3 Ways to keep your vision tank full

Philip the evangelist is one of the forgotten heroes of the early church.

Philip was a member of the church at Jerusalem. His first official ministry role was that of ensuring the fair distribution of food to the Greek and Hebrew widows in the Jerusalem church.

The next time we meet Philip he is evangelising in Samaria (Acts 8.4-8). His ministry has an incredible impact and attracts the attention of the apostles who have remained in Jerusalem. Eventually Peter and John are dispatched to Samaria to lay hands on all the new believers so that they are filled with the Spirit.

Meanwhile, an angel has told Philip to leave these scenes of revival and take the road from Jerusalem to Gaza (Acts 8.26). As he is walking along the road, he meets a high ranking official from Ethiopia and shares the gospel with him. The man responds to the gospel and as soon as they find some water Philip baptises him (Acts 8.26-40).

And then Philip disappears once again. This time the Spirit transports him to Azotus and he begins a new preaching tour.

Philip clearly had God-given vision.

There are a number of things in Philip’s story that will help us keep our vision tank full.

If you want to keep your vision tank full, a secret life with God is essential. 

Firstly, Philip had a secret life with God.

When the apostles were looking for people to distribute food to the widows in the church, the looked for people who were full of the Spirit (Acts 6.3).

You don’t stay full of the Spirit unless you have a secret life with God.

Secondly, Philip had a reputation for wisdom. He was full of the Spirit and wisdom (Acts 6.3). He was a wise man. Wisdom is a quality that enables us to make decisions that are good and godly. Philip had that quality.

We need to be spiritual and practical!

If you want to keep your vision tank full, look for opportunities where others see problems

Philip’s evangelistic ministry began during the greatest crisis the church had faced up to that point.

One of its greatest leaders, Stephen, became its first martyr. In the aftermath of Stephen’s death, a violent persecution broke out against the church. Many of the Christians left Jerusalem. Philip went to Samaria.

Philip began his evangelistic ministry at what seemed the worst time. And he began it in one of the worst places, Samaria. Samaria for any Jewish person was not a destination of choice. But Philip went there and God blessed him.

Philip seized an opportunity in a time a great difficulty. Sometimes God sends us opportunities, but they are wrapped up in a problem! When your vision tank is full, you see the opportunity, not just the problem.

If you want to keep your vision tank full, don’t settle for success

Philip could easily have settled in Samaria. He could have made it “his” revival. But he didn’t. He listened to God – or more precisely listened to God’s angel and walked off down the road!

He left a good thing to pursue a “God thing”. What he didn’t know was that he would lead someone to Christ who had the potential to influence a whole nation.

When your vision tank is full you will be prepared to take new roads to pursue what God is doing, even if it seems you are leaving something successful. And you don’t know who you are going to meet on that journey.

If you want to keep your vision tank full, look out for your family

In Acts 21, we see Philip at home. Paul and Luke and their friends stay at Philip’s house. Luke explains:

 Leaving the next day, we reached Caesarea and stayed at the house of Philip the evangelist, one of the Seven. 9 He had four unmarried daughters who prophesied (Acts 21.8-9)

He had four daughters who prophesied. Clearly Philip had given time to his family despite all his responsibilities and activities. There was an atmosphere of God in his house.

When your vision tank is full, you will look out for your family and have their spiritual interests at heart.

 

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5 things we can learn from our 90th anniversary

In Search of Excellence and Good to Great, two of the most influential business books of the last thirty years, attempted to find why some companies were successful and what set them apart from others. I am sure some have attempted to do the same for the church.

Our ninety years as a church is a good time for some quiet reflection on how we have got to where we are today. It is also worth asking ourselves what we can learn from our ninety year pilgrimage. What have been the factors in Glasgow Elim’s survival and successes over those ninety years?

Obviously, we could sum it all up in two words: God’s grace. However, God’s grace comes wrapped in packages that we might not immediately recognise as grace. So here are a few thoughts on how “grace” showed up in the Glasgow Elim journey.

Firstly, people, ordinary people (not sure anyone really is ordinary as we are all unique), are the unsung heroes of Glasgow Elim. They prayed, gave, brought their friends, kept the faith and many have now received their reward. Glasgow City Council have adopted the strapline People make Glasgow. That is certainly true of Glasgow Elim. And has been true of Glasgow Elim for ninety years.

Secondly, pastors and leaders. Over its ninety year history, Glasgow Elim has been led by some very capable pastors and deacons. Great churches do not become great through incompetent or poor leadership. It’s not only the capability of the pastor that counts, but the quality of the leadership team. Strong local leadership teams are so crucial in the growth and development of any church.

Thirdly, managing pain. This might seem an unusual factor to highlight. Glasgow Elim has known some incredible high points. And some very low points. The pain of a church split that saw the church reduced to a fifth its original size. The pain of lack of resources and having to “penny pinch”. The personal pain that many of its people experienced.

Pain is often the reason people give up. The people of Glasgow Elim have never given up. They pressed through the pain barrier into new seasons of blessing and increase.

Fourthly, welcoming His presence. Glasgow Elim has a reputation for welcoming the presence of God. That kind of terminology is often associated with its more recent history. But this hunger for God’s presence goes back to its very roots. God’s presence and power were sought and welcomed as much in the 1920s as today. Our future hinges to some extent on our continued seeking after God.

Finally, future prospects. We can’t afford to settle! Where we are ten years from now is largely determined by how we respond to God today. Previous generations responded to God’s call in their day. They prayed and sacrificed. They took steps of faith. They built the facilities that are such a blessing to us today. May we look to the future with the kind of faith and commitment that they did. And may we too see in our day the things they saw – and greater.

You can find the 90th anniversary videos here.

5 Ways to keep your love tank full

If you think this is a post about sex or romance, then your understanding of love is twenty-first century Western and not first century biblical. Sorry, thought I’d break the bad news first!

Westerners of this century almost always associate love with romance or sex. Not affection or friendship or that tough enduring virtue that the Bible calls agape. That probably helps at least partly to explain the confusion over gender and sexuality that has assumed so much importance in public life. But that’s another story.

“Love, love, love” sang the Beatles. “Love, love, love, love” taught Jesus. Love God (Matthew 22.37). Love your neighbour (Matthew 22.39). Love one another (John 13.34-35). Love your enemies (Luke 6.35).

It’s pretty comprehensive. Neighbours and enemies cover a wide spectrum, and as C.S. Lewis once remarked often they are one and the same person!

It is simple. It’s not hard to understand. But it’s not easy either. We sometimes find it hard to love even those we love!

How do you keep you “love tank” full?

Firstly, remind yourself of what love looks like.

Jesus is the greatest and best example of someone who showed perfect love. In fact He is the only example of someone who showed perfect love.

John 13 provides us with special insight into the love of Christ. Verse one says “Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.”

What follows next is extraordinary. Jesus takes off his outer clothing, wraps a towel around His waist and begins to wash His disciples’ feet. This must have been such a shock to the disciples, for this is the kind of task reserved for a slave. Peter’s reaction reveals just how shocking this was to the disciples. The promised Messiah was washing their feet.

After He has finished, Jesus explains that He has set an example for them to follow (vv.14-16).

And then in verses 34 and 35, He gives His disciples a new command: love one another as I have loved you.

His love is our standard.

In 1 Corinthians 13 Paul sets out some aspects of love:

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonour others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 8 Love never fails” (1 Corinthians 13.4-8).

Secondly, remember and meditate on how much God loves you.

John says:

“This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” (1 John 4.10-11)

Thirdly, restore love to a place of priority in your life.

1 Corinthians 13.13 highlights the eternal worth of love. It really is that important!

Fourthly, recognise the importance of encouraging relationships.

Your love tank will permanently run on empty if all of your relationships are ones in which you are constantly giving love and encouragement.

The writer to the Hebrews stresses the importance of continually spending time in a spiritually hot and healthy environment:

“And let us consider how we may spur one another on towards love and good deeds, 25 not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another – and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” (Hebrews 10.24-25)

Finally, rely on the Holy Spirit.

We cannot love like Jesus loved in our own strength. Love is a fruit of the Spirit:

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love…” (Galatians 5.22).

It’s through the Spirit’s power that we are enabled to love others.

It’s hard to argue with the importance the New Testament places on love.Let’s leave the last word with Paul:

“And now there remain: faith [abiding trust in God and His promises], hope [confident expectation of eternal salvation], love [unselfish love for others growing out of God’s love for me], these three [the choicest graces]; but the greatest of these is love.” (1 Corinthians 13.13 AMP)

 

Keep your hope on!

Perhaps one of the most quoted verses about hope is a negative one: “Hope deferred makes the heart grow sick” (Proverbs 13.12). Which is often understood along the lines of “when you don’t get what you hoped to get you get disappointed”.

It would be a mistake however to limit our understanding of hope to what happens when it is unfulfilled.

Hope is an incredibly important virtue. Along with faith and love, it has pride of place amongst Christian virtues (1 Corinthians 13.13).

Even the world recognises the importance of hope. Listen to what health care professionals said in two different articles in Psychology Today:

“For my patients,” Groopman writes, “hope, true hope, has proved as important as any medication I might prescribe or any procedure I might perform.” (Psychology Today)

“If I could find a way to package and dispense hope, I would have a pill more powerful than any antidepressant on the market. Hope, is often the only thing between man and the abyss. As long as a patient, individual or victim has hope, they can recover from anything and everything.” (Psychology Today)

The kind of hope the Bible talks about is something even more powerful, because it has as its object God Himself and is based on the resurrection of Jesus from the dead.

I think it’s fair to say that we talk more about faith and love than hope. Which is strange, when considering the coverage the New Testament gives to it.

Hope enables us to endure (1 Thessalonians 1.3). It enables us to stare death in the face – and not blink first (1 Thessalonians 4.13)! It has a purifying power (1 John 3.3).

There are however two images used in the New Testament to convey the positive impact of hope.

One is found in 1 Thessalonians 5.8. Paul talks about the hope of salvation as a helmet. Just as a helmet protects a soldier’s head, so hope, godly hope protects us from the negative, destructive thoughts that the enemy seeks to implant in our minds.

One major way of protecting our minds is putting on hope as a helmet. That means developing patterns of thinking that focus on a God-shaped future, rather than a future shaped by anyone or anything else.

As second image used in association with hope is that of an anchor (Hebrews 6.19).

Anchors keep ships stable in an unstable element. When our hope is firmly anchored in Christ, we are enabled to remain stable amidst the instability all around us.

It also means that we won’t drift when the storms come. A ship that is adrift is dangerous indeed. First of all, it has no direction. Secondly, it is a danger to itself and other vessels. When we lose our hope, we drift. We lose direction in life. And we become a danger to others as well as ourselves.

Hope is incredibly important. Keep your helmet on. And keep your anchor firm.