Day 4 – You Are Called

“But we ought to thank God always for you, brothers and sisters loved by the Lord, because from the beginning God has chosen you for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and through belief in the truth. He called you to this through our gospel, so that you might obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (2 Thessalonians 2:13-14)

Purpose.

We strive to know our purpose.

Why were we created? What are we here for? What is our purpose right now?

As we reach VCE we can’t help but wonder and contemplate this topic of purpose.

Parents, teachers, principals, career advisors, and others begin to demand we make decisions that will apparently, “lead us down our career path for the rest of our lives”. When we choose subjects, refine our skills in certain pursuits, and reflect on things we like and things we don’t, we start trying to work out this thing called purpose.

You're More Than A Number - You Are Called

I’m not sure about you but I found it hard to decide what subjects I should be doing when going through VCE. I didn’t know what I wanted to do or what might help me in five years time. Five years time! That’s a fair while away!

As time to decide these things came closer it all began to get overwhelming. The more pressure applied, the more indecisive I felt. I mean, it was hard enough to decide what subject to choose the following year, let alone what university course I’d like to do or work I wanted to undertake post-study. Give me a break. Why all this pressure on decision-making, purpose, and career?

But the way the game of life works right now, and has done for a number of years, is that we are to be educated for a long period of time, expected to get a job immediately post-study, make some money, buy some things, continue making money to pay for those said things, and then retire and read a good book. The underlying effect of this is that we are told there is one path to trod. One particular destiny in life. One particular purpose.

Throughout the bible we see plenty of people called to various roles. Some are called to lead, some are called to submit, some are called to life on the road, some are called to ransack cities, some are called to be kings, some are called to speak into other people’s lives on behalf of God.

There are plenty of people who have been called to particular things in particular places for a particular purpose.

We are also called.

And first and foremost, we are called by God to himself.

That is, God woos us and calls us to come and know him.

To come and worship him.

To come and love him.

We are called to come and follow.

Jesus, when beginning his work here on earth, called twelve men to follow him. The phrase “follow me” should be self-evident, it is Jesus calling people to follow him. A life of following what he does and what he teaches.

If we describe ourselves as Christians – people who believe Jesus is the Son of God, who has died and risen for the forgiveness of sin and where true life can be realised – then we are called to follow him.

A question for you at this point would be, are you following him?

In regard to purpose, at its most base level it is simply to follow Jesus.

He is our guide, our leader, our captain, our coach.

Any worthwhile captain or coach is one who inspires, motives, encourages, disciples, and leads people to a better place, to a place that changes and transforms them for the better.

Jesus is that captain.

Jesus is that coach.

FOR REFLECTION

  • Is purpose something you’ve been thinking about in recent months or years? How do you react to such thoughts?
  • What or who do you think you are following right now?
  • Are you following Jesus? Would you like to?

This is part of a devotional series called You’re More Than A Number. To understand the purpose of these posts then please read the series introduction. If you’d like these delivered to your inbox, please sign up to follow this blog or my FB page.

Day 1 – You Are Created

Day 2 – You Are Sinful

Day 3 – You Are Forgiven

Day 3 – You Are Forgiven

“This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light, and there is absolutely no darkness in him. If we say, “We have fellowship with him,” and yet we walk in darkness, we are lying and are not practicing the truth. If we walk in the light as he himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.” (1 John 1:5-7)

Yesterday we looked at the idea of sin.

It wasn’t pleasant.

You're More Than A Number - You Are Forgiven

Sin impacts each and every facet of our life. All pain, brokenness, selfishness, and hurt can be tracked back to it. And, more than impacting our life, it also effects our ability to have a relationship with God.

I’m not sure about you, but I’m constantly making mistakes. I make mistakes in how I think, in how I act, in how I make decisions, and in the decisions I make. It might be the way I communicate with my wife. It might be the way I treat my young daughter. It might be the attitude I have toward another person. It could be as little as taking the wrong way to a friend’s house, which means I’m late for dinner. I make mistakes. I suspect you do too.

When it comes to mistakes and exams the idea becomes clearer. Mistakes in exams can cost final marks. A mistake in the answer to the physics question can have damaging results for the final answer. A mistake in the Chinese language exam has consequences. And a mistake in the music performance exam will be costly too. The idea of mistakes and making them in tests and exams is something we can get our head around.

Thankfully life is not a test. Thankfully it’s not an exam.

But this idea of mistakes helps us understand our need for forgiveness. Because of sin and our sinful-selfish-selves we are unable to have a relationship with God. Our sin has consequences, costly consequences, on our ability to know God. Our sin means we have made mistakes that destroy any chance of us being able to relate, know, and commune with God. As today’s passage says, “God is light, and there is absolutely no darkness in him.”

Thankfully God has dealt with our mistakes. Thankfully God has dealt with our sin.

To do so God sent his one and only Son, Jesus, to provide forgiveness for us. In the final verse of today’s passage there is mention of being cleansed of all sin. Instead of being held to account for our mistakes and errors for our sin, God has provided a way for them to be wiped clean. It’s like he sees our final exam paper with all our mistakes on it and says, “Not to worry, I’ve forgiven you for all the mistakes here, you have full marks”. Because of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus we find ourselves forgiven of all our mistakes, of all our sin.

How unbelievable is that!?

Because of this we can say that we are forgiven!

You are forgiven!

I doubt that you’ll have an exam marker who gets your test paper, looks over it, sees all the mistakes you’ve made, and declares it 100%. It’d be nice. It’d help. But I don’t suspect that’ll happen.

But God doesn’t do that with an exam. God does that with our life!

He declares us 100%. He declares us perfect. Even though he knows we have made mistakes and sinned each and every day of our life. He sees this and declares us clean of it all because of what Jesus has done on the cross.

What an amazing gift.

What an amazing God!

Through this forgiveness we can have confidence in coming to God. We can come to him and worship him for his grace, love, and kindness to us. But even more, we can simply come to him and know him. We can know God in a true and real sense because we have been forgiven. Through his act of forgiveness I am no longer separated from God, there is no longer a barrier between us, he is no longer a distant and abstract figure. He is God and he is knowable. My sin and my sinful nature no longer stop me from being able to have a relationship with God, and everything stupid, silly, and wrong I’ve ever done has been wiped from my record. I find myself forgiven.

What an amazing concept.

What an amazing reality!

FOR REFLECTION

  • What are some of those mistakes you’ve made that stop you from knowing God?
  • How does this idea of forgiveness impact your life?
  • What is your reaction to understanding that you have been forgiven and can know God?

This is part of a devotional series called You’re More Than A Number. To understand the purpose of these posts then please read the series introduction. If you’d like these delivered to your inbox, please sign up to follow this blog or my FB page.

Day 1 – You Are Created

Day 2 – You Are Sinful

Day 1 – You Are Created

“Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, according to our likeness. They will rule the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, the livestock, the whole earth, and the creatures that crawl on the earth.” So God created man in his own image; he created him in the image of God; he created them male and female.” (Genesis 1:26-27)

Think about the song you sing along to when no one else is around. The lyrics you instantly recall when you hear the opening few bars of music. Add the music to the lyrics and the song inspires emotion. Some songs may lead you to bump, grind, jump, bounce, move, and bop and others may move you to tears. Music, and their lyrics, can be profoundly powerful.

You're More Than A Number - You Are Created

The first chapter of Genesis, the first book of the bible, tells the story of God creating the world and its creatures through the power of his words.

He speaks and things are created.

He speaks and things are made.

Through his words God creates the land, sun, moon, stars, vegetation, and animals before he comes around to creating human beings. When creating humans, male and female, he creates them in his own image. Humanity reflects certain characteristics of God because they are created in his image.

When an artist creates a painting, they display their thoughts and ideas on a canvas. When God created humanity, he displayed himself through each and every person that has roamed the planet. And while an image is never as good as the real thing; just look at the last selfie you took, God has displayed elements of his character and beauty through his creatures.

When we acknowledge this we understand that we, and everyone else, are of worth.

Humans, everywhere in the world, across every tribe and nation and land, are of worth because they have been created by God. Whether it is our neighbour, the person we sit next to in class, or the sponsor child we support; all have worth because all have been created by God.

This has massive implications on how we operate in the world.

First, at its most foundational, we come to understand that everyone has been created by God, and therefore there is no life worth more or less than anyone else. Everyone, no matter their particular identifying label, deserves to be respected, loved, and cared for by their fellow human.

The question comes back to us. How do we respect, love, and care for each person we come across? The person serving us at Macca’s has been created by God. The person in the team we play sport against at the weekend has been created by God. The person we walk past in the street and found a little odd has been created by God. Do we recognise their worth because they’ve been created by God? At all?

Second, to be created by God means we have one who knows us, each and every part of us. God, being the Creator, knows his created.

He knows you.

To be created by Him means we have worth and our lives are not a mistake or meaningless. God has created us for purposes beyond our craziest thoughts and dreams. Through God’s words we have been spoken into being and given life. Like an engagement ring given to a fiancée we are precious, yet worth so much more than jewels. We have been created by God who gives us worth and a life worth living.

This ATAR score that comes out this summer apparently portrays your worth in an academic sense. Some people will achieve high scores; others won’t get over 30. This numbers evaluates your academic success and determines your worth to the educational system and to the university, TAFE, or apprenticeship you have applied for. God, however, has created you for greater worth. He knows your ATAR score comes no way near to what you’re worth. And while study is important right now, remember that your worth as a person is infinitely precious to He who has created you.

FOR REFLECTION

  • What does it mean to you to know that God has created you?
  • How can you show someone that they are worth more than they think they are today?
  • How can knowing our worth comes from God help settle our spirit?

This is part of a devotional series called You’re More Than A Number. To understand the purpose of these posts then please read the series introduction. If you’d like these delivered to your inbox, please sign up to follow this blog or my FB page.

You’re More Than A Number – The Series

Canterbury Baptist Church is situated in the heart of Melbourne’s private schools. Within two kilometres of the church there are six private schools, two public schools, and a number of primary schools. The suburb has one of the highest university entrance rates within the country, and is one of the wealthiest areas in Melbourne. It produces the leaders of tomorrow, in any industry you can think of. Students are well-educated, well-resourced, and driven.

But there’s a problem.

You're More Than A Number - The Series

Expectations on students in this area is astronomical. Expectations come from parents, who have paid plenty of money for their child’s education. Expectations come from teachers and schools, who expect a certain level of achievement for their organisation. And then there is the students own expectations, the results needed for their university course, the ATAR score to match their peers, and a false understanding that their final marks dictate the next 40-50 years.

But this problem isn’t just limited to wealthy areas of Melbourne.

It occurs in every part of the state and country.

Expectations placed on students in their final years of high school has seen many deal with high levels of stress, an increase in anxiety, and even depression. The amount of VCE students with health concerns, mental illness, breakdowns, and other physical symptoms causes concern for friends, family, schools, and society.

In Victoria, all students, at the end of year 12, are ranked against each other. This is known as the Australia Tertiary Entrance Rank (ATAR), where each student is ranked against another from 99.95 down to below 20. In essence, each student is competing against their fellow classmates to see who will achieve a higher score.

By the time a student is 17 years old they have been taught that their results are the most important thing in their life. And while we’d like to think that everyone is simply trying their best, the pressure and expectations from the system tells otherwise.

The underlying assumption taught to our students is that their final score defines their intrinsic and extrinsic worth. In other words, their identity is wrapped up in what they achieve in their final two years of their schooling.

So, for a number of years it has been my desire to write a devotional series for VCE students that speaks to the heart of their identity. Often we define ourselves, often we allow others to define us. In the bible we see it is God who defines who we are.

Identity is at the heart of what it means to be a Christian. It is central to how we understand ourselves in light of being Spirit-filled followers of Jesus.

It is my hope this series will help you as a student, or anyone who reads these posts, to understand God and who he has created you to be. I hope to shift your mind to consider how God truly sees you, rather than what others and our wider culture forces upon you. Rather than simply being a number ranked among your peers, you are a unique individual made to glorify God. You are indeed more than a number.


I will kick the series off on Wednesday 1st November, a few hours before all students undertake the English exam. From there daily reflections (I hope!) can be delivered directly to your email (see below) or you can find them through my FB page.


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Here’s the list of the various posts for this devotional series:

  1. You Are Created
  2. You Are Sinful
  3. You Are Forgiven
  4. You Are Called
  5. You Are Redeemed
  6. You Are Loved
  7. You Are Saved
  8. You Are Free
  9. You Are Chosen
  10. You Are A Child of God
  11. You Are A Slave
  12. You Are Made For Good Works
  13. You Are A Follower
  14. You Are Relational

Brave – A Reflection For SYG 2017

It’s arrived.

Tonight we head down to State Youth Games.

A long weekend of camping, cold weather, and cramp…for an old guy like me at least.

SYG Brave logo

With over 3000 young people descending upon the camping grounds it promises to be a fairly fun, exciting, and significant weekend. Sports morning and afternoon, dinner around the fire sharing the highs and lows of the day, and then evening sessions of worshipping God together. It’s pretty intense and worth praying for people to see more of Him.

In preparation for the event we as a youth ministry structured our talks at youth group around the SYG main theme of ‘Brave’. As leaders we figured this would help us prepare for what we may well hear through the main sessions across the weekend. While not everyone in our group is coming along to SYG it enables a glimpse into what might be. So with ‘Brave’ in mind we outlined, and have been working through, a series of talks around this theme.

Over the course of this term we’ve covered things like being brave to change, being brave to love, being brave to speak, being brave to risk, being brave to stand, being brave to share, and being brave to be.

Through various passages in the Gospel of Luke we’ve seen how the way of Jesus requires us to be brave. Whether it is what Jesus does himself, through interactions he has with others, and even in the stories he tells, we find glimmers of bravery occurring and being encouraged.

One of these passages is Luke 8:42-48.

As Jesus was on his way, the crowds almost crushed him. And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years, but no one could heal her. She came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak, and immediately her bleeding stopped.

“Who touched me?” Jesus asked.

When they all denied it, Peter said, “Master, the people are crowding and pressing against you.”

But Jesus said, “Someone touched me; I know that power has gone out from me.”

Then the woman, seeing that she could not go unnoticed, came trembling and fell at his feet. In the presence of all the people, she told why she had touched him and how she had been instantly healed. Then he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace.”

Here we see the story of a woman who was brave enough to risk in order to be healed.

This woman was in a constant state of bleeding, that is, she had a continuous period for 12 years. Due to this she was considered unclean and dirty, seen as an outcast, and in all reality was a very vulnerable person in the society in which she lived.

Evidently this woman had heard about Jesus and that he could heal her. In faith she sought him out as he walked through the crowd and then attempted to touch his cloak quietly. Jesus realised power had come out of him, but his disciples think he’s crazy because with such a large crowd of course someone would’ve touched him.

Note that when the woman comes forward and admits to Jesus it was her who touched him he is not angry or disappointed. He is in fact pleased with her and it is her faith that has made her well.

The action taken by this woman is an example of being brave. She is brave to (1) have faith that Jesus could heal her and brave to (2) take action upon that faith.

We may not have the same issue as this woman. We may not even need to be physically healed. But, there may be times when we need to step out in faith, be brave, and take a risk. This could be as little as admitting we’re wrong to admitting we’re struggling with friends, school, self-esteem, or our mental health. Other ways we may need to risk and be brave includes standing up for what we believe, helping someone, stepping out in faith, or even having faith itself.

This coming weekend provides an opportunity for young people all over the state come together to play sport, strike up conversations with people they don’t know, and hear of God’s work in people and places. Please be in prayer for youth and young adults from various churches, that they will come to know more of Jesus, have faith in him, and be brave to step out in that faith.

The Radiating Jesus

The book of Hebrews, in the New Testament, is a terrific read. It’s a book that outlines how God is no longer tied to a particular place but is accessible through the person of Jesus.

At the beginning of the book the writer, or ‘preacher’, outlines how God speaks. He used to speak through the prophets and fathers of the Old Testament. Now, however, God has spoken through his Son, Jesus. In explaining who this person Jesus is the writer uses these words:

“He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high…” (Hebrews 1:3)

This is some lofty language, and some kind of statement.

-He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the

First, we find the writer speaking greatly of this Jesus whose divine nature is seen and made known to us. Jesus, this God-man, reflects the image of God in the most perfect way. The glory of God and the nature of God shine upon the world through this Jesus. Jesus isn’t some sort of replica, a replica that is mass produced like small toys gifted to children at Christmas. No, this Jesus is God. And, the glory of God the Father and everything of him shines through his personhood. He is the light of the world (John 8:12).

Second, we are then told of his divine rule. Jesus upholds the universe through his power. His words are the foundation of the world. It is by his word that things happen and things don’t happen. Here we see the power and authority imparted to Jesus as he rules over the universe. We shouldn’t be scared of his rule, for he is the perfect ruler. He is unlike worldly rulers who seek glory for themselves and go a little loco with power. Jesus is the ruler of the universe who rules perfectly.

Third, we are made aware of a permanent salvation. No longer is salvation found through the Law and sacrifices of the Old Testament. There is no need for an annual sacrifice in order to purify our sinful nature and deeds. Jesus was that “purification for sins” when he died on the cross. He fulfilled everything that was needed in order for us to be made pure. This process doesn’t need to occur over and over again. It is not like water purification, which needs stage after stage, to make it clean. No, Jesus made us clean once and for all through his death and resurrection.

To confirm its permanence we note Jesus “…sits at the right hand of the Majesty on high”. He does not need to go through this purification for sins process again, he is not required to die over and over and over again. No, “we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all” (Hebrews 10:10) and “…when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sin, he sat down at the right hand of God” (Hebrews 10:12).

How astonishing to know that we have our sin covered, our person made clean and pure, through the sacrifice made by the ruler of the universe. This salvation is offered to us through he who radiates God’s glory and majesty. May it radiate from our heart into the world we live.


This post is a free writing exercise in response to The Daily Post topic ‘Radiate‘.