Friday, December 7, 2018

EmmDev 2018-12-07 [Encouragement] The Ultimate Encouragement

The Ultimate Encouragement

Most of you will know the story about the pig and the chicken who walked past the orphanage. "Let's give them breakfast," said the chicken. To which the pig replied, "Well, for you it's a donation, for me it is total commitment!"
When tough circumstances bludgeon us, we have this amazing comfort and encouragement: God did not make a quick donation to our brokenness and need. He made a TOTAL commitment.
No matter what we go through, Christ went further. We will never be more lonely, more hurting, or more suffering than Christ. No matter where we are, Christ is with us because He gave everything for us.
Our victory is not in the absence of trouble, but in the fact that wherever we are, Christ already blazed a trail through.
And the crunch is this: He didn't have to! He chose to.
And now, this God who gave up everything to buy us back when we sold ourselves to sin, also
- gives us the right to be His children,
- fills us with His Holy Spirit
- and prepares a place for us to be with Him in eternity.
If this is this the extent to which God gives Himself for us and if we remember that Christ has already overcome suffering, sin and death for us, we can look trouble in the eye and say:
"Hey trouble! Is that the best you've got?"
What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all--how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?      (Romans8:31-32)

This brings us to the end of our our series on Encouragement and I pray that it has encouraged you.
This is also the end of the EmmDevs for the year. I will resume in January, but will send you a short five part Christmas reflection early next week.
If you have a moment, I'd really appreciate it if you filled in a brief evaluation of the EmmDevs this year. Just go to .
I pray for God's blessing over you and your loved ones over this Christ-mass season and I pray that you may have time to rest, reflect and revive.
God bless and Love,

Thursday, December 6, 2018

EmmDev 2018-12-06 [Encouragement] Comfort in a VUCA world

Comfort in a VUCA world

Our third encouragement comes to us in a VUCA world. The clever people who coined this phrase say that VUCA stands for: Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous. (Some have suggested that the V can also stand for Violent.)

There is evidence of this everywhere, in business, politics, relationships and even in the weather!

Volatility and Violence have us living on the edge the whole time. We find ourselves suspicious, fearful and distrustful with the feeling that there is no solid ground to stand on. This leads to Uncertainty that can gnaw at us and suck the marrow out of our backbones while Complexity and Ambiguity exhaust us and overload our brains and common sense gets thrown under the bus!

Jesus described the VUCA world that the early church would be born into. Christians were going to face the resistance of hardcore conservative Judaism and the harsh intolerance of the Roman Empire. He talks about how the disciples will be sheep among wolves, about how brother will turn against brother and the how the Christians will face persecution and violence and how they will need courage to stand up for what is right.

But He ends this description of a VUCA world with an incredibly beautiful picture of God's care for sparrows. In the birding community the acronym LBJ stands for "Little Brown Job" which is the catch-all phrase for those nondescript, unidentifiable, common place birdies that we're barely interested enough in to even identify them. Sparrows were the LBJ's of Palestine.

But Jesus points out that God is interested in them. And God is interested in us to the point that the hairs on our head are numbered.

In a VUCA world God is very aware of what we are going through. We don't always get to go around pain and heartache - sometimes we have to go through it. But God knows the intimate details and He is with us.

The overwhelming sense I get whenever I read this passage is that I am deeply and profoundly loved. I am worth more than many sparrows!

Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. 30 And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 So don't be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.      (Matthew10:29-31)

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

EmmDev 2018-12-05 [Encouragement] In spite of pain

In spite of pain

Our next encouragement from God comes via the prophet Habakkuk who is a contemporary of Jeremiah. His work as a prophet was to write up a dialogue between himself (representing the remnant in Israel) and God. The dialogue is about the reality of suffering and the presence of God in the midst of suffering.

What is significant is that after a thorough exploration of the pain Israel was experiencing and the conundrums this caused, the book ends with the three-verses that were their (and our) encouragement

The reality is that life is not always easy - sometimes the fig-tree does not bud and crops fail. We are not always prosperous and often suffering and loss find their ways into our lives. But the presence of trouble is not a show-stopper for faith - Faith can outlast trouble. Not because faith is strong in itself, but because our faith is in God and God is by nature a Saviour.

Habakkuk was confident that Israel would be saved from exile. He was hopeful that the exile was not the end of the line. He knew that it is God's nature to save.

But Habakkuk also believed that when we have to make the perilous mountain-crossings over trouble and hardship, we can trust God to give us strength and sure-footedness.

I like to use this passage as a call to worship because on any given Sunday there are people in the congregation who have experienced the crop-failures and stable-emptiness of sadness and pain. These verses acknowledge that reality but point toward our saving and strengthening God.

17 Though the fig tree does not bud
and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
and no cattle in the stalls,
18 yet I will rejoice in the LORD,
I will be joyful in God my Saviour.
19 The Sovereign LORD is my strength;
he makes my feet like the feet of a deer,
he enables me to go on the heights.      (Habbakuk3:17-19)

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

EmmDev 2018-12-04 [Encouragement] God's encouragement when it's daunting

God's encouragement when it's daunting

As we conclude this series on encouragement, I want to end with four passages that are encouragements from God.
The first encouragement from God is for when we are overwhelmed and daunted by the task ahead...
God is speaking to Joshua who has to step into Moses' shoes and lead a new generation of Israelites into the Promised Land where a variety of enemies and dangers await.

All of God's instructions to be strong and courageous and to build a just and Godly community are bracketed by God's promise to be with Joshua.Right at the outset God promises Joshua: "As I was with Moses, I will be with you." And after numerous exhortations to Joshua to be strong and courageous, God says: Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go."

"Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged..."
These two "do nots" need thinking about...

Terror is something that happens in a moment. We experience terror when something unexpected or overwhelming happens. Terror is the emotion that goes with being out of control. It is a moment that pushes rationality into the corner and gets our fight-or-flight endorphins pumping. Terror can cause paralysis, bad decisions and fear-driven behaviour. It swallows trust and hope and in a few moments of terror we can tear down things that took months and years to build. In moments of terror we must think of Jesus asleep in the boat on the stormy sea of Galilee and know and believe that He will calm the storm. (Mark 4:35-41)

Discouragement is a war of attrition. It takes time and is a relentless series of little setbacks, doubts and tough obstacles that tire us physically, deplete us emotionally and diminish our store of faith. Discouragement robs our joy, reduces our rest and fills our mental radar screen with so much noise that we struggle to make sense of the bigger picture. Discouragement is overbearing - it makes us bear too much. We must remember the One who calls us to Him. "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." (Matt.11:28-30)

God promises Joshua that, when life becomes overwhelming or overbearing, he will not be alone.

He promises us the same!

No one will be able to stand up against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you. "Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their forefathers to give them. 7 Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. 8 Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. 9 Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go."      (Joshua1:5-9)