So far in our Bold Living series, James has shown us that as followers of Jesus there should be something different about our lives - differences in our speech, our treatment of others, our response to trials, navigating conflicts, judging others and so on. In James 4:13-17, James focuses on living daily with a right perspective of our lives.
There is nothing quite like the exuberant, uninhibited joy of young children. Watching children laugh, sing, dance or twirl before they learn to be embarrassed or wonder what others are thinking is truly precious. I often think we could make a lot of money if we could capture that same joy, bottle it and sell it...after all the pursuit of happiness is major human pastime!
This term at Vision Youth we’ve been looking at things that compete with Jesus for our time, attention and affection.
As we’ve read through Philippians 3:4-11, the overarching theme that stands out to me is that for Paul, Jesus was everything. It cost Paul dearly to follow Jesus. Jesus was not Paul’s “something”, Jesus was Paul’s “everything”.
Every human heart longs for freedom. Narratives and stories of freedom, and the fight for freedom, capture our imagination. Freedom is often portrayed as worth fighting for, and even worth dying for. Who could forget William Wallace’s impassioned cry in Braveheart: “They may take our lives, but they’ll never take our FREEDOM!!”
It’s very possible to be incredibly passionate about the “what” of life (what we do, what we believe is right, what would make the world a better place), without even considering the bigger question: the “why?” of life.
But the “why” really matters. Let’s examine two different perspectives on the “why” of life, and then how the Christian “why” compares.
Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and feed on His faithfulness. Delight yourself also in the Lord and He shall give you the desires of your heart
Food is such an important part of our culture and society isn’t it. The rise of shows like Masterchef and the like have fueled the rise of the ‘food culture’ we see operating today, where cafés, fancy restaurants, sustainably sourced food, and even superfoods are becoming increasingly popular. I think it is fair to say that many of us would spend a great deal of time thinking about food – perhaps what food supplies we will need for the weekly grocery shop, what we will be having for dinner or what restaurants we would like to try out. We spend so much time thinking about what we will feed our bodies, but how much time do we actually spend thinking about what we are feeding our souls? It is an important consideration as what we feed our souls actually feeds and nourishes something in our hearts and lives – either good or bad.
The Bible says that ‘man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God’ (Deut 8:3). This tells us that it’s not enough for us to be well fed physically, but that we need nourishment and sustenance from God Himself, for He is our source and the One who truly satisfies. As it says in Psalm 37, I believe that we are called to feed on His faithfulness, as doing this will bring life, nourishment, and blessing to our lives. Unfortunately all too often we can feed on the wrong foods spiritually, which will actually nourish things in our lives that really shouldn’t be there.
As we consider what we are feeding on, there are a couple of things that are important for us to remember. Firstly, what we feed on will determine our focus. If we’re not careful, depending on what we are feeding our souls with, we can easily have our focus in the wrong places. It can be easy to slip into focusing on what we feel God isn’t doing, rather than on what He is doing, or on all that He has done. I believe this is why worship is so important for us, because when we worship something happens – we actually feed our souls with the truth of who God is, and the wonder of all that He has done. As we do that, our focus shifts and is made right. I love the story in Acts 16, when Paul and Silas are in prison – bound in the stocks, in the middle of the night – and their response is to pray and to praise. They were feeding their souls on the faithfulness of God rather than the dire situation they found themselves in.
Secondly, what we feed on determines our fruit and our growth. In Luke 6:43-45, Jesus talks about how a good tree cannot bear bad fruit and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit, and that it is out of the abundance (or overflow) of the heart that the mouth speaks. Good trees are nourished with good things, which then leads to good fruit. The opposite is also true. Similarly, in Matthew 15:18-20 Jesus is teaching how it is the things that come from within, from our hearts, that defile us – these are things that hinder fruit and unfortunately, are often there because they’ve been fed in some way.
In this winter season, there is a challenging question for us to consider – what are you feeding on? Perhaps some of us need to go on a ‘detox’ diet with regards to the things we’re feeding our souls with, and begin to feed on His faithfulness. Let me encourage us as His people to have the Word, worship and prayer as staples in our spiritual diet, as these things will help us to feed on His faithfulness, which in turn will nourish something good and lasting in our lives.
In rural Thailand, there are many children who are forced into state care or to fend for themselves. Often the result of extreme poverty or health issues where the parents cannot care for them or the parents re-marry and the children from the previous marriage are not supported by the step parent.
The risks these children are faced with from an early age is often documented, ranging from trafficking to prostitution, slavery and working for crime gangs.
While the state may place many children in homes and orphanages many of these institutions don’t cover care and guidance for the transition from child to young adult.
It was the mission work of Bridgeworks in Thailand that highlighted this great need in our midst, it is a work that helps children in the in-between years. A time where so many children can fall through the cracks while they are looking to establish themselves as young adults.
Identified as “at risk” children, where possible Bridgeworks helps either to find a stable home or offers accommodation to support these young lives through the transition time. Bridgeworks offers a safe environment, teaching life skills like gardening, cooking, or learning trades that will help these children to find work that will help them achieve a sustainable future.
Many children find it difficult to complete their education due to the pressures of taking on work in order to survive therefore forfeiting their education. Bridgeworks encourages the children in their care to complete their education to year 10 and 12 with many going on to study for university qualifications.
It is not an easy time for many of these young lives as the challenges they have endured before arriving at Bridgeworks are many including family breakdown, violence, abuse, health issues and neglect.
Bridgeworks missionaries have dedicated their lives into helping these children every day and it is in this where the words of the gospel resonates we are called to “love one another” and while not all of us can be on the field we can in many small ways follow Godly instruction which is to “sell what you have and give to the poor…”
While the VCF ladies and their friends have not donated all they own to give to those in need, they have looked into their wardrobes and storage boxes and pulled out some of the clothes and items that are of value to them. It may be a special dress never worn or it could be a designer pair of shoes only worn twice. Instead of these items sitting in the cupboard for an occasional outing they are offered in exchange to raise funds to help support Bridgeworks Missions.
These items for $5, $10 or $20 dollars will make a big difference to the young girl who is studying to become a teacher or an accountant. The young girl without a family to support her, a mother too poor and unwell, a father that has tried to take her life. The child that has escaped brutal upbringing and managed to survive.
By coming along to this community event and purchasing that coat, skirt or shoes you will do so with the knowledge you have helped a little to reposition the value where it should be and that is to encourage another young person in need, they have a hope and a future.
Vision Fashion Fix Sale is a Canberra Community Event - Everyone is welcome!
Good quality ladies and children fashions for sale one afternoon only.
Choose from vintage, new, pre-loved, and designer brands at a fraction of the retail price.
There will be a silent auction for big ticket items including a formal silk evening dress and tailored overcoat, leather boots and more.
Vision Fashion Fix will be held Saturday 22 July, 1.00 - 4.00pMat Vision Christian Fellowship
60 Gladstone Street Fyshwick.
Devonshire Tea served from 2-3pm, $5 per head.
One gives freely, yet grows all the richer; another withholds what he should give, and only suffers want. Whoever brings blessing will be enriched, and one who waters will himself be watered….Whoever trusts in his riches will fall, but the righteous will flourish like a green leaf. Proverbs 11:24-25;28
There is a paradox in these few verses from Proverbs 11 in that we become richer (in every sense – not just relating to money!) by being generous. The world says to store up and hold onto as much as possible, but God blesses those who give freely of their possessions, time and energy.
There’s something about generosity isn’t there. It can often be surprising, even unexpected, but being on the receiving end of generosity is certainly a blessing. A few months ago I was sitting poolside as my son was having his weekly swimming lesson. I was chatting with one of the other parents who asked if I was interested in a membership to the pool and gym at the facility. They had won a two-year membership in a swim-a-thon competition and given they already had one, they had no need of it. I felt very blessed and grateful, even a little uncomfortable, to be given such a generous gift, particularly as they wouldn’t accept any money for it. The person could have kept that membership and it would have remained unused. However, by choosing to be generous and give, it opened up blessing to me and my family, as we can now use the pool and gym free of charge. It’s the same for us – there are things we have been given that we could keep to ourselves, however, choosing to give and be generous actually causes blessing to flow to others.
As Christians, I believe we are called to be a generous people – to give freely, to bless and to refresh others. After all, we have the most generous God, who time and time again has proved His generous nature, and who continues to freely give to us in abundance. Scripture is full of examples of His generous heart towards His people, and we need not look any further than the cross to see the ultimate picture of generosity, love and blessing.
Being a generous people is more than just something that relates to our finances. It also involves our time, energy, possessions, gifts – all the things God has given us to steward here on earth. Generosity is not something that just happens, it’s an attitude of the heart and something that needs to be cultivated, wherever we are at in life, and whether we feel we have lots, or little, to give.
When we choose to cultivate generosity, there are some characteristics and blessings that mark our lives as a result:
- Gratitude – when we realise the significance of the generosity shown to us by God and others, we become more thankful, both for the blessings we’ve received, but also for the opportunity and privilege it is to bless others (Eph 5:20; Col 3:16-17).
- Right Perspective – being generous helps us to realise that the possessions, gifts, and things God has given us were never really ours to begin with, but gifts to be used for His glory and to help others (Proverbs 11:24,28).
- Trust – being generous helps us to trust God, not just for provision of financial resources, but also for provision of strength, wisdom, favour and everything else we need to steward what He’s given us well (2 Cor 9:8).
- Humility – being generous helps us to look outside ourselves to see how we can be a blessing to others. It causes us to ‘count others more significant than ourselves’ (Phil 2:3)
There is a cost to generosity, but choosing to be a blessing to those around us is in fact following Christ’s example and walking in obedience to Him, as He said ‘it is more blessed to give than to receive’ (Acts 20:35).
My prayer is that we would be a people marked by generosity in every way – in speaking words of life and encouragement to others, in our attitudes towards those around us (even the waiters / check out staff who take too long!), in investing time and effort in people to see them come into all that God has for them, and in giving of our money and possessions as and when there is need. As we do this, perhaps we will even find that we experience greater freedom in our own lives from selfishness and being mastered by possessions, as well as point others toward God by displaying His heart of generosity.
Many of us have mixed feelings when it comes to birthdays. Some go out of their way to celebrate while others go out of their way to avoid and forget. This month we celebrate the birth of the church which began on the day of Pentecost. Here is one birthday that is truly worth celebrating.
In the gospel of Luke ch24 we read that before Jesus ascended to the Father He commissioned His disciples to proclaim the gospel to all nations but first gave them this command: ’stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high” (v49). Once the day of Pentecost had arrived the Spirit of God fell in power upon this unique group of Jews and Gentiles, redeemed by the blood of the Lamb, filling them with the power of God to accomplish this great calling.
There’s much we can learn from this account. Firstly, the church was born in power. Jesus didn't say to His disciples. Wait in the city until you get you get it all together, until you’ve completed both the beginning and advanced diplomas of church growth strategy 101 or at least until you’ve learned the top 10 of modern pop worship choruses. Rather He said wait until you have received power. So often the greatest hindrance to the advance of the glory of God is the church trying to do the work of God without the power of God. We desperately need His power. Only the power of God can save, only the power of God can transform lives, only the power of God can convict us of our sin. May we never arrive at a place where we forget that as the Church we are in desperate need of His power to accomplish His work.
Secondly the Church was birthed in His personal presence.
This wasn't just an encounter with an abstract manifestation of His Glory but an encounter with the personal presence of Holy Spirit. We worship a God who himself marks his people with the empowering reality of who He is. He is a personal God.
Finally the Church was birthed in wonder. I always wonder what the disciples were expecting as they waited. Certainly they seemed as amazed as everybody else when all of a sudden there was a mighty rushing wind, tongues of fire and people acting like they were overcome with wine. This wasn't a calm, quiet, polite, prayer meeting. It was so wild and loud that people came rushing from all around to see what all the commotion was about! In fact whenever the Holy Spirit moves in scripture there is a sense of wonder. Anything can happen. Buildings are shaken, chains fall off, people get saved, great awe comes upon everyone, signs, wonders and miracles take place and pretty soon even shadows become dangerous. The church was born with this sense of wild wonder. Do we live with that same sense today of excitement and expectancy to see what God might do in our midst today?
There’s a prayer that is one of our foundational calls as a church and it is one that I have been reminded of many times recently, its found inthe book of Acts:
‘And now Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness, while you stretch out your hand to heal and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus.’ (Acts 4:29-30)
I believe this is a season of praying ‘bold prayers’ and I want to encourage us to join this month to declare this prayer together. May these be days of His power, His presence and wild wonder!!