Let’s Talk About God’s Presence

In scripture, one of the most striking examples of the presence of God bringing transformation is Jesus’ transfiguration on the mount.

Here we see the presence of God transfigure, or, transform Jesus so that for a moment, the disciples saw a physical manifestation of God’s glory.

The word transfiguration comes from the Greek “metamorpho” which means to change form, but it can also be the verb which refers to something becoming on the outside what it is on the inside. So when Jesus was transformed on the mount, the disciples saw a glimpse of his glory as God in a physical way. Although He always was God incarnate and present with them, when Jesus was transfigured the veil was lifted and they encountered His glory and power.

The manifest power of God’s glory is the agent responsible for the outworking of transformation in our lives. Healing, deliverance, restoration – everything we need- is found in His presence, and His anointing is what enables us to fulfill the great commission.

In this next season, my prayer is that we would be a church seeking after the presence of the Holy Spirit, so that we too will be transformed into the likeness of Christ by the manifest presence of God, and be filled with the power to accomplish the purposes that he has for us.

Blessings,

Mark.

Let’s Talk About How You View God

This month, I would like to start by asking you the question: How do you view God? Do you see him as aloof? Distant? Unfair?

Take the time to think about your answer and have a moment of honest self-reflection. Your answer to this question will determine your interactions and relationship with God. AW Tozer in ‘Knowledge of the Holy’ writes (emphasis mine): “Were we able to extract from any man a complete answer to the question, “What comes into your mind when you think about God?” we might predict with certainty the spiritual future of that man.”

In a similar vein, we could ask ourselves this of the Holy Spirit. How do you view Him? Who is He? Does He come at random and make us feel good? Is He just about distributing gifts? What we truly believe about the Holy Spirit can help or hinder our connection to Him. The Holy Spirit is a gentleman – He will not come where He is not wanted and so we can unintentionally quench Him through lack of understanding and fear.  Jesus says in Matthew 7:11 (NLT) “if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask him?” And as Tozer put it, the “Holy Spirit is the Father’s promise, given to us as the promised gift. Just as a man promises his son a bicycle for Christmas and the boy comes back and reminds the father. Nobody is ever afraid of a promise of a father who loves him.”

My encouragement is if you aren’t sure about the Holy Spirit, get into the word, and see what you find – the results could be transformative!

Let’s Talk About What Makes a Church

We have been going through a series about what it means to be a part of this thing we call Church.

We have already spoken about how the real meaning of Church refers to a people, not just a building or place (see Romans 16:5), and that the Church is the body of Christ, of which Christ is the Head (Eph 1:22-23). We also know that every believer has a function just as different body parts have a function, and the body of Christ is the place where we use these gifts to edify, encourage, and comfort the Church (1 Corinthians 12).

This month I want to take you a little further and ask the question, what characteristics define the Biblical Church? There is a fancy name for the theological study of what makes a church a church: Ecclesiology. What we believe about this is important as it shapes our church structure, how we relate to each other as believers, and how we accomplish God’s purpose for us.

The Bible shows us characteristics that should be present in any gathering of believers – including Cross Culture – that pay no mind to cultural boundaries and societal expectations. I would like to suggest that the Church should:

  1. Exercise biblically-based preaching (2 Timothy 3:16-17) and gospel-centered teaching which calls people to salvation and a life ‘in Christ’
  2. Partake in Sacraments – baptism & breaking of bread
  3. Attempt to function as a church – not a parachurch (an organisation, or evangelistic ministry that recommends that its members join a church, for example.)
  4. Be in covenant community with each other, and always be seeking unity among believers, not promoting ourselves as better but understanding that we are part of the larger church locally and across the world (Romans 15:5-6; Ephesians 4:1-4)
  5. Understand that we are called to total obedience as His representatives on Earth (2 Corinthians 5:20), anticipate that members will live for the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31) and fulfill His purpose for our lives as a Church and individually
  6. Function under the authority of scripture with Biblical leadership and accountability – we expect our leaders to be accountable (Titus 1:7-14, 1 Timothy 3:2-7) and we are all accountable.

Friends, the Church is more than a sum of its parts. We are not just a bunch of individuals who congregate in a building together. 1 Peter 2:5 says, “You yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” So, as a ‘spiritual house’ and a ‘holy priesthood’, let’s fulfill our calling to minister to God and one another. Ask yourself, how can you be a priest this week?

Blessings,

Mark.

Let’s Talk About What We Are Created For

When giving our testimonies, we Christians tend to talk about what we’ve been delivered out of – we tell how we’ve been saved from drugs, or gambling, or some other circumstance – but it does no good to stop there. We need to go a step further and ask: what have we been saved into?

We get a glimpse of this when we look at the original creation. In Genesis 1:26-28, we see that all man is created in the image of God (even that inconsiderate bloke who beeps you in traffic!) and we have God-created purpose and are intended to find our satisfaction in Him. But because of The Fall, this image and purpose have become distorted.
Now that we are saved into The Kingdom, we are instructed in Colossians 3:9 to put on our new nature and be renewed as we learn to know our Creator and become like Him. As much as we would like Jesus to wave a wand over us to remove our dirty garments and renew us, it does not work that way. WE must take off our dirty clothes and WE must put on the clean clothes!
I believe we are created for four things, and it is these four things that the Devil will attack us on.

  • We are created to relate. We are created to be in relationship the same way that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are in relationship, but the first thing to break down after The Fall was relationship (God to man and man to man.)
  • We are created for workSin makes work meaningless and a real burden, which is why fame, winning the lotto, or being a genius sounds so appealing, but Solomon had all this and said, ‘life is meaningless’. Only with Jesus at the centre can we find satisfaction in work!
  • We are created for rest. God rested, not because He was tired, but to demonstrate that He intends us to rest. In our seeking, we either become lazy or we work ourselves to exhaustion or illness. Rest was created so that we would learn to press the reset button and enjoy Him.
  • We are created to rule. We were created to rule but Eve abdicated her position while Adam watched. But Jesus restores that right to us!

I would like to see this worked into the fibre of the church. May we be people who do life with Christ at the centre, stripping off the old and putting on the new, learning to know our Creator. May our relationships be blessed. May our work fill us with satisfaction. May our rest be restorative, and may we rule over stuff while we restore those around us!

Blessings,

Mark

Let’s Talk About Abundant Life

On Sunday, we began in Habakkuk 2:4, “See, the enemy is puffed up; his desires are not upright— but the righteous person will live by his faithfulness”.

We journeyed through Romans 1:16, Galatians 3:11, and Hebrews 10:38, where we saw a pattern establishing: the righteous shall live by faith.

The life mentioned in these scriptures refers to the same abundant life described by Jesus in John 10:10 when He says: “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” The only way we can live this abundant life is if we understand what righteousness is, and we must also understand our faith!

Our righteousness or right-standing with God was given to us by Jesus through His death on the cross. When Jesus died on the cross, justifying us before God, He didn’t just give us what we needed to pay the debt and bring our bank account back up to zero, He filled our account, giving us MUCH more than we’ll ever need. He gave us abundant life!

Hebrews 11:6 says: “And without faith, it is impossible to please Him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who seek Him.”

It says if we are to come to Him, we must believe! There is no alternative. This is the one, basic and unvarying condition given to all who would approach God: we must believe!

We are required to believe two things:

1) that He exists, and,

2) that He rewards those who sincerely seek Him.

Most of us have no trouble believing that He exists, but do you believe that He will reward those who earnestly seek Him?

Even though we have been justified, the sanctified man is trying to catch up with the righteous man, and so often when we stumble and struggle with our thoughts and attitudes, we tend to live, pray and think from there, not believing that God will reward us for seeking Him. Instead, we need to live by faith, coming into agreement with what God has done for us, believing that we have been made righteous, enabling us to live an abundant life.

We must have confidence and trust in God as a person, in His character and reliability, and believe that He will reward us if we diligently seek Him.

Friends, can I encourage you this month to seek God and trust that He will reward you if you sincerely seek Him?

Blessings,

Mark.

Lets Talk About Church

What do you think of when we speak of The Church? Is it a building? Is it tradition? Is it an interruption to your otherwise relaxing Sunday morning sleep in?

The church is God’s idea, and the church is us!  It is who we are and is a part of our identity, that’s why we don’t stay home and watch it online – even though it might be more comfortable!

God expects us to operate as members of His body and He has gifted all of us with spiritual gifts for the greater good of the body. You might sit back and say, “Mark, that’s all well and good for you, but I don’t have any gifts! I don’t really have anything to offer!”

Well, I have news for you – you do! Corinthians 12:7 says, “Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good”, and, in verse 27, “Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.”  So, God promises to empower those who are a part of the body of Christ through the Holy Spirit with gifts for the common good (Corinthians 12:4-7).  If you attend Cross Culture, that means YOU! There are no exceptions!

Now, don’t be confused or put off by the fact that you might have a different gift to someone else. God doesn’t always move according to our expectations but will move in a way that meets the needs of the church.  A good analogy is that of a diamond ring: there is one diamond with many facets.

On Sunday, we completed a little exercise where we had a jar of one-dollar coins, and each member was given one coin and instructed to give it away along with encouragement and prayer. Boy, was I blessed! I was stopped four times on the way to my car after the service and given a ‘coin’ and you know what? I am coming back to church next week so I can make sure these coins re-enter circulation!

One of the wonderful benefits of being a part of the body of Christ is that we are called to provide for each other’s practical needs within the Church (Acts 20:34-35; Romans 15:26). We are also called to pray for each other (Acts 12:5; Philippians 1:3-4) and to show honour (Romans 12:10), compassion (Ephesians 4:32), encouragement (1 Thessalonians 5:11), and love to one another (1 John 3:11).

Friends, can I encourage you again and leave you with this: we are all a part of the body of Christ. Each one of us has a part to play and a gift to give. There are people in this church waiting to be blessed by a gift that God has given you. So, step up and step out! You will be amazed at how God moves through you, and you might just be blessed back!

Blessings,

Mark.

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