Seeing an Outrageous Act of Love

three strand rope

Three-strand rope

Looking at a standard three strand rope, it is easy to think there are only two strands. A bit like how we see God’s Character. Love and Forgivness, but often forgetting His Grace.

When a women anointed Jesus’ feet with a whole bottle of expensive oil, even the disciples were unable to recognise an Outrageous act of love that best describes Grace.

Because Grace doesn’t come naturally. It doesn’t come from just speaking words of faith.

In human terms Grace seems unfair. We only have to read about the Old Testament characters Job, or the Prodigal Son’s father.

Because the recipients of grace never encounter shame, guilt or feel judged.

That’s how God operates with you and me. His Outrageous Love for us showers us with unearned gifts and promises. Someone who has unspeakable plans for us, who understands us before we speak, who watches over us while we sleep. Someone who sees only our future potential.

That’s Grace in action…that’s Outrageous love, the third Character of God we often don’t comprehend.

Steve

Dreams and the Christmas story

AngelGabrielHow often in scripture does the quiet prompting of the Spirit come from within, in the form of a dream? How sensitive must the dreamers have been, to recognise the Spirit in their hearts.

In the Christmas story we see Joseph, (Mary’s intended husband) has a dream. Joseph is faced with a heart-breaking dilemma. His life is in turmoil because he loves Mary so much. Let us imagine for a few moments how welcome the angel’s message must have been to him!

How quickly he acts, allowing himself to follow his heart and not allowing his sense of legal obligation to rule.

Do I invite the Spirit to prompt me?

This Sunday completes the season of Advent where we await with Hope, Peace, Joy and Love, the second Coming of Jesus.

How ready am I to hear what the Spirit might suggest with any of these expectations in a busy world of conflicts?

Steve

Yet more modern proverbs

One book open on top of another

Prayer: Don’t give God instructions, just report for duty!

The task ahead of us is never as great as the Power behind us.

The Will of God never takes you to where the Grace of God will not protect you.

We don’t change the message, the message changes us.

You can tell how big a person is by what it takes to discourage them.

The best mathematical equation I have ever seen: – 1 cross + 3 nails = 4 given.

There is no greater treasure than a good friend!

“Love all, trust a few, do wrong to no-one.” (William Shakespeare.)

Don’t Walk In Front of Me,
I May Not Follow.
Don’t Walk Behind Me,
I May
Not Lead.
Walk beside me and be my friend.

Kindness and Courtesy are contagious as are Smiles.

The Proud Frog

This proud frog wanted to visit his cousins in a pond several miles away, and that’s a long journey for a slow moving frog. But in the pond where he lived, there were some Canadian geese.

The observant frog noted how much they liked corn. So proud frog found a strong stick about four feet
long and approached the geese with a proposition:

“If two of you will take the two ends of this stick in your mouths, I will clamp my strong jaws onto the middle of the stick. Then you can deliver me by air to a pond two miles to the east to see my cousins before returning me the next day. For this, I will reward you with a sack of corn.”

The geese agreed.

So the goose taxi began operation. But about half way to the destination, an inquisitive horse looked up and saw this airborne taxi. The horse said, “That is an amazing contraption. Who invited that thing?”
Unable to resist, the frog said, “I did.” And that was the end of the frog.

That frog discovered a biblical truth: when pride causes us to advertise our own virtues, tragedy replaces goodness. On the other hand, when our hearts yearn for God to be glorified rather than us, the Kingdom of God is promoted and increase will follow.

Steve 

Time of Increase – Part 5

What turns charcoal or carbon into diamonds?    Pressure and Heat!

Something worthless becomes valuable. That’s our story when we discover a Spirit led life with God’s Son, Jesus. No more and no less.

In the Body of Christ, the heart of the matter is a matter of the heart.

In Christ, our hearts are being renewed so we begin to see and understand God has always had a plan for our life.

Our hearts become a “Spirit filled” controlled environment that determines how we now respond to a Godly life and see God’s “Increase” or blessings.

When our hearts are right, we begin to see God in people, places and situations never noticed before. We find peace despite our circumstances – and a hope and strength that is not our own –  as we discover the joy of lovingly obeying our new-found master. Gladly our life is no longer our own!

I am talking about the Increase in the gifts and fruits of the Holy Spirit as we die to our old ways.  Are you at that place yet/still?

It means responsibility and accountability, not just to our inner thoughts and words , but everything outwardly expressed to one another.

We now live by God’s standards, becoming accountable to one another.
That’s real Church and one that is about Increase.                Steve.  J

Time of Increase: Part 4

I am the last person who wants to do programmes that somehow promise to quick-fix a situation, yet seldom do.  And nothing changes.

To do list

I am a male (yes!) and men generally like tasks and projects because we like seeing results.

 

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But we all know what every woman knows; that developing relationships is the DNA of life.

After all, that’s what God is about.

I believe the Parish has been prepared for

focusing on the quality of “church” rather than on numerical growth goals.

Any increase needs to be about church health, with growth or multiplication simply a by-product.

Meeting and working together – with creativity, authenticity and diversity – is happening.  But it is tough and time-consuming in busy lives.

It stretches, sometimes hurts. It exposes the real condition of our hearts as we, individually and corporately, are called to love others we would prefer to avoid.  Or sometimes not have around at all.

But the grace given us, compels us to love them as Christ does!

That’s Real Church; very  different from the world we live in, and why God instituted it for His purposes.

This brings me to the primary question of this series.

What must we do as individuals and as a Parish to be a Healthy Church?

Give us your take on this vital question as I wrap up this series of Vicar’s Corners with your responses from the last six weeks.

Steve.  J.

Time of Increase – Part 3

Log splitting

Volunteers splitting logs as part of the parish firewood programme

 

Let’s keep the responses coming!

As I figure it, with increase comes accountability, responsibility and respect.

Growth involves movement and change into new environments.

A few years back  we have had a Parish Survey (yes!), Prayer weeks seeking out what God was doing in our community, conducted a Stewardship programme, gave vestry members portfolio ministries and developed various programmes both within the Parish life – such as the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd and Kidz Klub – and community-facing (Community Garden, TC) to name a few.
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Recently we have invested in setting up the Wairarapa Community Initiative (WCI) for seeking outside funding to further the work of God’s Kingdom.

Has the Parish grown numerically and financially?  On the face of it, no.

Do you believe there is a greater potential to increase today as there was before? I believe Yes! because God reminded me that He is the owner of the cattle on a thousand hills and promises to bless those who love and obey Him.  We are arriving at that place.  We are becoming more authentic and transparent,  We plant, we water and God does the rest.

What must we do next?

Your thoughts, please.

Steve

Time of Increase: Part 2

Children grouped round table.

 

 

We finished last week with the question;

Do we – as a Parish – demonstrate a life of increase?

I believe we are, and in several vital areas that I have been observing over the last few years.

Logo from Conciliation Service

Through the Conciliation/Celebration Service, in September 2009, we acknowledged to ourselves – and to the Masterton Community – that we have a chequered history that had split the church several times.

 

 

Men practise their items at the rehearsal prior to the Conciliation Service, 2009

The blokes practise their items at the rehearsal prior to the Conciliation Service, 2009

We confessed outwardly. As a result, congregationally we are beginning to respect and trust each other and work more together. Some relationships began to heal; others discovered there are great people in the other congregations. Slowly as a Parish we are discovering a strength that comes in our diversity, as we agree to disagree and work more together – unity is possible in our disunity.

Congregation sharing the Peace at St Alban's, Tauweru

Congregation share the Peace at St Alban’s, Tauweru

But forgiveness and rebuilding trust takes time, yet it gives birth to new life and hope. It’s a work in progress – that’s Increase in action.

Catechesisreceivescommunion

Children of the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd receive communion

Let us be encouraged by Jesus words to His disciples who often discussed who were the most important among themselves.

 “By this the world will know, that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:35)

Secondly; do you notice the makeup of the congregations is changing? There is a greater diversity. More representative of the demographics of the society we live in……not just old people…..not just middle/upper class people….not just successful wealthy people?

That’s Increase. And there is more to come, even greater things, as we continue to grow in tolerance and kindness and put others a little higher than ourselves.

What do you think?

Steve

Time of Increase: Part 1

Baby's hand

Any individual, nation (or Parish)  begins with birth, then growth, but eventually is followed by decay and death. It can be argued that history repeats itself. “Church” can be the same.

 

Casket at funeral

 

But let us be reminded from the Bible (Romans 5 and 6 in particular) the hope in Christ,  because this cycle is broken. The Message version puts it like this:

Here it is in a nutshell: just as one person did it wrong and got us all in this trouble with sin and death (Adam), another did it right (Jesus) and got us out of it. But more than just getting us out of trouble, He got us into life eternal! (Rom.5:18)

That’s Good News for all.

 

41-IMG_5908

One of the problems a Church faces is not giving those outside the Church a clear picture of what happens inside.

They don’t understand that we’re there to praise our Saviour for providing “Redemption through His Blood, and the forgiveness of sins.”

Yes, sinners go to Church, but receiving God’s Gift of grace lets us live for ever.

So here is my foundation:  to say that we are in a Time of Increase.

 

Children running at back of church

 

We are not a perfect Parish but we don’t have to die, cease to exist. Rather, acknowledging our condition and knowing God demonstrates His love toward us, in that while we were all still sinners, He died for us in Jesus, and we are now partakers of everlasting life in Him. We therefore have this Good News to share and invite others to join us.

The question is; do we demonstrate this life of increase?

Steve