We like to be entertained. Amazed. Blown away. We hope the season finale shocks us. We celebrate the game that goes down to the last minute or last kick. We seek out that we can tweet or talk about at work the next morning. We desire the experience we have never had before. It's nothing new. The people in Jesus' day looked at him and said over and over again, 'We're here, entertain us!' "Display your greatness." "Show us a sign." Perform a miracle. "Prove you are the King". "Wow us!" "Blow us away. Yet while the Gospels tell us that many were amazed at his teaching, his miracles, his life, that amazement did not lead to transformed lives as disciples of Jesus. Entertainment is a spiritual powerless act offered to people to amuse and distract people from the reality of their lives. Worship is a spiritual powerful act that is God-centred and God-directed that draws us into the presence of the all-powerful God who transforms every part of our lives by his grace. So today we explore the gift of ‘Worship in a world of entertainment.’
#4 in series: "Spiritual Intelligence.'
Have you ever moved from one checkout line to another because it is shorter? Have you ever, on approaching a stoplight, counted the cars in front of you and then changed lanes? Have you ever multitasked to a point where you forget one of the tasks? If so, you may suffer from 'Hurry Sickness" - yes it is a thing! Corrie ten Boom once said that if the devil can’t make you sin, he’ll make you busy. Hurry cuts our connection to God to other people, and stops us from living emotionally healthy and spiritually vibrant lives. Hurry is the enemy of love; it is incompatible with life in the Kingdom of God. for it stops us from receiving love and from giving love. That's why people's first interaction with God in creation was the Sabbath - unhurried time to be fully present with God, to receive love from God and space to love him back. So today we explore and experience 'Sabbath in a world of Hurry."
#2 in series: 'Spiritual Intelligence'
Our world is full of distraction. Every moment our days are interrupted by texts, tweets, push notifications, ads, instagram posts, emails, phonecalls. Research has shown that phone users unlock their phones on average 80 times a day. The average user checks their phone 6-7 times an hour or once about every 10 minutes. Is that you? Or is it something else that distracts you? What do you give your attention to, for what fills our minds, ultimately fills our hearts. Distractions are anything that turns your attention away from something that you want to concentrate on. Distractions are what Satan uses to make you ineffective in the mission to which God has called you. Prayer is God's gift in a world of distraction. Prayer lifts our eyes and our hearts to focus on ultimate things that lead to effective, meaningful and purposeful lives that bring glory to God. So today we will explore and experience 'Prayer in a world of distraction'.
#2 in series: "Spiritual Intelligence"
Happy Father's Day
"Everyone is entitled to their own opinion." It's a saying that we hear a lot and everywhere we go, somebody’s got an opinion about something – the world, politics, media, sports, fashion, children, education, entertainment and especially religion! But just because someone holds an opinion, doesn't make it fact. It's simply a personal expression of a person’s feelings or thoughts that may or may not be verifiable or true. For many of our opinions are based on emotions, personal history, and values—all of which can be completely unsupported by meaningful evidence. Perhaps the Bible says it best! "Fools have no interest in understanding; they only want to air their own opinions. (Proverbs 18:2 [NLT]). So who or what is discipling you, shaping your opinions? Who or what do you turn to in order to discern what you believe about the things that impact us in the world or culture? Social media? Your dad, because he said so! Your favourite influencer? The person whose opinion matters most to you? Or the Word of God? Today in the first part of this series we explore the reality that while everyone is entitled to an opinion, not all opinions are equally valuable. But there is a foundation for our lives that is not mere opinion but is true and verifiable. It's a word that is filled with purpose and will enable us to thrive. Today we look at and experience 'Scripture in a world of opinion'.
#1 in series: Spiritual Intelligence
Every sporting team knows…a victory in the Grand Final is not just one victory. It is the culmination of a series of victories. It’s the end result of discipline, hard work & even disappointment along the way. That’s why victory celebrations are so awesome and unrestrained.
In our lives as God's people, we know we’ve been given the ultimate victory. Christ is risen…He is risen indeed. We live with certainty about the end of our story. But there are still challenges to face, obstacles to overcome & trials that will test us in the every day journey we travel. There are victories still to be won.
Until the end, God calls us to remember what is already ours, to live faithfully with discipline and hard work; to celebrate the little victories, and to share the good news of God, who often works silently in the ordinary moments of our lives. Against the backdrop of God’s redeeming saving love, Esther reminds us that victory takes work. The work isn’t finished until everybody is included. Remembering God’s saving purpose & life-giving plan is marked by joy & celebration at every step, until the end is reached in a celebration that never ends. We’ll explore & experience that as we celebrate when God saves his people.
#4 and final in series: God's Silent Sovereignty
There’s nothing so annoying as a jigsaw puzzle with a piece missing or a book with pages torn out. And nothing so exciting, satisfying & powerful as the people of God fully engaged in the work God has set before them. Like a puzzle, God’s people are a unique combination of interlocking pieces that reveal a complete picture only when each is connected to the others. Like a great book, the whole narrative can be told only when each pages is in its proper order bound to all the others. That's the way God works in the world. When his uniquely shaped and gifted individual people do what he has called them to do, he connects them together piece by piece to reveal more and more of his sovereign and saving plan for the world. Your faithful acts of obedience are neither random nor insignificant but may be the missing piece that brings about the fulfilment of one part of God's plan. Bound together with other parts you make known his holy purposes in the world. That's the beauty of the picture that we'll see today, when you are God’s plan.
#3 in series: God's Silent Sovereignty
The struggle for power. The abuse of power. It's been a poisonous, recurring storyline since the fall; played out in palaces, governments, ministries, boardrooms and homes across the world. It's a storyline that is front and centre in the book of Esther too. When we constantly see how power, position and privilege makes people feel like they are entitled to more, it is any wonder that power gets a bad rap or we believe that power corrupts? But power is not inherently evil. Rather it acts like an amplifier, magnifying and making louder what always existed before. It reveals the motivations of the heart whether for good or for evil. So join us as we discover the posture and influence that God is calling us to have "When power corrupts."
#2 in series: God's Silent Sovereignty
It's a comment that you hear often..."the good old days'. We don't know what that really means, but we all have them. An idyllic childhood memory. A recollection of the time life seemed simpler...pre-kids, or first adult job, or early years of marriage, or before the pandemic. Those were the days when we felt the world was at our feet and God was with us and smiling on us. But today we're not always so sure. Hair turns gray and then loose. Heart attacks, family rifits, funerals, 4th, 5th or 11th boosters? Where's God now? The Jewish people living in the time of Esther had seen what they thought were the last of their "good old days." Generations of living in exile and being a minority have taken a toll. Acclimatised to fitting into a pagan culture, they can no longer see or trust God's presence at work in the world. God seems...absent. But things are not always as they seem. The book of Esther reveals God powerfully and lovingly present, working for the good of his people to accomplish his awesome and beautiful purpose. It's a promise you can count on, even when God is hidden or seems absent.
#1 in series: God's Silent Sovereignty
Rob de Castella had it. So did Kieren Perkins and Grant Hackett. The Tour de France riders display an abundance of it. We witnessed it again yesterday as mum Jess Stenson, competed in and won the Women's marathon at the Commonwealth games in Birmingham. Endurance - a sub-maximal force that is produced for a sustained period of time, an ability to do or cope with something painful or difficult over the long haul. It's hard. It hurts. It requires discipline. The temptation to give up and stop is enormous. But the ability to keep going inspite of difficulty or lack of success; the ability to make microscopic gains one step, one stroke, one pedal at a time is what drives these athletes to the finishing line.
The life that God has called us to through the Gospel is a marathon that requires this same perseverance and endurance. God is with you for the long haul equipping and empowering you to live in his presence and to serve those around you, especially when you are tempted to give up or give in. Gospel endurance comes from hope and hope produces Gospel endurance. That's the gift and the calling that you are invited to live as God's Operation Gospel crew; a life that leads to Kingdom growth and more joy and peace than you can ever imagine. We'll explore and experience that today.
#8 and final in series: Operation Gospel