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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: 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.