“Be Fishers of Men”, not just Pokémon.

Pokemon

‘And Jesus said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men.”And immediately they left their nets and followed him.’

– Mark 1:17-18

Pokémon GO is the new craze. Our Facebook feeds are full of it, our friends are talking about it, and many of us are walking the streets and sitting at parks playing it. How can we do everything – including playing Pokémon GO – for the glory of God (1 Cor 10:31)?

I want to suggest that this new craze may be an open door to catch more than just pokémon: it might be a good opportunity to meet people, build relationships and share the gospel.

“Gotta Catch ’em all”

For those who don’t know, Pokémon GO is all about walking around and exploring your local area in order to find Pokémon. The whole point is to catch as many as possible, train some up and take over Gyms by battling other people’s Pokémon. It’s a clever game, it’s got the world talking and it’s made a way for people to meet one another.

“Be Fishers of Men”

When Jesus called Peter and Andrew to follow him in Mark 1, he told them that instead of catching fish, he would make them fishers of men. Over the next 3 years he taught them the good news of the kingdom of God that the King (Jesus) had come and God’s promises were about to be fulfilled.

The good news had come: There was now a way for people to be reconciled to God, a way for our sins to be forgiven. Jesus would take them on the cross, dying the death we deserved so that by faith (trusting in Him) we can be forgiven by God, adopted as his children and live our lives for him instead of as slaves to Sin and Death.

Peter, Andrew and the other disciples were to lead the way in telling others about God’s kingdom so that they might be ‘caught’ and become part of this Kingdom. And as we read the bible we see that it didn’t just stop with them – we have the same responsibility – we, like them, are “ambassadors for Christ, God [is] making his appeal through us”. We are to go into the world and tell everyone the good news about Jesus, the true King.

What does this have to do with Pokémon?

Pokémon GO is good news for many people! Jesus bring better news than that, for all people!

Suddenly there’s people walking the streets, sitting at parks and meeting one another. There’s even people deliberately walking past our local churches just so they can get a few more pokéballs or battle whoever is controlling the Gym. Pokémon GO has created a doorway for people to meet one another. It’s created an opportunity for us to build relationships and tell people the good news about Jesus.

How can we, as ambassadors for Christ use Pokémon GO as an opportunity to glorify God and tell people the good news about Jesus? Here are some of my thoughts, if you have others please comment below!

  • Enjoy playing Pokémon GO. There’s nothing wrong with enjoying the good gifts that God has given us. But don’t stop there: Rejoice in our Amazing, gracious and merciful God who gives us good gifts even though we don’t deserve them, who created the world and gave us the ability to enjoy it. Don’t just enjoy the gift, Rejoice in the Giver!
  • Don’t be distracted. Entertainment is good, and we should enjoy what God has given us. But there are far more important things in the world. The point of your life is not catching Pokémon, it should be to live for God’s glory – don’t get distracted from that goal! Don’t get distracted from serving and loving one another and world. Have more passion for Jesus than for Pokémon.
  • Be prayerful. Don’t just go catch Pokémon, pray for wisdom to know how to use this game to glorify God and tell people about Him!
  • Meet people. Next time your sitting at the local pokéstop and there’s someone else sitting nearby staring at their phone, start a conversation. All it takes is a simple: “Hey, how are you doing? Caught anything good yet”?
  • Don’t just be catcher’s of Pokémon, be fishers of Men. Use this new game to build relationships so that you can tell people about Jesus. Make friends and invite them to read the bible with you or to come to church!

We need to be salt and light in a world that is lost. We need to be honest to a world that thinks catching Pokémon is the coolest thing out, telling them that Jesus is better, more satisfying and more worthwhile.

We need to change our priorities so that instead of trying to “catch ’em all”, we start trying to catch people for God’s kingdom so they can know the Way, Truth and Life in Jesus.

How will you use Pokémon GO to do that?

Jesus, the Serpent-Crusher

CUPCAKE

Genesis 3:15

I will put enmity between you and the woman,
    and between your offspring and her offspring;
he shall bruise your head,
    and you shall bruise his heel.

Throughout the Old Testament God makes a lot of promises about the coming Saviour, the Messiah. This is the first of them.

The context:

God’s work: God created everything, and it was very good (Gen 1:31). He made everything that exists – the world, plants, animals, the ocean, land, sky. He even made the stars and other planets. He created Adam and Eve to rule the world under him, to have authority over the animals, to work the garden and to have children.

He gave them all they could ever need or want, and only gave them one command: Don’t eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

Satan’s work: But as we know they disobeyed God. The serpent (Gen 3) tempted Eve to eat the fruit, to make the rules for herself and usurp God as ruler of the world, and she ate, and she gave some to Adam and he ate.

They both disobeyed God. They tried to rebel against God and set up their own rule, and in so doing they destroyed his perfect world. They tried to make clothes for themselves to cover their shame, and they tried to hide from God (much like we do when we disobey God), but all their attempts couldn’t save them or restore them.

The consequences: God had told them that to eat the fruit would mean death. In his mercy he didn’t send that punishment straight away. Instead he laid out for them the consequences of their sin: Hardship, Suffering, Pain, Death.

The Promise

But in the midst of these just and right judgements, God made a promise. He promised that one of Eve’s children would crush the serpent’s head and be “crushed” himself on the heel.

Obviously for Adam and Eve this was a vague promise. But it was hope: God wasn’t abandoning them like they deserved. He was promising to send someone to (at least in some way) fix the situation.

The Picture

God also showed his mercy to them in providing them clothes of animal skin. Their attempts to make clothes had failed. They couldn’t cover up their shame or nakedness. Just like us – they couldn’t do anything to make themselves right with God.

Although we’re not told directly, I think it’s safe to assume that for God to provide them with animal skins as clothes, some animals had to be killed. An animal had to die to cover up their shame.

The fulfilment

What does all this have to do with us, today, now?

God is the only God, and he is Faithful. He keeps his promises. He kept his promise to judge them for their sin, and he has kept his promise to send a Serpent Crusher.

Jesus came into the world around 2000 years ago. He lived a life without sin. He alone didn’t deserve the punishment for sin: Death. Yet he willingly died on the cross.

In his death he took my sin, and the sin of everyone who puts their trust in him. He took that sin, and he took the punishment for it on himself, so we can be forgiven.

Like the animals sacrificed to clothe Adam and Eve, Jesus was sacrificed to “clothe” us. To cover our sin and shame with his perfect sinless righteousness.

Jesus has crushed the serpent. Jesus destroyed the work of the devil.

Will you put your trust in Him?

1 John 3:8

Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.

 

The Ressurection

Why is Jesus’ Resurrection Important? Does it matter if Jesus physically rose from the dead?

In short: Yes, it matters a lot.

In 1 Corinthians 15:12-19, Paul outlines seven reasons that Jesus’ physical resurrection is important. He says that if Christ has not been raised then…

  • Our preaching is useless
  • Our faith is in vain
  • Those who preach are lying about God
  • The dead aren’t raised
  • We’re still dead in our sins
  • Past Christians who have died are gone forever
  • We are to be pitied above all men.

Jesus’ resurrection is important on a number of levels. If we look back to the fall, we see that the result of sin is death. If death hasn’t been conquered by Jesus then how can we know that sin has been dealt with?

If Jesus didn’t rise again then we also have no assurance that we will rise again at the end. If there’s no resurrection for humanity, then why bother following Jesus? If serving him is only for this life, then why not go live disobeying God? There would be no ultimate consequences after we die.

But we know that Jesus did rise again. God showed his power in raising his son back to life to prove that sin has been dealt with, death is conquered and will will rise again also – all of humanity. How we live matters then – if we reject God and the safe refuge he has offered us in Jesus then we will face his just judgement at the end. If we have given up our self-righteous trust in “me” and accepted Jesus as the only one who can save then we will be with God for eternity.

What’s more, since we know that Jesus rose again, we can have confidence that this life is not the end. We don’t have to fear death, and we don’t have to fear hardship in this life. We can have our hopes set fully on our future which is secure because our King has risen again, he lives and he intercedes for us, and he will raise us to life again also to be with him for eternity.

Of Time and God’s faithfulness.

IMG_2748

Time goes on and the memories pass

It all slowly fades away, turned to dust.

A beautiful ray as fleeting as a life

Here for the moment and then suddenly

Nothing in its place, simply rest.

And yet God beholds it all. We forget, he remembers. We change, he remains.

It is not for us to hoard up the treasures of time, for we too shall pass on and those treasures, lost, cannot be kept.

But it is God who holds time and all that happens within it –

It is he who knows and he who all things glorify.

I do not have to hold onto these feeble chords of remembrance in my weak, wondering mind.

Instead I can trust God that they glorify him and that he remembers even in the midst of my forgetfulness.

Psalm 36

I have a message from God in my heart
    concerning the sinfulness of the wicked:
There is no fear of God
    before their eyes.

In their own eyes they flatter themselves
    too much to detect or hate their sin.
The words of their mouths are wicked and deceitful;
    they fail to act wisely or do good.
Even on their beds they plot evil;
    they commit themselves to a sinful course
    and do not reject what is wrong.

Your love, Lord, reaches to the heavens,
    your faithfulness to the skies.
Your righteousness is like the highest mountains,
    your justice like the great deep.
    You, Lord, preserve both people and animals.
How priceless is your unfailing love, O God!
    People take refuge in the shadow of your wings.
They feast on the abundance of your house;
    you give them drink from your river of delights.
For with you is the fountain of life;
    in your light we see light.

10 Continue your love to those who know you,
    your righteousness to the upright in heart.
11 May the foot of the proud not come against me,
    nor the hand of the wicked drive me away.
12 See how the evildoers lie fallen—
    thrown down, not able to rise!

Voice of the Martyrs Prayer Watch

These were first from: http://www.vom.com.au

EGYPT: How Libya’s Martyrs are Witnessing

The brutal execution of 21 Christians in Libya has sparked a feeling of unity and opportunity for Egyptian Christians.

As the country mourns the loss of 21 Coptic Christians, 13 from the same village, it has provided an opportunity to testify of the faith for which these men were killed. More than 1.65 million copies of a tract inspired by the incident have been distributed in one week.

The tract contains biblical quotations about the promise of blessing amid suffering, alongside a poignant poem in colloquial Arabic:

Who fears the other?
The row in orange, watching paradise open?
Or the row in black, with minds evil and broken?
The Bible Society distributed the tract through Egypt’s churches.

Sources: International Christian Concern, Christianity Today

Prayer Points

  • Praise God for the lives of the 21 Christian men and their faithful love for Christ.
  • Continue to pray for the families of these men, may they rest in the knowledge that the Lord hears their cries and is upholding them during their time of grief.
  • Pray that the Scripture tracts created will mightily proclaim Christ’s name and draw many to Him.

SYRIA: Nineteen Assyrians Released by Islamic State, Hundreds Remain Captured

Nineteen Assyrians who were captured from the Syrian village of Tel Goran have been released by Islamic State (IS) and have arrived safely at St Mary’s Church in Hasaka, Syria.

According to the Assyrian International News Agency, negotiations for their release had been ongoing for three days and were mediated by local Arab tribal leaders.

‘Of the 19 that were released, 17 were women and 2 were men,’ said a spokesperson for AINA. But not all who were captured from Tel Goran were released. One of the hostages, an elderly woman, said that IS did not release her son and two other men who were guarding the village.

IS also refused to release a six-year-old girl. According to reports from the released hostages, Islamic State said it plans to use the girl as a bargaining chip. The girl’s mother was released but would not leave her daughter behind and stayed with her.

The spokesman told the ASSIST News Service, ‘The hostages looked tired and dishevelled but were otherwise unharmed.’

According to AINA, the number of Assyrians captured by Islamic State is between 262 and 373. According to Assyrian leaders, negotiations for the release of the remainder of the hostages are ongoing.

Sources: Assist News Service

 Prayer Points

  • Thank the Lord for the release of these hostages; pray He will help them to overcome their ordeal.
  • Pray for the many that remain; pray they will be sustained by the Lord. Ask Him to give them a peace in their heart in spite of their circumstances as well as a willingness to trust in Him completely. Pray for their protection and release.
  • Ask God to frustrate the plans of Islamic State; pray their evil schemes become their undoing. Pray many will be drawn to the Lord by the Christian witness of the captives.

SUDAN: Two South Sudanese Pastors Imprisoned

Two pastors from South Sudan, Pastor Yat Michael and Pastor Peter Yen, have been detained for over a month in undisclosed locations in Sudan without formal charges.

Pastor Michael and his wife had taken their son to Khartoum for medical attention, and the pastor was asked to give a sermon during his visit. After finishing his sermon on Sunday, 21 December, he was arrested by members of Sudan’s National Intelligence Security.

When Pastor Yen visited the Religious Affairs Office in Khartoum on 11 January to inquire about his colleague, he too was arrested. There is concern that both Pastor Michael and Pastor Yen are in danger of being tortured.

Source: Voice of the Martyrs USA

 Prayer Points

  • Please pray that the Lord would make them strong to lovingly and boldly proclaim the Gospel even while being detained. Pray they will remain steadfast (1 Peter 5:8-10).
  • Ask the Lord to grant protection to these men and their families; pray they will become more Christlike during this time of trial.
  • Pray for their release and ask the Lord to move the authorities to seek justice and mercy.

Lessons from David and Goliath

Recently I spoke to my church’s youth group from 1 Samuel 17 – the story of David and Goliath, and I found it really exciting how many parallels there are to Jesus, and some of the lessons we can draw out of that passage. I’ll start with those lessons and then look at Jesus and David.

The world loves the story of David and Goliath – most people think that it’s all about conquering you’re own giants, about being yourself in the face of fear and hardship, of overcoming hardship on your own strength.

They’re dead wrong. The whole point of the passage is that David trusts God and acts on that trust when no one else does. The whole point is that David can’t do it – but God can, and God will vindicate his name.

God makes Israel wait 40 days before he gets David to rescue them. God doesn’t promise us that he will rescue us from our struggles here and now, and he definitely doesn’t promise immediate rescue. In fact he tells us that everyone who wants to live a godly life will be persecuted (2 Tim 3:12).

God doesn’t promise to save us from depression or financial difficulty or broken relationships. He doesn’t promise to heal us of cancer or other sickness.

But he does make big promises. He promises that he works everything for the good of those who love him (Romans 8:28), and that these hardships are for our growth and to purify us (1 Peter 1, James 1:2-4). And he promises that although he may not “rescue” us from them in this life, if we trust in him then we already are rescued from them, and will be free of them in heaven (Revelations 21).

Will you trust God with you’re giants? Will you wait on his timing to save – be that in this life or through death and into his arms?

 

Here are some of the cool parallels I was talking about before:

David obeys his father. He has been told that he will be king of Israel. He has every reason to be proud and selfish and not do the low jobs that his father makes him do. But instead he obeys selflessly and humbly.

Jesus obeys his Father. Jesus is God, he has every right not to come and give his life for us, the people who have rejected him. Yet he obeyed his father to the full – even to death on a cross. He gave up his glory and humbly gave his life for us to save us. Philippians 2.

David is a good shepherd. He looks after his Fathers sheep – he makes sure that when he goes away to obey his father more fully that he provides someone else to care for the sheep.

Jesus is THE good shepherd. He looks after his Father’s sheep – us. He is the good shepherd who lays his life down for the sheep. And when he did that in obedience to his father. and when he rose again and went to heaven, he sent someone else to look after the sheep – the Holy Spirit (John 14).

David was to be a king after God’s own heart. David trusts God and obeys God fully – and his willingness (in fact eagerness) to fight Goliath shows his faith in God. Yet David did sin and stuff it up.

Jesus is THE true king after God’s own heart. He did not sin.

David conquered Goliath and saved God’s people from slavery to the Philistines

Jesus conquered sin and death when he died for us and rose again, freeing us from slavery to sin.

But Jesus did more than David, as we’ve already seen. He didn’t just fight the enemy and win. He gave his life to win the victory for us, and rose again to prove it.

Will we trust Jesus? He is the true and better giant conquerer. He is the one who crushes the serpents head. He is the saviour – will you trust in him?

He is the only one who can save us from our biggest enemies – sin, satan and death. But he does if we repent and believe and follow him. Will you?

 

Note: Another common misconception about David and Goliath – people think Goliath was a giant in temrs of “Jack and the Beanstalk” Giant. No – he was probably about 3m tall. Only about a foot taller than the tallest man recorded in the 20th century. Not all that unfeasible.

A Psalm to the god of Fashion

{ tim deutscher }

“Fashion, O great redeemer
Save us from our misery
Heal our brokenness
Take away our loneliness
Extinguish our ugliness
Give us value and worth
That we may feel beautiful
And all our problems will disappear
You are our saviour and god
And we will purchase you all of our days”

You’ve probably never said these words out loud or even consciously. But as they say, “actions speak louder than words.” Have your actions ever shown that you believed these words?

Idolatry is putting something in the place of God
It can be anything. Fashion. Sex. Love. Money. Achievement. Football. One Direction. Whatever. Anything you put as the number 1 in your life. It can be anything you worship. But it can also be anything you look towards to give you complete value, worth, satisfaction, joy or salvation from your problems.

We need God as number 1
God describes idolatry this…

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