Tuesday, February 18, 2020

God's workmanship (Connect Group 01)

Connect Group 01 
Text: For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.  Ephesians 2.10

Icebreaker: Could you share a moment in your life when you got disappointed because you did something wrong or you didn’t do something as well as you could have done?  
I remember my first service on the island of Guernsey when I remembered Psalm 150:6 Let everything that has breath praise the LORD. Praise the LORD”, but because I was nervous and my English wasn’t the best, I said: If you have breast Praise the Lord”. You can imagine that no one responded, and those who did were laughing a lot - and I had no idea what I had done!  Situations like this made me want to give up and to complain to God that He had chosen the wrong person for the job. In one moment I even said: God I could speak and communicate better in Brazil, why did you bring me here, they have better people here”. God responded, I never used you in Brazil because of your Portuguese, I used you because I wanted to and you were open”. Then I was reminded of this text that says that we are the fruit of Gods hands. So today, there are few truths that God wants to speak to us:

1) God made you (Yes you).
God made you, and that means that you (and I) are not a mistake. You are part of Gods plans - and all His plans are perfect.

That also means that He made you to be you! Of course, we can, and we should, become more and more close to Jesus. In this process, the old bad habits will go, and the new will come. But we dont need to be someone else to try to impress God or anyone else.

God made you because only you, with His power, can help to do something specific that will help to transform the world. You are like a piece of lego that finishes the wall, and if you are missing the wall will never be completed.

2) God made you for good works.
Just imagine for a second that God - the most powerful being in the whole universe made you for good works. He made you for works that will help the world to see Him.

God made us to have abundant life and not just to survive; that is only possible when we understand that we were made for more of God, and not more of stuff”, as many people believe.

This is also valid when we are about to do Gods work. Sometimes I look and think, God I need this or that gift to do your work better. Although I agree that we all can improve, we need to remember that God is enough, and His will is what is the best for us and through us.

3) What you do matters.
Because we are the product of Gods hands, and because His will is to bless the world, we can say that we are Gods instruments to reach and transform the world.

Remember that you matter and whatever you do matters to God. So you are not just working and having your normal life’, you are an agent of miracles and transformation in that place. Remember Christ in you is the hope of Glory.

Conclusion: I came across this phrase recently: When the power of my shame encountered the power of Your grace, You reminded me of who I am and that you made me”.
So GO and be blessed and be a blessing – because that is how God made you to be.

Sunday, February 16, 2020

The One-Word Telegram

The following account may or may not be historical. Either way, it’s true.
It was Christmas Eve, 1910. General William Booth, the founder of The Salvation Army was invalid and near the end of his life—it was impossible for him to attend the Army’s annual convention. 

Someone near the General suggested that Booth send a telegram to be read at the opening of the convention to the many Salvation Army soldiers in attendance as an encouragement for their many hours of labour serving others throughout the holidays and the cold winter months. Booth agreed.

Funds were limited and telegrams charged by the word, so to ensure as much money as possible would still go to help the needy, General Booth decided to send a one-word message. He searched his mind and reviewed his years of ministry, seeking the one word that would summarize his life, the mission of the Army and encourage the soldiers to continue on.

When the thousands of delegates met, the moderator announced that Booth could not be present due to his failing health. Gloom and pessimism swept across the convention floor until the moderator announced that Booth had sent a telegram to be read at the start of the first session. He opened the message and read just one word:

“Others!” 

Signed, General Booth.

 That’s the nature of Jesus. May it be ours, too.

Monday, February 3, 2020

The journey with God

Recently I talked to a group who wanted to know more about evangelism and Salvation in the 21st century, and how these are affected by our postmodern culture.

The question is a vital one for all of us, not only because churches are struggling to be relevant in the present age, but because Salvation and evangelism have become taboos that many churches struggle to overcome, or even reach beyond, in a postmodern culture that is increasingly individualistic. 

 I wish I had a simple answer for such a question. Still, whilst I don’t, I am reminded that W. B. Fitzgerald once summarized John Wesley’s understanding of Salvation in what became known as the “Four Alls” of the historic Methodist movement. 
These statements were formed from what was understood about evangelism for almost three centuries, in many countries and across many denominations.

The “Four Alls” are as follows:
All need to be saved 
All can be saved 
All can know they are saved
All can be saved completely[1]

I want to explore each one of them a little, to help us to understand the meaning behind them.

All need to be saved
The first “all” reminds us that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God[2]”. No matter how good or how bad you think that you, or the next person are, we all need to be saved - we all need Salvation, and what we need can only be found in Jesus. 

All can be saved
Often, I have judged other people, thinking that they were lost causes, but when I did this, I was not seeing my own position truthfully;  without Jesus I was as lost as them, precisely the same as anyone else. There is no one too good who does not need to be saved, no-one who can be saved by default, and there is no one so terrible or so lost, that the sacrifice that Jesus made on the cross cannot save them.
The Apostle Paul affirms that God “desires everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth[3]”.

All can know they are saved
Unfortunately, many people live without the hope that comes from knowing that there is salvation in Christ Jesus.  This reality only becomes known to us when we walk with Him, as our Saviour.
The Bible says “For you did not receive the Spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’ The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God[4]”.

So, when we are with Jesus, we can have the assurance of Salvation, the confidence that we belong to God and that we are His children, sons and daughters in Christ. 

All can be saved completely
The last ‘all’ talks about how a person can be saved completely, or to the uttermost. Salvation in Christ is not just a ticket for avoiding hell or emptiness, but a work that will transform us from inside out.

God reminds us many times in the Bible that when we are with Christ, we are a new creation, having a new position in the eyes of God; that the “old has passed and the new has come”[5]

As we walk with Jesus, we will continue to renew our minds, being filled with more of God. Through this process, we will be controlled less by our sinful nature and more by the Holy Spirit. This process is not forced or artificial, rather it is based on the natural development of our relationship with Jesus.

So…. let’s go out there and share the good news that Jesus has died our death; that He paid the price for our forgiveness and gave us His life in the process. Go and share the gospel with everyone, in all circumstances possible, and trust in the work that God will do in the lives of the people that you tell about Jesus!


[1] W. B. Fitzgerald, The roots of Methodism (London: The Epworth), p. 173.   
[2] Romans 3.23
[3] 1 Timothy 2.4
[4] Romans 8.15-16
[5] 2 Corinthians 5.17

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

One thing I wish I knew when I started preaching the gospel

One Thing:

One thing I wish I knew when I started preaching the gospel…


… that my deepest pains and struggles would become my most powerful testimonies.

I remember when I first invited Jesus into my life, and started to walk by faith - that all the books I was reading and all the stories that people told me were so incredible; they gave me so much encouragement and amazement before God’s power.

However, with time, all of that excitement gave way to a deep sense that I was both inadequate and a fraud. I felt that although I was preaching and pursuing a deeper relationship with Jesus, that because my struggles and pains were still there, I was surely an impostor and a failure of a Christian.

The lowest point for me happened when I was involved in a bus accident whilst I was on my way to register myself to study for a Degree in Theology. 
The bus driver fell asleep at the wheel and crashed into a truck that had stopped on the side of the road. As a result, almost 40 people lost their lives, including my best friend.

After that accident, I didn’t have any answers for why things had happened in the way that they had, and this led to me battling for many years with depression and panic attacks. I was having the necessary treatment but things were not improving and God’s call and ministry to my life became more and more distant; I was feeling more and more that I was an imposter and a shallow Christian.

Things started to change, not when I became wholly healed or free, but when I went to preach at a conference and I was honest about my failures and struggles. Although people there were sharing amazing stories and testimonies,  I got up to speak and shared that it was hard even to be there, but that I had faith that God was with me and would help me to get through it.

I remember the reaction on people’s faces when all the excitement and motivation of the conference gave way to the reality that the preacher was in crisis. I thought that this would be the end of any invitations to share and preach at other conferences.  
However, something happened in that place, and I felt cracks begin to appear in the masks that people were wearing. There was a change in the leaders’ attitudes and I saw real people who were struggling to cope with the difficulties in their lives. That day an avalanche of leaders came to the prayer space - not to hear about the latest technique for growth, but to receive healing and help from God.

Throughout the years, I’ve lost count of how many people I have seen God help and heal. People suffering from depression, panic attacks and suicidal thoughts come to me almost every week, not because I am the best scholar on the subject, but because I have suffered those things and because I am still dealing with them, so they know they can be honest with me.

Remember that God will use you, and although you are not defined by the struggles and pains that you face, He will use them to reach out to other people with the message that He is good and present in the middle of their pain and their struggle. 

Remember what the Apostle Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 12.9: ‘But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.’

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Commitment

We are on the beginning of the year, and it is time to start to break some "New year resolutions", or at least that is exactly what will happen to the vast majority of people.

However, we decide to start the year, we should not forget that it is also time to check how our spiritual lives are.

We can start to live a life of friendship with Jesus as He is really real.

There are two prayers that always impact me when I think about making a commitment to the Lord. The first prayer is from A.W. Tozer and the second from John Wesley:

AW Tozer Prayer of Commitment
I come to you today, O Lord, To give up my rights,
To lay down my life,
To offer my future,

To give my devotion, my skills, my energies.
I shall not waste time
Deploring my weaknesses
Nor my unfittedness for the work.
I acknowledge your choice with my life To make Christ attractive and intelligible To those around me.

I come to you for spiritual preparation. Put your hand upon me,
Anoint me with the oil of the One With Good News.

Save me from compromise,
Heal my soul from small ambitions,
Deliver me from the itch to always be right, Save me from wasting time.

I accept hard work, I ask for no easy place,
Help me not to judge others who walk a smoother path. Show me those things that diminish spiritual power in a soul.

I now consecrate my days to you,
Make your will more precious than anybody or anything. Fill me with your power
And when at the end of life’s journeyI see you face to face
May I hear those undeserving words:
“Well done my good and faithful servant”
I ask this not for myself
But for the glory of the name of your Son. Amen!


The covenant Prayer - John WesleyI am no longer my own, but yours.
Put me to what you will, rank me with whom you will;
put me to doing, put me to suffering;
let me be employed for you, or laid aside for you,
exalted for you, or brought low for you;
let me be full,
let me be empty,
let me have all things,
let me have nothing:
I freely and wholeheartedly yield all things
to your pleasure and disposal.
And now, glorious and blessed God,
Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
you are mine and I am yours. So be it.
And the covenant now made on earth, let it be ratified in heaven.
Amen.

God's workmanship (Connect Group 01)

Connect Group 01  Text:  For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we shoul...