Friday, 27 May 2016

It Starts With A Zip-Cord

It Starts
bearded-man-with-axeYears ago, an older farmer made a rare trip into his closest town to update how he cut down the trees on his property for firewood. The sales assistant showed him the latest range of chainsaws and then asked the bushy-bearded farmer, “How many trees do you cut down now?”
“Ohhh, I usually cut down about eight trees a day with ‘ol Faithful” he said.
“Well Sir, with this chainsaw you’ll be able to cut down at least twice that number!”
The old farmer handed over his hand-written cheque to the clerk and took home his new-fangled chainsaw. But less than a week later he stormed back into the small-engine shop and angrily slammed the chainsaw down on the counter and declared to the stunned sales assistant – “You told this thang would cut me sixteen trees a days!”
A parallel of the use of chainsaws to the Spirit-led Christian life“Yes,” said the clerk, “it should have done that easily.”
“Well, the best I could do was just ten a day! I want my money back!”
The sales assistant picked up the chainsaw from the counter and looking at it, muttered, “That’s odd.” Walking around from behind the counter with the chainsaw, he then pulled the zip-cord to start the chainsaw to see if he could hear what the problem was. As the chainsaw’s engine started, the startled farmer exclaimed, “What on earth is that noise?” It appears that even though the farmer owned a chainsaw, he had no idea of how to use it or what its potential actually was!   
I think there are many Christians whose Christianity is just like the farmer and his new chainsaw. Even though they now possess something with enormous potential, they actually don’t know how to utilise any of it. Not enough believers know about their spiritual zip-cord which can fire-up their walk with Christ and their effectiveness for Christ.
I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”
Galatians 2:20
The farmer who walked into the chainsaw shop had only ever used his old axe to make firewood. And just like many people who  have only taken the first step in following Christ and not learned to abandon their old way of living for the new life which Christ freely offers, the farmer actually possessed a new, far more effective and powerful tool which he neglected by using it just as he had with his old axe. Wielding a chainsaw like an axe might even lookeffective, but it is going to wear the wielder out in no time at all. It’s the same with trying to live the Christian life without the power of Christ. It can lookeffective, but after a while it wears the wielder out. This is why endurance is one of the hallmarks of a genuine believer.
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.
Matthew 11:28 (NET)
But let’s cut the old farmer some slack and give him some credit. After years of wielding an axe he was worn-out. In a similar way, all true believers should be thrilled when a weary pilgrim wanders into church on Sunday in search of the rumoured ‘life-power’ which they’ve heard God gives freely.  Their decision to go to church is a great first step in finding the peace, strength, and wisdom for living life. Many people are worn out simply trying to keep up with the pressures of life. We need to invite them, welcome them, receive them into our dining rooms, and show them what living with and for Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit really looks like.
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.
Second Corinthians 5:17
 Yet, a person can arrive in church on a Sunday for the first time and see people extolling their spiritual ‘chainsaws’. They can hear the stories of just how difficult life was when all they had was an axe, and how wonderful life has become since they received the free gift of a spiritual ‘chainsaw’. These worn-out souls who hear such stories can leave church that day with a new hope – hope that there is a better way to do life. Yet, they themselves are yet to exchange their old blunt axe for a powerful eternally self-sharpening spiritual chainsaw. 
Sadly, some take the second step of inviting Christ to be their Saviour, Lord, Forgiver, and receive their spiritual chainsaw – yet are never shown how to use it. This is why Christian growth can never be measured in mere ‘years of service’, because there many many believers who still have not learned how to start their spiritual chainsaws. Perhaps they have never been shown. Perhaps they’ve brought their unhelpful and incompatible old ways and old thought-patterns into their walk with Christ. Either way, walking with Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit must be learned
What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me — practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.
Philippians 4:9
But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it
Second Timothy 3:14
Simply asking Christ to be your Saviour without learning how to live in the power of the Spirit maybe just like the farmer who updated his axe to chainsaw without ever learning how his new chainsaw worked! 

Like all great adventures, the believer’s Spirit-empowered, Spirit-led, Spirit-filled journey with Christ begins with a decision – an act of the believer’s will. This decision is always informed by the Holy Spirit’s quickening of God’s Word. The believer reads Christ’s words in the Gospel of John and begins to hunger for the presence of the Promised Holy Spirit (“the Helper”) in their life.
But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.
John 14:26
Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you.
John 16:7
 This hunger leads to prayer. Not tame prayers. Not shopping-list prayers. Not where did I leave my keys prayers. Heart-rending, soul-shaping, life-altering, prayers. These kinds of prayers begin to pull the spiritual zip-cord of the believer’s new life in the Spirit which leads to a new way of thinking, a new attitude, and a new set of relationships.
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
Romans 12:2
The believer’s new spiritual life, like any quality chainsaw, requires the right kind of fuel and material. Chainsaws don’t like dirt. The Spirit-led life doesn’t like the ‘dirt’ of secret sin. Dirt blunts chainsaws and renders them near-useless. Secret-sin blunts the spiritual-life of the believer and renders their witness and effectiveness ‘near-useless’.    
 Decision > Desire > Prayer > 

Reading through Christ’s words in John chapters 14 and 16, we see that the Spirit-empowered life looks like
+ deepening intimacy with God
+ spiritual revelations 
+ reminders of God’s Word
+ extraordinary spiritual gifts
+ courage to endure opposition
+ leadership effectiveness that results in people being protected and cared for
+ and a passionate, persistent prayer life.
If you have surrendered your guilt-stained and sin-battered life to the Saviour, you have exchanged your old life for a new one. You have available to you the power of the Holy Spirit, “the same power which raised Christ from the dead”, to now help you to life effectively and bear much fruit for Christ. If you are tired and worn out on trying to be ‘religious’ in your own strength, and you want to know Christ more intimately, then it’s time to make a decision to pull your spiritual zip-cord and live the Spirit-empowered life! It starts with a decision that does not bend to feelings or whims. It awakens a desire for more of God in our life.  It leads to prayer which brings us to the cleansing of repentance through the washing of the water of God’s Word. It plants us in the community of the local church where become a pillar to strengthen the faith of our fellow struggling brothers and sisters. It sends us into a hurting, needy, broken and damaged world full of worn-out people who are dead-tired of doing life with an axe.

Friday, 20 May 2016

It Starts Young

Some of life’s greatest lessons catch you by surprise! Some of these surprises initially seem like a routine hit with a pillow which only is it later that you realise it had a non-routine brick among the feathers! One of these recent brick-in-the-pillow moments for me was listening to Horst Schulze. He is now one of the world’s most successful men and widely regarded as one of the greatest managers of people on the planet. As I listened to Horst tell his story, it dawned on me that he too had the same pathway to success and greatness that every other enduring super-high achiever possessed: he started young!
The Bible also contains the stories of some great leaders who were able to achieve the extraordinary.  Without exception, these great people also came up along the same pathway of success which required that they started very young. Joseph the Dreamer, Joshua the Commander, Jeremiah the Prophet, and Jesus the Saviour, all commenced their journey to extraordinary success when they were young. The young person who veers too long from the path of success by rebelling against God and those He has placed in authority over them is jeopardising not only their future but the positive benefit to the futures of many many others! The success that comes from helping many others brings a satisfaction that no party with booze, drugs, and sleaze could ever ever ever come close to! This is why I was so fascinated to hear Horst Schulze’s story.
For Horst it all began when his father took him to the city. It was young Horst’s first time in a city. His father showed him inside a hotel lobby. The young boy stood there amazed at the numbers and types of people in that lobby. He saw bell-boys assisting travellers with their suitcases. He saw desk-clerks pinging bells. He saw managers watching over their staff and directing traffic. And what he saw excited his young mind greatly. He now knew what he wanted to do with the rest of his life!
The Tokyo Ritz Carlton
Horst could think of nothing else after he returned to his village. He was so persistent in his pleas to his parents to take him back to the city hotel that eventually his father not only relented but even decided to ask the hotel manager if he would give his pre-employment-age son a job in the hotel – without pay! The manager agreed and young Horst didn’t start a job that day, he started a career that has now led to him being the President of The Ritz-Carlton International Hotel Group. On that first day in that hotel Horst discovered that he loved helping people. Initially he found tremendous happiness from helping a weary traveller with their luggage. He then found new delights in helping people to the room. The more he discovered about the workings of a hotel, the more ways he realised he could help people. Today, he still enjoys the thrill of helping customers experience the world’s best service, but he also now enjoys helping people find a job in his hotels and helping them to do their job well and enjoy it, by learning to serve others. He says that this love of helping by serving particularly occurred when he was assigned to work in the hotel’s restaurant as a waiter. 
Normally, he tells, the Matradee (restaurant manager) is the ‘star’ in a restaurant and is treated like a rock-star by his staff. But in this hotel’s restaurant, the real rock-star was the Head Chef. All the waiters and even the Matradee were in awe of him. He commanded respect. But unlike most Head Chefs, this chef had time for people. When Horst started working as a waiter in this restaurant, the Head Chef came up to him and spoke with him. 
Who’s the most important person in this restaurant Horst?” he asked the awe-struck boy.
You?” timidly replied Horst.
The customer?
You are!” said the Head Chef to Horst, “You are a gentleman serving other ladies and gentlemen tonight Horst! Everything we do tonight can be made better or worse by you!
This made a great impact on Horst. How he served customers (“ladies and gentlemen”) in that restaurant was the most important thing that was happening that night! As the restaurant opened and began to fill with diners, the Head Chef made an appearance from the kitchen onto the dining room floor amidst rapturous applause from the dinner-suited diners. The Head Chef acknowledged their applause and then gave Horst a wink, as if to say, don’t let their applause for me trick you into thinking that you’re not still the most important person here tonight.
Today, there are 90 Ritz-Carlton Hotels in 29 countries around the world and Horst Schulze is the part-owner, President, and Chief Operating Officer of the world’s most prestigious Hotel chain. They are now regarded as one of the world’s leading customer service orientated businesses which they won many international awards for. Wikipedia notes
The company grew under the leadership of President and COO Horst Schulze. Schulze instituted a company-wide concentration on both the personal and the data-driven sides of service: He coined the company’s well-known customer/employee-centered motto, “We are Ladies and Gentlemen Serving Ladies and Gentlemen” and the set of specific service values (standards) on which The Ritz-Carlton employees base service through the present day.[17] Under his leadership the hotels earned an unprecedented two Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Awards[18] and grew from four to forty U.S. locations.[19]
Horst attributes his passion to serve others and to do it with excellence to his faith in Christ. After all, Jesus Christ is the Servant of all. Christ is the Ultimate Helper. To love Jesus is to serve Jesus and join with Him in serving those He wants helped. Not many followers of Christ really come to understand this. But history tells us two standout things about those who do: they all started their journey with Christ at a very young age and they all refused to be ordinary just like the crowd around them. 
If you have come to Christ after your teen years, it’s not too late for you – but it is far more difficult for you to overcome years of worldly attitudes, decades of bad habits, and the ease of just going along with the crowd. But by the grace of God, it can be done. However, if you are a young person who has come to know Christ – rather than a young person who goes to church because they are made or expected to by their parents – you probably already feel different. There will be moments of doubt to overcome. There will be times of loneliness to bridle. There will be temptations to resist. But history tells screams to you that it will be well worth it – hang in there! 
When I move into the next phase of my life and begin to look to someone to take the baton from my hand, I am pretty sure it will be to someone whom God has called and equipped from a very young age. This young person may be very be alive today (they may even already be in our church). They will probably have an unusual curiosity about God and the Bible. When in church their heart probably draws them to close their eyes during the times of congregational worship and capture a vision of God in Heaven surrounded by trillions of mighty angels singing their adoration of Him. As the preacher preaches, they will find the questions they had previously asked God that week being answered – as if God was speaking directly through the preacher to them. When they receive instruction in our Kids Church they will probably gladly be memorising the assigned memory-verses of the Bible. They will probably grow up with a very keen sense of right and wrong – which could cause their sometimes-compromising parents some irritation.
In the meantime, you might be the lady or the gentleman who encourages them with an appropriate word or wink, just like the Head Chef did for Horst when he too was a very young man, because when it comes to greatness and success – it starts young.     
But not so with you. Rather, let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves.
Luke 22:26

Saturday, 14 May 2016

The Last Day Of A 17 Year Old

The Last Day
¶ So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.
Psalm 90:12
seventeen-year-old-troubled-boyGary had just turned 17. He did not have the benefit of being raised in a loving home or the advantage of being parented by a mother and father who knew God even though they occasionally ventured into a church. The void in his heart as a result of this lack of security and guidance led him to hang with the wrong crowd. Not surprisingly, he began drinking secretly with his fellow rebels. And as sure as night follows day, it was an easy and predictable step for him to begin smoking pot. He became increasingly bored with life. Friday nights were spent down town in the city mall where he would meet his friends and go off to spend the night drinking and partying. But then Gary had something odd happen to him one Friday night.
¶ A voice says, “Cry!” And I said, “What shall I cry?”
All flesh is grass,
and all its beauty is like the flower of the field.
The grass withers, the flower fades
when the breath of the LORD blows on it; surely the people are grass.
Isaiah 40:6-7
troubled-youthI got the phone call Saturday morning after that infamous Friday night. Someone had felt God say to them that they needed to go to the Bourke Street Mall in downtown Melbourne and speak to a young man about God. Gary was that young man. As they got the gumption to speak with him he mocked them and looked disinterested. Yet the ache in his heart which he was trying to fill with alcohol, marijuana, and partying, caused him to inwardly crave to have this follower of Christ tell him more. The phone call that Saturday morning described what happened that Friday night and how Gary had prayed to make Jesus his Saviour and Lord. Gary lived nearby me and at that time I was a Youth Pastor in a growing church. I was asked to take Gary under my wing and ensure that he would be discipled. I arranged for another young man in our Youth Group to follow Gary up. 
 And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment
Hebrews 9:27
Legana April 2016Gary attended our Youth Group and Sunday church services. He had his ups and downs. But then as things seemed to be getting worse for Gary, one Sunday morning he rededicated his life to God and asked God to him. He volunteered for the church choir that same day. After our evening service, we were all heading up to McDonalds for the first stage of a buck’s party for another of our young men, Jason, who was getting married soon. We waited for Gary who was riding his bicycle down from the church service. But Gary never arrived because that was Gary’s last day. Gary died that night, aged just 17.
 yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.
James 4:14
lonely-teen The word on the street was that there was some unhappy drug dealers that Gary was no longer a customer and that the hit-and-run accident on the highway may not have been an accident at all. I don’t know whether that was true or not, but this I know for certain: on Gary’s last day, he had readied himself to be right with God. 
No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”
Luke 13:5
Popular American preacher, Francis Chan, says that the reason he talks so much about heaven, hell, eternity and judgment with such urgency and passion is because he’s done an awful lot of funerals (several a week for many years) of people mainly younger than him where most of these people had their lives cut short needlessly, had failed to surrender to God and receive His forgiveness, and would thus spend eternity without their souls being healed of sin’s merciless ache! He pleads with people to repent and to turn to Christ for the healing of their souls. He scolds those who call themselves Christians yet live spiritually lukewarm lives with exactly the same plea because he says Scripture informs him that even worse fate awaits them!
 ¶ “ ‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.'”
Revelation 3:15 
Gary’s funeral was held in the hall at Werribee High School. It jolted many of the youth of our city. But only for a moment. I guess when you’re a teenager it feels like you’ve got eternity on earth still yet to come. But as these young people realised, even if it was only for a moment, most of our eternity will not be spent on earth, and what we do in this life determines where and how we spend our eternity beyond our all too brief time on earth. It seems to me that God opens the eyes of some teenagers so that they ‘get it’. These teens become aware of just how serious God, life, heaven, hell, eternity, and divine judgment is – and as a result, their lives are marked by a ‘gravitas’ (an urgent seriousness). 
 I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”
Matthew 12:36-37
I would have been around 17 or so when I heard a New Zealand preacher, Rob Wheeler, who explained about the ‘books of God’ (mentioned in Revelation 20:12, And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done). As I realised that God was recording every detail of my life – my words, my actions, my prayers, my intents, it hit me that God takes His gift of my life to me extremely seriously. From around that moment, I began living life a holy gravitas
For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”
John 6:40
Jesus spoke a bit about the last day. On this day, God’s “books” will be open. On that day, there will be millions of 17 year olds standing before God awaiting their eternal judgment. It is my hope that as many of these teens in our community as possible realise that the ache in their soul cannot be cured by a bottle, a needle, a pill, or a joint, but only by the Eternal Healer who gave His life to heal them and place them in His Church so that they too might dispense this Eternal Cure.

Friday, 6 May 2016

How To Really Live This Life

Hiking through wilderness
Following Christ is a wonderful adventure. Like any adventure, the things that make this journey so exciting are the twists and turns, the mountains and the valleys, the beautiful scenery, the walks with companions, the times of solitude, the feasting, the battles, the storms, and the pursuit of our mission. It also requires what any long trek requires – lightening our packs. Thus, the New Testament describes following Christ as a walk and it’s a walk that involves a lot of putting off. 
The longer you follow Christ the more of life’s journey you get to experience and enjoy. This life was meant to be journeyed with Christ on the path of life that He has marked out. 
 For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few. – Matthew 7:14
Tasmanian Hike through WildernessGeoff, Kim and a reluctant me were beginning our trek along the Port Davey Track. Due to poor weather and visibility the small plane that flew us in there was delayed which meant we were starting our walk near day’s end. Ordinarily that’s not a problem. With appropriate head-lamps a walker can traverse moderately difficult walking tracks in fading light. That is, of course, if the track is clearly visible in broad daylight to begin with. In this instance, the track was overgrown, was not clearly marked, and was not often used. And it was getting dark. The overgrown brush was up to my eye-level and it was a struggle to find the star-droppers which once marked the track. Many people live life like this. Nothing is clear. There are no markers. No one to guide them. And really poor visibility.
 ¶ Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” – John 8:12
We eventually made it to Macquarie Harbour for our first camp of the trek. 
IMG_3851When doing a five or six day trek, every hiker wants to travel as light as possible. When Kim and I did the South Coast Track (which involves going over the Ironbound Range, which my old mate, legs, told me was actually higher than Mount Everest) we were carrying around 26+kg each. That’s a heavy load even on flat, smooth ground, but it’s particularly heavy on rough 60ยบ inclines! This too is similar to how many try to live their lives. They carry a lot of baggage. Unforgiveness, bitterness, past betrayals, disappointments, mistakes and regrets can all weigh a person down and become almost unbearable during life’s ascents. 
 ¶ Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us – Hebrews 12:1
Damaged feet from hikingAt one point on the South Coast Track, Kim and I had to ascend a thirty-metre high cliff (which also hosted a beautiful waterfall) on about day 3 or 4 of our walk (with two days to go). When we arrived at the top of the cliff we were surprised to find abandoned hiking gear. It looked like someone had not been able to continue on the track. Presumably they were injured  and had to be helicoptered out. They had left their tent and various other essentials. Sometimes in life too when people continue to carry too much baggage it takes a toll on their soul and they are unable to continue on in their life-journey.
 See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled; – Hebrews 12:15
Hiking in tents
John Newton wrote about the Christian walk, “Through many dangers, toils, and snares, I have already come.” Life has its dangers, it times of frustration, and its road-blocks, as Mr Newton, the writer of the hymn, Amazing Grace, had penned. As we trekked up the Port Davey Track, in the south-west corner of Tasmania’s vast wilderness, we had to trudge through a lot of swamp, then bog. In life, people get bogged down with all kinds of ‘snares’. When we walk with Jesus, He helps us to not only see the track, not only guide us along it, but also helps us get through these times where toil is called for.
Deliver me from sinking in the mire; let me be delivered from my enemies and from the deep waters– Psalm 69:14
PortDavey_Track-Dec2011-22There were a few times on the ‘Track that I had to be pulled out of a bog by Geoff. I, of all people, understand why the Ring of Power  (Lord of the Rings) could not merely by carried by Frodo alone – he needed a ‘fellowship’ of the ring in order to complete his mission. In the same way, such a walk through remote wilderness could be done on your own, but it would be most unwise. In the same way, the Christian walk might be possible to be lived out on your own (as recently many Chinese Christians have had to do for years on end as they were imprisoned for their faith in Christ and put in solitary confinement). But our faith in Christ and our walk with Jesus cannot intentionally be solitary.
 ¶ Whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire; he breaks out against all sound judgment. – Proverbs 18:1
PortDavey_Track-Dec2011-17Travelling for days on end in the wilderness, through swamps, bogs, forests, around and over hills is made all the sweeter by the company travelling with you. It’s like life. There are times when the walk gets so full of snares and toils that while we long for a companion to ease our anguish, we actually withdraw from the sheep-fold and isolate ourselves – thus making our sense of loneliness even more painful. When Kim and walked the South Coast Track, we were two of an unintended group of five. There was safety, companionship, and reassurance in travelling as a small group. Our spiritual walk is the same. We need the ‘temple’ where we all meet together as the early church did, but we also need the ‘home to home’ small group context. It is in our regular home group meetings that we share together, pray for each other, exhort one another from God’s Word, and provide practical assistance to each other in times of need.  
Port_Davey_Track-Dec2011-38At the end of such a trek we are a little different because of what we have been through on the journey. Our muscles are more toned, our body-fat is a little lessened, our feet are a little tougher, our core is a little stronger. This journey with Christ also produces strength in us for eternity that can not be attained any other way. It reminds me of the young boy watching the cocoon begin to shake. He realised the emerging butterfly was struggling to break free. Taking his pocket-knife, he cut the cocoon for poor butterfly to get out. Standing back, he saw the head then the wings of the butterfly escape its cocoon only then for the butterfly to fall to the ground and die. What the little boy didn’t know was that the Maker had designed for the butterfly to build its initial wing strength from enduring and persisting through the toil of breaking out of its cocoon. In a similar, our being made ‘fit’ for heaven involves the formation of godliness (Christ-like character) through dealing with life’s struggles/challenges/difficulties in this life with Christ’s help, teaching, and guidance. The godliness we form in this life’s journey is the level of godliness we will have for eternity-
for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. – First Timothy 4:8
IMG_3827There is simply no way to form the Christ-like character traits of love, forgiveness, patience, long-suffering, endurance, forbearance, self-sacrifice, diligence, hope, or gentleness, without adversity, trial, setbacks, betrayal, conflict, or discomfort. Pity help the one who tries to walk the road of life without Christ as their lamp, guide, companion, rescuer, provider, or protector. But perhaps greater pity should be felt for those who have come to know Him as Saviour but are still yet to know Him as Friend (John 15:15). 
So Jesus said to them, “The light is among you for a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, lest darkness overtake you. The one who walks in the darkness does not know where he is going. – John 12:35
Kim hikingJourneying with Christ makes you not just fitter for the life to come, but also for this life. You become a more peaceful person. You learn that in times of need and stress that Christ is right there to strengthen, guide, and lead you through it. You discover that the thing you thought you couldn’t do without are sometimes the very things that Jesus asks you to surrender and to put off. Your thought-life changes. Your heart softens towards God and those around you. Your desires change. The further down the track you walk with Christ the more you realise that life is not about you. You become humbler. You want to be taught – to be corrected. This is why the aged Apostle Paul could write to the believers at Ephesus, and say-
¶ Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds.  They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart.  They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity.  But that is not the way you learned Christ! — assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put offyour old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. -Ephesians 4:17-24
The journey of life with Christ transforms us. The seasoned Apostle tells us that it requires, “putting off of our old selves (which belongs to our former manner of living” (Eph. 4:22). Thus, the more we journey with Christ, the more we find that we are putting off. The journey helps us to recognise that often our most natural responses and desires are not Christ-like but are actually harmful to us and others. Instead of asking, What’s in it for me? – we put that off and increasingly think: How can I bless someone else with my presence, time, talent, treasure? Instead harbouring bitterness and unforgiveness toward those who have hurt us, we put that toxic attitude off, and increasingly feel compassion for them instead and even initiate acts of kindness toward them. 
No matter what you’re going through right now, no matter how loved or noticed you feel, no matter what others have said about  or done to you, Christ can be your Lamp, Guide, Companion, Strength, Rescuer, Heart-Healer, Defender, Protector, Provider, and Shepherd. Every time I’ve done a long arduous walk and I near the end of it, my heart lifts when I see the carpark! And while a carpark is poor analogy for heaven, there are some parallels. The carpark marks the end of the journey’s trials. The carpark is not my delight, but it contains the means to my delight. In a similar way, heaven is not my eternal goal, but it is the contains the means for my eternal delight: Christ Himself. The carpark means I can finally rest and in the comfort of my car where I am secure against the sub-zero night temperatures, the snow, the hail, the gale-force winds, the pain of mountainous inclines, the scrapes of rocks and broken tree-limbs, and the sticky brown stuff some hikers call ‘coffee’. In heaven we will truly rest. We will be truly secure. We will be finally free of aches and pains. We will no longer be dogged by regrets or disappointments. All of our deepest longings and desires will be perfectly satisfied increasingly for all eternity! If we learn to put off along the journey now. 

Pastor Andrew.