And if Christ has not been raised, then your faith is useless and you are still guilty of your sins. – 1 Corinthians 15:17
Paul is quite right… If Jesus had not been raised to life, then our faith is useless… or to put it another way:
If Jesus is dead then Christianity is dead.
It’s pointless… worthless…
You see without the Resurrection of Christ, there is no saviour or salvation, no forgiveness and no Resurrection hope for a life in eternity.
You see the resurrection of Christ is one of the foundations that Christianity stands on. Without this Christians are just fools who are putting their trust in a dead man.
Now some people might think… that explains Christians PERFECTLY, fools worshiping a legend or folk hero however there are a few things that set Jesus apart.
One of the keys proofs for me of the authenticity of it (if you want to put it that way) is the reaction of the disciples.
You see after his death the disciples ran away, they hid… they fled and that makes sense, if they could kill Jesus what would it mean for the rest of them?
However that all changed after the resurrection… after the resurrection they were bold… they died for their faith.
What would it take for a group of scared and frightened men and woman to make a complete turn around and be willing for them to die for something?
They certainly wouldn’t be willing to die for something that they knew was a lie… and all but one of the disciples died for their faith in a resurrected Christ. If it was a lie (and they knew it was a lie) then it wouldn’t make sense for them ALL to be willing to go through some of the pain that the apostles did.
Mark died in Alexandria, Egypt, dragged by horses through the streets until he was dead.
John was boiled in a huge basin of boiling oil during a wave of persecution in Rome. However, he miraculously survived. The Apostle John put into prison was later freed and returned to serve as a bishop in modern Turkey. He died an old man, the only Apostle to die peacefully.
Peter, was crucified upside down on an x-shaped cross, according to Church tradition, because he told his tormentors that he felt unworthy to die the same way that Jesus Christ had died.
You see there was a cost.
For me the biggest thing to convince me was the transformation of Jesus’ brother James… he went from someone who was so totally skeptical of Jesus, but after the resurrection become a firm believer.
This is astounding for a number of reasons.
- What would it take to convince you that your brother was the son of God?
- Would the turn around be worth dying for (James was thrown of the highest point of a temple and then was also beaten to death when it was shown that he survived the fall)
It seems to me that the resurrection did something to the early believers… it seemed to transform them… change them.
And the great news is that the same resurrecting power does the same change in us.
Just like a caterpillar thinks it’s the end of the world… it then is transformed into something new… something different… a new creation.
The old life is gone… the skin is just a shell… a new life has been born again… and we see the beauty in the butterfly.
That’s why I love it when I see a butterfly… it reminds me that there is more to come… it reminds me to have faith in what I can’t see or know or understand fully… because this is just one chapter.
Death isn’t the end… it’s not the ultimate enemy… death to your old life for Christians is just the beginning of new life.
A new chapter has begun… and it ends with eternity.
In research done by the Barna group in the USA showed that only 27% of church going school kids had some sort of prayer or devotion at home… this number is REALLY low.
However what’s the most alarming is that if you take out grace at dinner time… the number drops to between 10-12%
So that means that almost 90% of church going school kids never get any kind of devotion…
Now parents in Christian homes tell me that they want their kids to discover a relationship in Christ… so the question has to be asked…
How are they expecting that to happen osmosis?
John Piper writes: “If there is one memory that our children should have of our families and of our church it is this; they should remember God. god was first. God was central”
The Bible tells us to get the Bible message inside our children…
Write these commandments that I’ve given you today on your hearts. Get them inside of you and then get them inside your children. Talk about them wherever you are, sitting at home or walking in the street; talk about them from the time you get up in the morning to when you fall into bed at night. Tie them on your hands and foreheads as a reminder; inscribe them on the doorposts of your homes and on your city gates.
Kids need and long to hear from us…
Our Testimonies… Our Experiences… Our personal encounters with God.
You see they want to know that what you believe isn’t just real but life changing.
Here’s the thing if parents don’t start to impress these on our children… you can bet that the enemy of souls will… in a subtle… but very real way.
Our kids are FAR TO VALUABLE to just to hand over to the enemy without a fight!
If you have children under the age of 12… and really would like resources for the home to help give your children EVERY opportunity to discover the amazing adventure God has in store for them. I would recommend Faith box.
For more information click on the link here!
and even better… I would strongly recommend you purchase it!
According to research from the Barna group in the U.S.
60-90% of Church going School kids will not carry their faith with them into young adulthood – they just let it go.
When asked “why?”, by far the largest reason was “hypocrisy”.
You see what they heard at church and what they saw at home wasn’t the same thing.
There was never the God conversations, between their parents… they never saw how the parents faith impacted their lives.
We talk about how important it is for our kids to grow up in a Christian environment yet we’re treating church like a drop of zone for them to get their weekly ‘Jesus dose’ – but we wouldn’t not feed our kids Monday to Saturday and only feed them on Sunday would we?
So why do we do that to ourselves and our relationship with Christ?
Just as importantly why would we do it to our kids and jeopardize them having a lasting relationship with God?
Why would you, a parent do that to your child?
Why wouldn’t you give them the opportunity to discover the amazing adventure Christ has in store for them?
Start children off on the way they should go,
and even when they are old they will not turn from it
Our kids need and long to hear from us as parents…
OUR testimonies… this is what God has done for me
Instead, you must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone asks about your Christian hope, always be ready to explain it. 1 Peter 3:15
Are you ready to talk to your kids about your Christian hope?
OUR experiences… This is the adventure God took me on
OUR personal encounters with the living God… God changed me, I once was this and now I’m this.
The bottom line is this… if we want our kids to have the faith that influences the way they live their lives then in our homes we need to be modelling faith through a personal relationship with Christ…
I’m not talking about just putting on some Christian music in your house every now and then
I’m not talking about saying grace before you eat your dinner
I’m not talking about saying prayers before bed.
What I’m talking about is this: how does your faith… and your relationship with Christ impact your life and those around you?
You see it has to do with not just teaching faith… but journeying with your children.
FAITH starts at home… is faith at your home?
To say I love Christmas is an understatement…
I LOVE CHRISTMAS…
I even start playing the Christmas Carols a month out… I love it. There are some REALLY cool Christmas carols, but one of my favourites lyrically is ‘Hark the Herald Angels sing’ a song originally written in the 1700′s – I think it’s the simplicity of the words and the fact that the more you look into what they mean the more they reveal.
One of the verses particularly stands out for me:
Mild he lays his glory by
Born that man no more shall die
Born to raise the sons of Earth
Born to give them second birth…
Did you pick that up?
Among the story of a baby born into the world in one of the most unlikely places… there is a future.
But not the future of this baby… a future for us.
Here lies this baby… growing up… to die for us.
“Born that man no more shall die…”
Let that sink in for a while… he died for you…
All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is by his great mercy that we have been born again, because God raised Jesus Christ from the dead. Now we live with great expectation, and we have a priceless inheritance—an inheritance that is kept in heaven for you, pure and undefiled, beyond the reach of change and decay.
1 Peter 1:3-4
You see Christmas is more than the story of when a baby was born into the world… this is a story of a rescue, God laying aside his Gloryand putting himself in the place where we should have been… taking the punishment of death for the sins that we did… the punishment that WE deserved.
God was giving us a second chance…
Hark the Herald angels sing.
Christmas seems to be getting crazier every year… more things to do… more things to buy… more sales… more tinsel… more… more… more.
And if you’re a Christian like me you hear the same stories over and over again… and while these stories are often well intended or even true after a while they start to sound a bit stale… and that’s sometimes hard to focus on what the real meaning of Christmas is.
For me it’s about one word that translated in English means three words:
Emmanuel: God with us!
Think about it GOD… the creator of the universe and everything in it… someone who is so HUGE that it’s often easier for people to intellectualise him away… to say “I can’t even think of how that would work… therefore it can’t be true” than to think of the vastness of a God who really wants to spend time with you… and that’s part of the irony isn’t it?
A God who doesn’t need us… but wants us, while we desperately and totally need God and yet we don’t really want him most of the time.
God WITH: he wasn’t just God who studied us from afar like some ant farm experiment… he was WITH us.. he came and lived with us… not as a King… not as a person of stature… but one of us… the ordinary… the plain… the broken… and he suffered and he died in a way that none of us would never be able to understand… one commentator calls it the most vicious way any person could invent to kill someone else.
And yet knowing this God came down… to be WITH us… knowing that we’ll reject him.
God with US: You and me… Jesus came to die for us… and he dies on the cross knowing our past sins… and our future sins… and yet he went and died for us anyway… because there was no other way for us to have our sins removed
We can earn our way to heaven… we can’t beg our way to heaven… we can’t even evangelize our way to heaven…
The only way is through Jesus…
Emmanuel… God With US…
When we look at Christmas through the lens of that one word… EMMANUEL… it changes everything.
Why aren’t we telling our kids this all the time… Why aren’t we passing this on?
Don’t we want our kids to experience God’s grace?
Isn’t this the Good News we want them to hear… that there is hope in this world… that there is something to live for in this world… and it’s far bigger than you and it’s far bigger than me… and that’s GREAT… that’s the way it should be… because anything that would be in our control we would stuff up so monumentally that it would never work…
And yes it will be hard – but if life were easy… then we wouldn’t need to rely on God would we?
Emmanuel: God with US… and he’s still with us… so why do you only remind yourself of that at Christmas?
Isn’t it so easy these days to not engage with anyone… or you might engage but on a really small shallow level…
I was thinking about the things that influenced me the most… and it was two things.
Things that made me happy… and things that made me sad
Do you remember the things that your parents said to you when they said something like “You must always remember this…” – it’s great if you do… but I certainly don’t… the things I remember are the times that someone gave me encouragement, lifted me up… a parent telling me that they were proud of me… a friend giving me an ‘atta-boy’ at going a good job… it’s those things that stick…
On the flip side however it’s the things that often hurt the most that stay in your mind too… the time when you felt betrayed, shamed or guilty…. these things when held onto can hold back and cripple someone.
My thought is… if the things that impact us the most are so influenced by the people who are part of our lives, and if we are filled with the Holy Spirit and different from the rest of the world… then why don’t we encourage each other more and help take away those negative thoughts???
“Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works.”
We’re to ENCOURAGE each other… lift each other up… motivate each other.
“By acts of love and good works…”
It seems to me that when we are being counter cultural to the norm and we start to show our love for others… and do things for these people… it makes a real impact. The world expects people to take advantage of them, to use them when they are weak, and to hold a grudge… what are we doing to counter that?
Notice however it does not say “just saying nice things”... but it’s “doing” nice things… it’s putting your money where your mouth is… it’s walking the talk!
After all LOVE is a verb.
And what starts to happen when we start to do things for other people and love them how Christ loved us (which is unconditionally – after all he died for us when we were still sinners) then not only do we see those around us change… but we start to change too.
You see we’re called to spur each other on… but how do you even start that??
We need to make sure that we’re taking our cues from the Holy Spirit… just ask if there is anyone in mind that he thinks you should ‘spur’ on… or maybe there is someone that comes to your mind straight away… how are you going to make them feel encouraged?
However here’s the thing…
Spurs often hurt… sometimes you need to give the person that you are trying to encourage a bit of a ‘dig’…
Wounds from a sincere friend
are better than many kisses from an enemy.
Sometimes you have to say the ‘hard word’ to a friend… sometimes you have to give your friend a reality check… and it can be hard and it can be painful… however if your friend knows that you’re saying it from a sincere place… and if you feel that you’re saying it as a prompting from the Holy Spirit… it may be the things that sets them free from some of the pain that they have been holding onto for sometime.
So are you encouraging your friends?
Are you spurring them on?
What are you doing to change the life of your friends?
Because isn’t it easier to be right… than it is to love someone?
Lets not choose the easy option!
Have you ever been in a place where you have been making progress in your faith and all of a sudden you get railroaded?
I have… after a hard couple of months due to business and just ‘life’ in general I finally felt like I was in a place that was a place where I could get real with God again… it was time to do business!!
I had been really getting back into the word of God and reading it each morning with my wife Emma… and then last night we were with our growth group and we decided to have communion together… it was something most of us had never done outside of a ‘church’ building before and it , and most of us agreed that it gave it a different feel… a different focus… as we wrestled with how it was described in the Bible.
Spiritually I was feeling like things were getting back to where they had been before…maybe even better… until today.
A while ago I was in a position where I was being pursued by another woman… it was getting pretty messy (I won’t go into details) however I was given the opportunity to move to another part of the city for my job and I took it… and things were going pretty well… until today.
The same person I had being trying to stay away from and cut out of my life, started to message me, and text me… out of the blue?
I don’t think so… because all of a sudden I found myself thinking of where I had been before instead of where I was going.
It hit me like a bolt out of the blue…
I was frustrated on the drive home in my car… why this… and why now… things were starting to look so good.
And then I realised the hugeness of what having communion and remembering where we had come from as sinners meant to me… and then what it meant to the enemy.
And then I started to be frustrated at myself…
“Of course this has happened now… you had drawn a line in the sand and declared that you are aligning yourself with God… and the enemy doesn’t want that”
It was a ‘Duh Goose moment’
The reason it took me off guard was because I wasn’t being vigilant.
“Be careful! Watch out for attacks from the Devil, your great enemy. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for some victim to devour.” – 1 Peter 5:8
“The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy…” – John 10:10a
Was I that naive to think that these things happening were an accident?
The enemy is strategic and forceful, and he’s playing for keeps… the Holy Spirits role is to help you have a closer relationship with God… and the enemy wants the opposite…
Be vigilant… keep and eye out.
Now I realise what is happening I am certainly going to be.
Wow.. it’s been an age since I’ve blogged… However I’ve been doing a lot of thinking and re-organising my life.
It’s been hard not to put ‘pen to paper’ as I’m a communicator… so it may be a couple of days of ‘catch up’
So what have I been thinking about?
The area I live in is a lower economic area… a working class area… it would be fair to say that a lot of families find it hard to make ends meet.
There are families within this area who aren’t in that position… yet many choose to send their kids away from the area for school, for sports, for church… and I have to ask… is this really community???
Now please hear me… I’m all for giving the best for my children, I have 5 and I love them very very much and I want the best for them… however how can I teach them that community is part of stories like ‘The Good Samaritan’ (Luke 10:25-37) if we’re sending them outside the place they’re living??
Now I used to be one of those parents who send their children away from the area to go to school… but in the weekends… in the local shops… in our church who did they see?
It wasn’t people from school it was people from the area they live… their community.
Are we fooling our kids and robbing them of true community?
You see sending our kids away from the community they are part of to do what we think are best could be more damaging than we think…
Community is meant to be messy… it’s part of the magic that makes community…
Acts 2:42-47 gets used lots for people to claim their stance of what community is… however these people were Jews AND Gentiles… traditional Jews and Rabbis, mixing with people who ad no idea about the others culture was about. It was rich people giving things away to those who needed it… it was traditional foe loving each other… it was eating together… it was uncomfortable to start off with I’m sure.
How are our children meant to learn this? Especially if we’re telling them that the community that WE put them into is true community?
When actually what it really is could only be best described as ‘pick ‘n’ mix’ ?? (or maybe just snobbery)
Community is where you are planted and living within that place… yes you can create community in other areas, but lets be realistic about what it really is it’s not true community, it’s community genetic engineering.
Community is often awkward… it’s often heads butting… it’s often filled with mistakes… it’s often hard work… and it’s always messy…
but out the other end is something magic… it’s rich lifting up poor (and I’m not just talking financial… but knowledge/beliefs/culture etc.) it’s those with, giving to those who don’t, it’s lifting up each other… and you can’t do this without going through a process of iron sharpening iron.
Have you read the prayer that Jesus made on the night of, not only his betrayal… but his crucifixion?
I am praying not only for these disciples but also for all who will ever believe in me through their message. I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one—as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me. John:17:20-21
Jesus didn’t pray for the sake of Community… but so that the World would believe that Jesus was sent from God.
He wanted us to be one… as God and Jesus were…
It was the God of the world… coming down and mixing with us, who are unworthy… who are messed up…
That’s where community starts… and that’s messy…
This isn’t going to be one of those nice feel good type of blogs… so if you’re not prepared to think about making some hard decisions then turn off the computer now and walk away… we’re gonna get serious!
I’ve been trying to sort my life out, it’s been a long process… but growing fruit is like that isn’t it?
I’m just starting to see the fruits of it all come into a new season now… but it hasn’t been easy.
Can I be perfectly honest with you?
I’m not going to sugar coat it… I’m a hypocrite – if I was to be perfectly blunt.
I never meant to be… I just became one… it wasn’t a planned move… it wasn’t a clear pathway I chose to go on… it wasn’t even waking up one morning thinking “I think I’ll be a hypocrite today”... I just became one.
You see Christian’s are REALLY good at coming up with excuses why they do things… In fact we’re starting to become famous for it… as an example – we are called to “Love” yet Christians are more known for what we are against than what we are for…
We’re part of the crew that gets drunk with everyone else… yet we say we’re “in the world but NOT of it”… We make excuses for living with our partners before we’re married, when we know the Bible says not to do it… but because it’s not a ‘direct command’ we think we have discovered some great cosmic loophole… We say that our bodies are a temple of the Holy spirit but we go out for a quick smoke at lunch time, or don’t eat properly or exercise regularly.
Lets start to get real people…
I know we all make mistakes… heck I’ve got be to pretty high up on the ledger as far as mistakes go… however fruit needs to grow, and we need to make sure we are starting to put ourselves in an environment for it to do that.
Now I was happy to continue my little life of having my feet in both camps… until I re-read this verse.
“Everyone who sins is breaking God’s law, for all sin is contrary to the law of God. And you know that Jesus came to take away our sins, and there is no sin in him. Anyone who continues to live in him will not sin. But anyone who keeps on sinning does not know him or understand who he is.
…. Those who have been born into God’s family do not make a practice of sinning, because God’s life is in them. So they can’t keep on sinning, because they are children of God. ” – 1 John 4-10
Hold on… so if I know I’m doing wrong yet I still choose to do what is wrong… I don’t really know who Christ is???
But I’ve been a Christian all my life you may shout, however according to this verse… and plenty others within the Bible… you may have the ‘label’ of Christian… but you’re not a Disciple of Jesus… you’re not a follower… you’ve just got the label and go to church… you’re a casual Christian…
And just when you thought… but the things I’m doing are fine… Jesus didn’t COMMAND it… actually he did!
We get blindsided by this one phrase…
“If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me.” - Matthew 16:26
Lets face it… we’re hypocrites… and we’re selfish…
It’s sucks aye?
We’re so into making sure we’re HAPPY that we forget to look to the only one who can free us… the ONLY one… and what for? Our own selfish desires??? Our own comfort????
“But surely God wants me to be happy??”… no he doesn’t!!
God wants you to be so much more than just happy… “Christ came to give life… and life in ALL it’s fullness…”(1) or in some other versions “ABUNDANTLY.” He GAVE his only son as a sacrifice to FREE us so that we can be MORE than just happy and we’re willing to look for loopholes so that we don’t feel guilty about it???
What do you do with a scripture life 2 Timothy 3:16
“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness…”
It doesn’t say “pick and choose scriptures that make YOU feel comfortable” does it???
We don’t want to give up what we have because giving up hurts… we have to die to who we once were... and dying isn’t fun (ask anyone!) … it’s often painful, and you have to give up so much… but the plans and the promises of God are so much more worth it…
Are you a person who ‘just goes to church’ and maybe sometimes reads the Bible or are you someone who is making a commitment to want to follow Jesus’ command and actually become a follower…
But here’s the thin… that means a death... death to what you’re clinging too… making excuses for…
I’m not here to judge… not my job… and it’s not my intention… I’m most likely more of a sinner than most of your who read this blog… however… I want to give my life over FULLY to what God wants for my life…
however if you are feeling uneasy… if you are feeling angry at me for writing this blog… if God is just quietly poking at your heart… then it may pay to give over your dirty laundry to God… he’s the only one who can deal with it.
It’s going to be hard… it’s going to hurt…
But Gods plans are so much better than anything I could ever come up with…
Have you got the courage to look through your life and start to make those changes… because that’s what repentance is… a TOTAL turn around… the other direction… not looking back.
It’s time to stop making excuses for your sin.
Have you ever wondered why when you go and confess to God or a priest why nothing changes?
Why you keep going back time after time again…. for the SAME THING??
Here’s what I think… Because God is thinking “Why are you telling me? I already know… Tell the person you have wronged”
James (Jesus’ Brother) says something similar in the book of James here’s what he said:
“Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.” – James 5:16 (NLT)
Now I understand what you’re thinking… hold on… the person I have wronged may not know I have hurt them they are going to be distraught when I tell them.
But here’s the thing… here’s what I think…
You have ALREADY hurt them and you have ALREADY wronged them, and by holding onto your secret doesn’t protect them, but destroys YOU, it eats away at you.
You see every relationship you go to… every friendship you’re in… every situation that reminds you of your secret means you feel guilty and that will continue to eat away at you… the only way you can get rid of it fully is to confess… not just to God (because He already knows) or a priest but confess to EACH OTHER especially to the person you have wronged.
James says… confess to each other… learn from it… heal from it… grow from it… and then pray to God for his help for you to move on so that you can “see wonderful results”
You see it seems to me that you’ll never be able to move on… until you are honest with yourself and others…
But it’s so scary!!…
Yes it is…
However is it more scary that trudging it through your life until you have to finally confess it on your death bed?
Do you want something to eat away at you for that long?
When you can be FREE NOW!