#allin love, #allin compassion

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


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?

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

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?


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

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

“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.


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

“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.


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…


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?


“That is SO encouraging!!”

How many times have we heard someone say that? It is a very typical response to a range of scenarios. Maybe I gave you a generous compliment… or maybe I prayed for you after a church service. Maybe I gave you a prophetic word… or maybe I said I was here for you if you ever needed it.

“Thanks Tim, that has really encouraged me…”

…has it?!

“…that’s really encouraging to know”

…is it?!

I have been thinking about encouragement a lot recently. I am not discounting the above as examples of encouragement but I believe there’s a new depth of ‘encouragement’ that we are yet to grasp.

It comes down the actual word. Think about this: the prefix “en-“ means to “make” or “put in”. The word ‘encourage’ therefore essentially means “to put in courage”. When was the last time you thanked someone for saying something encouraging to you? Did it really put courage into you? Did it deposit something into your heart that allowed you to courageously step out as who you are meant to be?

Because that’s the kind of encouragement that I want to start to give. That’s the kind of encourager that I want to become.

Everyone Needs Encouragement

You see, everyone needs encouragement. At the moment I see a lot of people with a lot of training but they do not have the courage to step out and see their God-given dreams fulfilled. You can have all the training and equipping in the world, but you won’t do much without the courage to step into the person that you were created to be.

The great thing about being in relationship with the God who created the entire world is that He has the capacity to released massive dreams in people. This is great! We are each created in His image with God-given kingdom potential embedded in us. Sometimes these dreams seem impossible, but they are not when the creator of the universe is living inside of you! That’s why encouragement is so important – it’s calling out that God-given potential in people and giving them the courage to live it out!

Think about the examples above: if I give you a compliment or a prophetic word but you walk away the same as before, has it really encouraged you (put courage in you)? But if I give you a compliment or prophetic word that instills a sense of courage in your heart where you can walk out the room with a smile on your face, believing that you can see the Kingdom of God come in your situation and you can see your God-given dreams become reality, no matter how big or crazy… then that sounds like encouragement!!

Invitation and Challenge

The great thing about this kind of encouragement is that it encompasses both invitation and challenge. Imagine someone comes to me and says: “Tim, I believe in you. I believe that you can see both universities in Sheffield transformed by God’s love. Your dream to see broken students encounter God’s love will become a reality. Keep stepping out and taking opportunities because I believe in you Tim and I believe in the dreams God has given you.”

What a great thing to say to someone! Not only are they affirming what God has put in my heart, but they are inviting me into relationship and backing me as a person. However, it is also contains an element of challenge – it’s saying “I believe in you, so go and do it!” Step out and live the life God has called you to. Go!

Jesus was the best encourager. When I read some of His words I like to imagine what it would have been like to have been there. Can you imagine how courageous you would feel if Jesus said to you “all authority has been given to me, so go! Get out there and make disciples everywhere… and I’m going to be with you along the way, every single day, no matter what!” (paraphrase of Matthew 28:18-20)? That’s encouragement! There’s the challenge of chasing after an amazing dream and purpose – people from all nations being discipled! To get there, they have to go. Yet it is combined with the invitation and the reassurance that He will not leave them! No wonder these uneducated fishermen saw 3,000 people saved on day one after Holy Spirit showed up in Acts. They were left full of courage by Jesus (courage that is reinforced and increased by the wonderful Holy Spirit – Jesus in them!!)

If we just challenge people without the invitation of relationship, we end up beating them down. I don’t think the disciples would have been as effective if Jesus had just said “go and change the world and disciple people”. That sounds scary! How could they step out to be the people they were created to be without the reassurance that Jesus was going to be with them?! In the same way, if we only challenge people we do not release people to be who God has made them to be. And my guess is that those people will continue to struggle to overcome the areas of their life that you are challenging in them. However, if we grasp what it means to encourage, to put in and instill courage in the hearts of the people we are discipling, then we will see a courageous generation stand up who see and hear the dreams God has put in their heart and they believe that they can play a part in seeing them become reality.

So go! Find people that encourage you and go and encourage the people around you. We need to create a culture of encouragement by being encouraged ourselves and learning to put courage in the hearts of the people around us.

  1. Are you good at encouraging (putting courage in) people? Think of some ways that you can encourage people around you.
  2. Who are the people around you that give you the courage to be the person that you were created to be?
  3. Who are the people you feel God is telling you to encourage this week?

Dreams That Change The World

“Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake in the day to find that all was vanity; but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dream with open eyes, and make it possible.” – TE Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia)


I believe that the ‘instant gratification culture’ that we live in has had a direct impact on our dreams. Everything is now, now, now. We live in the moment. If it’s not easily and instantly attained, it’s not worth fighting for. It’s not worth longing for or dreaming about. Sure, we do have dreams but they seem to have been downgraded to the highly unrealistic or the ridiculously meaningless. Becoming a pop star that would have a chance to date Mr Justin Bieber or maybe him just retweeting us.*

Dreams no longer cost us anything. The essence of a dream should be the hope for something better. Instead they’ve become fantasies, where the closest they come to reality is in the deep recesses of sleep.

I watched the film adaption of Les Misérables last night (excellent, by the way) and I am always struck by the depiction of the 1832 June Rebellion in France – young men, fed up with the status quo, but willing to die to change that. They had a dream. One that had been crushed time and time again. There had been revolutions before, but change had never really happened. Yet they still put there lives on the line.

I lead the student missional community at the King’s Centre in Sheffield and one of my dreams is to see students encounter the love of Jesus for the first time and to ultimately see lives and universities transformed by the amazing love of God. This is a big dream and my heart used to ache for it. But big dreams don’t happen overnight. If we’re expecting everything to happen instantly then we can become disillusioned or discouraged. This is especially hard when you no longer ‘feel’ the dream. When you know the vision and what you’re aiming for but it doesn’t move you like it once did. It’s times like this where we can feel like giving up. I know I often do. Recently I’ve been asking God “What’s going on? What am I doing? Why am I not seeing my dreams fulfilled?” Finally I said to him: “is this dream dead or am I just not the right person to be chasing after it?”

Somewhere in my heart I heard a quiet voice say: Dreams from the Father’s heart never die.

Paul wrote in Romans 5:3-5: “…we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.”

The gap between the initial dream and seeing it fulfilled can often involve suffering, especially when there is slow progress. But I believe God is reforming our character and bringing us to a place where our foundation is a steadfast and unwavering hope. So many people can miss out on this but restricting to their vision to ‘dreams’ that do not cost a thing. Dreams imparted by Dad’s love sometimes cost us, but they will never disappoint because they lead to hope.

Dreamers of the day are dangerous because they could change the world. But in a culture where we want everything instantly, when we see something that we know needs to change, we usually end up complaining. I heard it said recently that complaining is like negative intercession. Rather than changing the situation, it’s giving permission for it to be there and it rarely leads to people doing anything about it. Complaining does not lead to change.

This world needs a radical generation that learns to dream rather than complain. We need a people who fix there eyes on hope and are strengthened by Holy Spirit who pours love into our hearts. These people are world changers. Wake up dreamers and dream again!

  1. What are my dreams? (If you don’t have any, dream with the Father today!)
  2. How is the ‘instant gratification culture’ impacting these dreams?
  3. Does my complaining restrict my ability to take the steps necessary to see dreams being fulfilled?

*these are not my dreams. Honest.