Monday, February 19, 2024

How do you Trust in God?

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How do you trust in God when life is difficult? How do you trust in God, when everything always feels a little pear-shaped? How do you trust in God when your prayers seem like they aren't being answered? 

Micah (our surprise fourth child - pictured here), was born with a cleft palate; that is the the roof of his mouth wasn't formed properly. The first few weeks of his life he was in intensive care, and struggling to breathe. The days were long. The tears were flowing. We said, 'Why Lord?' They were not easy days. 

This photo was taken a few days after his cleft palate surgery (at 11 months of age). We found a moment in between the pain relief when he was smiling! God has been faithful to us over these months. And we're so thankful for so many who have prayed and believed for God's healing upon Micah.

I'm all for praying for God to do a big miracle. Let me say that here and now. I mean God has done big miracles in the past; parting the red sea, letting a donkey talk, bringing the walls of Jericho down, using Elijah to raise someone from the dead. Jesus did big miracles too. It says in Matthew 8:17, that the ministry of Jesus had fulfilled what was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah, who said, 'He took our sicknesses and removed our diseases.' People wanted to get close to Jesus, because they knew he could do something significant in their life.

I pray for big miracles, but I want to say something. It can be difficult to trust in God when you don't see the fulfilment of a gut-wrenching prayer that you've prayed about for a long period of time. It can be tough to trust in God, when your prayers have seemingly gone unanswered. 

My faith has been strengthened in recent days, because of a shift in my thinking. God is at work, and stories of transformation are happening around me. Jesus is transforming lives. The issue I have, is I'm always looking for the big miracle. But God is transforming lives, and I trust that God is at work. This last fortnight, we've seen the Lord opening doors of opportunity for people in our church to serve in unlikely places. We saw one young person commit their life to Christ recently. A member of our church preached for the first time on Sunday. God is good!

So, here's my thought. I think we hold two things in tension. Firstly we should pray for the big miracles. All things are possible in the name of Jesus. So lets pray big and believe big. We should also look closely for where God is at work in the small things. It's a 'both/and' scenario. That is, we don't just look for God at work in the small things, and settle in our minds that God can't and won't do the big thing. But we should also look for God in the small matters and be thankful every day.

So then, how do you trust in God? 

You settle in your heart and mind, that Jesus hears your prayers, and that God is with you through the difficult times and the good times. You choose to believe that what Jesus did on the cross, and his resurrection, was so that you could have a relationship with God Almighty. You trust God for the big miracle. And you trust God in the small matters of your life.

As Proverbs 3:5 simply says, 'Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding.'

God bless you today. 

Saturday, July 22, 2023

A half-strength, weak kind of gospel


*This blog does not necessarily represent the official position of The Salvation Army.

I spoke to my mother the other day. She says when she goes to the coffee shop she orders a skim-milk, half-strength, extra hot coffee. One day though, the coffee she ordered was so weak, she called it dishwater.

I'm going to lay it out straight for you right now:

I think sometimes the gospel we present to the world is like dishwater. 

We have the love of Jesus, but not the power of Jesus. 

We seek to have 'presence' but fail to have 'proclamation'. 

We adopt a watered-down version of the gospel, where we feel enamored by creating community-focused gatherings, without ever a call to salvation. In fact, some Christians today don't really think there's anything to be saved from. We kind of just live, and feel good inside, making sure we help others just live and feel good inside. It's humanism dressed up as friendship evangelism. 

It's one wing of a bird.

We are called to love others and live in community with them. But if all we do is 'help people feel welcome', we have missed the mark. It has to be both evangelism and social justice. 

Though, I admit, it does make us feel good. In fact, it might help us with government funding. It looks good in the eyes of the world. People celebrate us. Friends share our facebook posts. We feel puffed up by our own self-importance. 

A Salvation Army without full salvation through repentance towards God, faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, and regeneration by the Holy Spirit, is a weak, dishwater kind of expression of the Christian church. These keys elements are 'necessary to salvation'.

The gospel without a call to repentance, an opportunity for forgiveness and an invitation to holy living means we fall short. It's almost like we believe in universalism; an idea that Jesus died on the cross for all of humanity and that's it. Jesus paid the price. All is finished. Nothing more for us to do here. 

I think Paul would disagree. He's always calling for those he writes to, to have faith in Christ; to choose to put our trust in him.

I think William and Catherine Booth knew all too well, that preaching the gospel and calling people to salvation, was hard and persecution and kick-back would occur. One only needs to remember why the bonnet was first worn; and it wasn't for fashion. It was so it could protect one's head from the projectiles that were being thrown when Salvationists were calling people to follow Christ on the streets of East London.

I'm not calling for every program, every initiative and every cafe gathering to have a soap-box with a raving fundamentalist preaching it hard. I'm saying, without ever 'proclaiming' the gospel, we miss critical opportunities to call people to faith in Christ.

We end up with nice social gatherings, with a flag and shield in the corner with a nice, warm cuppa tea.

And no one will critique us. We will all feel good inside. 

But all we would have served up is a skim-milk, lukewarm, half-strength kind of gospel, that won't ultimately have an eternal impact upon those we serve.

If you're the evangelist I'm speaking to today, I want you to take a moment and consider the words of Isaiah 6:6-8:

Then one of the seraphim flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. With it he touched my mouth and said, "See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for." Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, "Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?"

And I said, "Here am I. Send me!"  

If you're reading this, and your heart is beating and you say, 'I think Pete is talking to me right now,' then I want to pray with you:

God, in the name of Jesus, touch my mouth and anoint me with the Holy Spirit's power, that I might speak about the incredible salvation that is available, through the death and resurrection of Jesus. Open my mouth to speak your truth to the world around me. Use me in incredible ways and help me to boldly live out and proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ. Amen.

If you prayed that prayer today, please message me and I'd love to encourage you on this journey of serving Jesus. God bless you today.

Wednesday, February 1, 2023

Pastoral Letter from Commissioner Miriam Gluyas

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I am writing to you today with great hope. We have a big Gospel. We have a big God.

Romans 15:13 says, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

In these days, our focus will be: “Hope revealed ... Jesus-centred ... Spirit-led.”

Jesus is our hope. Hope at Christmas, at Easter, on the cross, at the resurrection, in the ascension, speaking on our behalf to the Father, sending the Holy Spirit who is in us, for us, working through us. Hope, every day, because of him. And how we need him!

And so, we begin the next chapter of our story. Let’s write a good one.

We must stay focused in these days. They are both urgent and exciting, and there are so many signs of new growth.

Many things will be important as we write this story:

  • Keeping Jesus at the centre and being led by the Spirit
  • A Jesus culture, living like him and for him
  • Speaking words of life, building up, not tearing down
  • Working together, partnering to bring the best in every area that we are part of
  • Raising up leaders
  • Every Salvo/Salvationist on mission. Gather – 1 worship service, Grow – 1 discipleship group, Go – 1 ministry
  • Seeing our Army thrive again with children, youth and young adults
  • Our creatives producing new works
  • Welcoming all people. Treating everyone with love and respect
  • A culture of honour
  • Prayer
  • Really depending on God. “We don’t know what to do, but our eyes are on you”
  • Discipleship
  • New ways of doing corps and working together in areas to bring the very best

I left ‘corps’ until last as I wanted to focus there for a moment. A strong Army has strong corps, strong churches and strong faith expressions. COVID has taught us a lot and, in a sense, forced us to think differently. We are the Church. We don’t ‘do’ church; we are ‘the’ Church, the body of Christ.

And so, we look at new ways of being the Church. We gather to worship, we come together to focus on the Word and grow as disciples, and then we go into a world that desperately needs Jesus. (We need strong disciples who understand evangelism and apologetics in these days).

Some of you are part of healthy, thriving churches focused on discipleship and sending your people. Some of you are part of organic churches, communities of hope and organic faith expressions. Others are sitting at tables and sharing about life and faith and what you can do on mission together. Healthy churches have people engaged in discipleship groups.

And we are at our best when we partner with others, share our resources, lead as teams and trust our great God. It’s happening already, and it will happen more and more. This will be a key focus in these days.

We also need many godly leaders. They will come out of these places. Can I encourage you to be asking God who in your faith expression will rise up to become the next leader? We pray and believe. It might be you.

I am blessed with amazing prayer warriors! I want to encourage our Army to be a people on its knees (first) and then rise up and go forward into a world that desperately needs Jesus.

Some say that our mission statement is aspirational. I believe that it will become a reality: Wherever there is hardship or injustice, Salvos will live, love and fight, alongside others, to transform Australia one life at a time with the love of Jesus.

We need our hope to be secure in him. We need faith to rise.

I love this translation of Hebrews 12:1-3 from The Message: “Do you see what this means –all these pioneers who blazed the way, all these veterans cheering us on? It means we’d better get on with it. Strip down, start running – and never quit! No extra spiritual fat, no parasitic sins. Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed – that exhilarating finish in and with God – he could put up with anything along the way: Cross, shame, whatever. And now he’s there, in the place of honour, right alongside God. When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility he plowed through. That will shoot adrenaline into your souls!” 

Let’s now write this new story together.

Grateful to you and for you.

Bless you,

Commissioner Miriam Gluyas

Territorial Leader

The Salvation Army Australia Territory

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