Monday, 25 February 2013

Are you Sinking?

Over the past few months God has been speaking to me a lot about His grace. What I'm realising is that although I've been a Christian for around 16 years my understanding of the grace of God is minimal. God's grace is vast and not something that can be understood in our minds. Instead we need a revelation from God that goes directly into our hearts. That's what I'm praying for in this season, a fresh revelation of the indescribable riches of God's grace. Here's some of the stuff that God has been showing me already:

1) In the vast majority of letters the apostle Paul writes to the early churches he starts them off with the greeting, 'Grace and Peace to you,' and regularly ends them in the same way (why not have a look) I wonder if Paul knew that our main temptation as churches would be to fall into works and stress/ anxiety? Paul had such a revelation of the grace of God and knew how important it was for living the Christian life. His desire for the churches He Fathered - more grace and more peace! (I love that Paul puts the words in this order. Once you get a revelation of the grace of God it's inevitable that peace will follow)

2) We are totally forgiven, washed clean, holy and blameless, spotless, without blemish and free from accusation! WOW! It's all because of God's grace. God's forgiveness is immediate whether it's our first time of sinning or our 100th time and He removes our sin as far as the East is from the West! It's remembered no more! It's so easy to fall into believing the lie that we're saved by grace but stay saved by works. That when we've been a Christian for a while, and particularly if we're in leadership, we should know better when it comes to sin; that it's not ok to mess up or be weak and if we do mess up we need to somehow sort it out ourselves. Wrong! We're saved by grace and we stay saved by grace. When was the last time you stopped to receive grace from God?

3) We have a brand new identity in Christ. Our identity as beloved sons and daughters, co-heirs with Christ, Ambassadors, royalty, seated in heavenly places, free from accusation is all true because of the grace of God. We didn't do anything to earn our identity, it's all because of what Jesus achieved for us on the cross. And because we didn't do anything to earn it, we can't do anything to change it. Are you believing any lies about yourself at the moment? Speak them out to expose them and then declare the truth. God's grace means that what the Bible says about us is true, it's as simple as that!

4) There are good works that God has prepared in advance for us to do. Why would God prepare good works for us to do? Because of His grace. How can we do these good works prepared for us? His grace. How releasing is that. Ephesians 2 tells us that we aren't saved by works so that no-one can boast but then a few verses later we're told that there are works for us to do. There are works for us to do, but these works don't save us! We're saved by grace, we stay saved by grace and we do the works prepared in advance for us to do by grace. Are you getting this?

5) God's grace is incredibly powerful! Grace empowers us to be all we're called to be and to do all we're called to do. Grace covers our sin (Thank you Jesus) but it also empowers us to say no to sin. I wonder if some of the reason so many people give in to sin is because they're looking to themselves to resist temptation rather than drawing on the empowering grace of God? Grace enables us to say no to sin and yes to godliness. Grace also empowers us to do all God calls us to do. God loves to call us to stuff that is way beyond our natural capabilities, that's how it's meant to be. Why? because it means we have to call on His resources and depend on His grace, and when we succeed He is made famous. I love that. What are you saying yes to that is way beyond your natural capabilities?

There's a great line in a song I love to sing that goes like this, 'If grace is an ocean we're all sinking.' My contention is that many of us are actually only standing in a puddle when it comes to accessing God's grace because of our limited revelation. God's grace is so vast we're meant to sink in it. Are you sinking?

Friday, 18 January 2013

How God likes to get our attention #2

My last blog post looked at the different ways God likes to get our attention when He wants us to go and speak to people when we're out and about. This post is about how He gets our attention by bringing people to us. I've tuned into the fact that God loves to do this over the last little while and it really is a lot of fun. He's got such a great sense of humour! Here are some of the ways God sometimes brings people to us.

1) Someone starts to speak to you 'out of the blue' - If someone starts a conversation with you for no apparent reason be aware that God might be setting you up for an encounter. Engage in the conversation while at the same time asking God if there's anything He'd like to say to the person that will encourage them or open them up to Him.

This once happened to me in Costa. The lady on the next table to me said hello as she was getting up to leave because she recognised me from church. She'd only been along once and had been a Jehovah's Witness for many years. She was with her daughter and seemed very open to chat. Throughout the course of the conversation I was able to share a word of knowledge with the daughter and her mum and had the opportunity to pray for the daughter for some breakthrough in her life. The following Sunday at church the same lady came up to me and told me that she'd given her life to Jesus that week! She has an incredible story of life change and freedom which I'll try and get her to write up so I can post it here sometime. All of this came out of her initiating conversation with me!

2) Someone starts to tell you about their sickness or a particular pain in their body - A friend of mine was on a tube once travelling to a conference, when a guy she'd never met came and sat next to her and started complaining very loudly about the arthritic pain in his knees. My friend knew that this was a set up, but she was on a tube! Surely she couldn't offer to pray for someone on a tube! I guess God really wanted her to pray, because the knee guy kept complaining more and more loudly as the journey progressed. My friend finally plucked up enough courage to offer to pray (I have huge amounts of respect for her!) If someone around you starts to complain about a sickness or pain in their body, the likelihood is that you are being set up by God. Ask Him for courage to offer to pray and then see what the Father will do

3) 'Backed into a corner' encounters - Sometimes God likes to make it so clear that He's about to do something, it's literally like He backs us into a corner. We then have little choice but to offer to pray. These are my very favourite encounters. God is so funny sometimes!

A friend of mine, Caroline, was at the gym cooling down with friends after a work out. She'd previously prayed for a lady there and her ankle had been completely healed. Mid cool down this lady, who'd been healed before, came up to Caroline (she'd been working out in a different part of the gym) and said to her. 'You know that thing you did with my ankle...can you do the same thing with my knee?' Caroline was pretty stumped. She was cooling down with friends who didn't have any concept of God healing and wondered if the lady meant for her to pray straight away. 'Caroline...that thing you did with my ankle, can you do it with my knee, it's in quite a bit of pain. Go ahead and put your hand on it.' Caroline had little choice but to pray! After a short prayer, the lady tested her knee and all the pain was gone so she went back to her work out. Caroline then turned round to her now wide-eyed friends with a bit of explaining to do. A 'backed into a corner' encounter. Ever had one of those?

I'm sure there are other ways that God can bring people to us. These are just a few that I've experienced personally. What have I learned about God in the process? He's much more eager than I am for people to encounter Him. If we increasingly learn to open our eyes to what He's doing we'll see that He's setting us up for supernatural breakthrough all over the place. Happy encountering!

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

How God likes to get our attention #1

I've been meaning to blog about this for a while. This is going to be a two parter (hope the suspense isn't too unbearable for you!) When I started this blog in 2008 we were at the beginning of a journey as a church of taking the Kingdom of God onto the streets. We were having a go at something called treasure hunting which was such a helpful tool for me as an introvert. Speaking to a stranger on the streets was way out of my comfort zone so having clues to direct me to specific individuals really helped.

What's been interesting for me as I've gone on this journey is that now when I'm looking to take the Kingdom of God onto the streets I'd actually rather not do treasure hunting. Taking clues on a map now feels much more unnatural to me than just going out to see what God opens up in the moment (this should be an encouragement to other introverts out there. I can't believe I'm writing this but God has done an incredible work in my heart!) What I've learnt over the years is that God is always wanting His Kingdom to advance and I'm learning as His daughter that there are different ways He likes to get my attention when He wants to do something.

I like to split the way God likes to get our attention into two main categories: 1) Recognising when God wants us to approach people 2) Recognising when God brings people to us (this will be covered in Part 2.) General principles I bear in mind when doing stuff on the streets are that the person/people aren't in a hurry and that they smile/respond to me when I say hi to them (that they're likely to be friendly) Other than these general principles, how else does God like to get our attention when He wants us to approach someone?

1) Feeling compassion for a person - When you feel God's compassion for someone ask God how He wants to bless them, what He wants to say to them. Jesus was regularly moved with compassion. God loves to move us in the same way
2) Seeing someone more than once during your time out and about - If you see someone in one part of town and then see the same person sometime later somewhere else in town take note! It could be that God is putting this person in your path because He wants to bless them.
3) Seeing someone who reminds you of someone else - If you see someone who reminds you of someone else don't just think 'that person reminds me of so and so' It could be that God wants to speak to this person through what you know of the person they remind you of!
4) Getting a 'random' pain in your body as you walk past a particular person - That's called a word of knowledge :) If you get a pain in your body ask the person God points out to you how their leg, arm, foot or whatever is. If it's fine you haven't lost anything. If it hurts you have an amazing opportunity to offer to pray.

Recognise any of these? These are just some of the ways I'm learning that God likes to get my attention when He wants me to approach people to chat to them. I'm not obedient all of the time but I'm trying to respond as best I can. What's most fun for me are the times God brings people to me to speak to. More of that in Part 2.