#allin surrender

“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

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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.

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#allin love, #allin compassion

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


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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

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?

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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.