"So we keep on praying for you, asking our God to enable you to live a life worthy of his call. May he give you the power to accomplish all the good things your faith prompts you to do. Then the name of our Lord Jesus will be honoured because of the way you live, and you will be honoured along with him. This is all made possible because of the grace of our God and Lord, Jesus Christ."
2 Thessalonians 1:11-12
There is nothing quite like a praying parent, or grandparent. Someone who comes before God on a regular basis for you. So many testimonies I hear start with; “My grandmother..” or “My aunt always prayed for me…”. God hears the prayers of a loving family member and he responds. Like Paul says here to the church in Thessalonica we should be a people, a family, a church that constantly prays for each other. We believe that when we pray things happen, hearts are changed, resources are provided, relationships are restored, strength and encouragement is given and the love of God is shared.
Prayer is also a great way to resolve any offense or conflict that may be between you and a brother or sister. When we pray we seek the heart of God for the other. It is hard to hold any hatred for another in this posture, because God’s heart for everyone is always love.
Today I want to encourage you to pray for 3 people in your church family. May be even pray the same things that Paul prays over the Thessalonians;
That they may live within God’s call.
They may accomplish all the good things God has called them to do.
That their lives might reflect the love, grace and truth of Jesus.
That they may be filled with the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.
After you have prayed for them send them a text or give them a call to let them know you are praying for them. At the very least it will bring you closer together. Better still, God might move supernaturally through the both of you.
"I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought."
1 Corinthians 1:10
I am not sure if there is anyone more annoying on the planet than your brothers or sisters. They seem to have an extra special ability to get right under your skin. Because they know you better than most and they know exactly how, where and when they can cause the most aggravation with the least amount of effort. I think it also has a little to do with proximity also.
It is interesting that the most common way that fellow believers in the new testament refer to each other is as brothers and sisters. It makes sense, right? If God is our Father and we are His children that would make us each other’s brothers and sisters.
This relatively simple concept is significant in the way that we relate to each other.
It means that;
We will have each other’s backs
We will always be honest with each other
We will respect each other
We will get on each other’s’ nerves but we will learn patience and grace
We will forgive and ask for forgiveness from each other
We will be free to be who we are around each other
We will trust each other
We won’t betray each other’s confidence.
At the end of the day Brothers and Sisters can be annoying, but no one quite has your back like them, no one quite knows you like them and no one will be there for you over a lifetime like them.
"He replied to him, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” Pointing to his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.” Matthew 12:48-50
What is it that makes a family, a family?
You could say it was a name… yes, but not all families carry the same name.
You could say it was blood… sure, this could be the case, but not always.
You could say that it was a group of people who share a home together… yes, yes but how does that account for extended family or family living away from home for study of work?
One definition I found is;’ A group of people related by blood or marriage’.
Essentially people are in families because of their past (where they have come from) and/or a commitment they have made to each other.
Jesus defines family differently. When asked to interrupt a time of ministry with His disciples by His mother and siblings Jesus responds by saying that anyone who does the will of His father is His family. He doesn’t get up and attend to His biological family, instead He prioritises His followers. Jesus says that believers can be classed as family also – and carry at least as much importance as our earthly families.
In order to be part of God’s family Jesus says we are required to do His will. How do we know His will? We ask Him of course. We get to know Him and His ways by reading His word, praying and practice listening to His voice. It’s not just enough for us to hear and to know, Jesus says we must put it into action. Just like our biological families this is not an individual exercise. It’s communal. We pray and we read and we listen and we minister and we love and we care together.
No matter where you have come from or what you have done, once you begin the adventure with Jesus you are part of His family. You are welcomed into the most exciting and significant relationship on the planet – God’s family.
"My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.” Luke 15:31-32
This story is the most profound story I have ever encountered. The story of a family ripped apart by the selfishness of the youngest son, who wants to do things his own way and be his own man, separate from His family. This son, when he hits rock bottom and comes to his senses, makes the long walk home. He expects to return, not as a son (for he had given up that right), but as a servant. Instead of receiving the cold shoulder, like he deserved, his father runs to him and welcomes him back into the family. It is a great story of mercy and love.
The older brother is rightfully angered. This brother of his had done so much damage, he had spat on the family name. Now he is being welcomed, reinstated and celebrated. Imagine for a second this was your brother and sister who did this to your family, how would you feel about them?
I find the father’s final words telling. He essentially says to His older son; “You have always been my son – but so has your brother.” You see the difference between the two sons was never about their place in the family. The Father had never removed the rights of the younger son. The difference was their mind sets. The younger son was not living like a son – he was living like a servant or an outsider or even worse a slave. His Father never stopped loving him, was always waiting for him and was always ready to welcome him back into the family.
From time to time we will operate as one of these sons. Like the younger sons we will rebel and want our own way, hit rock bottom and need to come back to our loving Father, needing His love and mercy and restoration. Or maybe we may slip into the persona of the older son, angered by the amazing grace shown to our brothers and sisters who have so offended us and our father by their choices. Like the younger son the older sons in us need to also to come to our Father for forgiveness.
Are you living like you are Sons and Daughters of your heavenly Father?
Are there some people in your life that you need to forgive and welcome back into the family?
How is God calling you to live as His sons or daughter today?
"Therefore, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us. Because of our faith, Christ has brought us into this place of undeserved privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to sharing God’s glory." Romans 5:1-2
"So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children. Now we call him, “Abba, Father.” For his Spirit joins with our spirit to affirm that we are God’s children." Romans 8:15-16
The message of Romans is beautiful. Within its 16 chapters Paul outlines the path that God has laid out before us. It starts with us being far off, far away from His plan and His will. In this place, we are totally helpless and in the dark. Then through the one act of perfect love by Jesus, as He hung there on a cross for us, He made a way, through faith, to come back, to return to God.
Many believe that Romans 8 is the climax of the whole letter. Here Paul shows us that the cross not only made a way for us to be made right with God, to have our debts cleared. It also made a way for us to be adopted into God’s family.
Through the death and resurrection of Jesus we have been invited into the most intimate of relationships. Two significant and life changing things result from the adoption.
1. Intimacy – Paul says that we now get to call Him Abba – which could be translated Daddy or Papa. With our adoption into His family we have permission to be with Him and to call on Him whenever we need Him. We don’t have to wait or ask for permission, we have it as His Adopted Sons and Daughters.
2. Inheritance – We can receive all of His resources, the authority that comes from His name and all of the rights a child of the king has.
What does it mean for you to consider yourself an adopted son or daughter of God?
How does it change the way you see yourself and others?
“Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!"
Most of us have grown up in family. To some degree each one of our families have been dysfunctional. For some this has been very minor and for others more severe. As we look back at our parents it is often easy for us to see their faults. As a parent, myself now I have a much greater appreciation for my parents. The great majority of parents try their best with what they have been given. There are not too many parents who wish harm on their kids and while it is not always displayed, have great love for their children.
Jesus here uses this truth to describe the love that our heavenly Father has for us. He says even you, who are evil (I know, pretty strong language here right? But I believe He is just trying to show the contrast between our brokenness and mixed motivations as parents with the perfection of God) still want to do good to your children. He then follows it with a rhetorical question; How much more will our Father (God) give us good things?
God is perfect in every way. He is the perfect creator, saviour, example, friend and of course Father. For some of us there is great difficulty in seeing God as our Father, because our earthly fathers haven’t been great or absent. Jesus says here that God is the kind of Father that you can trust. He is a good and perfect Father, who only wants to give us good and perfect things. He calls us to trust in His goodness, to expect that He will have good things for you. Sometimes these ‘good things’ might not always be what we would consider good and sometimes we don’t always get what we want. But like any good parent God gives us what we need and what is best for us.
In what situation is God calling you to trust in His goodness today?
Who might God be asking you to tell of His great love for?
"To the fatherless he is a father.
To the widow he is a champion friend.
To the lonely he gives a family.
To the prisoner he leads into prosperity until they sing for joy.
This is our Holy God in his Holy Place!
But for the rebels there is heartache and despair."
At some point in each of our lives we feel left out and alone. It may be when you weren’t invited to that event or weren’t considered in that decision or had no one contact you when tragedy hit. Research has shown that the feelings associated with loneliness, like isolation and feeling left out are linked with poor health outcomes (both mental and physical).
This Psalm shows us three ways that God helps us combat loneliness. He first reminds us that no matter how distant or absent our earthly parents might be, we can always turn to Him as our loving heavenly Father. I think that the way this Psalm is worded shows that this is especially true for those without a Father. He shows Himself throughout scripture to be especially present with us in our hard times and in our times of most vulnerability.
The second thing it reminds us is that He is our defender. To be lonely is to be vulnerable, both physically and emotionally. This passage reminds us that He is our defender and friend in these times. He is there standing between us and those who wish to take advantage. He is also there with us as a friend, to encourage us, to strengthen us and to save us from spiralling into the dark places of the soul.
Thirdly this passage speaks of a God who places His children in families. I believe that this relates to both our biological families, but also our relational and spiritual families. We don’t have to be alone, there are others who can get around you, support you and stand with you. Yes, it is good to know that God is with us, but there is nothing quite like a flesh and blood person to remind you that you are not alone. As a spiritual family, we can both support and be supported by others, we can encourage and be encouraged, be strengthened and strengthen.
How is God calling you to trust in Him?
How is he calling you to connect in deeper to church family?
Who is He calling you to reach out to?
"Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble. " 1 Peter 3:8
In our house there are five different ways of doing things. If we want to listen to music there are five different music preferences. If we want to go out for a day trip there are five different destination choices. If we want to go to a restaurant there are five different food choices. It feels like we can’t agree on anything!
Come to the church and we multiply those different preferences by a couple of hundred (and that’s in a small church). How on earth does God expect us to be like-minded?
Here’s what I think. I think God expects us to be like-minded on the big things and let the little float away. . . . .
Jesus lived died and rose again and he wants to you to believe in him and follow him. “For God so loved the world that whoever believed in him would have eternal life and would not perish.” 1 John 3:16
God wants us to love God and love people (Matthew 22:37-40). These are the two most important commands. Everything after that is just details. . . . .
So let’s be rigid in what’s important but flexible in the things that are not important. Like service styles and times. Like the way we do ministry. Like what coffee we serve at morning tea.
Hold fast to the important things. Like Jesus. . . .
Remember we’re all a work in progress and we all have different ways of doing things.
Be kind to yourself and others. Have compassion. Ask people the question “Are you ok?”
God wants us to love each other so well in the church that the church may be known for its love. Let’s be that fragrant offering. Nothing smells as sweet as people who genuinely love each other.
"Then Moses went up to God, and the Lord called to him from the mountain and said, “This is what you are to say to the descendants of Jacob and what you are to tell the people of Israel: ‘You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself.
Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you[a]will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words you are to speak to the Israelites.” Exodus 19:3-6
I remember one day when I was in my twenties catching the train in the Blue Mountains. And as I caught this train I received this download from God about church and how it could work better. I sat there and wrote pages and pages of notes.
What I remember most about that time wasn’t the words but the intimate connection with God. He was speaking to me in that train in the Blue Mountains. We were connecting.
Israel was God’s treasured possession. God spoke to her through the prophets and through the law. How amazing! How precious!
But Israel, had a real identity crisis, she kept forgetting who she was. She turned her back on God’s commands, she turned her back on looking after the poor, she turned her back on God.
You see Israel, like us, has trouble remembering who we are called to be. We are God’s people, a holy priesthood (1 Peter 2:9). What does a priest do? They have direct connection to God.
You have direct connection to God. What is he wanting to say to you today? How is he sharing his world with you?
Spend some time today connecting with the author and perfector of life.
"Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy." 1 Peter 2:10
I remember what it was like before I followed Jesus. It was lonely. It was purposeless. It was depressing. High school for me was for the most part like a tamer version of “Lord of the Flies’. People being cruel for the sake of being cruel! There didn’t seem to be any point.
And yet, when I was on camp or after I’d left school and joined a church, well life seemed bigger, brighter. I was on an adventure with Jesus and anything could or would happen.
I am forever grateful that I found the people of God and I want to remember that privilege and honour! Jimmy Needham describes it beautifully in ‘Fence Riders’ . . . .
Can I sing about my maker
And have you not roll your eyes
Can I weep about my Savior
And the way He died
I know it don't make sense
To those who ride the fence
But I'm sold out to Christ
We are the people of God! We get to sing about our Saviour. What better way to live life than this?
And yet, as the years roll on sometimes I forget about the privilege and honour. I forget what life was like before. I start to take it for granted.
Because life is busy and the days are short!
Why should we give to others? Why should we care?
Because we know God’s mercy and now we want others to receive God’s mercy also. Life is bigger, better, brighter as the people of God.
Church is community with a purpose. It is being with people who love God and love Jesus. When we work together, when we share our lives together, when we give together, the people of God flourish! Individually we forget but together we’re better.