#allin resurrection: embracing the journey from Friday to Sunday

16 Aug

The life of a Jesus follower is one of crucifixion and resurrection. It’s death and life. Friday and Sunday. In the early hours of 2014 I wrote in my journal:

“Lay down.
Let go.
Stand up.
Take hold.”

If you know me (or have read my blogs), you will know that laying down and letting go have become an intrinsic part of my life. Just read my last blog about surrender. This is an essential part of discipleship: willing to die, willing to pick up that cross and let go of the things that hold you back from encountering the fullness of His love. God has definitely taken me further on this journey of #allin surrender over the last few months. However, I have come to realise that I am not so good at standing up and taking hold of all the promises that God has spoken over my life.

SDC13701

Jesus set the standard of what a life of #allin surrender looks like but if He had stayed in the grave then we would still be there too. He laid Himself down, let go of divinity and united Himself with us. But if He stayed in the grave then death would not be beaten, it would still have a pretty painful sting and we would still be subject to all of the burdens of death and darkness. Jesus did not stay there! And we cannot either! Good Friday is not at all ‘good’ without the resurrection life that Jesus embraced on the Sunday. When you lay everything down and surrender your life to God, He meets you there and brings you to new life. He does not leave us on the floor. He meets us there. He puts good things in front of us. Psalm 23, after a voyage of death through the shadow valley and a meal in front of enemies, says “surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life.” Surely! Surely there are good things to come! John 10:10 states that Jesus “came to bring [us] life, and far more life than before.” (JB Phillips). What a promise!

The nature of resurrection can be nothing but #allin. You cannot stay half dead. Lazarus came out of the grave and people had to remove his grave clothes (John 11:44). You don’t need to remain in the stench of the grave and you’re no longer required to wear the rotting grave clothes of the past. You’re either a new creation or you’re not. So many people walk around in the grave clothes of past regrets, carrying around the stench of the burden of unfulfilled dreams. Jesus’ grave clothes were folded up and left in the grave (John 20:7)! It wasn’t a partial resurrection, it was #allin. He left all signs of death in His tomb. If we’re going to embrace Jesus’ #allin resurrection we must cling to that journey from Friday to Sunday. We have to lay everything down but still allow Holy Spirit to resurrect and call forth from within us the beautiful and significant God-given and God-ordained gifts that flow naturally and gracefully from the place of our oneness with Jesus. In Him we have been raised to new life. There’s an abundance of glorious freedom and joy that rests on that truth. The journey from Friday to Sunday is embracing and allowing our mind to be renewed by Holy Spirit. The old has gone and the new has come. You and I are new creations! Come on!

It is time to stand up and take hold of all that God has called us to be. Here’s the truth: you are amazing and you are made for amazing things! Jesus picked you out and chose you before the foundation of the world. Just read Ephesians 1:4-5! It’s time to embrace resurrection life, the complete fullness of life, and step into all that we are called to be. Many people reading this will have promises and dreams that have been cast aside or stolen but I feel as though it is a time to take hold of these promises and dreams and become all that we are called to be.

This has been my heart in August. There’s still an element of surrender as all the good things come from Jesus – I always want to have that in mind and only take hold of what He puts in front of me. I want to be willing to lay it all down as He guides at a moment’s notice. But it is time to take hold of who God has called me to be. I don’t want to miss out on the things right in front of me that God has placed there. For too many years the thief has stolen and distracted us away from the things that God has placed in front of us. It is time to take hold of them! What does that look like for you? For me, it’s remembering who I was created to be and letting that reality partner with His prophetic promises. It’s deliberately and intentionally taking hold of the opportunities to walk that destiny and reality out in the every day moments of real life.

Here are some of the truths I am taking hold of:

  • I am a son. I have the best Dad who knows my needs.
  • I am a leader. Holy Spirit guides me and I can guide those around me. I can release what I have learnt to people as they follow me.
  • I am a prophet and I can speak life, truth and destiny into people’s lives. My life points to a loving and incredible Father.
  • I am a worshiper, a singer, a writer, a musician. I am creative and whatever I create can change lives, atmospheres and situations.
  • I am a teacher. I have the mind of Christ and I have Holy Spirit revelation that I can unlock in other people.
  • I am a man, a father, a husband. I love with compassion, sacrifice and purpose. I release destiny to others. I live in community not in isolation. I encourage and build up those around me. I am extravagantly generous with every resource I am blessed with.
  • I am a fire starter. I live in His presence and therefore where I go people will be healed, delivered and set free. I will go to different parts of this world and bring life and love.
  • I am an intercessor. I see what is on the horizon and I call it into being. I stand in the gap for people, especially those overlooked and ignored.
  • My life is marked by passionate pursuit of His presence, adventure and fun, laughter and joy. I am a man who has resolved to fix His eyes solely on Jesus. I will not look to the right or the left.
  • I am who He made me to be. I will be a person who embraces the cross with #allin surrender and I will be a person who embraces everything God has placed in front of me and experience resurrection life.

This is who I am.
Who are you?

This is who I am. Who I’m called to be. I don’t mind that I’m not walking out these values every minute of every day yet. No, instead I resolve to not miss any God-given opportunity to step into my purpose and destiny! I refuse to let fear steal anything that God has called me to be. I will not dwell on past mistakes and regrets. I will continue to grow and recognise that we’re called to a process, but I will take hold of every little thing that God has given to me. I will not beat myself up when I miss an opportunity*, I will not give the enemy a foothold. I will gladly take the next opportunity and I will live in the fullness of life that Jesus bought for me through His death and resurrection. I will not live solely from the surrender of Friday but I will hold it in tension with and will make the journey to Sunday.

This is who I am.
Who are you?

You have been raised to new life. It’s time to take hold of it and all the adventure and possibilities that come with it!

Who is with me? Who will embrace the life to stand up and take hold of all that they have been called to be?

  1. Do you find it easier to lay things down or take hold of what He has put in front of you?
  2. What is God calling you to take hold of at this time?

*I wrote most of this blog on the 14th. The following day I had a terrible time in a particular situation. I was stressed. My decision making process was more influenced by the thoughts of other people than what God thought of me. Yes, I was caring about what people would think of me. I wasn’t being the Tim I was made to be. I definitely was not taking hold of everything God was calling me to be. It is a process. There’s something freeing in that reality. When we’re caught up in the brambles of life He searches us out, picks us up, brushes the dust off our clothes and takes us home (Luke 15:1-7). It’s always a new day in the Kingdom of God. Stand up. Start again. That’s part of the journey. That’s the path to #allin resurrection.


If you’re wondering where the #allin hashtag came from you’ll need to read this blog I wrote. I’ve also written a blog about #allin compassion here and #allin surrender here.

#allin surrender

20 Jun

“Keep back nothing. Nothing that you have not given away will be really yours. Nothing in you that has not died will ever be raised from the dead.” – C.S. Lewis

“When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.” – Dietrich Bonhoeffer

DSCF2627

Ever sung any of the following lyrics?

  • “Lord, I give you my heart, I give you my soul, I live for you alone.”
  • “Take the world, but give me Jesus”
  • “Strip everything away, til all I have is You, undo the veils so all I see is You”
  • “I’m giving you my heart, and all that is within, I lay it all down for the sake of you my King, I’m giving you my dreams, I’m laying down my right, I’m giving up my pride for the promise of new life, And I surrender all to you, all to you.”
  • “I’m falling on my knees, offering everything, Jesus you’re all this heart is living for”
  • “Be the fire in my heart, Be the wind in these sails, Be the reason that I live, Jesus, Jesus”
  • “Spirit, lead me where my trust is without borders, let me walk upon the waters, wherever You would call me”

Full marks if you recognise all these lyrics. Here are the lyrics of some great, great songs! I love these songs and I love the heart behind them. But sometimes it is so easy to sing these lyrics without thinking about the inherent cost and sacrifice that is contained within them. These are songs of surrender. I’m sure you can think of other Sunday songs that contain a similar heart cry – to give Jesus everything. I’m sure you can think of similar prayers that you have prayed. What I am realising is that there can be a disconnect between the words that come from our lips and the actual action of surrender. It’s easy for me to sit and pray “Lord, I give you everything, take my anywhere” and for nothing to change in my heart. How many times have I prayed “take everything” but held on to every single thing that was holding me back from the depth of the Father’s heart? Wow, I am so very challenged just writing that sentence.

Here is a simple truth: surrender is not a fuzzy feeling we get singing these lyrics or praying these prayers on a Sunday. Surrender is Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday abandonment. Surrender is giving Him control of every single dimension of our life every single day of the week.

Surrender is realising He is the king and He therefore has absolute control. Surrender is laying down our control at the feet of Jesus. Surrender is giving Him everything that you have, everything that you could be, everything that you desire and dream about… it’s allowing Him to take it all – even if you never see it again. That’s #allin surrender. That’s the heart of a disciple. I am learning this every single day. And it is sometimes very painful because I really want to hold on.

Surrender is largely opposite to the mentality of our culture. Our society says fight for everything and be in control. You are entitled and you should battle for what you deserve. Surrender, therefore, can often be seen as a weakness. You don’t want to see an army going into battle with the mindset of surrender. You don’t want to see the England football team lay down without even trying! How countercultural is it that Jesus goes against this. The majority perspective is to fight for your promotion, hold on to your security, get to the top. We should not worry about the people around us. Don’t back down, seize every opportunity, win. Is this not one of the undercurrents of our culture? There is not much value placed on surrender, on going lower, on letting go of control. However, despite this surrender and sacrifice are core values for the Jesus follower.

Jesus states in the Amplified version of the Bible:

“If anyone desires to be My disciple, let him deny himself [disregard, lose sight of, and forget himself and his own interests] and take up his cross and follow Me [cleave steadfastly to Me, conform wholly to My example in living and, if need be, in dying, also].” (Matthew 16:24)

Jesus is clear. The cost of discipleship is death. It is laying everything down. Surrender is death every day of the week. Death to my desire, death to my passions, death to my dreams. When He calls you, it is a call to die. It is disregarding and losing sight of myself and my interests and it is pursuing Him above everything else. And you know what? Death is damn painful. It hurts. My dreams are amazing. He put them there! I really want to see lives transformed, I want to see things grow, I want to see people come alive, I want to get married, to pursue the heart of Jesus alongside a girl, I want to be secure with somewhere to live, enough money to pay the bills… it is painful surrendering these things. None of them are bad – but am I going to pursue these things above Jesus?

On Tuesday morning during a talk at Form, Jesus specifically said to me, “will you give up everything to follow me?” He’s said it before, He will say it again. On a Sunday morning it’s often easy to pray that prayer. “God, I’ll go anywhere, I’ll do anything.” But when you put it in the context of letting go of my dreams, the deep desires of my heart, it suddenly becomes harder. Let me be honest, there are things that I want that I sometimes want a lot more than I want Jesus. A lot more. Still! And so that is why I got down on my knees and I cried. I cried longer than I’ve ever cried before. Some of the aforementioned hopes and dreams came to mind and I painfully laid them down. Is this what taking up a cross looks like? Is this death? Is this #allin surrender?

#allin surrender is a process

I’m not telling this story to draw attention to myself – I’m telling it as dying is all I feel qualified to talk about at the moment. This is my story every day at this time. And that’s the truth – the reality of a life of surrender is that it is a continual process. God is moving in my life at the moment, removing all that hinders love so that only He remains. The reality is that I still need to let go of some things. A lot of things. There are still things that I am pursuing above Jesus. There are still things where I cling desperately to control. Surrender is a process that lasts a lifetime.

But it is a process that is worth it. It costs everything, but there is nothing that is worth more than the priceless privilege of intimately knowing Christ Jesus. He is beyond worth – His love is of infinite value. In the process of kneeling before Him, heart laid open with all my dreams, tears and snot pouring out, I knew His love so close to me. My dreams were put there by Him, but He wants to lead and guide me. He wants it to be a relationship with Him first and foremost. His will, not mine. Will you give up everything to follow Him, to cleave yourself to Him in the most close way, even if you never see those dreams and passions realised? It is hard, but it is worth it. It is the call of Christ. Come and die. He is the God who prunes us back in order to see us produce fruit. Not just fruit, but fruit that lasts – fruit with eternal value (John 15). This is what CS Lewis was talking about! We have to let every part of us die before that part can bring resurrection life. Nothing that has not died will be raised to life. It starts with surrender. That’s why Romans 12 urges us to be “living sacrifices”. We are to live from the sacrificial altar of #allin surrender – it is a place of refinement, death, sacrifice, but also a place of holy fire and therefore a place of intimate connection and closeness.

The ultimate surrender

The context of surrender is that Jesus has already done it. We do not have a dictatorial king who harshly gives us dreams and then snatches them from us. No, we have the true king who in all His splendour humbled Himself to the point where He surrendered everything, first by becoming human and living as us and then by surrendering His life, forever uniting Himself with us on the cross. That is #allin surrender. He set the standard. There was no greater price, no greater surrender. His desire for us was worth dying for. His desire for you means He would do it all again. In that context, surely giving up everything to follow and be with Him is so unbelievably worth it? He has made a way! We surrender in His strength. We pick up our cross, disregard ourselves and cling to Him. God, we want to chase after You with everything we have. We want to lay aside all that holds us back and fix our eyes firmly on You. Where You go, we will follow.

Keep nothing back.
Surrender everything.
Go #allin. It’s worth it.

Who will join me on this endeavor?

  1. Is your life a life of daily surrender?
  2. Are there any areas of your life where you need to surrender today?
  3. What steps do you need to take to surrender?

I put together a soundtrack of five songs of surrender on my music blog. Listen here.


If you’re wondering where the #allin hashtag came from you’ll need to read this blog I wrote. I’ve also written a blog about #allin compassion here.

#allin love, #allin compassion

25 Apr

If you’re wondering where the #allin hashtag came from you’ll need to read the last blog I wrote.


DSCF6867

You probably haven’t heard this story before.

A man is travelling between two places. He’s just a normal guy, nothing extraordinary, no different from me or you. He’s just travelling from A to B. But on the way he gets jumped. The criminals beat him and take everything he has – clothes, money, everything. He’s half dead and left on the side of the road. He can’t move by himself.

(Ok, I might have lied, you’ve probably heard this story a million times.)

Our friend is in desperate need. Fortunately, the way he was travelling is a well trodden path and it’s not long before someone comes by. And through his eyes, swollen by the bruises, he sees potential hope in the form of a priest. Here’s a man from the temple, a man from the same culture and religion. But as soon as the priest notices the man, he crosses over to the other side of the road. Our travelling friend grimaces in pain and closes his eyes. He can hardly breathe; his ribcage sears with pain. The heat is unbearable for anyone, let alone someone in this condition. He is desperate.

There are more footsteps and our dehydrated and dying traveller opens his eyes again to see a Levite, someone set aside for religious duty. The second man is in just as much hurry as the first and when he reaches our friend in distress, he has a quick look and then he also crosses the road! Again, here’s a man from the same religious background, travelling the same road, walking the same A to B path. But there’s no time to stop.

Both these men were well-versed in the Scripture. They knew God (or thought they knew Him). They undertook religious rituals each day and were part of the established religious elite. However, when an opportunity presented itself in front of them in the form of a beaten traveller – an opportunity to love someone from the same religious background – they chose to cross over to the other side of the road. I don’t know their reasoning – was it because helping the man would lead to ‘religious uncleanliness’? Was it because the man was from a different social background and the two passersby believed themselves to be superior to him? Was it because they didn’t want to waste their money or effort on the man? Was it because they were in a rush and they just didn’t have enough damn time? Or maybe they just couldn’t be bothered?

Whatever the reason, it’s got me questioning – how often do we, the church family, do exactly the same?

  • How many Sunday mornings do we spend avoiding conversation with certain people because they’re awkward?
  • How often do we flee from opportunities to love people because they are different to us?
  • How often do we miss our chance to make a difference because we don’t want to inconvenience ourselves?
  • How often have we avoided sitting next to someone at church because we don’t like their personality?
  • How often have we groaned inwardly because a really needy person or a really difficult person to talk to has sat next to us?
  • How often do we not have enough time to care?
  • How often can we just not be bothered?

#allin love is practical love.

Thankfully for the man left on the side of the road someone did help. The person who helped was a stranger, a foreigner. He was a man from a different culture, a man with different religious beliefs, a man considered to be an enemy. But he stoops down low, bandages the wounds with oil and wine, gives him his own donkey and takes him to a place where he can rest and recover – paying for that accommodation out of his own pocket.

I don’t have enough fingers to count the amount of times I’ve missed these moments where love could have shined so very brightly. Whereas the Samaritan man realised that love transcended borders, beliefs and backgrounds, I don’t think I’m always quite there yet.

I’ve had various people come to me over the years and talk about seemingly hopeless situations. They had been robbed and were badly beaten on the side of the road. Their bruises were depression, their throbbing pain was a lack of self-esteem, their broken bones were a lonely emptiness. And I’d listen to these people sincerely, sometimes even helping a little bit, but at a distance. And, without realising, I’d palm people off with a great line: “oh, sorry to hear that, I’ll be praying for you.” Sometimes even in a text message. Now, I know there are some amazing prayer warriors around. Prayer is fundamental, but it was so very easy for me to say that. It was my equivalent of having a quick look and then crossing over to the other side of the road. I might have prayed a quick one liner, but what does the lonely person need? Friends, family, community. What’s the hopeless person need? Authentic hope found as we walk through the hardships of life in community. So often that has been me crossing the road. What’s your equivalent?

This is not the love that Jesus modelled!

The love that Jesus showed IS MORE than a text message. It’s more than our judgemental thoughts. It’s like that Samaritan who went beyond the call of duty for an enemy. It has a practical element that meets people where they are with what they need. It’s not half-hearted, it’s not reluctant… it’s #allin. Fact. I’ve been on a journey learning about this for the last few years.

Jesus got alongside the people that the rest of the population thought were a waste of space. He touched the lepers, He stopped and went to tea with the hated tax collectors and He spent time with prostitutes and valued them for who they were. He picked a bunch of uneducated fisherman as His inner circle of friends. He gets down and washes our feet – He serves us even though He is King.

#allin compassion is gut wrenching.

When it comes to love, Jesus went #allin. He didn’t settle for ‘love’ at a distance. He didn’t cross the road to get away from the ‘difficult’ people. No, Jesus had compassion. It oozes from the pages of all four Gospels – just look how many times it says “Jesus looked at [the person] and had compassion”. What’s compassion? Two definitions from the dictionary:

  • “deep awareness of suffering of another coupled with the wish to relieve it”
  • “a feeling of distress and pity for the suffering or misfortune of another, often including the desire to alleviate it”

Do we have deep awareness for the people around us? Do we have that desire to alleviate distress and misfortune of our brothers and sisters around us? Jesus did. Even more interesting is that the Greek word that the Bible uses for ‘compassion’ is splancthna, which literally means ‘bowels’. That’s right – Jesus’ compassion was a deep pain in the gut. It wasn’t pretty. It was gut-wrenching. I know people say that love is not a feeling and I’m not saying that we should all aim to be Myers-Briggs personality type ‘feelers’, but love has to move us. Jesus’ heart broke for the people around Him – He experienced pain inside His stomach – a deep longing, a gut-wrenching compassion. When Jesus looked at people, He felt something. A kick or punch in the stomach that drove Him to the outcasts, the untouchables, the hated and the rejected.

When we turn away, He does not turn away.

Oh God, I want to love like you. I want to go #allin. I want to love like this.

My question is this: are we going to be a church full of priests and Levites who are close enough to see, but don’t have enough love to stop? Or are we going to ask God to release a deep compassion within us so that we can love our brothers and sisters around us?

What would happen if we got this right within the church? No more half-hearted “Sure, I’ll pray for you” texts, no more avoiding the easily avoidable, no more conversations behind people’s back, no more whispers in the corridors, no more malicious rumour, no more empty conversation. But instead… real, gritty, authentic love. Meeting people where they’re at. Giving them time. Meeting their needs. Loving them. Because in a way, that’s revolutionary – a place where #allin love and compassion reigns; a place where everyone is loved and valued for who they are; a place where needs are met. And maybe that spills out onto the streets, maybe we become known for love rather than hate and judgement, maybe that’s the catalyst for transformation. Is that what the church family could be?

Maybe.
It’s worth a try.

You can see why Paul said that without love we’ve got nothing.
Because without love, we’ve not got a thing.
God, teach us to love like you.

#allin love, #allin compassion. Or nothing.

2014: #allin or nothing

1 Jan

People often tell me I need to write more blogs. I really appreciate this. Thanks. I can be a good writer and I probably have some good things to say. But at the end of the day, if I don’t live out the words that I type then it’s just empty and hollow. In the last ten years, I’ve written a lot of empty and hollow blogs. This is the reason that I don’t write as often as I did when I was at school, college and even university. I think I’ve realised that at some point you actually have to do something. You can’t just talk about it. Words are empty without action.

I have the ability to inspire and convict with words in equal measure. However, the fact is that we still all are glued to the computer screen and we’ll just check Facebook and Twitter one more time before doing anything remotely worthwhile. At some point we’ve got to do something about it. In this case, the same thing that has the ability to inspire or instill change actually neutralises it – let’s be honest, we’ve all spent time reading about change rather than instigating change in the situations around us or, indeed (and perhaps more importantly), the change needed in our own lives. In the blink of an eye, I can both inspire the depths of your heart and distract you from doing something about it.

So with a new year, I pose the following question: what would the world look like if we actually did something about it?

No, scrap that, here’s a better question. There is too much wonderful irony laced in the first question when it comes directly after that opening paragraph. (“Everybody thinks of changing humanity, and nobody thinks of changing himself.” – Leo Tolstoy) The question is this: what on earth would my life look like if it wasn’t just words and I actually did something about it?

allinornothing

A few days ago at a football match I noticed an Adidas advertisement campaign and the words that I saw have resulted in this blog. The slogan was as follows:

“Game on or game over.
#allin or nothing.”

#allin or nothing.

Maybe, just maybe, this is what we’re called to?

Showing commitment.
Giving everything.
Leaving comfort.
Taking risks.
Going all in.

At some point you just have to get out of the boat. #allin. Step out of the boat. Even if that means getting wet. Even if that means falling flat on your face. Even if that means getting your heart broken. Even if that means getting it wrong. Even if that means failing. Even if that means facing fears. Even if it’s impossible.

What would happen if I went all in?

That moment where Peter steps out of the boat is so audacious. It’s one of the best biblical examples of going all in. There’s no logic to it. The figure (Jesus) upon the waters (that the disciples thought was a ghost) tells Peter to come because Peter asks the figure to tell him to come. How much sense does that make? And Peter does it. How much sense does that make? He gives everything in that moment. He climbs out of the boat, clothes on, eyes fixed upon who he thinks might be Jesus. It might not have been. He might have got it wrong. He might have looked like a fool. A cold and dripping wet fool. But he ignores the doubts, he ignores the wind and the waves and he steps out that boat. He goes all in. It might not have made sense on the surface, but in fact, it’s the opposite that’s true for Peter – #allin or nothing. It made no sense to him to stay in the boat! If he couldn’t go all in, it wasn’t worth it. It wasn’t worth a fisherman dropping everything because a man said “follow me”.

2014 and I’ve heard those same words. “Come, follow me”. It’s the call of Jesus. “Nothing else is worth it, nothing else can satisfy like I do, no love even comes close to the love that I am and that I give.” Nothing compares. And so I’m convinced that the walk with Jesus is meant to be one where we go all in. Going all in is what is required to see our God-given dreams burst into life. Sometimes it involves sacrifice. Wars don’t end without someone taking a stand. The starving are not fed without radical effort and without someone going further. Lasting social change doesn’t happen overnight. Books don’t write themselves. Songs are not composed if you never took time to learn the instrument. Water isn’t walked on unless you get out of the boat. Safety and security must be left behind. At some point you have to nail your colours to the mast. You have to go all in. Lukewarm living is not life to the full (ask the church in Laodicea – Revelation 3:14-20). There’s a choice. There are so many things that we put our hands to with no real commitment – there’s little desire and little heart. And what have the results been? It makes no sense to stay in the boat! If we’re not giving Him everything, it might as well be nothing. If we try to hold onto our life, we end up losing it (Luke 17:33). What if we followed Jesus with our whole hearts? What if we gave Him our whole lives? What does it look like to go all in?

  • What would happen if I loved people to the point where I couldn’t walk past a hungry stranger without providing them food?
  • What would happen if money wasn’t ‘mine’ but was a good gift from a good Father that could be used for radical generosity at any moment?
  • What would happen if I actually prayed for every person with physical need to be healed?
  • What would happen if I didn’t just drift along in life but actually seized opportunities to make a difference?
  • What would happen if I put the work in to see my dreams fulfilled? What if I didn’t just have good ideas and pipe dreams but tangible goals that, with determination, focus and effort, could produce lasting fruit?
  • What would happen if I opened up my heart so that ‘community’ and ‘family’ were not just concepts but realities to explore and embrace?
  • What would happen if I went all in? If I got out of the boat and got a bit wet? If I took a few more risks? If I believed that impossible could become possible with a bit of motion and a lot of fixing my eyes on Jesus?

It is so easy for me to give up before I have even started. But here’s to 2014, a year where more and more of these words are no longer empty and hollow but are rooted in the light and life of a heart that went all in. And we’re bound to miss the mark once in the next 365 days so here’s to each day given over to Holy Spirit’s leading and to pursuing the best Dad who loves us relentlessly and to awakening more and more to the fact that we are one with Jesus, united in His death and resurrection. Or here’s to the next hour where we will go all in – where we will choose to give Him our whole heart and embrace the opportunity or risk that brings about in the next sixty minutes. Moment by moment, day by day: chasing dreams, taking risks in love, giving Him everything, going all in and getting a bit wet.

Because if we’re not going all in, how much do we believe?
If we’re not even aiming at going all in, why bother?
It might as well be nothing.

It makes no sense to just stay here.

#allin or nothing. Happy New Year.

The Shepherds – responding to Good News

18 Dec

How do you respond to God speaking? How do you respond to His good news? Have you heard it all before? Does it lead to a deeper friendship or pursuit of Him? Does it transform your life? Does it hit your heart but never impact your actions?

The Christmas story is great because it has so many intertwining stories of people who responded to God’s good news. Spanning a few years, we have a pregnant teenager giving birth to the Saviour of the world in the dirt of a cave, and her humble husband who responds well to angels appearing to him in dreams – despite the social consequences of sticking with Mary. We have some wise men who like looking at stars so much that they are willing to travel from far off places to find this random but important baby and we have some dedicated ordinary folk who protect and take care of the needs of their sheep day after day (more about them in a minute). What a bunch! Each of them, in different ways, respond to the voice of God. Whether it was angels or stars, each had the opportunity to respond and they choose to do that, no matter the sacrifice.

In the modern times it is so easy to disconnect from the reality of what a special, unusual and therefore powerful story this is! We have to go further than the overfamiliar stories and the cute nativities. We have to see the gritty reality of the story of the Creator of the whole universe, who comes and dwells among us – He is the child born to die so that we could live! Read the story! Let’s cut through the lie that says that we cannot learn anything from stories or teaching we have heard before. What’s your response to the good news? There is always an opportunity to respond! What does God want to say to you through the different characters? What’s your response this Christmas?

I want to specifically look at the response of the shepherds. Much has been said and written about the shepherds as this is a well-told tale, but I believe there’s something to learn here that can help us grow in responding when God speaks. Why were the shepherds chosen to hear this good news? This is something that I have been pondering. They were not considered to be that important, they slept in the hills and they were the type of men who could fend off attacks from wild animals. Oh, and if your main company is with animals and men, then you probably aren’t the cleanest human being ever! But this particular group of shepherds listened to the good news. When the angel shows up they are terrified (this is a natural and acceptable response to seeing such amazing glory). However, they listen to the message. They allow the good news of Jesus’ birth to have an impact on every dimension of their lives. This is important for us: the good news of Jesus’ birth has to have an impact on every dimension of our lives. We’re not just celebrating a birthday at Christmas. We’re celebrating God coming down to us, to live as us and to ultimately die to save us.

The Shepherd’s Response

There are three dimensions to the shepherd’s response after hearing the message from the angel and then seeing the whole heavenly host praising God in the sky. You can read about all of this in Luke 2:8-20.

  • Respond together – this is not a one man task! The shepherds were in it together. They looked after their sheep in a group. When they hear the news, the shepherds talk about it together (“The shepherds said to one another, ‘Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened'”) and then go on the adventure to find the baby together (“So they hurried off”). In the same way, when we hear the voice of God, we’re not called to follow the good news by ourselves but we must go on the adventure together! Find other people who have heard and listened to God and discover more of the “good news that will cause great joy for all the people” together!
  • Spread the news – the shepherds could not contain what they had seen! After they had found Mary, Joseph and the new baby, “they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child”. The shepherds recognised that the good news was not something to keep to themselves, but something that needed to be heard by others. Not everyone has a field full of angels show up in the night! They heard from the angel that the message was for “all the people” and so they ran around and told everyone about it! God is still doing good things today. His good news is still good! When He does something good in your life, tell other people! Good news is for sharing!
  • Worship God“The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.” Hearing good news has to point you back towards the Father. Seeing all that He had done resulted in the shepherds worshipping Him. We need to do the same – when we hear His good news, let’s learn to respond in overflowing thankfulness and praise. Let’s give Him the glory He deserves. Let’s not allow the message to become stale and over-familiar. Let’s not forget just how amazing the good news is! I don’t want to be indifferent to His love and all that He has done!

The shepherds had a three-dimensional response to the good news! When you hear the good news, whatever that news looks like in your life, make sure you choose to respond in a similar way! I think there’s a triangle in this somewhere…

  1. How are you responding to His good news today? What part of the good news do you need to hear today?
  2. How is His good news leading you to overflow with praise and thankfulness? How is it leading you into deeper relationship with Him?
  3. Who do you need to respond with? Where is your community/family that you can join together and respond with?
  4. Who do you need to tell about His good news?

An Untroubled Heart – learning to receive Jesus’ gift of peace

21 Nov

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” – John 14:27 (NIV)

It’s easy to feel peaceful and live with an untroubled heart when you are sailing calmly in a tranquil sea. But what happens when the storms of life are making it feel like the boat you are on is capsizing? It can sometimes feel like there’s a disconnect between what Jesus is teaching and what we are experiencing. John 14 records the words of Jesus to His closest friends just before He is betrayed by Judas. The disciples are a bit confused by what He’s saying – in particular that He’s about to leave them. I wonder if, in the turmoil of the next 48 hours, they managed to remember any of Jesus’ final words, particularly the verse above. It’s an interesting thought. Personally, what I’ve noticed is that when life throws rubbish at me, I tend to forget Jesus’ words and I allow my heart to be troubled and my life and emotions to be anything but peaceful! I am often like the disciples who scattered, hid, doubted and questioned Jesus after He was arrested.

DSCF5060

Stormy Circumstances

My recent situation has often felt bleak – the contract on our house ends at the end of November and I the only options available seemed too far away. Moving out, as well as a few other circumstances, has meant that I’ve been a bit short on money as well. Now, I’d obviously love to say that I have spent the last month full of faith in a God that loves me and always provides, but sometimes (read: a lot of the time) I’ve been full of fear and doubt – I’ve been anything but peaceful! My heart has been troubled and I have been afraid of what was to come. Last week was particularly bad. On Monday I was crying and asking someone, “I have no where to live – have I made the right decisions this year?” By Friday, with no solutions on the horizon, my conversations with God looked a little like this: “HELP! Are you actually going to come through? This is rubbish! What should I do? Why don’t you help?”

It was during one of these conversations that God started speaking to me through John 14:27. I was reading this verse and a few realisations came to mind:

  • “Peace I leave with you” – Jesus has left his peace with His followers – it is available here!
  • “My peace I give to you” – not only this, but He actually gives us His peace – it’s a gift! He is the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6), and He gives us His peace! Let that truth sink in!
  • “I do not give as the world gives” – the world makes promises but rarely comes through on them. It offers and promises so much, but never quite gives the delights that it spoke of. The gifts that the world gives are often empty and they never truly satisfy.
  • “Do not let your hearts be troubled” – this is a warning! Don’t let your heart be troubled, don’t even give it permission to feel like that! Don’t let it happen!
  • “Do not be afraid” – another warning – don’t let fear creep in! When circumstances look bleak, do not be afraid. Instead, look to Him and receive the peace that He gives to you.

I found this challenging! We have a choice! He has left His peace for us and we can live in this peace, but often we allow our hearts to be troubled and afraid. He says “do not let your hearts be troubled”! Don’t give it permission. The Amplified translation adds: “[Stop allowing yourselves to be agitated and disturbed; and do not permit yourselves to be fearful and intimidated and cowardly and unsettled.]” On Friday, as I read this verse, I allowed the depth of it to penetrate my heart for the first time. I had been living in fear with a troubled heart. I was not peaceful. And so I started praying:

Fear, you do not have permission to be here.

Heart, stop being troubled!

No more feeling unsettled, no more feeling agitated, no more feeling disturbed!

Jesus, I receive your peace.

Jesus, I receive your peace.

Jesus, I receive your peace.

And you know what? I had to do that over and over again. Because sometimes you know something in your head, but it takes a little bit of time for it to get to your heart. As I prayed, slowly I felt that peace. Slowly, slowly, slowly my mood changed and I began to trust. I let go of the troubles and received His peace.

Life is not easy

Here’s something that I am constantly learning: life is not always the easiest thing. There are ups and downs. There are calm and peaceful seas but there are also raging storms. And sometimes Jesus asks us to step out the boat and walk on the stormy waters. It would probably be a lot easier to walk on water in a calm sea. But instead He asked Peter to step out of the boat when there was wind and rain and waves. He asked Him to step out of the boat in the night time when it completely dark. Sometimes He asks us to trust Him in the hard circumstances too! Sometimes He asks us to trust Him when we cannot see the outcome. Am I going to trust Him when there is nowhere to live and little money in the bank? That has been the question! In that hard moment the tough option is to lay down my troubled heart, take His hand and step out into the darkness and into the waves.

Here’s an interesting thing: after praying and going on this process on Friday, I returned home to find some amazing people had offered me a place to live. On Sunday, I received an anonymous envelope with £50 in it which has alleviated some of the money issues and on Monday I received a £20 Amazon gift voucher. I’ve always been pretty convinced that God is the best Dad and loves to provide for us. Sometimes He does straight away! But sometimes He leads us through the storm to places where we learn to trust Him in a deeper way. Why does He do this?!! My rational mindset says it would be much easier to get to know Him in the easier times. But there are lessons we learn in the stormy circumstances that we cannot learn in a tranquil sea. Because it is in that place of trust that we get to know Him better – we learn that He does come through in the most desperate of situations! We depend on Him more when we actually need to depend on Him! I have experienced a deeper sense of His peace in the last few days than I would have if I’d managed to find somewhere to live two months before. We deepen our trust in Jesus and our relationship with Him in the storms of life. That’s the reality!

Trust without borders

I have been listening to ‘Oceans’ by Hillsong United a lot recently. I love the lyrics at the end of the song:

“Spirit, lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters
Wherever You would call me.
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
And my faith will be made stronger
In the presence of my Savior”

This is my prayer! Holy Spirit, lead me to the places where my trust in you has no boundaries! I want to know you and have that deep relationship with you. I want to live in peace in the storms with an untroubled heart!

  1. Are you living in His peace or is your heart troubled?
  2. What steps do you need to take to live with an untroubled heart?
  3. Do you find it easy to trust that God will provide in the stormy circumstances? Do you find it easy to receive His gift of peace?

I’d recommend taking time to listen to the song I quoted above and allowing Holy Spirit to release the peace that Jesus left as a gift for you into your heart. Accept His gift. It’s free. I’d rather live with an untroubled heart!

The Problem with Comparison

3 Jun

“But muuuuuum! He’s already had more of that!”

I was greeted by this familiar complaint about a month ago as I sat eating with a family. Immediately I was transported back to my childhood when sometimes life just wasn’t fair. Growing up with a younger sister and two younger brothers means that sometimes they get things that you don’t. Sometimes someone gets more. When you are little the pain and heartache of seeing that extra slice of delicious dessert ending up in the tummy of a younger sibling is hard to understand.

“But muuuuuum! That’s not fair!”

But here’s the interesting thing – it didn’t end around the table when I was ten years old.

DSCF6404

Fast forward to the year 2013 and it’s still the same story. Twenty-three years old but still comparing myself to the people and situations that are around me.

Sometimes it’s as superficial as my (poor) fashion sense or the fact I’m only working nine paid hours each week (which is not always easy on the bank balance). Sometimes it’s the fact that other people are seeing lots of people being healed or encounter Jesus when they pray, but I’m not. Sometimes it’s because the groups I lead aren’t growing how the groups others lead are growing. Sometimes it’s jealousy that other people across the city have had the opportunity to teach somewhere or step out and do something big and cool and I haven’t (when I think I deserved those opportunities more). Sometimes it’s the reality of having a massive heart to see students in this city encounter God’s love and then getting frustrated when I see other churches or other leaders bearing a lot of fruit and seeing a lot of breakthrough in this area, when I haven’t seen any students get to know Jesus for the first time.

I’m just being honest. I compare myself to other people a lot.

The Process

And here’s the problem with comparison – it suffocates you! It blinds you from seeing the potential around you. It prevents you from seeing the fruit and growth in front of you. And it stops you from seeing the heart of a loving Father that cares for you more than you could ever know. When we compare ourselves to others, we’re looking at the world through our perspective and not the perspective of our Dad in heaven.

You see, what I have noticed is that there seems to be a process. God doesn’t just plonk us at our final destination right away and leave us to it. Instead, there’s a journey that we need to go on to get there. Comparing ourselves to other people ignores this process. But this is a process that you cannot rush.

Here’s the truth:

  • There’s always going to be people that are further ahead of you.
  • There’s often going to be times when you are worn out, down in the ditch and there are people around you where everything they touch turns to gold.
  • There will always be people who are seeing more people encounter God’s love through what they’re doing.
  • There’s going to be people who can walk up to any stranger on the street and have a spiritual conversation at the click of the finger.
  • There will be people that are discipling and leading more people than you.
  • There will be people who can sing better, dance better, play instruments better.
  • There’s going to be people who are stood on stages whilst you’re sat in the dirt.
  • And there will always be people who have more of that chocolate cake on their plate than you.

And guess what? It’s ok. Take your eyes off what other people are doing and fix them on Jesus – as you do this you open your eyes to what he is doing in you right now. In this very moment. If you follow him… if you are a disciple of Jesus… I can guarantee that even if you aren’t doing exactly what vision or dream he has put in your heart, he is doing something in you. Something that’s taking you forward. Even if it is hard. It’s a process. We’re learning.

Stop focussing on what other people are doing! Yes, we can and should learn from them! But don’t operate from a place of jealousy or a place of self-deprecation because you’re not doing what they’re doing. Engage with the process – do what he’s calling you do in this moment. Because in those moments we are taking those little, little, baby steps towards his heart. And we are growing. Don’t worry that you can’t always take the giant leaps. The little steps are just as important. You’re still moving forward.

I was listening to Paul Manwaring speaking the other day and he said the following: “God wastes nothing and he gets you ready.”

He wastes nothing.

And he gets you ready.

Learn to embrace this truth. Rest in his love. Life might be tough. It might not seem fair, but God is good – he wastes nothing and he is getting you ready.

The Older Brother

You probably know about the older brother in the story Jesus told about two sons and a father – the one who got really annoyed when his younger brother who had essentially stuck two fingers up at their dad and wished him dead then was welcomed home, given some new gear (a robe and a ring) and a party with a massive and presumably tasty fattened calf.

I can relate to his complaint: “Daaaaaaaaad, I’ve been here all this time, working hard, breaking my back, slaving away and you have never given me a new coat, let alone a party with a calf…” – it’s the typical tantrum. I had that tantrum when I was ten years old and to be honest, I still have the same tantrum every so often behind the closed doors of my bedroom. “COME ON JESUS! WHHHHYYYY? Why won’t you give me this? I’ve done this, I’ve done that, but you’ve not grown my group – what are you playing at? You’re growing other groups – why not mine?!!”

And what’s his reply? It’s there in Luke 15 and it’s the thing we always, always, always miss when we compare ourselves to other people: “my son, you are always with me, and everything I have is yours”.

You are family.

You are always with me.

Everything I have is yours.

And this is the beautiful truth that has reverberated off the walls of eternity and echoed through time. It is demonstrated by the moment that God himself went to the cross and became all the rubbish you would do, just so he could have relationship with you. This is the message of a loving Father who is overwhelmingly for you…

YOU ARE ENOUGH.

Simple as that. He loves you for you. Not for who you could become. Not for the people who are around you. He loves you as you, right now. Yes, he wants the best for you. But you are enough. You’re his son or daughter. He is always with you. Everything he has is yours. So you don’t need to worry. Because you are enough.

You are enough. You are enough. You are enough.

  1. Where do you compare yourselves to others?
  2. Can you recognise the process that God has you on to become more like him? How does this suffer when you compare yourself to other people’s successes, breakthroughs and achievements?
  3. What little steps can you take in this moment to engage with the journey Jesus is taking you on?
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.