Lead Well: Work on Our Character

A worthless person, a wicked man, goes about with crooked speech, winks with his eyes, signals with his feet, points with his finger, with perverted heart devises evil, continually sowing discord; therefore calamity will come upon him suddenly; in a moment he will be broken beyond healing. There are six things that the LORD hates, seven that are an abomination to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers. [Proverbs 6:12-19]

Nobody wants to be known as someone with bad character, yet this is the state many of us find ourselves in, if only for the lack of a little focus and intentionality. Such a state  brings calamity, demotion and in reality means people don’t want to hang around us.

Good character is not our default position.
Good character comes through purposeful design.

Think about it. We are inherently selfish. We give most of our attention to ourselves. We want to make sure we have what we want, not just what we need. We will bump people out of the way to make a way. We expect as much as possible for as little as possible. We praise and curse with the same mouth. The list of our character flaws is probably endless.

I have learned this lesson by getting it right and getting it wrong. Through awkward conversations and times of confrontation by people who care for me. I have discovered that to lead well in life is to be watchful and protective of the right kind of character. And such watchfulness takes concentration and effort. Start by avoiding the list of those things which don’t look good from Gods point of view…

Pride.
Lying.
Killing people.
Scheming.
Quick to do wrong things.
False witness towards others.
Bringing discord.

Then remember how Jesus took the standard higher on many of these in His Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5, 6 & 7. Let’s be honest, we all have our weaknesses, those unredeemed aspects of our personality which we can use to quickly blame our words and actions on.

Instead let’s be those who are different. Living by design. Who lead well. Are above reproach. Live a life worthy of the calling to which you are called. Honour God in all things. Watch. Be alert. Sin and temptation are always at the door. Stay focused on Jesus. Keep your eyes on Him. Don’t allow yourself to drift. Hold fast your confession of faith. Do not be afraid. Repent quickly.

Jesus was Salt & Light

untitled-001-001Last week I wrote about Jesus moving in, being one of a kind, being generous and how he led with grace while never compromising truth.

Matthew 5:13-16 are some of the most famous verses in scripture. The words of Jesus, part of his ‘Sermon on the Mount’

13 “Let me tell you why you are here. You’re here to be salt-seasoning that brings out the God-flavours of this earth. If you lose your saltiness, how will people taste godliness? You’ve lost your usefulness and will end up in the garbage. 14″Here’s another way to put it: You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colours in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. 15 If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I’m putting you on a light stand. 16 Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand – shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven.

As a preacher I have included these two attributes many times for all Christians in the room to be ready, willing and able to do.

Be salt. Have flavour. Give life some flavour. Bring out the flavour. Be a great preservative. And all other salt-centred type analogies.

Be light. Shine out for Jesus. Be seen. Don’t hide. Be a light that leads. Be a light for safety. The list of light uses is possibly endless. I think you get the feel of what I am going for here.

Be salt & light. Easy to say. Harder possibly to actually do. What does it really mean anyway?

Jesus spoke these words so maybe the best person to look at for answers when it comes to being salt and light then is probably Jesus. He never asked us to do anything which He wasn’t already doing or going to do.

To be salt and light is to live like Jesus. It is to be Kingdom people. It is to preach the word. To bring a message with a different flavour that is distinct from all the others the world throws out every day. It is to reflect the love of Jesus and thereby bring glory to God through good deeds, acts of kindness and a counter-culture, Kingdom-based way of life.

Jesus is the ‘true Light which gives light to every man coming into the world’. It was a light that needed to shine then through Jesus and now through us as His followers  as ‘people loved the darkness rather than the light, because their deeds were evil’.

Jesus is our role model, our example. For a Christian there is nothing more obvious than to say that. Yet so many Christians are not being salt and light. They are not standing out and being in distinct, at least not in the way Jesus was calling us to. They maybe shining but not necessarily bringing out the best of shines for the one they say they follow.

Let’s choose to begin to be the kind of salt and light Jesus is instructing us to be. Why not begin this Christmas. Don’t compromise on the central message of Jesus this Christmas. While others dismiss or ignore it, we should speak about it. In doing so we will be distinct and stand out for the One we love, our Lord and Saviour, Jesus.

Don’t Go Under

We have always been patient, though we have had a lot of trouble, suffering, and hard times. We have been beaten, put in jail, and hurt in riots. We have worked hard and have gone without sleep or food. But we have kept ourselves pure and have been understanding, patient, and kind. The Holy Spirit has been with us, and our love has been real. We have spoken the truth, and God’s power has worked in us. In all our struggles we have said and done only what is right. (‭2 Corinthians‬ ‭6‬:‭4-7‬ CEV)

I like the picture that Paul paints in respect of his approach to life. He had a different perspective that helped him.

Trouble, suffering, hard times, beaten, put in jail, hurt, hard work, sleepless nights, going without food. His story was challenging to say the least.

BUT!!

Got to love a good BUT!!

It shows how Paul lived, despite difficult times. He had already decided he would not go under. Nothing was going to knock him off the path of living for Jesus since the day he was knocked off his donkey and met Jesus for the first time.

BUT in purity, understanding, patience, kindness, the power of the Holy Spirit, love and truth. This were the things already set as the governing values for his life, with Jesus at the centre.

Paul was not going under because he had a different perspective. He had prepared himself for what would come his way. He lived in the wide-open space, surrounded by the promises of God.

The best news is that if we live this way, we can have the same confidence and experience too.

Everyone Else Is Doing It

One of the biggest reasons my walk with God doesn’t always feel like it’s succeeding & flourishing the way it should is probably that at times I start to walk for myself rather than for God. I start to live for my own desires rather than desiring what God wants for my life. I start to build my life my way instead of allowing God to build my life His way.

In Genesis 11 we see people coming together and pursuing an endeavour although not altogether evil, wasn’t the best that God had for them. Their walk had become about their own personal desires and not about just desiring God.

In these verses is a phrase that maybe highlights why things had started to drift.

‘Come let us build for ourselves’

Why do we start to build for ourselves and not for God?
Why do we start to build for ourselves convincing ourselves that we are building for God, when we are not?

Is it about popular opinion?
Is it that ‘everyone else is doing it’?
Is it the power of the crowd?
Is it just laziness to not stand your ground, hold onto your convictions and allow God to be God?

Even this week one of my daughters has been challenged to live this out. Choosing to not live for herself or the way of her friends but for God. It may well bring some grief from some so-called friends. It’s not easy to not follow the crowd. As we are discovering, it takes effort to keep walking with God, especially when most other people just walk for themselves.

My answer to my daughter, hold onto your God. I encouraged her to keep living out what she believes is the right way to live based on her love for God…

Be generous
Stay kind
Remember you are not perfect either
Put others first
Speak words of encouragement
Believe the best of people 

I believe God will honour her for the right choice, because He understands it’s the difficult choice. She is just trying to keep walking with God and I think He loves to reward that kind of behaviour.

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What’s your experience of choosing to walk for God when others close to you don’t?
How would you encourage my daughter?

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?