Wednesday, February 19, 2014

How to Overcome Absolutely Anything. Part three: Joy no matter what...

How to Overcome Absolutely Anything. Part three: Joy no matter what... by Shayne Holesgrove

John 14:12, Jesus is speaking and He says “Truly, truly, I say unto you, he that believes on me, the works that I do, he shall do also, and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father.” 

That’s a standard of victory that we should all be living in. Jesus said it, and so that means that it is possible. What are the works that Jesus did? Well, He healed the sick, turned water into wine, raised the dead, cleansed the lepers... we far too easily remember those things and forget that He also walked in complete forgiveness. Jesus said that we would be able to do what He did and do even greater works than He did. 

We want to see miracles, signs and wonders on a continuous basis but we need to realize that there is more to victory than a comfortable and trouble free life! Philippians 4:4 shows us another kind of victory which we should be experiencing.  “Rejoice in the Lord always, again, I say rejoice!” He repeats it twice just to make a point. This is Paul writing from prison. I once heard a minister say that the prison Paul wrote from was in the middle of the sewerage works – and so Paul could have been standing waste deep in human dung… And what does he say? “Rejoice in the Lord always!” And you think you've got it bad!  “And again, I say rejoice!”  He is saying that victory over depression is possible! You don’t have to feel down because joy is not the result of our circumstances but the result of a person: Jesus! Rejoice in Him! 

I love how if you read this Scripture to the end there are no conditions attached!  It’s not written to those without a problem in the world, or to those who have all they need and have a comfortable life, or to those without a chemical imbalance. Now people have things like that and the good news is that you can overcome it! You can rejoice in the Lord always, regardless of your circumstances and situation! Joy has got nothing to do with your circumstances. Start changing your thinking and you can start to overcome it. Marna and I have both overcome depression. Marna was diagnosed with depression and on chronic mediation for it. We know that it’s a challenging place to be but with God she overcame it, and so did I!

“Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say rejoice!  Let your reasonableness be known to everyone  for the Lord is at hand.  Do not be anxious about anything!  (You can have victory of anxiety – anxiety should not have the upper hand over you!But by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving,  let your requests me made known unto God. (Victory, peace and joy, is the result of relationship with God – prayer! Talk to God about your problems, talk to God about what you going through. Tell Him because He cares. But allow Him to talk back to you and to help you change focus, and you are going to see things change, as the scripture continues, “the peace of God which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” God’s peace is the result of enjoying relationship with Him. 

“Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honourable,  whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely,  whatever is commendable.  If there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”  It doesn’t say to think about how bad you are doing financially.  It doesn’t say think about how much you are in pain.  It doesn’t say think about how you are struggling with the pain of a hurtful relationship – yes, those things are real and I am not discrediting them, but what I am saying is: don’t focus on them! Don’t allow them to dominate your life and take all your attention!

How do you deal with a problem?  Well, you obviously have to figure what the problem is and everything about the problem. And after analyzing the problem and focusing on the problem and finding out all about the history of the problem, and becoming so familiar with the problem,  that you need to educate yourself out of that, because you are stuck there, then find a solution for the problem or many solutions you can choose from.  Or go for spiritual housecleaning. No, none of that! 

These scriptures are saying to direct your focus and attention to “whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure,  whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, anything of excellence, anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”  

As soon as you start hearing lies in your head find scriptures that counteract those lies and then quote the scripture, and meditate on those truths. No need to focus on the lie. Focus on the solution, not the problem. Peace is the result of where your focus is at. Where your mind goes your heart follows. 

If you don’t like where your heart is at you need to change your thinking. Change the direction of where you are thinking and you will start to see change. The Living Bible says, reading from verse 10, “How grateful I am, and how I praise the Lord that you are helping me again.  I know you have always been anxious to send what you could, but for a while you did not have the chance, not that I was ever in need. For I have learned to get along happily, whether I have much or whether I have little” (how many of you learn to get along happily whether you have much or whether you have little. Or do you get upset, angry and depressed when in lack praying that “I need more”? Sadly you’ll still have a "give me more" attitude when you have more - Learn to be content with what you’ve got.) God wants you to be blessed and prosper, but be content with where you are at while you’re grabbing hold of what God’s got for you.  Don’t let your situation get you down.  

We always say, don’t let the enemy steal your joy. Technically this is wrong, because your joy cannot be stolen, it can only be given away. You choose to give it away. The enemy cannot take it from you. You give it to him...“Hey satan, have my joy!  I am going to be depressed and focus on what you are doing!” You can ask some believers, “So, what is God doing in your life?” and all that they can tell you is everything that the devil is doing, but they don’t know what God is doing in their life.  They haven’t got a clue. 

“I have learnt the secret of contentment in every situation” which is focus on God and be thankful.  Don’t focus on the negative. “Whether it be a full stomach or hunger. Plenty or want.”  Paul knew what he was talking about and he finishes off there by saying “I can do all things through Christ Jesus  who strengthens me.”  We can overcome anything by choosing to have the right focus – by focusing on Jesus, and allowing His peace and joy to flood our hearts and minds. Remember that Jesus said that you are able to do what He did, and even greater works. And Jesus forgave those that nailed Him to a cross, while He was hanging there...

Friday, February 14, 2014

Happy Valentine's Day: I love my church!

Today is Valentine's Day and I purposefully wore my "I <3 my church" shirt today. 

I had some interesting responses and non responses... But the truth is: I love my church, and you should love yours too.

1. I love my church: my family
GraceLife now has four campuses and a number of "family members" scattered around. But my most important congregation is my beautiful wife and adorable son. Ministry begins in the home. 1 Timothy 3 even shows us that a man can only be an elder if his household (wife and children) is in order. In other words, he needs to minister at home before he ministers anywhere else. Too many ministers have ignored this one, wrongly believing that "if I look after God's family, He will look after mine." WRONG! God wants to look after YOUR family THROUGH YOU.

1 Timothy 5:8, JB PHILIPS,  "You should make it clear that for a man to refuse to look after his own relations, especially those actually living in his house, is a denial of the faith he professes. He is far worse than a man who makes no profession."

Ephesians 5:28 says that he who loves his wife loves himself. This is because my wife and I are one flesh: looking after her = looking after myself. Hurting her (even by neglect for the ministry) = hurting myself (and it's an epic fail).

I wore my "I <3 my church" shirt in the first place because my church is my wife and son, and I really love them. 

2. I love my church: God's family is my family
The old saying would be more correct to say, "the blood of Christ is thicker than the water of birth." Too few believers have a good understanding of this truth that church family (as in body of Christ, not institution) is family. Real family. My wife and I have believed this and practiced it since we got married. We have invited people we know well and people we don't know so well to Christmas lunch because they didn't have "water family".  We have spent time with and invested into people outside of our surname-relations because the love of Christ, in us, compels us and in Christ we are one! We are part of each other!

1 Corinthians 12:26, "If one part suffers, all parts suffer with it, and if one part is honored, all the parts are glad."

The church is likened to a body and called "the body of Christ". And so it would do us all well to realize that as much as your arm is a part of you, and as necessary as it is, likewise we are part of each other and all necessary for each other.

A side note: I believe that unbelievers are family too - they just haven't realized it yet. In the parable of the lost son a good question to ask is, "when was the lost son ever not his Father's son?"

wore my "I <3 my church" shirt in the second place because my church is you and every believer worldwide, and I really love us.

3. I love my church: GraceLife
I believe in the local church as an expression of the church at large. I believe it is God's vehicle and agent for change in our world. I believe that missions organizations like YWAM are also expressions of the church and that it is really silly to label them "para church" and shun them for doing a better job at reaching the nations than most churches put together. (That was for free)

Back to my point: God birthed GraceLife as a branch of the body of Christ. GraceLife (like any other local church) is a family on its own. You could say the local churches are immediate families while neighboring churches are like cousins. In our immediate family of GraceLife, we tend to get close to people - really close. Even when people don't consider themselves "part of the family", we tend to. We love people! That's why it's difficult for us when people leave on a bad note, or for no reason, or without any notice. We recently had close friends - family, people that we invited into our lives to do life with - leave. They may have had good reasons and they may have even been justifiably hurt - but the only reason I accept is: "God's moving me on." 

The honest truth is that GraceLife is not perfect (don't tell anyone). I think it might be because there are people involved? We have problems and need to grow in many areas. We make mistakes in dealing with each other, often, but the bottom line is that no family is perfect. That's why I like to call our churches "grace communities". We exist to help people experience God's grace (His undeserved favour and acceptance) and for us all to experience that unconditional love, favour and acceptance (grace) from each other. It blessed me when one of my "sons in the faith", Ettienne, said the other day, "it's amazing how people always want to experience or receive grace, but are never willing to extend it... Especially to leadership." Ettienne made a good point: we often expect leadership to be perfect and for leadership to accept the fact that we are not perfect. How hypocritical!

On another note, someone commented on my shirt saying,"you should love it - it's your church!" That's not the point if it at all. My wife and I did start GraceLife and I am the leader. But I do not own it. Jesus is GraceLife's Chief Shepherd and Senior Pastor. I am leader under Him, caring for His flock. I don't own the sheep, He does. I didn't purchase the sheep with my blood, He did. And He will love them more than I can, always.

And yet on another note, some people are shocked at a statement like "I love my church" for a variety of reasons. Some even think it's pride. But you really should love your church! If you don't, why on earth are you there?! If you can't wear a "I <3 my church" shirt then you have to ask yourself "why?" And if you don't enjoy going, then you need to consider "why?"

It may not be that you need to find a new church (although it might be - especially if you're getting a regular diet of legalistic self-help and do-good-to-be-good garbage), it may be that you need to find a new attitude and extend grace towards your leaders and church family.

You should believe that your church is the best church in town - otherwise, why are you there? I am not talking about arrogance or comparison. I am talking about being part of something you love and believe in! Even though GraceLife doesn't have the best worship band or slick systems and structures (we're getting there), I believe we are the best church to be part of!

wore my "I <3 my church" shirt in the third place because I am a member of GraceLife, where I serve as a leader, and I am proud to say that "I love my church" and believe it is the best!

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Are You a Part-Time Church Goer? You Might Be Surprised

Geoff and Christine are thirty-something churchgoers who love Jesus and love their three kids. They consider themselves faithful members of New Life Community Church.
Their oldest is about to be in the youth group, and their youngest is finally out of diapers. Christine has been involved in the kids’ ministry through the years. Geoff is a deacon.
But they are part-timers when it comes to church attendance, and they never set out to be.
They are not alone.
Recent statistics show that an increasing number of evangelicals who are firm in their faith are flabby in their practice of actually gathering with their brothers and sisters in worship. It’s the part-time syndrome, and it can sneak up on any of us.
Let’s go back to Geoff and Christine. There are 52 Sundays a year, and last year, they attended a worship gathering on 28 of those Sundays. (That’s an average of about twice a month.)
What happened?
Vacation: To maximize his allotted days, Geoff took the family to the mountains during the kids’ spring break, stretching over two weekends (one of which happened to be Easter!). There was the summer beach vacation, another stretch of a week and two weekends, and then a fall getaway. Total = 5 Sundays.
Sports: Their oldest son is on a travel soccer team. Many of the games are on weekends, and they believe it would be a better testimony to be among unbelievers on Sunday mornings rather than let down the team. Total = 9 Sundays.
Sickness: With their youngest child going to preschool, the family seems more susceptible to illnesses than before, and sickness always seems to hit on the weekends. Total = 3 Sundays.
Guest Preacher: When Pastor Jon is out of town, Geoff and Christine usually take the weekend off. They never like the guest speaker as much as Pastor Jon. Total = 3 Sundays.
Visiting In-Laws: Christine’s parents come twice a year to spend the weekend with the family. To maximize their time, they usually spend the weekends catching up and doing some shopping. Total = 2 Sundays.
Holiday: Thanksgiving weekend, and the week in between Christmas and New Year’s, the family is traveling. Total = 2 Sundays.
Geoff and Christine may be a fictional couple, but their situation is true for many of us. Recently, a church leader told me their most faithful attendees are only in church 2-3 times a month.
They basically expect churchgoers to be “hit or miss” every week.

Danger #1—Guilt You Into Going.

Now, there are two wrong ways church leaders might address this issue. The first is to go all Hebrews 10 on everyone and emphasize the importance of the worship gathering, so as to whip people into shape and guilt them into church attendance. Sorry, but this isn’t a gospel-centered approach.
We should never take the command of Hebrews 10 about neglecting the church and isolate it from the preceding verses (about the privilege of coming before God in a community of faith that holds to a confession of hope).
That’s giving the imperative (“Go to church!”) without the indicative (“You are welcomed into the throne room of grace with your family in Christ.”).
This approach also stresses church as a place we go, rather than church as the people with whom we gather. It reinforces the idea that the church is a building and leads people to think holiness happens by being present every week.
Lastly, this method could cause people to have a checklist mentality, where they pat themselves on the back for being in church 48 weeks a year, while neglecting other important matters—like justice and love. Churchgoing isn’t necessarily a sign of spiritual health. How many times do you think the Pharisees were absent from the temple?

Danger #2—Avoid the Issue.

The second danger is to be so concerned with the first that we fail to address the imperative in Hebrews 10 at all. In doing so, we ignore the importance of the church as the family of Christ, the people with whom we are to gather and hear the gospel.
Because of our strong distaste for legalistic checklists, we might minimize the counterfeit gods that creep into our lives and vie for our free time.
In the desire to avoid legalism, we never mention that a ball can become a Ba’al for some, or that leisure and comfort can become idols that keep us from worshipping the true God with other believers.
In an effort to not guilt people into church attendance, we never make people aware of the fact that grace is presented week after week. Guilt is the result of not going to church—not because you feel bad for not living up to God’s expectations, but because you’re not hearing the message of gospel grace pounded into you week after week.

A renewed vision of worship.

The best way to respond is not with guilt or with a false grace, but with the reminder of the purpose of worship.
You aren’t there to fill up at the gas station (after all, you can get some sort of spiritual sustenance by reading or listening to your preacher’s podcasts apart from the body of Christ). This is a distorted view of the purpose of gathering.
The author of Hebrews clues us in. Being with your brothers and sisters is where you are able to stir one another up to love and good deeds. It’s the place where the confession of hope is celebrated and put before you and where you are urged to cling to it tightly.
It’s not just the content you receive every week that is so formative; it’s the act of being together and making the Lord’s family your priority. It’s similar to a family that gathers every evening for a meal.
The value is not in the specifics of your conversation, but the very act of demonstrating your love for each other.
We don’t go to church because of guilt. We are the church because of grace.
That’s what Geoff and Christine, along with you and I, need to remember.  

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

How to Overcome Absolutely Anything. Part two: Free from the curse!

How to Overcome Absolutely Anything. Part two: Free from the curse! By Shayne Holesgrove.
God’s got much more for us...  

We are looking at “How to Overcome Absolutely Anything” and before we can overcome anything we need to know that it is possible to overcome anything and that we can enjoy victory. That is what God wants for us. This blog post is part of a series and so if you missed my first post I encourage you togo back and read it..

1 Corinthians 15:55-57 The Mirror Bible, “‘O death where is your sting?  O grave where is your victory?’  The sting of death is sin, the strength of sin is the law.  Your victory is not a maybe, because of the magnanimous doing of Jesus Christ, it’s a given.”  Magnanimous means very generous in forgiving, especially towards someone less powerful.   

Your victory is not a maybe. God wants you to be victorious.  He has made you victorious.  He has set you up for victory. If you are experiencing anything less than victory, it’s not God’s fault. Too many people blame God for their misery not realising that He has set us up for abundant life, but we need to choose it.  Your victory is not a maybe because of the magnanimous doing of Jesus Christ  it’s a given!”   The Message says, ‘but now in a single victorious stroke of life, all three – sin, death, guilt are gone!   The Gift of our Master, Jesus Christ, thank God!”  Verse 58 (Mirror) says “for this reason you can afford to absolutely to be settled and rock solid in faith persuasion and always ready to go beyond where you have gone before.  Your doing is now inspired by your knowing that you are in Him.  If His resurrection is yours, then His victory over sin and death is equally yours.” If we died with Him, and Romans 6 to 8 talks about that, it shows us how His resurrection is ours – His victory over sin and death is equally yours!   Your victory is not just a maybe, but because of what Jesus has done for you, your victory is secured!  Your victory is definite, not maybe! It’s not definitely maybe.  It is definitely!!   Amen!

Let’s look at Deuteronomy 28, an exciting passage which a lot of people butcher. “ If thou shall harken diligently unto the voice of the Lord thy God,  to observe and to do all His commandments,  which I command thee this day, that the Lord thy God shall set thee high above all the nations of the earth.”  How many of you want to be set like that? Set above all the nations of the earth? Scripture says that “all these blessings shall come upon thee and overtake thee.” Isn’t that awesome! Imagine blessing overtaking you, but what do most Christians in our circles do?  They try and overtake the blessing!  They are trying to take over the blessing!  That’s simply because they don’t believe that they are blessed! God’s will is that all these blessings come upon you and overtake you.  Then it says, IF thou shalt harken thy voice unto the Lord thy God.”  ‘If you will listen to the voice of the Lord your God’ – there is a condition. And now this is where people go pear-shaped.  They start telling you what you need to do in order to be blessed by God: “How to live a blessed life”,   No. 1:  Tithe.  2: Fulfill all the law.  3: Make sure you don’t do anything on the Sabbath except  Sabbath and go to church… And they just keep listing it…  “Don’t smoke or drink. Don’t eat pork. Live holy” The truth is that you cannot do anything to attract God’s favour and blessing. Nothing you do will qualify you to be worthy to receive anything from Him. We’ll look at this a bit more in a moment.

Remember where this passage (Deuteronomy 28) is.  It’s in the first part of the Bible.  Everything we read in the Bible, especially in the Old Testament, needs to be interpreted through the greatest event of all time – the death and resurrection of Jesus. That event changed everything, forever. Sadly most believers live and act as if Jesus changed nothing.

Verse 3: “you will be blessed, in the city, blessed in the field, blessed in the fruit of your body and the fruit of your ground and the fruit of your cattle, and the increase of your kind and the flocks of your sheep.  You will blessed in your basket, blessed in your store” if you have a store.  If you don’t have a store it can’t be blessed.  A hundred times zero is………………….zero!!!  “Blessed shall you be when you come in and blessed shall you be when you go out.  The Lord will cause your enemies that rise up against you to be smitten before thy face.  They shall come in one way and flee before thee in seven ways” and it goes on to show how blessed God wants His people to be. Isn’t that awesome!   It’s just that technicality of ‘if’. “It shall come to pass  that it thy will not harken or listen to the voice of God, to observe to do ALL His commandments and His statues that I command thee this day, that ALL these curse shall come upon thee and overtake thee.” Now would you prefer to have blessings overtake you or curses overtake you?  Blessings obviously! Everyone wants the blessing of God to overtake them! This passage of Scripture is saying: “hey, fail in one, fail in all!” And so if you make one mistake what’s going to happen is that you’re going to be cursed, not just with one or two of these curses, but all of these curses.  All of these curses are going to come upon you and destroy you. We are going to read through all the curses, because it’s exciting (kidding), but we will get there in a moment.  So, if you want the blessing of God, what do you need to do? The Bible says, in Deuteronomy 28 that if you want the blessing of God you must follow ALL His commandments, you have got to do EVERYTHING He says. And if you don’t want the curses you must not fail once! That’s quite a high standard. It’s like me pulling out a gun and saying, “whoever cannot touch the ceiling (about 10 meters high) in the next five minutes will get a bullet in their head. I’m going to kill you!”  It’s impossible for you to jump in your own ability and touch the ceiling, right? That’s what Deuteronomy 28 is basically saying the same: You need a Saviour!  You can’t do this yourself!

Galatians chapter 3 verse 13 says, “Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law.” He has taken you out of the curse of the law!  Isn't that awesome!  That’s Good News!  Praise Jesus! “Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us, for it is writing, ‘cursed is everyone that hangs on a tree.’  The blessing of Abraham…” now think about what the blessing of Abraham was and is. This scripture is saying that Jesus did what He did so that you could get the blessing of Abraham! “…that the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles,  through Jesus Christ…” and I will put in there, ‘not because of their hard work’ “…that we might receive the promise of  the Spirit through faith…” not works. Many believers think that blessing is something we have to achieve; that there is something we have to do. But the Bible is very clear there: Jesus did it for us; He was obedient for us because He knew that we would not be perfectly obedient.

So you thinking you are great? You’ve obeyed the Ten Commandments and you have got it altogether… “surely God should bless me?”  You could not be more wrong! God doesn’t bless you because of your behaviour.  He doesn’t bless you because you are good.  He doesn’t bless you for any reason except that HE IS GOOD . It’s not about what you do, but what Jesus has done for you.  And that’s the message which we have to get out! This is the gospel (good news) of Jesus!

Too often people use Deuteronomy 28 to bring condemnation on people. Well-intended ministers just pile on the to-do list! But Christ took the curse for us!  Amen!  The message of Jesus is good news that you do not have to strive to be good and right with God. Jesus came and made us right with God. If our gospel is not good news it is not gospel. Verse 16 continues, “Cursed shall thy be in the city, cursed shall thy be in the field, cursed shall be thy basket and thy store,” so now this is saying that it doesn’t matter how much you’ve got in your store, it is cursed. It doesn’t matter if you’ve got all the wealth of the world, it is cursed.  This is why for some people things just keep going wrong. Verse 18, “cursed shall be the fruit of thy body, and the fruit of thy land”, this is quite depressing but I want to get through it, “The increase of thy kind, and the flocks of thy sheep, cursed shall thy be when thy comest in, and cursed shall thy be when thy goest out.” You know the first half talks about being sandwiched in the blessing, and the second half talks about being sandwiched in a curse. It’s terrible!  Verse 20, “The Lord shall send upon thee cursing, vexations” which is confusion, destruction, trouble and rebuke. “Cursing upon all thou settest thy hand to do, until thou be destroyed.”  So the blessing is that you can put your hand to anything and it prospers.  When you put your hand to something does it prosper, or do things just seem to never work out for you? That’s a curse and it doesn't belong to you! God wants you to put your hands to things and see prosperity!

If you’re in the place where things don’t seem to be working out, then pray with me: “Father I thank You that You are good and that Jesus did what He did so I could be completely free from the curse, and any curse! I resist, rebuke and break the power of the enemy in my life and declare ‘thus far and no further!’ I am blessed. I am prosperous. Everything I put my hand to is prosperous because I am a child of the most High God and He lives in me! I speak life and prosperity over my life in every area, in the Name of Jesus!”

So we have said, ‘…until though perish quickly,” not just perish slowly, “because of the wickedness of thy doings” this is a nice one, “The Lord shall make the pestilence cleave unto thee, until He have consumed thee from off the land – where you go to possess it. The Lord shall smite thee with a consumption.” Consumption refers to a progressive wasting away of the body. Something that causes you to waste away is not God.  It is a curse.  And then it goes on to say, “with an inflammation, (redness, heat, pain) with an extreme burning, with a sword, with blasting (blasting is sudden, violent winds – talking about nature not your stomach! But if you’re suffering with the latter we will pray with you.)  It goes on to say, “and with mildew…” (this is any kind of fungi, usually grows on plants or any organic materials. It also refers to mould in your house from dampness. I have heard many testimonies of people rebuking the mould in the homes and it goes away!)

We have been redeemed from all of those curses!  If you've identified anything in your life, along those lines as being a curse in your life I have good news for you: it is not for you.  Don’t except the devil’s unhandy-work in your life. Don’t just accept things as normal, when God’s Word shows us that we have been redeemed from perishing (John 3:16)!

If you've identified any work of the enemy in your life and want someone to pray for you, then please send us an email and we will get back to you! You can also contact us if you’d like an audio copy of my teaching: “How to Overcome Absolutely Anything!” Email us at Part three coming soon...