In this next message from our Gospel Encounters series, Stephen Russell takes us through the story of when the Roman Centurion encountered Jesus in the gospels. He shares with us his 4 key points: ‘Be known’, ‘See the need’, ‘Know the power of your words’, and ‘God is all powerful in our lives’.
It can be easy to let the busyness of life (and our long todo lists!) distract us from the most important thing – spending time with Jesus and listening to his word. Luke 10:38-42 describes the encounter Jesus had with Mary and Martha. Mary spent time with Jesus whilst Martha busied herself… do we identify with either of these women? God wants us to start ‘in rest’; to be in a place of peace, stillness and quiet. We don’t confuse rest with inactivity, but we know that The Lord ‘leads us beside peaceful streams’ and renews our strength as we rest in Him.
When we lay our hands on others, in faith, God releases His power and His blessing into their lives. In this message Stephen shows us examples of the laying on of hands in the Bible and encourages us that if we are followers of Jesus, saved and filled with the Holy Spirit, we have the right, ability and obligation to lay hands on others. It’s good to lay hands on one another!
For many of us, fear can be one of the most controlling influences in our lives. However 1 John 4:18 tells us that “Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love.” In this message Stephen shares what this ‘perfect love’ is that dispels all fears. We look at how to foster, experience and develop this love in our lives and how it can move us towards a fearless life, full of joy and triumph.
As we start a new series – “Why do we do that?” – Stephen shares with us about why we fast. Fasting is something practical that we do but with enormous spiritual benefits. As we fast (and accompany it with prayer) we seek God for more of His power in our lives, to see miracles, salvation, a change in attitude and to grow closer to Him. Fasting allows us to rely less on ourselves and what our natural bodies want, and more on the Holy Spirit and what our new spiritual nature needs.
After spending 40 years wandering in the desert of Sinai, the people of Israel were now on the eastern banks of the Jordan. Their challenge: take the land of Canaan, the Promised Land. In this message Stephen shows us how the description of the complete obliteration of Jericho was recorded in Scripture in order to teach us several lessons, most importantly that obedience, even if God’s commands seem foolish, brings victory. When we are faced with seemingly insurmountable odds, we must learn that our Jericho victories are won only when our faithful obedience to God is complete. Jericho situations require Jericho victories, which requires Jericho obedience.
In Joshua 4:1-8 we read about memorials that were built by the people of God to remember and commemorate the goodness, blessing, salvation and protection of the Lord. In this message, Stephen shares with us how we can all build memorials in our lives, but often they are not positive and can actually restrict our walk with God. However there is one memorial that we can all look to with great hope and thankfulness – the cross; a memorial that not only reminds us of our sinful condition but also the incredible love and grace of God, turning tragedy into triumph, failure into success and death into life!
Success and prosperity are often misquoted and misunderstood, but the word of God clearly states that by following God’s word we will be successful and prosperous. Joshua 1:8 encourages us to “Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful”. As believers it’s important that we know how to define success and prosperity, especially when it can seem like the world is obsessed with greed, status and position. In this message we discover what the word says and how it applies to us as followers of Jesus.
We read in Ephesians 4:16 about how God is building His church: “He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.”. As we look at this further we discover that the Church that is being built is not made of bricks and mortar, but of people! It can be easy to become focussed on physical buildings, but as we develop our understanding of the Church, we see how each person fits in to the whole ‘building’ and how we can make room for each of us to be shaped and cut to size, in order that God’s Church is built according to His plan and purpose.
Romans 13:8 tells is about one ‘debt’ that you will always owe and can never pay off – the debt of love to others. As we explore what this means together, we see how we will never be able to reach the point where we can say “now I love others as much as I should”! No matter how much we have grown as a Christian, we still have room to grow in love.
As we read through Romans 12, we see what our ’new life’ should look like. Paul encourages us in this chapter that we are no longer bound by sin and death because Christ has been raised up and we sit alongside him in heavenly places. In this message, Stephen unpacks what this means for us and gives us some practical ways that we can enjoy our new life in Christ.
We learn in Romans that we have the freedom to become like Christ, and discover God’s limitlessness love and power in our lives. We can be identified or defined by many things, but in this message we discover how we can find out identity in Jesus Christ. Romans 8:5-17 says that Christ lives in you; the same Spirit that raised Christ from the dead dwells within us! We are adopted as His own children and we are heirs of Gods glory. Once you become a new creation in Him, everything changes for the better. You’re given a new name. Your whole identity changes because you’ve been rescued and redeemed from sin and darkness and welcomed into God’s Kingdom family.
Jesus said “I tell you the truth, anyone who believes in me will do the same works I have done, and even greater works, because I am going to be with the Father. Jesus has given a great commission to carry on His work in the world today, equipped by the “same” spirit. The fields are white for harvest, and we are the labours – therefore go, and bring in the harvest!
We can be passionate about lots of different things in our lives, but are we passionate about Jesus and His Kingdom? In this message, Stephen encourages us to be those who are consumed by Jesus and know what it means to have a passion for the things of God. Will we be known as those whose passions for God define our lives?
As we look at the first miracle that Jesus performed, turning water into wine at a wedding, we discover how the wedding signifies the reason that the Word became flesh; to rescue us and give us eternal life and right standing with God. Through this story we see that we are to embrace all that Jesus has for us in His new covenant.
God wants fire in our lives! Not only for ourselves, but so that we can be effective in reaching those around us. Paul encourages Timothy to “fan into flames the spiritual gift God gave you when I laid my hands on you.” We are called to yield to the total control of the Holy Spirit, so every emotion, thought and act is under His direction. That kind of complete spiritual control is for our benefit and in-line with God’s will.
We read in 1 Corinthians 12 that when the church meets together, one will sing, another will teach, another will tell some special revelation God has given, one will speak in tongues, and another will interpret what is said. Everything that is done is to strengthen the body. Spiritual gifts are for every born-again believer; no one is missed out! When we share, verbally, with singing, shouting, and testimony, we strengthen the body, and one another. When we worship “extravagantly” we encourage others to do also, we encourage our children, we help others. It is the first thing we can all do to encourage and strengthen the body. We all need to be those that prepare to share; not be prepared to share but “Prepare to Share”.
For many Christians, ‘stewardship’ is associated with finances and budgets, but in this message Stephen helps us to see that stewardship is so much more than this. Stewardship includes our time, our gifting, our families and our own walk with God… stewardship is about our whole lives; it is about faithfully developing and using our gifts, talents and resources within the amount of time God has allotted to us.
God wants to pour out His Spirit on you! God doesn’t just want to refresh us when times are tough or have been difficult, He wants us to be in a place of refreshing all the time! He wants us to be those that are a well spring of life to all those around us, as we “hasten” the day of His return. The well spring of the Spirit, the Holy Spirit is the key to a restored Kingdom – The Kingdom of God! God wants to restore back to the original intention! The restoration of Eden in our lives – the perfect relationship, man having dominion, multiplying and subduing the earth, and unbroken fellowship with God. A Church where healing and miracles are common place, where believers are all filled with the Holy Spirit in abundant measure and move in a divine purpose and anointing. A Church that is a haven of health, full of blessing, provision and joy! The Acts Church was a model – we are destined to go beyond Acts. We are writing Acts 29! We have and are having a glimpse of the age to come. He is preparing His Church, His bride, and The established Kingdom is coming!
When God sent a great flood to the earth, He had a plan. Noah couldn’t see it physically, but he could “see” it with the eye of the spirit. We are building something wonderful and it’s important that we ‘see’ it. The good news is it is by His strength and not our own. God doesn’t want you to miss the boat, in fact He doesn’t want anyone to miss the boat! We all need to be “on board” with Him; His presence, His people, His power! Are you on board?
When we read the account of Jesus going to raise Jairus’ daughter from the dead, we see how, on the way, a woman with internal bleeding pushed through the crowd to receive healing. Jesus met her where she was at, but remained a ‘man on a mission’ as he continued to raise the girl from the dead. Stephen picks up this story and asks us “what is our testimony – are we in mission mode?”. Our testimony is more powerful than our beliefs. Sometimes seeing is more powerful than hearing! We are Jesus to all those around us, because we are filed with His spirit. Let’s all be men and women on a mission.
God is calling us to be those who are preparing the way in our lives- every day! To allow us to more fully embrace the cross of Christ, we make sure that our priority is Him, His word and His people. As we do this, our valleys are filled in, our mountains flattened, and the twists and turns of our lives are straightened.