from the outside but God sees the hidden inside issues too. It’s not a new problem, Paul wrote to churches about their issues…

Colossians 3 v5-10

So put to death the sinful, earthly things lurking within you. Have nothing to do with sexual immorality, impurity, lust, and evil desires. Don’t be greedy, for a greedy person is an idolater, worshipping the things of this world. Because of these sins, the anger of God is coming. You used to do these things when your life was still part of this world. But now is the time to get rid of anger, rage, malicious behaviour, slander, and dirty language. Don’t lie to each other, for you have stripped off your old sinful nature and all its wicked deeds. Put on your new nature and be renewed as you learn to know your Creator and become like him. (NLT)

2 Corinthians 12 v20-21

For I am afraid that when I come I won’t like what I find, and you won’t like my response. I am afraid that I will find quarrelling, jealousy, anger, selfishness, slander, gossip, arrogance, and disorderly behaviour. (NLT)

Has God highlighted any of these for you today? Bring it to Him today.

Hallelujah that God is still in the business of changing lives and the words of the song below are true.

‘In Your Kingdom, broken lives are made new. You make all things new.’ (Praise is rising by Paul Baloche https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oAaQ5EEXidc)

Praise His name! No-one is outside His love

Following on from the last blog, I came across this prayer by St. Teresa of Ávila, a Spanish nun in the 1500’s. It totally sums up what being an amnassador for Jesus is all about.

 

Christ has no body now but yours.

No hands, no feet on earth but yours.

Yours are the eyes through which he looks compassion on this world.

Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good.

Yours are the hands through which he blesses all the world.

Yours are the hands,

yours are the feet,

yours are the eyes,

you are his body.

Christ has no body now on earth but yours.

Amen

Lance Armstrong was a professional road-racing cyclist who achieved incredible success even after recovering from serious cancer. He set up the Livestrong Foundation to support other cancer sufferers and then won the Tour de France a record seven consecutive times from 1999 to 2005. He was a national hero and became a ‘brand ambassador’ for Nike.

But in 2012 he was banned for life after his history of long term doping was discovered. Not only were his awards revoked but he lost his role as an ambassador. The revelation meant his lifestyle no longer matched the ethos of the organisation.

So what should the lifestyle of an ambassador look like?

We live in such a way that no one will stumble because of us, and no one will find fault with our ministry. In everything we do, we show that we are true ministers of God. We patiently endure troubles and hardships and calamities of every kind. We prove ourselves by our purity, our understanding, our patience, our kindness, by the Holy Spirit within us, and by our sincere love. We faithfully preach the truth. God’s power is working in us. We serve God whether people honour us or despise us, whether they slander us or praise us. We are honest, but they call us impostors. We are ignored, even though we are well known. We live close to death, but we are still alive. We have been beaten, but we have not been killed. Our hearts ache, but we always have joy. We are poor, but we give spiritual riches to others. We own nothing, and yet we have everything. (2 Cor 6 various NLT)

Are you aware of ways in which your lifestyle may not match the gospel message?

If yes, what steps will you take so you are an effective ambassador for Jesus?

Family Prayers

After Jesus’ ascension, the disciples return to Jerusalem as instructed to wait for the power of the Holy Spirit and pray. They would need power for the task ahead.

Then the apostles returned to Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives, a distance of half a mile. When they arrived, they went to the upstairs room of the house where they were staying. Here are the names of those who were present: Peter, John, James, Andrew, Philip, Thomas, Bartholomew, Matthew, James (son of Alphaeus), Simon (the Zealot), and Judas (son of James). They all met together and were constantly united in prayer, along with Mary the mother of Jesus, several other women, and the brothers of Jesus. (Acts 1 v12-14 NLT)

Here we read who was there at the prayer meeting. All 11 disciples are named (Judas is noteably absent). The great encouragement here is to note that Mary, the mother of Jesus is here, alongside his brothers (James, Joseph, Judas and Simon). This is a huge turnaround as we read earlier:

Mark 3 v21 The family say Jesus is out of his mind

John 7 v5 The family do not believe in Him

But now, after Jesus death, resurrection and ascension, here they are among this small band of believers.

We too may have family members that are resistant to the gospel, perhaps thinking that you too have lost your mind! You may have prayed for their salvation for years. You may have witnessed to them, living your life in a way that reflects Jesus and still they resist.

Be encouraged by these verses. Even those who were closest to Jesus were hostile towards Him, and now they believe. They were meeting together, praying together and standing shoulder to shoulder in unity.

Don’t give up praying for your family and friends but place them daily into God’s hands.

God, it’s wonderful to have You as our Father in heaven. You are a majestic, holy, personal and loving God and we want to honour Your holy name in every aspect of our lives.

You are very precious to us and we want it to stay that way.

We believe that one day Your son, Jesus Christ will return and Your glory will be known to all the nations. All evil will be destroyed and You will establish a new heaven and a new earth.

We want Your perfect purpose to be accomplished here and all over the earth, just as it already is in heaven.

You are our Sustainer and Provider. We will not worry, but trust that You will provide everything you know we need for each day.

Please forgive us for any wrongs we have done or when we have neglected to do something that we know we should have done. Help us also to forgive anyone who has done wrong against us, help us not hold grudges. If we don’t forgive others, then we are denying and rejecting Your forgiveness of us.

We want our lives to be guided by You. We place our trust in You during difficult and trying times. Help us not to put ourselves in positions where we are likely to do wrong. Keep us safe from the devil and all that is evil.

You are our King.

You are more powerful than anything else and we give You the glory. Everything about You is wonderful and always will be!

Amen.

 

When visiting a church recently, I was powerfully reminded again by the word about God’s love for mankind in general (how Jesus came to earth, a radical and extreme action by God to bring us back into a relationship with Him) and Christians in particular.

We all live lives which are a mixture of highs and lows and plateaus. The mountain top experiences of God are awesome – to celebrate with great joy, to be overwhelmed by love and bubbling over with the gospel.

Most of our lives, to be honest, are walking along the plateau, in a daily routine where we know His reassuring presence, to hear His voice in the everyday stuff of life and faithfulness to His word.

However, there are those valley moments that seem dark and you wonder where God is. Valleys are often a place of battle, isolation, no sun, no warmth. BUT it is in the valley where the most fertile soil is. It is a place of growth, a place where we have to rely on God because we are at the end of ourselves.  In Psalm 23, it speaks of walking through the valley, but with no fear and knowing Gods protection. We are not to stay in the valley, to set up camp and stay there, we are to walk through and out the other side. We need to keep moving, we are on a pilgrimage with heaven as our goal.

Enjoy God on the mountain, but depend on Him in the valley.

I commend this song to you – Walking around these walls (Do it Again) by Elevation Worship (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0B_lnQIITxU)