Jesus for President (Part 1)

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I’m officially sick of politics.

Lies. Deception. Failure to follow through on definite promises. The same old slogans. Selling hope but delivering the opposite. Outdated leaders that don’t understand the people. ‘The better of two evils’ is often how we describe the candidates.

And us Aussies don’t like any of our leaders. We’ve had something ridiculous like 6 prime minsters in the last 7 years (a new record mind you). We just can’t make our minds up. Nobody truly leads with authority. Nobody really makes us want to follow them. The real issues aren’t being properly addressed.

Can I hear an amen?

We just want a fair shake of the sauce bottle. But there’s certainly an aspect where we have to just put up with it. Attempting to overthrow all of the world’s governments is not a good idea. I repeat: not a good idea.

We should consider our government and authority with respect, praying they rule justly. Yet, their rule is just temporary. No government is lasting, secure or faultless.

“The kingdom of heaven is near” – Jesus (Mark 1:15)

Except this one.

Here we have Jesus putting in his ballot paper. Publicly declaring to everyone his full confidence in this kingdom. The line has been drawn.

And even more than that, Jesus promises nothing in this world can rival this kingdom of heaven (Matthew 5:10-11). Not some cheap knock-off or temporary rule of a government with an average leader.

This is the real deal.

Now, we place a lot of different thoughts onto the word kingdom. Medieval stuff like castles, knights, and drawbridges with shark infested waters. But kingdom in its simplest form is just a shortened form of King’s Dominion. 

The activity and reign of the King.

So when Jesus said the kingdom of heaven is near, it can actually be taken literally. Jesus was physically with the people. Therefore, the kingdom was literally near. So if we want to find out what this kingdom is all about, we should look to the activity of the king. We should look to the works and words of Jesus.

Let’s find out how worthy a candidate this Jesus is.

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Glorious Ruins

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The world has some pretty amazing landmarks.

France has the Eiffel Tower. England the Big Ben. USA the Statue of Liberty. Egypt the Pyramids. Australia the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

And these are (to some degree) the face of each respective country. They are all grand sculptures. Incredible works of architecture, structurally secure, flawless pieces of work. A brilliant showcase of what mankind is capable of.

That’s what makes my hometown pretty unique. There are two things iconic of Port Willunga. A broken down jetty and a shipwreck. Not exactly the height of human achievement.

Quite the opposite.

There is a strange beauty in wreckage that has stood the test of time

The shipwreck involved the deaths of many members aboard the ship. What was made structurally secure came to a horrific ending. Likewise the jetty, once very practical and useful to the area, stands as testament of lost relevance.

And yet, these things have become something of an attraction to our area.

Hundreds of people snorkel out to the shipwreck each summer. A cafe has been named after the ship. Heaps of people get married in front of the jetty remains. Tons of people take photos of the sunset through the jetty, which regularly appears on adverts showcasing the raw beauty South Australia has to offer.

Where am I going with this.

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Perhaps the landmarks reflect us as people.

We go about our lives trying to be this ideal work of art. Presenting ourselves and striving towards this image of greatness. Qualified. Confident. Secure. Flawless.

And there’s no wondering why we do this. Society depicts through magazines and advertisements architecturally flawless people. A people structurally secure in wealth and health. Confident in qualifications and relationships. The pinnacle of mankind.

And when we compare ourselves against perceived perfection, flaws surface.

Personal struggles hit peak activity. Social awkwardness steps up a gear. Feelings of inadequacy hit hard. We fail in subjects at school or university. We are made redundant from work. We lose relationships and friendships with people we care deeply about.

All of a sudden we are comparing The Statue of Liberty against a Shipwreck.

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My Uncle posted this as his profile picture.

At first it seemed a little funny, as this is just a photo of some random old dude. We needed answers. Had Tassie really aged him this much? 

He explained. ‘There is beauty in people and our society too often covers over the faults and lines and damage in order to fit in.’

I love this. It really gets to the heart of what it takes to be a human. As much as we try to put our best foot forward, life happens. Situations in life are often very far from perfect.

Perhaps trying to hide all of our scars isn’t the answer.

Our scars tell a story. 

There’s a strange beauty in the wrinkles and sun-torn skin of a weathered individual.

My Dad once ran our Sunday School lessons. I’m slightly biased, but they were literally the most fun ever. There were two activities we all loved.

The first was the Atomic Fireball challenge. Atomic Fireballs were these extremely hot lollies. Straight out of the middle of the earth those things. The challenge was to try and keep just one in your mouth. It was intense stuff. Especially for an 8-10 year old.

This one time a certain curly haired, boisterous kid by name of Joram put about 5 in his mouth at once. I’ve had a weird sense of respect for him since that day.

Our other favourite activity was sharing our scar stories. How it worked was pretty simple. We would sit in something resembling a circle, and show our scars to the group whilst recounting the accident that created them.

Some of the stories were absolute classics. It was always a funny time. Skateboard accidents. Bike crashes. Running into closed screen doors. What once brought us to tears, we could now laugh about in front of our friends.

You see, the scar stood as testament of the healing process.

‘He was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins. Beaten so we could be whole. Whipped so we could be healed.’ -Isaiah 53:5

Jesus. Not some photoshopped, money motivated, perverted picture of perfection.

Perfect in every way. 

And knowing our deepest flaws, Jesus was willingly put through a ridiculously excruciating death. Whipped relentlessly, skin ripped from his back, blood loss in extreme proportions. There were scar stories all over his body.

But not just scars that told a story. Scars that rewrite a story. 

Jesus. Who by profession created new things with nail and wood, willingly submitted himself to his own instruments to make us new (2 Corinthians 5:17). And by his resurrection, Jesus proved even the deepest scars of sin cannot overcome God’s kingdom.

Kingdom literally translated is King’s Dominion – just shortened. So because Jesus smashed sin and death to pieces, his dominion extends beyond death. Because Jesus lives, his kingdom endures.

And we are all given full access to His kingdom (Ephesians 2:18-19). Because in Jesus alone we find the way to truth and fullness of life (John 10:10; 14:6).

Now and beyond the grave.

Jesus rose from death with scarred hands and feet. The scars from the cross did not magically vanish, rather they served as witness to his power over death.

By his wounds we are healed.

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‘For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus…’ – Ephesians 2:10

To be a Christ follower is crazy unique.

We don’t claim to be a Statue of Liberty. We don’t claim to be flawless people. We don’t claim to be a showcase of what mankind is capable of. In fact, we boast in the exact opposite (2 Corinthians 12:9).

We don’t claim to be without fault because we simply aren’t.

In fact, maybe you feel like your life has been an absolute shipwreck. Everything is falling into ruins. Your life has become a story of lost relevance, everything now just a shadow of your past.

But in Jesus, we do claim something amazing has been made of our ruins.

We are made new (Ephesians 2:8-10). Not made new in the absence of our wreckage, as if God turns a blind eye to all our issues. Made new in the presence of our wreckage, that stands as testament of our healing. Wear those scars with dignity.

All will marvel at our wreckage that stands the test of time.

Glorious ruins.

3rd world citizens

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We all care about the poor.

The desperately hungry. Without a home and living on the streets. The people bashed and robbed. Socially ostracised. Those drinking muddy, unpurified water. Nothing at all in their possession except the clothes on their backs. Sick to death.

We all pity such people. We feel sorry for how they live. So we donate money, clothes, water towards their villages. Set up organisations. Raise awareness. All in an attempt to help people in need.

But none of us envy their lifestyles. A safe assumption I hope.

The life of someone in poverty isn’t exactly the peak of the human experience. You would have to be out of your mind to desire this life.

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” – Jesus

And then Jesus goes and says that. What the heck.

These were his first words in The Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7). If you know anything about speeches and essays, introductions are used to set the scene and grab attention. Jesus must have been very aware of these factors. His first sentence alone is shocking. 

Picture it with me. The disciples are waiting as Jesus prepares to talk. Religious dudes gather expectantly for inside knowledge on how to perform miracles, or how to get into God’s good books. Intrigued locals join the crowd to hear from this amazing teacher. Everyone is hanging on his first words.

And then for some crazy reason, Jesus starts by promising poor people the kingdom of heaven. Talk would’ve run riot in the town. If newspapers were a thing, they would’ve gone bezerk. Social media would’ve been in absolute overdrive.

The prerequisite to citizenship in heaven is to be poor in spirit. God’s kingdom is promised to poor people.

Crazy stuff.  

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Malcolm Turnbull came under fire recently.

The Australian PM was spotted giving $5 to a poor man on the streets of Melbourne. On the surface, it seemed like a nice gesture. However, news outlets and social media went nuts when they discovered Mr.Turnbull was clutching a stack of notes in his left hand. People were quick to label him greedy and selfish.

The hypocrisy in much of the criticisms of Mr.Turnbull are very real. I’d suggest 99% of those voicing hate against Mr.Turnbull for this act should take a hard look at themselves.

But the fact remains. There is disappointment that with so much money in his possession, Malcolm could only manage $5. That the leader of our people, seeing the poorest in his society, gave that which wouldn’t cost him much.

Whether or not you are critical of Mr.Turnbull is irrelevant. My point is this. Jesus sees the poorest in his society and promises the absolute maximum in return. Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 

Dead set ridiculous. Jesus promises everything to people who have nothing. To put this into perspective, it would be like Mr.Turnbull giving $100 million to the homeless man. We are on that sort of scale of crazy.

But to get the reward, we are called to be poor in spirit. Is Jesus telling us to be desperately hungry? Vulnerable and on the streets? Are we being told be sick and thirsty and homeless and posses nothing – all for the sake of heaven?

That’s ludicrous. That’s insane.

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WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE POOR IN SPIRIT?

‘Though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that by his poverty he could make you rich.’ – 2 Corinthians 8:9

In understanding what poor in spirit means, it makes sense to look at how Jesus treated poor people. Unsurprisingly, one of the most defining features of Jesus was the way he sought the lost (Luke 19:10).

Jesus welcomed in the outcasts. Gave lasting food to the poor and helpless. Jesus invited people despised by the world over for dinner. Those with leprosy and blindness he came into contact with. He healed them. He talked with them (Matthew 11:5).

He came into their world when nobody else would.

Jesus, the very definition of sinless and perfect, consistently and intentionally came into contact with disgraceful sinners (Matthew 9:10). But Jesus didn’t just come into contact with poor people. He identified with them.

Jesus came from a small village, born to a poor couple in a lowly animal stable. He wasn’t too high and mighty for work – heck, he laboured for years as a carpenter. The very Son of God lived and breathed amongst poor people. He understood everyday struggles. He didn’t remove himself from pain – quite the opposite.

Surely this tells us something about how God intended to reach the world.

“Stand up, pick up your mat, and go home” – Jesus

Jesus said this to a paralysed man.

So you can see how crazy this statement is. Jesus literally told someone who physically can’t walk to do exactly that. Walk.

Try telling someone in a wheelchair to just get up and walk next time you’re in public. See how that works out for you. You might just experience the miracle of a backhand to the face.

Yet immediately after Jesus said this, a man who had never used his legs before stood up and walked (Mark 2:1-12). Let’s just appreciate how cool that is for a second. Just ridiculous.

But that’s not the only ridiculous thing about this situation.

Back in the day, sickness was considered a punishment for disobedience. It was a common belief that God inflicted sickness upon people as result of sin. Such people living in sickness were often despised and not allowed to live in community with anyone, not even their own family (Numbers 5:2).

Sin had to be expelled from the community so the people could stay clean.

Yet for some reason this Jesus dude felt like it was okay to welcome in a sick, poor and sinful person. So sin had now polluted the community. Great. Thanks a lot Jesus.

But in a mad plot twist, Jesus defies all laws of physics and medical expertise and just heals the man of his sickness. The people were in utter disbelief. It would’ve been like watching someone discover the cure to cancer. This was significant.

Why did Jesus heal this poor, sick and sinful man?

Through this situation, Jesus was sticking up his hand as the solution to the crippling disease of sin. This Jesus was sticking his hand up as God himself. No other explanation would suffice. Who else could be so perfect as to heal someone of imperfection?

No longer would people have to be expelled from the community. Sin that once left humanity paralysed had now met its cure.

Jesus.

Isn’t Christianity just a crutch for those who can’t make it themselves?

A common criticism of Christianity. Funny thing is, we actually agree with it.

John Piper (in a sermon) highlights an interesting thing about this criticism and labelling of our ‘crutch’ as being problematic. He suggested that nobody looks at an injured person with a crutch, and identifies the crutch as being problematic.

The crutch is the solution, isn’t it? 

Here’s where the problem lies. If Christianity is a crutch, then it is only good for cripples. And many people don’t consider themselves cripples. And so it is therefore offensive to an individual’s self- sufficiency to be labelled as needing help.

This is why Jesus is so counter cultural.

Jesus came to provide himself as the crutch for all. The solution to our deepest sickness.

Humanity was paralysed in sin. But through Jesus death on the cross, our greatest sickness is dealt with. As a result we can boldly approach God. Full confidence in the saving power of our crutch, which allows us to walk in the ways of our Father.

And this completely contrasts our way of thinking.

If we want a job, we work hard and present ourselves well. If we want to be better at sport, we train harder. If we want to get better grades, we study harder. If we want to get anywhere in life, it takes our own effort.

Then Jesus comes along and flips it. To be poor in spirit is to realise the state of our sickness without Jesus. To be poor in spirit is understanding that before God, we have nothing to give. All the work Jesus has already done.

It is finished. 

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PULL UP A SEAT

My Dad wrote a letter when I was born. In this letter he explains the reasons behind choosing my name – and qualities he hoped I would cling to.

Dad used the biblical Jonathan as an example of holding high the qualities of loyalty and friendship in my life. Jonathan was a very loyal man, who had a strong friendship with David. However, Dad suggests (in his letter) it is what comes of their friendship that is equally significant.

Eventually Jonathan died. To honour the deep friendship David once shared with his friend, he found a lone descendant from Jonathan’s line, a cripple called Mephibosheth. To this lowly, dishonoured man he gave the right to eat at the king’s table from that day on (2 Samuel 9).

Because of David and Jonathan’s strong relationship, a man lowly and crippled was given access to eat at the King’s table.

‘God has reconciled you to himself through the death of Christ in his physical body. As a result, he has brought you into his own presence…’ – Colossians 1:22

Jesus has a perfect relationship with God.

And by extension, Jesus death and resurrection brings us into the presence of the King. Into the very presence of God. God invites us to eat at his table because of the deep relationship shared with Jesus Christ.

Lowly, hungry, flawed and crippled in sin – yet God chooses us to eat with him. Through Jesus work on the cross, we can claim our seat at the table.

“Tell a broken, crippled and dying world that they may come and eat at the King’s table.”

Pull up a seat.

 

Jesus: Really Satisfies

 

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Snickers have an awesome marketing team.

In one of their ads, an old man is attempting to pull off a big jump on his motorbike. Yes you heard me right. But the old dude is super confident about his chances. He thinks he has the jump covered. However, in a twist of events, old dude starts to lose control of his bike. He takes off from the jump but, you guessed it, he fails miserably. He face-plants into the ground.

Eventually a mate walks over and hands the old man a Snickers bar, because he “becomes a cranky old man when he’s hungry.” The old man angrily takes the bar, and after taking a bite, instantly morphs into a young man. He has become a new man. No longer hungry – he is back to his normal self and ready to hit the jump again. The commercial ends with their simple catch-line:

“You’re not you when you’re hungry. Snickers really satisfies.”

I think a round of applause is in order. That’s the sort of advertising we turn the television on for. That’s the sort of commercial we all want in-between overs of the cricket. Inspirational stuff.

No I’m not a Snickers salesman in disguise. This is going somewhere. Stick with me here.

“I am the bread of life” – Jesus

Like the Snickers advert, Jesus claims to fill our deepest hunger. Jesus claims to be really satisfying. And Jesus used bread as his analogy of being satisfied.

I know. Disappointing stuff.

Of all the things to compare yourself with, Jesus calls himself bread. Boring old bread. Not the pizza of life. Not the cheeseburger of life. Not the snickers of life. The bread of life.

Shoutout to all you gluten free people out there. Sometimes I wonder what goes through your minds when Jesus calls himself the bread of life. You the real MVP.

The question remains: why did Jesus equate himself to bread?

Let’s get a roll on.

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FOOD FOR LIFE

“I am the living bread…anyone who eats of this bread will live forever, and this bread, which I offer so the world may live, is my flesh” – Jesus

Our basic human right.

When we’re talking the most basic rights, sufficient food and adequate water supply is deadly important (literally). Forget other social issues that the media like to give more weight to. Food and water is the most basic, necessary, vital human need.

Now we’ve got to understand some context. Bread was to the Jews what rice is to Asia. Their staple diet. The food most routinely eaten. It took up a dominant portion of their regular food consumption, providing the required energy needs to that certain group of people.

So by equating himself to bread, Jesus is saying he is essential for life. A basic human right that all people should have access to. Vital in growth and development.

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Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs (pictured above) aims to understand what motivates people.

His theory was that people are motivated to achieve certain needs. When one need is fulfilled, a person seeks to fulfil the next one, and so on. The needs start at the very basic level (Physiological) and work up to the top (Self-Actualisation). Some pyramids add another level on top, Transcendence, which is essentially seeking to help others reach their potential.

Many people have often labelled life as The Pursuit of Happiness.

For the most part, I think it’s pretty spot on. We generally try to fill our lives with things we enjoy. I doubt many people leave home each day intentionally looking for ways to increase their sadness. We all have a deep need for belonging. Good friendships, relationships, family. We try to fill our lives with things we enjoy doing. Activities that are fun. Things that challenge us.

Essentially, we are up in the top three tiers of the pyramid. Satisfying the needs that only privileged people can reach. But these are all secondary issues

Jesus saw a people starving themselves spiritually. He saw a people that thought pretty highly of themselves, yet bypassing their most basic needs. Avoiding their basic need for him whilst trying to climb to the top of the pyramid.

I’ll say this once: we are never going to reach the top of the pyramid without a solid foundation (Matthew 7:24-27). All we have worked for, that pyramid we climb, will come crashing down at our final breath.

Death puts an end to all pursuits of happiness. Mankind has its fate sealed. Everything we enjoy now is just temporary. The wages of sin are death (Romans 6:23), and death separated us from God.

Morbid stuff.

But Jesus had intense compassion on the human situation (John 3:16). He saw a people doomed for death and chasing secondary issues. He loved the world so much that he provided the solution to our mess.

Himself. 

“Give us today our daily bread” – Jesus

This was pretty cheeky of Jesus.

The disciples had just asked Jesus how they should pray. He responded with what we affectionately know as The Lord’s Prayer, which includes the words “give us today our daily bread.”

Some might have (justifiably) thought Jesus was talking about actual, physical bread. But Jesus wasn’t talking about actual bread here. He was referring to himself.

Jesus was essentially rehashing the same awesome message: I am your staple diet – come to me regularly. I am your basic human right, let me grow and develop you into the person you were made to be. I am the provider of all the energy and motivation you could need. I am the solid foundation that your life needs to be built upon.

I am.

Jesus provided himself as the bread for all – that we could be completely satisfied through him. Whoever comes to him will never hunger again (John 6:35).

That through him we would have life, and have it to the full (John 10:10).

It is no coincidence that God uses bread as a symbol of his provision throughout history.

The feeding of the 5000. 

People have flocked from everywhere to see Jesus. To hear his teachings, talk or be healed by him. Everyone just can’t get enough of this Jesus. Time passes. The huge crowd eventually grow hungry. The disciples, seeing the obvious dilemma regarding the food-to-people ratio, suggest Jesus should send the people home so they can buy their own food.

Jesus, not known for following the rules of physics, feeds the thousands with just five loaves and two fish. Just another day at the office for the Son of God.

The disciples and the crowd are obviously amazed. Gobsmacked. Somehow Jesus managed to feed a huge crowd from an extremely little amount of food.

What was the creed behind Jesus doing this?

On this particular day, Jesus was providing for the people’s physical need for bread. But through this situation, Jesus calls all people to a type of bread that doesn’t perish (John 6:27). That doesn’t make them hungry again. He is the bread that gives life, that truly satisfies.

Jesus doesn’t just call himself the bread of life and then fail to provide bread. What a massive disappointment that would be.

Jesus demonstrates here that there are no limits to his provision. There are no limits to his power. Everyone can eat of his bread and be satisfied.

Heck, there are even leftovers.

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THE BIG PICTURE

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied” – Jesus

Cast your minds back to the Snickers commercial.

We have a big jump ahead of us. Life. We try to satisfy our lives with all types of things. Relationships. Good times. Success. Everything is going great. We start revving our engines towards the ramp. Everything is cool. Everything is under control.

Until we actually hit the jump.

The jump proves too big for anyone to make. Humanity always falls short of the mark.

Forget climate change. Forget the economy. Forget equality. The biggest problem the world faces today is death. Nobody avoids death, everyone falls victim to it. None of us can build a ramp and jump over death. Everyone that tries ends up face-planting into the ground. Confused. Angry. Hurt. Dirty. Hopeless.

Enter Jesus.

He finds humanity in its mess. Caring so much for the world he comes and extends a hand to us. Offering life. Full of compassion he meets us in the dust. Expressing his deep longing that we stop filling ourselves with that which only he can satisfy.

And when we take up his offer, we become a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17). We become like a new person. We take part in the greatest testimony anyone could ever have: that we are not saved from death, but through it.

That ramp which once limited us is now not even an obstacle. The gap has been bridged.

Jesus: eternally satisfying. 

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Just the rubber band

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Each day looks very different for me. Take a few weeks ago as an example.

I (just) finished 3 assignments and sat an exam for university. That took up most of my week. But I also worked in a fruit stall at my local markets. I helped lead at youth group. I caught up with my church. I worked as a dishy in a restaurant. I went for a few bike rides. I went hiking with one mate, had coffee with another friend, and saw another mate in hospital.

But it’s so easy to forget God in the chaos. With so much going on, I regularly need to be reminded and encouraged of my purpose here on earth. Each day looks vastly different, but I need the same reminder each day to keep me on track.

And I use a rubber band on my wrist as this reminder.

Why?

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Rubber bands hold and contain things. Often I find rubber bands lying at the foot of letterboxes. They are most often used to hold a bunch of letters, pamphlets or magazines together until they reach the destination (letterbox).

Breaking news, I know.

However, the rubber band has almost no value. Heck, a whole bag of these rubber bands only costs a couple of dollars. Once used, they’re discarded onto the ground. Most people walk past or on them without noticing. They’re pretty insignificant.

What makes the band significant is the message it helped deliver.

We as Christians are the rubber band. Like the rubber band, we hold and contain an awesome message to tell the world. We are called to share the awesome message of complete and utter forgiveness, unfailing love and ridiculous joy through Jesus. Eternity and perfect community with him and his people.

But like the rubber band, we aren’t very valuable in ourselves. Sure, you and I are OK at some things. But we aren’t hugely significant in the global context of things. In the history of the world, our lives aren’t exactly bookmarked.

However, we take on tremendous value because of the message we carry.

‘God chose things despised by the world, things counted as nothing at all, and used them…’ – 1 Corinthians 1:28

So when others point out our flaws and failings, we can confidently agree with them. In fact we can boast in our weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9). The creator of the universe chose us, insignificant and flawed, to contain and proclaim to the world his message of hope. His strength where we are weak – now that’s something to boast about.

All glory to him.

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“I did not come with eloquence or wisdom… I came to you in weakness and fear, and with much trembling” – Paul [1 Corinthians 2:1-3]

Paul understood being a rubber band well. He told everyone he wasn’t a crash-hot speaker. He let everyone know that he didn’t have amazing wisdom. In fact, he told the crowds that he was weak and scared.

Paul realised he wasn’t significant to the message he was giving.

All he really understood was that he had to deliver the message he possessed. Nothing would stop him. He understood the significance of what he contained, and despite knowing all his weaknesses and failings, put pride aside for its delivery. God worked through the flawed, weak, not particularly intelligent man that was Paul – and did amazing things through his life.

What a testimony.

Maybe we should take a leaf out of his booklet. Our identity with Christ and his message of hope is what gives our lives meaning beyond the grave. Nothing else. May we never lose sight of the significance to this message we contain.

I leave one challenge to all the rubber bands reading this:

In humility, stretch yourself

The Race Ahead

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I love cycling.

And I don’t use the word love lightly either. At times I wonder how I’d have gone on if not for cycling. It was my release – huge to me in my high school years, and I still love to get out when I can.

There are tons of things I love about cycling.

Summiting a mountain solo. Alone, but not lonely. Guided by my bike light; a hum in the darkness. Morning fog thickening as I rise higher. Sounds of my raspy breathing. The occasional dog bark or cow’s moo. The chain cranking as it propels the wheels around. Life’s problems fading on each pedal stroke. The sun rising over Adelaide – a whole city wakes from sleep. Wind in face as I’m propelled down the mountain. Sweat in hair, eyes wide open. Feeling of aching, tired legs. I’m stuffed, but I’ve never felt more alive. Back home for coffee before school.

I love it.

And some thought I was a bit mental. The amount of time I put into it each day was somewhat unbelievable to them. But to me, it wasn’t crazy at all.

There was something about cycling that made dedication to it easy.

Getting up at 5:30 every morning – rain, hail or shine. Making training programs. Spending hours on the bike. Rarely eating bad food or having soft drink. Shaving my legs (don’t hold it against me). Following other dedicated cyclists on social media. I would admire the professionals, talk about them, watch their races.

I was committed, but I was loving it. The sacrifices I was making were nothing in comparison to the perceived rewards of joy, temporary release of problems, and the increase in fitness.

So where am I going with this.

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Paul uses the analogy of running a race to explain how the Christian life should look. It goes like this:

‘…let us lay aside every weight, and sin that clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race set before us.’ – Hebrews 12:1

And my past dedication to cycling should look like my dedication to Christ.

Just like I would lay aside bad eating and drinking, and the minimal weight that was my leg hair – this passage says we are to lay aside every weight that slows us in our pursuit of God. Anything that gets in the way. What a statement.

I was regularly setting aside time early in the morning, 5:30 – to dedicate myself to cycling before the day. In the same way, there is a need for me to dedicate myself to God and his will before every day. To seek first his kingdom and his righteousness.

All this cycling took endurance, perseverance. I wasn’t going to get much better at the sport after a week of cycling. It took a long time. But as I’ve stated, I found huge joy in the dedication to it.

Likewise, growing as a Christian and forming a strong relationship with God is a life-long pursuit. We need endurance. I need endurance – I sure don’t claim to have this covered. But we find immense joy in the reward ahead of us – eternity with Jesus and perfect community with his people.

How much greater is that reward than temporary gains in fitness!

cadel

‘Looking to Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith. Who for the joy set before him, endured the cross…’ – Hebrews 12:2

As part of my cycling addiction – I would follow professional bike riders and watch some of their races. I particularly admired the likes of Cadel Evans, Lance Armstrong and Chris Froome.

Whilst Lance Armstrong might not the best example nowadays, the fact remains. I admired each of these men’s grittiness and strength of character. The way they shone above the rest through sheer determination.

Particularly in Cadel, who had this way of making suffering his friend.

Cadel was characterised by his ability to endure. Pain and suffering written all over his face, yet this uncanny ability to power through it – even in the late stages of a grand tour (see picture above). These men embraced pain, adversity – but found a weird sense of joy and success through it.

In a similar way, Paul says (in Hebrews 12:2, highlighted above) we should look to Jesus as our example in this race of life.

We are encouraged not just because Jesus endured suffering, but that suffering was central to Jesus’ victory.

Cadel pales in comparison to what Jesus went through, and I wouldn’t ever wish to put Jesus on the same level as Cadel. But for the sake of this cycling analogy stuff – understand the context of the comparison I’m making.

Jesus is the picture of suffering if there ever was one.

In a prophecy made 680 odd years before Jesus was born, Jesus was described as becoming The Lord’s suffering servant. A man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief, oppressed and treated harshly (Isaiah 53). The prophecy was spot on.

Jesus, the Son of God was whipped, skin tore off his body. Blood poured freely. Thorns were shoved into his skull. He was tortured, spat on, crucified, killed. Unrecognisable. God turned his face away.

So, all this pain and suffering – how did Jesus endure it all?

Because the joy set before him was so great. His love for us is so much greater than the (literally) excruciating pain he endured. He was making a way for us, his people, to be in full relationship with him.

And we are called to live with the same goal in mind. We cannot fully mature in faith without trials. Therefore, we should be careful not to betray God’s invitation to maturity. But in the same breath, we can find strength in knowing all suffering, all pain on earth, is just temporary in our pursuit of his kingdom.

“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” – Jesus

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IMG_2647

Sometimes the wind will be at our backs as we gun it downhill. Life is just a cruise along the esplanade at sunset. Everything is going great.

But then we will turn a corner. The wind is suddenly all in our face. Rain is spitting into our eyes. Ahead of us is a big-uphill. The chain comes off, a wheel is punctured. It’s remarkable how often these things seem to happen all at once – in cycling and in life.

What was once an easy cruise has become a battle against the elements. A battle against our will to push through. Others whizz past on the other side of the road as they head downhill, wind at their backs. The other way looks so much easier as we trudge uphill. We begin to envy other’s lives and the lack of suffering they have. Turning around to join them becomes an appealing prospect.

But we do not turn around. We keep moving in the right direction, slow as it is may be. For we know the strong winds and the hill climbs build up perseverance, character, and hope (Romans 5:4). Keeping our eyes set on the goal ahead of us, looking to he who completely shattered the elements of death itself.

The Everest we face today just an ant mound in comparison to the joy ahead of us.

Eyes set.

God’s Masterpiece

masterpiece1

When you look at the canvas of your life, what do you see?

Maybe you see it riddled with mistakes. The lines might not be straight. Parts of the drawing have gone outside of the lines. The paper is torn, dirty. Stains splattered across the painting serve as a constant reminder of past mistakes [1]. People in the painting are blurry, once good friends have become un-recognisable.

No form of eraser or glue can fix the mess which you’ve created.

What would you give to start again? How much money would you pay to have your messy, torn up canvas turned into a masterpiece?

For we are God’s masterpiece.’ – Ephesians 2:9

We don’t become God’s masterpiece after we have fixed up the canvas of our life. Not God’s masterpiece once we’ve sorted out those messy lines and torn edges.  We are God’s masterpiece. Not in a few weeks, months or years. We already are.

His prized possession.

Saying “we are God’s masterpiece” is one thing, believing it is a whole new beast. But living in knowledge of it, for many people, is one hill too many.

And it’s something I struggle to actually believe and live out too.

Surely we all see flaws in our character and faults we’ve made in life? Maybe it is just me. I can recall numerous times when I’ve taken a step back to look at my canvas and not been all that proud.

This struggle brings me to a few questions:

  • Considering my past, how can I still be called a masterpiece?
  • What does it mean to live knowing I am God’s prized possession?

Let’s paint a picture of what it looks like.

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THE ILLUSTRATION

mona-lisa

When I think of a masterpiece the Mona Lisa comes to mind, the world’s most famous painting, painted by Leonardo Da Vinci. So for the sake of discovering what being God’s masterpiece implies, we will use this as our analogy.

A painter or sculptor puts a lot of time into making a piece of art. Some sources say that the nose of the lady in the Mona Lisa took 12 years to paint, although I tend to question Leonardo’s potential procrastination tendencies. But you get the idea I’m sure – a masterpiece is not made overnight.

Often a painter will base their picture off an image of sorts, either through a small picture or a model sitting in front of them. Leonardo Da Vinci used a model in front of him – and his attempt to re-create the image of this person is depicted in the painting.

A painter develops a lot of pride for their painting. Once completed, many present their piece of art in public places. It brings joy to see the amount of time and effort put into the painting was all worth it.

The Mona Lisa is completely and utterly a reflection of Leonardo Da Vinci. When experts comment on the painting, they direct all praise to him, the painter.

A piece of art cannot boast of itself – it can only boast of its creator.

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DRAWING THE COMPARISON 

God put a lot of time and thought into creating us. God says even before he made the world he knew and loved us (Ephesians 1:4). I don’t know about you – but that’s really knowing your creation. That before he made us, we were known by him. He specially made us, knitted each of us together in our (respective) mother’s womb (Psalm 139:13).

God doesn’t mass produce his pieces of art – he isn’t required to meet a quota each day. Each piece of art he creates is special. We are all unique, known by him.

We are the workmanship of God himself, made in his image (Genesis 1:27). Essentially, God has created us to look and be like him. Let that sink in. God himself has created us to resemble him.

The Lord takes pleasure in us, his people and his creation (Psalm 149:4). Just like a painter takes pride in his piece of art, so too God genuinely loves and cares for his creation. How awesome that is!

Therefore, as the masterpieces of God, we cannot boast of our good aspects of character. We cannot boast of our good skills/characteristics in certain areas. As his masterpiece, all praise and glory should be directed to our great artist.

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SOMETHING TO BRUSH OVER

‘For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.’ – Ephesians 2:10

Through death and resurrection, Jesus claims to have carried all of our mistakes. He carried the collective, the whole world’s canvas – riddled with mistakes and errors – and provided for us a clean sheet. God has created us anew in Christ Jesus. Through him, we can claim the beginning of his work in us – to becoming his masterpiece.

But don’t hear me wrong in this. There is no doubt our mistakes have human consequences, and becoming a Christian doesn’t just wipe them all away from having happened in the first place. Stating the obvious I know, but important to say regardless.

Rather I believe we can suffer, recover and learn from our mistakes, whilst knowing we are completely forgiven of them through Jesus. My point, and what God has told us through scripture, is that we are already his masterpiece because of the image we were made in – and that was of God himself. Nothing we do can separate us from that.

Furthermore, as God’s masterpieces we were not made to just sit on a mantle and be admired (this is where the analogy gets a bit dodgy). As highlighted above in the bible verse, we have been made new so that we can do the good works he planned for us.

Therefore we are advocates for the living God (2 Corinthians 5:20). I’ve always hated the word responsibility – it usually implies me doing things I don’t want to do – clean my room, do the dishes, be an adult, etc. But this responsibility is different. What a massive privilege, yet huge responsibility we have to represent our awesome creator!

play-your-role

Hawthorn Football Club’s motto is to ‘Play Your Role’. Everyone plays a different role and position on the field. Yet when each part is executed correctly, the whole team can (and has proven to) be successful.

It is the same for us as people scattered throughout the world. We are all placed in different situations. We serve different roles and positions – some of us may be pastors, others may be teachers. Some may work at their local shop, others may be homeless.

As individuals, we are just one piece. Yet we all play a part in God’s big jigsaw (plan) – in the workplace, sports, school and social arenas. One piece in a jigsaw is insignificant, somewhat useless. But together, have the potential to create an awesome picture.

Let God work out the puzzle – whilst we stay present in his house.

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THE FINISHING TOUCHES

‘They took the thirty pieces of silver – the price at which [Jesus] was valued by the people of Israel’- Matthew 27:9

30 pieces of silver was the same price used as compensation for a slave’s accidental death (Exodus 21:32). Significant however, is this payment for Jesus wasn’t made after the event of death, as compensation for some sort of accident. It was made prior to Jesus death. The people were signalling their intentions, essentially saying “this man is dead to us.” 

Here we have Jesus, the Son of God. His own people and creation valued him as nothing. To them Jesus was as good as a slave, dead to them (Mark 10:44-45).

But despite the world completely rejecting him and treating him as nothing, Jesus knew his value in God. That despite being whipped, spat upon and taunted by all, Jesus’ self-worth was not based on other people’s opinions.

His identity was found in God. 

When we find ourselves against the world, the subject of ‘persecution’ of sorts, we need to realise our worth in our Father’s eyes. When others point out the flaws and mistakes on the canvas of our life, we can confidently redirect them to the clean canvas that Jesus has given us access to. And in that, we can truly begin to become the masterpiece we were made to be.

“How deep the Father’s love for us, how vast beyond all measure. That he should give his only Son, to make a wretch his treasure”

So I’ll ask again: when you look at the canvas of your life, what do you see?

You may see a mess, nothing is even remotely close to perfect. You might only see the broken pieces of mistakes and flaws in your life.

But our broken pieces have been made a mosaic.

Re-assembled in him.

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REFERENCES

[1] Skit Guys, S 2015, Our Mess, God’s Masterpiece, online video, December 27, accessed 27 April 2016, <https://skitguys.com/videos/item/our-mess-gods-masterpiece&gt;.

[2] Gibson, T 2013, ‘God’s Masterpiece’, Image, 5 February, accessed 15 April 2016, <http://www.lightbearers.org/gods-masterpiece/&gt;.

Uncompromised Deliverance [Daniel 6]

 

Uncompromised

The story of Daniel in the lion’s den is an awesome story, one I’ve heard a number of times growing up. However, just recently I was impacted by the story of Daniel in a  different way. It was whilst listening to a sermon from our pastor (Andrew), when a picture came to mind (drawn above).

I don’t claim this is a ‘prophetic painting’, or even necessarily say it directly inspired by God. Considering my level of art expertise – I doubt this stuff had divine intervention (although I am the least artistic person I know, so maybe this is a miracle in itself).

What is most important is to direct our focus to God in this situation, considering how he did (and continues to do) the impossible.

This is just my way of expressing an interesting thought that came to mind. I’ll try to explain my thinking into how this picture relates to the story of Daniel.

But first, some context.

Daniel was one of three administrators to the kings and high officials, to supervise and protect the king’s best interests. Daniel was a man of integrity. He was faithful, responsible and trustworthy. So much so that when others became jealous of him and were looking for reasons to kick him out of government, they found nothing. They couldn’t find fault in this guy.

Knowing he had a faith with some God, these jealous co-workers hatched a plan. They managed to convince the King (Darius) to set a new law in place: For thirty days if anyone prays to anything except the King, they would be thrown into the lion’s den.

Having heard this new law, Daniel still went home and prayed as he usually did. In fact, he continued to pray three times a day from the view of his window. Daniel was later found out for praying and was sent to the lion’s den, despite the King’s efforts to stop the ordeal (he valued Daniel pretty dang highly).

The next morning, the King came to check if Daniel was alive, fearing the worst. Daniel responds from the den, giving praise to God who had sent an angel to shut the mouths of the lions.

God snatched victory from the jaws of lions (defeat). One of the best comeback performances of all time if you like – would have made for an excellent highlights package (if cameras were a thing). But we still have the match report in the Bible, a trustworthy historical source. An awesome summary of God’s deliverance in a situation where the odds for victory were ridiculous, next to impossible.

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THE PICTURE EXPLAINED

The clenched fist is universally seen as a sign of defiance, or rebellion. It has been used in various movements across the world, where people stand firm against an event or issue. Unfortunately the clenched fist is often characterised by the ‘white supremacy’ movement. Recent uses of the clenched fist have also appeared in logos to represent certain groups, such as the band Rise Against or the AFL team Port Power (subtle plug). Whether a large scale global movement or a smaller scale arts/sporting group, many utilise this image as their sign of defiance, solidarity or non-conformity.

However the clenched fist is also a sign of the desperate need to be saved. Something I’m sure many (especially us Australians) learn early in life is that if you’re drowning, not to wave open-palmed for help, as the signal may be confused as having fun, saying hello, etc. We are told to raise a clenched fist to indicate we are drowning, need help.

Daniel, in the story of the lion’s den, typifies both fists.

Daniel was defiant. Andrew (in his sermon) described Daniel as being ‘uncompromised’ in his convictions. He was not willing to let the world sway his faith in God. Yet despite this stand of faith, Daniel was also in desperate need of saving. He was about to be thrown into a den of hungry lions, seemingly looking death in the face(s).

Daniel was facing his ‘drowning moment’, if you like. Despite his integrity, his willingness to defy the world – things weren’t looking flash. He needed help.

But through the situation God rewarded Daniel’s uncompromising faith, regardless of circumstance. He showed Daniel first-hand the promised deliverance God would give him in the den (hence play on words in picture title).

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DRAWING THE COMPARISON

The Bible has many stories where people have suffered seemingly impossible, potentially disastrous situations. But because of their faith, have been saved.

God didnt save Noah from the flood, but through it – providing insight and knowledge prior to the event. God didn’t save Shadrach, Meshash and Abednego from the fire, but through it – ensuring none of them were even burnt. God didn’t save Daniel from the lion’s den, but through it – shutting the lions mouths so they couldn’t harm him.

God doesn’t hold his children back from experiencing hard times. In fact, he didn’t hold himself back. In this life, we are not held back from entering the lions den. We are not held back from the fires we are thrown into.

But we are promised one thing – deliverance beyond the grave.

You may not experience a once-off, life changing experience like Daniel in the Den. Maybe you think your life story is pretty boring, average at best.

But truth is, we already have a testimony far greater than any other.

That we are not saved from death, but through it. 

 

 

The Good Shepherd

good-shepherd

“I am the good shepherd; I know my own sheep, and they know me.” – Jesus

One of Jesus’ most famous sayings.

If you’ve had a Christian upbringing of sorts, it is likely you have heard this story in some form before. In truth, this story encompasses many ideas, much of which has been analysed and picked-apart by people heaps smarter than myself.

Even so, in my experience of people attempting to explain this story, often they look into the ‘dumbness’ of a sheep, and apply it to our need to be guided in life. I don’t disagree with this, don’t get me wrong. Sheep are pretty dumb animals in the eyes of humans. They’re out and out stupid. And similarly, us humans are pretty small when in comparison to an all knowing and loving creator. I agree – we don’t stack up well.

However, I do believe this passage really emphasises that Jesus is the good shepherd. It doesn’t talk about the bad qualities of sheep, rather the good qualities of the shepherd. So that is where our focus will be coming from.

In keeping to this focus, it is important we ask a few questions:

  • What did Jesus mean when he called himself the good shepherd?
  • What were the implications of it, and how can we apply it to our own lives?

Time to unpack this a little.

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In the book Step by Step (Keeys), it says ‘shepherds 2000 years ago were near the bottom of the social ladder’…’they [shepherds] were rarely religious Jews as they could not keep all the laws whilst shepherding sheep.’ [1]

“shepherds…were near the bottom of the social ladder”

So for Jesus to come out and make this statement that he is our shepherd was massive. The people at the time didn’t take (or understand) this analogy very well, as the Bible records some in the crowd saying “he’s demon possessed and out of his mind. Why listen to a man like that?” (John 10:20).

I mean, you can’t blame them in a sense. Here’s a man claiming to be the son of God. He’s claiming creation of everything and everyone in existence. And now he’s also claiming to be..yep, you guessed it. A shepherd.

Jesus was obviously trying to make a point – he was putting himself out there.

So, what was he trying to say to us? Why does Jesus – who claims to be our creator and saviour – also claim to be our good shepherd?

Let’s break it down further.

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A DAY IN THE LIFE OF A SHEPHERD

A shepherd’s life 2000 years ago  was not easy. It was more than an occupation, rather, a lifestyle.

A shepherd’s name, literally translated, is a combination of the words ‘sheep’ and ‘herd’. And that is exactly what they did – herd and protect their sheep.

Many shepherds lived on their own (nomads), away from other people and society. There was never a set beginning/end to a shepherds work. Safety of the flock was at risk through the day and night. Because of this, some shepherds had (small) huts which they shared with sheep. But most often the shepherds would just sleep in the same fields that the sheep were in each night.

A shepherd was responsible for the daily needs of the sheep, and would regularly lead the flock to places with water supply and adequate grass.

As mentioned earlier, shepherds were often languishing low on the ‘social ladder’. They were the outcasts, somewhat disregarded by the higher authorities and people of status, or power.

If other animals came to attack the flock, it was the shepherds’ responsibility to protect them. A shepherd from before Jesus’ time on earth, David, said that ‘when a lion or a bear came and took a lamb from the flock, [David] went out after him and attacked him.’ (1 Samuel 17:34-35).

It’s important to note that, when a predator such as a wolf came, sheep were completely useless. Without a shepherd, they’d just be torn apart. In extreme cases, a shepherd would die trying to protect the sheep. However, often the shepherd would run away, as they were usually not the owners of the sheep – just the ‘hired hands’ (John 10:12-13).

A genuine care for the flock was developed by shepherds, many said to have named each of their sheep [2]. The sheep would grow fond of the shepherd too.

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THE MAIN IDEA

Jesus is the good shepherd.

Jesus, translated as ‘Yehoshua’ in Hebrew, is a combination of the words ‘God’ and ‘save’ [3]. And that is exactly what Jesus set out to do – save his people..his sheep.

Jesus pulled himself from heaven’s ‘society’ and placed himself amongst us, his own flock. He didn’t stay far from us, out of love he came right down into our mess. Jesus took up residence with us, in order to save us. Not only that, Jesus claims he has prepared a place for us in heaven (John 14:2).

Jesus provides for us. Just like a shepherd leads their flock to grasslands and water, so too Jesus promises to give to us our daily needs. In Matthew 6:26, Jesus explains how he provides even to the daily needs of birds. And we are far more valuable to him than the birds! We don’t have to worry, for our shepherd knows all our needs (Matthew 6:31-32).

Jesus came to us in ultimate humility. His own people despised and rejected him – turned backs on him and looked the other way (Isaiah 53:3).

Jesus protects us from the enemy, Satan. When all forms of attacks came, Jesus – out of intense, passionate love – willingly sacrificed himself for our sake. He gave up his own life for us – his flock (John 10:15). But it didn’t end there. He overcame death and was brought back to life, giving us a hope and reason for eternity (John 3:16, Ephesians 2:5-6).

So that whenever the enemy come again, we have intense confidence our shepherd will protect us – for even death didn’t stop him. We are not scared of the enemy, for our God is far more powerful.

And if our God is for us, who can ever be against us? (Romans 8:31)

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SOMETHING TO GRAZE ON

“Feed my sheep” – Jesus

In 1 Peter 5:2, it says we are to ‘be shepherds of God’s flock that is under [our] care, serving as overseers’.

For the Christians out there: we have a responsibility to build each other up and encourage one another in our faith. We have a responsibility to look after the church (‘the flock’). We have a responsibility to look out for the lost sheep, and bring them back to the good shepherd. If we truly love Jesus, we will continue the work on earth which he started.

And in this, we are to display humility as Jesus did to us. To consider others more important than ourselves – and willingly go low in service to our God.

What a tall order.

But through it all we can know and understand this – that Jesus’ passionate love and genuine care for us brought him into our stuffed up, complicated mess. And he provided the solution – himself in our place.

“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil. For you are with me…” – Psalm 23

Jesus sends us out as sheep among wolves in this life (Matthew 10:16). We aren’t guaranteed a free-pass in life, void of all pain and suffering. Quite the opposite.

But we find strength in our shepherd – who put even death to shame.

Safe in his flock.

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REFERENCES

[1] Keeys, C 2011, Step by Step, Walk Through The Bible, Australia, accessed 12 March 2016, <http://www.amazon.com.au/Step-Cliff-Keeys-ebook/dp/B004RJ8MR8&gt;.

[2] Farfaglia, J 2014, What It Means that Jesus Is the Good Shepherd, Aleteia, accessed 12 March 2016, <http://aleteia.org/2014/05/10/what-it-means-that-jesus-is-the-good-shepherd/2/&gt;.

[3]Hebrew Meaning of “Jesus” n.d., Hebrew-streams.org, accessed 12 March 2016, <http://www.hebrew-streams.org/frontstuff/jesus-yeshua.html&gt;.

[4] Christian Leadership: The Good Shepherd 2015, Illustration, Christian Leadership, accessed 23 March 2016, <http://hebrews4.com/2015/10/10/goodshepherd/&gt;.[5] tons of Bible verses

[5] tons of Bible verses

True Integrity

yolo

Someone may have driven over our moral compass. If it isn’t broken – it is lost.

What is true integrity? How relevant is it in today’s society? What does it look like?

All important questions. Integrity is something I believe is so important, especially being a Christian, as Jesus had a lot to say and do about it. But more about him later.

  1. “The quality of being honest and having strong moral principles”
  2. “The state of being whole and un-divided”

In the world today, as a general rule, I believe integrity is somewhat lost. This isn’t different to many other societies before us, however, is still an issue in my opinion. Australia has had something like four prime ministers in the last five years (don’t quote me on that). Failure to fulfil definite promises, although not a new concept, is something we expect in the leaders of our countries. Let that sink in. We are experiencing a drop in the length of marriages worldwide (not saying divorce isn’t necessary in some cases). Celebrities are commonly in the news for cheating on their spouses.

We find meaning in the number of likes on a post. Most of our opinions and views are based around popular opinion. We are told how we should look and act by the mass media. Our self-concept and identity is based on highly changeable things. Closer to home, I ask myself: Do I conform with society? Where does my motivation lie? I wouldn’t stack up too well in those areas.

Fickle: changing frequently, especially as regards one’s loyalties or affections.

We are a fickle society. We value good times, success and financial gain more than most forms of integrity. Myself included in that. We have become our own authorities. Our own ‘true north’.

But is this a bad thing? What is wrong with being in control of our own life? This is where we sift and sort some of the readers here. I believe it comes down to your belief, or lack of belief, in Jesus. Why is that? If what Jesus said and did is all true, we have something serious to consider. And I believe he backed up his claims pretty dang well. My next blog I may go through some of the most compelling evidence for Jesus being who he said he was. A great topic, but more on that another time.

love_revolution

Jesus came and completed the build-up to what is a world-wide revolution, but not the ‘throwing bottles, setting buildings on fire’ sort of revolution. As the picture above suggests, he came in love for his people. And we are to treat all people in the same way as Jesus does. To be the hands and feet of Jesus on earth. What a tall order.

Better is a poor man who walks in his integrity than a rich man who is crooked in his ways – Proverbs 28:6

In Hebrew, “integrity” in the Old Testament means “the condition of being without blemish, completeness, perfection, sincerity, soundness, uprightness, wholeness.” In the New Testament it means “honesty and adherence to a pattern of good works.”

Jesus is the perfect example of integrity. Bar none. He came preaching counter-cultural messages to: love your enemies, be honest, to give more than you take, to pray for those who persecute you. And he didn’t just preach these things – he lived them out. He came to serve instead of be served. A true picture of humility and integrity. Never did he sway from his convictions, yet displayed commitment through compassion to all people.

Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool – Isaiah 1:18

Important to remember that we are flawed humans. True, 100% integrity is impossible on our own (unless you are Jesus, then read above, if you skipped to the end). But Jesus says that through his actions on the cross, we are considered without blemish, perfect in his sight. If we choose to accept his offer, that is. We are called to live in light of the cross, living in repentance and relationship with the author and perfecter of our faith – Jesus.

true grit

I posted this on Instagram a while ago. I believe it serves good use as a picture of integrity – and how we are to live it.

There’s a reason integrity has the word ‘grit’ in it – it’s hard fought

I liken true integrity to this obstacle course. For those of you who don’t know it, it is a team-based obstacle course involving many different challenges. It includes going through tunnels, scaling walls, crawling through mud, etc. In the same way, as Christians we have a military inspired, intense test of our faith and character before us. It demands courage, perseverance, stamina and teamwork. It can’t be done alone. All are welcome to join the team and buckle in – it is set to be one heck of a ride.

To the people with no formed opinion on a God – I pray you investigate the claims of Jesus more. Really look into it. Because if it is truth, it is worth even our lives. We all have the choice to accept or reject Jesus. But that comes down to you. Always welcome to join the team.

Living with integrity to the people around us is a blessing. We have the chance to show just a snippet of God’s kingdom here on this earth. What a privilege, dare I say, responsibility we have. As Christians, we need to realise the commitment involved with our convictions, and allow confidence and compassion to flow from them. In the workplace, school or public arena – integrity as advocates of Christ is imperative.

“The Christian walk is something deeply personal, but so very public”

What a challenge. I find it confronting, such a big task to even consider, let alone live out. However, It is important for me to take a step back and consider where my moral compass points.

What is your true north?