A new beginning

I was watching a drama on TV when someone was asked in the middle of a tragic situation what they needed – to that question, they replied “a time machine”; so they could go back and have the time all over again and do something differently. How often we resonate with that sentiment? I wish I could have my time over again…I wouldn’t make the same mistake twice! Hindsight is a powerful thing if we take advantage of what we learn – but many of us need more than a second chance – we need a whole bag full of chances, because somethings we do are so entrenched in our behaviour that we continue to repeat our failings, even though, deep down, we know beIer!

What I have described is something that we all have in common…it’s part of our nature to repeat patterns of behaviour that become comfortable to us –even when the consequences of our choices can be devastating to us and those around us. Some of our patterns of behaviour have positive outcomes, but much of what we do, say or think comes at a cost and breaks down our relationship with others and, most importantly God.

This predisposition to selfish behaviour is what the Bible describes as ‘sin’ and we are all susceptible to it. Let’s face it. From the beginning of time, no one has been blameless in this regard – except for Jesus – who, although he was tempted like the rest of us; never sinned. Not even once! And because of his sinlessness and because of his sacrificial love, death could not hold onto Jesus…so he was able to dismantle the barrier between us and God that humanity had constructed…so that we now have the opportunity to be free.

The trouble is many of us hear the message and still choose live in bondage, we reject the opportunity to have a fresh start and a new beginning. Jesus came to set the captives free… but like a caged bird who is comfortable with the safety of environment, we would rather stay captive to our sin, than be free to experience the exhilaration and risk of setting off on a new journey guided by the Holy Spirit.

Easter reminds us of new beginnings; a fresh start; where we leave the past behind and embrace the opportunities that faith in Christ allows. But to be renewed in Christ you must risk letting go of the past and embrace the changes that are the consequences of giving our allegiances over to Christ. For most of us, change is something that is disconcerting; it’s uncomfortable and at times confronting. But change is what happened to the resurrected Jesus…and change is what we should expect if we allow the same resurrection power of our living Christ to permeate through our being.

So as always, it a choice. If we truly celebrate and apply the message of the risen Christ to our daily lives – then new life in Christ and new beginnings is what we should expect and what we should strive for – anything less would under value what Christ has done on our behalf.

Happy Easter.

Tim Winslade

Keep the End in Mind

Ever tried to write something and not really know where to begin? Some people suggest that the best way to write is with the end in mind. Map out your conclusion and then work toward the end. Jesus always had the end in mind and although tempted, never wavered from the goal. It was God’s plan that everything would culminate in Jerusalem – but his disciples had other plans. They had seen Jesus’ popularity rise and wane over three years and they wanted to force his hand, to make him use his power to be the type of Messiah that they wanted; someone who would defeat the Romans and give them their freedom – but that was never on Jesus’ agenda.

Have you ever been in a place where a crowd of people were cheering on someone to do something…like a sporting event or an encore after a concert? Often the accolades of the crowd lift the person to greater heights – to do more – to do better. But sometimes what the crowd wants may influence a person to do something that they had never intended. Crowds can have a life of their own…it’s so easy to get caught up and go along with the crowd. But then you wonder who started the chant…and what was their agenda?

The people chanted ‘Hosanna’, which is a word that is commonly used to express praise of joy. But originally it also had another meaning – ‘save us’! It was a cry for a saviour to come and rescue the people who needed deliverance. Who started the chant? It’s seems logical that some of Jesus’ enthusiastic followers called out ‘hosanna’, ‘blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord’ and ‘peace in heaven and glory in the highest’! They knew the scriptures and saw Jesus entry into Jerusalem as a peaceful coup…the Messiah – the King with God’s authority has arrived…and the people followed with the chant ‘save, save, save’ as if Jesus was entering into Jerusalem as a conquering war hero; but that was furthest from the truth.

The people didn’t realise that everything that Jesus did fulfilled what the prophets had said hundreds of years before – even riding on a donkey and the people shouting hosanna. God had a plan and Jesus was going to finish what he had started. How quickly a crowd can change! How quickly can your own supporters become your biggest critics when you do not meet their expectations. What Jesus’ disciples anticipated and what the crowds hoped for would soon become unfulfilled expectations…because they did not understand God’s big picture.

What the people saw as the fulfilment of Jesus’ messianic kingship was a temptation much like the one the devil gave him in the wilderness; to accept the accolades of the people and become their king – by power and force… but to do that was to step away from God’s ultimate plan – which wasn’t just political freedom for the down trodden Jews; but the eternal salvation of the whole of humanity. Now that is something worth celebrating! Jesus saves! Jesus saves! Jesus saves! Glory to God in the highest – who through his sacrifice has brought peace on earth to all who would accept him for who he is…God’s chosen one!

God Bless,

Tim Winslade

Run the Race

The Sydney City to Surf is a 14.2km fun run that winds its way from the centre of the city to South Head and then back to Bondi Beach. It’s a cultural phenomenon every August that attracts over 75,000 participants each year; from the serious international runners, to mum’s pushing strollers and people in dress ups. The start is staggered into ranked groups, with the fastest runners starIng first and the walkers and partiers starIng in the last group. For those starIng in the middle of the pack the start is a huge crush of bodies shuffling for the first kilometre or two before you can actually stride out…along the way people stand and cheer; give out water; play music or just words of encouragement….because everyone starts with the same goal. To finish!

Two hours earlier in chill of the dawn light parIcipants congregate in their allocated areas, huddling against the cold or wet, sitting on the hard road to rest their legs…then in anticipation of the start people begin to strip off old clothing and discard it by the side (or in the trees)…and stretch. Then when the gun goes off there’s a shout of excitement as the mass begins to move, slowly at first…and then finally into a rhythm as they pound the pavement towards the finish.

For 6 kilometres you weave through the crowd, along undulating terrain to the bottom of a 3 kilometre hill dubbed ‘heart break hill’. For months you have diligently focused on training for this hill and stride confidently at first up the iniIal incline, surprised at every bend that conInues to rise relentlessly against the human tide. Gradually you notice that many people have slowed to a walk, apparently unprepared for the challenge looking defeated and distressed. But then, just as your lungs are screaming for air you reach the summit and are flooded with relief, only to realise that the race is far from finished.

How easy it is to focus all our attention on ‘heart break hill’ and forget about the ultimate goal – to reach the finish. The Apostle Paul wrote, “I press on to the goal to reach the prize for which God has called me heavenward”…his goal was to know Jesus and the power of his resurrecIon (v10). He knew that all that had happened up unIl now was only the preliminaries; all the successes, all the failures; all the trials, all the lessons; were only the beginning – because there was so much more to learn; so much more to know; so much more to experience!

Paul often used sporIng metaphors to encourage ChrisIans to keep the faith; to not get side tracked or lose focus; but to be focused on the end goal. Towards the end of his life he says in Acts 20:24 that his only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus Christ had given him – the task of testifying to the good news of the gospel of grace.

Like Paul we need to be reminded of the journey that we are on…a mass of humanity following in the footsteps of Christ. Like the City to Surf (like it says in Hebrews 12:1-3) are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses who are cheering us on. We too must make every effort to not allow ourselves to be weighed down by excess baggage….but to run with perseverance the race marked out before us – with our minds fixed on Jesus…to the finish!

God bless,

Tim Winslade

Lost and Found

Standing at the counter of McDonalds I was totally engrossed in the task of buying food for my hungry family… I looked around at my family and noticed that there was someone missing. My 3 year old son had disappeared… somehow my small son had steeped out through the open door and onto the footpath near a busy street. He was lost! Panic immediately set in…we quickly searched the shop and then onto the street…

Then in the distance I noticed a young woman holding the hand of a small child at a pedestrian crossing and I started to run, ignoring the puzzled looks of onlookers. As I got closer I was able to make out his clothes and his blonde hair and I knew that it was my son – so I ran faster to get to Benji’s side. He was unharmed and was wondering what the fuss was about, but I was so grateful to Benji’s rescuer and so thankful that he was safe I wanted to celebrate, my son had been lost, but now was found and had been returned to his family.

My story predates GPS – it’s amazing how much we rely on GPS now days to help us not get lost. I just saw a program that described a new type of watch that has been developed with GPS so that parents know where their children are all times. However, today, rather than relying on GPS (global positioning systems), I want to suggest that we need to rely on God’s Positioning System or God’s Plan of Salvation, that is spelled out for us in his word. God’s GPS helps us know the way home to the Father, no matter what circumstance we find ourselves in.

I’m pretty good at directions, so I find getting lost pretty hard to do – but for other’s it comes naturally…getting or feeling lost can be purely an accident, but for others it is a consequences of our choices. Luke 15:11b-32 tells us there was a certain wilfulness about the prodigal’s choices to reject the benefits of his home; to take his inheritance and to seek out his own fame and fortune in a land far removed from the place of his birth. It’s a well-known parable…the son spends his entire inheritance and is left with nothing…totally off the radar.

It’s at the bottom of the pit, plagued by hunger and despair that the young man has a revelation…the life of a servant in his father’s house is better than the ‘freedom’ he was experiencing and in that moment he turns on the GPS and begins the painful journey home, rehearsing his words of repentance with each step. Unbeknown to him, his father has been looking out for him every day – praying for his safe return; and when he sees him on the horizon, he puts aside decorum and runs out to embrace his smelly, rebellious son. In that moment of embrace all is forgiven and grace is extended…the son that was lost – is reunited with his father and reconnected with his destiny. The money spend was small price to pay for the transformation of the son…and the father throws a party.

The bible says that God throws a party every time a repentant sinner returns home. Every time we activate God’s GPS, God embraces us with joy, forgiveness and grace and treats as his daughters and sons. It’s a message that doesn’t get old – because it is central part of God’s Salvation Plan. My hope is that you will wake up and see what you are missing and start the journey home.

God bless,

Tim Winslade