Jesus’ call. Live differently.
Live like a light shining bright.
Not hidden.

God made you and me to know Him, and make Him known.

Jesus’ call. Be like salt.
Salt adds flavour.

God made you and me to live in friendship with Him, and show the world.

Everything is not as it should be.

God made everything beautiful.
We broke it.

We want to be god.

Darkness is no more where light shines.

Light cannot make darkness. Be light.

Follow Jesus. Expect persecution – for now.

Be light. Be salt.

Be hope. Bring joy.

Live. Glorify God.

Matthew 5:13-16

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In the early days of their ministry, following Jesus’ resurrection and ascension to heaven, the Apostles Peter and John were walking up the hill to the temple in Jerusalem when they see the crippled beggar in his usual spot. The man called out to the two apostles asking them for money.

Wealth and comfort were the gods of the first century and they’re the gods of our time. Not a lot has changed.

Are you sat outside the temple, looking in the wrong direction? Calling out, asking for the wrong things, and searching in the wrong direction? We think financial increase and security will save us. It might do some help for a little while.

This man had been crippled his entire life. He was placed in a prime spot, outside the temple courts, where the wealthy passed him by, and he’d be in a good spot to be seen. Peter and John were heading in the same direction. Notice the man wasn’t asking to be cured. Medicine was primitive, and modern surgery wasn’t available like it is to us today.

“Silver and gold I do not have, but what I have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” To walk, the man must have trusted. He must have put his faith in the words that the Apostles spoke to him. What a witness of boldness, and expectation. Walk he did, and a lot of jumping and praising God.

This demonstration of Christian witness is quite different to what many of us believe and do today. Here’s the lesson. Say: “In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk”. Sometimes we overcomplicate things. There’s power in the name of Jesus. It was not the apostles clever words, example, argument or presentation that convinced the man. He wasn’t even asking. Yet, trusting the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth he walked and praised God. The man wasn’t looking in the right direction, but when he turned, believed and trusted everything changed.

What have you put your trust in? Where do you look to for your security? Have you wholly put your trust in the name of Jesus?

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Let’s just agree on this one thing. We’re not all the same.

We don’t all think the same, act the same, behave the same, nor do we all believe the same things. Sometimes what I say, you may disagree with. Sometimes things you say, I disagree with. Sometimes we may even read something in a particular way, and interpret the thing completely differently to the way it was intended.

I think of Facebook as the public square. At times people share their opinion on the latest thing happening in the news, at other times we might share what we just had for lunch. Sometimes we share something that made us laugh. Other times maybe something that made us angry or even cry. It’s a place to catch up, keep in touch, confirm an appointment, make new friends or connect with old ones. Most of the time we share things and you might get the odd ‘like’ at other times no one will say anything at all.

I’m pretty certain, if you’ve known me a long time, more than ten years, you will have seen a lot of change, and I don’t mean just that I’m looking older.

Some of you will be offended by this change, and that’s ok. I’m ok with that.

Some of the things you say I don’t agree with either. You shouldn’t be surprised.

I don’t expect all of you to agree with my support for keeping the Marriage Act as it stands, nor do I expect many of you to read this far. Sadly, I think that some of the people who say I have caused them offense may not even read this. Some of you may not even care. That makes me sad.

I have come to believe that there is a purpose to this whole thing we call life. I use the word purpose intentionally because it implies that someone created life for a purpose. A little under 15 years ago I started seriously enquiring into whether there was more behind this thought. Having grown up in a multicultural society and seeing people exercise their beliefs in many different ways I eventually found myself in the place I least expected. I discovered historical evidence, biblical scripture and a personal conviction convinced me that there is a living God, and that it was possible to know him personally!

There is always a reason why we disagree on issues. Our worldview effects and informs our views. My belief in Jesus as Lord and Saviour informs what I believe. The Christian faith also had a large impact on the cultures that most of us live. Most of my friends have a “Western” worldview and the Christian church has shaped a lot of what we know of our world. Hospitals, education, justice, law, morals/ethics, etc. Some of these things were inspired by a Christian conviction. Some of these ideas and institutions are now challenged. Thoughts, ideas and institutions that took hundreds or thousands of years to develop, have been undone in past decades. Some say that we’ve grown up and no longer need to believe in anything other than ourselves.

The Bible informs me that God designed marriage to be between a man and a woman, and that the place where sex is to be enjoyed is in marriage. This is the idea that shaped our original definition of marriage, and it is this definition that has been challenged in Western nations. So naturally, people who believe in the biblical definition of marriage, especially people that call themselves followers of Jesus, are going to be concerned with the proposed changes.

I have a few friends who are gay. Some of them are in committed relationships, some of them are not. Some have confided in me their struggle with their sexuality. Some have told me how they wish they could be ‘normal’ so they might be able to bear their own children. I’ve wept with some of them. Some have told me that they are happy with their sexuality. I do not hate you if you are gay. I don’t even judge you. I’m sorry if you’ve ever felt judged by me. I am also convicted that God even calls me to love those that disagree with me. If you believe that same-sex marriage should be legalised, know that I disagree, but also know that if parliament were to agree and it does get legalised it doesn’t stop me from liking you or being your friend. We can disagree. But also know that it won’t change anything. Marriage is not defined by you or me. However others define it or change it, if it’s different to what the Bible says, then that’s not what my wife and I did when we were married in the sight of God. If that offends you, well that is not me hating you, I’m just sharing what the biblical model of marriage is.

I know that this will sound offensive, but the Bible does calls the practice of homosexuality a sin. So, when it comes to amending the Marriage Act (which is based on the Christian definition of marriage) to include same-sex attracted couples it is to say “let’s agree that the Bible says it’s ok for same-sex attracted couples to be recognised by the institution we call marriage”. As people who support the biblical idea of what marriage means, this is not ok.

Now I know that sounds like I’m calling you a sinner, and let me be clear. I don’t judge you. I am not free from sin either. I believe that God shows us in Scripture how to live, but we’ve all sinned. We’ve all failed to live by the standards (ethics) documented in the Bible. I have struggled as well with different things in the past, and I continue to struggle in other ways even today.

If you’re gay or you have a different opinion to me, I’m ok to disagree, but let’s continue to be civil and have a conversation. Let’s try to understand more clearly our differences. Believe me when I say, I have personally invested hundreds of hours into this. I care deeply for the gay friends in my life. I hope that we may continue to be friends. You and I may disagree, but we should give room to explain why we believe what we believe without disrespecting one another.

I know that Jesus offends. The Bible even says that people will hate us for our faith in Jesus and that we shouldn’t be surprised when our own family and friends say they hate us just because we believe in Jesus. Imagine that? I have both friends and family that say they hate me because I believe that Jesus is God! That’s how offensive Jesus is!

So go ahead, ‘unfriend me’, hate me, spit on me, do what you have to do. It won’t stop me loving you and praying for you.

In history’s darkest hour. Nails smashed through his skin and bones. Hanging. Suffocated by his own weight. Jesus Christ. God himself in the person of his Son. Deserted by his friends, family and followers. Died the death you and I deserve. He died in our place. He took upon himself the sin of the world so that everyone that would believe in Him would send eternity with God. That truth has offended people for thousands of years, and I am not surprised if it offends you either. I am thankful for the cross, and I am thankful that Jesus didn’t just stay dead, but that he rose from the dead and this fact was witnessed by thousands.

I am trusting that Jesus defeated death, and while I am sad that we might not agree, I am happy to be your friend even if you disagree with me. I hope that you will extend the same to me?

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Our church encourages its members to be intentional in loving our local neighbours, to recognise People Matter and to put this into practice.

I was reading in Scripture this morning about when Jesus encouraged his followers to “receive the kingdom of God like a little child” (Mark 10:15). Jesus encouraged the children to come close to him and touch him. What struck me, in the context of being intentional and practicing embodiment, was that God came to us in the person of his son Jesus. God was intentional in the way he demonstrated his love for us. He was present in space and time.

“Place spirituality… helps us recognise that we live in a territory that is full of history, meaning, heartache, and joy. Jesus was incarnate in a concrete time and place in history; he was not an abstract, cultureless being in some kind of spiritual space. And today the Spirit is leading the church back into the neighbourhood, into concrete territories to recognise what God is doing there.” (Introducing the Missional Church, A. Roxburgh & M. Scott Boren)

Be encouraged today to show how People Matter, and make time to be with them. This could be in the small details, like when you’re in the local grocery store and you intentionally engage in conversation with the checkout staff. Or, it could be that you drive across town to catch up with a friend for a coffee.

Recognise the importance of place and the practice of embodiment as you go today.

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authorityWatch the news any night of the week and you’d wonder who in their right mind would step into a position of leadership, especially if you’re someone subject to the unforgiving scrutiny of today’s public?

In 2007 Kevin Rudd became Australia’s 26th Prime Minister. Just two and a half years later his deputy, Julia Gillard successfully contested his leadership. Three years later, following unsuccessful leadership challenges, Rudd came back and took back government’s top job. Months later he announced a general election and was defeated by the opposition party – whose leader, Tony Abbott, is regarded today as “least trustworthy” compared to his predecessor Gillard, according to a recent poll.

Politics aside, these days, there is always an “expert” opinion represented at almost every dinner party. In a previous blog, I commented on how it seems everyone is an expert on what the Bible says or does not say, regardless of whether the person would call themselves Christian, or not. Continuing with that thought, in a recent blog on the Verge Network website, Dave Ferguson, Jon Tyson and Allan Hirsch discuss the challenges of authority in discipleship within the culture of today. Tyson shares, “Our culture has one popular story which is liberation from oppression. I find a lot of young believers love the idea of Jesus as the ultimate liberator from oppression which becomes an infinite loop because the second you feel oppressed by anything, accountability in the church, requirements of Jesus you push it off as oppression.”

In parts of the church today there is excitement and an attraction in the presentation of what it means to be Christian, but it’s essential that we centre our relationship and freedom through submission to the Lordship and authority of God found only through his Son, Jesus. It seems that in the church today there is hesitation, caution and tension in being part of a movement to evangelise the world. Christians find it difficult to call their friends to come under the authority of something, when all around them they see the failure of leadership, corporations, politics and other powers of civil authority. It is our place to help navigate arm-in-arm with the seeker around and outside the distractions of failed man-modelled leadership, and instead point through scripture to the Jesus-modelled example of submission to the authority of the Father.

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. 2 Timothy 3:16

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