Be Occupied By Christ

Over the past week I have been reflecting on the Cross of Christ and the difference it can make to my life. Check them out – they make a great week of devotional thoughts.

Now, on a Monday I need to make my response actually mean something, that my life will be different and make a difference. So here’s the simple challenge for myself every day…be occupied by Christ.

To be occupied means to ‘be busy and active’, ‘to be filled up by’, ‘to engage the mind, energy or attention of’.

There are literally millions of things that can occupy my time, attention, energy, thinking, resources. A whole host of stuff that I can become busy and active about, so much so that I can easily forget that my primary occupation is to be a Christian. The from this position, all that I am involved in is influenced by that.

Christ must occupy my thinking.

Christ must occupy my attitude.

Christ must occupy my future.

Christ must occupy my energy.

Now that can seem a little simple, some may even say naive. Questions may come to mind ~ What about what I want? What about what I think? What about the things that are important to me? All good and valid but surely, just by asking these questions I am in danger of displaying an unwillingness to be occupied by Christ and instead to be occupied by self.

Whatever giant I am facing, whatever thoughts may be racing through my mind, whatever opinion I may have about something, however fearful or unsure I may be about the future, whether I feel everything is great or I am hard done too, I have to remember the cross. I have to remember all that Jesus accomplished for me and allow that to become my life.

Jesus became weak so we could become strong in Him.

Jesus became poor so we could become rich in Him.

Jesus became empty so we could become full of Him.

To be occupied by Christ is to remain humble enough to know that without Him I cannot succeed.

To be occupied by Christ is to remain humble enough to know that His best for my life is better than what I think is best for my life.

I want this to be my response to the cross of Jesus Christ for rest of my life. It can seem a tough call but I recognise the benefits make it worth the challenge. I need Gods unmerited favour over ALL my life, so I am going to get my ‘self’ out of the way, stay as humble as I can and depend wholly on Him for my success.

How about you?

5 Benefits for Knowing ‘Why’ We Are Doing This

Simon Sinek in his book ‘Start with Why’ says that ‘people don’t buy WHAT you do, they buy WHY you do it’. WHAT can change but WHY is simple. It’s the discipline to never veer from the cause.

It captures the heart. The vision, the cause, is the why. It can grab someone’s imagination as they begin to see what could be possible.

It’s bigger than what we do. Why isn’t what. What we do can almost be irrelevant when we understand why we are doing it. That kind of belief can help build great success.

It keeps us going when it gets tough. What we do can get boring, inconvenient or tiresome. On those cold, rainy days we can opt out of ‘what’. The why reminds about the difference we are making or the reason for what we are doing.

It encourages people to be creative. If the why is clear then people have a freedom to be creative with the what. Leaders shouldn’t have to come up with all the best ideas, instead, the ‘why’ creates that environment where great ideas can sprout from anywhere.

It brings what you do to life. When those within get the why, then people will see what you believe through what you are doing.

I have not always been great at explaining the why. I know that I still get it wrong.  I can argue it’s not my role as I’m not the lead man, but that’s a cop out. If I lead people then I have to be concerned about the why. If I am part of the organisation then understanding the why is my responsibility. If it’s not clear, I should ask.

Telling people what to do isn’t difficult. To articulate the why though, requires time, thought and care. That a whole lot of effort. It doesn’t always come easy. I have to give more than a ‘just because’, or point to my position.

It has to be important to me because the why is inspiring, it stirs up passion and people are more willing to give their time, talent and treasure to a really good, strong, clear why.

Are you somewhere that has a strong why? As leaders, are we doing all we can to help others grab a hold of that why?

Life as a Pastor…

Had the Connect Group [CG] leaders round last night. They brought loads of food, lots of conversation. We squeezed them in.

Spent a lot of the day putting the final pieces in the CG puzzle as we make some changes to the structure. Change is never easy. It has to be for the right reasons not just because we can. CGs have been a huge success for Xcel this year, growing by nearly 20% in attendance. From our perspective they are how we measure the health of the church. People connecting, doing life together, sharing the journey, caring for one another, encouraging, supporting and praying – it’s priceless. It’s church at its very best.

As we talk vision, it’s important to recognise those things that work in accomplishing that vision. CGs help us do this. As we grow larger, the community of CGs grows in importance. I’ve never been great with names and with new people joining Xcel all the time, I don’t suppose it will get any easier. CGs provide a way for people to belong to Xcel and find their place. To feel, connected.

We are excited about the future of CGs.
Changing the structure will facilitate growth.
Changing the structure will grow those who are part of a CG.
Changing the structure will help us focus on equipping the leaders
, pastoring people on their journey with God. This is a culture shift for many church-goers who only count a visit or prayer from the Pastors as genuine pastoral care. (Doesn’t mean we don’t do this – just in case you were concerned)
Love that the leaders embrace it wholeheartedly. That certainly makes the change easy.

Begs the question why some people who could be part of a CG aren’t. Don’t get me wrong – that’s not a criticism, just a question. We can only encourage everyone to get involved – the choice then is up to you.

[What do you think?]

Feelings v Faith

I have written posts like these before. Everyone goes through stuff. This post is not designed to belittle what you may be going through but more as a challenge/reminder to make sure that you are going through it based on FAITH and not based on FEELINGS. Everyone faces tough times.

We don’t always FEEL like it…
We often FEEL like giving up…
We maybe FEEL life is hard

The truth is that there is nothing wrong with those FEELINGS.
The problem is when we allow the FEELINGS to dictate how we live life.

Having FAITH is always easier when life is going well. Then something happens…stress, sickness, job loss, relationship troubles, distractions, financial challenges…do you deal with these based on your FEELINGS or your FAITH. Can you truly display a life of FAITH in difficult times.

Many times people say stuff like…
…well, life’s hard, I need some time out
…I’m just working through it
…I can’t do Church at the moment

Those kind of comments are purely based on FEELINGS.
FAITH keeps you going, even through everything.
FEELINGS are normal but should never determine the actions of a Christian.
FEELINGS are fragile. FAITH shows strength.

are you taking time out to get ready for the next challenge OR taking time out and becoming lazy?
are you maintaining your spiritual disciplines even when you don’t FEEL like it?

This post has been prompted by a new series I will be preaching from this Sunday…will the real ME please stand up! A culture creation series. Time to speak about how YOU (ME) are the biggest limiter on the YOU (ME) God wants YOU to become. Our willingness or otherwise to be REAL can make a difference.

FAITH is the difference.
When those around us live by their FEELINGS the reality of our FAITH will shine out in glorious fashion.

Are you living based on your FEELINGS or living according to FAITH in your God? Whichever…it will be evident to those you do life with!!

A Place to Find Hope

In my preparation for this next series called TURNING POINTS there is thought that is continually in my thinking at the moment…

If the local Church is the hope of the world then we have to be full of that hope ourselves. That has to be the Church. Which means it has to be US.

Whatever the circumstances.
Whatever the situation.
Whatever the past.
Whatever the present.
Whatever the lifestyle.

There is still hope. Always hope. Found in the person of Jesus Christ.

Let’s get the word out…you can really come to Church, just as you are. Whatever your opinion of yourself, God still loves you and has made a way for you to re-connect with Him. Yes, we don’t deserve it. It is the gift of God, to us.

Let’s work at making Xcel Church the right kind of place where we breathe hope into a world which often lacks hope? Let that be our passion as we reach out to those around us – to love them, to be bringers of hope and demonstrate Jesus to them in simple, practical, caring ways.

What do you think?

Challenges the Church Face

Asked a question today via my twitter…what is the biggest challenge facing the Christian Church in the UK right now? It’s not rocket science but here’s a selection of answers…

Lack of authenticity – from people in church, whether it be members or leaders. People want the ‘Real Deal’, not a copy cat, someone trying to be someone else or a fake.
Finding honest, genuine, relatable and personable people. Those who can call themselves Christians through God’s eyes.
People judging way to quickly.. not walking in others people shoes
A lack of investment in people
Focusing on the yesterdays and not on the future or even the now
A lack of leadership
A lack of courage
A lack of vision
A lack of faith
Churches full of individuals with wrong mindsets
Maintaining relevant and practical advice rather than just repeating Christian clichès
Traditional stereotypes
Convincing people that a relationship with God is better than what they are into. Too many distractions out there.

What do you think? Is this an insurmountable challenge?

I hope not. The fact that so many people suggested problems should hopefully mean that they are equally up for the challenge of making sure the Church does not fall into any of these traps!? Is that right?

How is Your Dialogue?

This has got me thinking. How afraid am I of getting into dialogue with someone about belief, God, the universe and stuff like that? What about you?

Is this just a cultural thing? Are we just good at having an opinion in private?

Was discussing this at work and how important being willing to have a dialogue is. How it builds trust. How it’s just honest. How it brings a vulnerableness to who we are. But not too much! The Christian faith is about so much more than we are right and you are wrong. The place for Q&A doesn’t seem to exist much these days or is that just me.

Here’s a great thought…
The willingness to dialogue is the willingness to build bridges.
The willingness to build bridges is the beginning of genuine community, friendship and the opportunity for real conversations.

Would love peoples thoughts on the importance of dialogue in church and perhaps some reasons why we step away from it? Please share your thoughts today…

Creating Dialogue

Why don’t people like church?

Maybe one reason is that we are too quick to tell them that our life is right because we have God in it and theirs is wrong because they don’t. Is that not the wrong approach?

If we are to reach out to anyone and everyone then surely our main focus is just to create some dialogue. We should not be afraid that people will come with questions, in fact, we should possibly be embracing the challenge. We want people to come, ready to re-engage with church, with God, to have a willingness to at least discuss their reasons for being disillusioned with church.

As I get further into my role as a Pastor this thought is definitely becoming more important to me. I recognise that I do not have all the answers. I know that MY life is better for God in it but I also understand that not everyone will agree with this.

There is a process. Openness, honesty, vulnerability…they all help in creating dialogue. Showing others that Christians are normal people, with the same struggles that life can throw our way but that we deal with them differently. We look to God.

Not forcing my opinion on someone. That’s a major turn off and probably does more harm than good. Let’s be willing to create a dialogue. Build trust. Build integrity in a culture that looks on the church as a joke but maybe still has time for Jesus.

What do you think? An easy challenge to love for? Or an impossible dream?