After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them on ahead of him, two by two, into every town and place where he himself was about to go. And he said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. (Luke 10:1-2 ESV)

Knowledge does not always mean action. We know that eating junk food isn’t good for us, but we still do it. We know that exercising regularly helps our bodies and we still don’t do it. We tell our kids to not touch the hot pan on the stove and they still do it. Just because we know something, that doesn’t mean we will live it our or experience it.

We tend to give people a lot of Bible based theology, thoughtful philosophy, even helpful strategies for life, but this great wealth of information does not necessarily translate to a long-haul-life-change. We all know plenty of Christians who know what the Bible says but who struggle to connect these truths to their daily lives and even more importantly, to what God wants to do in and through them in the context of the real world. We can see from this passage that Jesus wasn’t just about knowing the right things, he was about experiencing them as well.

After teaching the disciples he sends them out to apply the knowledge they have learned of Jesus and his mission. We even see Jesus applying his teachings to specific experiences his disciples went through (Luke 5:1-11, Luke 5:27-31). We must continually examine our motives for reading our Bibles, listening to sermons, reading bible devotions, or even discussing spiritual matters with friends. The things we learn from our Bible and the Holy Spirit should spur us to action and not just lay dormant in our minds.

The ideas of knowing Jesus, following Jesus, and being sent out by Jesus are indivisible- they are all part of the same stream.

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For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you— that is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine. (Romans 1:11-12 ESV)

Do you have a friend who you know you can go to coffee with or call on the phone and feel refreshed after the talk? They are good listeners and seem to understand everything you are going through. They don’t condemn you, but lift you up with encouragement.

Paul earnestly desired to visit the church in Rome. There were probably multiple reasons, including: it was his calling/ministry, he wanted to teach them, wanted to see how they were doing, and many more. But, it was also so that he could receive from them. Paul was a man who wrote the majority of New Testament books and he wanted to be encouraged by new Christians in Rome. How awesome!

At times we also need the encouragement of other Christians. He was wanting to spend time with people, to develop relationships with people, and to then be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith. These kind of relationships do not happen by attending church services alone, we need to take steps to genuinely get to know one another and discover the faith and spiritual gifts that others have. In this scripture, we can learn from Paul and seek out a group of people to meet with to be encouraged by their faith. As we gain encouragement, we give encouragement. We weren’t called to live the Christian life alone.

Who do you know that you can encourage?

Why Kindness is so important.

Posted: October 28, 2014 in Thoughts on God

There are some people in our church community who never seem to stop doing good. Whenever I see them, they are serving or washing up, praying for someone, encouraging others, offering to take food to the sick, or doing some other kind act. They give generously to the work of the church. They do all these things with such grace and enthusiasm. I am always encouraged and challenged by their example.

They never seem to tire of doing good. They seem to base their whole lives on those words of John Wesley that we looked at earlier in the year. They do all the good they can, by all the means they can, in all the ways they can, in all the places they can, at all the times they can, to all the people they can, as long as ever they can.

In our society, the term ‘do-gooder’ has become pejorative; it is used as an insult. But doing good should not be seen in this way. Jesus, we are told, ‘went around doing good’ (Acts 10:38).

St Paul writes to Titus, ‘Remind the people … to be ready to do whatever is good’ (Titus 3:1). His desire is that those who have trusted in God ‘devote themselves to doing what is good’ (vv.8,14).

  1. Do good, not evil

Psalm 119:113-120

The opposite of doing good is doing evil. The psalmist is determined to do good. That is why he says, ‘Away from me, you evildoers’ (v.115a). The evildoers are ‘double-minded’ (v.113). They stray from God’s decrees and are deceitful (v.118).

Choose to avoid evil and do good. Love God’s words (vv.113,119). God is your refuge and shield (v.114a). Put your hope in his word (v.114b). ‘I’ll give total allegiance to your definitions of life’ (v.117, MSG).

The psalmist writes, ‘Sustain me according to your promise, and I shall live; do not let my hopes be dashed’ (v.116). Our hope being deferred is bad enough. The book of Proverbs says, ‘Hope deferred makes the heart sick’ (Proverbs 13:12). The psalmist’s prayer is that his hopes will not be dashed.

Lord, today I bring to you my hopes again… Do not let my hopes be dashed.

Lord , thank you so much for your words. I love your words. Help me to live by them, to stay away from doing evil and to do good.

  1. Always be ready to do good

Titus 3:1-15

There is such a striking contrast between Paul’s life before he experienced a relationship with Jesus Christ and his life afterwards (and I relate to this in my own experience). Paul writes, ‘We too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another’ (v.3).

However, Jesus utterly transforms lives: ‘when the kindness and love of God our Saviour appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy’ (vv.4–5). Doing good is a response to God’s kindness and love for us. We often think of the kindness of our family and friends, but God is infinitely more kind than that. If God has been so kind to you, it is a natural response for you to be kind to others.

Out of his kindness and love, God has not only forgiven you, he has also given you the Holy Spirit. ‘He gave us a good bath, and we came out of it new people, washed inside and out by the Holy Spirit. Our saviour Jesus poured out new life so generously. God’s gift has restored our relationship with him and given us back our lives’ (vv.5–7, MSG). It is the Holy Spirit who enables you and empowers you to do good.

Therefore, Paul can write of the kind of lives we are now to lead. ‘Remind the people to respect the government and be law-abiding’ (v.1, MSG). This is our civil responsibility – to obey the laws of the country – unless they are contrary to God’s law.

But obedience and submission to rulers and authorities is not enough. We must ‘be ready to do whatever is good, to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and to show true humility towards everyone’ (vv.1–2). He urges them twice more to devote themselves to doing what is good (vv.8,14).

It is striking that Paul’s focus here seems to be on their relationships with other people. Paul is encouraging an ‘other-focused’ mindset, rooted in humility, truthfulness and consideration for others. While we are to be motivated by love, sometimes it is by actually serving others that we learn to love them.

Even after we have been reborn and renewed by the Holy Spirit, there will be temptations to get sidetracked and become unproductive. Don’t get involved in incessant arguments. Paul writes, ‘Avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and arguments and quarrels about the law, because these are unprofitable and useless’ (v.9).

The people of Crete, at the time of this letter from Paul, were famous for being lazy (see Titus 1:12). Perhaps they were too lazy to bother working. Paul is concerned that the Christians in Crete be distinct and different from the culture in which they live. He writes, ‘Our people must learn to devote themselves to doing what is good, in order that they may provide for daily necessities and not live unproductive lives’ (3:14).

As Christians, we live out what we believe in front of a watching world. If we are lazy and unproductive, it will be noticed. We are to reflect ‘the kindness and love of God our Saviour’ (v.4) as we ‘do good’.

Doing good and living a productive life does not necessarily mean that you need to change your career. When I was practising as a lawyer, I remember considering whether God was calling us to ordination in the Church of England. I was very struck by the mention of ‘Zenas the lawyer’ (v.13). It reminded me that if I were to stop practising as a barrister, it was not because there was anything wrong with being a Christian lawyer. Wherever you are in life and whatever your job or ministry, it is possible to go around doing good.

Lord, thank you so much for the way in which you have transformed my life. Help me to lead a productive life and, like Jesus, to go around doing good.

  1. Stay close to the one who went around doing good

Lamentations 1:1-2:6

‘To be human is to suffer. No one gets an exemption. Lamentations keeps company with the extensive biblical witness that gives dignity to suffering by insisting that God enters our suffering and is companion to our suffering’ writes Eugene Peterson in his introduction to the book of Lamentations.

The book, as the name suggests, focuses on the sorrow, sadness, grief, pain, loss and tragedy that the people of God experienced during the exile. Our circumstances may be different, but our suffering is just as real.

The writer laments how the once great nation of Israel has gone into exile because of her many sins: ‘she’s stuck between a rock and a hard place’ (v.3, MSG) … ‘lost everything’ (v.7, MSG) … ‘Massacres in the streets, starvation in the houses’ (v.20, MSG).

As we read today’s passage there seems to be very little hope. It is all about judgment and suffering. The writer says, ‘Is any suffering like my suffering …?’ (Lamentations 1:12). That is often how we feel when we are going through difficulties and trials.

He writes, ‘My sins have been bound into a yoke; by his hands they were woven together. They have come upon my neck and the Lord has sapped my strength. He has handed me over to those I cannot withstand’ (v.14).

The picture is of his sins being like a great heavy yoke around his neck, weighing him down. He is weary and burdened by them.

This is the experience of exile, judgment and immense suffering. The physical exile lasted approximately seventy years, but there was a sense in which the spiritual experience of exile continued.

Thank God that Jesus came to announce that the exile was well and truly over, and that we need no longer go around weary and burdened by sins. Jesus said, ‘Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light’ (Matthew 11:28–30).

This is the secret of doing good: stay close to the one who went around doing good. Hand over your burdens to Jesus and receive his rest. Take his yoke upon you as you learn from him – from his gentle, humble heart – because he is the source of doing good.

Thank you, my Lord and my Saviour, that you bore my sins on the cross – you take the yoke of sin from me and remove its heavy burden. Thank you that when I am yoked to you, my yoke is easy and my burden is light. Help me today to stay close to you, to minister in the power of your Holy Spirit and, like you, to go around doing good.

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I know it’s Monday, and I have to tell you that it’s not one I am looking forward to. So having said that, I know a lot of people are sharing my sentiment. So rather than to try to persuade you with inspirational words, I’ll allow the Holy Spirit to lift you up through God‘s Word. Have an amazing Monday, and may you be blessed today.

Bible Verses on Encouragement From the Psalms

  • The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? the Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?” (Psalm 27:1)
  • “When my father and mother forsake me, then the Lord will take me up.” (Psalm 27:10)
  • “Be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart, all ye that hope in the Lord.” (Psalm 31:24)
  • “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” (Psalm 46:1)
  • “In God have I put my trust: I will not be afraid what man can do unto me.” (Psalm 56:11)
  • “Though I walk in the midst of trouble, thou wilt revive me: thou shalt stretch forth thine hand against the wrath of mine enemies, and thy right hand shall save me.” (Psalms 138:7)
  • “He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in Him will I trust.” (Psalm 91:1-2)
  • “He healeth the broken in heart, and bindeth up their wounds.” (Psalm 147:3)

Encouraging Bible Verses Written by the Apostle Paul

  • “Be careful [anxious] for nothing: but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7)
  • “We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed.” (II Corinthians 4:8-9)
  • “Let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.” (Galatians 6:9)
  • “Let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful.” (Colossians 3:15)
  • “Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost.” (Romans 15:13)

Encouragement From Jesus Christ

  • Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me.” (John 14:1)
  • “Peace, I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” (John 14:27)
  • “Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.” (Matthew 6:31-34)

Go out and stand

Posted: October 26, 2014 in Thoughts on God

He [Elijah] said, “I have been very jealous for the LORD, the God of hosts. For the people of Israel have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword, and I, even I only, am left, and they seek my life, to take it away.” And he said, “Go out and stand on the mount before the LORD.” (1 Kings 19:10-11a ESV)

Most mornings, I’m not jumping out of bed, excited for another day of work. I usually drag myself to the kitchen to make coffee, thinking about all the tasks I haven’t yet completed in the office, at church and at home. I can sometimes find myself discouraged & overwhelmed within the first few minutes of the day.

It’s pretty human to get caught up in the rhythms of life and feel the strain of the endless amount of expectations set on us. But this is certainly not the life that we have been called to as followers of Christ; we have been promised us a life of abundance! (John 10:10)

I find myself relating well to Elijah. He was tired, fed up and simply wanting a break; he tried to make himself feel better by hiding from God. We may also try to “hide” from the Lord, but our Father keeps close by our side.

God calls us out of our “hiding” and His is not a complex instruction, it’s a simple request for an act of faith. He says to us “ Go out and stand”. But are we alone? No! He gives us the strength we need. Phillipians 4:13 promises “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” When we follow the Lord with all our heart, He will surely bring glory to His name.

Have the courage today to stand with the knowledge that God is always with you, and trust in His purpose for your life.

25 ways to be useful to God

Posted: October 25, 2014 in Thoughts on God

1. Love your enemy
Proverbs 25:21-26:2

‘If you see your enemy hungry, go buy him lunch;
if he’s thirsty, bring him a drink.
Your generosity will surprise him with goodness,
and God will look after you’ (25:21–22, MSG; see also Romans 12:20).

2. Watch your tongue

‘A north wind brings stormy weather,
and a gossipy tongue stormy looks’ (Proverbs 25:23, MSG).

If we want to change our actions we need to start with our thoughts and words. In our New Testament passage for today Paul urges us to ‘Avoid godless chatter, because those who indulge in it will become more and more ungodly’ (2 Timothy 2:16).

3. Avoid quarrelling 

‘Better to live on the corner of the roof than to share a house with a quarrelsome wife’ (Proverbs 25:24).

Avoiding quarrelling is also a major theme in the New Testament passage for today. Paul writes, ‘Warn them before God against quarrelling about words; it is of no value, and only ruins those who listen’ (2 Timothy 2:14). He goes on to say, ‘Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels. And the Lord’s servants must not quarrel’ (vv.23–24).

4. Bring good news

‘Like cold water to a weary soul is good news from a distant land’ (Proverbs 25:25). We are so privileged to be able to bring the good news of Jesus. It is like ‘cold water to a weary soul’.

5. Stand your ground

‘Like a muddied spring or a polluted well are the righteous who give way to the wicked’ (v.26). Sometimes it is important to stand your ground.

6. Do not seek honour

If we seek our own honour we will find that true honour eludes us. ‘It is not good to eat too much honey, nor is it honourable to seek one’s own honour’ (v.27).

7. Be self-controlled

‘A person without self-control
is like a house with its doors and windows knocked out’ (v.28, MSG). Don’t try to control others. The only person you should try to control is yourself. Self-control is one of the characteristics that make up the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22–23).

8. Don’t worry about what others say

You do not need to fear bad publicity or slander. ‘Like a fluttering sparrow or a darting swallow, an underserved curse does not come to rest’ (Proverbs 26:2).

9. Endure hardship
2 Timothy 2:1-26

Paul uses the analogy of being a soldier (v.4). Soldiers have to endure hardship. He goes on, ‘therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they too may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus’ (v.10). Paul goes on to say that ‘if we endure, we will also reign with him’ (v.12).

10. Avoid distractions

‘No one serving as a soldier gets involved in civilian affairs’ (v.4a). Keep a clear focus and avoid distractions that waste time. Paul reminds Timothy that soldiers need to keep their focus and seek to please their commanding officer (v.4b).

11. Keep to the rules

Paul moves from the analogy of a soldier to that of an athlete. ‘An athlete who refuses to play by the rules will never get anywhere’ (v.5, MSG).

12. Work hard

From the soldier and athlete, Paul moves to the analogy of a farmer. ‘The hardworking farmer should be the first to receive a share of the crops’ (v.6).

13. Meditate on God’s words

Only God can give understanding, but you have your part to play. Paul writes, ‘Reflect on what I am saying, for the Lord will give you insight into all this’ (v.7).

14. Focus on Jesus

‘Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, descended from David. This is my gospel’ (v.8). The gospel is all about Jesus. Salvation ‘is in Christ Jesus’ (v.10).

15. Correctly handle God’s word

‘Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth’ (v.15).

16. Turn away from evil

‘Everyone who confesses the name of the Lord must turn away from wickedness’ (v.19). Repentance is not a one-off act; it is a continuing attitude. It involves turning away from wickedness (v.19) and fleeing ‘the evil desires of youth’ (v.22a).

17. Be a peacemaker

Paul urges Timothy among other things to ‘pursue … peace’ (v.22). ‘Refuse to get involved in inane discussions; they always end up in fights. God’s servant must not be argumentative’ (v.23, MSG).

Joyce Meyer writes ‘Strife is bickering, arguing, heated disagreement, and an angry undercurrent. Strife is dangerous and destructive. Strife is like a deadly, contagious disease. It spreads rapidly unless it is confronted and stopped.’ Keeping strife out of our lives ‘requires willingness to constantly communicate and confront issues … I encourage you to ask for the Holy Spirit’s help to be a person who avoids strife and restores peace everywhere you go.’

18. Be kind to everyone

‘The Lord’s servant … must be kind to everyone’ (v.24). Everyone includes everyone – not just your friends, or the people you like, but all the people you come into contact with during the day (especially those who are often unappreciated, such as the person on the supermarket checkout, the person driving the bus, the person on reception, the person who helps you on the phone …).

19. Learn to teach

‘The Lord’s servants must be … able to teach’ and ‘opponents must be gently instructed’ (vv.24–25). Teaching is a specialist ministry but it is also the task of every Christian. A key characteristic is gentleness. ‘God’s servant must … [be] a gentle listener and a teacher who keeps cool, working firmly but patiently with those who refuse to obey’ (vv.24–25, MSG).

20. Don’t be resentful

‘The Lord’s servant must … not [be] resentful’ (v.24). Resentment poisons relationships.

21. Hear the word of the Lord
Jeremiah 49:7-50:10

Jeremiah was greatly used by God because as he said, ‘I have heard a message from the Lord’ (49:14). Thus he was able to say, ‘This is what the Lord Almighty says’ (v.7).

22. Allow God to speak through you

Jeremiah not only heard the word of the Lord, he was prepared to speak it out and God spoke through him. ‘This is the word the Lord spoke through Jeremiah …’ (50:1).

23. Seek the Lord

Jeremiah foretold of the days when ‘the people of Israel and the people of Judah together will go in tears to seek the Lord their God’ (v.4). Jesus says, ‘Seek and you will find’ (Luke 11:9).

24. Bind yourself to the Lord

This is the type of relationship God wants us to have with him – bound together, walking closely with him all the time (50:5). ‘Hold tight to God’ (v.5, MSG).

25. Find rest in the Lord

‘My people have been lost sheep; their shepherds have led them astray and caused them to roam on the mountains. They wandered over mountain and hill and forgot their own resting place’ (v.6). The Lord is described as your ‘own resting place’ (v.6), the place where you find rest for your soul (see also 6:16).

Lord, I want to be useful to you, the Master – an instrument for noble purposes, prepared to do any good work. I want to seek your face, to bind myself to you. I dedicate myself to you again today.
May we as a church be useful to you, Lord. May we be a community where people find kindness, faith, love and peace. May we bring the good news of Jesus to all those around, transforming our society and changing our world in the power of the Holy Spirit.

It’s time to stop the worry

Posted: October 25, 2014 in Thoughts on God

Worry doesn’t accomplish anything. It’s in the Bible, Psalm 37:8, NKJV. “Cease from anger, and forsake wrath; Do not fret—it only causes harm”

There’s no need to worry; God has everything under control. It’s in the Bible, Matthew 6:31-33, NIV. “So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

We cannot remove worry until we replace it with something better—prayer. It’s in the Bible, Philippians 4:6-7, NKJV. “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”

Worrying is a waste of time. It’s in the Bible, Luke 12:24-26, NIV. “Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds! Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?”

Rely on Christ, not yourself. By yourself you can do nothing. It’s in the Bible, John 15:5, NKJV.  “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.”

You can give all your worries to the Lord. It’s in the Bible, I Peter 5:7, NKJV. “Casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.” It’s in the Bible, Matthew 11:28, NKJV. “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”

We can trust God to give us what we need—after all, He gave His Son for us. It’s in the Bible, Romans 8:32, NKJV. “He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?

Avoid worry, even in difficult times, by trusting in God. It’s in the Bible, Jeremiah 17:7-8, NIV. “But blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose confidence is in him. He will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.”

Take one day at a time; don’t worry about what may happen tomorrow. It’s in the Bible, Matthew 6:34, NIV. “Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”