Day 31 - Pick Your Day

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Day 31 - Pick Your Day

Pick your day

Reading: Matthew 17 v 14 - 21 (King James Version)

An incredible miracle of a restored family and Jesus tells his frustrated and disappointed disciples that success with this particular problem comes from the combination of prayer and fasting.

It’s amazing to me that so much effect comes from so much invisible effort. Wouldn't prayer and fasting be easier if we could ‘see’ the impact it makes? And yet Jesus tells us this life changing combo has power to change everything.

Tomorrow is a new day, but it’s also the beginning of a new year. As a church we want to give God the first of 2017, so we’re setting aside these thirty one days of January to pray and fast.

Here are your choices:

  • pick one day in January and set aside your meals and pray a little more than usual
  • pick one day in the week and each week fast on that day. Say, you decide you’ll fast on a Monday, why not fast each Monday in January?
  • where medically prudent, why not consider fasting for extended periods of time, say two or three days at a go? If you’re unfamiliar with fasting I’d advise against beginning with a seven day fast!

However you decide to fast, set aside extra time to pray for you, your family and Cornerstone City Church. Here are some points for prayer for Cornerstone City Church:

  • Senior Leadership Team: for wisdom, guidance, obedience and courage
  • Senior Staff: pray for their families, faith and gifts to grow
  • City Team: as we bed in this new way to lead and serve on Sundays
  • Members grow in faith and adventure
  • Many more people to experience the good news about Jesus
  • A bold, brave church confident in Christ for the future
  • Provision for the next step in our journey to Duke Street

In addition to your personal fasting and prayers, the church are going to gather each Wednesday morning between 7 - 8 am and between 8 - 9.30 pm to pray for our church and our city in 2017. Please set aside time to bring your faith and passion to these gatherings.

In the meantime, find below ways to connect to effective Read your Bible in a Year apps. Why not download either of these apps right now and begin 2017 in the right way. Of course, we’re getting ready for church tomorrow and we hope to see you there to welcome the new year together.

Every blessing & Happy New Year.

 

Info on how to download You Version and HTB Bible in One Year:

You Version on an iPhone:

  • Open app store
  • search 'you version bible'
  • Click 'get'
  • app will begin installing

HTB Bible in One Year on an iPhone:

  • Open app store
  • search 'HTB Bible in One Year'
  • Click 'get'
  • app will begin installing

You Version on an Android:

  • tap apps icon
  • swipe left and right until you find 'play store' icon
  • tap the magnifying icon in top right
  • search 'you version bible'
  • tap 3 dots to right handmade of 'you version bible' icon
  • click install right away

HTB Bible in One Year on an Android:

  • tap apps icon
  • swipe left and right until you find 'play store' icon
  • tap the magnifying icon in top right
  • search 'HTB Bible in One Year'
  • tap 3 dots to right handmade of 'HTB Bible in One Year' icon
  • click install right away

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Day 30 - A New Thing!

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Day 30 - A New Thing!

A New Thing!

Reading: Luke 5 v 33 - 39

Our reading today tells of a time when Jesus is head to head with the Pharisees, a legalistic religious group of the day.

They question Jesus as to why his disciples do not fast. Jesus basically replies with another question (as he often does) - why do they need to fast when God is with them in the flesh? He links fasting with his presence. Then Jesus goes on to tell them a parable about garments and wineskins and the utter futility of repairing an old garment with new cloth or pouring new wine into an old wineskin. 

Why does Jesus place fasting and this particular parable together? The answer lies in the reality of a new future hosting the presence of God.

Jesus is leading the conversation to a time in the future when He will no longer be with His disciples in the flesh. He’s pointing them to the time when the Holy Spirit will come. Fasting cultivates a desire for God’s presence in our lives, while the presence of God - through the Holy Spirit - is looking for ‘vessels’ (the hearts of people) that are pliable enough to allow God to speak, move, lead and redeem in new ways. 

Jesus is talking about a new thing - a new way to cultivate a life - giving relationship with Him and from that relationship comes a willingness for us to encounter Christ through the Holy Spirit in ways we’ve never known.

As a church, this is the heart of why we’re fasting - to cultivate a relationship with Jesus that keeps our heart pliable enough to encounter more of the Holy Spirit in new ways.

As you’re determining when and how you will fast in January, get ready to develop your relationship with Jesus to new levels of intimacy and expect the Holy Spirit to lead you to new things in 2017.

PRAYER:

‘Dear God, thank you for leading me to fast and pray with my church in January. I’m excited to grow closer to Jesus while becoming more open to what the Holy Spirit will say and do. In Jesus name, Amen.’

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Day 29 - Nobody Remembers Who Comes Second!

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Day 29 - Nobody Remembers Who Comes Second!

Nobody remembers who comes second!

Reading: Matthew 6 v 16 - 18

Just as praying first thing in the morning covers your activity for the day, fasting and praying together at the start of the year will set the tone for all that happens within our church in 2017.

We noted earlier that fasting resets priorities and leads us to placing God first in our lives. In response we give him the first of everything about us - our prayer from the first light of day, our tithe as we return the first share from our income and, as we fast in January, we give to him the first part of our year.

What if our only resolution in 2017 was more of God? We love our church and we love all the ways in which we connect to our communities. We love Active Listening and Christians Against Poverty. We love I Heart Derry and Street Pastors. We love our Life Groups as we gather together to grow and to serve others and we love supporting missions around the world. We own a world class, city centre facility that continually shouts to our city about the reality of Jesus. Is there anything we do that needs less of God?

I don't think so. 

In a couple of days we begin a month long journey to refrain from food for a spiritual purpose - to set the tone of heaven over this house and to see God bring breakthrough to those things he has called us to do. Be a part of it.

PRAYER:

‘Dear God, thank you that I’m connected to a great local church dedicated to making Jesus famous. We need your power to breathe through everything you’ve called us to. As I set time aside to place you first through fasting, may our church see your kingdom come in fresh and life giving ways. In Jesus name, Amen.’

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Day 28 - Dethroning King Stomach

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Day 28 - Dethroning King Stomach

‘Dethroning King Stomach’ (Jentzen Franklin)

Reading: Psalm 41 v 1 - 3

There is something we desire more than food. Rather there is someone we desire more than food. As Christians - above all else - we desire more of Jesus. More of His presence, His influence, His power, anointing and His glory to be seen in our world.

The psalmist in our reading today reveals his deepest longing and his deepest need. He is desperate for a revelation of God.

From 1 January and every day of the month, as a church we are going to fast for 31 days. Jentzen Franklin in his book ‘Fasting’ defines fasting as ‘refraining from food for a spiritual purpose’ and over the next couple of days we’re going to look at fasting as we begin 2017 believing for breakthrough in our lives, our church and our wonderful city.

Listen, if you're content with your life and way things are, then carry on as normal. But I wonder if you are all that content?

Chances are you’d like to see your spouse or a relative come through for Christ or have your kids deepen their faith? You’re maybe the only Jesus follower in your year group and you’re hungry for your prayers to be answered and the power of the Holy Spirit released in you! Perhaps you need a miracle, a breakthrough of some kind. As a church we are so excited about the good news of Jesus were we are desperate to see many more come to a living faith in Jesus. We’re so excited to take occupation of our new building and we’d love to see this sooner than later. We’d love to reach out into other towns in the North West and birth brand new churches - we’re so grateful for all God has done in 2016, but we’re not content to settle there. 

Fasting for a spiritual purpose -  It’s a spiritual gauntlet. It’s a private shift of our personal priorities. It reveals for better or worse the god we're really serving.

Are you in? You could chose one day and fast on that day. You might decide to fast on a particular day of the week for the month; you might even decide to fast for two or three consecutive days of every week. However the Lord enables, make no mistake: fasting for a spiritual purpose releases spiritual power.

PRAYER:

‘Dear God, thank you for 2016, but I’m not content to have another year like it. I want more of you. More of you in my own life, my family, my church and my community. I acknowledge you as Lord of my life, so lead me closer to you through this new season of fasting and prayer, in Jesus name, Amen.’

 

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Day 27 - Run for It!

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Day 27 - Run for It!

Run for it!

Reading: Mathew 2 v 13 - 23

As a church we love to baptise new believers in Jesus. Our baptism service is a highlight in our calendar. There’s nothing so joyous as watching people who have had their entire lives rearranged by Jesus fall back into the water only to rise up with their hands in the air thanking God for all He has done.

Every baptism is preceded by teaching classes and we are always careful to remind our candidates to be on the lookout for weird, annoying stuff sometime after their baptism. It’s not uncommon for the enemy of our soul to try to shake the foundation of our faith as he tries to undermine the power of what God has birthed in us especially during times of great spiritual occasion.

Immediately after his baptism the Holy Spirit led Jesus into the desert to be tempted by the devil. In the Old Testament we note the sheer suicidal posture of Elijah after receiving death threats from Jezebel. Never mind his miraculous victory over the priests of Baal!

It seems that after times of great spiritual activity we are susceptible to attack from the enemy. As we read our verses today for the second time this week, we see the same pattern. Threatened by the new baby king, Herod issues an order of infanticide on an epic scale. Jospeh responds to another dream and the baby is saved.

The enemy will always try to limit the ability of what God has birthed in you to grow. He knows he can’t steal it, but he will try to minimise it’s effectiveness. As this year comes to a close, there are times in 2016 we know this has happened. You know you should have persevered, you could have said sorry, you lingered too long in your anger or offence, you withheld blessing others, your love and commitment was conditional on being seen or gaining a position - whatever it might be you know the gifts God has given you didn’t reach as far as they should have.

Thankfully, we learn again from Jospeh. Sometimes, you just have to run for it. Instead of fighting - run!

In 2017, lets run from everything that keeps us small, that tries to reduce the gifts God has given us. Let’s run from be offended. Lets run from holding grudges. Let’s run from stinking thinking about other people. Let’s run from a negative mindset that's at odds with God’s word. Next year be bigger in your soul, bigger in your grace, bigger in your generosity, bigger in all the ways God has gifted you to help your world see Jesus.

You just might have the year you’ve always wanted.

PRAYER:

‘Dear God, please forgive me when I’ve been small in my thinking, small in my praise, small in my generosity. I don’t want anything to reduce the size of the gifts you have given me. I want the world to know Jesus through me. Holy Spirit, make me bigger in my heart, bigger in my faith, bigger in grace, mercy, love and hope. Thank you for teaching me to run - to run from small and towards big. In Jesus name, Amen.’

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Day 26 - Never Mind The Ducks

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Day 26 - Never Mind The Ducks

Never mind the ducks

Reading: Matthew 2 v 13 - 23

Everything starts with a dream.

Dreams can be something we vaguely remember from the previous nights sleep. A dream can be a vivid picture of a preferred future. A dream can be inspiring thoughts and even pictures and words from God. Advances in technology began in someone’s head before reaching our hands; an organisation’s direction and vision takes shape in a leaders mind before making it to the ears of those they lead and even as we read the bible, it’s living words help shape God’s dream for us. In any event, everything begins with a dream.

In our verses we read about Joseph and God’s primary way of communicating personally to him through dreams. By the time we finish our reading, we discover God has spoken to Joseph three times by dreams.

What makes the story remarkable is Joseph’s complete compliance to them. We’ll never know whether he second guessed himself - he’d plenty of reason to - but nevertheless he moved in response to the revelation he received. As we move towards the end of this year and the beginning of 2017 we inevitably consider the things we’d like to change about our lives. We begin to make uncompromising deals with ourselves and mentally arrange our health, finance and faith ducks into some sort of row.

But I wonder if you have a persistent dream from a source you trust?

Joseph complied with the dream because Joseph believed the source of the dream.

Perhaps in 2017 you need to spend less time arranging your ducks and instead pursue the -persistent, gnawing, just won’t go away - dream you believe God is calling you to. Maybe it’s time to shift the dream from your head into your hands.

That might be a change in career; it might mean back to school; it could be Bible College; it could be time to begin a family; what about starting your own business or charity for a cause you love? Whatever the dream is - and you can’t shake it - why not talk more to God about it? Talk with a trusted friend too and taken together make some big decisions in 2017 that could change everything but lead you into the life God is calling you to live. 

PRAYER:

‘Dear God, thank you for Jospeh’s inspiring example of hearing AND responding to your dreams. I too have a dream I believe is from you. Continue to speak to me and help me make the right decision in line with your dream for my life. In Jesus name, Amen.’

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Day 25 - It's Here

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Day 25 - It's Here

It’s Here!!!!!

Instead of our usual written devotion today, I’d like you to steal justminutes before this day truly kicks in and click the link and listen to a song called: ‘How Many Kings’ by a band called Downhere.

This song is well written to a melody that will remain in your head all day.

Allow your heart to comprehend the truth that only Jesus would leave His throne for you. 

Understand today of all days, Jesus loves you and Has come for you. 

So amongst all the turkey, crackers, presents and the inevitable promise to never eat again remember Jesus and what He has done for you.

PRAYER:

‘Dear God, Thank you, Amen.’

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Day 24 - Silent Night

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Day 24 - Silent Night

Silent Night

Arguably better than the day after it, Christmas Eve is a magical day. The time for shopping gives way to preparations for the big day - the house is sorted, the cars are washed and the kids are rubbed shiny clean and the cooking underway. Friends call over and presents are shared and as our eyes begin to close at the end of Christmas Eve, we remember.

Today I want to share with you the story behind Silent Night:

In 1818, a roving band of actors was performing in towns throughout the Austrian Alps. On December 23 they arrived at Oberndorf, a village near Salzburg where they were to re-enact the story of Christ's birth in the small Church of St. Nicholas.

Unfortunately, the St. Nicholas' church organ wasn't working and would not be repaired before Christmas. Because the church organ was out of commission, the actors presented their Christmas drama in a private home. That Christmas presentation of the events in the first chapters of Matthew and Luke put assistant pastor Josef Mohr in a meditative mood. Instead of walking straight to his house that night, Mohr took a longer way home. The longer path took him up over a hill overlooking the village.

From that hilltop, Mohr looked down on the peaceful snow-covered village. Reveling in majestic silence of the wintry night, Mohr gazed down at the glowing Christmas-card like scene. His thoughts about the Christmas play he had just seen made him remember a poem he had written a couple of years before. That poem was about the night when angels announced the birth of the long-awaited Messiah to shepherds on a hillside.

Mohr decided those words might make a good carol for his congregation the following evening at their Christmas eve service. The one problem was that he didn't have any music to which that poem could be sung. So, the next day Mohr went to see the church organist, Franz Xaver Gruber. Gruber only had a few hours to come up with a melody which could be sung with a guitar. However, by that evening, Gruber had managed to compose a musical setting for the poem. It no longer mattered to Mohr and Gruber that their church organ was inoperable. They now had a Christmas carol that could be sung without that organ.

On Christmas Eve, the little Oberndorf congregation heard Gruber and Mohr sing their new composition to the accompaniment of Gruber's guitar.

Weeks later, well-known organ builder Karl Mauracher arrived in Oberndorf to fix the organ in St. Nicholas church. When Mauracher finished, he stepped back to let Gruber test the instrument. When Gruber sat down, his fingers began playing the simple melody he had written for Mohr's Christmas poem. Deeply impressed, Mauracher took copies of the music and words of "Silent Night" back to his own Alpine village, Kapfing. There, two well-known families of singers — the Rainers and the Strassers — heard it. Captivated by "Silent Night," both groups put the new song into their Christmas season repertoire.

Silent night! holy night!
All is calm, all is bright,
'Round yon virgin mother and Child!
Holy Infant, so tender and mild,
Sleep in heavenly peace,
Sleep in heavenly peace.

The Strasser sisters spread the carol across northern Europe. In 1834, they performed "Silent Night" for King Frederick William IV of Prussia, and he then ordered his cathedral choir to sing it every Christmas eve.

Twenty years after "Silent Night" was written, the Rainers brought the song to the United States, singing it (in German) at the Alexander Hamilton Monument located outside New York City's Trinity Church.

In 1863, nearly fifty years after being first sung in German, "Silent Night" was translated into English. Eight years later, that English version made its way into print in Charles Hutchins' Sunday School Hymnal. Today the words of "Silent Night" are sung in more than 300 different languages around the world.

It’s amazing what can happen sitting in the silence with Jesus.

Happy Christmas.

PRAYER:

‘Dear God, thank you for this season and thank you for moments of silence. I may never write a world changing song, but I serve a world changing God. Thank you for Jesus and thank you for loving me, Amen.

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Day 23 - What Is Myrrh?

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Day 23 - What Is Myrrh?

What is Myrrh?

In a couple of days time, it’s Christmas Day and we’re sending you a link to a fantastic song by a band called ‘Downhere’ called ‘How Many Kings.’

One of my favourite questions posed in this song is this: “How many fathers gave up their sons for you?”

What a stunning question, it really reveals the depth of love God has for you, me and the world around us - that He would send His Son to die for all of us.

The depth of such a sacrifice is further understood if you have children yourself, particularly a son. I do. He’s eleven. He’s got three sisters. He and I are the only males in our home - obviously we’re close! And I have to be honest, I wouldn’t sacrifice him for you or anyone else. There’s a limit to my love!! I’d sooner sacrifice myself for him, than sacrifice him for me.

When the Magi gently opened a box of myrrh and laid it at the feet of the infant, I think of the three gifts this one would trouble Mary and Joseph the most. The wonder of His royalty blended with the excitement of His priestly purpose would quickly give way to a deep, foreboding dread within them.

At the time myrrh was used to embalm the dead and the sight of it before their baby son would surely raise thoughts they’d try to shove to the back of their minds. But it’s important for us today we don’t shove it so far back.

Michael Green is a theology lecturer and has written a commentary on Matthew from the ‘The Bible Speaks Today’ series. On this passage he writes this:

‘The man born to be king, was man born to die. In those three gifts we see who He is, what He came to do and what it cost Him.’

Jesus came to die. To die for our sins. To take the punishment we deserve for all the stuff we’ve done wrong. He willingly went to the cross to die so we could live.

The apostle Paul writing his second letter to the church in Corinth (modern Greece) pens these words: ‘God made Him who had no sin to be sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.’ (2 Corinthians 5 v 21)

Today let’s focus on the gift we’ve been given and what it cost heaven for us to receive it. Let’s be grateful and yet understand just how much we’re loved and valued by God.

PRAYER:

‘Dear God, today I’m so grateful for Jesus dying in my place on the cross. Even though I’m far from perfect you still went to the cross for me and for that I’m without words. Holy Spirit, help me to live in the light of everything Jesus has done for me and help me to share the good news with those special to me in my world, Amen.’

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Day 22 - Stuck In The Middle For You

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Day 22 - Stuck In The Middle For You

Stuck in the middle for you

Reading: Matthew 2 v 9 - 12

At the time of writing Great Britain is in the middle of two threatening strikes - one by Southern Railways and another by British Airways cabin crew staff who’ve threatened to walk out over the holiday period. 

The news advised that Southern Railways and their staff trade unions are with an organisation called ACAS which means ‘Advisory, Conciliation, and Arbitration Service. When two sides can’t agree on a way forward ACAS will step in and seek reconciliation and try to build a bridge between the two sides.

Strangely enough, this is what the frankincense refers to.

Incense was used extensively by the temple priests during sacrifice and temple offerings, filling the surroundings with the smell of sweet perfume. The latin name for priest is pontifax which literally means ‘bridge builder’ - someone who builds a bridge between God and mankind.

When Mary and Jospeh saw the Frankincense their thoughts would immediately go to the temple and they’d remember seeing the priests use it every day. They’d begin to understand that not only was this baby royalty but Jesus would grow up to become the ultimate priest, building a bridge between us and God. Jesus would grow up to reconcile us to the Father showing us the way forward for today and eternity.

If you are already a believer today, understand the life we live today is possible because of Jesus becoming the bridge between us and God. He made it possible to be forgiven and live in community with God the Father and the Holy Spirit. If you’re not a Christian, the frankincense reminds us that faith in this child as our ultimate priest is the only way to restoration with God. The way is clear, the price has been paid - there’s nothing we have to do to earn right standing with God. Jesus has already built the bridge. Perhaps today you’d like to ask Him to help you cross over into new life with Him.

BELIEVERS PRAYER:

‘Dear God, thank you for taking the lead on our rescue. Thank you for sending your Son to become the bridge between you and me, between heaven and earth. Thank you for the life I live because of Jesus and what’s He has made possible, Amen.’

UNBELIEVERS PRAYER:

If you’d like to become a Christian, then pray this simple prayer: ‘Dear God, thank you for Jesus. You sent Him to pay the price for my sins and to make it possible to know you and live for you. I’m sorry for all the wrong things I have done. Help me turn my life around and follow you forever. Take the reins of my life and may I follow you, love and serve you forever more, Amen.’

If you’ve prayed that prayer - well done! Please send a message to office@cornerstonecity.eu letting us know your name and if you’d like a follow up call and someone from our Next Steps team will be in touch.

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Day 21 - All That Glitters...!

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Day 21 - All That Glitters...!

All that glitters…!

Reading: Matthew 2 v 9 - 12

We’ve already established Jesus was born a king and the first gift presented to Jesus by the Magi, fittingly, was gold. In ancient custom, it was unthinkable to approach a king without a gift and what better gift than the king of metal - gold.

I wonder if Mary cast her mind back nine months to the incredible conversation with Gabriel. As the gold was left gently as the feet of Jesus did Gabriel’s words resound in her heart: “….You will be with child and give Him the name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give Him the throne of his father David, and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever; His kingdom will never end.”

We don't know if Jospeh was familiar with the writings of Isaiah but if he was, did the old prophet’s words bubble up into his heart too, almost mirroring the words of Gabriel to Mary: ‘Of the increase of His government there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over His kingdom, establishing it and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever.

Taking this moment with the Magi, together with the encounter with Gabriel and past prophecies, we can be confident that Mary and Jospeh knew this was no ordinary child. Before them lay a king, the incarnate God born to rule in righteousness forever.

Today, don’t allow Jesus to become less than he is. He is royalty. He is the worlds longest serving monarch. He was and is and will always be the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords.

With that in mind, let’s understand Jesus is not a cuddly toy, He's not our butler nor is He our boyfriend or best friend. Jesus is God. Approach him with respect, honour and give him your obedience.

PRAYER:

‘Dear God, thank you that your word confirms who Jesus really is. With that in mind, let me approach Him reverently, with humility and honour. Help me understand Jesus still rules today. Help that truth bring peace to my heart regardless of what’s going on around me, Amen.’

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Day 20 - Who Doesn’t Love Presents?

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Day 20 - Who Doesn’t Love Presents?

Who doesn’t love presents?

Reading: Matthew 2 v 9 - 12

What are you getting for Christmas? Do you like one big present with a few smaller ones or maybe you just like loads of smaller presents? Maybe you’ve handed your other half a list and told them to buy you everything on it or worst of all, you’re one of those people who utter the most frustrating one liners at Christmas: “Surprise me!” 

You can tell a lot about a person from the presents they ask for or the things people buy them. You can tell their favourite brands, hobbies, aspirations or even their occupations, hopes and fears. Artsy coffee making is taking the world by storm right now and I wouldn’t describe myself as a coffee snob, but I won’t thank you for a cup of instant either. So in our house we keep a well stocked Nespresso pod collection - just name your colour! So every anniversary of anything the kids will buy me a bunch of pods - giving away to the world the fact I love a great coffee.

At first glance the gifts the Magi present to Jesus seem baffling - what on earth does a child need gold, incense and myrrh for? But just as your presents reveal something about you, the Magi were revealing to Mary, Joseph and to us today a lot about Jesus. Over the next couple of days, we’re going to take a look at the gifts they gave to Jesus, but in the meantime, pray this simple, effective prayer with me:

PRAYER:

‘Dear God, thank you that I can be generous this Christmas. Thank you for the friends and family in my life and may I give more than I receive this year, Amen.’

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Day 19 - Born A What?

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Day 19 - Born A What?

Born a what?

Reading: Matthew 2 v 1 - 12

I love the question the Magi ask in verse two: ‘Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews?’

It’s a great question but it also holds big clue about who Jesus really is.

They don’t ask ‘Where is the one born to be king of the Jews?’ Their question makes the declaration that Jesus is already king of the Jews.

In our way of thinking a person can be born to become a king or queen. We describe that person as being ‘in line’ to the throne. Usually the reigning monarch has to either abdicate or die before the next in line can ascend the throne.

Not so with Jesus. Jesus was born king.

But the contrasts between royal palaces, gilded thrones and scores of humble servants could not have been farther from the primitive home where the infant Christ was being brought up by two teenagers in the middle of nowhere. And yet whenever the wise men saw the baby, they fell at his tiny feet and worshipped him.

Our belief determines our behaviour. What we deem to be true, we do.

With all the headlines around the world piling up on top of the headlines in our own lives, it can be difficult to look around and discern Christ as King in the middle of everything.

It’s good to be reminded today that Jesus is not waiting for you to love Him more to be king. Jesus is not waiting for governments to notice Him to become king. Jesus is not waiting on a global coronation to make Him king (that day will come!). Regardless of all the headlines, the truth remains: Jesus was born a king and He remains a king.

Do you believe it? Do you really believe Christ is king over your life? Before you serve Him with your gifts, can you bow before Him? Today, why not submit your heart to Him and ask the Holy Spirit to reveal the parts of your life where Christ can become king once more.

PRAYER:

‘Dear God, thank you for reminding me Jesus is still KING! Holy Spirit please reveal the parts of my life not submitted to the lordship of Jesus and help me have faith to entrust these areas to you for my freedom and my future, Amen.’

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Day 18 - Don't miss It!

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Day 18 - Don't miss It!

Don’t miss it!

Reading: Matthew 2 v 1 & 2

In December 1903, after many attempts, the Wright brothers were successful in getting their "flying machine" off the ground. Thrilled, they telegraphed this message to their sister Katherine: "We have actually flown 120 feet. Will be home for Christmas." Katherine hurried to the editor of the local newspaper and showed him the message. He glanced at it and said, "How nice. The boys will be home for Christmas." He totally missed the big news--man had flown! 

Tradition and every Christmas card since says there were three wise men (because there were three gifts), but chances are there were a few more. In any event what surprises me the most is that only a few noticed the unusual behaviour of a star. 

Like the newspaper editor, everyone else missed the big story. Maybe they didn’t notice the star, maybe they noticed it and didn't attach any significance to it. In any event, among everything else in their lives - they missed it.

Simple as it may seem today, God is still trying to get the attention of humanity. The bible reminds us that creation makes God famous; that the local church is the body of Christ in every community and God has even gone as far to place ‘eternity in the hearts of men.’ 

Like the star leading the wise men to Jesus, God is trying to get us to look at his Son and I wonder how often do we miss it among the plays, the parcels and the place settings!

I don’t do Christmas bashing! I love the season - I love the presents, extended family time, the carols and even the busyness, but my heart is to ensure I don’t miss the moments when God is leading me to look at His Son and connect to the only story of the season. 

PRAYER:

‘Dear God, thank you for Christmas and all that it means. As the season unfolds, may I regularly sense your presence as you lead me to look upon your Son in all his glory and power, Amen.’

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DAY 17 - Where Are You Looking For Life?

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DAY 17 - Where Are You Looking For Life?

Where are you looking for life?

Reading: Matthew 2 v 1 & 2

This is such a special part of the Christmas story, particularly because it involves people beyond the religious, cultural and geographical borders of Judea. In other words, the Magi would have been clueless about the notion of - and the chatter about - a Messiah.

The Magi were Persian priests who as part of their religion extensively studied the stars and became proficient in astrology - the study of the skies. Put simply, they would look for life and it’s meaning from the stars.

Now, we know the meaning of life comes from the maker of the stars, rather than the stars themselves. And yet God in His grace used what the world was looking at to find life and point them towards Jesus.

We’re still looking to the stars to find the future and we continue to connect to all sort of things to discover the meaning of life. Many people seek fulfilment from the money they spend, others seek out fortune tellers, palm readers or consult their ‘guardian angel.’ Others are so discouraged they’ve turned to drink and drugs to quieten the ache in their heart when they discover all of the above can’t fill the gap within.

As a pastor I’ve had the honour of watching God lead people to Jesus following very unlikely ‘stars.’ At Cornerstone we’ve watched as God led people to meet Jesus through discontentment, addiction, boredom, failure, hopelessness, debt, shame and regret.

I don’t know what ‘star’ you’re looking at today in the hope of finding the meaning of your life but are you willing to allow God to lead you to Jesus with it? I hope so, because He’s the only one who will make sense of it all.

PRAYER:

‘Dear God, I’ve looked everywhere to find the meaning of my life and I haven’t found it yet. Would you lead me to Jesus and help me discover who He is, who I am and how I can find my life through Him, Amen.’

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Day 16 - Dealing with Disappointment

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Day 16 - Dealing with Disappointment

Dealing with Disappointment

(Supplemented from Week One of ‘Hope is Coming’ message, preached Sunday 4 Dec, 2016)

Reading: Luke 1 v 8 - 22

Our reading this morning takes us back a little chronologically, but I want to talk briefly today about dealing with disappointment.

As I was preparing the message that shaped today’s devotional I really prayed for fresh insight into why Gabriel would render Zechariah unable to speak.

Was God being cruel, meting out punishment for Zechariah’s unbelief or, was there something more? I believe there was.

I believe God was being kind to Zechariah. You see, God was making a promise to Zechariah in an area of his life that caused him and his wife incredible disappointment. He and Elizabeth no longer believed having a child was possible. I believe he and his wife no longer prayed for a child and had stopped doing so for many years. So when Gabriel arrives with the promise of a son, Zechariah weighs this against his pain and disappointment together with his and Elizabeth’s obvious physical realities and concludes that having children is not possible. God then closes his mouth. Why?

As I say, God was being kind.

When it comes to receiving fresh words and promises from God often the older you get, the more convincing you need. And shutting up his mouth would not so much be a sign of punishment, but a sign that what God said was true. Rendering him speechless whilst a tad inconvenient would have given Zechariah enough confidence to believe what God was saying was true. We can tell he had enough confidence - the story tells us that Jesus was the only baby conceived by the Holy Spirit!

Are you open to receiving fresh revelation from God’s word about your hurt or disappointment? It’s hard to do because you feel let down by life and even by God. But this story is not only a reminder to us that God still answers the prayers we no longer pray but He is able to breathe fresh life into the dry and disappointed places in our lives.

PRAYER:

‘Dear God, this is a big prayer, but I invite you to breath fresh life into the dry and disappointed places in my life. I want to trust in you again. Please heal my hurt and with your word in my heart move my feet forward into the life you have for me to live, Amen.’

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Day 15 - The 'Could Nots' & The 'Should Nots'

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Day 15 - The 'Could Nots' & The 'Should Nots'

The ‘Could Nots’ & The ‘Should Nots!’

(Taken from Week One of ‘Hope is Coming’ message, preached Sunday 4 Dec, 2016)

Reading: Luke 1 v 46 - 49 & Luke 1 v 57 - 66

The angel Gabriel arrives from the presence of God with a message for Zechariah and Mary. Gabriel hasn’t been mentioned since he visited Daniel some five hundred years earlier. And what he tells them is truly incredible to their ears.

Gabriel tells Zechariah that he and his elderly wife, Elizabeth, are going to have a son. His name will be John and he will be the forerunner to Jesus. People who couldn’t have kids for years will now have a son.

Later, Gabriel turns up in Nazareth and presents himself to Mary. Mary is a teenager and engaged to Joseph. Gabriel tells her she is going to have a baby by the Holy Spirit, and this baby will be called Jesus and be the Son of God! What went through her mind: what will people say? What will Jospeh say? What will my Dad say!!!? Now we have Mary, who shouldn’t be having kids, pregnant with a son.

What we notice is this: Elizabeth and Zechariah COULD NOT have kids. Mary SHOULD NOT (at this stage) have kids. 

Everyone, meet the ‘Could Nots’ and the ‘Should Nots.’

It seems to me that God has a wonderful way of using the ‘could nots’ and the ‘should nots’ to bring Jesus to life for the world.

Many of us feel either disqualified or under qualified to be used by God. Many of us feel we’re too old, too chronically ill, have too dodgy a reputation, or we’re too bad, too quiet, too nervous - well, because of Christmas, God shows us that He calls the ‘could nots’ and the ‘should nots’ to make Jesus famous.

1 Corinthians 1 v 27- ‘But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong…’

Are you feeling under qualified or unqualified to be used by God? By God’s grace, He calls you to make a difference. What small thing can you do to let others know that Jesus loves them today?

PRAYER:

‘Dear God, thank you for calling very ordinary people. I know that in the world's eyes I’m a ‘could not’ or a ‘should not,’ but in your eyes I have purpose, value and calling. Help me to believe in you and to help others know Jesus loves them this Christmas, Amen.’

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Day 14 - Go Low to Get High pt 3

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Day 14 - Go Low to Get High pt 3

Go Low to Get High pt 3

(Supplemented by the concluding message from our ‘When I Grow Up’ series)

# 3. Humility has style

The famous inventor Samuel Morse was once asked if he ever encountered situations where he didn't know what to do. Morse responded, "More than once, and whenever I could not see my way clearly, I knelt down and prayed to God for light and understanding.”

Morse received many honours from his invention of the telegraph but felt undeserving: "I have made a valuable application of electricity not because I was superior to other men but solely because God, who meant it for mankind, must reveal it to someone and He was pleased to reveal it to me."

Pride says, “I am the gift.” Humility says, “I’ve been given a gift.”

C S Lewis said that ‘humility is not thinking less of yourself, rather it is thinking of yourself less.’ And he is right. Thinking less of yourself breeds a false humility which we can mistake for biblical humility. 

False humility is when we are consistently self deprecating, excessively modest, timid, self aware, dependant on the opinions of others, denying your own worth and believing all of this honours God. None of this honours the Lord.

What’s the first thing you do when someone compliments your gift? You begin to go all shy, you twist your face and try to convince the giver of the compliment they're wrong about you! STOP. That’s not humility, that’s false humility. Next time, try saying something like, ‘Thank you for saying that. I’m just glad I can make God famous this way.’ 

Don’t deny what God has given you, make him famous with it.

Romans 12 v 5 (The Message) - ‘So since we find ourselves fashioned into all these excellently formed and marvellously functioning parts in Christ’s body, let’s just go ahead and be what we were made to be, without enviously or pridefully comparing ourselves with each other, or trying to be something we are not.’

PRAYER:

‘Dear God, this morning I acknowledge that you have given me certain gifts and talents that make me, me! Help me to understand that when I use your gifts in my life, I honour you and extend your influence in the world. Thank you for using me to make Jesus famous. Open my eyes to more opportunities every day where I can help others see Christ. Amen.’

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Day 13 - Go Low to Get High pt 2

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Day 13 - Go Low to Get High pt 2

Go Low to Get High pt 2

(Supplemented by the concluding message from our ‘When I Grow Up’ series)

Reading: Luke 1 v 46 - 55

# 2 Humility loves beyond labels

Abraham Lincoln once got caught up in a situation where he wanted to please a politician, so he issued a command to transfer certain regiments. When the secretary of war, Edwin Stanton, received the order, he refused to carry it out. He said that the President was a fool. Lincoln was told what Stanton had said, and he replied, "If Stanton said I'm a fool, then I must be, for he is nearly always right. I'll see for myself." As the two men talked, the President quickly realised that his decision was a serious mistake, and without hesitation he withdrew it.

Pride whispers, “Me!” Humility screams, “We!”

Humility allows you to see value in other people. Every single person on the planet has value. How? Because Jesus died for them and the value of anything is revealed in the price you’re willing to pay for it. If Christ paid for humanity with His life, then Jesus believes people have value.

This is important because sometimes pride whispers in your ear that you’re better than everybody else. Pride can find it harder to love someone of a different colour, a different sexual orientation, from a different part of our community, or even those with a dodgy reputation.

We won’t admit it out loud but we can all be guilty of having preferences on who we love. But here’s how God labels humanity: lost and found. That’s it. No labels on gender, sexual orientation, race, religion, ethnicity, social status - just lost and found. Here’s the thing - you were once lost but now you are found. Humility won’t judge others because humility remembers where we came from. Humility helps us to drop the stone we’re about to throw at another.

2 Corinthians 5 v 15 - 18 (The Message): ‘Our firm decision is to work from this focussed centre: One man died for everyone. That puts everyone in the same boat. He included everyone in his death so that everyone could be included in his life, a resurrection life, a far better life than people ever lived on their own…Because of this decision we don't evaluate people by what they have or how they look. Now we look inside, and what we see is anyone united with the Messiah gets a fresh start, is created new…’

As a church we have a wonderful mandate from the Lord to reach our city with the good news of Jesus. Let’s not evaluate people by how they look or where they live or by the life they live right now, but lets carry enough humility to remind us that we too were once without Christ and the grace that was extended to us is extended to them for the glory and honour of His name.

PRAYER:

‘Dear God, today I take a moment to reflect on where I have come from and on the life I used to live. Thank you for saving me. May the grace you have shown me, be mirrored by me to others in my world. Help me to love others beyond their labels. Amen.’

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Day 12 - Go Low to Get High pt 1

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Day 12 - Go Low to Get High pt 1

Go Low to Get High pt 1

(Supplemented by the concluding message from our ‘When I Grow Up’ series)

Reading: Luke 1 v 46 - 55

Just a quick read through the first few verses of our reading today may leave you thinking that Mary no longer feels like the poor, little peasant girl. Rather she sounds a little pompous, cocky even, as she assertively declares, ‘generations will call me blessed.’

Of course, we know there’s no pride here whatsoever. Rather, Mary shows a strong humility thathonours God and at the same time accepts her gifts and destiny. For the next three days, let’s consider three elements of humility and how they can help us follow Jesus well.

# 1. Humility acknowledges God

Hudson Taylor was scheduled to speak at a Large Presbyterian church in Melbourne, Australia. The moderator of the service introduced the missionary in eloquent and glowing terms. He told the large congregation all that Taylor had accomplished in China, and then presented him as "our illustrious guest." Taylor stood quietly for a moment, and then opened his message by saying, "Dear friends, I am the little servant of an illustrious Master." 

Pride says, “I’m big news.” Humility knows God makes the news.

v 46 - 49 - And Mary said, “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. From now on generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me - holy is his name.”’

Mary wasn’t cocky as much as she was grateful. She’s amazed that God would, and could, use her at all. And she’s clear where all the glory lies.

Before your day begins, reflect for a moment on the incredible things God has done to you and through you. Why not begin your prayer this morning with lavish praise and gratitude to the One who has literally changed your life forever.

PRAYER:

‘Dear God, I thank you for all the things you have done for me and how you have changed my life. Thank you for sending Jesus to pay the price for my sins and making it possible for me to have a new start, a new heart and shape a new history. Amen.’

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