Category Archives: Messages

12 Signs Of Selfishness

We’ve been doing a series at The River called ‘Breaking Down The Walls’ – dealing with attitudes and issues that put walls between people and work against friendships and relationships.

So on Sunday I dealt with a particularly nasty wall-maker in our lives – one that makes others put up walls against us to protect themselves, and an area that can be particularly difficult for us to see in our own character… the wall of ‘Selfishness’.

Most people don’t think of themselves as particularly selfish, it’s usually an attribute that we’re quicker to label others with! But it’s something that we need to root out of our lives if we’re going to have good friendships and relationships.

So is selfishness at work in your life? I’ve compiled a quick 12-point checklist…

1) You have high expectations of what other people should do for you, and you feel angry or irritated when they don’t meet your expectations

Selfish people generally have high expectations of others and a clear idea of what others should be doing for them.

2) You think a lot about what you’re entitled to, and you feel angry or irritated when you don’t get what you feel you deserve

Selfish people are all about their rights, and they take full advantage of them. It’s not that it’s bad to know and use our rights, but truly selfish people would sooner end or endure a difficult relationship than have to budge on what they feel they’re entitled to.

3) You spend a lot of time thinking about why more people aren’t helping you

Everyone has problems going on in their life, but selfish people are consumed with why everyone else isn’t ‘doing what they should’ to help them.

4) You move people in and out of your life based on how useful they are to get you to where you want to go

It’s great to have a vision for life, but selfish people use others to get to their vision and dispense with them quickly once they lose their usefulness. This one can be a tough area for leaders – but in leadership it’s important that we remember that the vision is there to serve the people… not the other way around!

5) You often find yourself surrounded by selfish people

If the majority of people around your life seem to be quite selfish to you… the problem may not actually be with them!

6) If you’re asked to help with a need your primary concern is how helping out will affect you

This doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t take into consideration our own time and energy levels – it’s good to think through what a commitment means to us before we make it. But there’s times when we just have to jump in and help someone… maybe it’s incovenient for us, but it’s the right thing to do at the time. Selfish people can’t see past their own priorities to the needs of others.

7) You find yourself on the end of conflict often, but it’s never your fault, and you don’t say sorry easily

Selfish people often find themselves in conflict, because the people around their life get tired of having to put up with their selfishness. But because of #1, #2, #3 and #5 – selfish people often don’t see that they’re the cause of the conflict! So they usually won’t apologise because they don’t feel like they’re the problem!

8) You find it hard to rejoice when others get blessed, or get the spotlight

Selfish people see the limelight and accolades as just rewards for their effort. They struggle when the spotlight is on someone else, because then people aren’t noticing the important contribution they feel like they’ve made which is connected to…

9) You want to make sure that you receive proper recognition for the things you do, and you get miffed if you don’t

Selfish people want to be noticed and want to receive what they believe is their ‘due entitlement’ (#2). So recognition by others (and especially by important people) is vital for them. Everyone finds it hard if they’re contribution is overlooked, but for a selfish person – they just can’t let it go… it eats away at them.

10) You like being in control of things and you find it very hard to compromise on what you want

Selfish people are usually uncompromising and have a very clear idea of what they want and how everyone needs to behave so that they can get it!

11) You keep a personal tally of what you’ve done for other people

Selfish people don’t GIVE… they TRADE. Even if they look like they’re giving, they’re still trading. They keep a personal tally of when and how they’ve served, given, blessed and done things for others. They want to make sure that the ‘balance’ of giving and serving and them receiving their rewards stacks up. Selfless people on the other hand, just give… because it’s all for God anyway.

12) You are the star or the centre in most of the stories, experiences and events that you share in conversation with other people

Selfish people don’t have conversations – they have monologues and soliloquies with an audience. Selfless people understand that conversations need to be two way, and endeavour to include others and bring out what’s inside them. Selfish people just want everyone to focus on them.
Naturally we’ve all got a bit of selfishness on the inside of us. If you took the test and none of it applies to you… I’d suggest that there’s a good chance that selfishness could be a bigger issue than you think!

If you took the test and none of it applies to you… I’d suggest that there’s a good chance that selfishness could be a bigger issue than you think!

3 Quick Tips For Becoming More Self-Less

1) Have a huge view of the super-abundance of God

Selfish people generally have a scarcity mentality – they don’t believe there’s enough to go around, so they make sure that they get ‘their share’. The more we see that in God there’s an abundance for all that we need and more – the easier it is to hold lightly to stuff. We can rejoice in the blessing of others, because we know that it’s not taking away from our blessing! There’s more than enough!

2) Have a mindset of humility

Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; – Philippians 2:3

To ‘regard one another as more important than ourselves’ means that we treat every person we come across the same way that we would treat someone that we highly esteem. We take into consideration their needs and do our best to serve in every situation.

3) Give generously

Give. Not trade!

Giving our time, energy and money to others with no desire or expectation for return is a great way for us to keep selfishness far from us. Maybe this is why Jesus said that when we give we should do it in secret. It’s hard to keep your eyes on the ‘payback’ when no-one knows that it was you who gave!

Self-Less

Finally, a very simple way for us to embrace a selfless life is to simply live ‘self…less’. Jesus didn’t call us to be ‘self-none’, just ‘self-less’. In every situation we find ourselves in, there’s an opportunity for us to take a little less for ourseves, so that others can have a little more. Ask one more question about the other person in conversation. Leave something on the buffet table for the one who’s coming after you. Take 5 minutes out of your day to do something that will really be a blessing to someone else.

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Leadership – Experiencing The Vision

Whenever someone speaks about VISION, there’s one go-to verse that nearly always comes up:

Where there is no vision – the people perish – Proverbs 29:18

Another translation of this verse says “Without a vision, the people cast off restraint” – Proverbs 29:18.  Whichever version you read, it’s clear that vision is important.  Without a strong sense of the future and a clear reason for being, it’s only a matter of time before even the greatest things start to die.  People will commit to huge constraints on their time, money and energy when they believe in a vision that’s yet to come to pass – but without that vision, the burdens seem pointless and apathy easily sets in.

Walking The Land

In Genesis 12, we see something interesting played out in the life of Abraham.  God calls him to leave the land he’s been living in and go to a new land that he will be shown.  But Abraham doesn’t go and just stand on a hill and look over the land – he walks right through it:
When they came to the land of Canaan, Abram passed through the land to the place at Shechem, to the oak of Moreh. At that time the Canaanites were in the land. Then the Lord appeared to Abram and said, “To your offspring I will give this land.” So he built there an altar to the Lord, who had appeared to him. From there he moved to the hill country on the east of Bethel and pitched his tent, with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east. And there he built an altar to the Lord and called upon the name of the Lord. And Abram journeyed on, still going toward the Negev – Genesis 12:6-9
The  same can be seen in the life of Joshua.  He rallied the people to walk into the land that God had promised them and God said to Joshua:
Every place that the sole of your foot will tread upon I have given to you, just as I promised to Moses – Joshua 1:3
So Abraham WALKED throughout the land.  Everywhere that Joshua PUT HIS FEET, the land was given to him.
But I think there is more to this than just ‘prayer-walking’.  In both situations, as Abraham and Joshua travelled through their promise they EXPERIENCED what God was giving them.  They didn’t just see the vision from afar, but they took the time to walk through the vision, to become accustomed to it, to touch it themselves.
It wasn’t just about where their feet walked, it also about what their EYES saw while their feet were walking.

Experiencing The Vision

When I was young there were empty lots down the end of the road I lived on.  They were just grass sections with not much happening on them.  But then one day construction began and eventually brand new houses were built on the sections.
Long before those houses ever appeared in the ‘real world’, they were visions inside the mind of an architect.  While everyone else saw an empty lot, the architect saw the completed house that would sit on the lot.  They saw the bedrooms, the kitchen, the lounge rooms, the garage.  Maybe they saw as far as the light fittings, the bench top and the tapware.
What started as a vision inside their head grew and developed through plans and detailed drawings.  Eventually it was clear enough to pass on to a team of people who together would build the house.
The most compelling visions are more than just a statement or a few lines on a piece of paper.  They’re strong pictures held in the heart and mind, realities that we’ve seen by faith that don’t exist yet in the world – but that God wants to bring to pass.  It’s different from visualisation because visualisation is simply creating what WE want to see happen in the future.  True vision is comprehending and seeing what God has planned.  One is a fantasy, the other has SUBSTANCE!
See that you make them according to the pattern shown you on the mountain – Exodus 25:40
When Moses constructed the tabernacle, he made something no one had ever seen before.  But he already had a plan that he was building to…. that which was ‘shown to him on the mountain’.  He then built what he had seen, what he had experienced.
The clearer as leaders that we can SEE what God is wanting to do, the more familiar we become with it – the better we are at being able to articulate it to others.  We can pass the plans on to the leaders and teams around us and they can begin to build with confidence.

The Authority To Speak 

It stands to reason that the more time that leaders spend seeing the vision that God wants to release through them, the better they will be able to pass that vision on to others.  There comes an authority when they speak that those who have merely had a good idea one day can’t come close to.
When Jesus spoke on the kingdom of heaven, he was able to speak with great detail and great authority.  Why?  Not because He’d heard someone talk about it once, or He’d woken up with a good idea one morning – it’s because He’d EXPERIENCED it.  He knew the kingdom of Heaven not just intellectually but experientially.
That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched–this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. – 1 John 1:1
The apostles were able to communicate such a clear picture of Jesus because they had seen him, beheld him, their hands had touched his wounds.  They’d experienced Him.  So what they were communicating wasn’t just some good thoughts, but a reality.
In many ways, Vision and Faith are very similar.  True vision is about seeing something that God wants to do but hasn’t done yet, and co-labouring with Him to bring it about.  Faith, too, is being certain of ‘what we do not see’.  Maybe we don’t see it with our physical eyes, but when faith’s involved it’s clear as day to our hearts!

Now It’s Our Turn!

So what has God shown you about the future?  What’s that thing that exists on the inside that He’s calling you to build on the outside? Take the time to EXPERIENCE it – walk through it and feel what it’s like, take in every element.  The clearer we see what God wants us to do, the easier it becomes to bring it into the here and now on the earth.

Assumptions

Today, I want to look at ‘assumptions’.

An assumption is defined as a thing that is accepted as true or as certain to happen, without proof.

Doing the Math

An assumption is almost the same as faith – being certain of something that you can’t see.  But as humans, we tend to like assumptions because they generally mean less work for us.  If I can just take x for granted, then it means I can get on and focus on y.  Rather than having to go to the effort of walking something out or doing effort in real life,  we do the math in our heads and decide ahead of time if we’ll win or lose.

Sometimes assumptions are really good and helpful, especially in situations where you just need to make a quick decision.  But other times – wrong assumptions can bring all kinds of evil into our world.  Not only that – but acting on wrong assumptions can lead us to do things that are not worthy of us, and put us in positions that we would never have wanted to find ourselves in.

This is what happened to Abraham in Genesis 20:

Genesis 20
1  Now Abraham moved on from there into the region of the Negev and lived between Kadesh and Shur. For a while he stayed in Gerar,
2  and there Abraham said of his wife Sarah, “She is my sister.” Then Abimelech king of Gerar sent for Sarah and took her.
3  But God came to Abimelech in a dream one night and said to him, “You are as good as dead because of the woman you have taken; she is a married woman.”
4  Now Abimelech had not gone near her, so he said, “Lord, will you destroy an innocent nation?
5  Did he not say to me, ‘She is my sister,’ and didn’t she also say, ‘He is my brother’? I have done this with a clear conscience and clean hands.”
6  Then God said to him in the dream, “Yes, I know you did this with a clear conscience, and so I have kept you from sinning against me. That is why I did not let you touch her.
7  Now return the man’s wife, for he is a prophet, and he will pray for you and you will live. But if you do not return her, you may be sure that you and all yours will die.”
8  Early the next morning Abimelech summoned all his officials, and when he told them all that had happened, they were very much afraid.
9  Then Abimelech called Abraham in and said, “What have you done to us? How have I wronged you that you have brought such great guilt upon me and my kingdom? You have done things to me that should not be done.”
10  And Abimelech asked Abraham, “What was your reason for doing this?”
11  Abraham replied, “I said to myself, ‘There is surely no fear of God in this place, and they will kill me because of my wife.’

Is God Here?

Abraham made an assumption.  He looked at the situation and said:

‘God is not in this place… it’s clear to me’.

Interesting isn’t it – because his Abraham’s son, Isaac, was later to come to a certain place at night, when all was dark and he had a powerful encounter with the Lord – and then He said:

‘God is in this place – and I wasn’t even aware of it’

Both of them came to a place not expecting to find God, and yet in both situations they discovered that God was already at work.  How often do we make the ASSUMPTION that God is not there.  That there is NO FEAR OF GOD in this place?

For Abraham – that assumption had some dramatic consequences.

  • It caused him to act weird.
  • It caused him to end up lying.
  • He lost his credibility with Abimelech
  • He almost lost his wife

All because he walked into a situation and made an assumption that wasn’t true.

Assumptions Can Hold Us Captive

Sometimes the only thing that is holding us back from walking into all that God has promised us is the jailhouse of our mind.  God calls us to do something – and we say ‘I’ve done the math Lord… it won’t work’.  Sometimes your assumptions based on your experience is what’s holding you back.

This is what happened for the Israelites.  In the well known chapter of Numbers 13 – Moses sends spies out to look at the promised land.  They come back – and they say ‘yeah it’s all good.  all like God promised but the only problem is… walled cities, and giants!’.  Then they say ‘and we looked like grasshoppers in their eyes’.  How did they know that?  Did they have a conversation with the giants?  Did they ask them to fill out this quick 4 question survey?

They made an assumption.  They had no idea what was going on, on the other side of the fence.

But the Bible tells us.  The stories of what was happening to the nation of Israel in the desert:

  • what had happened in Egypt as they left
  • the parting of the red sea
  • water flowing out of rocks
  • divine provision in the desert
  • their clothes not wearing out
  • powerful encounters with a living God

All these accounts were all getting reported to the kings who were living in the land Israel was about to possess.  They were freaking out.  One of the kings Balak, hires a guy called Balaam to try to use witchcraft and cursing against the Israelites.  But everytime Balaam tries to curse Israel – only blessing came out!  You can be assured that story made it around the kings fraternal meeting.

We read in Joshua 5:
1  Now it came about when all the kings of the Amorites who were beyond the Jordan to the west, and all the kings of the Canaanites who were by the sea, heard how the LORD had dried up the waters of the Jordan before the sons of Israel until they had crossed, that their hearts melted, and there was no spirit in them any longer because of the sons of Israel.

The Israelites had wandered around in the desert for 40 years and part of the reason for that is that they were held captive by a wrong assumption.  They thought the giants were waiting for them to cross so that they could beat them to a pulp.  They had no idea that the giants spent those 40 years packing themselves about the day that Israel would finally wake up to the power they had!

The story is told of the master escape artist Harry Houdini.  On one of his European tours, he had himself handcuffed and shut in a Scottish town jail.  Once alone, Houdini quickly got out of the shackles, and started to work on the lock on the cell door.  He tried everything he knew but he couldn’t get the lock to turn.  Finally, completely, exhausted… he leaned against the door… and it swung open so unexpectedly he nearly fell headlong into the corridor.  The jailer hadn’t locked it.  Houdini made an assumption!

Like A Little Child

Jesus said – if you want to get into the kingdom of heaven, you’ve got to become like a little child.  Little kids trust implicitly.  They don’t do the math, because they don’t have the experience.  They TRY THINGS.

There’s sick people in our world that God wants to heal, but they’re surrounded by Christians doing the maths, rather than taking the action.

There’s doors of breakthrough that God has placed in your life today – but we too often don’t walk through them because you’re we’re the maths rather than taking the action.

There’s people who are waiting to get saved, but the Christians are doing the maths, instead of taking the action.

Abraham says ‘God is NOT in this place… it’s clear to me’.  But yet God was.  Isaac says ‘God was in this place – and I wasn’t even aware of it’.

Which one is it for you?

Is God not in this place because of what you’ve seen and experienced?  Or is God in this place – and you weren’t even aware of it?

Is God not in your workplace because of what you’ve seen and experienced thus far?  They don’t fear God, they don’t care about Him.  Or is God already at work in your workplace… and you haven’t even been aware of it?

Is God not in your family… because they rail against your faith and mock you for what you believe?  Or is God already at work in your family – and you weren’t even aware of it?

Christmas Eve 2013

Tonight we’re celebrating the birth of Jesus. We read in the Bible…

Luke 2:4
4 So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. 5 He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. 6 While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, 7 and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.
8 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
14 Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth PEACE…

God gives this precious gift of His Son… as a baby… and this baby will bring glory to God, and will bring PEACE on the earth.  If Jesus was supposed to have brought peace on the earth – well some would say, he didn’t do very well did He?  Look at the world today – it’s hardly a peaceful place!

Did you know that in the over 3500 years of recorded history – that historians can only find 286 years all up where there was no recorded war or conflict somewhere on the face of the earth. Less that 8% of world history.  Even in those years, there was probably still skirmishes or fights somewhere on earth.  This world has never been a peaceful place!

So how on earth is a baby supposed to bring peace?  Talking to the parents out there tonight – especially to those with newborns… generally speaking… the words baby and ‘peace’ are mutually exclusive!  You don’t tend to find them together.

How does a baby bring peace?

Someone once said ‘When we pray to God for TREES, and He answers us with SEEDS’.  It’s easy for us to miss the power of a seed when it doesn’t immediately look like the tree.  Has anyone noticed that the seeds you buy in packets from the store – don’t look like what they’re going to grow into?  You don’t plant little corns into the ground and get big corns!  You don’t plant little bonsai oak trees that grow into big ones.  You plant seeds – you start with something that doesn’t bear any resemblance to what it will produce.  But it grows and develops and over time it becomes the thing.

Tonight we’re celebrating an event that happened over 2000 years ago.  In the middle of nowhere.  With hardly anyone watching.  And no methods of mass communication.

The world was crying out for peace – and God sent a baby who would BRING PEACE.  We celebrate and remember tonight not just that baby who was destined to bring peace but the man that baby became.
The one who died on a cross to reunite God and man.

Many people today are looking to the government or to human leaders to bring peace, to pass good laws, make sure justice is done swiftly, make sure that bad people are punished and that good people are left alone… then we will have peace.

It was much the same 2000 years ago. When Jesus was around people said to him – be that leader that we’re looking for.  Take charge and make our lives better… bring peace into the world!

Jesus did bring PEACE – but not in the form that the world was expecting.  They wanted peace externally – peace in the visible world – peace between people.  That’s God’s objective – that’s like the TREE.  But God gave us the SEED.  Jesus’ death was designed for something far more important…peace internally – in our hearts.

There’s a song that sometimes gets sung at Christmas – ‘Let there be peace on earth… and let it begin with me’.  I think that song has hit the nail on the head.  You can’t truly experience peace externally until you’ve experienced it internally.  Someone once said, you can’t run from that which runs inside of you.  Jesus has a plan to bring peace on the earth – but instead of starting with the ‘tree’ of the world out there… he’s starting with the ‘seed’… with YOU and with ME.

As Christians, the reason that we celebrate Christmas is that 2000 years ago a baby was born, who grew, and gave his life to bring us peace, hope, life, forgiveness and joy in our hearts, and through us to change the world for good.  God’s gift to us comes as a baby… as a seed.  But if we accept his gift, that seed will begin to grow in our hearts and peace is one of the things that will result.

How do we accept this gift? The same way as we receive any gift… by taking it and saying thankyou.  God wants his peace to cover your life… and then through your life to be a blessing to your family, your friends, your workplace… your world.  The great thing is that we don’t just have to talk about His peace tonight… but we can actually receive it into our hearts.

So I’m going to pray tonight – and if you want, you can repeat the prayer after me… and together we can receive this wonderful gift of God’s peace into our hearts and lives.

From my family to yours, from this house to your house – I wish you a fantastic, joy-filled, and wonderfully PEACE-filled Christmas.

God Bless!

Perspective

I want to talk this morning about perspective.  We’re coming to the end of the year – only 10 more days of 2013 left.  Time goes quicker as you get older.  When I was a kid an hour seemed like such a long time.  Now a year feels like an hour!  
As we come into the end of the year – People often looking back and forming conclusions on how their year went.  365 days= 8760 hours, but we’ll make a conclusion on it – and it will all come down to one phrase.
  • It was a GREAT year, or
  • It was an OK year, or
  • It was a TERRIBLE year.
It’s funny how we stamp an entire year based on our final evaluation of it.  1997 was a good year for me – it was the year Annika & I got married.  But there was a bunch of bad stuff that happened that year too.  I have other years that I have labelled ‘terrible’ but  actually there were good things that happened in the year as well.
Check Your Speakers
When I worked doing music production, I spent a lot of time mixing music tracks.  When you do that it’s really important what speakers you use to mix on.  They need to be accurate.  If those speakers are too bassy, then you won’t put enough bass in your mix, and it will come out sounding thin.  If they don’t have enough treble/top end, then you’ll put more in your mix, and it will hurt the ears of everyone listening to it later on.  If you don’t mix on the right kind of speakers – then you end up with something that sounds great in the studio, but sounds terrible everywhere else.
We’ve got to make sure that we’re listening to the ‘right kind of speakers’ when it comes to ‘mixing our lives’ as well.  Before you make your FINAL MIX for the year – and decide whether or not 2013 has been great, ok, or terrible, can I encourage you to have a listen to your life through a particuar set of speakers that I have with me this morning….

Perspective
PERSPECTIVE is everything.  Perspective – “a particular attitude towards or way of regarding something”.   Perspective is less about the facts and more about how we interpret the facts, and what we do with the facts.  It’s really important that we interpret what happens to us and around us in the right way.  Otherwise we can totally get the wrong end of the stick.

In 2 Kings 6, Elisha and his servant are surrounded by armies.  The servant is freaking out, but Elisha prays that his servants eyes would be opened.  With this new perspective, he realises that the armies of heaven who are with them are greater than the armies that surround them.  

The facts don’t change – 

but the servant moves from a place of fear into a place of encouragement because his eyes get opened.

So here’s three things to before you make your FINAL MIX for 2013!!

1) Turn Up The Testimonies

King Saul said to the young David – you can’t fight the giant Goliath.  But the power of what God had done in the past gave David the faith to face whatever would come next.  He’d faced the lion and bear and had triumphed, Goliath would become like them.  When it felt like defeat could be imminent – David turned up the testimonies.  In the book of Revelation it says they overcame the devil by the blood of the lamb and by the word of their testimony.
About Testimonies
A testimony is a God story of what God did in your life.   Testimonies are really powerful.  They’re not just little warm fuzzies or feelgoods – they are designed to remind you:
  • of the faithfulness of God in the past,
  • to release the power of God in the present, and
  • to give you hope and encouragement that God will continue to come through for you in the future.
 But when we turn down the testimonies or mute the testimony track – all the life and hope goes out of our life mix.
Testimonies – the stories of everyday people – are really important!  If you ever watch the informercials on television – they don’t just show you the features of the product, or how much you’ll save if you call in the next 10 minutes… they will also line up a bunch of people who supposedly have had their lives changed by the Ab-Grinder 2000 Deluxe.  Because they know that testimonies have the power to change your perspective.  
Keeping Track
We can start to doubt God’s reality or His power – because of whatever experience we may have had recently.   But you line up the testimonies again and you start to believe.  I keep a regular testimony list – every time God does something I try to write it down.  We’ve got to get good at keeping record of that which God has done for us because we’re so prone to forgetting and when we forget what God has done for us – it opens the doorway to doubt.   But when we start remembering – it lifts us up again.  We start to believe again.  When I read through my testimony list it gives me perspective again.  I remember that God hasn’t forgotten me – He hasn’t forsaken me.  He’s been faithful to me right across this last year.
Psalm 103:2  Praise the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits
I want to encourage you – as you look back over this year, to remember what God has done.  To not forget his goodness to you!  Because it will change your perspective.  Before you do your FINAL MIX for this year… make sure your testimony track is up nice and loud!!

2) Reframe The Losses

We’re probably familar with the story of Joseph.  Sometimes as parents we can worry about how we’re doing.  You know you’ve got problems when all your older kids gang up on the youngest, sell him off to be a slave and then fake his death to cover their tracks!
God Meant It For Good 
In Genesis 50, Joseph’s brothers come to him full of worry and concern for how they’d treated him and begging him for mercy.  But Joseph had reframed what had happened to him over all those years.  Instead of looking back on it all and seeing everything that had gone wrong for him, he now looked back and realised how what had happened had been part of God’s plan for his life.
Romans 8:28 – ALL THINGS work together for good, for those who love God and are called according to His purpose.  It’s almost Christian cliche – but hear it again this morning…
Even In The Fire
Just because we’re walking and trusting God doesn’t mean that we suddenly receive a ‘get out of fire free’ card.  In fact there’s times when following Jesus means you’ll follow him right into the firing line.
In the book of Daniel – 3 young Jewish men are thrown into a raging fire by the king, because they won’t bow down to a Babylonian idol – they will only worship the true God.  The fire is so hot it kills the guards throwing them in.  But then the king leaps to his feet – how many men did I throw in?  “3 men”, his advisors reply.  “Well I now see 4, and one looks the son of a God!”.  JESUS was in the fire with them.
So he calls them out… and get this….
  • Not a hair of their head was singed
  • None of their clothes were damaged
  • Their chains had all fallen off (the fire times in our lives can bring us the greatest freedom)
  • And they DIDN’T EVEN SMELL OF SMOKE!!
No Smell Of Smoke
When you meet people in life – it doesn’t take long to get a sense of what they smell like.  I’m not talking about cologne or perfume – or lack of deodorant… I’m talking about the scent that comes off their life.
All of us go through fire – but there’s people that you meet who went through the fire 20 years ago – and they still smell of the smoke today.  It only takes 10 minutes of talking to them – and they’re leading you back to the pain that they went through.  It becomes their defining point.  Not only that but they then take everyone else through that same fire by continuing to repeat the story again and again of their pain and loss.  They continue to keep that smoke alive.
 I don’t want to be DEFINED BY THE FIRE… I want to be DEFINED BY THE JESUS THAT I MET IN THE FIRE!
ALL THINGS WORK TOGETHER FOR GOOD.  Not just the good things but the bad things too.  As you’re looking back on your year – don’t allow it to be defined by your fire – but find the JESUS in your fire.  Not only will there be testimonies of God’s goodness this year – but there will also be moments of pain.  But REFRAME THE PAIN.  Find JESUS in the midst of that pain.
A Heavenly Vision
In Isaiah 6 – the prophet Isaiah gets a vision of heaven.  He sees these living creatures which worship God
     Day and night they never stop staying
          “Holy Holy Holy is the Lord God Almighty
          The whole earth is filled with His glory”
These are the closest created creatures to the throne of God and continually – day and night – they never stop staying ‘the whole earth is filled with His glory’.  They have the perfect perspective of heaven.  Some would look and say – well there’s plenty of pain and suffering going on right now… how on earth can they say the whole earth is filled with his glory?  But these creatures are seeing something that we sometimes don’t.  They see what God has done, and what He is doing… and also what He is about to do.  They have a different perspective.
The closer you get to God – the more you begin to see Him in everything.  Both the good and the bad.  You begin to get a God-perspective on your suffering and pain.  The smoke around your life evaporates.
In Revelation 4 we meet these creatures again – although this time they’re singing the second verse:
     ‘Holy Holy Holy is the Lord God Almighty – who WAS, and who IS and who IS TO COME’
This leads me to my final point this morning…
3) Remind Yourself The Best Is Yet To Come
This isn’t just a nice phrase… this is actually, totally, 100% Biblical truth.  God is always the God who ‘IS TO COME’.  Which means that for ages upon ages to come – we’ll never get to the end of how good He is.  Becuase he will always remain the one who is to come.
When it comes to summing up your year this year – remember this truth:
     No matter how great this year may have been
     No matter how difficult this year may have been
     The BEST IS YET COME.
It’s easier as we get older to start thinking that maybe our best days are behind us – that our greatest achievements have been made.  That all the good stuff lies behind, rather than in front.  You know you’re getting older when all the songs that you love are on classic radio or played on Throwback Thursday 🙂
But God is all about TODAY.  In the words of the prophet TelstraClear… Now’s good!  He says ‘TODAY’ is the day of salvation.  LOOK, I’m doing a NEW THING… do you not see it?  Sometimes we can’t see the new things that God is wanting to do in our lives because we’re so busy focussing on what He used to be doing or crying about what we feel like He didn’t do.
It doesn’t matter if your 8 or 88 – God has NEW THINGS for you!  The BEST IS YET TO COME!!
     My best messages are still yet to be preached
     My best songs are still yet to be written
     The best days of this church are still yet to come!
The best days of your life are still yet to come!  Because you’re walking with one who ‘IS TO COME’ and He’s working all things together for your good ALL THE TIME!!  You cannot lose!
And even if you die… you win!
But sometimes we need that perspective change.  In Judges 6 – we meet Gideon.  The angel rocks up  and says “Greetings Mighty Warrior”.  Gideon was not a mighty warrior.  He was a yellow-bellyed coward.  He’s hiding in a winepress.  Then he gets talking to the angel and tells the angel about how God has forgotten Israel and they’re getting beat in battle and everything that’s going wrong.  He’s MISSING the fact that there’s an angel right there saying ‘Greetings Mighty Warrior!!’
GOD WANTED TO DO SOMETHING WITH GIDEON… TODAY!
But he’s so focussed on the yesterday that he can’t see what God wants to do RIGHT NOW.  You may have had a whole lot of bad things happen to you this year.  But the truth is that GOD’S BEST is yet to come.  You may have had the best year of your life so far.  The Truth is that GOD’S BEST is still yet to come.
Don’t let the losses of yesterday rob you of what God wants to do in your life RIGHT NOW!  The Bible says – the devil comes to steal, kill and destroy, but Jesus said I have come – that you may have LIFE and life abundantly.