Hello 2015

A new year offers a fresh start for many. We say goodbye to the old year and welcome a new one with heighten expectation and hope for good things.

In reality, nothing has changed, except for maybe our attitude towards what’s happening.

We make resolutions. We come up with some goals to aid our focus. I have been a long time advocate for doing this, without a sense of purpose, writing some stuff down, creating a little focus, then we often don’t achieve all that we could.

What will you go for in 2015? What will work hard to see accomplished?

In the midst of all your personal health and wealth goals, and everything that many others may say is important, I would encourage you to…

1. Pray like it depends on God. Work like it depends on you.

2. Protect your time with God. Do all you can to keep your walk with God as strong as possible.

3. Read your Bible – everyday.

4. Grab a hold of a scripture for 2015 and don’t let go of it. Speak it prophetically over your future, your life, your family, and your home.

What do you think? What is God saying to you about this next 12 months.

Have a Clear Out

Christmas and a New Year are great opportunities for a clear out. A chance to get rid of some of the clutter from around the house, to make room for the new clutter we are expecting to receive.

Maybe take the time for a clear out in life too.

I do say this with caution though. We often clear out things that are easy when it comes to life. Perhaps we find it easier to ignore it, brush it under the carpet, rationalise it, put the problem on to someone else. The nagging concern I have is this – if we don’t clear out the right stuff, if we can’t be honest with ourselves and with God then in reality aren’t we just moving stuff around but that ‘thing’ we think has been cleaned up is actually still there.

God sent Jesus to help with the clean up. The clean up of our sin, hurt, offence, jealousy, bitterness, unforgiveness, issues – anything I guess that stops us from living life in the freedom that Jesus won for us.

Having a proper clean up can be an uncomfortable process though. We like to feel in control of our own lives, even the painful aspects. If we have control then we know what people see or don’t see. As a result, we learn to cover stuff up, put on a good face and convince others that all is well.

To have a clean out with God involves giving control away and that kind of freaks us out. What if people see? What if the mess becomes too visible? Bit like having to empty the garage out and everyone seeing the rubbish we actually have.

Well, here is the good news. God is more than capable of handling our mess. He is all about the clean up business. That is very much His speciality. Andy Stanley in his book Grace of God puts it something like this, ‘God waded in knee-deep to begin the clean up process’. We think it’s too big, but our God is bigger.

It’s what Christmas is all about. The plan of redemption heading to its climax. The clean up process for all of humanity was reaching its final play. The birth of Jesus was the beginning of the end. This Christmas take courage. Allow the Saviour to do what He does best and give Him permission to clean up some stuff. Put it out there. See what He can do and start 2015 totally free, ready for whatever God has for you, with full confidence that you are able because of His power living in you.

What’s With All The Drama?

In my preparation for this Sunday’s message I thought about Mary and her incredible attitude to all that the angel Gabriel said to her. Imagine being told you that you would give birth to the Son of God.

Thing happen to us and we can go crazy. We lose all sense of perspective. We question our faith. Maybe we have a momentary ‘freak out’. Something unexpected is happening and we start to fall to pieces.

Yet with Mary…no drama.

As usual the Bible is understated in it’s recalling of this encounter. Mary maintains a coolness that most of us probably would not have managed. Not even a shriek, or a ‘no way’. Just a simple question, ‘How can this be?’

I’m not wanting to make little of all that we can be called to trust God in but I look at Mary and marvel at how sometimes I have possibly over-complicated my response. She had trust in God. She took the angel at his word. She was not so precious about her wonderful life to consider that the life that God was asking her to embrace would be even more wonderful.

She didn’t say no. I’m guessing the reason we hear about Mary is because she said yes. She held loosely to the thing which most of us hold tightly to and went with what God was saying. Her future laid aside for Gods future.

‘Let it be to me according to your word’.

I want my life to be wonderful. Help me Lord to have that simple faith that Mary displayed. I may not always understand or even like what is happening sometimes but my faith and trust are in You. Let it be to me according to Your word.

The Journey I Am On

This year I have had two main focuses in the midst of all the daily posts – one was to do with my Bible reading and sharing some thoughts about walking with God. The other posts were more leadership focused with a particular emphasis on things that I have learned on the journey since my first leadership opportunity when I was 19.

I have written 29 thoughts on walking with God and 26 thoughts on leadership.

This is the journey I am on – to be a leader who walks well with God. I see this as an absolute necessity to my becoming the best person and leader I can be. Let me make something clear though, these are not two things to be balanced. It should all be in favour of God first. I say should because I am normal and very often I drift from God first to me first. From being led by God to just being the leader.

This is the journey I am on – to be a leader who walks well with God so others can walk well with God. I want to be honest and open. I am not perfect. Never have been, never will be. I am thankful to be made perfect through the work of Jesus Christ on the cross. My heart is to learn and help others to learn. It is to know God better and help others to know God better.

This is the journey I am on – to be a leader who walks well with God so others can walk well with God is to be someone who is led well by God. I am so grateful for the Holy Spirit. If, as a Christian leader, I cannot allow myself to be led by the Holy Spirit then I am just leading in my own strength and although I can have influence I don’t believe it will have the same impact that being covered by the Spirit of God can bring. It’s that extra dimension that my leadership needs. Without it I flounder.

This is the journey I am on – to be a leader who walks well with God so others can walk well with God is to be someone who is led well by God and is willing to change. As we talk about grace in Xcel Church I am more aware than ever that it is such a precious gift but only really accomplishes anything in my life if I accept it and walk in it. That means I have to be willing to change. Grace is not my get-out-of-jail-free card. It is my way to a new life. So this week I recognised that I allowed some drift to occur. Too many distractions. Usual good disciplines have slackened.

Grace has nudged me this week and reminded me of the journey I want to be on.

Grace has been poured out again and had it’s rejuvenating effect on my spirit.

Grace is always the antidote to my natural lean towards laziness, unproductiveness and general lack of focus.

Let’s be honest, it happens to us all, it’s just that most of the time we don’t see it, acknowledge it, or want to respond to it.

However, if I want to be a leader who walks well with God, I cannot afford to ignore the promptings in my spirit, to ignore the niggling within that I know is from God. To do so would disqualify me from the journey I believe God has for me and I am determined to not allow that to happen.

How about you and your journey? Still on track?

Greater Awaits

Things I am learning at the moment…

Not all time in life is equal. Life serves up some moments that count much more than other moments. Some moments are more important than others. They have the potential to define you. Will we be ready?

We determine whether the moment will pull us ahead, cause us to fall behind or kill us off.

So here goes. Here is how to be better prepared for the greater things God has for us. Will we be prayed up & confident enough in the Word of God that when the moment comes we won’t miss it?

Here’s the thing. We mustn’t wait for the opportunity to come before getting prepared. At that moment it’s often too late. Start preparations today in two vital areas:

Your prayer life: it will define you. If you are not in conversation with God then you may miss it.

Your reading of the Word of God: it will shape you. Knowing He has created you for more and understanding better how God sees you will ready you for when the moment comes.

Our future awaits us. It won’t arrive easily. There will be challenges. There will be some obstacles. There will be times of defeat. There will be times of victory. One thing I am learning though – prayer & the Word will help you to navigate these times and to see you through to the other side. It might look different to what I thought it would look like but I know without doubt it’s where God has taken me.

[Hope that makes sense. I want the greater God has for my life. It’s my prayer every day. Lord lead me to the place where you need me to be. How about you? What do you think?]

Take the Limits Off [2]

This is a challenge. To not allow things or thinking to stop us from tapping into the potential God has placed inside each one of us.

Image plays a part.

So does IDEALISM. I would describe this as the pursuit of ones own ideals. That dream, that romantic view of how things should be, the perfect scenario of how God can use me. Extremely idealistic, just not very realistic.

Maybe the man in Matthew 25 given one talent had an idea of what he could do but as he thought about it more the need for everything to be right before he moved took over and eventually stopped him from doing anything.

You know the problem. Everything has to be ‘just’ right. Everything in its place. If it won’t work out that way, then why bother. Such an idealistic approach will put limits on me.

I think of the rich young ruler who had a perfect idea of what it meant to follow God. Jesus challenged this, made it messy and uncomfortable, maybe a little more chaotic. But that’s okay. To take the limits off may involve a change of thinking from ‘It’s not what I wanted so I couldn’t possibly’ to ‘It’s what God wants so I couldn’t possibly not’.

I need to be less idealistic and more realistic, let go of my need for things to be perfect and be intentional about doing SOMETHING and TRUSTING God for how it might turn out. I just need a VISION, an IDEA and to then start to work towards it.

INDECISION. The challenge of what to do & when to do it. That certainly effects my willingness to use all that God has placed inside me. Maybe the man in the story suffered from indecision and then as a last resort just put the talent in a safe place, to return when appropriate.

Indecision is the friend to missed opportunities. It’s fellow team players are doubt, procrastination, hesitation, wavering, uncertainty, ambivalence and dithering. It leads to laying on my death bed wondering what might have been. The thing with indecision is that while I stand still, someone else may possibly step in to take my place.

Esther 4:14
‘For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?’

There is a time to wait.
There are times to pray.
Then there are times just to step up & get involved.

The Apostle Paul uses a great phrase over and over again…

Acts 27:22
But now I urge you to keep your courage

Romans 12:2
Therefore I urge you, in view of God’s mercy to offer you bodies as living sacrifices, holy & pleasing to God…

Romans 15:30
I urge you brothers, by our Lord Jesus Christ….to join me in my struggle by praying

1 Corinthians 4:16
I urge you to imitate me

2 Corinthians 2:8
I urge you therefore, to reaffirm your love to him

Ephesians 4:1
I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received

Hebrews 13:19
I urge you to pray

1 Peter 2:11
I urge you as aliens & strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires….

Jude 1:3
I urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to you

Urgency cancels out indecision.
Urgency makes me act before I have too much time to think about what I am doing.
This is not a time for indecision. This is our ONE life & we MUST not let it pass us by.
None of us can afford to be indecisive. After all, Jesus simply says FOLLOW ME. He never said where to, what would be involved or how things would pan out.

Let’s take the limits off. What’s stopping you?

The Power of Perhaps

Ideas come in all shapes and sizes. We have many everyday. From passing thoughts to crazy dreams…ideas come and ideas go.

Many of the things we now take forgranted were once an idea. Maybe even an idle thought, dismissed at first as something that would never work, never be, never happen but today is excepted as normal. Light bulbs. Aeroplanes. Women’s votes. Electricity. Mobile phones. Broadband. The list is literally endless.

Ideas change history. The power of one idea, grabbed a hold of by one person, who with drive and determination turns it into reality. We can all have an idea. Add a little of God’s favour to it and who knows where it could take you.

Think about it for a moment…
That name of someone which for some reason has popped into your head
That conversation you missed because you were in such a hurry
The people you pass everyday but never take time to notice
Thoughts about the future and what you would really like to do
Things that make you glad, mad or sad

Ideas. All the time. Everyday. And we just miss them. Don’t say that God is not giving you the opportunity to do something when God presents us with opportunities to do something everyday. The problem is we choose to ignore them because they are not what we want to do, or they are inconvenient to our timetable or we’ve had a busy day so we opt out. Ouch!

In 1 Samuel 14:1-14 Jonathan had an idea. He turned to his colleague and said “Come, let’s go over to the Philistine outpost on the other side.” A simple idea. Or maybe not. Look at where they were – the outpost was up a mountain. One they would have to climb first before fighting the Philistines when they got there.

I think my response would have been less enthusiastic than his colleagues. It will never work may have been part of my reply. Let’s ‘group-chat’ for a moment about the feasibility of this before we take any steps. We rationalise to the point of excusing ourselves. Maybe we are more inclined to pray ‘Lord, keep me safe’, rather than how Jonathan might have prayed ‘Lord help me in this daring and dangerous idea’.

There is no gilt-edged promise of success when you pursue an idea. Jonathan uses the word ‘perhaps’ as his persuasive argument that it was possible. ‘Perhaps the LORD will act in our behalf.’

Don’t know about you but I think I would have wanted more than ‘perhaps’. Every idea though lives for a time in the arena of ‘perhaps’. The risk element that it may not succeed. Perhaps it will, perhaps it won’t. Too often we air on the side of perhaps it won’t. For Jonathan and his armour-bearer perhaps it won’t would have meant death. The exciting part is this…for your idea, for your dream, for your opportunity…

PERHAPS THE LORD WILL ACT ON YOUR BEHALF

You don’t need much of God’s favour to bring about great victories.
You won’t see God’s favour much if you don’t step out into the unknown zone of ‘perhaps’.

Idea + Perhaps God Will = The Potential for Anything to Happen

Let’s enjoy the ride…it’s called FAITH
FAITH in a God who can do immeasurably more than we could ever ask or think.
Perhaps…

Risk or Safe

Had a thought the other day about not playing it safe. Wish I had read these verses then. Luke 19 tells the story that Jesus shared about the individuals who were left in charge of particular sums of money and how on the return of the master, two of them had increased what they had been given, while the other had just hidden it.

What a great example of the dilemma many of us face. Should we take a RISK or should we play it SAFE. Rewards come to those who RISK. Not stupid risks, but intentional, purposeful risks. Taking hold of what God has given us and doing something with it.

‘Risk your life and get more than you dreamed of. Play it safe and end up holding the bag.’ The Message I think I know which one I would rather have – how about you?