Part 1 ~ Abide in Me

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Jn 15:1
I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser.

Jesus was completely surrendered into the hands of his Father the Vine-dresser who values his vine Œtrunk and root above all else, because this is where all his fruit will come from. The Father cared for his Son above all knowing that all future fruit would bear the character of that vine.
Of all the vines we can seek to be connected to for Œlife and truth, Jesus alone is ‘the true vine’, rather than the great many ‘untrue’ vines that that tempt us to graft into.  Unless the vine we draw our life from is Jesus there can be no ultimate satisfaction. Our whole life has been created by God in Heaven ‘for’ Christ and no other. He has been planted in the Earth so that we are able to graft into Him and receive His ‘sap’ continuously.  This gives us that life which produces fruit! God anticipates a return on His vine. It’s difficult to comprehend that people can be ‘in Christ’ yet not bear fruit.
Jesus’ message is Stick with Me. Don’t say you’re with me and live apart from me. The fruit of your life will reveal that what you say isn’t real. This will bring pruning or even removal from the vine. The branch that draws sap from the vine, yet produces no fruit will be removed because it’s a drain on all the other branches who are producing fruit. Resources should not be poured into unproductive areas. Unproductive branches are removed. This is where the Father’s strength of purpose is clearly seen.

Jn 15:2 Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit.

Every branch comes under the scrutiny of our Vinedresser, the Father. The vine-dresser prunes the branches in two ways: he cuts away dead wood that breeds disease and insects. He also cuts away excess living tissue so the life of the vine will not be used up on such a large number of branches that the quality of the crop will be jeopardized. In fact, the vinedresser will even cut away whole bunches of grapes so that the rest of the crop will be of higher quality. The Vine-dresser looks for both quantity and quality.
This pruning process is the most important part of the whole enterprise, and the people who do it must be carefully trained or they can destroy an entire crop. Some vineyards invest two or three years in training the pruners so they know where to cut, how much to cut, and even at what angle to make the cut.
Elimination of activities that drain energy, time & money is what pruning is. The father takes some things like relationships & material things out of our life in this pruning process, so we are left with what is important. The father will remove sins from us as well, by His grace at work within us we become overcomers. De-cluttering is a constant work calling for our vigilance to remove those things that steal attention from remaining within the vine. We don’t bear more fruit by doing more things. We bear more fruit by doing less of the unimportant and concentrating on the all-important.
The branch that bears no fruit He lifts up. Sometimes the branches lying on the ground become soggy and easy prey for insects and so need to be lifted up from the earth, so they are able to bear fruit.

The 4 states of the vine described in this passage are, no fruit, fruit, more fruit, much fruit.
The pruning process of the whole vine begins with removing branches that fail to bear fruit at all.
As a branch in Christ you cannot remain untouched by the pruning shears of the Father. Whatever fruit you are bearing right now, the father knows it can be more if he can prune you, so some of the branches that have previously borne fruit will disappear.

See you in church friends

Offline – Connecting with People for Real

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Philemon 1:6   That the sharing of your faith may become effective by the acknowledgment of every good thing which is in you in Christ Jesus.

This is Paul’s prayer.

That a believers communication of their faith will become effective.

That this will happen as they ‘acknowledge’, (confess, meditate on, accept, embrace, believe, receive) every good thing that is in them in Christ.

We need to orient people to every good thing that is in them in Christ, and if we address any negative areas it is to set them free from them, heal them or release them.

Both Paul and Jesus regularly speak of the positive, good things in their lives. ‘I and the Father are one’. ‘I am the door’. ‘I am the vine’. ‘I have come that you may have life’. Paul stated, ‘we are seated with Christ’, ‘we have forgiveness, righteousness, justification, redemption, new covenant, hope, faith, love…’

People need constant reminding of the positives. The devil spends all week reminding them of the negatives. Our job is to remind and revive people to what God has placed within them.

When we become a team operating like this we begin to function like Christ.

Phil 2:5   Let this attitude be in you which was also in Christ Jesus,… made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.

Greatness is an aspiration all of us desire in some form, whether it is simple recognition for something we’ve done, or just the acknowledgment that we exist, by someone mentioning our name. However, how we achieve greatness and firsts in life is not by seeking to dominate others but by actually seeking to help them with their advancement.

Mk 10:43 .. but whoever desires to become great among you shall be your servant. And whoever of you desires to be first shall be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.

Servant hood is good for every area of your life, personal and business;

Sam Walton, founder of Wal-Mart knew that if he could serve fellow Americans this would result in great success – In his biography,  he says, ‘We’re all working together; that’s the secret. And we’ll lower the cost of living for everyone, not just in America, but we’ll give the world an opportunity to see what it’s like to save and have a better lifestyle, a better life for all. We’re proud of what we’ve accomplished; we’ve just begun.’

Today, Wal-Mart Stores Inc., employs more than 1.2 million associates worldwide. The company has more than 3,000 stores and offices across the United States and more than 1,000 stores internationally.

In the business world the company doesn’t provide job security. Only customers can do that! If customers are well served they come back, if not, they don’t.

Serving people means solving their problems. Research from Wharton Business School shows that 95% of customers who have a complaint handled efficiently and promptly will not only continue to do business with an organization but will become even more brand loyal. Service focused companies go out of their way to hear customer complaints. Most customers don’t bother to complain and simply take their business elsewhere. 96% of customers won’t complain to the goods or service provider.

1 Corinthians 9:19 ‘…I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win the more.’

Instead of selling Jesus, we should try serving Him to people. Instead of just witnessing to people, we need to be a witness. Serving is helping people, at personal cost, at sacrifice.

Francis of Assisi says, ‘Witness all the time, and if necessary, use words’.

Those who have understood the power of serving people can tell this story repeatedly. When we serve others, meet their needs and heal their hurts, we are effective in connecting them with God. Visible love opens invisible hearts.

A life without service is doomed to decay. Serving is the highest level of meaningfulness for anyone. The meaning of life is easy to find if we simply serve others. The great violinist, Nicolo Paganini,  willed his marvelous violin to Genoa – the city of his birth – but only on condition that the instrument never be played upon. It was an unfortunate condition, for it is a peculiarity of wood that as long as it is used and handled, it shows little wear. As soon as it is discarded, it begins to decay. The exquisite, mellow-toned violin has become worm-eaten in its beautiful case, valueless except as a relic. The moldering instrument is a reminder that a life withdrawn from all service to others loses its meaning.

Six Qualities of Helpfulness

Let me identify at least six qualities of a servant. These are easily found in Rebekah, Abraham’s son, Isaac’s wife of the Old Testament, a beautiful life of servant hood. She never dreamed how her serving heart would open the greatest doors of her life. She discovers that serving opens doors of destiny.

  1. Helpfulness is Willing

Genesis 24:18-20   ‘Drink, my lord,’ she said, and quickly lowered the jar to her hands and gave him a drink. After she had given him a drink, she said, ‘I’LL DRAW WATER FOR YOUR CAMELS TOO, UNTIL THEY HAVE FINISHED DRINKING.’ So she quickly emptied her jar into the trough, ran back to the well to draw more water, and drew enough for all his camels.

Rebekah doesn’t complain that she has just been down the well to get water for herself. The well is deep. Around fifty steps descend to the water. Rebekah offers to get the man some water but she also offers to water his camels. One camel can drink twenty-five gallons in one sitting. Ten camels raise the possibility of two hundred and fifty gallons. Even if she manages to carry five gallons up the steps each time, it could be fifty trips up and down the steps. Notwithstanding, she’s keen! ‘Drink’. Eliezer has just prayed that the woman who offers to not just satisfy his request for water but also offers to water the camels will be the answer to his prayers. This will be the woman destined for his master Abraham’s son, Isaac.

Serving is an issue of the heart. She wants to bless the man. She has no idea there is any reward for her efforts. Money easily steals heart. Once we receive money for what we once did from the heart, our willingness and enthusiasm can be compromised. In 1 Peter 5:2 Peter calls on us to serve the Lord with our heart, not for money. Serving is its own pleasure. It serves regardless of the reward.

Energy springs from willingness. Ask children to do something they don’t want to, like cleaning their room. Suddenly, nothing happens! They’re like a sloth, cute but slow. Tell them we’re off to McDonalds, they’re streaked lightning, sitting in the car before you finish the sentence. We are energized when our will is engaged. Fatigue follows the unwilling. We’re tired when we’re doing what we don’t want to do. If we’d rather be elsewhere, we’ll never enjoy where we are right now. If we’d rather be doing something else, we won’t have the energy or focus for what we’re doing right now. Aligning our will and our action is basic to successful living.

The willing heart is;

  1. Impelled, not compelled. Motivation comes from within, rather than some external pressure outside us. ‘People often say that motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing; that’s why we recommend it daily.’ Zig Ziglar.
  1. Agreeable, not disagreeable. All of us think of the ‘other point of view’, in a conversation, but we decide to focus on those points of agreement rather than the points we disagree with. How painful is trying to hold a pleasant conversation with a disagreeable person? It’s just hard work. The willing heart finds ways to agree and flow with people. Beth Laurie says, ‘agreeing to agree is a key to astonishing teamwork’.
  1. Executing, not excusing. The willing heart finds reasons to do, rather than reasons to not do. People with excuses reveal an unwilling attitude.’ I think it was Billy Sunday who defined an excuse as ‘the skin of a reason stuffed with a lie.’

The person who is good at excuses is usually not good at anything else.

  1. Helpfulness Excels

Rebekah does the job well. She doesn’t do half a job. She finishes what she starts. She does more than is expected. Her service is surprising.

Genesis 24:18-20 ‘… until they have finished drinking.’

She makes sure the camels drink their fill. She doesn’t bring water until she feels she’s done enough. She continues fetching water until the camels have had enough.

The servant from hell does the job when it’s convenient for them. They huff and puff, letting everyone know they’re unhappy about doing this. They never do the job right or complete it properly. They complain how much they’re giving up to do this. They tell you all the sacrifices they have made. They are going to do it for you, but they are determined to make you feel bad at the same time. When you see they’re unhappy about doing it and offer to get it done some other way, they won’t let it go. ‘No, no, I’ll do it!’ (heaving and sighing). Oh, no! You’re going to pay for their service. It isn’t coming free.

The true servant heart cannot do a job badly. They take pride in what they do and only do the best they can to surprise the person they’re serving. Ask yourself. Are people surprised by what I do for them? Are they thankful? Do I bless them?

Albert Einstein said, ‘We have to do the best we can. This is our sacred human responsibility.’

Rebekah sits amongst the matriarchal heads of Israel. History accepts her elevated station because her foundational lifestyle was selfless serving. Besides what the Bible reveals, we have to wonder how many other strangers she had served joyfully as they passed by her well. Serving was a lifestyle to her, not just erratic moments. Sometimes our teaching on servant hood sends a signal that if we are prepared to do menial tasks today (cleaning the lavatories is generally the task referred to), then one day we will graduate beyond serving. The fact is we will never ‘progress’ from serving. Even though I’m the senior minister in our church, I’ll still clean up something if I can right away. It’s not my job, but if I’m in a bathroom and the bowl needs cleaning then I’ll do it right then. I don’t want the next person to come across a dirty bowl! Don’t ever lose the heart of thinking about and serving others.

  1. Helpfulness is Swift

True servants get the job done swiftly. Slow service is a curse worse than no service at all.

Genesis 24:18-20   ‘Drink, my lord,’ she said, and QUICKLY lowered the jar to her hands and gave him a drink….QUICKLY emptied her jar into the trough, RAN back to the well to draw more water…’

Rebekah understands speed is of the essence. Keeping people waiting is not serving at all. We surprise people with speed. And we actually deliver before it’s due.

Money is no longer the highest commodity people value today. Time is! Taking more time from people than they are willing to give us incurs resentment and dissatisfaction. This is considered poor service. If we take less time than people anticipated we win favour. How many times have you hung up the phone after the umpteenth transfer from one recorded message to another? How many times have you walked away from a queue knowing that what you wanted is not worth the time it’s going to take to get it. Find every way possible to reduce the amount of time it takes for you to meet people’s need.

Geoff Alford, who has run market research for 20 years specializing in customer satisfaction, says companies fail to understand that customer service is about all the components of timeliness, getting exactly what you ordered, getting it without hassles – and feedback if there are problems later on.

Convenient servant hood doesn’t exist. In fact, servant hood is nearly always going to be inconvenient. A servant serves at all times, not just when it is convenient.

Luke 17:7-14 ‘And which of you, having a servant plowing or tending sheep, will say to him when he has come in from the field, ‘Come at once and sit down to eat’? ‘But will he not rather say to him, ‘Prepare something for my supper, and gird yourself and serve me till I have eaten and drunk, and afterward you will eat and drink’?

  1. Helpfulness is Honoring.

Servant hood honours rather than despises those it serves. Rebekah calls the stranger, ‘Sir’.

Genesis 24:18-20   ‘Drink, MY LORD,’

She treats the stranger with respect. Serving is serving. It is placing ourselves at the service of another. Serving is honouring and is reflected in our language. We meet others needs, not because we are some patronizing do-gooder, but because we respect people and use whatever we have to serve them.

People anxious about position find it impossible to serve. The servant heart is unconcerned about how they look to others. The most amazing person in history, Jesus Christ, demonstrates this time and again. Even though He is the immortal, sovereign, self-existing God of eternal spirit, He becomes a temporal, mortal, dependent man of flesh. Jesus, who for eternity has given commands, now obeys them. He who had never committed one wrong, now becomes condemned as an evil doer. He is crucified along with thieves, being the Lamb of God slain for the salvation of all people everywhere in all times. This is servant, not grasping to hold position.

In Luke 14:8 Jesus tells us not to choose the most important seats at a function. He tells us not to seek to be the greatest, but rather to be the least and take the lower seat.

This means even though I might be a leading vocalist, if someone is needed in the choir, then I’m there. If pride prevents me being involved at any level then I need to simply just get involved and let pride die. Humility is something we do to ourselves. ‘Humble yourselves’ (James 4:10). All of us are endeared to the humble. They are elevated in our eyes. Exaltation follows abasement.?

  1. Helpfulness is Work.

Serving is work. The servant attitude keeps working till the job is done. Some people work to fulfil a certain number of hours. The servant heart is here to get the job done, no matter how long it takes. Accomplishing the task ascends considerations of personal comfort.

Genesis 24:18-20 ‘…she said, ‘I’ll draw water for your camels too, UNTIL THEY HAVE FINISHED DRINKING.’ So she quickly emptied her jar into the trough, ran back to the well to draw more water, and DREW ENOUGH FOR ALL HIS CAMELS.’

Of all the animals on earth, camels can be amongst the smelliest. They spit, snort and are can be unusual beasts for a beautiful young woman to care for. However, Rebekah is unconcerned. Her hospitality and desire to serve overwhelm any desire she has for personal comfort. She will do whatever it takes to bless this foreigner asking to drink at their well. Hospitality is the ‘love of strangers’. It’s one thing to welcome, bless and serve people we know, but to do the same for complete strangers, that’s different. Rebekah is Miss Hospitality.

The well is serviced with a flight of around 50 steps spiralling against the wall down to the water. A camel can drink up to twenty-five gallons of water at one sitting. Eliezer has ten camels. They are carrying a large cargo. They are thirsting for their twenty-five gallon drink. What is Rebekah thinking? This is one different kind of lady! Getting Eliezer his cup of water is nothing compared to what she is now offering. He accepts her offer. This means making fifty trips up and down the steps, carrying twenty-five gallons each time up from the well. This is a servant heart. She doesn’t realize it but this is her doorway to destiny. Once she finishes Eliezer knows his prayer has been answered. He has prayed that the woman who gives him a drink, plus offers to water his camels is the one God has chosen for his master Abraham’s son, Isaac. He opens the treasure chests from the camel’s backs and begins showering the young woman with jewellery and gifts. He asks if she is prepared to travel back with him to his land and marry his master’s son. As the story unfolds it is obvious to Rebekah God’s great hand has been guiding this incredible sequence of events. She agrees and returns with Eliezer. The moment she meets Isaac they fall in love. They become central figures in the amazing tapestry of God’s purpose, bringing the Messiah into our world.

Let me share one of the most graphic illustrations I know of regarding the power of servanthood opening the doors of destiny. One stormy night many years ago, an elderly man and his wife enter the lobby of a small hotel in Philadelphia. Trying to get out of the rain, the couple approach the front desk hoping to get some shelter for the night.

‘Could you possibly give us a room here?’ the husband asks. The clerk, a friendly man with a winning smile, looks at the couple and explains that there are three conventions in town. ‘All of our rooms are taken’ the clerk says. ‘But I can’t send a nice couple like you out into the rain at one o-clock in the morning. Would you perhaps be willing to sleep in my room? It’s not exactly a suite, but it will be good enough to make you folks comfortable for the night’.

When the couple decline, the young man presses on. ‘Don’t worry about me; I’ll make out just fine’, the clerk tells them. So the couple agree. As he pays his bill the next morning, the elderly man says to the clerk, ‘You are the kind of manager who should be the boss of the best hotel in the United States. Maybe one day I’ll build one for you’. The clerk looks at them and smiles. The three of them have a good laugh. As they drive away, the elderly couple agree that the helpful clerk was indeed exceptional, as finding people who are both friendly and helpful isn’t easy.

Two years pass. The clerk has almost forgotten the incident when he receives a letter from the old man. It recalls the stormy night and encloses a round-trip ticket to New York, asking the young man to pay them a visit.

The old man meets him in New York, and leads him to the corner of Fifth Avenue and 34th Street. He then points to a great new building there, a palace of reddish stone, with turrets and watchtowers thrusting up to the sky. ‘That’ says the older man ‘is the hotel I have just built for you to manage’.

‘You must be joking’ the young man says.

‘I can assure you I am not’ says the older man, a sly smile playing around his mouth. The older man’s name is William Waldorf Astor, and the magnificent structure is the original Waldorf-Astoria Hotel.  The young clerk who becomes its first manager is George C Boldt.

The servant does whatever it takes to get the job done. Servant hood opens the door to the fulfillment of promises. Abraham is one of the wealthiest men of his day. Yet this man of amazing wealth and power also understands the nature of serving.

The greatest work we can be engaged in is bringing others to Christ, even when they feel they can’t come.

When we work as teams to bring others to Christ we connect with each other at the deepest level.

See you in church

// IN CHRIST \\

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Jn 14:12
“Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father.
Jn 14:13 And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. Jn 14:14 If you ◙ ask anything in My name, I will do it.

This is much deeper than adding, ‘in Jesus Name’ to the end of a prayer as though it has some magical properties that will guarantee the answer. Are we in Christ? Is it His Name we are under? Does His name surround our thinking, our conversation, our heart, our spirit? Being in Christ means we are in His Name. The Holy Spirit descends with power upon Christ. If we are in Him, the power of the Spirit will endorse us and guarantee the answer to our prayers. Through the Spirit we will see the answer to our prayers. People are known for what they stand for. They live under the name of a football club, or an army, or a company, or whatever their primary, voluntary focus is. When you mention the name Steven Jobs, you think of Apple. When you think of Mick Jagger , The Rolling Stones comes to mind. People have adominant name they are described by. As believers, and especially as ministries we need to be known by the name of Christ more than our church, our doctrine, our vision. Christ needs to be the centre of our message, thoughts, prayers, conversations. Then we are making prayers, ‘In the Name of Jesus’.
To ask in His Name is to ask as if Jesus was asking. What would He be asking? Whatever we ask as though it was Jesus asking, that, Jesus will do. The Father is glorified in answering prayers that have been prayed in the Name of His Son.
We fail God if we do not seek to manifest His works in the Earth. He is more than willing. He is determined to intervene in people’s lives with miraculous cures, to demonstrate both His power and His love for people. It is we who need to understand how exactly we are to walk in the power of the Spirit;
1. Live in His Word – this keeps our head and heart in the right place.
2. Live in faith – This keeps an atmosphere in which God can move.
3. Live in prayer – This keeps us cleansed, close and clear minded.
4. Listen to His voice – This demands relationship and communion
5. Do what He says – This is where the power is. Jesus said he only could do what he saw the Father doing, he could only judge as he heard from the Father, and he only taught the teachings He heard from the Father, thus if you saw Jesus you saw the Father.
6. If there is no guidance we should step out and as we do we will find ourselves being guided.

See you in church!

// Return of the Prodigal \\

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Lk 15:11

Then He said: “A certain man had two sons.

The ‘certain’ man is wealthy, with a house of abundance, best robes, gem encrusted rings, many servants who all live well, stock for celebrations as well as business. In fact each of the parables indicates Jesus is addressing a wealthier class than just the poor – a man with 100 sheep; a woman with ten coins as a headdress.

Lk 15:12 And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the portion of goods that falls to me.’ So he divided to them his livelihood.

The younger son’s request prompted the father to divide the inheritance to them both, so both the elder and the younger received their inheritance at the same time. We will be blessed when we are in the father’s house. What we do with those blessings is our decision. The way we steward our inheritance is very important. It’s amazing how large the doors are that swing on such small hinges. Esau was happy to sell his birthright, his inheritance for a bowl of stew. His destiny, his double portion of blessing, his priesthood in the family, all gone because he preferred to satisfy a carnal appetite in a small moment of time. What price do we place on our soul? What value do we place on our God-given destiny? This is only measured by what we will sacrifice for it.

Lk 15:13 And not many days after, the younger son gathered all together, journeyed to a far country, and there wasted his possessions with prodigal living. Lk 15:14 But when he had spent all, there arose a severe famine in that land, and he began to be in want. Lk 15:15 Then he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country, and he sent him into his fields to feed swine.

Separated from the Father the prodigal becomes joined to a citizen, a cruel taskmaster who didn’t even feed his employee, maybe only offering him shelter. Now he learned the gracious father he had wanted to escape from, was like heaven compared to the cruelty of the tyrant he was now joined to. The crowd shuddered as Jesus spoke of a young nobleman being degraded to feeding the despised and forbidden swine.

Lk 15:16 And he would gladly have filled his stomach with the pods that the swine ate, and no one gave him anything.

His father had given him everything, but he had in turn given no-one anything of his inheritance. He had only spent it on his own pleasures. Now he was reaping as he had sown – no-one gave him anything.

Lk 15:17

“But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger!

There is a day when all of us ‘come to ourselves’. We remember who we really are. Being distant from God and His house causes us to forget who we are and behave differently than we did when we were in the House. When we come to our own self, and accept who we are, we begin the return to the Father. He knew that to return to the father, he needed to return to the House. The Father and His house go together. The Father didn’t leave the House. He always remained at the House. All of us find the Father in His house. He knew he had to make a journey back to the house. He knew that even the servants in the House were far better off than he was away from the house. They had good food and food to spare! Church should definitely be a better place in life than anywhere else. Every pastor and leader should make church the best experience in town. There should be abundant provision, acceptance for sinners, parties, restoration to their best life & celebration. People who have been in church should be able to come to their senses realizing they were far better off in church than they are anywhere else.

The crown of sorrows is the sorrow of remembering better times and how our own actions have forfeited them.

Lk 15:18 I will arise and go to my father, and will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you,

He was completely confident in his father’s character being filled with mercy. He knew his father’s love would not have failed, nor his faith given up. He knew his father’s generosity would not forbid him at least a servant’s lifestyle.

He rehearses his prayer of repentance, summoning humility to frame his words.

He realizes that to sin against his father is to sin against heaven and God Himself. How did the son sin against his father? By shaming him by the way he lived; by wasting the money he had demanded from the father; by leaving the house to escape accountability.

Lk 15:19 and I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Make me like one of your hired servants.”’

True repentance must accept that we are not worthy to be called sons of God. Let God call us worthy. He simply wants to be accepted back into the house and the covering of that house.

His earlier prayer was ‘Give me’. Now his prayer is ‘make me’, which is a vastly different to his first.

Lk 15:20

“And he arose and came to his father. But when he was still a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him.

When we begin to return to God He moves towards us, even when we are still a great way ‘off’. When we come into visibility before God, He has compassion. God ‘runs’ – moves swiftly to those who come to Him, and kisses and embraces the returning sinner. Mercy is the environment in which true repentance takes place, not in a condemning atmosphere.

Lk 15:21 And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight, and am no longer worthy to be called your son.’

The prodigal doesn’t even get to the part of his rehearsed speech where he asks to be just a hired servant. The Father stopped him short. He would only receive him as a son.

Lk 15:22

“But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet.

There is no announcement of forgiveness, just simple actions and this is how God shows forgiveness, with actual real events, like healing, deliverance. Just as sin has consequences, so does forgiveness. To say that a person is forgiven but will still need to suffer the consequences of sin is folly. When Jesus healed the palsied man, he announced him forgiven, adding that healing and forgiveness were the same.

The best robe is the robe of Christ’s righteousness. The Lord is our righteousness, not our own goodness. We are righteous with Christ’s perfect life. He lived his perfect life so we could receive it as our own. This is God’s great gift to anyone who simply comes to the Father. It is Joseph’s robe of favor, a thousand colors of grace, attracting the blessing of God and the shrieking hatred of the world, even brothers. It is the robe of worship, which is a privileged gift from God to sing praise and enter His Presence. It’s the robe of armored clothing protecting us from the snares, schemes, and arrows of the enemy.

The ring is Joseph’s power of attorney to act on behalf of the King. A person wearing such a ring could punch it into a clay tablet at any place of business and it was like a credit card. It would be accepted as payment. It could be used to transact legal documents. It could be used to establish rights and privileges in political affairs and authority with government officials. We are given the name of Jesus immediately when we return to the House. It is His authority given to us, neither earned nor merited. It is the ring of belonging to the royal family.

Servants had no sandals. God gives us sandals to lift us above the level of the unshod servant to the status of sons. In the Old Testament, Moses was told to remove his sandals in the presence of God. Here in the New Testament sandals are fitted on our feet because we have the standing of Christ in the New Testament. Under the Old Covenant people could only stand on their own righteousness and that was not enough, even for a holy man such as Moses. We stand before God, in Christ, not in our works. Astonishingly, we have been granted the same standing before God as Jesus Himself, seated with Him at the right hand of the throne of God.

Lk 15:23 And bring the fatted calf here and kill it, and let us eat and be merry; Lk 15:24 for this my son was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ And they began to be merry. 

The House of God should be the place of a continual party with returning prodigals being greeted with grace, blessing and celebration.

See you in church!

// PRE-DESTINATION \\

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Eph 1:5 having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will,

Every single person ever born and ever will be born has been predestined to be adopted by God, to be born of God, according to His good pleasure. He takes no pleasure in anyone perishing. It is neither His will, nor His pleasure for anyone that He predestined to be His child, to perish. And He has predestined everyone to be His child.

2 Pet 3:9 The Lord is … not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.

For this Scripture to mesh with the abundance of Scripture proclaiming that ‘whoever will may come’, and ‘whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved’, it is obvious that even though God has predestined our adoption He has never overridden our choice as to whether or not that will actually happen.

It’s always been His plan, but whether or not it becomes our plan as well is left to our choice. Also it is incumbent (far too soft a word), upon us who have received this predestined adoption, to bring as many others as we can into the same state, through every means possible.

Some of our friends have imagined that Paul is saying that our acceptance of Christ was predestined, and, unfortunately, those who don’t accept Christ, was also predestined. This violation of Scripture voices arrogance from the ‘chosen’ and charges God, who is Love, with the severest of discriminations. The weak believer will wonder if they are part of the chosen few. The non-believer can only conclude God is diabolically prejudicial.

Ultimately, there can be no Day Of Judgement if we had no choice in the matter of our salvation. God would be evil to judge us for things He was fully aware that He made us do. To force someone to do something and then to judge them for that action is inconsistent with any notion of justice. His plans for people are His predestination. All of us have the chance to receive His magnificent plan for our lives and begin living it out.

I know there are always those who ask, ‘what about those who have never heard, to have the opportunity to choose?’ A more pertinent question may be ‘what are we doing who have the Word of Life?’ Should we not be sharing Christ, building the church, sending preachers, supporting broadcasts, television and radio, so that people who have never heard do have the opportunity to hear and believe.

See you in church (with a friend)

// INNER HEALTH \\

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Phil 4:6
Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God;
Phil 4:7 and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

Our hearts (attitudes, desires, trust and emotions), and minds (thoughts, memories, conscience, imaginations), need guarding because this is what comes under the severest pressure. Our only defence is the peace of God which acts as a fortress against all incoming troublesome thoughts and attitudes.
Mental health and emotional well-being come by relieving anxiety from our minds and hearts. This is achieved not through medication but every day through prayer. But this is not just prayer, because prayer on its own can be simply the pleadings of worry. Thanksgiving must be part of our prayer life and our all day speech. Complaining is the language of victims and is the fastest route to a negative mindset which in turn leads to our minds being ill at ease and depression. The person who takes pains to appreciate others and be grateful will find their hearts and minds in far better health than the prayer-less, cynical complainers. Following our prayers comes His peace.
His peace is totally unreasonable. There is no logical reason why we can be peaceful under dreadful circumstances, yet we are, because of His Presence upon us. This beautiful serenity pervades our hearts and minds with sanity and a bright perspective on whatever comes our way.
Cast all your cares upon Him!
Why?
Because He cares for you!

See you in church.

HOPE ROARS

‘Cause I’m Happy….’

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Happiness

The opposite to depression is happiness.
If a person is happy, they are not depressed.
However, happiness should not be confused with laughter.
The circus clown is often the saddest person in town.
Depressed comedians are proverbial.

Pr 14:13
Laughter can conceal a heavy heart,
but when the laughter ends, the grief remains.

Depression has become epidemic.
WHO predict depression will be the most common major disease by 2020.

Wikipedia – The recent hit pop song “Happy” is a neo soul and funk song on which Pharrell Williams’ falsetto voice has been compared to Curtis Mayfield by critics. The song has been highly successful, peaking at number one in the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, and 19 other countries. It has sold over 5.6 million copies in the United States  and over 1.52 million copies in the United Kingdom, and has reached number one in the latter a record three separate occasions.

Happiness is popular because so many want it, and yet happiness remains so elusive.

Depression and Stress: Several studies have found that high levels of religious commitment correlate with lower levels of depression and stress. [David B. Larson and Susan S. Larson, The Forgotten Factor in Physical and Mental Health: What Does the Research Show? (Rockville, Md.: National Institute for Healthcare Research, 1992), 76-78
“Australian Psychologist”
Volume 34, Number 1
March 1999
Editor: Christine Lee
University of Newcastle
The World Health Organisation’s global burden of disease research indicates that unipolar major depression was the leading cause of disability worldwide in 1990. Furthermore, it predicts that, by 2020, depression will be the second leading cause of death and disability across the world. (Page 49)

The deepest happiness available to any of us is fellowship with Christ.
This communion brings a smile to our soul unobtainable anywhere else in the Universe.
This is being right with your creator, rather than wrong with Him and feeling separated from Him because of our offences against Him.
This joy is the joy of fellowship with Christ Himself.
This is the secret place of Psalm 91.
No-one can remove this or steal it away.
This happiness remains in spite of everything and anything.
It is the wine of fellowship with God Himself.
When we should be drowning in depression, we can be happy in an overcoming attitude because we are connected, fused with a supernatural fusion to Christ Himself the One who rose from the dead, overcoming all hell, hades, demons, sickness, sin and shame.

Dr Martin Seligman is the world’s leading authority on optimism and happiness. He wrote a ground breaking book – Learned Optimism (Knopf, 1991) and followed that up with (amongst others) Authentic Happiness (Random House, 2002).

In Authentic Happiness (page 177 & 178) Seligman wrote this about the importance of optimism for achieving high performance:

‘The pessimist views bad events as pervasive, permanent and uncontrollable, while an optimist sees them as local, temporary and changeable. Pessimism is maladaptive in most endeavours: Pessimistic life agents sell less and drop out sooner than optimistic agents. Pessimistic undergraduates get lower grades, relative to their SAT scores and past academic record, than optimistic students. Pessimistic swimmers have more substandard times and bounce back from poor efforts worse than optimistic swimmers. Pessimistic pitchers and hitters do worse in close games than optimistic pitchers and hitters. Thus pessimists are losers on many fronts.’

Optimists are people magnets. People like to be in the company of an optimist. Emotional Intelligence author, Daniel Goleman’s research proves that optimistic leaders more easily retain talented people compared to leaders who more often display negative moods.

Optimism and associated good moods create positive feelings about work. Good moods have also been proven to greatly improve people’s speed in; understanding complex information, making effective decisions and thinking more creatively.

Optimism builds resilience. Pessimists as more likely to give up sooner or not to try at all, compared to optimists.

Nelson Mandela is often mentioned in surveys of inspiring leaders. To go through all that he did as a prisoner on Roden Island for over 20 years and come out a free man with no apparent diminishment of his belief in the basic good of all people, shows optimism at its most inspiring.

There are a number of roadblocks to happiness that all of us have to deal with if we want some joy in our lives.
I certainly don’t underestimate the power of depression in people’s minds and lives. I have faced and fought my own battles with depression, but also I have discovered how to minimise the impact of negative thoughts and emotions and how to promote positive emotions.
Positive feelings alone are not the root of happiness. If our character is right and our spirit clean, joyfulness is inevitable in our emotional life. To try and medicate our way out of depression and into good feelings doesn’t deal with the roots of the problem.

The truest and most accurate translation of the word ‘Blessed’ when Jesus is presenting the sermon on the mount, is ‘Happy’.
We have a problem with this because we think this is too light a word compared to the word blessed, which sounds so much more sacred.
However, Jesus came to bring us into happiness, not by waving a major wand, but through us being obedient to God.

Happy weekend friends & see you in church!

Ps. Phil has authoured 14 books, one of which is about HOPE.  A must read for anybody suffering with depression or feelings of hopelssness.  You can order a copy by clicking on the link above.