Break With Tradition

Excited about the message for this Sunday night at Xcel. 

Traditions can be both good and bad. Is there life in it? Or has it just become something we do because we always have? 

Maybe this Christmas it’s time to break with some old traditions and begin some new ones.

To help in this message we will be launching the #xceladventchallenge and I’m designating United @ 5 this week ‘Sticker Sunday’. 

Don’t stay away. Why not come along and find out what I mean, join in the fun and the journey. Let’s mess with Christmas this year and see what God might have us to do. 

This Kingdom Life [2]

Every day is a kingdom day full of kingdom opportunities. The big question then is whether I am ready and willing to take them.

By entering the kingdom through surrender, I become a part of the kingdom story God has been writing since the moment of creation. I want to contribute something of value. This may not be the best way of putting it, what I mean is, I want my kingdom life to be just that, a life lived for the kingdom and to be a story worthy of being a part of the bigger kingdom story God is always writing.

I’ve just read that previous paragraph and I may be guilty of having made the kingdom about me, which it is not.

To enter the story is a privilege. To live within a kingdom that I was made for but didn’t know it. I was rescued into it. It’s almost exclusive but there is an open invite to join, you just have to come in through Jesus.

This kingdom life is where my loyalties now lay. As my life writes a story, the evidence will be there for all to see as to whether I kept those loyalties or not. God first, easy to say, harder to do. Yet this is where kingdom starts and ends for me. Jesus really is the answer to the question when it comes to this kingdom life.

This kingdom life is a journey. We don’t get it all worked out on day one. There is a battle between the old and the new. Even though we know the new is better we may still hold on to old habits, behaviours, thinking, attitudes and the like. But the decision has been made. It is the willingness to be a disciple from that moment which enables us to fully occupy the kingdom and experience all the benefits. Until the day when the future kingdom comes and everything is made perfect.

In the meantime I pray, ‘Lord help me to keep seeking You first, so my life may be a good story of how living in Your kingdom makes a difference. Amen’

This Kingdom Life

Kingdom living is easier on a Sunday. Gathered with all my fellow believers and followers of Jesus, being focused on Him comes more naturally. 

Then Monday comes. And the call to this Kingdom life doesn’t waiver just because it’s no longer a Sunday. 

Alarms go off. Kids head off to school and college while I head to the office. Surely working for church is good kingdom living. 

Yet here’s the truth, it doesn’t matter where you work the distractions which cause us to not seek God first are as real for me as they are for anyone else. 

To keep my heart right, my words right, my attitude right. To be my kingdom self while recognising and acknowledging those around me as they are being their kingdom self. 

To not allow stuff to cut across my path while I walk with Jesus. No cynicism. No negativity. No arroagance. No anger. No pride. No unforgiveness. No indifference. No status or image. No excess. 

To live for the kingdom is to give up my own. And that’s the battle. I find choosing comfort or convenience over the discomfort or inconvenience of laying my life down so much easier. Yet I know that in laying down my life for Jesus I am more fulfilled and rewarded than when I fight to hold on to my own. 

To enter the kingdom is to surrender. It’s an awkward and uncomfortable truth. To make Jesus King is to surrender, give in, lay down my kingdom rule for His kingdom rule.

It’s a mystery. It’s beautiful. It’s a privilege. It’s difficult. It’s exciting. It’s the greatest adventure I know. 

The choice to make Jesus King of my life is really only measured by the discipline and willingness to stay true to that decision. And only with Gods help through the Holy Spirit will I ever be able to give it a decent shot. It’s nothing I can do on my own and my prayer every day is simple…

Help me Lord to seek You and Your kingdom first, above all other things. 

My Week: Friday

Friday is usually a prep day for Sunday. First I needed to sort out the service boxes and runsheets for each location and then I could give my full attention to the message for this week.

I am convinced that every preacher has their own peculiar way of preparing a message. Once you find that rhythm it’s difficult to change and I don’t think it should be either, unless God helps create a new one.

I pray for a hook, a thought, a question to answer, a verse. Just something that will become the one thing I want to leave with those who are listening. Not sure if this is right but it works for me. From there I can dig a little, take as much time as is needed to understand the verse, and allow God to lead me in my thinking as I meditate on it. Sometimes this is with a blank piece of paper and writing what I feel God is saying, other times it involves commentaries and following where that first thought may go.

This week we begin a new series as we head towards Easter. It’s called ‘Love Ran Red’. So my question is this ‘What happened at the cross when love ran red?’ This opens up lots of thoughts but I got 3 words quite quickly which meant I could move away from the books and mull them over for a while.

I always take a break during prep. I cannot sit at the desk for hours on end. Go get a coffee, go for a walk, or for a drive. This space gives me a chance to talk it through. It may look like I am talking to myself but I’m just dialoguing with God. Is it right? Does it make sense? What do you want me to say God?

Once the message is together, all it needs is writing up. Then I just keep praying about it over the weekend. Asking God to speak through me. Asking for the extra that only God can bring. After all, it’s more important that I am sharing what God wants to say, not just what I want to. That can be difficult to know until you are up on the platform sometimes. I remember hearing a preacher say that you should always be about 80% ready, as this means you have to rely on God for the other 20%. Sometimes it feels more like the other way round.

Looking forward to being with our Darlington congregation on Sunday – maybe I’ll see you there.

Add to the mix today we had a birthday in the family. My beautiful wife was another year older. We enjoyed a very early start to open presents for Kerina before the girls left for school, college and Uni. Then she went back to sleep as she wasn’t feeling great.

If you are preacher, what’s your preparation routine? I would love to learn from the collective wisdom of those who read this blog. Thanks

What’s Your Question?

So we are continuing the God is… series at Xcel Church and we need your help. 

We are spending a little time unpacking aspects of the character and nature of God – that He is good and great, that He is my Father, that He is love, that He is with me and that God is holy. 

Preaching a series like this can bring moments of revelation which can change our view of God forever. 

Preaching a series like this can answer some of those tricky questions but can also bring more to our mind. 

Well, as a team we want to do our best to help you so tell us your question and then as part of UNITED on 29th March the panel can discuss it. 

Don’t be shy ~ leave a question as a comment. 

Great Day

I am fan of local church. I agree with Pastor Bill Hybels when he says it’s the hope of the world. So I loved today, in my local church, worshipping God and being built up by the Word.

God is…good and God is great. He is BIG enough to handle our problems. All that we need Him to be, He is that. He is great and does wondrous acts. He is great and greatly to be praised. It’s about trusting His character above our experiences of Him.

God is…my Father. That’s a revelation that doesn’t come easily to everyone but one we need to get. We can be disappointed by our own Father but without realising it not notice that God has filled our lives with many Fathers. Thanks to Rachael for sharing her journey in this in such an honest way.

Plus the worship tonight was just incredible. There was a real sweet atmosphere and I believe that God was doing some work in peoples lives.

All I can do is encourage you Xcel to be in Church these next two Sundays as we continue to unpack the nature and character of God. God is…love, God is…with me, God is…holy.

Influence 2015.2

Listening to Pastor Ray Bevan this morning…

We need to recapture the wonder of the Gospel.

You don’t leave the presence of God the same way you came in. 

Luke 18:35-43 ~ Time to silence the bullies:

Self righteous call out for Jesus of Nazareth while the sick call out for Son of David. Self righteous cry out for credit not mercy. 

To you Jesus is just from Nazareth but for Bartimaeus Jesus was the Son of David. The one who could heal him and the world. 

Christian is not a sacrifice we make but a sacrifice we trust. 

We are not called to plant fruit. Repentance is a fruit. Holiness is a fruit. The goodness of God leads to repentance. Grace of God leads us to ungodliness. 

We are living under a new covenant that says ‘done’. Not under the old one that says ‘do’. Old covenant was conditional ‘if my people’ while Jesus said ‘it is finished’.

Rev 4:2-3
We don’t live under half a rainbow. Jesus has completed the rainbow. We live under a full rainbow. It’s not ‘if my people’ now it’s ‘only believe’. 

Now it’s ‘walk with me (Jesus)’ Matthew 11:28

It’s not how good you are at Spiritual disciplines but how could you are at trusting Jesus. 

Christians are so afraid of sin. Our focus should be on the finished work of Christ. Where sin abounds grace abounds much more. 

Old covenant is when clean touched unclean then clean becomes unclean. New covenant is when clean touches unclean then unclean becomes clean. 

Grace of God operates in the darkest of places. 

Moved By Grace

I am preaching at United Night tomorrow (Sunday) at Xcel Church. It’s been a while and I am really looking forward to it. This series on grace has been epic so far and the message I am going to share, is in my opinion one the simplest yet most powerful pictures of grace so far.

To be accepted for who are you, warts and all, that’s the grace that Jesus offers. When He entered the world the whole idea of grace changed. It became a person. A person who is on the lookout for people. On the lookout for you and me.

How unworthy do you feel?
How could God love me after everything I have done?
I am not good enough for Jesus?
Why would Jesus want me?

However unlikely a candidate for Jesus you consider yourself, grace does not walk past you and your life. Instead it finds you, stands in your way and offers itself to you.

When you don’t need more rules, to be told how wrong you have behaved, don’t need that finger pointed in your face telling you to sort yourself out and that when you have improved then you can come back, that’s when grace is at its very best.

Jesus is grace. He doesn’t come with a Holy tick-list to be completed. Instead He offers grace. He accepts you and has just one simple invitation. ‘Follow me’.

To be moved by a message is such an incredible thing. To be moved by a message while preparing it is something I’m not sure I have experienced for a while, maybe ever.

Grace changes everything. Grace changes me. I never had to earn it, never had to be good enough. It is a gift for me. I am accepted. Grace has saved me. Now grace empowers me to live.

Praying that the power of this series and the unpacking of the wonders of Gods grace will change at least one persons life forever.