A Godly 360º Review

Examine me, O Lord, and prove me; try my mind and my heart [Psalm 26:2]

I was asked recently if I had ever asked God to offer a 360º review of me, of my life and the way I live it.

Perhaps this verse is that very invitation.

Sometimes I am quick to pray for others to change, or for circumstances to be fixed, yet maybe the one pray I should be praying is, Lord, if need be, change me. Do your 360º inventory of my life and then go about your work. Reshape me. Start with me.

Examine me.
Prove me.
Try my mind.

Test my heart.

It’s possibly one the most dangerous but most important prayers we can pray. The willingness to receive an answer requires complete surrender, for God will find something. An issue in the heart. An unforgiveness. A seam of bitterness. A hurt. A scar. Wrong thoughts. Ill-will towards another. Pride. That other things have my heart.

To ask God in, is to ask God to move, is to desire for God to recreate me.

Maybe today is one of those days. To get on my knees once more and ask God to examine, to prove, to try and to test. All because I want to be the best I can be for Him. That like David wrote in this Psalm I would know what it is to have been vindicated by my God, to have experienced His lovingkindness, that I am walking in His truth, and that my life would be a proclamation of His wondrous works to all who come into contact with me.

Living in the Impossible

41kvsoXncfL._SL125_Jesus tells us that if we want to come after him we have to deny ourselves and take up our cross. The way to find yourself is to lose yourself. This is the IMPOSSIBLE call of the Christian faith.

Culture almost dictates to us that we should find out who we are, that ‘I’ am the most important person in my world, that everything I have, want and desire is okay because ‘I’ feel better, ‘I’ am made complete if I have them.

Culture teaches us to be self-aware, to be self-taught, to enjoy self-discovery, to learn self-help, to become self-absorbed even, to see God in all that you do and that YOU have all you need within you to live a successful life. Rather than challenge this thinking, maybe the Church has at times encouraged this.

Then you read the words of Jesus. ‘Lay down your life’. ‘Lose yourself’. ‘Die to yourself’. ‘Pick up your cross’. ‘Follow me.’ Is it any wonder that many choose not to. This is a tough call. Not just difficult – IMPOSSIBLE. In his book, Simply Christian, Tom Wright states that ‘the only way for us to live this life is to draw strength from beyond ourselves, the strength of God’s Spirit’.

This was the crescendo for me as I read Simply Christian. Slow at first but then increasing in momentum has the challenge to ‘reflect the image’ was laid out, thoughtfully but with enough of a push to make you feel uncomfortable about how you walk with God.

Loved the image of living in the overlap, the place where heaven and earth interlock. Every time we pray, take communion, worship, read the Bible, bringing all that God has done for us into the present. Walking in this reality makes us effective for God I’m sure, led by the Spirit not by culture or self.

The last page lays it out so convincingly:
‘We are called to be part of God’s new creation, called to be agents of that new creation here and now. We are called to model and display that new creation in symphonies and family life, in restorative justice and poetry, in holiness and service to the poor, in politics and painting’.

To take a phrase that we have used recently at Xcel Church – living in the impossible, by the strength God provides, help us to repaint the landscape of Christianity in our worlds, in this region, in our town.

Made for spirituality, we wallow in introspection. Made for joy, we settle for pleasure. Made for justice, we clamour for vengeance. Made for relationship, we insist on our own way. Made for beauty, we are satisfied with sentiment.’

It’s time to grow up. Time to grasp a hold of it. To leave behind the brokenness and incompleteness that this world offers and take up our proper role.

This is a recommended read, if you like more to think about, more depth to your knowledge but to still be challenged enough to change how you live the Christian life. Take your time in the reading and you won’t be disappointed. Get your copy here.

Shepherd or Hired-Hand?

Reading the Gospels at the moment. Just read John 10:11-13 where Jesus describes himself as the good shepherd.

This is one of those ultimate leadership markers for me, a distinguishing characteristic between leaders and would-be leaders. What would you do for the thing which you are responsible for? How far would you go?

Shepherds are willing to give it all. For sheep!
Leaders MUST be willing to give it all. For that which they lead.

It sounds really obvious…AND IT IS!! But it’s a truth which, if I dare be so bold, not many actually have the willingness to live up to. Many want to be shepherds/leaders/carriers of responsibility BUT don’t have the stomach for what WILL be demanded of them in that role.

This is a rally cry to all the ‘good’ people with some ‘great’ intentions. Those that step forward to take hold of responsibility but then seemingly just as quick, slip back whilst never pushing through to that next level. Jesus challenges us to ‘lay our life down’ and that even those excuses that can be deemed legitimate are just that, an excuse and by using them cause us to miss out on some life-changing opportunities.

Luke 9:57-62 and Matthew 10:37-39 both talk about this. Sometimes the words of Jesus were tough and people decided not to follow anymore. Now I don’t want that to be the case. I would rather people consider the cost before stepping into the ring.

Hired-hands give up when the going gets tough.
Hired-hands have the freedom to walk away.
Hired-hands don’t have the drive and determination to see it through.
Hired-hands are merely doing a job. They clock-in and clock-out.
Hired-hands know that they are not responsible and therefore act as though not responsible.

The Church, business, families – needs more than hired-hands. It needs one or two to say YES – we really are willing to grab hold of something, take responsibility and make IT happen. Build something. Change something. Create something.

Shepherds fight for it. You get tough when necessary.
Shepherds are compelled to act. You never really clock-out.
Shepherds understand they are responsible and act accordingly.
Shepherds carry the burden not because they have to but because the want to.
This is the essence of leadership.

I know which one I’d rather be and which one I’d rather be known as.
Calling ALL shepherds. Don’t let distractions cause you to abandon your post – we cannot afford for that to happen.

[Which are you? How can you tell?]

A Matthew 10 Lifestyle

Are we over-complicating things in the Church?
Are we too focused on the right growth strategy, connecting people and organising stuff that we miss out on the simplicity of a Christ-led life?

Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for strategy and thinking. I love all that stuff. I am much more a long term person who likes to know where we are heading and how we can best get there. But Matthew 10 has got me thinking…

1. It doesn’t matter who you are. Jesus picked a motley crew of likely lads, gave them simple instructions and told them to basically just get on with it. No Pentecost yet. No out pouring of the Holy Spirit. No tongues of fire. Just a very simple thing – you’ve been with me a while so go…

– preach a simple message – the kingdom of heaven is near
– heal the sick
– raise the dead
– cleanse those who need to be
– drive out demons

Trying to remember the last time I did any of these!!

2. The focus was simple. Freely you have received so freely give. You don’t need any bells & whistles to reach out to people. If they receive you then stay, keep going. If they don’t, then move on. The worse that anyone can say is no. Nothing to be embarrassed about.

3. Expect the unexpected. Be on your guard. Be ready for anything but don’t worry about it either. If it’s happening because you are making a stand for Jesus’ sake then the words you need to speak will be given to you. In fact, people coming against you should almost be expected – just don’t allow yourself to not stand but give in to it.

4. Acknowledgement goes along way. Whoever acknowledges Jesus before men will be acknowledged before his Father in heaven. Whoever doesn’t acknowledge Jesus before others will not be acknowledged before his Father. A willingness to lose your own life for the sake of the Cause is a challenge worthy of acceptance.

5. Help someone. Just a small help can make a BIG difference. A cup of cold water may not seem like much to you but to the person who you give it may seem like the world.

Is this too simplistic? Is just knowing Jesus enough?
Love people.
Stand for Jesus.
Be ready for anything.
Trust God.

Maybe….
Lay down your life.

What do you think?