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I love the story of Jesus calming of the storm. There are so many life lessons to be found in these few verses from Luke 8.

“One day Jesus said to his disciples, “Let’s cross over to the other side of the lake.” So they got into a boat and started out. On the way across, Jesus lay down for a nap, and while he was sleeping the wind began to rise. A fierce storm developed that threatened to swamp them, and they were in real danger. The disciples woke him up, shouting, “Master, Master, we’re going to drown!”

So Jesus rebuked the wind and the raging waves. The storm stopped and all was calm! Then he asked them, “Where is your faith?” And they were filled with awe and amazement. They said to one another, “Who is this man, that even the winds and waves obey him?” NLT

The lesson which was brought to my attention recently was to realise the way that we look at things. Each situation we find ourselves in, is like a coin which has two sides. Which side are you drawn to when the ‘storm’ or trouble comes?

This lesson was in a book I was reading called ‘Jesus: Safe, Tender, Extreme’ by Adrian Plass (Zondervan 2005) in which he wrote:

“Whatever the nature of the storm that is threatening, whether in a boat or on a train etc, it does seem a shame that we so easily lose our nerve and forget the inspiring things that have been done by Jesus in the past. The encouraging aspect of all this though, is that when we find fear and failure on one side of the coin, we are bound to find the limitless possibilities of our creative God on the other.”

The disciples could have remembered all the amazing things that they had already seen Jesus do and thought, ‘He is with us, all will be well’. But they were human and focussed on the reality of the moment and panicked. The disciples had taken their eyes off Him and looked only at the circumstances.

Jesus calmed the storm with a word and reminded them again of who He is.

I also love the fact that the next story which follows on as they land in the Gerasenes, is where Jesus calmed the storm in a man who had been possessed by many demons.

Jesus demonstrated His power over ALL things (including nature) and ALL circumstances.

Which side of the coin do you focus on when the storms of life come?

Is your glass (view of life) half full or half empty?

Do you focus on Jesus or on the circumstances?

I encourage you to pray, leave your storm with God and watch as He calms it.

Then rejoice and tell someone what God has done for you!

Across our land generally and sadly, even in our churches, there are boundaries between people. All man made, they are like walls that keep people apart.

Prejudice and disconnection regarding race, age, culture, gender, language, economic standing, status…the list goes on.

This is alien to God’s Word. We are to be inclusive, welcoming, celebrating our differences and encouraging the variety of expressions of worship and service.

We are told many times in scripture to welcome the stranger and to look after the widow and orphan.(Deuteronomy, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Jesus’ attitude in the Gospels).

Churches at their best are international, interracial and intergenerational. This is what heaven will be like, so let’s enjoy a glimpse of it now!

Rev 7:9-10 – After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no-one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice: “Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.” NIV

The glue which holds all unlikely people together is, of course, the Gospel.

It puts us all on a level playing field. We have ALL fallen short, NONE of us are perfect, we are ALL sinners who need a Saviour. NONE of us are better than another, we are just different, and God welcomes ALL into His Kingdom who choose to follow Jesus through the cross to heaven.

Small churches are often described as family, friendly and welcoming.

Let’s make sure our church embraces ALL who come and celebrate the variety.

I have met many people over the years who have not got balance in their lives.

An example is work v. play. Do you live to work, or work to live? Is there a balance between them in your life?

The balance I have trouble with, is input v. output. I find myself ‘outputting’ in many different ways but I don’t balance this properly with input.

As Christians, our life balance needs to be 3 way, like a triangle as suggested by Mike Breen of the Network City Church in Sheffield.

The 3 sides should be IN, UP and OUT. The triangle should be equilateral so all 3 sides are the same length.

Our IN should be receiving all the God has for us through His word and revelation.

The UP is our relationship with God, the quiet everyday moments of worship and obedience that thrill His heart and bring us closer to Him.

Our OUT is about our reaching out to people we know at home, in the workplace and in the community to further the kingdom, leading them to Jesus.

Our church services too can be thought of in this triangle way.

We come IN to gather in His name to worship, learn, pray for each other and enjoy fellowship.

The UP is to focus on God, to hear His voice and respond in worship, praise and action.

The OUT is us bring sent out into the world as ambassadors and messengers with good news.

There is a sign above the door on the inside of a church in Colchester so people see it as they leave the building. It says ‘The Mission Starts Here.’

Have a look and see if your life is in this triangle balance or if there is too much of one thing and not enough of another. I invite you to let me know your results!

(For more info, http://www.freshexpressions.org.uk/guide/discipleship/resources/passionatelife)

Yesterday i had a really good day meeting representatives from 17 small churches across the home counties. It is so important to talk and share stories and learn from each other. It was the first meeting of its kind in that area so it was great to see so many people.
Some of the churches were under 12 members so their dynamics were different from say, a group of 20. What really struck me was the dedication and committment of these Godly people to be a witness for God in the place He has put them. It was good to talk about struggles: the church getting older and not many young families arriving, lack of hands with energy, old buildings, lack of musicians etc.
The pressure is on the leaders of the churches to attract new people in so the Kingdom and the church grow.

However, we must remember that the church is not ours. It is God’s church, as Jesus stated in Matthew 16 v 18
“You are Peter and upon this rock I will build my church; and all the powers of hell shall not prevail against it.” TLB
God’s church universal will stand until Jesus comes again.

Our part is to pray and hear HOW Jesus wants to build the church you lead or attend. He is a great God so pray BIG prayers!

It was also good to hear how the church is working and growing together, going into the community and loving a broken world. We all need to do our part –

EACH ONE, REACH ONE

If this happens, we could double our congregations overnight!

Are you ready?

STAND FIRM!

I have found it fascinating that 3 times in just this last week, I have had conversations with people about very different situations, but the advice I gave was the same to them all.

Life happens, troubles comes but we must be aware of where it is coming from. The enemy has a simple strategy which is 2 fold:

1. Break relationships between Christians and God

2. Break relationships between Christians in church

Once we are aware of this, we can see the origin of trouble for what it is, and respond accordingly. Paul instructs us clearly in Ephesians 6 that we are in a battle and we need to be kitted up and ready.

Ephesians 6:10-18

Finally, build up your strength in union with the Lord and by means of his mighty power. Put on all the armour that God gives you, so that you will be able to stand up against the Devil’s evil tricks. For we are not fighting against human beings but against the wicked spiritual forces in the heavenly world, the rulers, authorities, and cosmic powers of this dark age. So put on God’s armour now! Then when the evil day comes, you will be able to resist the enemy’s attacks; and after fighting to the end, you will still hold your ground.

So stand ready, with truth as a belt tight around your waist, with righteousness as your breastplate, and as your shoes the readiness to announce the Good News of peace. At all times carry faith as a shield; for with it you will be able to put out all the burning arrows shot by the Evil One. And accept salvation as a helmet, and the word of God as the sword which the Spirit gives you. Do all this in prayer, asking for God’s help. Pray on every occasion, as the Spirit leads. For this reason keep alert and never give up; pray always for all God’s people. TEV

The pieces of armour mentioned above as all defensive apart from the Sword of the Spirit – the Word of God. It is essential that we know the Word so we will be able to stand strong and not let the devil win. Also, when practised, we know how to raise the shield of faith when we see trouble coming. Without this knowledge, we get hit every time.

James 4 v7 says to submit to God (know Him and trust Him), resist the devil (you have the authority in Jesus name to do this) and he HAS to flee.

So I encourage you to get your armour on. If you are a leader, make sure your people know how to put the armour on. We live in troubled days in a fallen world.

We MUST take ground for Christ through God’s power to set captives free. Hallelujah!

The latest album from the band ‘Casting Crowns’ is called ‘Thrive’.

The title track is based on Jeremiah 17 v7-8 and Psalm 1. Here are some words from the song.

“We know we were made for so much more than ordinary lives

Its time for us to more than just survive,

We were made to thrive.

Into Your word, we’re digging deep to know our Father’s heart

Into the world, we’re reaching out to show them who You are.

Joy unspeakable, faith unsinkable, love unstoppable, anything is possible”

Why do we settle so easily for ordinary? We have an extraordinary God who works through us with the power of the Holy Spirit, so life should be anything but mundane, ordinary or boring!

The picture from Psalm 1 is of a tree which is planted by the stream. Its roots are deep and draw water from the stream, producing leaves and fruit. This is how we should be. Our roots deep in to God and His word and knowing who we are in Christ. We draw life from the Bible, daily strength from the Holy Spirit and security from the Father. We then produce leaves (character) which attracts others as we reach out, and fruit (fruit of the Spirit and new Christians).

Jeremiah 17:7-8

“But blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose confidence is in him.

He will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.” NIV

Are you surviving or thriving?

We Christians were made to thrive!

www.castingcrowns.com

I was recently invited to preach about Hezekiah, a great King in the Old Testament. The story of his life appears across 10 chapters in 3 OT books! (2 Kings 18-20, 2 Chronicles 29-32 and Isaiah 36-39).

Hezekiah became King of Judah when was 25 years old and reigned for 29 years.

SO…What can we learn from his life?

1. Pray for your family

Hezekiah’s father was King Ahaz, a bad example to Judah. However, Hezekiah’s Great grandfather was King Uzziah and his Grandfather was King Jotham – both great Godly kings.

Also his mother was Abijah, the daughter of Zechariah (spiritual advisor to King Uzziah. Abijah means ‘my father is Yaweh’. Ahaz was such a bad king, but yet, Hezekiah during his reign did what was right in the sight of the Lord. God had his hand on Hezekiah and was greatly influenced for good by his family.

WHO INFLUENCED YOU ? WHO DO YOU INFLUENCE?

2. Stand up for what is right

Hezekiah destroyed the pagan idols, Opened the temple for worship again

Instigated both civil and religious reforms, Reinstated tithing

Reinstated the Passover celebration

Hezekiah sought his God wholeheartedly. As a result, he was very successful.

DO YOU STAND UP FOR WHAT IS RIGHT, EVEN THOUGH YOU MAY BE UNPOPULAR?

3. Use your God given gifts and talents

Hezekiah was an architect, organiser and strategist. He designed and oversaw the construction of the Siloam Tunnel in Jerusalem which diverted the flow of water through the city. This kept the water flowing despite being under siege from enemies.

WHAT GIFTS HAS GOD GIVEN YOU? ARE YOU USING THEM?

4. Pray Powerful Prayers and see them answered

Hezekiah had a powerful prayer life and a personal relationship with God

a) Letter threatening invasion by Assyria

Hezekiah took the letter to the Temple, spread it out before the Lord and prayed:

“O LORD, the God of Israel, seated on your throne above the winged creatures, you alone are God, ruling all the kingdoms of the world. You created the earth and the sky. Now, LORD, look at what is happening to us. Listen to all the things that Sennacherib is saying to insult you, the living God. Now, LORD our God, rescue us from the Assyrians, so that all the nations of the world will know that only you, O LORD, are God.” TEV

God answered his prayer and Jerusalem was saved.

b) Prayer at death’s door

King Hezekiah became sick and almost died. The prophet Isaiah confirmed death was at hand. THEN Hezekiah prayed: “Remember, LORD, that I have served you faithfully and loyally and that I have always tried to do what you wanted me to.” And he began to cry bitterly.

Isaiah heard the Lord speak and told the king He would grant Hezekiah 15 more years of life, during which time he married and had a son Manesseh, an heir to the throne.

DO YOU EVERY SITUATION TO GOD IN PRAYER, AND EXPECT HIM TO ANSWER?

5. Beware of temptation and compromise.

Things were going well in Judah and Hezekiah didn’t rely on God so much. He began to be proud and make mistakes. When visitors came from Babylon, Hezekiah showed off the armouries and treasuries of the city, which just put them on the Babylonians list of ‘countries to invade’! He trusted in might, not so much in God. The invasion came during Manessah’s reign, who was captured and taken to Babylon in chains.

BEWARE OF TEMPTATION & COMPROMISE

KEEP YOUR EYES ON JESUS

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