A Readiness to Receive

“You’ve been given insight into God’s kingdom. You know how it works. Not everybody has this gift, this insight; it hasn’t been given to them. Whenever someone has a ready heart for this, the insights and understandings flow freely. But if there is no readiness, any trace of receptivity soon disappears. That’s why I tell stories: to create readiness, to nudge the people toward receptive insight. In their present state they can stare till doomsday and not see it, listen till they’re blue in the face and not get it. I don’t want Isaiah’s forecast repeated all over again: Your ears are open but you don’t hear a thing. Your eyes are awake but you don’t see a thing. The people are blockheads! They stick their fingers in their ears so they won’t have to listen; They screw their eyes shut so they won’t have to look, so they won’t have to deal with me face-to-face and let me heal them [Matthew 13:11-15]

This intrigues me. I want God’s word on situations, after all, there are plenty of voices out there. It can be tricky to hear the right one.

It’s important for me to position myself well in order to receive the right input, the right message. It makes me think of the old-fashioned dial on my parents radio that was so frustrating when I was trying to listen to the football when I was younger. If it wasn’t quite tuned in correctly you very often got a few stations all at the same time and that was pretty annoying.

I need to get the dial on my heart set right. According to these words of Jesus, with a ready heart, insights and understandings flow freely. You have to have a readiness for receptivity. No readiness then any trace of receptivity disappears.

That leads to an obvious question – am I in a position of readiness?

I must learn to see and not just stare.

I must learn to listen attentively so that I get it.

I must learn to unblock my head, take my fingers out of my ears and open my eyes.

Like a successful athlete waiting for the starters gun, I need to be ‘in the zone’. When they are in the zone, athletes are better able to suppress and ignore negative thoughts, achieving a flow that can give them a remarkable advantage.

There must be a similar benefit for me as Christian. If I am in the zone, with my heart set right, dialled in, receptive to the insights and understandings God revealed by His Holy Spirit then surely I am helping myself to be better able to suppress the enemy of negativity or fear and thereby experience life in all it’s fullness and the blessings of living for God.

Just a thought. What do you think?

Always Ready

Leaders lead.

One thing I have had to learn (in 25yrs of various leadership roles) is that when it comes to leadership, even when it’s a day off, that doesn’t disqualify you from your leadership position.

This is not an argument for being a workaholic and never having time off. Rest and relaxation are very important. It’s just my realisation that leaders can delegate as much as they like, can be away from their desk and not ‘actually’ be the one doing the work, yet they are still leading.

In fact, how things are when you are not there is often a bigger sign of your leadership ability than when you are.

Leaders are always ready. They are never ‘off’. It’s never alright to say ‘that’s not my job’.

I have come to rest comfortably that I am always leading, therefore I am always ready, for both the expected and the unexpected. That I cannot be ‘off duty’ and act ‘however’ because even the casual moments are moments that others may observe. Integrity is won and lost more in those ‘moments’ than in the ‘work’ times.

Always ready. If you don’t want that then my suggestion is simple…don’t be a leader.

My Greatest Leadership Challenge

The other evening with a bunch of young leaders I was asked a great question ~ what has been your biggest leadership challenge and how did you overcome it?

For a moment I struggled. Not that I have never had a challenge in my leadership, but when you reflect on a question like this it can be difficult to articulate your answer. All along my leadership journey there have been times of challenge, you just don’t always realise it. If you’re anything like me, you’ve just got on with it and with Gods help, overcome them.

My answer (prompted by my wife) was ‘2008’.

The leadership challenge in 2008 was this – I could have left church. I thought I was exactly where God wanted me to be. Then, without notice, things changed. A combination of events knocked me, which created a challenge I am convinced that all of us will go through at some point…

I am offended. What will I do in response to what has been done to me, to what has offended me?

All I can say is that there will be moments when you will be offended. Guaranteed. Someone is going to say something, do something, respond in a way that upsets you, something you have been doing will be taken from you. An ‘unexpected event’ that will ask questions of your motives, your values and quite likely, your faith.

Somehow I chose to respond in the right way.

Well, I hear you cry, that’s easy for you, you’re a Pastor. Not sure why people think that way. I’m just a normal person who gets upset about the same kind of stuff that everyone else gets upset by. Plus I wasn’t then, at least not in the role like I am in today.

This is not about me bragging. Looking back the reason I survived that challenge, and therefore my family survived, was because my heart was not going to be moved. At some point previously I had determined that come what may, my heart will not be moved.

My heart is for God. My heart is for my family. My heart is for His church. My heart is for Xcel. It is my home and I have no intention of leaving home. I don’t ever want me or my my family to be homeless.

On reflection, 2008 wasn’t really that much of challenge because I had already passed tests on other occasions. I just hadn’t realised it. Yet when I look back on my life I can see the times when my heart was tested.

1998. Some difficult work stuff as a Financial Adviser.

1999. Would I move to London for a job?

2001. A huge step of faith.

2003. Looking for some extra income which led to a ‘miracle’ job.

Then 2008. And since then, some even bigger challenges that have tested my heart.

My only advice, especially to those who lead. Choose today where your heart should be and then stay there. I have learned that there is nothing SO big that happens where God is not BIGGER, that He cannot help me overcome.

Psalm 15 puts it like this…

Lord, who may dwell in your sanctuary? Who may live on your holy hill? He whose walk is blameless and who does what is righteous, who speaks the truth from his heart and has no slander on his tongue, who does his neighbour no wrong and casts no slur on his fellowman, who despises a vile man but honour those who fear the Lord, who keeps his oath even when it hurts, who lends money without usury and does not accept a bribe against the innocent. He who does these things will never be shaken.

That is the kind of life I want to live. My prayer is that with Gods help and the Holy Spirit, I can.

Amazing

Today I went to the Commissioning Service for this years 50 or so PAIS Apprentices. It was quite a humbling experience watching all these young people from across the globe getting ready to head out as missionaries for Jesus.

Leaving home is not a new thing. I did it when I went to University. Leaving home, moving from one country to another, staying with people you don’t know and choosing to truly live by faith – that’s a little more unusual. It’s pretty amazing!!

I know it’s not for all of us. Our time for taking a year out for God has passed. Or has it?

Now, I’m not advocating that we all sign up for PAIS but there is a challenge here for us, if we are up for it.

How about we commit to give our next year to God, to take a year and be ready for the adventure, to truly live by faith and be missionaries for Him?

We don’t need to leave home to do this. We don’t need to stop working to do this. We don’t need to make any changes really, except for one thing.

Be ready to stand for Jesus when called to do so. Be ready to share your story to someone. Be ready to serve the Kingdom of God. Be ready to do something to reach another person. BE READY.

That’s amazing. That’s the Commission. That’s what we have all received as followers of Jesus…

Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen. [Matthew‬ ‭28‬:‭19-20‬ NKJV]

What’s Your Game Face Like?

New season.

Fresh start.

Optimism.

Opportunity to make some changes.

Set new expectations.

Review and refocus.

GET YOUR GAME FACE ON.

I am thankful for a God who is the God of fresh starts. Despite my best effort at times to mess it up, I am thankful that He doesn’t give up on me. I reflect on a season with some good stuff & some not so good stuff on my part.

Believing for the next 4 months to be a season of growth, for me, for my family & for Xcel Church. I am working like it depends on me & praying like it depends on God. Fresh focus and determination to give my best to God. Working on getting the rhythm right.

Working to remember this as I kick back into routine & help Jesus build His church…

God does not respond to what we do; we respond to what God does. We’ve finally figured it out. Our lives get in step with God and all others by letting him set the pace, not by proudly or anxiously trying to run the parade. [Romans 3:27-28 Msg]

Game face is on. I am ready to be on the pitch and play my part.

What does your game face look like? How do you stay ready and focused for what God has for you?

What If Jesus Rocked Up?

I wonder what we have been up to today. If Jesus had rocked up at our house would we have been embarrassed, would we have fluffed our words as we came up with a load of reasons why we are not ready, what would he have caught us doing?

Let’s just take a moment to reflect on that……

Feel awkward. Feel uncomfortable. Feel like you need to make some changes. I know I do.

Now it’s not about being found in constant prayer or with our Bibles open at our favourite verse. It’s not even about having a pile of money or items that we are ready to give away when the call comes. It’s also not about not having fun or doing things that we enjoy.

It’s possibly about all of those things & much more. Maybe it’s about being aware what God is up to and what He is wanting us to do with our life, that we working on it, making progress, diligent about the things of God, keeping our hearts right with Him and other people, living out our Christian walk in the best way we can.

We might have our feet up but we are not just being lazy, we are just resting. Our life is not our own and we are, like Jesus was, about the Father’s business.

Jesus put it like this…

‘Watch therefore [give strict attention, be cautious and active], for you do not know in what kind of a day [whether a near or remote one] your Lord is coming.’ [Matthew 24:42 AMP]

Those words are powerful, [with definition].

Watch. [look at or observe attentively/follow closely or maintain an interest in/exercise care, caution, or restraint about/look out or be on the alert for]

Give strict attention. [total obedience or observance/not allowing or admitting deviation or relaxation/notice taken of someone or something]

Be cautious. [attentive/vigilant]

Be active. [engaging or ready to engage in physically energetic pursuits/doing things for a cause or campaign, rather than simply giving it one’s support/working]

Aren’t these just about us taking responsibility for how we live so we don’t miss out on God’s best?

Aren’t they just about us being faithful, thoughtful and wise, actually doing the things that God has asked us to do?

They definitely deserve, if not, demand our attention, and not just on a Sunday but every day. And therein lies the challenge. Often we come at this kind of stuff as if it is our duty to behave in a certain manner but that rarely works over the long term. We can only really stay watchful, attentive, cautious and active in respect of the things of God because we truly love Him and want to please Him, much like a husband or wife would display these characteristics in their marriage, to help it stay healthy, to help it succeed for a lifetime, because they love their spouse.

If we are these kind of people then Jesus says we are ‘blessed, happy, fortunate and to be envied, and we will be rewarded’ [v46]

[What do you think? What are the challenges to being this type of person?]

Let’s Get Praying…

As Mark Ritchie encouraged us on Sunday night, we MUST focus on what we CAN do, not what we cannot do.

We should PRAY for the person we want to invite
We should be READY to TELL our STORY
We should INVITE

Be courageous. Let’s ALL give it a go. We might be surprised what God can do as we just try.

Who are you believing to see be impacted by God?
If you leave the first name of the person you are praying for then we can ALL pray…let’s start believing God to make a difference in the lives of the people we do life with…

Don’t Think About It Too Much

That would be my summary of Acts 3. Get filled with the Holy Spirit. Go out doing what you always did…head off to the temple to pray for Peter & John, off to work or wherever for you & me. Difference today is now they are FULLY equipped.

Opportunity + faith = God Miracle. Love it.

Sometimes I pray for the opportunity but then I’m unwilling to step out in faith and the moment has passed. Why? Fear of sounding foolish, let alone looking foolish. Probably thinking about the whole thing too much I convince myself out of allowing God to use me. Possibly I can learn from Peter & John – just say it, don’t think about it too much, just know that God can do it.

Praying that I’m ready for the next time.