Reflective Mode is Good

The last few weeks have had me focusing on the cross, what it represents and how I should respond to it with my life.

God has definitely been on my case, challenging me to be honest and to be willing to answer the question about myself and my walk with Him. How am I doing? How am I ‘really’ doing?

When I’m asked that by others I might just say ‘fine’. None of us are particularly great at being completely honest with others. Yet God knows what’s happening with us.

When God asked Adam where he was in the garden, He wasn’t asking it because He didn’t know where he was.  It was more an opportunity to be honest.

The same would be true for us. If God asked how we were doing, He’s not asking to be told by us that we are fine, He knows what we need and exactly how we are doing. I think He just wants us to be open and vulnerable enough to answer in complete truth. When I can do that, I position myself better for God to work IN me and THROUGH me

So how would we answer? And how willing are we to let God shine the light of His presence on our lives and reveal where change may be needed?

 

Psalms: Encourage Your Soul

I love reading the Psalms. If I am ever feeling disheartened, frustrated, maybe even a little lost in my relationship with God, myself or others, then I read a few Psalms.

For me, Psalm 28 was not a complicated read. The beauty with most Psalms, is the simplicity of them. Most times you can understand what the writer was trying to convey without the need for great study or commentaries. Just spend a moment waiting on God and allow the Holy Spirit to reveal to you what God wants you to receive.

 

I wrote this one in my own words, to capture what I felt the Psalm was saying to me…

Call on God. He is not deaf. If He was then we would be no better than those who don’t know Him. Bring your pleas to Him. Trust Him. Know that He hears us, He answers us and He helps us. When we see what He has done, we must thank Him. Know that He is the leader of our life, in all things, our strength and shield, He saves us. 

The challenge for me as Christians is to remain consistent in my relationship with God , just as He remains consistent with me. He hasn’t moved, I have. He hasn’t stopped speaking, I have stopped listening.

As I wrote yesterday about how the secular can squeeze God out, I have a renewed focus to be more deliberate in using my time wisely. If God is important then what I do should evidence that.

Why not take a moment, read Psalm 28 and then share what you think it says to you. 

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

6 Things that Help my Morning Prayer

I don’t want to misrepresent myself here and look like some kind of spiritual master- I am not. My prayer life is poor, a 3 or 4 out of 10. That might be a bit harsh, let’s just say that there is more than enough room for improvement. 

That’s possibly why I am writing this after getting up today and spending about 15-20 minutes praying. It brings some much needed accountability. 

This week I was reminded of the thought – pray like it depends on God but work like it depends on you – both parts of that sentence need some attention. I was also reminded to have some things that I want to see happen that ‘only God’ can do. 

So, refocused and repurposed, the prayer life gets a boost. Here are some things that help me…

  1. I try and pray at the same time every day. 
  2. I have specific things I pray for each day, which help to make it not all about me. 
  3. I journal my prayers. This helps keep my attention and I can look back to see what God has done. 
  4. I use the simple TSP approach when I pray – thank you, sorry, please. It maybe a little childish but it works for me. 
  5. I have some ‘only God’ stuff on the lists – for others and for me and my family. 
  6. I make sure I take some time to listen to and get a feel for what God is saying to me. That is the harder part but very important. 

I’m not saying this is the only way. The key is to find what works for you and then stick to it. Consistency in anything is usually the key to seeing success, I think the same can be said for most kingdom activities – like prayer, being in church, giving and serving others. 

What’s your prayer life like? I would love to hear how you keep your prayer life the strongest it can be

Zoned Out

You know what it’s like. You’re in a meeting, then the combination of the warmth of the room, the level of the conversation, the topic being discussed and suddenly, without even realising it, you have zoned out. Let’s be honest, it happens to us all and if you’re anything like me, when you have zoned out your mind starts to wander and you begin to think about way more important things like food or some sporting event you have a vague interest in.

It’s going to happen and it’s probably alright, for a short time. Some might say that to close off all other distractions and wander can lead to a sense of clarity, genius moments perhaps.

However, in my time as a leader and a Pastor I have observed on too many occasions people who seem to live in a constant state of zoned outness. Life is passing them by and they don’t even realise it.

Have you zoned out?

Have you zoned out from your God-given destiny?

Have you zoned out from living life on purpose for the cause of God?

To zone out means to miss what is happening around us, to lose an awareness of the immediate. It’s as if we have gone offline, we have uncoupled ourselves from life and are headed somewhere else. I’m all for a distraction, a laugh, something to take my mind of the important stuff but not to live that all the time.

I think there are some things we would do well to zone out from. Sin. Laziness. Unkindness. Gossip. A lack of care. Unforgiveness. Controversy. Religion. Wasting time.

When it comes to the things of God I need to zone in. Life is not meant to be lived according to what I think is right. I need an increased awareness of what God is saying not to just not try and miss it altogether.

When it comes to the promises of God over my life I need to zone in. I don’t need to be worried, overwhelmed, fearful or lacking confidence. I need to focus on His word, meditate on it and the promises contained within it, all of which are for me, and that I can they are ‘yes and Amen’.

When it comes to fulfilling the call of God on my life I need to zone in. Love God, love people, love His church. When I zone out I do not perform well, I am not living out of my full potential. I need to zone in, to know who I am in Christ. From identity will come activity. From knowing I am His, how I do what I do will be different.

Only what we do for Christ will last. We only get one life so maybe it’s time to wake up, get back in the room, focus our attention on what God is doing right now and zoning in, getting ready, making ourselves available to play our part and enjoying the adventure along the way.

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?

Climb With Jesus

When Jesus saw his ministry drawing huge crowds, he climbed a hillside. Those who were apprenticed to him, the committed, climbed with him. Arriving at a quiet place, he sat down and taught his climbing companions [Matthew 5:1-2a]

I think I have always imagined the Sermon on the Mount being some great oratory experience with Jesus and a massive crowd all hanging on his every word. In all my imagining though I sometimes forget the fact it was on a mount. I miss the fact that there would have been some walking and some climbing involved.

Five words jumped out to me this time of reading…

‘The committed climbed with him’.

This infers effort, some sense of determination to get up the mountain, to keep up with Jesus as he climbed, a desire to listen and learn. It also infers that some must have given up the climb, were not committed and turned back for home. And this challenged me.

Am I willing to go up to stay in the vicinity of Jesus?

Am I really putting in enough effort to ensure that I can clearly hear the words of Jesus?

Am I ready and willing to climb a little?

With Gods help, I am. How about you?

Ask God to Speak to You

Ask and you will receive. That’s what Jesus told us to do.

Saying something worth hearing comes from making time to listen to the one worth hearing. So go ahead, ask God to speak to You.

Maybe like me that doesn’t come naturally. It can seem somewhat awkward, perhaps a little bit fuzzy when it comes to distinguishing between what is truly Him and what is just that pepperoni pizza from last night.

Here’s what helps me.
• Turn other things off. Remove distractions.
• Open your Bible up and read it. Start in the New Testament, a Gospel or one of Paul’s letters.
• Ask God to speak to you through the verses. Ask questions of God as to whether there is something He is wanting you to learn or act upon.
• Write down what you feel God is saying. Then ask someone you respect what they think. Test it with what you know about the character of God.
• Wait. Just sit still. Learn to recognise the way God speaks to you.
• Do this on a regular basis. The relationship, like any other will get stronger over time.

Why not decide to give it a go and spend some time with God in the next 24hrs and see what happens.