Lessons from the couch (2)

“Minister from who you are, not what you do.”

I can’t remember which of my mentors taught me this, but it has stuck with me. The Christian life is supposed to flow out of who we are in Christ, not what we do for Christ. Identity comes before activity, be-ing before do-ing.

But the truth is that very few of us actually live like that. Too often, activities trample right over identity when it comes to how we live. Planting a church is hard work, there’s an intentionality in everything we do. There’s vision to be formed and shared. There’s membership to be established and developed. There are people to be cared for, issues to be resolved. There are leaders to be trained and released. There’s the gospel to be shared, lost people to be found. There’s money to be raised and stewarded. There are sermons to be prepared and preached. There are community groups to be planned and led. There are websites and social media accounts to be built and kept up-to-date. There are books to be read and applied. The things is, that none of these activities are ever complete, they’re like painting the forth rail bridge, by the time you finish you its time to start again.

That level of busyness isn’t unique to church planters, lots of people are busier than me, that’s just what busyness looks like in my life. The problem we all have is that when there’s so much to do, when all of life is to be intentional, it’s so, so easy to let activity take priority over identity, for do-ing to become more important than be-ing.

But there’s nothing intentional about being stuck on the couch, I wouldn’t have chosen to have all of my activities taken away. But while I’ve been here, God’s been teaching me about being rather than doing.

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In the story of Martha and Mary in Luke 10, Martha misses being with Jesus because she was “distracted by much serving”. Mary gets “the good portion” because she sat at Jesus’ feet and listened to Him. For Martha, activity took priority over identity, do-ing trumped be-ing. The good portion is just ‘to be’ with Jesus and according to Jesus that’s all that’s “necessary.”

Think about it, Jesus calls the disciples to be with Him. (Mark 3:14) Jesus, Himself so often disappears (often during the busiest times) to quiet places to be with His Father. Here’s the lesson God’s been teaching me. God wants us to be with Him more than He wants us to work for Him. Be-ing is with Jesus is more important that do-ing for Jesus.

What a challenge that is! So often I’m like Martha, with so much to do for Jesus that I miss being with Jesus. Sure, I read my Bible but I don’t meditate on it because I need to get out the door. Sure, I pray but I squeeze it in while I’m doing something else. Sometimes, I don’t do either because there’s just so much that I need to be doing.

Being on the couch has given me unhurried time with God, I’m not able to do stuff for Him so I just get to be with Him. I’ve received the same gentle rebuke as Martha. God has reminded me what’s truly important and necessary. He just wants me to be with Him. The goal of Bible reading isn’t to read the Bible but to know God more deeply. The goal of prayer isn’t to fulfil a duty but to express love for God. Jesus wants us to sit at His feet, to listen to His teaching and to love Him, like Mary.

What I’ve found is that He really is lovely. Spending time with Jesus is the most enjoyable thing in the world. Being with Him truly is the good portion. My heart has been refreshed,  I’m full of joy – I’m actually enjoying not being able to do anything. How strange is that?

God’s teaching me the lesson He taught Martha and I don’t want to forget it. When I’m able to do more for God, I don’t want to let do-ing take priority over be-ing. I want to intentionally make meaningful time with God, the highest priority. I want to minister from who I am, not what I do.

You should try it too.

 

Lessons from the couch (1)

Over the last few years, I (Pete) have had issues with tendons in my right leg. Normally, this means a couple of days of stiffness before it clears up. However, on December 31st, things flared up while I was walking and haven’t settled down. So far there hasn’t been one day in 2018 where I’ve been able to walk normally. Having seen a surgeon, I have now been signed off work for at least 6 weeks while I wait for scans and see a specialist in Aberdeen. On Monday, it will be 5 weeks since I was able to walk, stand or sit up, for any length of time. I’m pretty much stuck on the couch.

It has been, and looks like it will continue to be, a very frustrating time. Yet, I see God in it and wanted to share some of what I’m learning.

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A couple of Sundays ago, I started to read Ezra (as you do) and was struck by the picture of God it paints. God’s people have been in exile in Babylon for 70 years, hopelessly unable to free themselves. Yet, Ezra is written after the Lord raised up Cyrus – the Persian king – to defeat the Babylonians. The story begins with God stirring Cyrus’ heart to send His people home. This fulfilled what Isaiah had predicted 150 years earlier. Ezra 1 reveals God to be the Lord of heaven and earth, He’s the ruler of kings and of kingdoms. The events of history are under His control, He’s got the whole world in His hands. Through Cyrus, God was working out His plans and purposes.

That vision of God brings me comfort. It reminds me that God is in charge of my circumstances. He’s the only person who knows my full diagnosis. He could have stopped my leg from getting injured. He could choose to heal me even as I type. But for now, I’m on the couch. Why? Because, for now, God wants me on the couch. He has got me exactly where He wants me.

That doesn’t mean I don’t seek healing, through medicine and prayer, but the truth of God’s control over my life, laces my frustration with purpose. This time is not wasted, God has purpose in it, and with that I am content.

Doctrine. Delighting in God.

In ‘Mere Christianity’, CS Lewis describes theology as a map. He gives 2 reasons; 1 – a map is a representation of a greater reality and 2 – we need a map to know where to go. That’s why, this Sunday, at Living Hope we are starting a new 11 week series on Doctrine. We’re going to be looking at the God who speaks, creates, designs, saves, calls, transforms, adopts, gives and renews.

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Yet we don’t just want to spend 11 weeks studying a map, that’d be really boring. We want to experience the greater reality that theology is pointing to so that we might love God and know what it means to live for Him. That’s why we’ve called this series ‘Doctrine. Delighting in God.’ Our prayer for this series is that we’d know God better, love Him more and live for Him.

 

It’s our birthday.

This Sunday, Living Hope Church turns 2!

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To celebrate, we are going to be having a party after our normal gathering. There will be birthday cake, a bouncy castle and a BBQ. Whether you’ve been a part of Living Hope’s story or have never been before we would love you to come and celebrate with us.

Our gathering at Kingsview will be starting sharp at 2pm this week.

 

The Book of Jonah.

Join us next Friday (28th) from 7:30-9:30pm at Velocity Cafe for a night of music and theology. David Benjamin Blower will be performing his folk musical of The Book of Jonah, followed by a guided discussion about the challenges of enemy-love in a divided world.

You can listen to David’s music by clicking here.

We’d love to see you there.

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Grahame’s Baptism.

On Saturday, the sun shone, the wind blew, and 30 of us gathered on Loch Ness to celebrate Grahame’s baptism. We gathered round a bonfire, sung, explained baptism, listened to Grahame’s story, baptised him, prayed over him then had a BBQ. What a night – thank you Jesus. You can see a video of the baptism on our facebook page but here are some pictures from the baptism:

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All 23 miles of our baptismal tank.

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Buried with Christ.

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Raised to new life.

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Praying over Grahame.

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Bonfire.

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The BBQ legends.

Joy In Christ.

‘This blog series is based on one idea from the sermon each week. This week’s blog is written by Jodie Murchison. It’s based on the sermon ‘Joy in Christ’ which you can download here: https://soundcloud.com/livinghopeinverness/joy-in-christ’

Paul is a figure who is often assumed to be arrogant, and Philippians 3: 1-11 appears to support this. Many read it and think, ‘Wow! how arrogant is this guy?’, to be fair it is easy to read the text that way with Paul listing all the things that make him seem righteous.

However, Paul is highlighting all the good that he has done to show that it’s completely worthless in comparison to knowing Jesus as his Lord. Paul is saying, look at all the things I achieved, not only did I keep the rules, I kept them better than anyone else. If he had left it there, then for sure Paul would be boasting and we could call him arrogant. But, that is not the case. Paul goes on to say that he counts all his religious acheivements as dung, it counts for nothing as it does not make him right with God, it is only Jesus who can do that.

The list of credentials that Paul gives is to highlight that he contributes nothing to his salvation. Paul is unable to do anything to merit favour with God, he earns none of the righteousness which is given to him in Jesus. This passage is screams the doctrine of ‘Justification by Faith Alone’ which renders our human efforts as weak, useless and unable to do anything.

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What is true of Paul is also true of us also. Our efforts to be moral upstanding members of society who try to earn our own salvation by what we do is pointless. We are completely helpless when it comes trying to save ourselves. Like Paul, we can only be declared righteous and have full acceptance from God, by putting out faith in Jesus who is our righteousness.

Many people think that Christianity is for those who have it all together, keep the rules and live as good people. Scotland is full of people who think that if they can do enough good then God will accept them. For some that means being morally upright, for others it’s by keeping to a legalistic Christianity. Both ways are distortions of the Gospel, both detract from the beautiful message that we are saved by faith alone through grace alone. Ultimately both lead people to destruction.

The reality is that Christianity is only for the weak! It is for those who are willing to admit that they don’t have it all together, can’t keep the rules and aren’t a good person. Christianity is for those who know that they need a saviour. We cannot come to Jesus unless we admit that we can do nothing, that we are dead in our sins. Only when we acknowledge that are we humbled to receive the grace of God. Christianity is for the humble, for those who are open about their failings, not to celebrate their sin, but to point to a gracious God who has saved a wretch like me!

Our First Baptism.

Grahame had never been to a church service before last September. Invited by a friend, he arrived at Living Hope Church with no idea what to expect. He walked out as soon as the first song began, I remember thinking that I probably wouldn’t see him again. 2 minutes later he returned from the toilet! After the service, I asked what he thought “I’ve never been to church before but I really enjoyed it, I’ll be back next week.” He did come back and has been with us almost every Sunday since.

Over the last 10 months, God has done some incredible work in Grahame’s life. He has gone through a Christianity Explored course, he has asked question after question, he has worked through some big issues in his life. And on Saturday, the man who was a self-professed atheist a year ago is getting baptised in the freezing water of Loch Ness to, in his own words, “show my love and dedication to Jesus Christ.”

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We planted Living Hope Church so that people like Grahame, who have never heard about Jesus, might have the opportunity to hear and respond to the gospel. This is our first baptism, but our prayer is that there will be many, many more to come.

If you want to join us as we hear and celebrate what Jesus has done in Grahame’s life we are gathering on Dores Beach at 6pm. There’ll be a BBQ and bonfire after the baptism.

Joy in Friendship.

‘This blog series is based on one idea from the sermon each week. This week’s blog is written by Jodie Murchison. It’s based on the sermon ‘Joy in Friendship’ which you can download here: https://soundcloud.com/livinghopeinverness/joy-in-friendship’

Joy in Friendship

The word ‘friend’ is one which means different things to different people. Young people tend to have lots of ‘friends’, however with a lack of depth of relationship. Older people on the other hand tend to have less friends but with a greater depth of relationship.

Studies show that the world is more connected than it has ever been before, you can pick up your phone and be in contact with someone instantly. However, this connectedness has said to have led to us to being the loneliest generation ever. Therefore, it is important to look at what the biblical understanding of friendship is and we will do that through looking at Philippians 2.

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Five marks of friendship

1 – Pursued: We see this through Paul in that he sends Timothy to the Philippians in order that he would be able to hear news about his friends. This isn’t a one-way thing; the Philippians reciprocate Pauls pursuit of friendship by having sent Epaphroditus to Paul with food and money.

2 – Serving: This is demonstrated in that Timothy has served with Paul in the Gospel, he has put Christ’s interests above his own. Service in friendship is helping others to be made new and become more like Jesus, being about their joy and not just their happiness.

3 – Satisfying: The longing which Epahproditus has for the Philippians shows that the friendship which he has with them is satisfying. Deep resilient friendship is demonstrated in this longing which we see here.

4 – Sacrifices: Paul is in prison, he doesn’t know if he will live or die, but instead of being about himself and wanting to keep Epaphroditus around him to assure him and know the closeness of his brother he sends Epharoditus back to the Philippians because it would be better for them. He sacrifices the comfortability of having his friend around in order that the Philippians would rejoice in seeing their friend.

5 – Demonstrated: The Philippians are called to show their appreciation of their friend Epaphroditus by having joy in seeing him. They were to honour him and show them why they appreciate his friendship, probably done through providing and caring for him.

These five marks of friendship are crucial to having deep meaningful friendships, however it is not enough to merely look at the hallmarks of a biblical friendship but to look at the Gospel motivation for these.

Jesus is our example, He is the perfect friend who has demonstrated each of these hallmarks;
1 – He pursued us in that he came from heaven to earth, He comes after us even when we run from Him.
2 – He served us perfectly in that he took the form of a servant and humbled himself by looking to our interest and not his own. He humbled himself to death, even death on a the cross.
3 – The God-man Jesus is the one whom truly satisfies us, He is our true satisfaction.
4 – Jesus laid down his life willingly so that we could live, He sacrificed His life.
5 – He demonstrates this friendship in that when we were still sinners He died for us.

Therefore, how are we applying these principles of friendship? This week it would be great to see us put some of these into practice and perhaps pursue that friend we haven’t spoken to in a while, do something for your friend, sacrifice time for them and demonstrate to them that their friendship is important…go on be un-British for once and show emotion!

Joy in Obedience.

‘This blog series is based on one idea from the sermon each week. This week’s blog is written by Anne Rennie. It’s based on the sermon ‘Joy in Obedience’ which you can download here: https://soundcloud.com/livinghopeinverness/joy-in-obedience’

Where is the the joy?

‘People killing, people dying, children hurt, and you hear them crying.

Father, father, father help us, send some guidance from above.’

I’ve heard this song a few times in light of the recent terrorist attacks. It’s easy to feel hopeless and useless and scared. But these lyrics and our sermon from Philippians have got me thinking about how the church is supposed to respond ‘in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation.’

Joy in obedience

Obedience is a word that feels restrictive and oppressive. It isn’t a word we normally associate with freedom, satisfaction or joy. Imagine telling a 3 year old that it’s bedtime-it’s hard to imagine their joy in obeying this request!

But when Paul talks about obedience in Philippians 2 he explains that obedience is only possible with the Holy Spirits help, it’s a natural overflow of the love we have for Christ and ultimately results in us becoming more like Jesus. The more we love Christ, the more we obey Him (with the help of the Holy Spirit) the more we are transformed in to His likeness.

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So how does this bring us joy? Or how does it bring anyone else joy in the ‘midst of a twisted and crooked generation?’

Firstly, when we show off Christ through how we obey Him, we have joy because we’re living as God created us to live. Becoming more like Christ brings us true and lasting joy both now and in eternity. When we see Christ for who He really is, we see what joy is – not just happiness, but rather full contentment, complete comfort and lasting freedom.

Secondly, when we show off Christ through how we obey Him, others see how attractive and good He is. As we obey we ‘shine as lights in the world’ and point others towards the true joy that is found in Christ. How amazing to think that, through our obedience, we can show off Jesus to those who are scared, to those who are angry and to those who are evil. 

God has given us great guidance as to how we, the church, can help those suffering around us and how we can find joy in such difficult circumstances. It’s as the Spirit helps us to to obey that we can have, and share, joy.