The God intended joy of generations

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  Grandchildren are the crown of the aged, and the glory of children is their fathers. (Proverbs 17:6)

When you’re a child, if you’re fortunate to have one, a grand parent hopefully is just someone who clearly loves you and fusses over you and often spoils you saying; “don’t tell your mom!”

I remember being doted over by my one grandmother in particular, remember big hugs, a sweetie cupboard in the passage, secret visits to the fridge to indulge in some special treat, being taken to the local coffee shop run by the women’s association and having toasted sandwiches (I now realize these were not just culinary but also some form of bragging) sleep overs and board games and how we could do no wrong seemingly once we were near her!

Although I’ve not got there yet and hope to wait some time still before I do, on observation of others around me, simply adding the word “grand” to “parenting” is clearly something unique and special.

As Proverbs says; “Grandchildren are the crown of the aged”

Then, when you become a parent you begin more and more to experience this God-intended joy in both directions.

You love your children, they’re yours and you love them the most.  Sometimes it feels like your heart is not big enough for the love that resides inside for them!   In fact you might well have even said that to those “grand parents” who sometimes in their zeal act as though they love these little people more than anyone…

And yet as grow older you also begin to see things, appreciate things about your own parents that are just clearer with age. It’s like the lens suddenly starts to come into focus as you mature you begin to see your parents with new clarity and hopefully you appreciate what you see. These are people God established a relationship with for you,  people who loved you, cared, sacrificed, provided, struggled through life’s challenges…

And as you see them and what they’ve done or struggled through more clearly as you can empathize with them as you too are parenting – I’ve found that my love and appreciation of them grows and deepens, and as Proverbs says; “the glory of children is their fathers.” (Proverbs 17:6)

Thanks you Father for the God-intended joy of generations!  Yes there are many for whom this joy has been spoiled or robbed by sin and death due to the curse of sin, but so to are there many who can still celebrate and thank God for what part of this joy they have experienced.

http://espn.go.com/video/clip?id=12920829

This clip about a grand father, father & son provoked me last week to appreciate my own dad who just turned 70 and for whom I can honestly say; “Grandchildren are the crown of the aged, and the glory of children is their fathers.” – thanks Dad and Mom for being this verse for Andre, Lauren, Nicholas and myself and to all our many children! We are blessed, thank you Father God for the God intended joy of generations!

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Plans steps & a loving Father

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We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps.” (Proverbs 16:9 NLT)

This week started as what felt like a normal week for me, a diary full of great people to meet with.  Multiple meetings to discuss how to see God’s kingdom advance in the lives of those around us, time to pray and prepare to preach, a time for rest and family…

I had a plan, and plans aren’t bad to have, but God determined my steps!

And so for me, this week hasn’t been anything like what I thought it would be – but I am so grateful to God that He orders my steps. I wasn’t visiting the hospital to find out I really needed to.  However, God determined my steps through the wonderful influence of people he put in my life and whispered to me by the Holy Spirit to go and get checked out…

For me, knowing that my sovereign Father who loves me determines my steps is not offensive in any way (as some find the idea of sovereignty) but is calming in the extreme.

And yet within the safety net of our loving Father’s sovereignty, He permits us freedom to make plans and decisions in such as way that somehow upholds our freedom yet does not restrict or limit His sovereignty – amazing.

Honouring

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This week I had an experience that has truly caused me to value each day and then I read Romans 16 and I love how Paul takes the time to write to individuals, men and women that he knows and loves, people he has served Christ with and people who are worthy of honour.

Honouring starts with seeing.  I love the Zulu greeting “Sawubona” which translated means “I see you”, the greeting is a recognition of the presence of another person and follows with finding out who they are (if unknown) and how they are doing.

Paul was ‘other-focussed’, as leader he wasn’t so focussed on himself or his task that he missed the people around him. I love it that this is a chapter filled with greetings and honouring of specific people for the specific ways they have served God and co-worked with Paul in the churches and in the gospel mission.

Paul couldn’t just call or sms so he wrote while he still could.  He didn’t just allow his gratitude to remain private positive thoughts about the 27 people he names here at the conclusion of his letter to the church in Rome, he made it known to them and to others as he honoured them.

What an example!

I have the privilege of leading a church and am surrounded by incredible men and women who share leadership with me out of a common love for Jesus and commitment to His mission!

Someone said that one of the main roles of a leader is – “to say thank you”.  I resolve to make the moments, to take the time to see, to look and recognize all the amazing people who are Oasis Church (not just leaders) and to honour them privately and publicly.

Who will you see and honour today?

Awe…

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Awe is a feeling of reverential respect mixed with fear, a sense of wonder, amazement, astonishment, worship, reverence, honour, love and respect.

Awe is a response to something.  It doesn’t exist in isolation but rather is the result of something seen, experienced or encountered.  Awe is informed by the mind yet is truly rooted in a heart that has seen and surrendered to the majesty and might of almighty God.

And therefore awe is the opposite of irreverence, familiarity, contempt and indifference.  Awe is about perspective, having clarity concerning God, oneself, circumstances and others.

And yet, awe seems to be a fragile commodity.  One that’s not, easily obtained, is easily lost and or replaced.  In some way children seem to have a better grasp on awe than adults do.  They seem to just delight in and be amazed by things, they believe easily, express freely the joy of discovery and wonder…

Why is it we who are older aren’t more like these young ones with mouths and eyes wide open?

I want to find myself looking like the girl at the top of this post more often, speechless and yet captivated by God, who He is and what He has done for me, for us.

Awe is linked to worship, we won’t worship want we don’t see, we won’t worship what we don’t revere and are astonished by.  Like Moses who wanted God to reveal Himself, like Paul I pray; “I want to know Christ” (Philippians 3:10).  I want to see more, know more, encounter Jesus more – whether through Scripture reading, prayer or worship with the saints, whether through ministering to people and seeing His mighty power – I want to know Him.  There is a song we sing in Oasis that expresses this desire (King of Wonder) which at one point goes something like; “the more we see, the more we love you”!

But don’t for a minute think that this is some fanciful irrelevant impractical desire.  Paul Tripp says;

Awe of God should be the reason I do what I do with my thoughts. It should be the reason I desire what I desire. Awe of God should be the reason I treat my wife the way I do, parent my children the way I do….should give direction to the way I live as a citizen in the wider community…  

Awe of a God should lift me out of the darkest moments of discourage gun and be the source of my most exuberant celebrations.  Awe of God should make me more self-aware and more mournful of my sin while it makes me more patient with and tender towards weakness in others.  It should give me courage I would have no other way and wisdom to know when I am out of my league.  Awe of God is meant to rule every domain of my existence. – Paul Tripp

Awe is not some peripheral thing for the Christ follower, it is central to the heart motivation of our lives.  Without awe we quickly descend into mere external moralism and or a faith that is dead and dry.  Tripp says that there is a spiritual danger that lurks here and it’s that when awe for God is dead, it is quickly replaced by awe for ourselves (pride) and so Tripp goes on to say that;

If you are not living for God, the only alternative is to live for yourself.
– Paul Tripp

As a leader one of my greatest responsibilities is to stimulate awe in others, yet awe is caught not only taught.  Awe is based on knowledge of God but it is more about the state of ones heart in response to what one knows about God. What I have come to see is that it is impossible to lead someone to a state of awe – if such awe is absent in your own heart.
Just like a tour guide in a great city like Rome – you don’t want the person who has just read more books than you.  You want your guide to also have walked the streets before, seen the city before, you want someone who knows the people, the history and the culture.

Similarly, if you’re doing an expedition in the Himalayas, surely you want the  Sherpa who has scaled Everest or K2 themselves, before you’ll feel they are qualified to guide you up the slopes.

Likewise, as a leader you can’t take people where you haven’t been yourself, where you not just went years ago but where you regularly are… What a provocation, as a leader!
May I, may we, not be those in whom there is an “awe deficit” or where the wonder has been lost.

I’ll close with the lyrics of a song by Leeland called “I wonder”, words that have been my song lately;

At the stars in the night, I wonder
At Your lightning in the sky, I shudder
Your glory is a blanket that covers, every living thing

I’m in awe at the majesty of who You are
Your love is a seal burnt inside my heart
All of the day I want to be where You are
Holy Father

And it feels like there’s not enough praise inside of me
With all these words, all my heart can sing is holy
You are holy

Jesus Christ
You bled Your love, laid down Yourself
And gave me life
In naked shame You hung and You were lifted high
Here I lay in awe and wonder
I am afraid, for no one’s ever sacrificed and loved me this way

So on my face I fall under Your heavy grace
Here I lay in awe and wonder
And I wonder

I’m in awe at the majesty of who You are
Your love is a seal burnt inside my heart
All of the day I want to be where You are
Holy Father

And it feels like there’s not enough praise inside of me
With all these words, all my heart can sing is holy
You are holy

Life is a gift

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  May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, 6 that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God. (Romans 15:5-7)

God gives us life! And God gives it to us every day, we don’t self-sustain, can’t self-sustain ourselves – life is a gift of God literally everyday.

I know it’s not the main point behind the verses above but in the last 24hrs the words;

“May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live…”

Have taken on fresh meaning for me as I know God has kept me from what could easily have been a life threatening condition residing in me and yet seemingly innocuous and unseen.

God grants life to you and to me.

Today I am gladly unwrapping that gift, will you? 

Today I am thanking God the Giver of that gift, acknowledging that my Heavenly Father is the source, will you too?

And what does God my Father want me to do with this gift I’ve received again today?

to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, 6 that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

May I, may we in Oasis Church live in harmony with one another in such a way that demonstrates our having been given life by and united to and in Christ.

Thinking about it for a moment, hamorny requires diversity!  All signing the same note or all playing the same instrument in the same chord is a group of singers or musicians but for it to be harmony what’s required is diversity that joins together to create something greater together than the individual comments can be apart.

And there in lies the wonder of the church of Jesus Christ – a community of faith who have been granted life, who are now living, serving God’s mission with these moments we are given in harmony with one another despite our diversity in such a way that  underlines what has happened to us in Christ and in such a way that brings glory to God.

Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.

In closing this idea Scripture appeals to you and to me, to be welcoming, to receive one another, to accept one another into our lives and homes!

Why? Because that’s what God has done to us, for us in sending us Jesus. God took the initiative to reach out to you and I, Jesus made the first step towards us, Jesus left His comfort zone in order to reach out to you and to me so that He could live, be understood and ultimately die in our place for our sin and rise again victorious for our resssurection and eternal life!

So too today, may we, may I welcome others as I have been shown this heavenly welcome. Today let me, let you use this life gift to harmonize with others in the church and to extend God’s outstretched welcome to all.

The result will be that people will be loved and God will be glorified as He should as He is the source of all of this.

Consumers or Christ Followers?

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We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves. 2 Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. 3 For Christ did not please himself, (Rom 15:1-3a)

This incredible piece of art sums up the two extremes of our heart’s dispositions.  Will we serve or look to be served?  Will we be a taker, getter or giver?  Will we be a consumer or a Christ follower?

I face these questions internally on a daily basis.  My old sinful self-centered heart pattern is to look for others to serve me, to seek my own will above that of others and to get frustrated or irritated by those who obstruct my plan to serve my own interests or have that plan served by others…

Are you like me?

Think about what you get most frustrated about?  On reflection you’ll probably find that it’s often centered around moments when your plans are being frustrated or obstructed by circumstances or people…  What caused this frustration?  What I wanted, what I wanted to take or get in some situation was hindered.

Paul points us to Christ though, who did not live to please Himself but laid His life down as a sacrifice for us.  He urges us to be like Christ, to follow His example by not living to please ourselves but to serve others for their benefit and their upbuilding.

Today – start by meditating for even just a few moments on Jesus and how He lived, died & rose agin to serve you! Thank Him, praise Him. Then choose today to be like Jesus, flowing out from this heart of thanks, seek to serve others rather than being served and see what God will do through you.

The Extra-ordinary and the ordinary (Luke 1:1-25)

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Are you like me? Sometimes thinking; “If only God could speak to me audibly, then I’d follow or obey!” But then I read the account in Luke leading up to Jesus’ birth and I realize that’s probably not true. I am not sure about you but I sadly tend to give myself more credit than I should – assume I’d have more faith would be more obedient than is the case in reality.

Luke 1 is an account of ordinary people with very ordinary responses to an extra-ordinary God and His dealings with us.

In Luke 1 we read about a guy called Zechariah, he is one of the priests in the temple, he is advanced in years and he and his wife have not been able to have children up to this point. One day while serving God in the temple the angel Gabriel appears to him in response to his prayers.

I identify with Zechariah maybe more than some might as you could say that like me, Zechariah was “in the ministry”. So he should be a man of faith, prayer, should expect God to answer prayer, to be present when we seek Him…

But that is not the case in Luke 1. Zechariah is serving God in the temple, there are a multitude of people are outside praying, he is making sacrifices to God – which is all good. But then God does something! God actually shows up. God shows up in His temple of all places, in response to the prayers of a His people, of all things!

Zechariah is flawed, shocked, even “troubled” Scripture says. He clearly was not expecting this manifestation of the presence of God.

I am slow to criticize Zechariah though, because I see myself in him. Maybe you are like me, often no different from Zechariah? I know that I can easily slip into “low expectation mode” – and I have to fight it off. I pray for healing but do I actually anticipate God responding and healing, I along with others pray for His presence in our meetings every week but would we be shocked if He sent an angel to represent Himself?

Although I have never served in the temple like, Zechariah I do spend my days ministering to God’s people. There are many times that I have prayed for people and they have sadly not been healed but there have been quite a few times that I have prayed for people and they have been healed. And in those moments my response often has been similar to that of Zechariah’s, I have been surprised, even doubtful in the moment of this other persons rejoicing of pain that is gone…!

I wish it were not so but it often has been.

Or we will be driving home from a Sunday meeting where God was tangibly present in some way, and while reflecting on the morning yes we are grateful but sometimes I catch myself in conversation together with Nadine and there is a hint of surprise in the conversation, “wow that was unexpected”, even though what we had just witnessed is what we pray for weekly…!

Are you like me? Like Zechariah?

Have you ever thought, “I will believe if God speaks to me audibly”?

Reading Zechariah makes me wonder whether we will in fact believe in those moments. Zechariah is in the temple, people are praying, an angel of a God appears and makes some monumental and good promises to him and his response is to be terrified, his response is unbelief and a request for more confirmation please.

“And Zechariah said to the angel, “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years.”

“How can I trust you?” – that is essentially what he asks. “How can I believe you?”

Here we have the extra-ordinary (Zechariah is speaking to an angel of God) and a very ordinary response (How can I believe?). We know that Zechariah and his wife Elizabeth had not been able up to this point to have children, we know that Elizabeth was considered barren, so we can empathize with the struggle for faith but Zechariah is speaking to the angel Gabriel after all.

Will we believe even when faced with the extra-ordinary and God speaks to us audibly with a visible manifestation of His glory?

The good news is that a God is very patient and gracious in His dealings with guys like Zechariah, yourself and myself. God could have changed His mind, chosen someone else who was “performing” better, had more faith than Zechariah – but God didn’t!

God is so gracious and forbearing, His work in our lives is always by grace, never by our works our good effort. In my 30+ years of following Jesus, I have had so many “Zechariah moments”, even in the past 11 years of serving God as a pastor, I have still had and still will have so many “Zechariah moments”, but my Father is gracious, He is patient and He loves me very much even though I and my faith are so ordinary.

And for that I am so grateful.

Having said that, my Father and your Father does want us to believe, He does want us to have expectation and faith in Him and for His in-breaking power, and faith is always better than unbelief or just low expectations…

After all, Zechariah’s stumbling faith did cause him to loose his voice for nearly a year! Our unbelief does have consequences, but this is the amazing thing…

God used even that unbelief for a His good plans. God doesn’t waste anything, uses all things to work all things according to His good plans and purposes for us.

I can’t say for sure, but I have a feeling that Zechariah being mute all those months probably ended up being used by God to prepare people for the extraordinary work God was going to do through John in preparation for Jesus Himself. Word would have gotten out about Gabriel’s appearance, even if it was the genesis moment for a game we now call Pictionary. Word would have spread of Zechariah’s being struck mute and sudden burgeoning art career as he tried to communicate with Elizabeth and others about what happened to him and what had been promised. And once John was born to this couple who were previously barren, and Zechariah could speak I have no doubt that his account and his experience prepared the hearts of people for what was going to be an extra-ordinary ministry.

So God can and does use all things for His purposes, even our unbelief, our very ordinary faith. God is so good and gracious, He does not waste anything and can even use our weak faith and low expectations, our being so ordinary to work in extra-ordinary ways to fulfill His amazing purposes for us and for His glory through simple ordinary people like you and I.

I identify with Zechariah, do you? In his story I see the ordinary of my life and the extra-ordinary of God colliding and I am encouraged that God is not shy of ordinary people like me, God is not limited by our weak faith, God is not impatient with us but works through us to bless us and to use us in His amazing purposes, to bring glory to His Son, Jesus.