Posted on: 4th November 2019
“It was for freedom that Christ set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.”
What things hold us back from living life to the full?
What an amazing verse that we read in Galatians 5:1. The whole story of God and his people is one of slavery, bondage, freedom, repeat. Slavery, bondage, freedom, repeat. We read again and again in the old testament of the people, “Doing evil in the eyes of the Lord.” (Judges 2:11, Judges 3:12, 1 Kings 15:26 and many more).
In the new testament we read Paul’s struggle between his desire to follow God’s will and his desire to serve his feelings and flesh (Romans 6-7). Paul talks about us being free from slavery to sin. But he also talks about becoming, “A slave to God.”
I heard a story of a boy who was visiting the circus, who marvelled at the mighty elephants parading around the ring. “Dad”, he said, “Why doesn’t the elephants just pull out the pegs that are holding them and escape? He’s strong enough.” His dad answered, “Once, they were held by unbreakable chains until they learned they couldn’t get free. Then weaker ropes were substituted for the chains, but the elephants had already given up on breaking free. Now, just a thin cord tied loosely to one foot and connected to a small stake in the ground is all it takes to “trap” the elephant into believing he’s still being held tight with chains that no longer exist.”
At this time of year, we consider the brave lives of those who sacrificed their freedom for us to be free. My challenge is that, whatever you have let tie you down from living life to the full, will be released as you consider the gift of freedom you have been given.
The promise in Romans 6:22 is that when you become a slave to God, “The benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life.” My prayer is that you consider how you could choose to serve God with all he has given you.
Posted on: 19th November 2018
“Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfil the law of Christ.”
What is the link between 2004 and 2016?
One link I would like to consider this week is unexpected success. The stage was set for Portugal, in Portugal, to secure the European Championship against an unexpected opponent. But the domination of possession and shots could not overcome the single goal scored in that game. But who were the winners?
5000-1 were the odds given to Leicester City at the start of the season. Reports praise the efforts of the three stars of the team, but I would like to suggest it was everyone connected to the team that brought the victory.
In Judges 7 we read the story of the defeat of Midian. Gideon was called a ‘Mighty Man of Valour’ by God, who found him hiding. The story strikes me as odd that the mighty man was hiding, but God knows how to pick them. Gideon was probably feeling like the odds were in his favour as he had an army of 32,000. God had other plans.
The first stage of fine tuning the army involved asking those who were afraid to leave. The remaining 10,000 faced the second stage, drinking water at the river. 9,700 drank like dogs and were asked to go home. The story ends with 300 men defeating the Midianites with trumpet, empty jars and burning torches. Now that is an underdog story!
As we consider the power of team and the difference supporting each other brings this week, remember the encouragement the Apostle Paul offers in Galatians 6:2. If you are to fulfil the law of Christ, look for opportunities to support and help those in your team. Having people around you who offer support really is a gift from God and a game changer.
Posted on: 26th March 2018
What do you think of when you think of Easter? Eggs? Holidays? Jesus? The Cross?
For some it is these four things: Forgiven. Family. Freedom. Future.
Well it’s simple really, each time we read the Bible we have new revelation of who God is, what he has done and why. When we read the Bible bearing in mind we know the Easter story and Jesus, we can’t miss these four things.
Firstly, at Easter time, we remember that Jesus’ agonising death on the cross means that He paid the price for our sinfulness and selfishness. Easter reminds us that we can be FORGIVEN by God – ‘If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.’ (1 John 1 v 9).
And through this loving, sacrificial act, we can become adopted into God’s FAMILY – ‘Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of His household.’ (Ephesians 2 v 19). God is our Father, Jesus our ever-present older-brother, the Holy Spirit our constant helper, and the Church is our brothers and sisters in Christ.
Then, the fact that Jesus defeated death through His resurrection, reminds us that nothing is impossible for God and we can experience FREEDOM from our struggles and suffering. It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery (Galatians 5 v 1).
In this resurrection is our hope for the FUTURE, that we will one day be with God forever in His perfect new heaven and earth – “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then He said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life.” (Revelation 21 v 4-6 NIV)
Be encouraged this Easter that when Jesus died on the cross and the plan to rescue eternity was set into motion, God had YOU in mind.
“Carry one another’s burdens and this way you will fulfil the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2)
Each person has a community around them, whether we like it or not we are connected in some way to others that we have both similarities and differences with. Each of us belongs and though sometimes we don’t believe it or feel it our belonging makes us a part of something bigger than ourselves.
Whilst last week we explored how we can set ourselves up to win and the fact we are all unique in our own way, this week we are looking at how us as individuals can set our community up to win. In the bible we read of Paul, who we thing wrote 13 books in the New Testament. We know for a fact that the majority of these books were based upon his letters he sent to several communities that had been established as new Christians. Paul’s letters teach us three things that we can do to set our community up to win.
- Pray – Each time Paul wrote to the different communities he declared at the beginning or the end of his letters that he was praying for them, often for the specifics that he knew of them too.
Do you pray for your community? For those you are in direct contact with? For your faith leaders? For those in positions of power?
- Connect – Meet people where they are at. Paul never wrote above the understanding of those who were to receive his letters. He targeted areas in his letters that the individual communities were working on in order to warn them of danger or encourage them. It’s easy to think of people in your community that may sometimes get missed due to information being in a format that they can’t cope with. Be the one who connects beyond others. Remember the phase from last year “When you support the 100, the 100 support you.”
- Build Relationships, Build Culture – throughout Paul’s letters we read of people Paul has sent out to do works within those communities he is writing to. Paul however never sent them out without the intention of them bring the culture of Christ into those communities. What relationships are you actively and intentionally seeking to build? What culture are you taking into you community?
See as communities we all feel the same things. Hopes and fears, the comfort and strength of a hug, a chat with a neighbour, a moment to enjoy a cup of tea or coffee, 5 minutes of peace all to yourself, awe found in a fabulous view, beauty found in nature, a warm breeze, a generous smile, happy tears, sad tears, the assurance of a friend, the delightful laughter of children -their fun, adventure, innocence, curiosity and energy, the satisfaction gained from working hard and learning something new, a desperate prayer spoken to a gracious and listening God, who so desperately loves us all, the power of saying ‘sorry’ when it is needed and mileage that comes from a word of appreciation. The list goes on but it’s as community that we are able to empower one another to succeed far beyond what we can on our own.