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Healthy, Growing and Full of Love

Catch up with the latest church news and pastoral reflections in our weekly blog

The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.

1 Samuel 16:7


I’m loving introducing our girls to some of our favourite childhood movies…we watched The Sandlot Kids over the weekend, and they all fell in love with Benny the Jet! The selfless, servant-hearted, others focussed hero, who reaches out to the lost and lonely, draws them into community and purpose, who singlehandedly confronts the fiercest of enemies and leads them into victory…sound like anyone else you know?!


Another favourite is Shrek…there’s a reason why it struck a chord with moviegoers of all ages around the world. We live in an age where people make superficial judgements based on outward appearances, and Shrek refuses to play by those rules. An ugly ogre is the hero, the damsel in distress can fight like a ninja, and it is a stupid and annoying donkey whose loyalty finally saves the day. The posters for Shrek summed up the reason for its appeal:

“The Prince isn’t charming. The Princess isn’t sleeping. The sidekick isn’t helping. The ogre is the hero. Fairy tales will never be the same again"


We’re about to start looking at the story of David on Sundays and in our City Groups. Similar to Shrek, the story of David reminds us that God doesn’t look at outward appearances at all…He is looking at the heart to find the kind of person he can use.


The people of God asked for a king, but their choice of king (Saul) hadn’t worked out so well…so God calls Samuel to anoint the next king. You may know the story well, Jesse parades his 7 eldest sons before Samuel but none of them are God’s choice. Samuel asks in confusion if he has any other sons and Jesse confesses that there is an 8th and youngest, but he is so unimpressive that his father did not even bother to invite him to the party.


Here’s the thing…

If David’s brothers had been puny and David had been strong, then it would mean that Saul’s problem was that he was too weak for God to use.

If David had been puny and his brothers had been strong, then it would mean that Saul’s problem was that he was too strong for God to use.

However David’s brothers are strong and impressive and David “was glowing with health and had a fine appearance and handsome features” too…the difference between David and Saul was nothing to do with outward appearance at all, it was all to do with their hearts.


Australians spent $143 million on cosmetics and beauty products in the year Shrek was released…in the 8 years that followed, that figure rose more than eightfold to $1.2 billion. It appears we like the message of Shrek in theory, but we have not yet taken that message to heart.

So let’s get ready for what God wants to reveal to us as we look at David’s life. In a world where people judge one another based on what they look like on the outside, and where people prefer outward comfort to the inner training school of trials, the Lord warns us that he looks at the heart…He is looking for the pure-hearted kind of person he can use.

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Then he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath…" ~ Mark 2:27


Years ago, in a previous role, I arrived at a building with about 7 minutes to spare before my next meeting…as I hopped out of the car I noticed that the sun was streaming into the carpark right where I had parked. I felt like I had been running on fumes for a while and I literally lay down on the ground in the sun for a few minutes to recharge before venturing inside. Once in the office of the man I was meeting with, I looked out the window and realised that my ‘carpark bed’ was in full view of his desk and he’d probably witnessed my mini nap! I never asked him, but I’ve often wondered what he thought?!


I was exhausted, and although a few moments in the sun was good, there’s a difference between ‘time off’ and a ‘restful break’…between a ‘day off’ and a ‘biblical sabbath’.


Our culture is not good at resting, nor is it conducive to slowness, stillness, silence, and contemplation…we’re often looking for ways to effectively rest (downloading white-noise apps, trying different forms of meditation, reading books, attending courses) or to find more balance in life. We know we need to slow down, rest, and find balance…we just don’t know how.

Time off can replenish energy, and make us more effective the other 6 days, but as the famous theologian Eugene Peterson says 'a day off is a bastard sabbath’…they’re not the same thing, and they don’t achieve the same thing.


Why are we having a ‘Sabbath Sunday’ this coming weekend? A few reasons:

  • Because it’s counter-cultural…and so as we learn to follow Jesus’ counter-cultural ways, every so often as a community we pause to rest, and model it to one another.

  • To remember that sabbath isn’t just about ‘resting from work’, but also ‘working from our rest’.

  • To remind ourselves that being followers of Jesus, and even being the church, isn’t all about Sunday gatherings…it’s ok to miss one!

  • To reset our perspectives, breaking our addiction to achievement, and silencing the lies that our worth is only found in what we produce.

  • But even more than those reasons, because for most of us, we’ve considered Sabbath as something of an ‘optional extra’ or for those who are ‘particularly stretched and stressed’ or something ‘old fashioned but not conducive with modern life’…rather than it being absolutely essential to discipleship and learning the ways of Jesus.


So this coming Sunday, there won’t be a Sunday service so that we can model to each other this essential practice of sabbath keeping.


Here are 4 countercultural practices borrowed from Peter Scazzero which I’d commend to you as we together develop a biblical framework for Sabbath, and one that hopefully fits your particular life situation, temperament, calling, and personality:


STOP - it’s literally built into the meaning of the Hebrew word Sabbath. We stop on Sabbaths because God is on the throne, and He’s the one making sure the world won’t fall apart if we stop. Stopping on Sabbaths is one of the ways we apply Ps 46:10 to “be still and know that (He) is God”


REST - Genesis says that God rested after his work, and we are to do the same. So, what do we do in place of that time? The answer is simply: whatever is restful, whatever delights and replenishes you…maybe napping, hitting the gym, surfing, going for long walks, reading a book, watching a good movie, going out for dinner.


DELIGHT - After God finished his work of creation, he delighted over it and proclaimed that “It was very good”. That Hebrew phrase communicates a sense of joy, completion, wonder, and play…does that describe you at rest?! Sabbath is a chance to slow down, and to enjoy and delight in creation and its gifts.


CONTEMPLATE - When God is speaking to Moses about the Sabbath in Ex 31 He says that it is to be “holy to the Lord”. Reflecting, pondering, contemplating the love of God is THE central focus of sabbaths.


If you’ve never intentionally tried to Sabbath, try this Sunday…we’re not gathering together, so it’s a chance to do just that, to try.

Maybe you’ve tried before but it didn’t become habit…start again this Sunday, it will do your soul good.

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Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.

Psalm 51:10


“James, you need to understand that I am a man in tension"

I worked with someone (let’s call him Jack) many years back who described himself this way…‘a man in tension’. Jack wanted to do the right thing, but the tension came when that ‘right thing' meant cost to him personally.


Perhaps you can identify with Jack…I certainly can (especially around tax time!)


We’re about to start a series looking at the life of David from 1 & 2 Samuel, and I wonder whether David would have described himself in a similar way.

David is one of the most important figures in world history, the subject of vast numbers of paintings, sculptures, writings, and poems. The story of his life is a captivating story - it’s a story of greatness and faithfulness, and also a story of weakness and failure.

He was known for his intimacy with God as expressed through many of the Psalms he wrote, and unfortunately also for his moral failures...particularly when he committed adultery and then murder to cover it up. When he realised the extent to which he had betrayed God, David penned Psalm 51...these verses are a heartfelt prayer, inviting a radical renewal from God, begging for God’s mercy, cleansing, and restoration.


David longed to live a life worthy of his calling, but he was aware that no amount of ‘trying harder’ or ‘doing better’ was going to cut the mustard…he needed a complete heart transformation (Ps 51:10), which was also what the prophet Ezekiel prophesied would happen (Ez 36:26) when Jesus came.

David’s life points us to Jesus and the coming of the Spirit, without whom we would have no hope of a clean heart. We get to enjoy what David only dreamed of…we revel in the good news that David could not fully conceive.


This prayer ‘Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me’ should be something we pray often…this Psalm is evidence of the forgiving, restoring nature of God. Let these simple prayers pass our lips often:

God, make me new just for You.

God, give me an undivided heart, wholly Yours and wholly pure.

God, clear out the sin and clean me up.

God, give me a fresh start so I won’t break Your heart.


Even though David got in a world of trouble, God didn’t define him at the end of his life as 'the king who was an adulterous murderer' or even ‘a man in tension'. In the New Testament, thousands of years after David’s sin we read that his legacy and description, as far as God was concerned, was still “...a man after my own heart; he will do everything I want him to do” (Acts 13:22)

That’s what praying for a clean heart and renewed spirit can do for us. It makes us pure and brand new in God’s sight.


I don’t want to live as a man in tension, I want a clean heart and renewed spirit...don’t you?

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