Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.” So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir. Galatians 4:6-7

I was listening to a story this week on the ABC about the prevalence of orphanages in Cambodia. On the face of it this sounds like good news right. Abandoned and poor children being given care sounds like a positive. But sadly, in the best cases- were people had good motives they had inadvertently encouraged families to give their children up for economic reasons and in the worst cases these orphanages have been surprisingly money making systems of exploitation. The young lady telling the story said- “what these children need most are families- their families. If only we would wise up and empower people to set up businesses and give micro finance so that children could be a part of the families were they belong- we know she said, that this situation has far better outcomes than institutional care.” At the heart of the gospel is the invitation to be a part of the family of God. Through faith in Christ- me and you are invited into intimate communion with God. In fact, in Galatians 4:6-7 we are told that by faith in Christ- the Spirit of Christ is sent into our hearts- so that in our inner most being we can cry- have full rights to cry- “ABBA father!” If you are in Christ Jesus- you can call God Father- because you are his child. Phil Mason in his book- The New creation miracle says- “All human beings have as their default core identity- an orphan spirit. An orphan has no deep sense of family or belonging; they feel very much alone! Orphans often struggle with a strong sense of abandonment or rejection. From God’s perspective the world is a giant orphanage in which billions of orphans are struggling to create an identity and a sense of belonging.” I believe Christ is the one who liberates us from that orphan spirit and gives us a new identity in him. His Spirit, is a gift and is evidence of our adoption. By faith the search for belonging is over-we are God’s children.

Grace and peace from Marcus, one child of God to another.

In these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. (Hebrews 1:1-3)

Theophanies or God encounters are often big, awesome and sometimes scary moments in the bibles’ story- after all God is awesome and holy (Isaiah 6:1-8, Ezekiel 1:1-28, Daniel 10-12, Exodus 33-34 & Revelation 10-12). People often end up on their faces and the words- “do not fear” have to be uttered a lot. There is an otherness and awesomeness to God- that is apparently a little overwhelming. That is what makes the Christmas story all the more amazing.

Matthew in his story of Jesus, speaks of an angelic figure that appears to Joseph after he becomes aware of his fiancées pregnancy. He intends to quietly divorce her but the angel told Joseph that the child, born of a virgin and would be called Emmanuel; which means “God is with us.” At Christmas we celebrate another awesome theophany. However this one comes in a “less awesome manner.” This one comes in the form of a baby- born in humble circumstances, flesh and blood dependency, in obscurity and poverty. Crying, needy and humble and yet- in this baby we no less meet the great and awesome God.

Hebrews 1:1-3; tells us that this is so- when it says that in the past God spoke in many and various ways but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son. Jesus is power wrapped in apparent weakness; came to redeem us, entering into our story to bring us into his. So let’s celebrate with awe and wonder the greatness of God revealed in Jesus. He is after all- the exact representation of his being

Grace and peace from Marcus

“For you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.”
(1 Peter 2:9-10)

What do you make of Peter? When you read the gospels how does he come across? For me- he is an appealing, albeit flawed character. There is something very human about him, very real. He is in one instance a man of boldness and courage and in the next he is full of doubt and fear. He scales great heights of faith and sinks deep in the sea of betrayal and denial. But whatever we say about Peter- one thing we must say is that he is trophy to the goodness and grace of God, as revealed in the person Christ.

From the time that Jesus met him and called him to follow- Peter was reshaped and remoulded by his experience of the grace and goodness of God. From the outset when Jesus’ called him- it seems that he was not content to do anything less than change the very shape of his life. Jesus had a vision for Peter that would ultimately change the world. He would be a powerful force in the early church, the author of two biblical letters, the planter of churches and probably the source behind the gospel of Mark. Peters’ place in history is significant- but it is so because he encountered Christ and Christ walked him through his life and turned this impulsive and sometimes inconsistent man into a Kingdom force. As we look at the person of Peter over the coming weeks- I pray that you would make connections between Peter and you. But most of all I pray that you might see what Christ did, through teaching, guiding, leading, restoring and believing in Peter to help him become the man that he became. Peter was nobody- Christ made him into somebody- he can do the same with you.

May God in Christ lead you into becoming like Peter, an instrument for good in God’s world, who has been profoundly transformed by encountering Christ.

Grace and peace from Marcus

Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labour in the Lord is not in vain. - 1 Corinthians 15:58

This verse begins with the word therefore, and whenever we see this word in scripture we must, according to Rick Warren ask- what is it there for? Well; Paul has just finished arguing for the resurrection. The resurrection of Christ is on the one hand, and then the hope of resurrection for those in Christ, on the other. Paul says; because of the resurrection of Jesus and our hope in him and indeed because of his victory over death itself everything is different and because everything is different Paul says; “stand firm”. Don’t get distracted. Don’t lose heart. Don’t let your faith give way- stand firm on the fact that Jesus is raised, making him King of all, and giving us an invisible hope in Him. Don’t let anything shake you Paul says. Instead give yourself fully to the work of the Lord.

This is a wonderful encouragement. If Jesus is raised from the dead, then any other task, any other god (lower case “g”), is not worthy of our time or energy what matters most is the “work of the Lord”. What is this work- anything we might do to the glory of God of course; but surely right at the guts of that work is the work of making disciples of the King. The death conquering King. We are to give ourselves fully to that work- why because such work is of eternal value- it is not in vain. Jesus was raised from the dead. So let’s be a people who give ourselves fully to the work of the Lord.

Grace and peace from Marcus

“The tongue has the power of life and death.” (Prov. 18:21)

Our words have weight, it really matters what we choose to say. The writer of this Proverb believed them to have the power of life and death. That is pretty significant- just imagine, your words can give life, build others up and awaken new vistas of obedience, faithfulness and service or they instead wound, discourage or lead people astray. They have the power of life and death. This being the case- then we ought to aspire, with the help of the Spirit, to be people who use our tongues to give life. Paul encourages us to look at our motives when we speak and to examine our motives and he encourages us toward a use of our tongues that gives life; this can be seen in Ephesians 4:29. “Do not let anything unwholesome come from your mouth, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it might benefit those who listen.” All that to say, the scriptures recognise the power and the potential of the tongue. So, as Spirit filled believers we need to come alive to the power of our words and seek to use them to build up, edify and encourage people in their faith.

The writer of the Proverbs has much to say about this:

Good words can make an anxious heart glad. (Prov 12:25)

A soothing tongue is a tree of life. (Prov. 15:4)

Pleasant words are… sweet to the soul and healing to the bones. (Prov. 16:24)

Like apples of gold in settings of silver is a word spoken in the right circumstances. (Prov 25:11)

There is power in the tongue. Let’s use our tongues to build up and encourage others, to edify them and give them life.

Grace and peace from Marcus