Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Three Quick Reminders

It's been so strange to go a week without writing a blog entry so I just needed to get my fix! Hope your all having a good post Purpose Driven week.

Three quick reminders:

First of all remember the joint prayer meeting for Hope08 at Warfield Church tomorrow night (Thursday 28th) at 8pm. More details here.


Secondly be thinking about who to invite to the Mothers Day meeting on Sunday morning. If we're going to be serious about our Mission Purpose then it starts with us reaching out to the unbelievers around us, and Mothers Day is an excellent opportunity to do that. Catrina and I have both invited our parents. Kim is a fantastic communicator and there are some other great items as well as photos for all the Mums. One request, if at all possible can you please, please, please park in the Avis car park, even if you have got guests, as the car parks around The Kerith Centre are going to be heaving on what is historically one of our biggest guest meetings and we want to leave space for the elderly and disabled. Thank you in advance.


Finally don't forget to get your tickets for the Positive HIV/AIDS conference on the 15th March. This is a chance to be in at the start of our response to the HIV/AIDS pandemic, something we're going to be at for many years to come. I'm also excited to be able to say that Paticia Sawo who is the other key speaker after Kay Warren is going to be with us at The Kerith Centre on Sunday 16th March and will be sharing her life story on Sunday morning - we are very privileged.
Hope to catch you over the weekend (Catrina's going to be at the Hope08 Prayer Meeting rather than me).
Simon.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Purpose Driven Life - Day 40 - Living With Purpose

Well we've come to the end of our Purpose Driven journey - although in many ways this is hopefully just the beginning of living a life more aware of God's purposes for our lives. I love what Rick says about the fact there are often multiple options available to us, all of which would allow us to fulfill God's will in our lives and what we really need to focus on is fulfilling God's purposes and not our plans. Enjoy this final chapter, or whichever chapter you've got to by today :-)

I hope you saw the request in my previous entry for feedback for me to use in my message on Sunday morning. Please use the blog comments or email me to give me your feedback - I'd really appreciate it. It can still be included up until abut 9am on Sunday morning so that's your deadline - although I'd obviously appreciate it earlier rather than later.

I realise that on and off I've been ill for pretty much all of the 40 days! I'm not sure that's such a coincidence. Anyway, today I've had a really good day and feel so much better. I really appreciate everyone who's been praying for me, those who have sent emails or left comments of encouragement and everyone in the office and elsewhere who have covered for me whilst I've been away. Thank you. And I couldn't go without mentioning my wonderful wife Catrina who has had to put up with being both a nurse and a single parent for over a month now. There must have been moments when she regretted that "In sickness and in health" line from the wedding vows!

Blog entries will now go back to 2 or 3 a week (unless I think of lots to say) - hope that those of you who subscribed for the 40 days will choose to stay with the blog.

Hope to see you on Sunday, if not before.

Simon.

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Living on purpose is the only way to really live!

“For David … served the purpose of God in his own generation.” Acts 13:36 (NASB)

In the Upper Room, as Jesus was concluding his last day of ministry with his disciples, he washed their feet as an example and said, “Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.” John 13:17 (NIV) Once you know what God wants you to do, the blessing comes in actually doing it.

You may wonder, “What about God’s will for my job or marriage or where I’m supposed to live or go to school?” Honestly, these are secondary issues in your life, and there may be multiple possibilities that would all be in God’s will for you. What matters most is that you fulfill God’s eternal purposes regardless of where you live or work or whom you marry. Those decisions should support your purposes. Focus on God’s purposes for your life, not your plans, since that’s what will last forever.

It’s easy to drift away from what matters most and slowly get off course. To prevent this, you should develop a purpose statement for your life and then review it regularly.

Imagine what it is going to be like one day, with all of us standing before the throne of God presenting our lives in deep gratitude and praise to Christ. Together we will say, “Worthy, Oh Master! Yes, our God! Take the glory! the honor! the power! You created it all; It was created because you wanted it!” Revelation 4:11 (Msg)

We will praise him for his plan and live for his purposes forever!

Help with Sunday's Sermon

I've got a big favour to ask. On Sunday we're going to be finishing the Purpose Driven Life series by looking at "What Have We Learned". What I'd like to do is include stories of how people have been impacted by the series, so I need your help.

If God has spoken to you, encouraged you, redirected you, worked in your children, spoken into your marriage, spoken into your singleness, giving you a different perspective, got you serving in a different ministry area, given you a passion for going overseas or helped you better understand your past then please let me know. It doesn't need to be an essay! One sentence or a short paragraph would be ideal. Ideally leave a comment on the blog (so everyone can see it) but if not then send me an email. Also let me know if you'd rather your comment was anonymous - otherwise you may have your name on the podcast!

Please, please take a moment to do this. I can't guarantee to use everything but if no one contributes it will be a very short talk on Sunday morning!

Thanks in advance,

Simon.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Purpose Driven Life - Day 39 - Balancing Your Life

Having got out yesterday's entry late thought I'd make sure today's was early!

We're on the final lap of what has seemed like quite an amazing journey so it seems quite apt Rick Warren uses an athletics picture in today's chapter.

Hope you have a great day.

Simon.

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Blessed are the balanced; they shall outlast everyone!

“Don’t let the errors of evil people lead you down the wrong path and make you lose your balance.” 2 Peter 3:17 (CEV)

One of the events in the summer Olympics is the pentathlon. It is composed of five events. The pentathlete’s goal is to succeed in all five areas, not just one or two. Your life is a pentathlon of five purposes, which you must keep in balance. These purposes were practiced by the first Christians in Acts 2, explained by Paul in Ephesians 4, and modeled by Jesus in John 17, but they are summarized in the Great Commandment and the Great Commission of Jesus.

These two statements sum up God’s five purposes for your life:
1. “Love God with all your heart”: You were planned for God’s pleasure, so your purpose is to love God through worship.
2. “Love your neighbor as yourself”: You were shaped for serving, so your purpose is to show love for others through ministry.
3. “Go and make disciples”: You were made for a mission, so your purpose is to share God’s message through evangelism.
4. “baptize them into …”: You were formed for God’s family, so your purpose is to identify with his church through fellowship.
5. “teach them to do all things …”: You were created to become like Christ, so your purpose is to grow to maturity through discipleship.

A great commitment to the Great Commandment and the Great Commission will make you a great Christian.

Purpose Driven Life - Day 38 - Becoming a World-Class Christian

Sorry for the lateness of today's entry - hope it hasn't spoilt your day!

Simon.

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The Great Commission is your commission!

“Jesus said to his followers, ‘Go everywhere in the world, and tell the Good News to everyone.’” Mark 16:15 (NCV)

You have a choice to make. You will be either a world-class Christian or a worldly Christian.

Worldly Christians look to God primarily for personal fulfillment. They are saved, but self-centered. They love to attend concerts and enrichment seminars, but you would never find them at a missions conference because they aren’t interested. Their prayers focus on their own needs, blessings, and happiness. They want to use God for their purposes instead of being used for his purposes.

In contrast, world-class Christians know they were saved to serve and made for a mission. They are eager to receive a personal assignment and excited about the privilege of being used by God. World-class Christians are the only fully alive people on the planet. Their joy, confidence, and enthusiasm are contagious because they know they’re making a difference. They wake up each morning expecting God to work through them in fresh ways.

Which type of Christian do you want to be? If you want to be like Jesus, you must have a heart for the whole world. You can’t be satisfied with just your family and friends coming to Christ. There are over 6 billion people on earth, and Jesus wants all his lost children found.

The Great Commission is your commission, and doing your part is the secret to living a life of significance.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Purpose Driven Life - Day 37 - Sharing Your Life Message

Only 4 days to go and there's no let up in the challenge.

The question Rick poses "Is anyone going to be in heaven because of you?" isn't meant to be taken as a discouragement or a put down but an encouragement to give yourself to the most important thing you will ever achieve in life. Why not ask God to use you today to share your life story with someone else. Not to win an intellectual argument but to share with another human being what God has done in your world. If it happens then why not leave a comment on the blog to encourage others to give it a go.

Simon.

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God has given you a Life Message to share!

“Your lives are echoing the Master’s Word … The news of your faith in God is out. We don’t even have to say anything anymore – you’re the message!” 1 Thessalonians 1:8 (Msg)

When you became a believer, you also became God’s messenger. God wants to speak to the world through you. Paul said, “We speak the truth before God, as messengers of God.” 2 Corinthians 2:17b(NCV)

You may feel you don’t have anything to share, but that’s the Devil trying to keep you silent. You have a storehouse of experiences that God wants to use to bring others into his family. The Bible says, “Those who believe in the Son of God have the testimony of God in them.” 1 John 5:10a (GWT)

Your Life Message has four parts to it:
- Your testimony: the story of how you began a relationship with Jesus
- Your life lessons: the most important lessons God has taught you
- Your godly passions: the issues God shaped that you care about most
- The Good News: the message of salvation


Is anyone going to be in heaven because of you? Will anyone in heaven be able to say to you, “I want to thank you. I’m here because you cared enough to share the Good News with me?” Imagine the joy of greeting people in heaven whom you helped get there. The eternal salvation of a single soul is more important than anything else you will ever achieve in life.

Purpose Driven Life - Day 36 - Made for a Mission

First for those interested Catrina and I had a great weekend away. I'm definitely getting stronger and have less need to be horizontal all the time which is wonderful. I hear that Lee did a great job speaking on Sunday morning and Andrew White was as challenging as ever in the evening - very good to hear.

I have to admit that I found yesterdays chapter on being strong in your weaknesses, and being honest about them, very challenging. I've really struggled to come to terms with the kidney infection I've had since the early January and the fact I haven't been able to get on with so many of the things I've wanted to do. I know that many of you are facing far more serious issues, but for me I do find myself wanting to present this image of being strong and everything being 'fine'. Having to admit being weak has been so tough for me, especially writing this blog entry every day through it all. I know I've preached before on us being honest about where we're at, and not putting on our 'happy' christian masks ,but to have to be on the 'wanting to put on a mask' end of that has been an interesting experience. I just hope our community is a place where we can all learn to be honest, and where the world will flock because people find a place where they are accepted as they are.

On to Mission for our final Purpose Driven week. Hope you have a great week.

Simon.

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You were made for a mission!

“In the same way that you gave me a mission in the world, I give them a mission in the world.” John 17:18 (Msg)

God is at work in the world, and he wants you to join him. This assignment is called your mission. God wants you to have both a ministry in the Body of Christ and a mission in the world. Your life mission is both shared and specific.

Jesus clearly understood his life mission on earth. At age twelve he said, “I must be about my Father’s business,” and twenty-one years later, dying on the cross, he said, “It is finished.” Like bookends, these two statements frame a well-lived, purpose-driven life.

If you will commit to fulfilling your mission in life no matter what it costs, you will experience the blessing of God in ways that few people ever experience. There is almost nothing God won’t do for the man or woman who is committed to serving the kingdom of God.

If you want to be used by God, you must care about what God cares about; what he cares about most is the redemption of the people he made. He wants his lost children found! Nothing matters more to God; the Cross proves that.

Always be on the lookout to reach “one more for Jesus” so that when you stand before God one day, you can say, “Mission accomplished!”

Friday, February 15, 2008

Purpose Driven Life - Day 35 - God's Power in Your Weakness

Here's Sunday's notes. Hope you have a great weekend!

Simon.

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God loves to use weak people!

“I am with you; that is all you need. My power shows up best in weak people.”
2 Corinthians 12:9a (LB)

A weakness is any limitation that you inherited or have no power to change. Everyone has weaknesses. In fact, you have a bundle of flaws and imperfections: physical, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual. Usually we deny our weaknesses, defend them, excuse them, hide them, and resent them. This prevents God from using them the way he desires.

When you think of the limitation in your life, you may be tempted to conclude, “God could never use me.” But God is never limited by our limitations. Sometimes, however, God turns strength into a weakness in order to use us even more.

Jacob was a manipulator who spent his life scheming and then running from the consequences. One night he wrestled with God and said, “I’m not letting go until you bless me.” God said, “All right,” but then he grabbed Jacob’s thigh and dislocated his hip.

What is the significance of that? God touched Jacob’s strength and turned it into a weakness. From that day forward, Jacob walked with a limp so he could never run away again. It forced him to lean on God whether he liked it or not.

If you want God to bless you and use you greatly, you must be willing to walk with a limp the rest of your life, because God uses weak people.

Purpose Driven Life - Day 34 - Thinking Like a Servant

Hope you don't mind but I'm going to send out the blog entries for Saturday and Sunday now. Catrina and I booked up some time ago to go away together this weekend (following our own advice from The Marriage Course) and we're still going to go, even if Catrina is going to have the husband with no energy for company :-(

Lee is going to be preaching Sunday morning and Andrew White Sunday evening so I'm sure you'll have a great time without us. Also don't forget the Kenya offering this weekend.

Simon.

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Service starts in your mind!

“Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.” Philippians 2:5-7 (NIV)

Real servants serve God with a mindset of five attitudes:
- Servants think more about others than about themselves.
- Servants think like stewards, not owners.
- Servants think about their work, not what others are doing.
- Servants base their identity in Christ.
- And servants think of ministry as an opportunity, not an obligation.

Henri Nouwen said, “In order to be of service to others, we have to die to them; that is, we have to give up measuring our meaning and value with the yardstick of others … thus we become free to be compassionate.”

When you base your worth and identity on your relationship to Christ, you are freed from the expectations of others, and that allows you to really serve them best.

Imagine what could happen if just 10 percent of all Christians in the world got serious about their role as real servants. Imagine all the good that could be done. Are you willing to be one of those people?

Thursday, February 14, 2008

J.John's Thoughts on Valentine's Day

I couldn't let today pass without forwarding to you something J.John wrote recently about the origins of Valentine's Day.

Hope you find it as interesting and inspiring as I did.

Simon.

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Valentine, the priest who Valentine’s Day is named after, was martyred for the godly institution of marriage.

The emperor of Rome, Claudius, passed a law banning marriages. His reason was simple: men would not volunteer to join his Roman army with wives and fiancées to leave behind. Valentine knew that God instituted the family and His will included marriages. So, he kept on performing marriage ceremonies - but in secret. He would whisper the words of the ceremony, while listening for soldiers on the steps outside.

One night, he did hear footsteps. The couple he was marrying escaped, but he was caught. He was thrown into prison and sentenced to death.

Valentine remained cheerful while he was in prison and many people came to the prison to visit him. He even continued to perform marriage ceremonies while he was in prison! The jailer’s daughter would often visit Valentine in his cell and they sat and talked for hours. She believed he did the right thing ignoring the Emperor and performing marriage ceremonies.

On the day Valentine was to die he left this girl a note thanking her for her friendship and loyalty. He signed it, “Love from your Valentine”. That note, written on the day Valentine died – February 14th, 269 AD – started the custom of exchanging love notes on St Valentine’s Day.

Valentine was truly a man of courage. I like what the theologian Karl Barth wrote: “Courage is fear that has said its prayers.” Let’s be as courageous as Valentine himself and bring about change to a world that’s hurting. Simply by serving as channels of God’s healing love we can inspire more change in people than we might ever imagine.

Purpose Driven Life - Day 33 - How Real Servants Act

A great reminder today that God sees and rewards every act of service, even if it's never seen by anyone else.

For those interested my appointment with the consultant went well tonight. He thinks it's quite normal to be as washed out as I've been whilst getting over a kidney infection which is sort of encouraging. He's put me back on antibiotics for 2 more weeks and told me to rest for another week which he reckons should see me right. I'm also going back in a fortnight for a flexible cystoscopy (don't ask!) to try and find out what is causing the infections and work out how to stop it happening again. So positive I guess. Thanks to everyone who's been praying for me - I really appreciate it. Remember Jesus said "But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you." which ties in pretty well with todays chapter.

Remember right now God is smiling over you!

Simon.

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We serve God by serving others!

“You can tell what they are by what they do.” Matthew 7:16 (CEV)

In our self-serving culture with its me-first mentality, acting like a servant is not a popular concept. Jesus, however, measured greatness in terms of service, not status. God determines your greatness by how many people you serve, not how many people serve you. Yet, it is possible to serve in church for a lifetime without ever being a servant. You must have a servant’s heart.


Notoriety means nothing to real servants because they know the difference between prominence and significance. In heaven God is going to openly reward some of his most obscure and unknown servants—people we never heard of on earth, who taught emotionally disturbed children, cleaned up after incontinent elderly, nursed AIDS patients, and served in thousands of other unnoticed ways.

Knowing this, don’t be discouraged when your service is unnoticed or taken for granted. Keep on serving God! “Throw yourselves into the work of the Master, confident that nothing you do for him is a waste of time or effort.” I Corinthians 15:58 (Msg)

Even the smallest service is noticed by God and will be rewarded. Remember the words of Jesus: “If, as my representatives, you give even a cup of cold water to a little child, you will surely be rewarded.” Matthew 10:42 (LB)

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Purpose Driven Life - Day 32 - Using What God Gave You

Another day to examine where God has shaped you to serve, and a strong encouragement not to let another day go by being a spiritual appendix as someone put it in one of the blog comments! I know that many of you who read this will already be serving either in the community, on Sundays or in another area of church life for which I commend you. However, as I thought about this the following came to mind:
  1. If where you're currently serving doesn't fit your SHAPE then why not try something else, making sure of course you exit well from the area where you are currently involved. Don't just phone your current team leader and tell them you've stepped down from next Sunday!
  2. Don't let gendre stereotypes limit you. I heard of a lady on Sunday morning who said something like "I'd love to server in one of the tech teams but they're just for men". Try telling that to Jacqui Webber-Gant! I'd love to have more women on the tech teams and more men in the Kids2 children's ministry - God is going to increasingly send children to us who need strong male role models - so break those stereotypes!
  3. If you're wondering where to start can I suggest the Kids2 5-11's ministry - they're pretty short staffed and it's a great place to make an impact on some young lives. Why not give it a go - contact Karen Mehta if you'd like to know more.

Hope you have a great day. I'm off to see the consultant Thursday afternoon so hoping for some real progress there.

Simon.

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God deserves your best!

“Since we find ourselves fashioned into all these excellently formed and marvelously functioning parts in Christ’s body, let’s just go ahead and be what we were made to be.” Romans 12:5 (MSG)

He shaped you for a purpose, and he expects you to make the most of what you have been given. Don’t let another day go by. Start finding out and clarifying what God intends for you to be and do.

Begin by assessing your gifts and abilities. The best way to discover your gifts and abilities is to experiment with different areas of service. Until you’re actually involved in serving, you’re not going to know what you’re good at.

Consider your heart and your personality. This is simple - Paul advised, “Make a careful exploration of who you are and the work you have been given, and then sink yourself into that.” Galatians 6:4b (Msg)

Examine your experiences and extract the lessons you have learned. Review your life and think about how it has shaped you. Moses told the Israelites, “Remember today what you have learned about the Lord through your experiences with him.” Deuteronomy 11:2 (TEV)

Forgotten experiences are worthless; that’s a good reason to keep a spiritual journal. In heaven we are going to serve God forever. Right now, we can prepare for that eternal service by practicing on earth. Like athletes preparing for the Olympics, we keep training for that big day: “They do it for a gold medal that tarnishes and fades. You’re after one that’s gold eternally.” 1 Corinthians 9:25 (Msg)

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Purpose Driven Life - Day 31 - Understanding Your Shape

More clues today on how to find where you were gifted to serve. Please take time as you read this to really consider the unique gifts and passions God has given you and how you can serve in a way which fits those.

I'm not sure I really want to share this but I'm not feeling well again - just washed out and no energy. The doctor reckons it's a follow on from the kidney infection I had last month. I'm booked in to see a specialist on Thursday to get checked out, so if you have a moment please can you pray for me that they'll be able to work out what is going on as I'm bored being unwell! That will teach me to preach on "all things work together for good.." and how we need to live our lives in the light of that!

Hope you have a great day.

Simon.

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Only you can be you!

You shaped me first inside, then out; you formed me in my mother’s womb.” Psalm 139:13 (Msg)

God designed each of us so there would be no duplication in the world. No one has the exact same mix of factors that make you unique. That means no one else on earth will ever be able to play the role God planned for you. If you don’t make your unique contribution to the Body of Christ, it won’t be made. “There are different kinds of spiritual gifts … different ways of serving … and different abilities to perform service.” 1 Corinthians 12:4-6 (TEV)

Your abilities are the natural talents you were born with. One of the most common excuses people give for not serving is “I just don’t have any abilities to offer.” This is ludicrous. You have dozens, probably hundreds, of untapped, unrecognized, and unused abilities that are lying dormant inside you.

Like stained glass, our different personalities reflect God’s light in many colors and patterns. This blesses the family of God with depth and variety. It also blesses us personally. When you minister in a manner consistent with the personality God gave you, you experience fulfillment, satisfaction, and fruitfulness.

You will be most effective when you use your spiritual gifts and abilities in the area of your heart’s desire, and in a way that best expresses your personality and experiences. The better the fit, the more successful you will be.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Purpose Driven Life - Day 30 - Shaped for Serving God

Anyone who heard me speak on Sunday will know that today's chapter strikes some nerves for me. Much of my spiritual journey to date has been about me finding the ways in which God has uniquely moulded me to serve.

If you feel you haven't yet found the right place to serve then I encourage you first of all to go on Discovery Workshop, our course to help you find what your gifts and passions are - more details at The Kerith Centre reception.

Then secondly just give things a go. Do some Welcoming or Car Parking, have a go working with Children or the Youth, join a Technical Team or serve some teas and coffees. The more you try the more you'll discover about what you feel passionate about and where God has gifted you. Whatever you do don't give up and settle for being a Consumer rather than being Consumed. No spiritual Jacuzzis for us!

Simon.

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You were shaped to serve God!

“Your hands shaped me and made me.” Job 10:8 (NIV)

Before God created you, he decided what role he wanted you to play on earth. You are the way you are because you were made for a specific ministry. Not only did God shape you before your birth, he planned every day of your life to support his shaping process. God uses all of it to mould you for your ministry to others and shape you for your service to him. “We are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works.” Ephesians 2:10 (NIV)

God’s custom combination of capabilities is called your SHAPE:


Spiritual Gifts

Heart

Abilities

Personality

Experience

Spiritual gifts are special God-empowered abilities for serving him that are given only to believers. Have you taken time to discover your gifts? An unopened gift is worthless.
Another word for heart is passion. People rarely excel at tasks they don’t enjoy doing or feel passionate about. God wants you to use your natural interests to serve him and others. Figure our what you love to do – what God gave you a heart to do – and then do it for his glory.

Purpose Driven Life - Day 29 - Accepting Your Assignment

Into week 4 of The Purpose Driven Life. I hope this fourth purpose has the same impact on us as the other three seem to have made.

Don't forget that there are no prayer meetings this week in order to give people time to meet in Life Groups and continue processing all that God is saying to us. Instead we'll be having a combined prayer meeting for Hope08 at St Michael's Church, Warfield at 8pm on Thursday 28th February. Life Groups are free to meet on the Wednesday of that week, but I'd love to have a big crowd of us there on the Thursday, so please plan to come along if you can.

Hope you're having a great Monday and have a really good week.

Simon.

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You were put on earth to make a contribution!

“It is God himself who made us what we are and given us new lives from Christ Jesus; and long ages ago he planned that we should spend these lives in helping others.” Ephesians 2:10 (LB)

You were created to serve God. “God has created us for a life of good deeds, which he has already prepared for us to do.” Ephesians 2:10b (TEV) These “good deeds” are your service to the world. Whenever you serve others in any way, you are actually serving God and fulfilling one of your purposes.

You were saved to serve God. Have you ever wondered why God doesn’t just immediately take us to heaven the moment we accept his grace? Once you are saved, God intends to use you for his goals. God has a ministry for you in his church and a mission for you in the world.

You are called to serve God. The Bible says, “All of you together are Christ’s body, and each one of you is a separate and necessary part of it.” 1 Corinthians 12:27 (NLT) Each of us has a role to play, and every role is important.

You are commanded to serve God. The mature follower of Jesus stops asking, “Who’s going to meet my needs?” and starts asking, “Whose needs can I meet?” Do you ever ask that question? One day God will compare how much time and energy we spent on ourselves compared with what we invested in serving others.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Purpose Driven Life - Day 28 - It Takes Time

Just back from church after looking at our fourth purpose - that we are created to serve others - so seems strange to be sending out the notes for the last chapter on the previous purpose - being created to be more like Christ.

For those of you who may have missed it this morning to let you know that for the next two Sundays we'll be taking up an offering for Edward Buria and our friends in Kenya. Decide in your hearts what you want to give and then let's come for the next 2 weeks ready to be a blessing.

Also to remind you about The Marriage Course starting this Tuesday - it's not too late to sign up - and that you've got until Friday to get in applications to come to the HIV / AIDS conference at the reduced rate of £15.

Simon.

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There are no shortcuts to maturity!

“I am sure that God who began the good work within you will keep right on helping you grow in his grace until his task within you is finally finished on that day when Jesus Christ returns.” Philippians 1:6 (LB)

It takes years for us to grow to adulthood, and it takes a full season for fruit to mature and ripen. The same is true for the fruit of the Spirit. Spiritual growth, like physical growth, takes time.

While we worry about how fast we grow, God is concerned about how strong we grow. Today we’re obsessed with speed, but God is more interested in strength and stability than swiftness.

When Habakkuk became depressed because he didn’t think God was acting quickly enough, God had this to say: “These things I plan won’t happen right away. Slowly, steadily, surely, the time approaches when the vision will be fulfilled. If it seems slow, do not despair, for these things will surely come to pass. Just be patient! They will not be overdue a single day!” Habakkuk 2:3 (LB)

A delay is not a denial from God. Remember how far you’ve come, not just how far you have to go. You are not where you want to be, but neither are you where you used to be. God isn’t finished with you, so keep on moving forward. Even the snail reached the ark by persevering!

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Purpose Driven Life - Day 27 - Defeating Temptation

How I wish I'd read today's chapter years ago. Just outstanding practical advice (not surprising as it's all from the Bible) on how to defeat temptation in our lives. I'd particularly ask which area in your life where you're tempted do you need to talk to someone else about. As Rick Warren says some of the most exciting things people have said to me over the years have started with the words "I've never told anyone this before...." which so often has been the first step in people being set free from things which are controlling their lives. Perhaps God is speaking to you right now that you need to have one of those conversations with somebody today. If so please do it - it could be the start of a whole new chapter in your life.

I'm off to the Men's Breakfast in a minute, then I'm going to watch Aston Villa play Newcastle (in the Newcastle end of course) with my son Zak as it's his birthday today - it's tough being a Dad! Hope you have a great day and that you can make it to one of tomorrows gatherings.

Simon.

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There is always a way out!

“Don't be so naive and self-confident. You're not exempt. You could fall flat on your face as easily as anyone else. Forget about self-confidence; it's useless. Cultivate God-confidence.” 1 Cor. 10:12 (Msg)

You may sometimes feel that a temptation is too overpowering for you to bear, but that’s a lie from Satan. God has promised never to allow more on you than he puts within you to handle it. He will not permit any temptation that you could not overcome. However, you must do your part too by practicing four biblical keys to defeating temptation.

Refocus your attention on something else. Ignoring a temptation is far more effective than fighting it. Once your mind is on something else, the temptation loses its power. So when temptation calls you on the phone, don’t argue with it, just hang up!

Reveal your struggle to a godly friend or support group. Authentic, honest fellowship is the antidote to your lonely struggle against those sins that won’t budge. God says it is the only way you’re going to break free.

Resist the Devil. Without Christ we are defenceless against the Devil, but with “the helmet of salvation” our minds are protected by God. Remember this: If you are a believer, Satan cannot force you to do anything. He can only suggest.

Realize your vulnerability. Given the right circumstances, any of us are capable of any sin. We must never let down our guard and think we’re beyond temptation.

Don’t carelessly place yourself in tempting situations. Remember that it is easier to stay out of temptation than to get out of it.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Purpose Driven Life - Day 26 - Growing Through Temptation

Another amazing thought today, that every temptation is actually an opportunity to grow through making the right choices. It was Erwin McManus who said when he was with us that the most spiritual thing we will ever do is to make choices, and that the choices we make define where we are in God. I guess I'd never really seen temptation before in that light, but it certainly gives a completely different perspective on how to view temptation.

On a different note it was nice to see an English team actually win last night, especially after the humiliation of the rugby. Ben was very gracious about Wales beating England when I was with him in Peterborough!

Simon.

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Every temptation is an opportunity to do good!

“Happy is the man who doesn’t give in and do wrong when he is tempted, for afterwards he will get as his reward the crown of life that God has promised those who love him.” James 1:12 (LB)

On the path to spiritual maturity, even temptation becomes a stepping-stone rather than a stumbling block when you realize that it is just as much an occasion to do the right thing, as it is to do the wrong thing.

While temptation is Satan’s primary weapon to destroy you, God wants to use it to develop you. Every time you choose to do good instead of sin, you are growing in the character of Christ. To understand this, you must first identify the character qualities of Jesus. One of the most concise descriptions of his character is the fruit of the Spirit: “When the Holy Spirit controls our lives, he will produce this kind of fruit in us: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” Galatians 5:22-23 (NLT)

Character development always involves a choice, and temptation provides that opportunity. Temptations keep us dependent upon God. Just as the roots grow stronger when wind blows against a tree, so every time you stand up to a temptation you become more like Jesus.

Instead of giving in or giving up, look up to God, expect him to help you, and remember the reward that is waiting for you: “When people are tempted and still continue strong, they should be happy. After they have proved their faith, God will reward them with life forever.” James 1:12 (NCV)

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Purpose Driven Life - Day 25 - Transformed by Trouble

Ben and I had an excellent time at New Frontiers prayer and fasting. It's a real privilege to take time out from the normal run of things to stop and worship, pray and spend time with God. There must have been of the order of 500 leaders there from across the UK. So many people I don't know but good to meet up with old friends such as Sean Green, Mick Taylor, Malcolm Kayes and Andy Martin. Also to meet some of the leaders I've been getting to know at the "Leaders of Larger Churches" gathering I went to last November in Catford. I'll talk a bit on Sunday about the situation with Edward Buria in Kenya and how I'd like us to respond as a church. In the meantime please remember Edward and our friends in Kenya as you pray today.

I spoke on Sunday of the importance of us living our lives in the light of Romans 8:28 if we are going to do life, well so you won't be surprised to hear me say that I think today's chapter is one of the key ones in understanding God's purposes in the things which happen to us in life.

Simon.

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God has a purpose behind every problem!

“For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” 2 Corinthians 4:17 (NIV)

He uses circumstances to develop our character. In fact, he depends more on circumstances to make us like Jesus than he depends on our reading the Bible. The reason is obvious: You face circumstances twenty-four hours a day.

Your most profound and intimate experiences of worship will likely be in your darkest days—when your heart is broken, when you feel abandoned, when you’re out of options, when the pain is great—and you turn to God alone.

Everything that happens to you has spiritual significance. Everything! Romans 8:28-29 (NLT) explains why: “We know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. For God knew his people in advance, and he chose them to become like his Son.”

You see, every problem is a character-building opportunity, and the more difficult it is, the greater the potential for building spiritual muscle and moral fiber. Paul said, “We know that these troubles produce patience. And patience produces character.” Romans 5:3-4 (NCV)
What happens outwardly in your life is not as important as what happens inside you. Your circumstances are temporary, but your character will last forever.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Purpose Driven Life - Day 24 - Transformed By Truth

Two posts back to back as I'm at New Frontiers leaders prayer and fasting for the next two days and can't guarantee internet access (and I know how much you'd hate to miss a post!). We're meeting at KingsGate Community Church in Peterborough. It will be the first time I've been there, although Colin Boyle (our Director of the Creative Arts) visited the church in August whilst he was on Sabbatical, and Pete Moon who is one of our Pastors took a team there to visit the church last November. In some areas they're a few steps ahead of where we'd like to be so it will be interesting to visit them.

I'll be meeting Ben (Davies) at Prayer and fasting. He was in Exeter at the weekend preaching in a church there and then today and tomorrow is meeting with a number of senior church leaders in Lincolnshire. Let nobody be fooled into thinking Ben has retired! I'm travelling down there with Sean Green and our friends from Reading Family Church (check out the picture of Ben on their website!) and am really looking forward to spending time with Ben, Sean and some of the other New Frontiers leaders I'm getting to know.

I'll let you all know how it went when I get back.

Simon.

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The truth transforms us!

Spiritual growth is the process of replacing lies with truth. Jesus prayed, “Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.” John 17:17 (NIV)

Sanctification requires revelation. The Spirit of God uses the Word of God to make us like the Son of God. To become like Jesus, we must fill our lives with his Word. The Bible says, “Through the Word we are put together and shaped up for the tasks God has for us.” 2 Timothy 3:17 (Msg)

Jesus called it “abiding.” He said, “If you abide in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine.” John 8:31 (NASB, 1978 Edition) In day-to-day living, abiding in God’s Word includes three activities. You must accept its authority. You must assimilate its truth. And you must apply its principles.

The best way to become a “doer of the Word” is to always write out an action step as a result of your reading or studying or reflecting on God’s Word. Develop the habit of writing down exactly what you intend to do. This action step should be personal (involving you), practical (something you can do), and provable (with a deadline to do it).

What has God already told you to do in his Word that you haven’t started doing yet? As D. L. Moody said, “The Bible was not given to increase our knowledge but to change our lives.”

Purpose Driven Life - Day 23 - How We Grow

God wants you to grow. It doesn't matter whether you've been a Christian for 5 weeks or 50 years, God is still in the business of maturing you and making you more like Christ.

Men, it's not too late to get your tickets for the men's breakfast on Saturday. The speaker is a guy called Nick Battle who I've never heard speak before but comes highly recommended by J John and from his description on the website sounds like a real man's man. If you can't get to The Kerith Centre reception during the week phone on 01344 862699 to reserve your ticket which includes a full English breakfast - cost £5.

Hope you enjoy todays study,

Simon.

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God wants you to grow up!

“God wants us to grow up … like Christ in everything.” Ephesians 4:15a (Msg)

Your heavenly Father’s goal is for you is to mature and develop the characteristics of Jesus Christ. Sadly, millions of Christians grow older but never grow up. They are stuck in perpetual spiritual infancy, remaining in diapers and booties. The reason is that they never intended to grow.

When the first disciples chose to follow Jesus, they didn’t understand all the implications of their decision. They simply responded to Jesus’ invitation. That’s all you need to get started: decide to become a disciple. Christ-likeness is the result of making Christ-like choices and depending on his Spirit to help you fulfill those choices. Once you decide to get serious about becoming like Christ, you must begin to act in new ways. You will need to let go of some old routines, develop some new habits, and intentionally change the way you think. You can be certain that the Holy Spirit will help you with these changes.

The Bible says, “Continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.” Philippians 2:12-13 (NIV)

The Christian life is far more than creeds and convictions; it includes conduct and character. Our deeds must be consistent with our creeds, and our beliefs must be backed up with Christlike behavior.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Purpose Driven Life - Day 22 - Created to Become Like Christ

I'm posting this before going off to this evenings gathering so that I can get an early night tonight! I'm sure Lee is going to be great this evening - we're so priveleged to have him as part of our church family and I'm really excited to see him continue to develop his ministry beyond the youth.

If you weren't around this morning can I suggest you listen to the podcast of this mornings meeting as I really sense it was an important message for all of us as we seek to become more like Christ - it's not on the website yet but I'm sure will be there soon. Perhaps even if you were there you might want to listen to it again!

Hope you have a great week. Don't foget to keep those comments coming!

Simon.

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You were created to become like Christ!

“God knew what he was doing from the beginning. He decided from the outset to shape the lives of those who love him along the same lines as the life of his Son … We see the original and intended shape of our lives there in him.” Romans 8:29 (Msg)

From the very beginning, God’s plan has been to make you like his Son, Jesus. God announced this intention at Creation: “Then God said, ‘Let us make human beings in our image and likeness.” Genesis 1:26 (NCV)

God’s ultimate goal for your life on earth is not comfort, but character development. He wants you to grow up spiritually and become like Christ. Becoming like Christ does not mean losing your personality or becoming a mindless clone. God created your uniqueness, so he certainly doesn’t want to destroy it.

We allow Christ to live through us. “For this is the secret: Christ lives in you.” Colossians 1:27 (NLT)

How does this happen in real life? Through the choices we make. We choose to do the right thing in situations and then trust God’s Spirit to give us his power, love, faith, and wisdom to do it. Since God’s Spirit lives inside of us, these things are always available for the asking.

Jesus did not die on the cross just so we could live comfortable, well-adjusted lives. His purpose is far deeper: He wants to make us like himself before he takes us to heaven. This is our greatest privilege, our immediate responsibility, and our ultimate destiny.

Purpose Driven Life - Day 21 - Protecting Your Church

A key passage for us today as we look to fulfill our vision of being a church of 2,000. Unity and doing everything we can to protect that unity is so important. I've seen too many churches split and people leave over issues which could have been resolved if people had been willing to follow the Biblical advice given here. Very interesting to see some of the blog comments relating to exactly this issue.

I can't imagine many of you will get to read this before either of todays gatherings but either way I'm praying for you that you'll encounter God today.

Simon.

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It is your job to protect the unity of your church!

Unity is the soul of fellowship. Destroy it, and you rip the heart out of Christ’s Body. It is the essence, the core, of how God intends for us to experience life together in his church.

In his final moments before being arrested, Jesus prayed passionately for our unity. It was our unity that was uppermost in his mind during those agonizing hours. That shows how significant this subject is. Nothing on earth is more valuable to God than his church. He paid the highest price for it, and he wants it protected, especially from the devastating damage that is caused by division, conflict, and disharmony.

“Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” Ephesians 4:3 (NIV)

How are we to do this? The Bible gives us practical advice:
- Focus on what we have in common, not our differences.
- Be realistic in your expectations. Choose to encourage rather than criticize.
- Refuse to listen to gossip.
- Practice God’s method for conflict resolution.
- And most importantly, support your pastor and leaders.

What are you doing personally to make your church family more warm and loving? There are many people in your community who are looking for love and a place to belong. The truth is, everyone needs and wants to be loved, and when people find a church where members genuinely love and care for each other, you would have to lock the doors to keep them away.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Purpose Driven Life - Day 20 - Restoring Broken Fellowship

Well today marks the half way point in our Purpose Driven journey with another icredibly challenging message. If the second half has as much impact as the first then the next 3 weeks are going to be very exciting.

I hope you girls who made it to the Unique Breakfast had a fantastic time - I'm sure my beautiful wife was excellent!

Hope to see you on Sunday at one of our gatherings,

Simon.

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Relationships are always worth restoring!

“If you've gotten anything at all out of following Christ, if his love has made any difference in your life, if being in a community of the Spirit means anything to you … Agree with each other, love each other, be deep-spirited friends.” Philippians 2:1-2 (Msg)

Because life is all about learning how to love, God wants us to value relationships and make the effort to maintain them instead of discarding them whenever there is a rift, a hurt, or a conflict.

Paul taught that our ability to get along with others is a mark of spiritual maturity. If you want God’s blessing on your life and you want to be known as a child of God, you must learn to be a peacemaker. Here are seven Biblical steps to restoring fellowship:
1. Talk to God before talking to the person.
2. Always take the initiative.
3. Sympathize with their feelings.
4. Confess your part of the conflict.
5. Attack the problem, not the person.
6. Cooperate as much as possible.
7. Emphasize reconciliation, not resolution.

Who do you need to contact as a result of reading this today? With whom do you need to restore fellowship? Don’t delay another second. Pause right now and talk to God about that person. Then pick up the phone and begin the process.

It takes a lot of effort to restore a relationship. That’s why Peter urged, “Work hard at living in peace with others.” 1 Peter 3:11 (NLT)

But when you work for peace, you are doing what God would do. That’s why God calls peacemakers his children.