The Power of Activation


It seems these days I often need to activate something. A new savings card arrives in the mail and needs activating. I sign up to a new loyalty program and get an activation email. You get a new SIM card for your phone and need to follow the activation steps. My kids get a new game and they want me to quickly activate it. I pick up a recipe and even the nuts and seeds need activating!

Activation switches things on, gives energy, initiates growth.

This idea has been on my mind a lot over recent weeks as I have been reflecting on what it means for followers of Jesus to live the kind of life they yearn for, but often don’t experience. What’s the missing piece? What might we need to activate in our lives?

In a great message at this year’s Hillsong Conference, Carl Lentz powerfully reminded delegates that followers of Jesus are meant to be Spirit-led, Spirit-fed people. Yet so often, for so many different reasons, we fail to live day to day as Spirit people, benefiting from all the Holy Spirit wants to do in our lives.

The reality is that I can’t become the person God wants me to be without the work of the Spirit. I can strive to bring transformation to my life, but it is only as the Spirit is activated in my life that I can grow and change and live and look more like Jesus.

Without the Spirit, I labour in my own strength and never experience the fruitfulness and impact that innately I desire to make. Without the work of the Spirit, I will not grow in the character qualities God wants to shape in me – things like peace, joy, patience and self-control. Without the Spirit at work in my life each day, I will not grow and make good use of the unique gifts God has deposited in me to make a difference in the lives of others, which ultimately brings glory to God.

Learning how to be filled (controlled and empowered) by the Holy Spirit by faith can be the most important discovery of our Christian lives.

Before Jesus’ death and resurrection, He promises His followers that they will not be left alone. He promises His Spirit “who will never leave you” (John 14:15-31). In Ephesians 5, Paul reminds us of the need to be regularly re-filled with the Holy Spirit. In Galatians 5, Paul highlights the vital importance of staying in step with the Holy Spirit.

In simple terms, without the Spirit activated in my everyday life I will not experience the “more” that God has in store for me – the “more” that I yearn for.


Spirit Barriers

Why do we miss out? My experience suggests there are a number of common reasons. There are a number of barriers that consistently hinder followers of Jesus from activating the work of the Spirit in their lives.

These include:

  • Ignorance – a lack of Biblical understanding about who the Spirit is and what He wants to do in our lives.
  • Control – when we fail to surrender our lives to Jesus.
  • Sin – where habitual sin continues to block the power and work of the Spirit.
  • Intellectualism – where we allow our natural minds to rule out the power and potential of the supernatural.
  • Religious tradition – where religious traditions get in the way of God being able to freely work in our lives.
  • Fear – when we fail to step out in faith and trust God to have his way in our lives.
  • Pride – when ego and self-focus gets in the way and life is more about us and our priorities than Jesus and His Kingdom purposes.
  • Familiarity – when faith in Christ becomes overly familiar and we lose sight of new possibilities and encounters with God.
  • Resistance – when we actively resist what God wants to do in our lives.
  • Others – when we are more concerned about pleasing others than letting God have His way.
  • Apathy – when we become spiritually lazy and give little time or attention to the work of the Spirit.
  • Guilt – where we haven’t experienced God’s forgiveness and are being weighed down by things from the past.

Today, is one or more of these issues getting in the way of what the Holy Spirit wants to do in your life?


The Crunch

Here’s the crunch! Every authentic follower of Jesus I have met wants genuine change in their lives. They want transformation. They innately know God has “more” for them. I know this is true in my own personal experience and this is where we all need a fresh encounter with the Holy Spirit.

In his introduction to Letters to the Young Churches, J.B. Phillips writes:

“The great difference between present-day Christianity and that of which we read in these letters, the New Testament epistles, is that to us, it is primarily a performance; to them it was a real experience. We are apt to reduce the Christian religion to a code or, at best, a rule of heart and life. To these people it is quite plainly the invasion of their lives by a new quality of life together. They do not hesitate to describe this as Christ living in them. This same first century power – the power of the risen, living, loving, indwelling Christ made known through the Holy Spirit – is still available to you today.”

The older I get, the more I seek to simplify my faith. So often we complicate Christianity. And yet the more we keep it simple, the more we open ourselves up to the transforming work of the Holy Spirit.

If you are a follower of Jesus then today the Holy Spirit is within you – but are we attuned to what He wants to do? Are we appropriating His power? Activating His gifts? Discerning His leading? Appreciating His comfort? Allowing Him to get on with the work of transformation?


I Can’t Manufacture Christ-Likeness

I can’t manufacture the fruits of the Spirit.

On my own, the voice of fear calls loudly. On my own, circumstances can become overwhelming. On my own, I can miss out on what God is doing all around me.

But with the Holy Spirit activated, with the power of Jesus at work within me, suddenly everything changes.

I open my life to character change. I open my life to expanding faith. I open my life to the strength, peace and resources of heaven. I open myself to God’s clear leading and direction. I experience the freedom and victory that Jesus won on the Cross. I position myself to experience the “more” God has for me – not more of what the world says I need, but more of Jesus that opens the door to life and life to the full!

When I get an activation email I can choose to ignore it, but this blocks my access and opportunity to the resources available to me.

The Holy Spirit is here – ready and waiting to “invade” our lives, our relationships, our marriages, our vocations, our churches and communities.


The Big Question

The big question – do we want to surrender our lives afresh and enable Jesus to invade our hearts and minds?

If like me you say “YES” to the above, then you may like to join me in this daily activation prayer: “Come Holy Spirit and have your way in my life.”

A Spirit-led life is not meant to be weird, spooky or crazy. Often those who make it that are focused more on themselves than Jesus. As we see in the Book of Acts, a Spirit-led, Spirit-empowered life is meant to be the norm.

I am a work in progress. I haven’t arrived. And thank God, Jesus is not finished with me yet!

“Come Holy Spirit” is a prayer that opens the door to the power of heaven – a prayer of activation – a prayer that God will answer when offered in faith.

Today, do you have some activating to do?


Scott Pilgrim

Lingering Longer!


When I first had dinner alone with my beautiful (now) wife, I remember the feeling of wanting the night to go on. I enjoyed being in her presence. I wanted to get to know her more. There was great conversation and laughter. I wanted to linger longer.

I’ve been pondering that word over recent weeks. Linger. It’s not a word that often comes out of my mouth. It’s not common in our everyday conversations.

While speaking recently at Crossway’s young adults retreat the word jumped out as the worship team led us in the song Touch of Heaven:

You have all my attention, I will linger and listen, I can’t miss a thing!

The songwriter is declaring his desire to intentionally spend more time than usual in the presence of God, wanting to give God his full attention; yearning to hear from God.

Over the past week since singing that one line, I’ve been lingering on the word itself – unpacking in my own mind what does it look like for me to linger more – both with God and in other areas of my life.

The dictionary defines linger like this: “to remain or stay on in a place longer than is usual or expected, as if from reluctance to leave.”

With that definition suddenly this one little word has become challenging.

When I worship, when I pray, when I open up the Scriptures, when I engage in other spiritual disciplines, when I get time out with God in the busyness of life, do I yearn to stay in this place longer than usual or expected – more so, do I have a reluctance to leave?

Often, I don’t! That’s the sobering reality for me and I don’t think I am alone in this.

We live such busy lives. We squeeze the margins. There is always competing demands. And yes, this pattern of life can all too quickly become our default and it becomes easy to play the busyness card in so many areas of life. And yet – as the Psalmist powerfully highlights – yearning will always trump busyness.

“You God are my God, earnestly I seek you;
I thirst for you, my whole being longs for you,
In a dry and parched land, where there is no water.”

The Psalmist goes on to demonstrate that he had learnt to linger – he had intentionally carved out patterns and practices that enabled him to spend habitual time with God.

As I sense was the Psalmist’s experience so it has been true for me – when I find the time to linger, yearning grows and when the yearning for more of God deepens, so the lingering becomes easier.

I have a mate who serves as a community chaplain. He describes his job and prayer in the same way – he says he “lingers with good intent”. He spends time in the same places in his local community, getting to know people, developing relationships, engaging in conversations, looking for opportunities to love and serve; seeking to live and model the good news of Jesus.

And as he says: “Prayer’s the same for me – I’ve learnt the more I linger in God’s presence with my eyes and ears open, the more I just keep turning up and giving him the time and space, the more I grow in my relationship with Him and the more I want to keep coming back for more.”

Calvin Miller penned many years ago that busyness was one of the “giants” that stood in the way of Christians growing in personal and spiritual intimacy with God. Fast forward to today and things have only got faster and faster for most of us in the 24-7-365 world we live in.

I have always found his dining metaphor helpful and challenging.

Miller says to many of us have become satisfied with “drive-through, fast-food” dining when it comes to how we see and spend time with God, compared to the picture of a long, candle-lit, unrushed dinner for two.

We don’t linger in a drive-through, but we do linger over a candle-lit dinner.

So, what does this mean for us in day to day life? I’ve been challenged afresh that it comes back to intentionality – it comes back to creating the time, space and habits that enable lingering to become more a part of everyday life.

What does it look like to linger a bit more each day with God in different ways, in different spaces? What does it look like to intentionally carve out some longer lingering time once a week or once a fortnight to go to a space where we can “catch our breath” with God?

It can be as simple as pausing for a few minutes to take in something around us – like I did this week when walking to work. I walk past a beautiful tree every day – but I sensed it was time to linger in the shade of the tree. I took a photo of the tree. I allowed my mind to run and ponder tree metaphors in the Scriptures. I found myself catching my breath under the tree’s canopy. It would have been so easy to quickly walk by, in a hurry to get to work – but I had time to slow, to pause, to linger.

So often we have the time but it’s about re-training our minds to take the time, in the midst of the rush of life.

Similarly, in my Life Group we have taken time over recent weeks to intentionally linger on one passage in the Gospels. We have encouraged each other to keep reading a familiar passage on a regular basis over a few weeks – to linger in it. It has been very encouraging to see how God has used this to speak, encourage and challenge us all in different ways.

Beyond time with Jesus, I’ve been challenged afresh to look more broadly at my habits and patterns and look at how I can intentionally linger more with my wife and kids. How can I relationally linger more with others God has put in my life. How, like my mate, can I linger more with good intent?

Let me leave you that one little word – linger. Lingering on the idea of lingering has been soul refreshing for me. I want my yearning for God and the things of God to continue to deepen and grow. It’s good to have been reminded again of the vital importance of lingering longer in this crazy, busy world!

Scott Pilgrim

God of the Unexpected


I’m no fan of cats. In fact, I think you can split the population into two groups. There are cat lovers and people like me.

So, there I was on my birthday a few years back, opening my gifts with a sense of anticipation. I had asked for a few special treats and then I came to this nicely wrapped big box. As I tore the paper the box seemed to move and yes, you know what’s coming. As I opened the box there was a four-week-old white ragdoll kitten.

“Surprise” my kids called out! “Surprise, we got you a kitten.” This was in fact code for “Dad we all really wanted a kitten, so we got you one for your birthday.”

Yes, that was a very unexpected surprise. It was something I wasn’t expecting. Despite my best efforts I didn’t become a feline lover and I don’t think I ever will.

As we approach Christmas for another year we find ourselves in a season where so often familiarity can rob us from experiencing something new.

Henri Nouwen wrote that Christmas is so often wrapped up in tradition, emotion and sentiment, and with this emphasis we can lose sight of the opportunity that the Advent season presents each one of us to experience something new from the God behind Christmas.

In reality, the Christmas message is a disturbing one.

God breaks into human history in the most surprising way. The Incarnation is full of surprises. God becomes flesh; Jesus, the Son of God, is born to poor parents in the backwater of a Bethlehem stable. The voice of God is encountered by ordinary people like Mary, Joseph, Elizabeth, shepherds and an inn keeper and their lives will never be the same again. Even the elite, like the Magi, are radically surprised when they follow the star to the stable.

A quirky friend of mine sent me a Christmas card a few years back that is hard to forget. There was no sanitised Christmas nativity or northern hemisphere snow images on the front cover. It simply had a full black cover with a very small white dot on the page. And I opened the card to read this message: “May the reality of the Incarnation disturb your comfort and surprise your world again this Christmas”.

No, it wasn’t a card that would sell big at the shops. It was all too real and confronting, but I loved it! I still do. It reminds me that Jesus didn’t come 2000 years ago to maintain the status quo. He came to redeem the world; to redeem my life; to open the door to hope; to new possibilities, new opportunities, new thinking, to call people to counter-cultural Kingdom living.

A young couple full of hopes and dreams have their lives turned upside down when the voice of God breaks into their world. Mary humbly and obediently makes herself available for God’s plans and purposes. Joseph moves out of his comfort zone and enters new territory, embracing God’s future for his life, abandoning his plans to embrace God’s life-transforming agenda.

At the heart of the Incarnation message is a surprising God.

Two thousand years ago, so many who longed for the Messiah missed Jesus’ coming because their lives were closed to surprises; they were closed to God moving in new and unexpected ways. Jesus’ arrival didn’t fit the script of the Jewish religious leaders. They were stuck in their “religious box” and they missed God breaking into human history. They missed the “more” God had for them.

This December are we ready for our Emmanuel God to surprise us? Are we open to being disturbed? Have we become stuck in our comfort zones and like the religious leaders of old, might we be missing out on the new things that God has for our lives, relationships, marriages, families, vocations and ministries?

I will happily pass on unwrapping another kitten, but I do want to be open to the new things, to the surprises God still has in store for me.

When God breaks into our lives afresh it can be challenging, stretching and costly, just ask Mary and Joseph. But, when we are open to God doing new things, when we are open to God’s surprises we position ourselves for the “more” Jesus has for each one of us – we open the door to the adventure of faith, the potential of new beginnings, the possibilities of Kingdom living and serving, the reality of hopes and dreams beyond our imagination.

You may want to join me this Christmas in praying: “Come Lord Jesus come; come afresh into my life and world. Here I am ready and available. Surprise me, use me!”

Scott Pilgrim

Go Out Into Deep Water


My five-year-old daughter Ada got out of the pool after her swimming lesson last week and her first words were: “I don’t like this new pool Dad. It’s too shallow.”

It was her first lesson at a new swim centre after a year at a different pool complex, where her lessons were in an Olympic size pool with deeper water. She was now in a smaller, shallow pool and Ada wasn’t a happy camper. She could touch bottom. She couldn’t jump in and go under. She yearned for deeper water. She was no longer satisfied with a shallow water experience.

In Luke 5 we read the account of Jesus calling his first disciples, including fisherman Simon Peter, James and John as he taught by the Sea of Galilee.

The fishermen had been working all night and had caught no fish. They would have been tired and looking forward to a rest, but as they encountered Jesus he called them to go back into the water to let down their nets.

I picture that Simon Peter would have had two competing voices in his head. As a seasoned fisherman, I imagine he would have questioned why Jesus would ask them to cast their nets again when they had been unsuccessful in their fishing overnight. And yet Simon has heard of Jesus. He knows he is a special man. He knows there is something unique about this teacher. He is different to others around him. So, Simon chooses to step out in faith, despite the circumstances. He chooses trust. He chooses obedience and a result he positions himself to experience the power of God in his life.

I am struck by these words in Luke 5:4 – “Now go out into deep water.”

For Peter to experience the “more” Jesus has for him, for Peter to turn his faith into action, for Peter to share in God’s miracle, he has to leave the shallow waters and head out to the deep. He has to go out on a limb and trust Jesus, despite the fact that humanly he probably doubted there were fish to catch.

This encounter challenges me about the need for followers of Jesus to be ready and prepared to “go out into deep water”.

We can become satisfied with “shallow water” faith. It can quickly become the norm in our Christian experience and we can miss out on so much of what God has for us. We can go through the motions, we can be active in ministry and serving others, we can do lots of good things, but we can be in control and do life and faith on our terms.

I know from my own experience and from chatting to many other Christians that most people yearn for more, but the longer we play in shallow water, the harder it is to leave.

And yet Jesus continues to call us to go out deep!

When Ada plays in shallow water she can touch bottom, she is in control, there is little risk. When she encounters deep water suddenly things are different. She no longer wants the safety of shallow water. She wants the adventure of deep water.

What does it mean in your life today to embrace “deep water”? Where might God be calling you out of your comfort zone? Where might God be calling you to choose trust and obedience, despite the circumstances? Where might God want you to leave behind “shallow water” and dare embrace the deep?

Having experienced the adventure of deep water Ada doesn’t want to go back to the shallows. May it be that we follow Jesus into the deep, where we abandon our control, put aside our agendas, give Jesus our fears and experience faith like never before.

When Peter pushes out into the deep and experiences the miraculous catch Luke records he was awestruck at what Jesus had done. It was a day he would never forget.

Audacious faith is risky. It calls us often to act despite the circumstances. But the results as we trust God can leave us awestruck as well.

Scott Pilgrim

Letting Jesus Take Control


Control. It’s something we all grapple with in life. Many of us like to try and stay in control of our lives, while for others life can seem like it is perpetually out of control. It’s a constant and life-defining challenge. What we do with this thing called “control” shapes our thinking, attitudes, actions, relationships and potential.

I’ve been reflecting on this over recent weeks in my own life with the help of two passages in the Gospel of Luke where we see two very different people flesh out the control challenge.

In the first story in Luke 7 we meet a man of influence – a high ranking Roman officer, a man who operates with power and position. The man has an urgent need; a highly valued slave is near death and the man of power is suddenly struck by the reality that despite his human influence there is nothing he can do in his own power to heal the dying slave.

The Roman official has heard about Jesus. He doesn’t fully appreciate who he is, but he does see him as the answer to his need. And so what does he do? In a beautiful and inspiring act of faith he humbles himself – he lets go of being “in control” – and he reaches out to Jesus. He invites Jesus to take control. He surrenders his needs and preferred outcome to Christ.

We read the officer’s humble words in Luke 7:7 – “I am not even worthy to come and meet you, just say the word from where you are and my servant will be healed.”

And Jesus’ response. He honours the man’s authentic faith and he acts and the slave is miraculously healed.

I always find this encounter challenging and refreshing. In a world where I am bombarded with the call to be “in control” I am challenged about the need to keep yielding control of my life and future to Jesus. I can easily be seduced by a world where I am told to put myself first, to make decisions that benefit me, to write my own script, to live tight-fisted, to pursue power and position. But the Roman officer – a representative of “in-control” living – suddenly reminds me of the need to remain humble, grounded, trusting and faithful.

Today are you living with the “in-control” default setting in life?

Are you feeling weighed down and stressed because you are seeking to do life in your own strength and according to your own script? Today, like the Roman officer, do you need to let go of control and hand it back to your loving and faithful God?

Yes some of us are held back in life because we always seek to be “in-control”, while for others life seems to always be “out of control”.

That was the situation in Luke 8. Starting at Luke 8:43, we read about a woman who had suffered from constant bleeding for more than a decade.

Luke paints a picture of desperation. Here is a woman with a physical health condition that in the culture of the day would have forced her to the margins. Beyond her physical condition she would have been emotionally stretched. She would have known the pain of isolation. She could find no cure, no answers. She lived on an emotional rollercoaster and she represents a life “out of control.”

You may feel that way today. You may feel like you can’t cope with much more at all. You may be stretched – physically, emotionally, relationally or financially. You may feel that things just seem to go from bad to worse. You may be feeling vulnerable and lonely, as I am sure the woman in Luke 8 did.

But here again is a great lesson and challenge for all of us. What does the woman do, having encountered the reality of Jesus in her midst? She reaches out to him. She – from a very different position to the Roman officer – dares surrender to him in the hope of change and healing. She positions herself in the crowd and despite her fears she touches Jesus’ robe in an act of beautiful faith and immediately her life is changed.

Just like in our earlier story, Jesus’ response is to honour and celebrate faith.

There it is. Faith. Ultimately, faith is yielding control. Ultimately, faith is letting go of living with an attitude of “in control” or “out of control”.

Faith in action says: “Jesus I need you to be in control”. I need your Holy Spirit to lead me in my good days and dark days. I need you to help me make wise choices, to trust in the Lord in challenging circumstances, to persevere when stretched, to have God-given confidence to seize new opportunities, to move beyond my comfort zone, to humbly listen to the voice of God, to seek first Kingdom priorities, to live with and model a generosity of spirit and grace.

One of my colleagues at Crossway shared this reflection recently: “As hard as it can be at times, I am learning that as I let go of trying to be in control, God can extend my influence. I have to keep asking myself do I want personal control or godly influence?”

That’s so good!

Today what are we pursuing in life? Do we always want to be in charge? Do we always want control? Or do we feel like we have no idea of what tomorrow will bring and life seems out of control?

In Luke 7 and 8 we meet two very different people, but we see the same life-transforming outcome as they humbly yield control to Jesus. Yes, it’s a cliché – but they both “let go and let God.” I need to do that more and more in my life. Maybe that’s also your challenge and prayer today!

Scott Pilgrim

In my opinion…

“Well in my opinion …” We’ve all heard those words many times before. We all know opinionated people, be it in our family, friendship or work settings. We all know people who are more than ready to offer their opinion on anything and everything – from politics to parenting – from their way of doing things to how we could shed some weight or improve some aspect of our life.

A wise old boss of mine used to say: “There will always be those ready to give you their opinion, but don’t chase opinion, seek wise counsel and good advice.” Brian Houston says: “Opinionated is like marinated. We are soaking in it.”

Yes, we are!

We live in a world of opinion overload. Much of our media has moved from news reporting to opinion sharing; much of it done in an arrogant, insulting tone that is intentionally aimed at creating community divides.

And all too often in our personal lives we can be negatively swayed by opinionated voices, someone we have become too prone to listen to, someone always willing to offer us their opinion, but with no regard for its impact on us.

I’m sure within the next 24 hours, after reading this post, be it in the staff room, the lounge room, the gym, the bus stop or school pick up you will engage with someone who will offer you their personal opinion on matters that they ultimately know little about. There is 100% guarantee of this happening on our social media feeds.

Mike Barnicle writes: “We live in a culture where everyone’s opinion, view and assessment of situations and people spill across social media, a lot of it anonymously, much of it shaped by mindless meanness and ignorance.”

Yes, in a world where we are bombarded with information; where we are saturated by media options, where we spend much time on social media and where many people are so quick to offer their opinion we need to be very careful about the voices we are listening to.

There will always be people ready to offer us their opinion. But wise people the Scriptures remind us are not quick to listen to the opinionated, but rather they seek out wise counsel, good, sound, helpful and trusted advice from people of integrity.


In Proverbs 12:15 we read: “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but he who listens to counsel is wise.” And in Proverbs 19:20: “Hear counsel and receive instruction that you may be wise.”

I’ve learnt that these wise words make such a difference in life. I know the mess I can get myself in when I try and please others too readily, act irrationally or listen to the opinions of others whose motives are poor or who want a quick fix or an easy win. In contrast, I am so thankful for the difference wise counsel brings to life – good advice from trusted people.

I was chatting with a colleague a few weeks back and they were sharing about how they had intentionally needed to make the tough choice to limit contact with a life-long close friend.

“He is in a very negative space and he was constantly speaking negativity and discouragement into my life. He was always criticising, always telling me what was wrong with other friends … always quick to offer his opinion … always quick to highlight deficits in my life … he was sucking life out of me.

There it is. Hear that sentence again: “He was sucking life out of me.”

I’ve learnt that wise counsel and good advice do just the opposite – they speak life into me, they strengthen me, they encourage me, they fuel the soul, they make me a better person.

And yes, even when such counsel may be challenging or difficult to hear, if I know it is coming from someone I trust and respect, someone I have invited to speak into my life because of their example and integrity, then I know the motive behind challenge or correction is always for my good. Their wise words are about building me up, never pulling me down; they are always seeking to expand my capacity, not box or limit me in my potential.

Here are three simple, but ultimately life-transforming questions to ponder this week:

Who is speaking most into my life? [People and platforms]

Who should I be listening to less?

Who should I be listening to more?

Yes, they are simple questions, but what a big difference the answers make in our everyday world, where the voices we listen to have such a big impact on our sense of worth, beliefs, attitudes, priorities and relationships.

I’ve found listening to less voices rather than more is vital.

I’ve learnt people who authentically reflect the character of Jesus to me are certainly worth listening to.

I’ve learnt I need to actively seek out wise counsel from trusted people who want to see me grow.

Ultimately, I’ve learnt that I need to listen to what my “Abba Father” says about me as a love and valued child of his.

Treasured Possessions

I have a number of keepsakes in my office that represent different stages of my life and they all carry memories from my past.

In the photo above, you will see two of these items. One is a 1970s typewriter that I’ve carried around with me through a number of house and office moves. With it you will see a more than 80-year old sporting trophy.

I am sure none of you would want to part with money for them, not even at a “trash and treasure” sale and I wouldn’t expect bidders on Gumtree. They aren’t going to feature on Antiques Roadshow. The fact is they are not for sale. They may be worth little to most people, but they are incredibly valuable to me.

Their value is found in their ownership. They belonged to my much loved grandparents. They are a treasured possession of mine, just like a number of other special family collectables in my work office and home study.

It is 20 years this month since my grandmother died and I carry with me such strong memories of my time with her. She has left an indelible mark on my life and as small as it is; her vigoro trophy on my bookshelf is a small but special token of her legacy. As a child I would often hold the modest trophy as she would describe this strange game of vigoro, a sport that combined elements of cricket, tennis and baseball.

Sitting in my grandparent’s humble kitchen I would also watch my grandfather type meeting agendas and minutes from his beloved South Newcastle Lions rugby league club that he served in voluntary capacities for more than 70 years. There he was back in the 1970s with the Imperial 200, touch typing, not missing a beat. How the world has changed. He would have been lost on the MacBook I type this post on now. And I smile each time I watch my five year old Ada come into my office and sit and play with “Tom’s typing machine” as she calls it.

As I look again at these two small pieces from the past, I am reminded of how loved I was by these two special people in my life. I am reminded by how much I loved them. Most of all, I am struck afresh by the worth they fuelled in my life. They believed in me; they cheered me on; they stood by me from childhood into adulthood; they built self-esteem in me.

We live at a time where so many people yearn for worth and acceptance in life. We live in a world where we are bombarded daily with messages from the media and the marketers that impact how we see ourselves; often with an emphasis on the externals of success, image and materialism. We live at a time where all too many people will make decisions on their worth based on social media followers and influences.

In such a culture it is good for all of us to pause and ask ourselves where we derive our sense of worth and value. What are the primary drivers that shape our identity and how we see ourselves? These are fundamental questions and they shape attitude and action in our lives.

The older I get, the simpler and clearer the grid becomes for me.

I have learnt the dangers of looking to career, performance, success and others to shape my worth and value. Yes, these can all provide a temporary fix, but they are not lasting, particularly in seasons of turmoil, failure and loss.

At Crossway we have just completed a weekend series looking at 1 Peter; a letter written to a people being squeezed by Rome, a people under pressure, a people being persecuted and tested, a people with every reason to question their worth and purpose.

The bottom line message of 1 Peter is a reminder to the first century believers that they are known and loved by their Father God.

Peter uses this simple, but profound descriptor: “You are God’s special possession.” (1 Peter 2:9)

That’s it – their value is in their ownership. They belong to their Creator God. They matter to God. They are his special possession – not because of who they are or what they have done; but all because of God’s grace, love and goodness.

Suddenly this grid changes everything for them. They can be secure in their identity, which opens the door to purposeful living. They are not bereft. Even in the midst of big challenges they know they are not alone. They have the resources of heaven at their disposal. They have hope. They have worth. They have value!

Today are you chasing worth in your work – seeking to climb the corporate ladder, accumulate more, tick the achievement boxes, but still yearning for “more” in life? Are you running in circles always seeking to please others; seeking to be accepted and valued, but feeling like you never make the mark? Are you more concerned with your social media status and image than your authentic personal story and journey? Do you feel alone and unloved? Have you lost sight of your real identity and purpose?

Today I invite you to join me in speaking Peter’s truth over your life again. Speak it into your mind and heart. Let it sink in – deep down. “You are God’s special possession.”

When we live with the reality that we matter to the One that matters most, we open the door to life-transforming worth, meaning, purpose and hope in our lives. And we are invited to bring this beautiful message of love, care and acceptance into the lives of others around us. That’s the treasure of knowing we are treasured!


— Scott Pilgrim

Ears To Hear


The following story has a “gross warning”. It involves my ear wax but stay with me as I think it provides a powerful picture for all of us living in a world where we are bombarded daily with noise and information.

Poor me – over recent weeks I’ve been fighting of “man-flu”! Yes, I’ve had a cold and as often happens when my nose is running and I’m fighting of the deadly “man flu” disease my ears get blocked. Over the course of a week my capacity to hear was increasingly impeded by a build-up of wax in my ear drums. I was feeling “full” and something that most of us take for granted – hearing – was becoming a challenge as people’s voices and sounds were more and more muffled.

Now this is not something new for me and so I treated my ears with wax softener and then it was time for a syringe to work its magic. A number of squirts later and suddenly my ears were no longer blocked and everyday sounds suddenly seemed so much clearer and sharper. It’s an amazing feeling – it’s like my hearing is taken to a whole new level. [Please don’t try this at home – seek medical attention. There is my health warning!]

As I reflect on the experience I am reminded that as well as physical ear blockages we all face the challenge of spiritual and emotional hearing blockages, particularly in the world we live in today.

In commencing a new series at Crossway last weekend, focusing on 1 Peter, Pastor Tim Piesse reminded us that we live in a “YouTube world” where we can look online and find out just about everything we want to know about anything, but with no guarantees on the reliability on the information or for that matter how helpful it will be.

Tim asked the great question: “What is your YouTube?” In other words, what and who are we listening to? What are our primary reference points in a world of information overload and media saturation? Who are we listening to in a world where we have so many conversations?

In such a world it is easy for our ears to get “blocked”. It is easy for our minds to dwell on things that hinder how we see ourselves, others and the world around us.

• We can so easily get seduced by the media’s flawed messages in regard success, self-worth, power, love, appearance, relationships and materialism.

• We can so easily get distracted by “noise” and lose sight of vision and purpose and the things that matter most in life.

• We can find ourselves over exposed to critical voices – family members, friends, colleagues – that consistently discourage us; that pull us down, rather than build us up.

• We can fail to take stock of internal voices that question our worth, limit our potential, harm our relationships and foster fear.

Yes, what we hear and what we do with what we hear on a day to day basis has a huge impact on our physical, emotional and spiritual health – the voices we listen to shape life direction and destiny.

Again, in the past week it has been good to remind myself of the need for regular spiritual and emotional “hearing” checks so I can ensure the voices in my world are filling my life with truth, hope, purpose, encouragement and grace.

In John 10:27 we read the words of Jesus: “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.”

Behind this verse is a beautiful picture of intimacy, connectedness and hope. Behind Jesus’ words is a wonderful invitation to journeying with him in all seasons of life.

At Crossway we talk often about growing as people who reflect the words, works and ways of Jesus. In other words, how do we allow Jesus to become our primary reference point in a world that offers so many choices, options and pathways.

I’m reminded of jumping into a hire car with my father a number of years ago in Sydney. I’m showing my age as this was pre-GPS days and we needed to make use of the UBD street directory. The only problem was the directory was ten years old. It didn’t even have the new south-western suburb we needed to visit listed in the index.

In a world of information overload and media saturation we are presented with so many “life maps” – we are offered so many different options and choices. There are many potential pathways, not to forget detours, distractions, potholes and risks.

The reality is that we need a reference point that is unchanging and unfailing and that is what relationship with Jesus offers us.

The older I get the simpler some things in life become.

One simple truth I hold fast to today is that I know I can’t rely on the voices of the world, the voices of others or my own inner voice. As helpful as all can be at times, they all are lacking at times. Their messages can often be distorted. My ears can become so blocked by competing voices that I can struggle to hear truth – I can struggle to hear what will help me most in life.

That brings me back to Jesus’ wonderful promise in John 10:27. Jesus wants to be in a deep, growing, loving and personal relationship with each of us and the stronger my bond with him, the greater my capacity to not only trust him in all circumstances, but the greater my ability to hear his voice – to hear his voice of truth in a world of noise and lies.

Just like wax softener and a syringe can work its magic on blocked ears, there are intentional things that I can do to keep my “spiritual ears” open.

• Praying regularly and remembering that listening to God is more important than telling God what we need.

• Opening up God’s Word with a spirit of expectation.

• Praying the promptable prayer “Come Holy Spirit”.

• Learning more and more about the words, works and ways of Jesus so we can mirror these in our attitude, speech, relationships, priorities, values and ethics.

• Intentionally placing myself around discerning, encouraging, Christ-like people – people worth listening to; people I need to listen to.

• Taking stock of what I am watching, listening and reading and how this can impact my thinking – negatively and positively.

• Trusting God more and more as we respond to the nudges of the Holy Spirit.

I’m thankful for Pastor Tim Piesse’s regular reminder that God is already at work in my world and my our life and that the Spirit has been given to each of us to help us be in tune with what God wants to

do. It’s good to live with our eyes and ears open to what the Spirit wants us to see and hear in the midst of everyday life. This is not weird, spooky stuff, this is sheep hearing the voice of their shepherd.

It feels so, so good to hear properly. Suddenly with clear ears I can hear differently. My mind is open to new sounds. Today, the Spirit is here – syringe in hand – ready for us to pray afresh: “Open my ears Lord, let me hear you anew”.

Scott Pilgrim