Grace Through The Eyes Of…

Excited about this new series at Xcel Church. Grace is such a hugely important and powerful aspect of the Christian faith, yet it also seems to be one of the most misunderstood and misused aspects of the Christian faith.

I need the grace of God. Every day.

How does grace look through the eyes of some of the people of the Bible? How does grace look through my eyes? I need to understand the fullness of this amazing grace that God has given which not only saves me but is equipping me for the life He wants me to live.

Too often we are great receivers of grace but not great givers of grace. We like to judge others based on their actions, while we want to be judged on our intentions. We want to pass out truth, while we are only willing to welcome grace in return.

As we journey through the Bible we may discover that God’s grace is surprising. That God’s grace is not fair. And for that we should be thankful otherwise we may have already disqualified ourselves.

I can only encourage you to be at Xcel over the next 6 weeks and discover all that the grace of God is for you. It could just change your life.

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?

Take the Limits Off

Ever wondered what stopped the individual in Matthew 25 who got given 1 talent from doing anything with it? Don’t know about you but I do not want to be called ‘wicked, lazy, worthless’. Should it concern us that many of us head that way, sometimes without even realising it.

If 3 people are given talents and one of them just buries it then does that mean that 1 out of 3 people are doing NOTHING with what God has deposited within them. Am I just busy doing the wrong things? What reasons do I give that limit by ability to take a hold of every opportunity that comes my way?

Hear what the person says…
I knew you were are hard man
I knew you reaped where you did not sow
I was afraid
I thought to myself
I decided to bury it

‘I’ has a lot to answer for. It begins many sentences with excuses at the other end. As it did for the man stood with one talent, so we often do the same. I decided not to because of…

IMAGE
– the concern with how it will make me look

Culture influences image. TV is full of programmes telling us to look right.The cosmetics industry is worth over £37bn in UK – thats BIG business. It’s little wonder that we get concerned about how doing certain things will make us look.

Maybe for the person with one talent they became concerned with how doing things would make them look, after all, reputations are precious. They are hard to earn but can be easily lost.

There is a danger though for me as a Christian. If I base decisions on image then I put limits on what I can do. If my concern is directed more towards what others might think about me, then perhaps my focus is wrong. Surely my focus should be more on how God sees me. Isn’t acting in faith the better way to go?

Image = me centred
Faith = God-centred
Image = I look okay
Faith = God looks good
Image = concerned with own reputation
Faith = concerned with God’s reputation
Image = can affect our confidence
Faith = confidence is in God

If you look at God’s view on image He was more concerned with what was going on inside a person’s heart rather than how the outside looked. When King Saul acted because of how things were making him look, it cost him his kingship. While David, who was considered unlikely because he didn’t fit the part was described from God’s perspective as ‘a man after God’s own heart’.

Image should not be a reason to stop me but it sometimes it is.
Image can override my ability to trust God.
Image may stop me stepping out of the things I know and am comfy in, into areas where I don’t know everything.

I can’t play not to lose. I need to be more determined to do whatever I can, concerning myself less with how it makes me look and focus more on how it makes God look. That means I MUST exercise my faith in God – after all, he wouldn’t put things in me if he didn’t believe I could handle it.

[What other things can stop us?]

Which Questions Shall We Answer?

Here we go then…

Based on all the comments & questions received, these are the ones to choose from for our next theme of The Elephant in the Room. Some have been bundled together or re-written as many were similar. We will preaching this series from Sunday 11th July…so make sure you don’t miss them and gather people to hear some answers. It provides us with an opportunity to answer 3 or 4 questions this time around.

You only have until the end of June. So please vote.
Share the link. Get involved. What an opportunity. Should be fun!!

What Questions Do People Want Answers For?

In the summer we are doing a series called ‘The Elephant in the Room’. The idea is to make time to answer the questions that sometimes never get answered. It’s going to be a challenge for the teaching team but worth it.

So…here’s the thing – this won’t work without questions. Ask around. What do people want to know? If we can answer the questions that people are asking, what a great opportunity for us to then invite them to hear an answer.

Post your questions here or email to: questions@xcelchurch.com

Once there is a bunch they might get put on the website for you to vote on. Get involved. Make it happen. It’s going to be fun!!

Be a Conversational Architect [3]

Continuing to unpack this idea of being a conversational architect I would encourage you to speak from a position of BEING RESPONSIBLE

Even the Apostle Paul says this is important…
If you choose to speak, you’re also responsible for how and when you speak. [1 Corinthians 14:32]

“No good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. Each tree is recognized by its own fruit. People do not pick figs from thornbushes, or grapes from briers. The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks. [Luke 6:43-45]

When we speak or comment we must do it from a position of being responsible. Not just responsible FOR people but responsible TO people. To speak from a position of creating the right culture – building, planting & caring for them. If we are responsible for them then we will try and tell them, fix them, manipulate them. If we are responsible to them then we would always speak wanting them to discover answers for themselves. It is a subtle difference but a difference nonetheless.

This means taking responsibility for what comes out of our mouths, which means taking responsibility for what goes in the heart because that’s what eventually comes out.

Keep vigilant watch over your heart; that’s where life starts [Proverbs 4:23] Being vigilant takes effort, it doesn’t happen by chance.

Be responsible to people by doing the following things…
make the message clear – examine what you will say
focus on the others first – if you are just saying something for the sake of saying something then it might need changing
live out your message – Jesus tells us we will be known by our fruit – become more consistent – be responsible to make your words and actions match up

Be a Conversational Architect [1]
Be a Conversational Architect [2]

Why We Don’t Pick Up The Towel

Following on from the previous post about Servolution here’s some thoughts about why we don’t get involved. Jesus gave us a great example in John 13 when he washed the disciples feet, he demonstrated what it meant to love, be devoted and serve those around him.

I had two thoughts when I read this…

Every room has a towel

Pick It UP!!

Every room – every area of our life, our workplace, our home, our college, our street, our community, our church, our friends, our neighbours, every time we go somewhere there is opportunity to serve. An opportunity to pick up a towel.

The question is then – WHY DO WE JUST WALK PAST IT?

1. I’ve done my bit
Do you know what back in the day – I was it! Maybe as I approach my 40th birthday it’s time to reflect, to look at everything I’ve done and then step aside for the young people coming through. To be honest I’ve done just about everything in church life – kids church, drop in coffee bar, youth, street evangelism, been in the choir, worship, driven the bus, car park, put more chairs out that some of you have had hot dinners, christmas meals, cleared gardens, etc etc – many of us could say the same thing. So maybe I’ve earned the right to say ‘I’ve done my bit’.

That makes me ARROGANT. There is always something that I can do…

Paul wrote ‘Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in a such a way as to get the prize’. It’s not just about taking part. It’s not about saying that I ran the race before. We have to keep on running the race and running to WIN. We must notdisqualify ourselves because of the past things we have done.

2. Don’t Need the Hassle
Serving is inconvenient. It will cost us more than money. It will involve energy, stuff, time, no wonder its sometimes easier to just not get involved.

The story of the Good Samaritan is an illustration of people not wanting to get involved. What were they doing? They were thinking of themselves, maybe acting a little bit selfishly. When we think only of ourself we start to opt out, look for excuses, we become lazy, we allow our circumstances to become the biggest thing in our world and forget that its not about us but about other people.

‘I can’t be bothered’
‘I have a lot going on in my own life at the moment’
‘Work is really busy – when I get in its family time thats most important’
‘I’ve got things to do, places to go’

These are not wrong – I know life can be difficult and you must keep the balance right BUT sometimes the best solution for your circumstances is a servolution.

Paul wrote in Galatians ‘Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up’. It seems that helping others will do us good too.

3. I don’t do that
Ever looked at the list of opportunities and excused yourself because you don’t do kids, you don’t do singing, you don’t do early mornings, you don’t do physical work. I know I have. Next time we have a thought that something isn’t being done, maybe that’s a towel opportunity, our frustrations could be our chance to pick up a towel.

Jesus didn’t ask us to follow him if it ‘fits’ with our likes & dislikes, he just asks us to follow him, to lay down our life to gain it, to give up some stuff, to take up our cross everyday. We need to pick up the towel, when we enter a room, someones world then pick up that towel…why?

Because of what it represents…
…people who have needs
…opportunities for God to move
…living out the right kind of Christian walk (giving up your life)
…glorifying God
…lining yourself up to receive a harvest
…because we should

Don’t walk past the towel….pick it up.
It may not seem as significant to us as having the right title BUT to the person we are serving it could be the most significant thing we ever do.

Let’s make this a great time of Servolution.

How To Walk Into Your Future…Pt3

Final instalment of the message I preached across Xcel Church recently as part of our Flash Forward Series…check out Pt1 & Pt2.

When it comes to walking into our futures, with God at the centre of that future, then we need to be walking into it in a certain manner.

Changing
Whatever your future may hold I hope that you will be different? You NEED to CHANGE

New years are opportunities for you to reflect but also look ahead and decide today that you will not be the same this time next year. That you will be closer to God, that you will have worked on your spiritual disciplines, that you will have changed in your relationship with God.

Hebrews 5:12-14
‘For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food. For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil’.

If you are expecting God to do great things with your life then you need to change, I need to change. Part of its God, part of its MY RESPONSIBILITY. We should be showing signs of growth and maturity.

Here are the difficult questions…
How are you changing?
Are you still needing to be taught the same things?
Why haven’t you moved on and started to pass on what you know to others?
What will you do to change this year?
How about a Personal Development Plan?
How about a Bible reading plan?

Consistency
You cannot build a great life in a hurry. Too many people can live for a moment but we are called to live out a great life – to build for a lifetime, to leave a legacy. As a leader I have seen many people come & go – people who were full of potential but could not wait, could not build slowly.

Consistency = the state or quality of holding or sticking together and retaining shape- doing the right thing at the right time as often as you can – that’s what God is looking for. It can seem humdrum but its vital.

Matthew 7:24-27
Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.

Building consistently & deliberately makes you strong, which means you will stand. Which means you will be around to take up the opportunities that God brings your way. Don’t be like some who are ALL FLASH BUT NO FORWARD.

Anyone can build something for a moment, look good for a moment but it seems that not everyone can be bothered to build something over the long haul. BE BOTHERED. You have more time than you think!!

Challenged
Don’t know what you think your future will be but to become all that you want to become for God – make space for him to move in your world. You cannot live out your Christian walk on positive thinking, leadership development & motivational seminars alone – you need God to move in your life.

Put something in your way that only God can meet. Pastor Matthew Barnett calls it ‘miracle space’. Make some. Pray like your life depends on it. Believe. Fast. Don’t give up. Be expectant of God doing something.

Your future in God is there for the taking.
Make sure you do all you can to stay ‘locked on’ to that destiny and not miss out.

[Let me know what you think]