JOY AND THE ART OF CELEBRATING CHRISTMAS

MOSAIC MEMOIRS 2014 

MOSAIC MEMORIES 2014 Part 1 of 4

Christmas 2013 at Harvest was themed Faith, Hope and Joy. Joy would be a major theme throughout 2014. Our youth rocked a Party On theme from January to March and we started the year with a preaching series called The Art of Celebration; a title which we got from the Irish folk band Rend Collective. We would conclude the year with a Carols Old and New Christmas theme in which we borrowed a lot of the creative concepts and music style from Rend Collectives new album Campfire Christmas.

THREE KEYS TO CELEBRATING CHRISTMAS

As I reflect on 2014, in this series of mosaic memoirs, I want to suggest three keys to the art of celebrating Christmas. The first key is exactly that, that we would recap and remember the past. The second key is about prophetic vision, promise, and a focus on the future that the Promisor offers us. It’s a faith in Christ and the hope that we have in Him as our coming King as we prepare our hearts for His advent.

As we reflect on a year past, joy is our main key. Perhaps your past has had some valleys this year or perhaps your future seems dark and bleak – the joy of the Lord remains our strength. The key, though not always easy, is to continue to rejoice in Him regardless of our past, present or potential circumstances.

MOSAIC MEMORIES

We started 2014 with hosting guest speaker and musician Andre De Villiers who is famous for his VW TV Advert song Memories;

I remember the days of my life
I recall the faces- mostly yours
Magic moments – life was a mystery
There’s no place on earth that- we’d rather be

Andre shared his life story which has had many ups and downs – but he starts his story with this line “Jesus is the kindest person I have ever met!” Through it all Andre realized, as we pass through this life, that Jesus is our Redeemer, full of grace and kindness, who was shamed for the crime of the world so that we would be forgiven.

The song Memories finishes; “This is my life, And I’m passing on the Memories”. We are called to pass on the memories of the joy of knowing Christ as our redeemer and to celebrate Him in our lives.

300 AND THE ART OF VISION

We also started 2014 with a vision of 300 people coming to know Jesus as their Redeemer, Lord and Saviour and as a testimony to their faith to be baptized. We held monthly Open Days of Prayer to pray for revival and the vision of these 300 baptisms, and though I confess we lost count, we had the joy of celebrating I’m sure well over 300 baptisms throughout our Sunday Celebrations, our Easter Sunrise service at Hobie Beach, in our group life and through our various missions partners. Many came to find their destiny and future hope in Christ this year.

WHY JOY?

Joy is when our hearts are content, confident and hopeful. It is found in a source of delight stirred by a sense of our well-being, success, or blessing. Christ’s Beatitudes speak of the exceedingly blessed position we now have in Christ. Jesus concludes in Matthew 5:12 by saying although we may face persecution, “Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven…” Paul exhorts in Philippians 4:4-5 “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand…”

One of my fondest memories of 2014 was at our Young Adults Leaders Weekend Away themed 300 and The Art of Celebration. We traveled out to a seaside holiday home and one of the nights we went down to the river where the team danced and played in the glow-in-the-dark phosphorus. There is so much about the nature of God that can release joy in our hearts. Creation is one of them, dance and song another, grace, love, forgiveness, freedom of worship, victories, breakthroughs, blessings, promises and the hope that we have in Him. He is our Joy.

JOY IS A SONG

“And the singers sang aloud, with Jezrahiah their overseer. Also that day they offered great sacrifices, and rejoiced: for God had made them rejoice with great joy: the wives also and the children rejoiced: so that the joy of Jerusalem was heard even afar off.”

Nehemiah 12:42-43.

These are some of the lyrics from Rend Collective’s song Joy from the Album The Art of Celebration.

We’re choosing celebration, Breaking into freedom,
You’re the song, You’re the song of our hearts.
We cast aside our shadows, Trust You with our sorrows,
You’re the song, You’re the song of our hearts
We’re dancing to the rhythm of Your heart,
We’re rising from the ashes to the stars.
 
You’re the joy, joy, joy, lighting my soul.
The joy, joy, joy, making me whole.
Though I’m broken, I am running into Your arms of love.
 
The pain will not define us, Joy will reignite us.
You’re the song, You’re the song of our hearts.
The dark is just a canvas, for Your grace and brightness,
You’re the song, You’re the song of our hearts
We’re dancing to the rhythm of Your heart,
We’re rising from the ashes to the stars

You’re the joy, The song in my heart, The hope of my soul.
In the shadows, In the sorrows, In the desert, When the pain hits.
You are constant, Ever-present, You’re the song of my heart.

SO, MARCH

Throughout March 2014 we had many events and courses; a family camp, family courses, Worklife training, a picnic, a girls nights out, a worship event and the casting of a prophetic vision to literally geographically Walk the Great Commission. What stands out, in concluding this memoir, is 4 sermon titles from the month of March 2014; I Have Decided to Follow Jesus, Party On!, Attitude Matters and Salvation Matters.

Our hearts Joy in Jesus is the Art of Celebrating Christmas.

This is the art of celebration,
Knowing we’re free from condemnation.
O praise the One, praise the One,
Who made an end to all my sin.
Rend Collective – Boldly I Approach (The Art of Celebration) 
from the Album The Art of Celebration.

Because Jesus Christ was born over 2000 years ago, because of what He has done for us in the past, because of the great future He has secured for us, and because He is coming back for us, that is why we celebrate Christmas.

May you know the joy of knowing Him like never before this Christmas.

 

RESOURCE LINKS

CHECK OUT Rend Collective’s The Art of Celebration Story

THE GREATEST MISSION EVER: REPLAY 2013 > MULTIPLY

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We kicked off the year with a vision to Multiply by fulfilling the greatest mission on the face of the planet to ‘make disciples who make disciples’. Our Celebration of Servanthood series with Ps. David Cape took us to the streets one night for a ‘Spontaneous Encounters of Goodness’ outreach where we went out simply to be a blessing to others.

In February, the Joshua Zone Young Adults Leadership Team went away to a holiday home in Oubos where we had a great time doing Survivor challenges, pizza competitions, bonfire worship on the beach. I shared the heart around the Multiply Movement by Francis Chan and David Platt and also what I felt the Lord was stirring in me for the year, namely;

FOCUS

Simplify and cut out all the stuff that burdens us as we focus on what God is calling us to. It helps to focus on the vision, mission and strategy of the local church that you have been positioned in. For us that was among other themes an emphasis on serving and missions.

FANATICAL DISCIPLINE

We need to commit ourselves to a culture of devotion and learning, a culture of prayer, fasting and worship and of a balanced lifestyle of health and fitness. Healthy things grow and it is only when we get our discipline and devotion right that we will see the fruit of multiplication and the seed we sow.

SOW MORE SEED

We need to sow more seed and ‘be a bringer’ – invite friends to church and to small group and have a culture of reaching out, inclusivity and discipleship. Sow the word of God, sow seeds of love, peace, joy, prayer and of the Holy Spirit. We will never multiply unless we sow more of the right seed…

And if we don’t get it right then we need to continue to ask the Holy Spirit to empower us for next year, as we sow more of the seed that God supplies, and to trust the Lord of the Harvest to grow and multiply it.

‘He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness.’ 2 Corinthians 9:10

There’s a poem that somebody sent me that carries the heart of our church for 2014 as we draw people into our circles to experience the celebration, the party and the victorious life we have in Jesus Christ.

POEM by Edwin Markham

He drew a circle that shut me out

Heretic, a rebel. A thing to flout

But Love and I had the wit to win:

We drew a circle that took him in!

Churches grow larger, deeper, broader, warmer and stronger as we magnify Christ, as we be on His mission, as we draw people into His family, help them to become like Him and to serve His purpose on the earth. The greatest mission ever continues in 2014…

The Fight We’re In

20130103_This Battle We InMy latest favorite lyrics are from the bonus track ‘Arise’ from the Hillsong United Zion album (Deluxe Edition).

The fight we’re in
Has already been won

Arise
For the kingdom has come

Many of us walk around down and defeated, and while the challenges and trials of life are real, the hope and victory we have in Christ should be seen as evident fruit by how we respond to life’s troubles. The attitude in which we tackle the battle is key to how we represent Christ and His kingdom.

But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 15:57 ESV)

The only way we can show our victory in the midst of trials is through the fruit of the Holy Spirit in us, by His power. In Him we are more than conquerors and the joy of the Lord is our strength.

For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world— our faith. (1 John 5:4 ESV)

Our churches vision and mission declares this truth. Our vision is to Take Ground for Christ & His Kingdom and our mission is Drawing the Lost to Christ, the Found to Victory and Being a Resource to Others. Our heart is to impart the victorious life of Christ to those who have been found in Him and to continually pray;

Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. (Matthew 6:10 ESV)

So today whatever fight you’re in, fix your eyes on the One who has won the battle for us and arise for His kingdom has come!

LISTEN TO ‘ARISE’ HERE

Dream On…

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WHAT’S YOUR VISION – WHAT ARE YOU DREAMING? What promises are you holding on to?

Recently our church had a leadership conference called Dream On… 

We felt to stir our leaders to keep on dreaming; either the dream that has dwindled or to start to dream again the new thing that God is stirring in their hearts. Below is an excerpt from the conference welcome letter by our Lead Pastor John Scholtz:

We all carry dreams in our hearts of what may be in the future in the place where God has called us. They are genuine dreams, dreams, which God has put there.

For many the journey has been long and hard. The dreams may have led to disappointments and hurts and heartache, but God wants us to “Dream on…”

We need to re-discover the deep secret dreams that we each carry, dreams that have all but died, but need to live on.

Never let it be said that to dream is a waste of one’s time. For dreams are our realities in waiting. In dreams, we plant the seeds for the future.

PROVERBS 29:18 Where there is no prophetic vision the people cast off restraint, but blessed is he who keeps the law.

Below are some points and thoughts that were stirred in my heart as I considered this topic.

GOD’s VISION The POWER of PROPHECY and Supernatural Dreaming…

ACTS 2:16-18 But this is what was uttered through the prophet Joel [2:28-29]: 17 “‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams; 18 even on my male servants and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy.

BOLD VISION SUCCEEDS YOUR DREAM – Dream big and pass on the vision to other in order to leave a legacy.

SET PRACTICAL STEPS TO FULFIL YOUR DREAM – Ask yourself ‘what must I do to achieve the vision through short term goals?’ Action trumps everything!

FAMILY VISION: DREAM MARRIAGE – The secret to success is being of one heart and vision. Consider and consult your family when setting goals – you can’t do it alone!

STRENGTH: POWER UP AND DREAM ON… Prioritise praise in God’s presence, as you abide in His strength and power He will direct our paths as we pursue the vision that He has given us.

WHAT AM I DREAMING? Actively Communicate Kingdom through Admin Support, Creative Comms, Teaching Tools, Strategic Service.

HOSPITALITY 102 : BE A GOOD HOST

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What does it mean to be a good HOST? Hospitality is like stewardship! Where we are called to faithfully steward the wealth and talents that God has entrusted to us, we are also called to faithfully serve the people God puts in our lives. An acrostic to help us be a good HOST:

1. Have a HEART for People: We need to have a big heart for God and His People; it’s the Great Commandment. If we get God’s heart we will have His Extravagant Love for People1 John 4:19 says we love because He first loved us. (Read 1 John 4 to be stirred by God’s perfect love).

2. Open your Homes: Our spiritual homes which are our local churches, our small groups, our own homes, and even as we huddle together within a crowd – any place where we are able to open up our space to other people, to come in, and feel welcome and at home.

3. Serve People: Whether with food, drinks or ministry in general, we need to serve people with the extravagant love and compassion that Jesus modeled for us. It’s through serving that we become a Resource to Others and we Touch the World.

But, these three points would be absolutely purposeless if we don’t…

4. Talk it Over: We are all called to GO and make disciples of all Nations, baptizing them and then what…?

Teaching them to obey all that Jesus has taught us. We need to tell others, teach them about Jesus and then Talk it Over within a safe, intimate, loving community. The ultimate purpose of community, and the hospitality that we extend to others, is to see changed lives.

So, therefore we need to go and we need to be good hosts.

  • To have God’s Heart for People,
  • To Open your Homes,
  • To Serve People wherever you see a need, and
  • To Talk about Jesus wherever you may GO.

Hospitality is about how we GREETSEAT and TREAT our visitors, strangers, or even our own family – Anyone that comes into our home. Our Welcome Team (greeters, ushers, info desk, hospitality teams) need to be trained in the simple art of hospitality; in our openness, as we smile and greet people, through our warmth and caring attitudes, as we supply direction and information with clarity and kindness.

Are you being a good host? Are you being a good steward of those that Jesus has entrusted to you?

Originally posted in COTN Voices 

HOSPITALITY 101: THINK VISITOR

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HOSPITALITY is a biblical value! Ps. David Cape, early in the first term of 2013, shared his Celebration of Servanthood series at Harvest. We have also been asking our members to sign up to serve here at Harvest, specifically in our Welcome Team. We have a vision to continue to make our Sunday Celebrations as welcoming for our family and first time guests as possible. And so, in that light, I felt to blog my notes from my first preach ever at Harvest, titled HOSPITALITY: THINK VISITOR

Do you remember what it was like when you first walked into a Church for the very first time? How did you feel?

How did you feel when you walked in and were greeted at the door? How did you feel when you were seated by the usher?

How did you feel when some Pastor asked you to put up your hand so that everybody knew you were visiting?

How did you feel when you looked around at the people worshipping, raising their hands, clapping, and singing songs you didn’t know the words to – with their eyes closed nog al.

Do you remember?

Hebrews 13:2 says “Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by doing so, some have unwittingly entertained angels.” Or in the Amplified “Don’t forget, neglect or refuse to extend hospitality”.

HOSPITALITY is a value that requires intimate fellowship and spontaneous ministry. It requires you to have an extravagant Love for people and a willingness to serve and to be a resource to others.

Romans 12:13 simply says “ Practice or show hospitality”.

In preparation for this talk, I got most of my notes from Tony Fitzgerald’s The Glorious Church series, in which he gives a common definition of hospitality; “Given to cordial and generous reception of guests.  Offering a pleasant or sustaining environment.” Tony suggests that for Christians the more appropriate definition is: “Cheerfully sharing food, shelter and spiritual refreshment with those God brings into my life.”

Hospitality means we recognize “family”.  And we need to recognize that it’s every believer’s responsibility. It’s a vital part of who we are as the Body of Christ, as we faithfully care for the people God has entrusted to us.

WE NEED TO BE GOOD HOSTS!

CLICK HERE to watch the message ‘HOSPITALITY: THINK VISITOR’.

ABIDE: Tapping into the Source of All

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After the SUN STAND STILL Worship & Prayer Event, which we hosted at Harvest on 14 April 2012, I began asking God, “What’s next?”

The word I got was ABIDE…

I initially felt the word was a personal one. But as I dug deeper into scripture and shared it with my Small Group leaders and others, we saw God confirm that word over and over again as a Word in season.

On Saturday, 15 September 2012 we hosted ABIDE: Sun Stand Still Worship Event. Our heart was for a creative, city-wide, multi-media worship event that again would stir ‘prayer and audacious faith as we abide in Him’.

Without abiding audacious faith is arrogance, presumption and pride in our own strength and ability, but if we abide in Him; audacious faith is courage and boldness as we trust that His Word and His promises are true first and foremost in scripture and then prophetically’.

A part of our mission at Harvest is that we would ‘Be a Resource to Others’. Tony Fitzgerald said, when he visited us in April 2012, “In order for us to be a resource we have to be tapped into the Source!” As we abide in Him, as we ‘Tap into the Source of All Things’ we are able to impart to others His Father-heart, His unconditional love, His power, His fruit, and all the goodness that comes from Him. That’s the key statement we put on all the T-shirts and branding; ‘Tapping into the SOURCE of ALL’.

‘He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by Him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities – all things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together’. Colossians 1:15-17

Jesus Christ is the source of all life and he holds all life together! Why would we not want to live every second of every day in his presence? For us to be a resource to others, to bear fruit and impart the abundant life of Christ to others we have to be tapped into the Source! Jesus is the True Vine, the source of all life, and we are the branches. As we live in Him, His life flows through us. Abiding is an active engagement in Him and a willingness to allow Him and His will to work through us.

ABIDE in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. … You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you [dare] to ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.’ John 15:4-5 & 16

ABIDE is about dwelling and living in Him, in His Word, His Spirit and in His Love.

For “In him we live and move and have our being’ (Acts 17:28 ). One of my work colleagues joked about our Abide T-Shirt branding, saying; “May the Source be with you”. While I have appreciation for the movie reference, this isn’t Star Wars New Age philosophy. This is about the personal God of the universe dwelling in us by His Spirit, and wanting relationship with us. His promise; ‘I will abide in you as you abide in Me!’

How are you tapping into Jesus this year?

WATCH THE VIDEO CREATIVE OPENER

SUN STAND STILL: Prayer and Audacious Faith

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On Saturday, 14 April 2012, we hosted a SUN STAND STILL multimedia Worship & Prayer Event to stir prayer and audacious faith.

SUN STAND STILL: What Happens When You Dare to Ask God for the Impossible?’ is a book, resources and movement of prayer and audacious faith pioneered by Steven Furtick, Senior Pastor of Elevation Church.

In October 2011, our church hosted, for the 7th year in a row, Willow Creeks’ Global Leadership Summit. Pastor Steven Furtick was one of the speakers that stirred us, with his message of ‘audacious faith’ in which he challenged us to ‘dig some ditches’ and dare to believe God for the impossible.

As 2012 began, I felt that as a ministry we needed to be seeking and trusting God more in prayer and fasting. One of the key scriptures for our young adults ministry is Joshua 1:9 , where God commissions Joshua to take hold of the Promised Land, saying, “Be bold and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you GO.”

This parallels so appropriately with the Great Commission; ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Jesus’, who by His Holy Spirit dwells in us, empowering us to ‘GO and make disciples of all nations’ … and “lo”, He concludes, “I am with you always, even to the end of the age”…

It was with this confidence, knowing that God was with him, that Joshua was stirred to audaciously declare to the Lord in the midst of battle, “Sun, stand still at Gibeon, and moon, in the Valley of Aijalon.” And the sun stood still, and the moon stopped, until the nation took vengeance on their enemies. Joshua 10:12-13

As an Apostolic Kingdom advancing family of churches, can we have that same audacious confidence in the God that lives inside of us? Believing with full conviction what Paul says in Ephesians 3:20-21 – ‘Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.’

The three steps to having audacious faith, according to Steven Furtick, are:

1. Seize God’s Vision: “If the size of the vision for your life isn’t intimidating to you, there’s a good chance that it’s insulting to God”. God’s vision for your life is bigger than you think it is.

2. Activate Your Faith: “Audacious faith is not wishful thinking, it’s active belief in God, joined with participation in His purpose”. Sun Stand Still prayers are not passive; we need to push while we pray. Faith without works is dead.

3. Make your Move: On the authority of God’s Word we need to step out and GO! With audacious, bold, courageous faith, we need to believe the promise of Jesus when He says;

“Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father. Whatever you [dare to] ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son”John 14:12-13

What is the Sun Stand Still prayer God wants you to pray?

For more info go to www.sunstandstill.org

WATCH SUN STAND STILL PROMO VIDEO

Originally Posted on COTN Voices in 2012.

Flesh and Bones

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I wrote an article a few years ago speaking about the danger of gullible Christians believing everything and anything they hear or read. How much more is that a reality with the accessibility of teachings from different schools of thought through the Internet, podcasts and many other publications?

As leaders we need to guard our flock against false teaching and disciple them into maturity so that they are not tossed around by every wave of doctrine. (2 Peter 2:1-3 , 1 Timothy 1:3-7 & 6:3-5, Ephesians 4: 13 -15)

However, we need to be teachable and continue, as we grow, to have an attitude of learning. As Spirit-filled Christ-followers who ‘have the mind of Christ, we need to spiritually discern spiritual things’. (1 Corinthians 2:14-16 )

Tony Fitzgerald in his introduction to The Glorious Church DVD series said of Church of the Nations; “We’re not an organisation… we’re a family… we also feel a real call to serve as much as the body of Christ as we can, and also learn from the wider body of Christ.

One of the people I’m learning from, in this season, is Ps. Steven Furtick, who we were introduced to at the Global Leadership Summit 2011, with his inspiring teaching about audacious faith. One of their core values as a church is a quote I’ve heard Tony Fitzgerald, John Scholtz and other Church of the Nations leaders use; We Eat the Fish and Leave the Bones’. Furtick says, “We will always maintain a posture of learning. We seek to learn from everyone and incorporate a variety of influences into our methodology”.

There are healthy tensions in our walk as Christ-followers, a tension as we commit ourselves to learning and discerning. There is a tension as we are guided in spirit and in truth, in the Word and Spirit of God. Reading scripture without spiritual discernment leads to destruction. (2 Peter 2:1 & Luke 24: 25a)

One of my favourite scriptures, frustrating and yet filled with hope is Acts 1:3 ; ‘He presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God’.

Full stop. For forty days Jesus spoke to His disciples about the Kingdom of God, and the Bible doesn’t tell us what He said. Or maybe in some way it does? The verses that follow give us hope that we may be able to know these mysteries, through ‘the promise of the Father, the baptism with the Holy Spirit’ (Acts 1:4-5 ).

As flesh and bones, spiritual discernment is impossible and our learning dangerously destructive. But as Spirit-filled Christ-followers we are able to have the mind of Christ, to eat the flesh and spit out the bones.

Who are you learning from?

Gareth David Hogg www.harvest.co.za / For a list of a people I’m learning from check out my notes on Facebook:www.facebook.com/garethdavidhogg

Originally Posted on CotN Voices in 2012.