Walk This Way

We often hear of people being in the right place at the right time. When we talk about those ‘right place, right time’, moments we’re generally thinking of something good happening for someone just because they were where they needed to be to take advantage of a particular situation or opportunity. It’s as if circumstances came together to bring about something good.

Those moments are generally viewed in the light of their benefit to us. They’re about something good happening for us and those close to us.

But what about being in the right place at the right time to do someone else good?

While it’s human nature to be looking out for circumstances that might work in our favour, I wonder if we actively seek the opportunity to bring a benefit to others. Do we seek opportunity to benefit people we don’t even know?

People of faith tend to talk about how God has blessed them. There’s an understanding that good things come from God’s hands but aren’t we meant to be God’s hands to others? Do we pay any attention to the opportunities God sends our way to do good to other people?

If we truly believe that God has provided for us in some way do we really believe that it’s only for our benefit?

The following passage from Ephesians talks about the incredible way that God not only brought good out of bad but actually turned death into life. It points out that it’s all from God rather than from our own efforts.

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. – Ephesians 2:1-10

The first thing that jumps out to me is that we’re already in the right place at the right time to receive this incredible gift from God that flows to us because of his great mercy and love for us.

But there’s more.

We have been created in Christ Jesus for ‘good works’. We’ve been put together by the master craftsman to do good and the good works we’re meant to be doing have already been prepared for us to do. Our task is to ‘walk in them’.

The last verse talks about us being crafted and created for a purpose. We are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for a purpose. That purpose is ‘good works’. The good works don’t save us, the previous verse makes that very clear, but our ‘right place, right time, moment should lead us to create more right place, right time moments for others.

It seems to me that if we’re meant to be ‘walking in good works’ that have already been ‘prepared beforehand for us’, we should pay some attention to opportunities to do just that. The good news is that the path has already been set before us so we need to be in tune with God as we actively seek to be in the right place at the right time to bring about something good for our family, for our friends, for strangers.

I wonder how different our lives would look if instead of only praying for God to bless us and to give us the things we want in life, we prayed for God to bless others through us. Maybe we need to ask God daily to show us the good works he has prepared beforehand for us to do on this day and for him to give us all we need to walk in those good works.

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Mid Year Stock Take

I’m sure I’m not the only one who feels that time keeps slipping away at an ever increasing rate.

Today is the first day of the second half of 2017.

Here in Australia, the 1st of July marks the beginning of the new financial year. For businesses, it’s a time to draw a line under one year and to look ahead to what the new financial year will bring.

For all of us, being halfway through the calendar year means it’s a good time to look back before looking forward. It’s as good a time as any to reassess where our lives are heading and look at making adjustments or changes where needed.

Every day gives us an opportunity to start again but I think there can be something special about setting a new course on certain landmark days such us the start of a new year, the midpoint of the year, the start of a new financial year or on a birthday. There’s nothing magical about those days but we can use them as markers throughout the year that remind us of where we’re heading or perhaps where we should be heading.

What about you? Are you going to review the goals and resolutions you made at the start of the year?

Are you prepared to put the broken resolutions behind you and start again? I just love the fact that what has happened in the past doesn’t have to decide the direction of our future. While we can’t erase the past, we can deal with it and move forward.

When I look back over the first half of 2017 I see both triumphs and disappointments. I guess that’s what life is all about. It won’t always be smooth sailing but it’s how we deal with the tough times that helps us develop and grow into the people we will become, for better or for worse.

One of the things I’ve wanted to do this year is spend more time on my bike. I need a lot more kilometres in my legs over the next twelve or so months if I’m going to be ready to cycle across the country in September next year. (You can read more about that adventure in my post, Going the Distance.)

While I haven’t cycled as much as I would have liked, I have cycled a lot more than I did last year, so things are improving. Now I get to reasses, reset and move on with the plan to ride more.

There are always things in my private life, my family, my spiritual journey and my work that need reflection and readjustment.

If you’re interested in help towards a mid-year spiritual stock take, I recommend listening to a couple of messages that Rob Furlong preached recently. Check out The Springs of Life and Keeping the Springs Fresh.

How is 2017 looking for you? What adjustments will you make to ensure that you achieve at least some of your goals by the end of the year?

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An Incredible Adventure

If you’re interested in finding out more, head to Ride for Compassion.

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A Different Hope

What are you hoping for? What are your big hopes?

I find hope to be a very interesting idea. It’s about looking forward to good things or better times even though we don’t yet see any evidence of the object of our hope. Sometimes we can be in a dark place but hope says there’s something better on the way.

Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness.
– Desmond Tutu

Most of the time when we talk about hope it really is a desire or wish for something to happen. That desire can be stronger at some times more than others and there can be a higher possibility of that desire being fulfilled at times, but it’s still looking ahead with a desire that may or may not come to pass.

When we say, “I hope this year is better than last year”, we’re stating a desire for something good but we have no way of knowing if that will be the case. Maybe the year will be worse.

If someone says, “I hope I won’t lose my job.” It’s possibly because they see that things are tough and their job isn’t certain. They have a desire that their job will continue but we’re not sure.

There are a lot of desires that we express in terms of hope.

“I hope the weather stays nice this afternoon.”

“I hope the economy improves soon.”

“I hope the West Coast Eagles can win the premiership this year.”

There is a different kind of hope.

The kind of hope that we find in the Bible is different. When we put our hope in God we are certain of the outcome. It’s not about wishing for something that may or may not happen. God has provided certainty through the gift of his son Jesus.

Biblical hope is not a mere desire for something good to happen. It is a confident expectation and desire for something good in the future. Biblical hope has moral certainty in it. When the word says, “Hope in God!” it does not mean, “Cross your fingers.” It means, to use the words of William Carey, ‘Expect great things from God.”
– John Piper

The Bible tells us that we are born again to a hope that is alive. The hope that we as followers of Jesus have is the hope of eternal life together with our saviour. It’s a hope that keeps us alive, supports us, motivates us and drives us forward.
 
It’s a hope that invigorates and spurs our souls to action, to patience, to perseverance to the end.
 
But there’s more to it. It’s a hope that comes through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and it comes with an inheritance. This inheritance is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
– 1 Peter 1:3-9

This kind of hope doesn’t ignore our dark days or the difficulties we face, instead it looks them in the face and says that all those trials cannot compare to what is ahead of us. That’s real hope.

We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.
– Martin Luther King, Jr.

Peter talks in the Bible about the various trials that test the genuineness of our faith. He talks about our faith being precious but says that it will be tested.
 
There’s a rejoicing that comes despite circumstances because we have this living hope. It’s more than a desire for things to be different. It’s more than hoping that better times are around the corner. It’s a confidence and an expectation that there’s something better waiting for us.
 
This kind of living hope works in us despite our surroundings, trials and circumstances.
 
The passage from Peter wraps up saying, “Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”
 
So right in the middle of testing and trials, this living hope, grounded in Jesus Christ, his work on the cross and resurrection, lets us rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory.
 
This living hope bubbles up and overflows because we are certain of the outcome of our faith, the salvation of our souls.
 
This kind of Biblical hope is so different to the kind of hope the world offers.

If your hopes have been dashed again and again, can I encourage you to cling to a different kind of hope … a living hope.

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Missed Out Again

At this time each year, most of Australia celebrates the Queen’s Birthday with a day off work. It’s also the time that the Queen’s Birthday honours list is announced. This year almost 900 Australians have been recognised for their contributions to the community in a variety of fields. As well as the many famous names on the list, there are many who have just been working behind the scenes to make their community and the world a better and more interesting place.

Another thing that happens each year at this time is that people feign surprise that they’re not on the list. Many joke about missing out again or searching the names on the list only to find they haven’t been included.

The truth is, most of us will never receive recognition from the Queen.

While we may be making a difference in our own way, most of us won’t be receiving any kind of letter or medal from Her Majesty with her congratulations and thanks.

So where do we get our recognition?

I have to admit that while I think it would be a great honour, I’m not particularly concerned that I’m not on the list. The things I do for the benefit of others are not done to receive recognition, but if that recognition comes, I’m happy for it to come from people less royal. A simple thanks from those who receive kindness is often enough, even though the kindness is not done for any return whatsoever.

I always appreciate it when those close to me – family, friends, colleagues – recognise any efforts I may make. I don’t need to see my name in lights but an occasional word or two that lets me know I’m on the right track is always appreciated.

So who is it for you?

Where do you want to find recognition? Who do you want noticing the efforts you make at work, in the community or even at home? Is there a significant person in your life whose words bring affirmation?

Sometimes the affirmation and encouragement we yearn for never arrives. Maybe it’s not the Queen’s list on which you’d like to see your name appear but someone closer to home. Is there someone from whom you’d love to hear the words, “well done”?

Life can be difficult when we yearn for the kind of approval that never comes. Often it can be a parent or another significant person in our lives who has never taken the time to put their hand on a shoulder to speak words of kindness and recognition.

Thankfully, we don’t have to receive recognition to continue doing good. There is a kind of recognition that far outweighs any earthly honours list. That recognition doesn’t just come with a medal and a title but with an imperishable inheritance.

Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ. – Colossians 3:23-24

While having people see our work and encourage us is often welcome and helpful, if we choose to follow Jesus and get involved in his kingdom work, there’s something far greater at stake. If you aren’t receiving recognition from the Queen or from those closer to you, don’t give up. Your labours are not in vain.

And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. – Galations 6:9

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