Issue 30: Characteristics of Positive People Developing the Ability to Overcome


Life can often get you down, but positive people will take a number of actions in order to ensure that they remain positive. As a result they bear fruit and they develop the ability to overcome the problems and difficulties that they face.

Positive people choose carefully the people they listen to in their lives and the people who have influence in their decision making processes. They listen for God’s voice and when they hear the Word of God they take time to listen and understand what God is saying to them. Jesus said,

“As for what was sown on good soil, this is he who hears the word and understands it; he indeed bears fruit, and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.”

Because they take time out to understand what God is trying to say to them, they begin to draw upon the life-giving power that comes to us through the Word of God and the working of the Holy Spirit. They allow the Word of God to infiltrate their souls and transform their perceptions of the world and the purpose and will of God. They move away from conforming to the perceptions and ideas of this world and they act to transform their minds that they might understand what is acceptable to God and what is His perfect will. As Paul notes in Romans 12:1-2, they are no longer conformed to this world but are transformed by the renewal of their minds. They no longer seek to please the world and its agenda but seek to do that which is pleasing to God.

God’s desire for His people is not only to have abundant life, but to be prosperous in all they do. The Psalmist begins his book by noting that the person, who turns away from the debilitating impact of negativity, “…in whatever he does, he prospers.” The Psalmist notes three aspects of negativity that we need to turn away from in order to sow seeds of prosperity in our lives:

Do not walk in the counsel of the wicked. This means we are not to take the advice of the wicked and be lured down the same path they take which only leads to destruction. Proverbs tells us neither to be enticed by sinners nor to enter into their form of negativity which abuses the innocent and only leads to evil (Proverbs 1:10ff).

Do not stand in the paths of sinners. This means that we are not to follow in the paths of those who have forsaken God and His ways and have turned to their own ways of selfishness and self-centredness.

Do not sit in the seat of scoffers. This means that we are not to enter into the critical perspective of cynicism and pessimism that only sits and criticises what others do and shreds their efforts at building the Kingdom of God .

Those who wish to prosper need first to turn away from the things that contribute to negativity, and turn to do those things that contribute to prosperity. The Psalmist also notes that it is God’s greatest desire to see His people rise up to prosperity in their lives. He writes, “The Lord be magnified, who delights in the prosperity of his servant.” [Psalm 35:27] It is not a matter of whether bad things happen to good people, but when bad things do happen to good people how they handle it. Negativity calls us to wallow in self-pity and despair, whereas God calls us to rise above the circumstances and overcome them in and through Jesus Christ. In the Book of Revelation, Jesus’ message to each of the seven churches was He would reward “…he who overcomes,” despite the fact that each of them suffered from different external and internal pressures. [Rev 2-3]

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Issue 29: The Effects of Negativity Do You See These in Your Life?


One of the surest lies that negativity brings into our hearts and minds is that life has left us behind and that we can never succeed or do well with the little that we have.

Proverbs 13:23 notes that “Abundant food is found in the fallow ground of the poor…” This verse indicates that even the poorest person on the face of the planet has the potential for abundant return on the very ground upon which he/she stands.

God has made a provision for you, in the skills and abilities that He gave to you, meagre though they may seem, so that you may prosper and succeed in the important things of life. He intends for you to prosper in the things that pertain to eternity and the things that last far beyond the destroying and disintegrating forces at work around you.

God sent His Son Jesus Christ into the world to shatter the chains and barriers that hold us back from reaching our full potential. Through his death on the cross and resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ has given us the potential to enter into an eternal love relationship with God. Through Jesus we have been invited into the eternal communion or fellowship of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. It is not simply an adoption into the family of God, but an invitation into their love and intimacy.

Negativity on the other hand, moves into our lives to rob us of the intimacy of our relationship with God. It not only creates a shadow over all that God has promised to us through Jesus, but robs us of what God has already given to us. It aims to disintegrate the life giving promises of Jesus in our lives. It seeks to rob us of the abundant life that Jesus promised to us, and the joy of serving God with all our might.

Negativity seeks to create fear and uncertainty in the area of our destiny and purpose and produce the corrosive elements of cynicism in the things that we do. Negativity tugs at our resiliency to changing times and seduces us to move against the work of God and those who faithfully serve Him. It instigates inflexibility and intolerance in our hearts and impacts the relationships that we have with others. Negativity selects our friends for us and drives us from the positive life-giving presence of men and women of God.

Negativity robs us of an inner resiliency to changing times and new challenges and takes away the vibrancy of life. Negativity takes away from the “Christian” person the abundant life, peace and joy that Jesus has given to him or her. Note that it takes away what has already been given, not simply that which had been promised.

Negative people turn the Word of God around to question why God has not fulfilled what He has promised, when they have not used what He has already given to them. They have not developed or nurtured the promises of God within themselves.

John notes that our ability to overcome external difficulties and forces arises from the presence of Jesus within us “… because greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world.” 1 John 4:4.

Brian Houston points out that “Negative people draw on negative experiences and build their beliefs and opinions around them. Then they justify their position because of what has happened to them.” Those experiences are certainly real, for many people have suffered incredible abuse and atrocities in their lives. All of us have circumstances that have attempted to overwhelm us. However, those experiences should not continue to be the foundation upon which we build our lives, or rather the foundation upon which we disintegrate our future.

Positive people, on the other hand may have suffered in similar ways, but they have, through Jesus, moved beyond those experiences and have broken through. They have become “committed to changing themselves to line up with the Word of God,” rather than changing the Word of God to meet their circumstances.

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Issue 28: Learning from Mistakes: Three Things We Can Learn from Peter

Peter provides an example of the power of God’s promises to us but also our susceptibility to misuse what He gives to us. Three great promises of ministry to Peter are balanced by three serious mistakes he made.

Temptation 1 – We Know Better Than God

In Matthew 16:13-20 Jesus asks his disciples who people say that he is. Their response is John the Baptist, Elijah or one of the prophets. But when Jesus asks them “who do you say that I am?” Peter proclaims Jesus as the Christ, the Son of the living God. Jesus praises Peter at this point for receiving a revelation from God about who Jesus is. He then promises that He will build His church and the gift of the keys of the kingdom of heaven.

Peter is feeling pretty good about himself at this point – he understands who Jesus is and has been particularly singled out by Jesus. But then, in Matthew 16:21 -28 Jesus tells the disciples that he is going to suffer and die. Peter, buoyed by the praise he got from Jesus earlier, jumps in and rebukes Jesus saying that it will not happen. A confessing Peter who got it right turns into a misunderstanding Peter who got it wrong.

The temptation that Peter faced was that he knew better than God what God’s business should be. This temptation leads to self-glorification. Jesus’ rebuke was harsh: “Get behind me Satan, for you are on men’s side rather than God’s.” But it needed to be harsh otherwise Peter would not have realised how wrong he had gotten it and that he needed to understand what God was doing.

Temptation 2 – Self-confidence in Our Own Abilities and Powers

In Luke 22:31-34 Jesus identifies that the disciples, and in particular Peter, will be sifted by Satan to test their loyalty to God and to Jesus. Peter at this point declares confidently his total loyalty to Jesus: “Lord, with You I am ready to go both to prison and to death!”

It is important to note that particular positions and gifts come with particular responsibilities and they will also be tested. Jesus had identified that Peter would be tested – and that he had been praying for Peter. But the temptation is that we think we can succeed apart from Jesus, His prayers for us and his power. We go to do it for God not with Him. But we cannot in our own strength, remain loyal and faithful to the Lord. Jesus rebukes Peter saying – you will deny me three times. Which we know that Peter did.

Temptation 3 – To Focus on What God Has Called Others to Do

In John 21:15-17 Jesus asks Peter three times whether he loves Him, and three times He tells Peter that his responsibility is to care for God’s people. Then, in John 21:20, Peter questions Jesus about John and what he should be doing. The temptation at this point is to take our attention away from what God has called us to do and begin to interfere in His purpose and will for someone else. This can occur by taking responsibility for something God has not entrusted to us. When we do that we inadvertently breach someone else’s authority, because there is no such thing as responsibility without authority.

Jesus again in this circumstance rebukes Peter: “What is that to you? Follow me!” Peter needed to focus on what Jesus had asked Him to do, not anyone else.


While Peter was given great responsibility and authority by Jesus, and did some incredible things in the early church, He made a number of mistakes and had a number of things to learn. We also need to learn from Peter’s mistakes and remember:

  • To learn and understand what God is doing – we don’t know better than God;
  • To work with God and not for Him – don’t rely on our own abilities and powers; and
  • Remember to focus on our own task – don’t be distracted by what God has called others to do.
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Issue 27: A Phone Call from God: The Parable of the Good Samaritan

In the parable of the Good Samaritan Jesus speaks of a man who was beaten, robbed and laid on the road unconscious. A priest, followed by a Levite, came passed, looked at the man and passed on. A Samaritan, the arch enemy of Jewish people in that day stopped, checked the man out, wrapped up his wounds and took him to an inn where he paid for him to be cared for until he was well. Jesus tells this parable to answer the question “who is my neighbour?” How often do we pass by people who need God’s love and care given to them through us?

Some years ago we had a country parish in Victoria with six churches. One Sunday I was traveling back from the most southern church to pick up my family to go to the most northern church. As I was driving, dressed in my white robes, I had a sense from God that I did not need my sermon. This seemed strange to me.

We were well on our way north to the Mollongghip Church when a great ball of fire came out at us in the middle of the road. We stopped and realised that the forest on the left hand side of the road was on fire and if it crossed the road it would spread for hundreds of kilometres. I rang 000 on my new chunky mobile phone (this was a number of years ago) and let the fire brigade know we were on the Mollongghip-Springbank Road . He didn’t know where that was but would let the local fire brigade know.

An old farmer had stopped with his Ute, and we discussed the situation. I told him we had notified the fire brigade and that we needed to head on to the church service we were going to. He said that he would try to get behind the fire to see if there was anything he could do. As I was about to get in the car I saw him climbing over a fence and had this thought “what if he died in there?” I immediately took off my robes, asked my wife to go to the church to let them know what was happening.

As I reached the fence my mobile phone rang. It was the Mollongghip fire brigade. As I knew them I started to explain where we were. “We’re on the Mollonggh…” and his phone died.

I climbed over the fence and got behind the fire to help this old farmer tear down a tarpaulin that was fanning the flames. As we did this he told me that he had recently been having angina attacks. He really could have died in there! I was so glad I stayed.

Fortunately my wife had passed the fire truck at Mollongghip and told them where we were. They finally arrived. As they were putting out the fire, I headed onto the church and there was no sermon that morning.

How often do we see people that need God’s love and care given to them through us? Even though it is inconvenient, sometimes the most important thing we can do is to interrupt the busyness of our lives to help them.

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Issue 26: How Many Times Should We Forgive?

Seven times seventy is 490 times. Imagine a brother or sister offending you once. You forgive. They do the same thing twice. You forgive. They do it again, and again, and again, and again, and again. Well that is seven times. You forgive. This is where Peter stops. At this point we still see the offense and accuse the offender.

You know what happens by the 490th time? We can no longer see the offense nor accuse the offender. Rather, by that stage we see a brother or sister that desperately needs the love of God to be given to them through you or me. Jesus is so intense about this aspect of His vision that he warns us of the potential of losing our own forgiveness if we do not like-wise forgive our brother or sister from our hearts (Matthew 13:23 -35).

The following are a number of quotes that I’ve found particularly useful and thought I would share with you here.

Forgiveness Quotes

“One reason sin flourishes is that it is treated like a cream puff instead of a rattlesnake.” – Billy Sunday

“Pain can either make us better or bitter.” – Tim Hansel

“Forgiveness is freeing up and putting to better use the energy once consumed by holding grudges, harboring resentments, and nursing unhealed wounds. It is rediscovering the strengths we always had and relocating our limitless capacity to understand and accept other people and ourselves.” – Sidney and Suzanne Simon

“When you forgive, you in no way change the past-but you sure do change the future.” – Bernard Meltzer

“I have learned that sometimes “sorry” is not enough. Sometimes you actually have to change.” – Claire London

“It takes a strong person to say sorry, and an ever stronger person to forgive.” – Unknown

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Issue 25: Jesus Vision – That We Might Become a Forgiving People

Jesus highlights this vision in the story of the woman who washed his feet with her tears and wiped them clean with her hair. She did this whilst he was at dinner at one the Jewish leader’s house (Luke 7:36-50). Those present at the dinner were critical of Jesus because he allowed such a common woman – certainly a sinner, but also possibly a prostitute – to touch him in such a way. Jesus challenges his host, Simon, and the other pharisaical leaders with a story about the forgiveness of debt. Two debtors owed different amounts – one 500 denarii and the other 50. The creditor forgave both debts when they were not able to pay. Jesus asked Simon which of the two would be the more appreciative. He answered, of course, the one who owed the most. Jesus noted that the woman had shown far greater appreciation than his host in caring for him, because indeed her sins were greater. Jesus’ aim here with these leaders was to have them understand the importance of forgiveness of others as the response of those who have been forgiven by God. A response these particular leaders show they ignored by then criticizing Jesus for forgiving the woman of her sins.

Jesus believes we can have a tender and compassionate heart, forgiving others as indeed we have been forgiven by God. One of the most practical things I tell budding new priests and pastors to do when they arrive at a new church is to take up the carpets and clean under them. By this I refer to an almost universal habit Christian communities have in responding to hurt and offensive behavior of other members of the community by brushing the issue under the carpet . Offense occurs and though the offended party might still put on a happy smile to the offender one thing they determine to do is never trust that person again. If this happens consistently then the church develops a hardness of heart to others, especially those they deem to be unworthy or sinners.

In one country church I asked two of our wardens (lay leaders) to join me in the vestry for prayer. When we closed the door I told them they were going to think this really weird, but I thought we should pray for the floor. The look on their faces certainly confirmed that opinion. I noted that the polished floorboards that were laid throughout the church had been done some thirty years ago. I said we needed to pray for the residue of any offense taken or trouble that occurred when the floor boards were being laid. Thus we prayed.

The following Sunday at the Annual Meeting one of the items on the agenda was the project of carpeting the floor of the church to protect the children who had a habit of diving off the pews onto the floor. One of our older members asked whether we needed to do this because of all the work that had gone into raising the money to lay the floor boards in the first place. I noted that we really only needed to carpet the area under the pews which meant the most visible part of the floor boards would still be visible. We had an agreeable resolution of what must have been for them a difficult subject. However, I believe if we had not prayed the week before that lady would not have had the confidence to raise an objection to the proposal about the carpet. Jesus sees His people and community as a forgiving people.

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Issue 24: Dam Busters and Psalm 46

“Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth!”
Psalm 46:10

Dam BustersA couple of month’s ago at St Jude’s we had a weekend centered around the theme “Dam Busters” (drawing from the 1955 film). In our lead up to that weekend we noted that it was time for St Jude’s as a church to break out and break through. In what way was that achieved? We saw as a church a turning away from the distraction and noise around us towards focusing upon our Lord Jesus Christ and giving to Him and the Father excited and powerful praise. The Bible says that the Lord inhabits the praises of His people. As a result of that weekend, people who had every right to be concerned with multiple issues surrounding them, found themselves in what God was doing in our community and our visitors that weekend.

From Psalm 46 we can learn a number of things:

God is our refuge and strength – no matter how great the trouble might be around us we do not need to fear. Even if the very foundations of the earth might tremble, we can stand firm in our God!

Stream of gladness – there is a river of God’s joyfulness ebbing through the life of the families of our church. I always get a little nervous using the term joy because I believe the church has used it in the past with superficial meaning. Joyfulness in extreme circumstances does not result in a dissociation from those circumstances, but an empowering from God to tackle those circumstances full on. Men, women and children who do that come through those circumstances stronger than they have ever been, expanded in their capacity to be used by God for His purposes.

God’s unsettling presence – human institutions might vaunt themselves before others and us, but there is always a day of reckoning with God. Those institutions, referred to in the psalm as the nations, end up in uproar because the very things that they relied upon in the past, which had given them power and domination, crumbled into dust before our God. This is because the Lord of Hosts is with us.

God brings peace – God always acts with the aim to bring resolution to conflicts from one end of the earth to the other. God brings healing to the broken relationships of couples and families whose bitterness and anger compounded the difficulties they confronted.

Enduring trust in God – God brings a cessation of our ongoing striving with Him and others. He quietens the troubled places of our hearts and minds. Our hearts shift from anxiety and fear to stand in awesome wonder at the mightiness of our God who is exalted among the nations as we sing His praises to His name.

All this is preparation for all that God intends to do through us and with us. When trouble brews around us, if we focus upon God, unseen forces are unleashed that act upon our behalf to see His promises fulfilled for us personally.

How is God preparing you?

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Issue 23: Jesus Challenge of Repentance

Jesus only challenges Rome’s power on two occasions – once at hearing the report that Herod the tetrarch of Galilee sought to kill him and the second to Pilate during his interrogation. He told Herod that he did not have the power to kill, because he had to go to Jerusalem (Luke 13:30-32). He told Pilate that he only had power over him because he had been given that power by God not Rome (John 19:11).

Throughout His ministry Jesus did not castigate the Roman hierarchy for their brutality or atrocities. When the Jewish hierarchy coaxed him to criticize the heavy Roman taxation system, Jesus responded by telling them to render to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.

In Luke 13:1-9 members of the crowd raised the question about Pilate’s atrocities, especially in regard to the murder of Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. We are not told who asked the question or why. It may have come from one of the Zealot’s who wanted Jesus to rise up as the Messiah and lead them in a physical overthrow of the Roman occupation forces. It may have come from someone whose family or friends had been amongst those killed, who wanted Jesus’ consolation or at least justification for their desire for the vengeance. Or it might have come from someone who was quite self-righteous and considered the Galileans inferior or more sinful than them.

Jesus’ response to the question certainly didn’t go along the lines that were expected by His hearers. Rather than condemning Rome or calling the Roman hierarchy to repentance, He actually calls his hearers, the Jewish crowd listening to Him, to repentance. He warns them not to consider themselves more righteous than either the Galileans who were slain, or those who were crushed to death by the fall of the tower in Silo’am. He warns the crowd that if they do not repent then they will likewise perish.

Jesus confronts here the underlying condition of the Jewish community of faith that was walking far from God (see also John 5). He calls them individually and corporately to repentance – to turn back to God and His ways. The warning that then comes with the parable of the fig tree is that unless they produce fruit as a result of their repentance then they shall surely perish.

At the time of Jesus there were four separate Jewish factions in existence. The Sadducees, whose activity revolved around the Temple; the Pharisees whose activity revolved around teaching the interpretation of the Law in their synagogues; the Essenes, whose activity was monastic and done in secluded communities away from any settled towns and cities; and the Zealots whose activity and desire to overthrow Roman control eventually brought the collapse of the Temple and the destruction of Jerusalem. None of these factions supported Jesus and His claims to be their Messiah. Only the Pharisees survived the crushing events of 66-70A.D. that saw the destruction of the Temple and Jerusalem .

In like terms, Jesus speaks to us. Let us not think that we are better than the Jewish community of faith who rejected Jesus’ claims to be the Messiah. Let us repent of our wayward ways, turning to God afresh in repentance and be committed to His purpose in our own day.

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Issue 22: Transformational and Transactional Leadership

“Good leaders make people feel that they’re at the very heart of things,
not at the periphery. Everyone feels that he or she makes a difference
to the success of the organisation. When that happens people feel
centred and that gives their work meaning.”
Warren Bennis

Concepts of Transformational and Transactional Leadership differ in regards to the dynamics used between leaders and their followers to produce effective work relationships and greater productivity.

Transactional Leadership

Transactional leaders approach followers with an eye to exchange one thing for another. The nature of the transaction may vary from organisation to organisation, dependent on the nature of the work to be done and the historic relationship between leaders and followers. It can involve pay for work done and bonuses for extra effort. My son, for instance, at one stage worked for a company that paid a basic hourly rate for 80% effort and bonuses for greater effort (between 80 and 110% effort).

A transactional leader will interact with followers in one or more of three ways to affect a series of exchanges or implicit contracts:

  1. The transactional leader recognises what it is that followers want from work; and helps them to see that those wants will be satisfied if their performance warrants it.
  2. The transactional leader exchanges rewards and the promise of rewards in return for effort expended by the follower.
  3. The transactional leader is responsive to the self-interest of the follower if it can be met by getting the job done.

Essential components of transactional leadership are:

Contingent Reward: an active exchange relationship between leader and follower whereby rewards are contingent upon the achievement of some task or fulfilment of some obligation.

Management-by-Exception: involves a process of corrective criticism, negative feedback and negative reinforcement. It takes two forms:

Passive – involves a transaction relationship whereby the leader only intervenes if something is wrong, or standards or results are not achieved. This is a hands-off approach to leadership. However, it does not involve any positive reinforcement for work well done, except for the transaction that has been agreed upon.

Active – involves a transaction relationship whereby the leader closely watches followers for potential mistakes or rule violations and then takes corrective action. This is a more hands-on approach. However, it does not seek to provide positive reinforcement, but assumes that the workers will default on their part of the agreement and waits for that default to occur.

An example of transactional process can be seen with the Australian unions and award system. It defines the basic or minimum level of transaction that is authorised to take place. This does not necessarily prevent the use of transformational leadership dynamics, but does make it a more complex process.

Transformational Leadership

Bean Man Pointing UpA transformational leader also recognises the needs of a potential follower, but he or she goes further, seeking to satisfy higher needs to engage the full person of the follower.

These leaders inspire followers to transcend their own self-interests for the good of the organisation, and are capable of having a profound and extraordinary effect on their followers. They do this by focusing the follower on the higher collective purpose, mission, or vision of the organisation. This results in a transformation of the follower. To do this such leaders:

  • pay attention to the concerns and developmental needs of individual followers;
  • change followers’ awareness of issues by helping them to look at old problems in new ways;
  • raise the follower’s level of awareness and consciousness about the importance and value of proposed outcomes and ways to achieve them;
  • excite, arouse and inspire followers to put out extra effort to achieve group goals;
  • inspire followers to transcend their own self-interest for the sake of the organisation or team;
  • enable followers to understand the nature of their needs and thereby alter or expand the follower’s perception of their portfolio of needs;
  • challenge followers to consider their longer-term needs to develop themselves, rather than their needs of the moment.

This transcendence calls the follower to seek the long-term satisfaction of his or her higher needs at the cost of a short-term suspension of his or her lower needs.

Whilst transactional leadership results in expected outcomes, transformational leadership results in performance that goes well beyond what is expected. The followers of transformational leaders find inspiration and encouragement to give far more of their potential and resources than can ever be achieved through transactional leadership.

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Issue 21: A New Creation

“Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation;
old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.”
2 Corinthians 5:17

A Caterpillar on a LeafIn 2 Corinthians 5:16-21 Paul proclaims that when we are reconciled to God through a relationship with Jesus Christ that we become a new creation . However, many people feel that they are not good enough to be accepted by God because of the things they have done and the attitudes they have held.

Some say that the church’s roof might fall down if they enter it. My response is always that we have reinforced the foundations and walls especially for them .

What Paul tells us however is, that through Jesus Christ, God receives all people no matter what they have done. In coming in repentance to God and receiving Jesus Christ as their Lord and Saviour they become entirely new people. Paul adds that the past has gone! It does not matter what they have done, God wipes the slate clean.

Winkie Pratney talks of a Christian woman who lived next to a mafia godfather. This man resisted any attempts to her witnessing to him about Jesus Christ. However, this man became ill and she acted out her Christianity by taking him meals.

She was a particularly good cook and when the man recovered he told her that he would give anything to her that she would like.

She invited him to dinner and said she would tell him after dinner what she would like. After dinner she said she would like him to come to a service at her church that held its services in a café.

As he was an honourable man he agreed to her request, went to the service and was the first one down to the front at the call for salvation. He gave his heart totally to God and became a witness to Jesus wherever he went. He had become an entirely new person through Jesus Christ.

Certainly most of us are not mafia god-fathers and we live a pretty good life caring for others as the opportunity arises. Paul tells us that indeed he was extremely good in his life and perfect in keeping the Jewish laws. However, he also cries that he was the worst of sinners because of his rejection and persecution of Jesus.

Paul also adds that the purpose of our becoming new creations in Christ is so we can be ambassadors for God – proclaiming His love and forgiveness to a lost and forlorn humanity. One of the outcomes of seeking God, either as one coming for the first time or one who has come decade after decade, is a deeper relationship with God. A relationship that also deepens our love and purpose to see humanity brought into the kingdom of God.

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