Day 9 – You Are Chosen

“Blessed is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavens in Christ. For he chose us in him, before the foundation of the world, to be holy and blameless in love before him. He predestined us to be adopted as sons through Jesus Christ for himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace that he lavished on us in the Beloved One.” (Ephesians 1:3-6)

When I was in school I fondly remember the lunch time sports I used to play. In summer, it was often cricket, and in winter, it was often football or basketball. The way the teams were chosen were through two captains, usually the most out-going, bossy, and controlling classmates, picking person after person to be on their side. The way the players were chosen was based on perceived ability. The best players chosen first, then the mid-range players, and finally, those who weren’t that great but allowed to play were chosen last. Those chosen last were usually the same every time. And soon enough there would be two teams and off we went.

In the bible, we read that we have been chosen by God.

You're More Than A Number - You Are Chosen.png

We read in Ephesians 1 that before the foundation of the world God has chosen us to be part of his holy family. That even before he created the world, and before we were created and knitted together in our mother’s womb, God had chosen us. And being chosen by him in order for us to be holy and faultless in love. That we would be part of his family and he would give us grace and more grace, and love and more love because of who he is. Because of his great love for us he has chosen us and given gift after gift through his Son Jesus.

This choosing was not like choosing a sport team at school. God didn’t choose you to be part of his family based upon how good a person you are. He didn’t line you up and then look at all the good things you would do in your life and pick you because of that. No, God simply wanted to show his love to you, he wanted to know you, he wanted to be with you and you with him. And so, God chose you.

We have been chosen by God!

God himself cherishes and loves us and has chosen us to be with him.

This idea can also raise some questions. Is God playing favourites? Is he choosing some people and then decisively not choosing others? Is this fair?

These are good questions to ask. It can seem like God is playing favourites.

Yet, no one knows whether they are chosen until they know him. From a human perspective God’s grace is open to all. Everyone is called to come and believe. Everyone is called to come and follow. Everyone is called to come and know. In this way, God’s grace and love and choosing is open to all people.

At the end of the day none of us are actually in a position to earn our acceptance by God anyway. No one deserves to be part of God’s family, that’s why it is such a glorious thing to know we are part of his family. Through Jesus, and his death and resurrection, we are able to believe and follow. To know and be known. To trust and be accepted. To cherish and be chosen.

God is God, and we being chosen into his family is such a great and almighty gift to us. Who he has chosen to be our brothers and sisters we don’t always know. But what we do know is that he has called us, and he calls us to call others, into his loving family.

Every few years we undertake local, state, and national elections. The election process can take some time and depending on how certain members of parliament and political parties are doing in their roles will depend on whether they continue to be elected as our representatives. In recent years voting seems to have turned very populist. That is, whoever can market themselves and galvanise people the most will likely tip the votes in their favour. Yet, how long an MP stays in politics and in government is indefinite. Some may spend only one term, 3-4 years representing their constituents. Others may last for over 20 years in office.

For those of us who follow Jesus and know Jesus we can rest assured that we have been adopted into God’s family forever. There is no need to doubt that we are part of his family because God has chosen us to be in it. We don’t simply stay in the family for a short period of time before leaving. We don’t get chosen on the basis of our performance or the basis of popularity. God has chosen us, he has chosen you, because of his great and glorious love for you.

Because of this we can say we have been chosen.

FOR REFLECTION

  • What effect does knowing that God has chosen you have upon you?
  • What kind of questions does this raise for you? Make a list of them.
  • How can you help others realise God’s love for them and his delight to have them in his family this week?

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.

  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

Day 8 – You Are Free

“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus, because the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and death.” (Romans 8:1-2)

“Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” (2 Corinthians 3:17)

The movie ‘Room’, adapted from the book of the same name, is about a young boy and his mother who live in a small 2m x 2m room. At the beginning of the book there is detailed descriptions of how the young boy, having grown up in this shed, refers to items within this room as his friends. At night he says, “Goodnight table”, “Goodnight chair”, “Goodnight lamp”, and so forth. The reason he does this is because he knows nothing but life inside of this room. Spolier Alert: His mother was kidnapped a number of years ago, fell pregnant to her kidnapper, and raises the boy in this small secured room. It is a terribly sad and harrowing story. However, when he is five years old they hatch a plan and in the end they both get out and survive. They are freed after so many years, and reconnect with her family and loved ones.

You're More Than A Number - You Are Free.png

As we’ve been exploring who we are we come to the great truth that we are found to be free.

We have found freedom.

This occurs in two ways.

First, we are spiritually free.

Exodus is the second book of the bible and speaks of the liberation of God’s people from the hand of the Pharaoh of Egypt. God’s people have been under slavery for 400 years, being used by the Egyptians to expand and grow their kingdom. While they have worked for Pharaoh the slavery upon them has been exhausting and crushing. However, the time comes for God to liberate his people through the leadership of Moses. God’s hand is upon Moses and his people and enables them to leave Pharaoh and Egypt behind, no longer slaves. The night before they are to leave God instructs his people to paint their door frames with the blood of a lamb. This is so the spirit of death will passover the house and not kill the first-born son. This is God’s final plague upon Egypt and is the one that makes Pharaoh give God’s people their freedom.

In the New Testament, strong connection is made to this story. You might be able to see the connection in the Romans 8:1-2 verse above.

Those who believe in Jesus, and put their trust in him as their saviour, have their sin ‘passed over’. Those who believe are no longer under the judgement of God nor under the curse of the law, nor under the slavery of sin and death. Those liberated and free from the judgement and condemnation of God are those who God has ‘passed over’. That is, Jesus has taken our sin and dealt with it himself on the cross.

Second, we are free from any laws or rules.

Because of this freedom, through what Jesus has done, we seek to follow God’s commands out of a place of gratitude and grace. There are no rules, no matter how many we believe we need to obey, that will help us please God. God is already ready pleased with us because of what he has done.  

Tim Keller, a NYC pastor, puts it like this,

“The Bible’s purpose is not so much to show you how to live a good life. The Bible’s purpose is to show you how God’s grace breaks into your life against your will and saves you from the sin and brokenness otherwise you would never be able to overcome… religion is ‘if you obey, then you will be accepted’. But the Gospel is, ‘if you are absolutely accepted, and sure you’re accepted, only then will you ever begin to obey’. Those are two utterly different things. Every page of the Bible shows the difference.”

Some believe the Christian faith is a restrictive faith. But this is not the case. Our willingness to follow the commands of God only come from recognising what he has already done for us. And our following of these are from a place of joy and thankfulness. 

There are no restrictions on what kinds of foods we are to eat, there are no restrictions on what we wear, there are no restrictions on what spiritual activities we have to do to be right with God. No, out of our freedom we choose to follow the commands of God, to love him and others. But, there are no tight restrictive rules given for us in order to make God love us. 

We are given freedom.

This freedom comes from God. 

There’s a great song called ‘No Longer Slaves‘, which has lyrics that speak of this theme of liberation and freedom. It’s a good way to end our reflection for the day with these words. 

I’m no longer a slave to fear
I am a child of God

From my mother’s womb
You have chosen me
Love has called my name
I’ve been born again to my family
Your blood flows through my veins

I’m no longer a slave to fear
I am a child of God

I am surrounded
By the arms of the Father
I am surrounded
By songs of deliverance

We’ve been liberated
From our bondage
We’re the sons and the daughters
Let us sing our freedom

You split the sea
So I could walk right through it
My fears are drowned in perfect love
You rescued me
And I will stand and sing
I am a child of God.

FOR REFLECTION

  • Have you ever felt trapped, believing you had to do something for the sake of doing something, rather than undertaking a task for the love of it?
  • Do you see how God has freed us from sin through his Son?
  • What is it that makes you willing to follow his commands? Is it out of freedom or out of duty?

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.

  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

Day 7 – You Are Saved

“For you are saved by grace through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift—not from works, so that no one can boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9)

We’ve been looking at the guts of the Christian faith over the past week and now come to this idea of ‘being saved’. I don’t tend to use the term ‘saved’ when talking about my identity and faith. I know it’s often used in movies and shows that depict Christianity and churches. It is a term used by a generation that were all about having people ‘saved’ at big faith rallies and events. And occasionally, you may still hear it in conversation between Christians when they are talking about people, ‘whether they are saved or not’. It’s just a good old Christianese word.

To say that ‘you are saved’ is to say that you have salvation. As Christians, we believe we have attained salvation because of what God has done for us on the cross.

You're More Than A Number - You Are Saved

The dictionary defines salvation as, “the act of saving or protecting from harm, risk, loss, destruction”. And when we seek to define it in faith terms, it means that we are saved or protected from the judgment and consequence that we are under due to sin. Some might even go as far as saying that we have been saved from a particular place, hell.

I imagine we can all relate to what it means to be saved or protected from harm.

I remember a cousin of mine struggling to swim in a pool when we were kids. After she’d slipped off the step she found herself in a panic, thrashing around in the water. One of the adults around, my mum I think, saw what was happening and quickly grabbed her by the hair and yanked her up.

We would say she’d been saved from harm wouldn’t we?

I wonder if you can think of a time when you were saved from harm? Perhaps it was crossing the road without looking. Perhaps it was while you were climbing a tree. Perhaps it was swimming yourself.

Throughout the storyline of the bible we read of the constant effort people go to in order to attain salvation. To be saved.

Once Adam and Eve disobeyed God’s instruction to not eat of the tree there has been a need to find salvation. The initial judgement they faced was being booted out of Eden, their disobedience had physical consequences. However, there were further costs for them, further costs which had eternal consequences. In order to find salvation many people throughout the Old Testament seek to make good their bad by providing sacrifices and avoiding mistakes and errors in their life. They don’t want to face the judgment and wrath God has toward their sin and so go to extraordinary lengths to avoid actions that disobey God.

It’s like knowing the curfew your parents have placed on you for the party. There will be consequences if you disobey. We get that right. But, to make this even more legalistic, like the people of the Old Testament, we would make sure we are home well before the curfew to avoid any sort of possibility of being late. We might even leave 30 minutes earlier so we know we’re back home in good time. (Probably not realistic I know, but I hope you get the idea).

Some people continue to operate this way when they think about Christianity.

But, Christianity is not about law and legalism, it is about faith and freedom.

To be saved, to find salvation, is something that we are given by God. God, in his wonderful grace, has given us salvation. He has saved us from his own judgment and wrath through his Son Jesus.

Just as we have explored the forgiveness that comes through Jesus and the cross. Just as we have explored being bought back to God through Jesus and the cross. Just as we have explored the love God has for us through Jesus and the cross. So too, we find another aspect of our faith is centred around being saved from judgment and wrath through Jesus and the cross.

Here we can say that Jesus saves.

Here we can say that we are saved.

Praise God.

FOR REFLECTION

  • Can you remember a time where someone saved you from harm or injury?
  • What picture do you have of God’s wrath and judgment? It’s not often we think on this, mainly because it’s not a particularly appealing thought.
  • Do you recognise the need to be saved from God’s judgment and see how Jesus achieves this?

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.

  1. You Are Created
  2. You Are Sinful
  3. You Are Forgiven
  4. You Are Called
  5. You Are Redeemed
  6. You Are Loved

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 2 – You Are Sinful

“The righteousness of God is through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe, since there is no distinction. For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. They are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 3:23-24)

It might seem odd, in the early stages of a devotional series about identity, to have a focus on sin. It doesn’t really seem encouraging or uplifting, does it?

It’s not meant to be.

Sin is a reality.

Sin is hurtful.

Sin is bad.

We are sinful.

You are sinful.

The bible speaks about sin in a number of ways. It is called ugly, shameful, guilt-giving, people-hurting, relationship-destroying, heart-wrenching, gut-twisting awful.

Sin is something which can be done by a person, but first and foremost it is a state of being.

It is a reality.

You're More Than A Number - You Are Sinful

The reality is that our hearts are naturally inclined to sin. Sin isn’t just what we do that is bad, or immoral, or hurtful, it is more than that. It is a heart position. It is the state of our heart that means we are utterly against God in everything we do.

Even if it looks good.

The bible speaks of our heart as being against God and His goodness. Our hearts, from birth, are defective. They are selfish.

So, often we will operate out of a place of self-interest. We will make decisions and act in ways that will be for our good before anyone else’s. We place ourselves as king or queen of our own lives, neglecting others, and particularly God.

Often this plays out in action. When we think of a school assessment we might want to short circuit hard work and steal the answers off the person next to us. When we are filled with lustful thoughts of that person down the corridor. When we think poorly of a person in our team. When we joke amongst friends about the loner sitting in the playground during lunch. When we do something that hurts someone else. All this is the outworking of our sinful heart.

We are always wanting the next best and greatest thing for ourselves, no matter the cost. Whether it costs us friends, relationships, family, or even be harmful for ourselves, our hearts chase after sinful things and drive us toward sinful action.

Because God is supremely good and holy everything He does is good and holy. And because we are not we find ourselves in a bit of trouble.

There is a problem.

The state of our hearts, our bodies, and this world is not entirely good or holy. Therefore, God wants nothing to do with those things that are sinful, things that are against his holiness and goodness.

The focus on ourselves brings us to the point where we think nothing of believing that we rule the world on our own. Instead of acknowledging God as the true and right ruler of this world we have bought into the lie that tells us we are the centre of this world.

We are living in a world that tells us we can have satisfaction and joy if only we are true to ourselves.

We are told we can have everything if only we can put in the hard work.

We are told that at the end of the day, if we have looked after our self and put ourselves first we will find some form of wholeness.

The culture we absorb from a young age spills over into our thinking and is something we find completely natural. What is unnatural, it seems, is to realise that there are greater things going on in the world. That God is actually the right and true ruler of this world, and when we place him at the centre of it all then we will find that satisfaction and joy we desire.

The putting of self at the centre is just another form of our sinful heart leading us away from God.

And because we operate out of a sinful heart we find we are separated from God.

Because of his goodness and holiness God can’t have anything to do with sin. And because he can’t have anything to do with sin this means he can’t have anything to do with us. We are a bitter taste on the tongue of God.

This means our relationship with God is non-existent. Our relationship with God is broken. There is a large fjord between God and us, and no matter how hard we try to reach him and know him we can’t.

The divide is too wide.

Our sinful nature leaves us apart from God. It leaves us lonely, self-absorbed, and heavenly homeless.

FOR REFLECTION

  • How does understanding our sinful nature help us understand our position in life?
  • What sort of feelings rise up in you as you read what has been said?
  • Do you know what brings this separation with God back to wholeness?

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 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.

Assurance In Uncertain Times

In times of uncertainty stress levels rise, anxiety increases, and the ability to make wise decisions can decrease. We live in a time of uncertainty, both locally and globally. There are many depressing stories on the news and in our social media feeds that continue to promote fear, instability, and uncertainty. With these things at the forefront of our minds we can feel the tension rise within us.

At our church we’ve recently begun a series, “Assurance In Uncertain Times”, working through the Letter of 1 John. This is a letter written in the first-century to a group of people living in uncertain times. Given the current climate we find ourselves in it becomes a relevant and fresh voice for us.

Assurance In Uncertain TimesOutside the believing community we find a distinct lack of confidence in the church, rightly or wrongly. There are continual critical voices, and in many ways this is to be expected. It’s happened for many years and will continue to happen for many years to come. But right now the coming couple of months will be a telling time for the Christian witness here in Australia.

Inside the church an erosion of our faith and core convictions can also occur. A variety of idea and theologies, all deemed to be accepted in this post-everything age, means we live along a continuum of confusion. On one end we find the denial of Jesus’ divinity and humanity, the rejection of the atonement, and the casting aside of the resurrection. On the other end we find some form of moral over-reach where behaviour trumps belief. Law is placed over grace, and fear over love, which provides an open door for a distorted Christianity.

And so living a life of faith can get confusing. Assurance can be eroded and confidence can be diminished.

You may not be someone of faith, or you may have had a faith for a while now, nevertheless as we journey through life a sense of assurance is something we find ourselves searching for. This search for assurance, for confidence in our self, in what we believe to be true, is part of life’s quest. There are many areas and activities where this can be discovered, but for the Christian this is most clearly found in the love of Jesus. 1 John 3:16 reads, “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.”

Being assured of a God that loves us is a tremendous thing. With this knowledge we find a solution to our lack of assurance. We find confidence in knowing God loves us because his Son Jesus gave his life so we could find true life in God. As a result we seek to live lives that are humble and service-orientated toward others—families, neighbours, and community. Through the inward knowledge of the love of God comes the outward expression of love to others.

In uncertain times, where we aren’t assured of what is true, fear becomes one of the main drivers of our decision-making. The fear of the future, the fear of our children’s education, the fear of unemployment, the fear of family breakdown, the fear of relationship struggle all unhinges our assurance. Thankfully, through scripture, and particularly through the Letter of 1 John, this lack of assurance is overcome by the love God has for us, and in turn, our love for others.

11 Things: Fixing People vs God’s Grace

I walk into church.

I know what to expect. I’ve been to plenty of churches and services before.

I’ve been a Pastor’s kid. I’ve been a volunteer. I’ve spoken up the front. I’ve been on staff. I’ve been part of committees and organising groups.

I know church culture like I know how to drive a car. I know what the people are doing up the front.

I know most of the songs. I know the typical Baptist liturgy, the three-song sandwich.

I’ve sat through plenty of prayers. I’ve let the bowl pass plenty of times. I’ve taken the bread and the juice regularly. I’ve listened to plenty of people’s stories. I’ve heard sermon after sermon after sermon.

I know what to expect on a Sunday morning.

But what I didn’t expect was that feeling of being more burdened when I walked out of the service than when I walked in.

That surprised me.

For a few months, having recently finished up my position as Youth and Young Adults Pastor, I found myself confused.

I thought going to church would now be easier. There’d be no pressure, there’d be no one watching, there’d be no one expecting anything of me. I could sit, I could listen, I could let it all wash over me as I reflected and worshipped God.

But, there I sat. I sat hearing those prayers, listening to the songs, concentrating on the sermon, and participating in the gathering. Yet, the more I did this the worse I felt, the more the burdens piled up on my already heavy shoulders.

As I’ve reflected on this experience there are no doubt plenty of reasons for feeling like this. The loss of previous identity, the over-cynical nature of my mind, the attitude of my heart toward church. I also realised that what I was looking for was grace, hope, and a sense of God’s love for me personally.

Instead, I was given proof-texted lifehacks for a healthy life. I was being fed fast-food that seemed to taste nice at the time but became ugly as time went on.

For a season, I sensed layers and layers of guilt being added to me when walking out of a church service. I was guilty about my relationship with Jesus. I was guilty about my actions and attitudes toward those around me. I was guilty about my parenting. I was guilty about my spending habits. I was guilty about my responsibilities.

I came out feeling like I wasn’t doing enough. That all I needed to do to be living the Christian life was to do more of whatever was taught that particular week. Rather than finding the alleviation of guilt, shame, and sin that the worship of God through the Spirit brings I was finding my already full to-do-list was being added to.

As I look back on my own brief ministry and church experience I realise that little time is spent providing opportunities of being fed God’s grace.

The church service is often a place where people come once a week, if you’re lucky, and seek to hear God through his Word with his people. Yet, I know I have been guilty of things, of just giving fast-food topped with ice-cream for dessert. Often we give a short-term fix to long-term problems. We give little balm for their hurts and pain, providing cheap Band-Aids that soon lose their stick.

In youth ministry we often plough ahead with the program. We outline what’s coming up and hit the main topics of relationships, sex, social media, and other ‘youth culture’ issues. We often bring the fun, the excitement and the loud. But it is also about time we as Youth Pastors thought about bringing the grace.

How do we provide spaces for young people, and those in our church, to understand that God is a God of grace?

We’re all very good at giving advice and providing correction if something doesn’t go the way we think is right.

We’re all very quick to help with the practical but often unwilling to sit with the pained.

The disruptive kid at youth group. The youth leader who always brings the negative. The parent who is always on your back. Each needs grace.

People are not only sinners but they are sufferers too. They are enduring life and busyness and all that comes with the daily tasks of living. It’s a wonder so many make it into church on a Sunday, or to youth group on a Friday as it is!

Let’s not attempt to fix people. Let’s provide spaces where God can work his grace.


A while ago I wrote a post about what I wished I knew when entering youth ministry. This is part nine of a series dedicated to elaborating each of those eleven points. You can read part onepart twopart threepart fourpart five, part six, part seven and part eight here.

11 Things: Church Culture And Politics

Depending on what kind of day I’m having I might be able to brush off the niggle that is church politics or I might get really cynical and let my frustration out to those around me.

Unfortunately, like any workplace, organisation, or business (for profit or not), churches have politics. As a Youth Pastor it is important to be aware of this reality and be able to deal with it in a healthy manner.

When you start as a Youth Pastor you walk in pretty blind to what the higher echelons of church management deal with. Whether it be a pastoral team, the leadership team (elders and deacons), or even a ministry area (youth, families, childrens, mens, womens etc.) it takes time to grow in understanding of the culture of the church and its leadership.

Before we unpack the main areas of church politics a Youth Pastor needs to deal with there are three important caveats worth mentioning:

(1) There are many good and well-meaning people who do not seek to be involved in church politics but because of the church’s culture they can’t help it. With leadership and responsibility comes with it certain parameters and a certain culture. Even a new person to a leadership role can be swept along without realising they’re in the middle of some sort of politicking. I don’t believe most church members seek to be part of a team that is dysfunctional or unhealthy in this way.

(2) Talking about the topic of church politics brings with it a negative tinge. Not all politics in a church is bad, sometimes it is necessary. But even using the term ‘politics’ in the church setting conjures up ugly and dysfunctional images.

(3) I, like everyone else, bring my own set of assumptions and experience to church and its leadership. I recognise that growing up as a Pastor’s Kid, where church was all-consuming, has impacted me more than I probably realise. Seeing, hearing, and knowing what churches are like at every level and observing how they operate from a young age provides a unique insight, for better or worse.

With that said, it is worth outlining a few points about what to be aware of when settling into the Youth Pastor role, particularly as a ‘newbie’ or in a new church.

First, you are being watched by everyone.

The Youth Pastor role is an unbelievably important and strategic role in the church. I believe this to be the case. But it is also a role where you are being watched – your character, your interactions with people, your words, and your actions. Everything. Even before you step into the congregation for your first Sunday people already know of you and have certain expectations about what you will bring to the church. They will watch you from day one and will continue to do so throughout your tenure.

Second, people will talk about you.

Just realise that people will talk about you without you there. They will talk about your personality, about the actions in leadership you take, about what you wear on a Sunday, about how you relate to the ‘young people’, about how you make conversation with them, and what your family is like (if you have one). Hopefully, when they do speak of you they will speak kindly and positively, but don’t be surprised if there are some negative critiques too.

Third, many people believe they can do your job.

While you have been brought in for the Youth Pastor role there will be plenty of people who believe they can do your job. So, you will find people coming up and suggesting the best way forward in various ministries you’re responsible for. This could be anyone from the 15-year-old in the youth group, the new leader on the team, the parent who isn’t happy with what’s going on, or even the Senior Pastor who was a Youth Pastor 20 years ago and doesn’t believe things have changed that much. This is not to say that input from others is not valid, it most certainly is! But, that feedback and word of input needs to be sifted and thrown back and forth with other leaders in the ministry area. This is why it’s important to have a team of leaders.

Furthermore, this is why it is also important to work out what you believe is the best strategy for reaching young people, what you’re focussing on, and what that looks like in the week-to-week. Discerning this occurs through your relationship with Jesus, prayer, reading about youth ministry, experience, conversations with other pastors, and with the volunteer leadership team.

Fourth, you will not please everyone.

The quicker you come to terms with this realisation the better for your own emotional health. While those first 12-18 months will generally be quite ‘honeymoonish’ there will come a time where you will begin to hear what people are really thinking. This is where the fun begins. This is where people believe they know you, you’ve been around long enough to build some trust (hopefully), you may have implemented a few little changes here and there, and now feedback on what is actually happening begins to rear its head. In this stage you will find people have strong ideas (refer to my third point) but will also want to see the success of what you’re wanting to achieve too. At this point change may be easier but negative feedback will also come. Being clear on where the youth ministry is headed will make this easier.

Fifth, your ministry is not solely about teenagers.

You’d think that the term ‘Youth Pastor’ would sum up what you do, working with teenagers. This isn’t the case. In reality you are the pastor to the youth but also have working relationships with many of parts of the body. While the youth ministry and the young people is one aspect to your role other important relationships include the Senior Pastor and other colleagues, parents, the church leadership team, other ministry leaders, young adults and other volunteer leaders, just to name a few. With the role comes the actual task of delivering a youth ministry but this all occurs within the context of the wider church. For example, this means when seeking to set dates for the youth ministry you need to take into mind the rhythm of the church and important dates for other ministries of the church. An example that comes to mind for me is setting a Youth Leaders Retreat at the end of the year. I could just put a date down and run with it but I am conscious of where the church meetings are, what the lead up to Christmas means for various church activities, when people are on the music team for Sunday mornings, and the like. The ministry you’re responsible for works within the context of the rest of the church.

Church culture and church politics are something to be aware of when you’re a Youth Pastor. I wish I had known more about his when I first stepped into a paid gig. It can be hard stepping into a church leadership position believing you must get on with everyone, being their best friend. At the end of the day you can’t be, but you can be a leader who takes the responsibility of their position seriously and show others how to ‘do’ youth ministry in a healthy manner.

It is important to do the work God has called you to as you lead the youth ministry. Keep your head down, fight the battle worth fighting for, and pray about the church constantly. Don’t go about injecting yourself into things that you don’t have any influence over but help those around you lead well. Make sure you keep your heart and conscience clear, don’t let any relationship breakdown or uncomfortable church politics fester so you become bitter. And fix your eyes on Jesus, be generous in grace, and hold firm to the Gospel for yourself and those around you.


A while ago I wrote a post about what I wished I knew when entering youth ministry. This is part eight of a series dedicated to elaborating each of those eleven points. You can read part onepart twopart threepart fourpart five, part six and part seven here.