Branching Out

The continuing growth and development of Tree of Life Church

Self-Centeredness (Barry Bennett)

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This week we have a post that I read on Facebook this week, by Barry Bennett.  It’s a powerful word on self-centeredness.  It will change you if you let it!  Grace and peace, Benjamin

Self-Centeredness

What is self-centeredness? When we focus on our perceived needs and wants over all else, we are self-centered. Self-centeredness is the result of the perception of self being deprived of something it wants.

The self-centered person has established their emotions, feelings and desires above the needs around them. Everything revolves around their feelings about others or their circumstances. Rather than seeing themselves as a channel of God’s grace and blessing to others, they establish themselves as the center of life. Offenses come easily, as does strife and frustration.

It’s our self-centeredness that turns a want into a need and then that need into a personal crisis. Your life will follow your focus, and if you focus on yourself you will never be free to live out your purpose in Christ.

For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there. (James 3:14-16)

Self-centeredness bears the fruit of confusion and evil. It is sowing to the flesh, and corruption is the result.

Meditate on this word from Isaiah and abundant life and joy will find you.

“Loose the bonds of wickedness, undo the heavy burdens, let the oppressed go free, And break every yoke. Share your bread with the hungry and bring to your house the poor who are cast out; When you see the naked, cover him.”

“Then your light shall break forth like the morning, Your healing shall spring forth speedily, And your righteousness shall go before you; The glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard. Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer; You shall cry, and He will say, ‘Here I am.’ “If you take away the yoke from your midst, The pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness, If you extend your soul to the hungry And satisfy the afflicted soul, Then your light shall dawn in the darkness,
And your darkness shall be as the noonday. The LORD will guide you continually, And satisfy your soul in drought, And strengthen your bones; You shall be like a watered garden.” (from Isaiah 58, personalized)

It’s time for a grace revival!

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It is time for the United Kingdom to have a revival of grace.  It won’t be brought about by begging and pleading with God to give us grace because all the grace was given through Jesus Christ 2000 years ago.  It will be brought about by us getting so aware of the message and letting it sink into our minds so deeply we can’t help talk about it, we can’t help but share it, we can’t help but realize it and glow with it.

It won’t come about through a superstar TV evangelist.  Or a single conference that hypes everyone else and then leaves them lonely and scattered – another powerful event that fails to impact the processes of life.

It will come about through local churches that grasp the complete work, love people for who they are, and inspire and challenge them to build their lives not on their works but on the complete work of Christ.

It won’t come through emotions or hype or manipulated worship.  It will not come through choruses begging God to show His power.  It will come through a settling down peaceful surrender to His complete work and His grace and goodness.

It won’t come through offended people who are kicking against the church because they are far too “mature” for it.  It will come through humble people who are committed to the church because they know that it needs them and they need it to be all they can be – even if they sometimes disagree with it – and they love Christ’s body as much as Christ’s head because the world will know we are disciples of Christ as we love one another.

The Rawness of Grace and the Mystery of Iniquity!

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Some people are terrified of the rawness of God’s grace. God’s grace isn’t a little bit of grace just in case you need it. God’s grace is the full love and heart of God for everyone – the vilest sinner; the most religious, condemning Pharisee; the most arrogant, strident atheist, the preacher who condemns his church for rebellion while sordidly manipulating the female members of the church into having adulterous affairs with him; the lonely, pathetic old man sitting in front of his computer watching staged sex shows; the child who simply will not do what they are told; the child who takes a gun into school and shoots six of his friends for “fun”; the child who is living a double or triple life; the lady who has had multiple abortions; the man who is cruising the streets looking for other men; the man plotting to set a bomb off in the middle of a shopping centre because other people refuse to see his theological or political paradigm.

All of them are loved and adored by God. On the cross Jesus Christ once and for all completely and totally paid the perfect price for their actions, their faults and their life.

We need to understand that sin, transgression and iniquity mean three different things. Sin is an old archery term that means to miss the target – we have all sinned and fallen short. To sin is to get up, intending to live right, intending to live for God, intending to love our wife, intending not to shout at our children, intending not to watch pornography, intending not to swear at our employees, intending not to judge and manipulate people through fear and guilt. Our intentions are pure, our heart is willing, but we miss it. Something happens, and triggers our flesh, and boom we fall short of what we wanted to do.

All of us have experienced this in one area or another. All of us know the pain of striving to hit a target of holiness and fail.

Transgression is a different word. It means to deliberately cross a line. This isn’t the person who is trying to live right and fails, this is the person who simply doesn’t care. This is the person who intends to go to work and yell at everyone until they get their own way. This is the person who comes home from work intending to beat their children to relieve the stress their twelve hour shift has caused them. This is the person who logs on to the computer deliberately to find obscene images. This is piling on lie after lie to cover up your weakness.

And the fact is if you are honest, we have all been there too. There have been days where over a certain issue you don’t even care if you are aiming for God’s best or not. You just don’t give a rip about God, about His will, about whether your actions are going to hurt or destroy other people. You are just going to do what you want, when you want, the way you want.

The finally there is iniquity. It is interesting that in many languages the word for “twisted” ends up being synonymous for the word for “wicked”. In English, the word wicked originally meant twisted – a candle “wick” is twisted, a “wicker” basket is twisted to make it, and a “wicked” person was a twisted person. It is the same in Hebrew, and the word translated iniquity means twisted around and around.

If you continually cross the lines of good and evil, if you continually ignore the still, small voice in your heart to follow the loud, screaming, tantruming voice of your carnality, if you continually ignore the hurt and pain on other’s faces as you manipulate, intimidate and dominate them for your own gratification, then eventually you become blind to the line. You lose your ability to know what is right and what is wrong. You are no longer trying to be kind, you are trying to be cruel because to you that is right now. You don’t care about values, you care about yourself. You are frustrated at people who know there is a line because to you that is old-fashioned, that is repressive, that is evil. You all good evil and evil good. You justify murder as choice, immorality as genetic and bitterness as looking out for number one, because “who else would?”

Now everyone reading this understands iniquity. Not just through the detached observation of others but because at times in your own life you have felt that there is no hope, no line, and in some areas you have lived as if there is no line. And no one understands it better than religious people, as they wipe out the line, claim God told them to, and get on with their arrogance, and judgementalism and putting people down and oppressing and using them in the name of Jesus!

Now, in an attempt to balance grace because of a timidity to face up to the implications of this amazing grace, this ridiculous amount of love and mercy; some people will say that grace always leads to better behaviour, that grace must end up in a changed life; and they express it – either explicitly or implicitly – like this: God only forgives us when we are trying our hardest. God cannot forgive deliberate sin. If you become a Christian, you will always want to follow God and always try your hardest, and even when you sin, you were trying.

It’s nonsense. It’s crap (to use a term from Pauline theology). It’s offensive, unrealistic, untried, unreasonable, nonsense. There is absolutely no Christians who only sins. All Christians have transgressed God’s Word and will, who have deliberately failed to love the world the way Christ did. All Christians have replaced some of the boundaries and nature of the love of God poured out in their heart, and acted in rudeness and selfishness and called it love.

But here is the good news. Here is the truth about grace. Here is the ridiculous, outrageous truth of God’s grace. Here is the only place the power of God is found:

He was crushed for our iniquities (Isa. 53.5)

5 Reasons You Should Be at Tree of Life Church THIS WEEKEND*

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5.  Tree of Life Church in Guildford has the best cup of tea you could imagine.  Seriously – they have amazing tea.  Worth the trip just for the tea.

4.  Tree of Life Church in Watford is on Saturday night, so you can go to church and not think about the fact you have to go to work tomorrow (unless you work on Sunday, but then you can go on Saturday and not miss church!)

3.  Tree of Life Church in Dagenham is in a cinema, with a huge screen, comfy chairs and you can buy yourself (and your friends and children, and whoever) popcorn before you go in to the service.

2.  This Sunday morning I am going to be doing the Macarena during the worship, during the first song – if you want to see that you need to turn up on time.

1.  At all three services this weekend, Arthur Meintjes, founder of Kingdom Life MInistries, will be preaching.  He is one of the lecturers at Charis Bible College, and just an amazing speaker on the complete work of Christ, His grace and love for us, and our new identity in Him.  I guarantee the service will inspire, challenge and encourage you!

*One of these five reasons is not true.

I Called You To Dream!

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This morning I woke up tired.  I don’t know if you ever have days like that.  Looking at the to-do list (see www.benjaminconway.net for a post on to-do lists and ensuring your life is not moving at a manic pace) didn’t encourage me either.  I’ve had to drop out of a couple of tasks, and delegate some things.  Recently, Amanda and I have been delegating a lot of church work out to people to free up our time – so now I am having to decide what are the most important tasks, what do I have to hold dear to, and what do I let go of.

As all this is happening this morning, and my head is in a fog – I hear the Lord speak so clearly to me: I CALLED YOU TO DREAM!  I called you to dream.  The Bible says that God will do more than we ask or imagine, in some modern translations it says God will do more for us than our biggest dreams.  But for God to do more than our dreams we have to dream!

God wants you to dream big!  He wants you to have big dreams!  If your diary is too full to dream it is too full!  You need to have time to dream!  You need to dream! 

Here are three things which help me dream that God has taught me over the years, and which I am coming back to today:

1. Dreams are pictures painted by the words we speak.  To dream God size dreams you have to speak God’s Word out loud, and fill your heart and mouth with the Word.

2. Worry is the inverse of dreaming.  Worry is a picture of a negative future, dreaming is the picture of a positive future. Often the worry and the dream co-exist pulling us back and forward.  Learn to speak your dream not your worry and it will fade away, so only the dream is left pulling you forward.

3. When we are dreaming a God dream, there is an impatience that comes with it as our flesh responds with selfish ambition.  Trust me – when you start to walk in the dream, you’ll wish you dreamed more, thought more, prayed more, studied more, prepared more.  Get preparing for your dream now!  Whatever the dream is, it should be obvious the person you need to be to walk in that dream – start taking steps to be that person today.

Where Is the Miracle?

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When Jesus feeds the five thousand in John 6, a genuine miracle occurs… thousands of people fed with the lunch of a small boy.  Amazing!

But most people don’t realize the true message of this passage, the real greatness of the message.  If you read v. 41 you find Jesus broke the bread and then gave it to his disciples to feed the crowds.  The miracle happened, not in God’s hands, not in Jesus’s hands, but in the disciple’s hands.

Not only are there miracles in the world today, they are in your hands.  Multiplication is in your hands, healing is in your hands… that’s why we are told we can lay hands on the sick and they will recover, encouragement is in your hands, life is in your hands.  Stop what you are doing right now and look at your hands.  They hold miracles.  Miracles are there in your hands.

If you keep your hands in your pockets, you are keeping miracles in your pockets.  It’s time to work miracles so… do something with your hands.

I Have to Go and See this Preacher… Interrupted

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A number of years ago I was talking to my wife and planning my week.  I wanted to go to a certain conference, and it didn’t look like I could fit it into my schedule.  I told my wife “I have to go and see this preacher… I really want to go and see this preacher”…  

As I did I felt the Holy Spirit inside speak to me: “You’ve got that wrong!” he said in a small, still whisper I could barely hear.  I went over what I had said and couldn’t work out what was wrong with what I said.  So I took some time to pray and listen and the Holy Spirit explained to me that most people (including me at that time) want to see preachers.  We use visual language.  

But the power isn’t in a man – it’s in the words he speaks.  The words Jesus spoke are spirit, life and truth – that’s why we have 4 excellent records of what he SAID but there are no photos of him!  It’s not looks that matter, it’s words.  The Holy Spirit said you need to go and hear that preacher, not go see him.  You need to realize the power is in the words that he preaches, and the message.  This is confirmed by Romans 1.16-17 where Paul says the power is in the gospel, not in him.  Peter tells the crowds when the crippled man is healed – why do you look at me as if by my power the man was healed – but it is the name of Jesus that brings healing and salvation.

So now I don’t chase after men of God – I chase after their message.  I thought I was the only one who the Holy Spirit needed to refocus in this way, but after Heal the Nations I saw a lot of behaviour which shows that many, many people don’t know where the power is.  One lady thought the meetings were too far to travel to, and she was too busy, but she wanted me to drive one of the speakers to her house so they could pray for her in person.  The power isn’t in the prayer – it’s in the gospel, it’s in the message!  Another lady couldn’t make it as she was too busy, but asked me to invite one of the speakers to attend her wedding as that would make her wedding really anointed!  A pastor was very very disappointed that another one of our speakers couldn’t have lunch with her during the conference – there simply wasn’t time, but barely turned up for any meetings.  It’s all the same problem – the lack of realization that the power is in the messages.  I’ve seen people drive hours to have lunch with a preacher then drive back before their meeting… let me tell you the guy you have lunch with isn’t your spiritual father if you don’t listen to his messages.  

I know you want to see your favourite preachers, but you have to hear them!

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