f i n d i n g . a u t h e n t i c i t y . a m i d s t . c h u r c h . t r e n d s // as Christians it’s important to remember that through our humanistic actions — we aren’t always good or right, and that life and salvation is a gift, and not a fight. it’s important to remember that we’re living proof that God exists, we’re not trying to prove His existence through ’thou shalt’ lists. see, its clear that in the lives of the next generation, the church rarely plays a part. the church shouldn’t be a building with walls of ‘dos’ and ‘do nots’, it’s designed to be a living piece of art. where people see and smell and taste Him all around, and say ‘i want what they’ve got!’ from the roof, down to the ground…we as the church need to wisen up — because the next generation is rising up. and if we’re too busy making rules and regulations, and endless expectations, we’ll have wasted the entire journey, when we’re alone at the destination. we can light up neon billboards and wear the trendiest of clothes; but it’s these mild empty distractions, that the generation loathes. if the worship is authentic and the faith is raw and real, then His love should be our sole intention, of all we desire people to feel. instead of forcing people onto a religious hike He never called us to, why not simply invite them along for the ride with you? why not look to share from the truth of love and grace, before we look to teach from a correctional changing place. and maybe put a little more care into the words we choose to preach, and let our lives be transparent to those we want to reach. lets represent faith in Jesus as attractive, no, not hip or cool — but authentically interactive. because you can never underestimate the power of someone who truly cares, and who is willing to be the one person to listen when no one else dares. lets be the love, the love that spurs on a life that people can’t help but be attracted to; authentic love that blossoms and shines through. it’s time to stop blaming younger generations for the problems that they face, and instead to come alongside them; and invite them on an adventure that allows them to see His glory, His acceptance and His grace.
G o d . i s n ‘ t . l o o k i n g . f o r . m e d a l s . o r . q u a l i f i c a t i o n s — H e . i s . s i m p l y . l o o k i n g . f o r . a . w i l l i n g . h e a r t // sometimes in life, you’re presented with opportunities that seem out of your capacity, out of your league — and you might even go so far as to say that they seem impossible. you’re invited to take on things that are outside of your comfort zones, and in realising this, not only do you feel unequipped, incapable, and overwhelmed; but you feel completely under qualified for the offer on the table before you.. and as you stand there considering and looking the opportunity up and down, your inadequacies and insecurities slowly start to swell, and they begin dictating the directions of your decisions; and of course, you begin to assure yourself that though God has a clear history of using imperfect people to complete perfect plans — that He has made some kind of error in judgement when it comes to calling you, and you’re definitely not the one He should want. so you push the opportunity to the side; dulling the small voice deep inside of you that wishes it had the strength and confidence of Isaiah, to say ‘here i am, send me!’ and to rise up and embrace your calling in spite of your weakness, in spite of your setbacks and in spite of your insecurities. it’s integral and vital to your walk to remind yourself that when God uses a ‘qualified’ vessel, His glory isn’t revealed as greatly as it is when He manifests His plan and purpose in those who are simply willing to obey, and step out in faith. alone, you can do nothing, but in His strength, all things are possible (Philippians 4:13). take a look in His word; Jacob was a liar, Gideon was afraid. Rahab was a prostitute, and they said Jeremiah and Timothy were too young. David had an affair and murdered, and Jonah ran from God. Job was bankrupt and Peter denied Christ. Martha was a worrier, and Lazarus was dead. God doesn’t call the equipped, He equips the called. try living by faith in victory; try saying yes to Him and no to insecurities. farewell your fears and say hello to living! tag someone you know who may need this encouragement today.
d o n ‘ t . s e t t l e . i n t o . a . l i f e . o f . s e c o n d . b e s t s — j u s t . b e c a u s e . G o d s . b e s t . i s . t a k i n g . a . l i t t l e . l o n g e r . t h a n . y o u . e x p e c t e d . i t . t o // God doesn’t give second best, to His children — who He passionately pursues, and calls first. but, in order to be called first, He needs to see you step up to the plate, ready in your uniform; His armour — prepared for any position He may choose you for. when He scans the field along the boundary line; He looks for you; and hopes to see you ready, waiting and willing to go.. and there you are, faithfully prepared.. and then, you watch as those around you are sent out to their positions, their bases, their ministries, their most gifted areas to play — and He sits you on the bench and tells you to ‘wait’. you soon realise you have yet to play on the field you long to play on. but, this does not for one moment mean that God chooses you last. God doesn’t look past you and consider you unworthy — as His best for you, often lies in His preparation, and your willingness to wait. His best for you is found in seeing you turn up for practice, turn up for training, turn up in your uniform ready to play, and humbly taking the bench when He calls someone else equipped and gifted to the base you were sure you’d be given. and herein lies your decision on whether you will push through to a life of second bests, or you will wait it out for that which He has promised. you can jump team, you can swap uniforms and you can dive head first into a new church, a new ministry or a new city — and serve there immediately. or you can remain faithful, committed and humble in your waiting. you can choose patience and blessing, over self righteousness and self-assurance. His best is not always quick or easily attainable. His best is not always seemingly glamorous, or plotted out and written down as we may have imagined it. His best is not “fill this spot” or “warm this seat”. but His best is “this spot was made perfectly for you.” His best is “I prepared this seat, for such a time as this for you!” He is personal and timely; so live for a seasonal position on His team.
"these words of praise, of love and thanks, never cease to seep from the depths of collaboration between my head and my heart. they are constant — as sure and steady as the increasing flow is from a snowy mountains top, melting beneath the glistening sun, in the inevitable days of spring; so too are my undying affections for you, my King."
An Encouragement: To the girls, the women, the ladies, the females. To the mothers, the daughters, the sisters, the nieces, the cousins, the aunties and the grandmothers. To the insecure, to the broken, to the loved and unloved. To the lost, to the scarred, to the hurting and the whole. To the empty, to the downcast, to the unhappy and the content. To those who can look in the mirror, and to those who cannot. To those who are happy to have their photo taken, and to those who hide their face away. To those of you who cannot face a day without makeup, or bare to see your reflection in a window passing by. To those who are single, married, separated, divorced, widowed. To anyone who needs to hear these words; and see this clip — this is for you.
breathe in, breathe out, let the cool evenings breeze pass through your byways and highways alike; let it permeate the very depths of your thirsty lungs, the place, the space to inflate and deflate; electrifying the very wires that remind you, ignite you, revive you; yes, you’re alive. justifying the very need to inhale, exhale.
breathe in, breathe out, pushing out the very language breathed into you by the creator Himself, and as the air dances across your lips, in a desire to be heard, to be understood, to be felt; He hears, He understands, He feels. and reach my darling, for things unseen and all that’s to come; extend your ligaments, straighten your upper body, allow yourself to stand again; to heighten your senses and find your true capacity; to inhale, to exhale.
breathe in, breathe out, let the air itself supply your soul, saturate your spirit and extinguish your loneliness, that its very existence alone is the pure tale of centuries of His relentless, all encompassing love. inhale the joy that creeps from the deepest corners of your smile, inhale the teardrops that weep from the crevices of your windows; small, glassy and transparent; eyes longing to be seen, and seen to be longing. in your every waking moment — inhale, exhale.
breathe in, breathe out, let the sounds of victory and triumph storm your airways from depths of your core. let your breath be like a bridge, connecting life to consciousness, uniting body to thought, reflecting dream to reality. dissolving fears as embers to water, melting unease as snowflakes to sun, fleeing aversion as darkness to light. so walk; find your footing firm and solid, and as surely as the moon will rise; you must inhale, exhale.
breathe in, breathe out, harmonious and mild, take in peace that absorbs your energies, emotions and imaginations. find His presence always; as surely as He is between the thrilling rush of rapids, He is in the calming trickles of streams; the steadiness, the heaviness, the ebb and flow; His presence is as cosmic as the planets alignment, astronomic as the very universes expanse, climactic as a coal burns hot and cold; He is in the very depths and heights of all you are, so inhale, exhale.
breathe in, breathe out, let the life He once breathed be your elixir, your essence, a perfume to envelope your existence; His all encompassing air to consume the pores of your skin, the follicles of your hair, the beds of your nails; to pulse and course through the very twists and turns of your veins, exploding like fireworks in small spaces, igniting, lighting, inspiring the very world around you to see, to feel, to search, to inhale, exhale.
breathe in, breathe out, awaken awareness, awaken the true pleasure of life; freely given, freely received, open wide your mouth and capture the air like butterflies to a flower, like moths to a flame, like children to swings; reach and find and taste and see, all His love within His breath, your breath. dance in the ocean of air, like fish in a body of water. attune to your atmosphere; life, love, energy, it’s flowing endlessly, carrying you from then to now, to tomorrow. listen to the sweetest music of all; His breath within yours — there is no more majestic sound. inhale, exhale.
whether you’re in high school, university/college, full time work or you’re a full time parent, you understand the need for sleep, for a moments peace, for ‘down time’ and for a space within your place to simply breathe. a place to find your footing, settle yourself and energize your mind, body and spirit. for some of you, this comes through disappearing into a novel in a quiet place, putting in headphones on public transport, laying in your bed with the curtains closed, or sipping a coffee at a corner table in a quiet cafe. I wonder, how often do you feel tired or lethargic, and turn to a coffee or an energy drink before you turn to Jesus? how often do you reach for your headphones to hear relaxation through music, before you turn to Jesus to receive His peace? how often do you search for advice or guidance on the internet, before you turn to Jesus and His word to find your direction? how often do you look to the left and the right, in hopes of a quick easy fix; though His word says right before you, to come to Him, for His yoke is easy and His burden is light. Martha spent her days hurrying, stressing, preparing and pushing her way through, she was unsettled, unnerved, distracted and distressed. whilst Mary sat at the feet of Jesus, at peace, listening to His ways. in frustration, we often cringe at the response from our friends ‘just pray about it’ or ‘just seek Him on it’ and we can relate to Martha cringing at Mary’s decision to just sit in His presence whilst she was stressed and busy, and asked “don’t you care that she is just sitting there and I am doing all of this over here alone!? tell her to help me!” — Jesus responded “Martha, Martha.. you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” luke 10:41-42 in the same way that Mary simply chose to take a moment with her maker, and chose Him first over the question, stress and clutter of all that was to be done, or all that she needed, we also need to find a moment with our maker.
We see the story of Jesus going to the cross, and everything seems to be kind of hand in hand, and there’ this one character that seems to interrupt a little. His name is Barabbas. We don’t even know much about him, except that he’s a murderer, the leader of an insurrection and a rebel. Why he’s even mentioned - sometimes I’m not so sure. It’s like ‘This is about Jesus going to the cross..’ but no, it’s a love story.
So in this moment, pilate thinks ‘I hold the destinies of these two men in my hands. I know the Jews have a tradition that on a holy day - I will release one of the prisoners on death row.’ Pilate stands on this audacious stage who now presents Jesus, son of God - verses Barabbas the thug and rebel. And says ‘Alright, who do you want?’ This is blasphemy, this is gone too far, there’s no comparison, this is a rightful prisoner, a man who should be on death row. He is a rebel against wrong, and he is a bad man, a thug and a crook. He deserves the chains, and he deserves the crucifixion. Jesus? What has He done but heal, restore, deliver, set free, open blind eyes, and open deaf ears, heal the lame and the leper… What has Jesus done? Who do you want?’ —— We want Barabbas, give us Barabbas.
They say ‘Give us Barabbas’ and the soldiers come up and they put the key in they take his chains, and unlock Barabbas from his chains and shackles, and he walks down the platform. Welcomed by all of his thug friends. “Yeah, the people love me, the people love me. I don’t even know who this Jesus guy is, but all I know is my people love me.” There seems to be no conscience in Barabbas. There’s no record of him turning to Jesus and saying “I owe You everything now, for You have set me free.” No. You don’t see any of that in Barabbas. God knew that.
Jesus stood there silent. For He knew the will of His Father, and He said “It’s fine Father, let them have Barabbas.” For Jesus knew that the Father would have to treat Jesus like Barabbas, so He could treat Barabbas like Jesus. Barabbas thought it was the people that set him free… No, it was the love of of a heavenly Father. And when I look at the story, I realise who Barabbas really is. That’s me. That’s you. That’s us. And I felt like I was reading this the other day, and I felt God speak to me “I love Barabbas.. I love him..” And I wrestled a little ‘But God, he is a bad man..’ “I love him.. and I wanted him to go free.” ‘But didn’t you know that he probably would have never acknowledged the free gif-’ “Yeah… But I love Barabbas..”
"For while we were still sinners Christ died for us." God sent His Son for Barabbas, even the one He knew would walk away from Jesus and His free gift, and never come back… He loves Him. And the nerve, all the audacity of the believers to think "I got saved by grace, but now that I’m in this deep, dark place of bondage, I better work hard to get myself out..’ WHAT?! That’s the opposite of the gospel. Are you bound? Are you held under the power of this temptation and sin? Do you feel like it’s controlling you? What are you going to do? ‘Oh I’m going to shake and set myself free’… STOP IT. NO YOU WONT. YOU’RE NO MATCH FOR THE POWERS OF HELL, AND THE URGES OF SIN. YOU WILL NOT OVERCOME IT AND YOU’LL NEVER OVERCOME IT. YOU’LL JUST BE ANOTHER STATISTIC. There’s no answer within yourself. Your own goodness, your own discipline, your own devotion will not save you. There’s only One that can save you. and He’s the One that took your place.
He’s the one that stood on the platform with pilate and said “Yes, let them have Barabbas … Take Me.” How many times have I stood on that platform with pilate and Jesus and I’m the Barabbas. And they start to take my chains off and I say ‘NO! NO! I DESERVE THIS. I DESERVE THE GUILT, I DESERVE THE SHAME, I DESERVE THE CONSEQUENCE. I DESERVE IT.’ And Jesus seems to look at me and say “NO child, let Me have it. Let Me have your sin, let Me have your pain.” and I say ‘No God I did it to myself… I deserve it. I deserve it all.’ —- “NO!” God I’m so ashamed..He says “Give Me your shame…” But God, what if I do it again? He says “I’ll still be here…” Oh God I don’t want to hurt You, I love You, I don’t want to do this anymore.. He says “Everything will be alright, just give Me your sins…”
This is all we have, this is all I have and this is all you have. We can play games, we can play church games. We can pretend like some people are better than others, and that’s why they’re blessed. Or we can all come to the honest conclusion that it’s God, and it’s God alone. The greatest challenge is not your discipline, your devotion or your focus. Your greatest challenge is believing and living the Gospel. Could it be that there’s a God with a love so scandalous, so wide, so deep, so vast, so high, so expansive, so welcoming and so inclusive…? “Let Me have your sin, My Child.” ….. and I give Him my sin, and I stand in this empty space of forgiveness and acceptance while Jesus walks off to the cross that I deserve. I see Him, I see Him walking to the post to be whipped. As I stand a free child, all the attention is turned now; and I feel the love of God saying “Go My child, live your life! I’ll pay the price..” Where did we get off thinking that we were going to set ourselves free? It’s still Jesus, It’ll always be Jesus and it’ll never stop being the power of Jesus. His blood is sufficient for your salvation. His blood is sufficient to sustain you, through every sin, and every challenge and every temptation.
"Awaiting Your soothing voice to speak peace to my soul, Your gentle hand to place patience on my heart, Your warm breath to breathe wisdom into my mind, and Your compassionate Holy Spirit to bring comfort to my very being. Here, in the midst of Your presence, when I am without understanding, I await Your softened whisper in the night that speaks to my very core - “My child, Here I am…’ and as You turn Your beautiful face toward me, Your hand gently brings me alongside You, and You remind me yet again, that You are faithful, forevermore."
"Take time to rest in Him and find your comfort and assurance within His embrace, and as you seek and pursue all that He has for you, remember His face, turning over His shoulder as He leads you into battle after battle and triumph after triumph, sword in hand and courage in heart. Hold your head high, take a firm grasp of His hand as He reaches for you, and allow Him to bring you into full alignment with all He desires for you internally and externally. Remember to breathe, and take heart in knowing that He is gracious, loving and patient with you, and He champions you, supports you and cherishes you. Set your eyes upon the shadow of protection that His body walking ahead of you casts, and go about your ways with Him at the forefront of your mind. Allow His leading to bring you peace amongst the chaos and stillness amongst the rush and movements of life and ministry. Take time to lean into His love, smell the sweetness of His personal heart for you, and let His name forever be on your lips, in the very same way that honey is to a bee, and blossoms are to spring. Be captivated in Him, that He may be your soul devotion and your only focus forevermore."
As image-bearers of God and disciples of Christ, we each reflect aspects of His character in different ways. Christ champions our individuality, our uniqueness and our personal qualities and uses them to point people towards His kingdom. Comparing your witness and influence to that of your brothers or sisters is like comparing a telephone to a car. Of course, both are highly useful and important in life; but neither find their value in their comparison to one another, but rather, their worth comes from doing what they are created by their Maker and Authenticator to do… So don’t be defined by those around you, but be defined by Him who made you.