The Way of Jesus

I helped someone at County Court this week to give them support whilst they faced the district judge to discuss their debts. When I introduced myself and mentioned that I worked for Christians Against Poverty, I noticed that the judge recognised the charity. He stated someone spoke about CAP on Sunday at his church and he was impressed with the work. As we spoke to each other I noticed that this put the client at ease and she had a visible smile on her face. I told her that you can find God  in all kinds of places.

Anyway as I was looking at the Judge, it got me thinking as Christians where do we like hanging out and who do we like hanging out with. The Church that the judge attends attracts professional wealthy people. Would this judge ever attend NHCF? Would I attend his Church? The answer probably not. The question it arises, Why not?

Then God put some more questions to me. Where do I like hanging out and who do I like hanging out with? Are our Churches made up of Christians who truly represent the community they serve? Then finally the million dollar question, “Where did Jesus like hanging out and who did he like hanging out with? When we really look at this question in the eye, it challenges us to follow the ‘Ways of Jesus’. Instead of asking the question what would Jesus do (WWJD)? we should ask what DID Jesus do?

Was Jesus drawn to the same kind of people? Was he drawn to people that you could easily engage with? Was he drawn to people that had everything sorted? In fact Jesus was so multi faceted that he loved to spend his time with all kinds of people. On the one had he was God who created the heavens and earth and on the other hand he was a baby born into poverty in a stable, the son of a carpenter. This made Jesus aware of his calling. He was drawn to all kinds of people, not a select few. Whether it was the rich or the poor, the healthy or the crippled, the educated or uneducated, the generous or the greedy, it didn’t bother Jesus. It was the person he was drawn to, not their circumstance.

When we look at the life of Jesus and his statement from John 14:6 “I am the way, the truth and Life” are we prepared to follow him down the same path, to people that we would not normally sacrifice a minute of our time to be with.

Who are you drawn to now that you have been saved by grace?  What are you willing to sacrifice to count the cost of copying the ways of Jesus? The way of Jesus is not easy and Jesus never pretended that following Him would be easy. However when you are empowered by his Holy Spirit you will be amazed what you can do for the glory of His name.

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Focus on the Journey not the destination

Before Dave and I set off for our mammoth 1200 mile cycle challenge around the UK, we promised each other that the most important aspect of the cycle was to enjoy the journey and not to focus on the destination. Even though it was a tough daily challenge, it was important for us to enjoy and make the most of our journey. This was our daily encouragement before we set off every morning.

Focus on the journey not the destination

Do we have the same focus with our Christian walk. Are we so busy trying to make the next deadline, working for the next holiday, and waiting for the so called successes, at the expense of forgetting to focus on the here and right now. When we focus on the destination it is so easy to miss the wonders and beauty of the journey.

On some days when it was raining, windy and hilly it could have been easy for us to put our heads down and just endure the ride until we reached our destination. However it doesn’t take much to focus on something that is positive, encouraging and uplifting. For me on days like this was meeting up with our back up guy, my very good friend Dave Bowles. We would break our rides down to about 30 mile segments and when we joined up with him, there he was with a hot cup of tea, smiling face and an encouraging word; absolutely priceless and a wonderful part of the journey that I would not miss for the world. That’s what happens when you focus on the journey; a vision of Jesus’ Kingdom in all it’s glory

Jesus says in Matthew 6:34 “So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.”

When we focus on the journey, we not only have more strength to focus on the journey’s troubles, but we also are able to focus and hold onto the journey’s beauty and wonders. Sometimes that beauty can be very hard to find it extreme difficult circumstances, but the light of hope can seep through the smallest of cracks. Paul received this light whilst floundering in Prison. Jesus received it on the cross. Thanyou for the amazing journey of life that Jesus gave to us.

Focus on the journey not the destination

The more we overcome the stronger we become

Well it’s great to be back to writing in my blog again. Finally my C2C 2012 cycle challenge is finally over. After 6 months of preparation and 12 days actually on the road, cycling to 20 cities in 12 days covering a total of 1205 miles, it’s great to be home. There is so much to write about and it is quite hard where to start. I have decided to give you daily snippets of what God has been downloading to me whilst out on the bike facing the elements and being up close and personal to his wonderful creation.

The first truth that was spoken to me was while I was cycling up a pretty tough hill in the Peak District. At a 20% gradient your legs can only move so fast. However the more hills that were conquered the easier it became and my body strengthened with the ongoing challenge. This is also true of our Christian life. God strengthens us through challenges and adversity.

The more challenges we overcome the stronger we become

A scripture that gave me great encouragement was from Ephesians 6:1-2 (The Message) “God is strong, and he wants you strong. So take everything the Master has set out for you, well made weapons of the best materials. And put them to use so you will be able to stand up to everything the Devil throws your way.”

I absolutely love this version because it gives us great practical application on how to become the strong Christians God wants from us. We are not talking about physical strength, but having that strong positive mental attitude that we are  wonderfully and fearfully made and that the challenges of life that we face, can be conquered because God is with us and his word is truth.

Do we need to accept more challenges from God, to make our faith stronger? Do we accept what we have or do we believe that more can be accomplished when we take up challenges because we know that God is greater than anything that the Devil can throw at us?

What challenge do you think God has in store for you to become a stronger Christian?

God is asking us to put our weapons to use. In other words the gifts that he has bestowed on us to increase his Kingdom here on Earth and to glorify His name. Without challenges, apathy begins to rule our lives. Let us embrace those challenges of life, use them to glorify the name of Jesus and we as followers of Him will be stronger to finish the race.

The more we overcome the stronger we become

Sacrificing the Heart

This is going to be a rather lengthy blog today about one of the important themes of the bible, ‘To obey God is better than our sacrifices and offerings.’  This came to me after I read an article in the Daily Mail about an Anglican vicar of 30 years, Father Minchew converting to Catholicism and taking 70 of his parishioners with him.

Father Minchew made the point that 2000 worshippers attended the mass at St. Mary’s on Easter Sunday, more than 10 times the congregation he got at the Anglican Church. He went on to say, “In the Catholic Church they take their faith seriously compared to the take it or leave it attitude of the Church of England. ” Two questions arise from this statement:

Are we followers of man and rituals or are we followers of Jesus?

What does it mean to take your faith seriously?

To answer these rather provocative questions we need to see what God says about it.

The laws of sacrifice in the Old Testament were immensely important to God. Not because the sacrifices themselves pleased him, but because they caused the people to recognise their sin and refocus on living for God. Similarly today religious rituals can help people understand God and nourish their relationship with him, such as baptism and the Lord’s Supper.

However a religious ritual is helpful only if it is carried out with an attitude of Love and Obedience to God.

God does not just want our sacrifices and rituals, he wants our hearts

I want to share some scriptures that shows the most important sacrifice we can make is that of Sacrificing our Heart

1 Samuel 15:22 “Samuel said, what is more pleasing to the Lord; your burnt offerings and sacrifices or your obedience to his voice?”

Obedience is far better than routine sacrifice. God is not interested in our Church attendance, if it does not change our heart. Listening to him is much better than offering the fat of rams. If we think that sacrificing the tithe on a Sunday morning is enough without our heart changing towards God and our neighbour, then we are probably missing the fundamental point that the gospel is about relationships. God is desperate for our heart over everything else.

The prodigal Son lost everything but God loved his heart. The Rich man had everything but God wanted him to change his heart.

Proverbs 21:3 “To do what is right and just is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice.”

Sacrifices and offerings are not bribes to make God overlook our character faults and attitude. God is always looking for our actions to be with the right motives with the right heart.

Isaiah 1:15,17 “When you spread out your hands in prayer, I will hide my eyes from you, even if you offer many prayers, unless you learn to do right, seek justice, encourage the oppressed.”

We must not place more faith in the rituals of our religion over the God we worship. We must always understand the desires of God’s heart. We need a faith that grows our relationship with God.

Hosea 6:6 “For I desire mercy not sacrifice.” 

Are we sacrificing our materials, without sacrificing our heart; Do we need to forgive someone or show mercy to someone in need? Again God wants our heart in line with his heart.

The hardest thing to give someone is not our money but our heart

Amos 5:21-24  God hates pretence and hypocrisy. He wants to see justice flow like a river

  God wants sincere hearts, not the songs of hypocrites. 

Micah 6:6-8 God is not satisfied with offerings, unless we are fair, just, merciful and are able to walk humbly with God.

God seeks a heart for generous justice

Mark 12:33 “To love God with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbour as yourself is more important than all the burnt offerings and sacrifices.” 

Church must never become a formula, where you spend certain time, offer certain sacrifices, all wrapped up in a tidy box. We are truly loving God, when are loving his people. We are truly loving people when we are willing to help them. We are truly helping when we make a difference  in someone else’s life.

Prayer: Father forgive me for ever thinking that Church rituals are more important than my relationship with you and your people. Thankyou that you are continually changing my heart to beat in line with your heart. I long for a sacrificing heart. Amen.

The Power to live the Christian Life

God has spoken to me this week and has clearly stated that His Spirit and His Spirit alone gives us the power we need to live the Christian life. This seems quite a simple fundamental statement that all Christians understand. But do we understand that without it, the power we need to not only change our lives but the lives of others is terminally weakened.

During this week I met a lady for the first time who required our help in relation to her debt situation. Like so may of these encounters the debt issues were the very least of her problems. She opened up and spoke about her past and her future aspirations and hope for the future. Firstly I thanked God for this amazing privilege to be able to serve in this way.

However it really dawned on me that this broken lady totally put her trust in a stranger, that she had only met five minutes previously. I asked God, Why? The answer was a revelation really. God told me that everywhere you go, every person you meet will recognise the Holy Spirit within us. Sometimes we forget that we have this power source within us, but the people we meet see it clearly. They may not understand it, they may not voice it, but they will feel something different.

The scripture from Romans shows us that the Holy Spirit releases us from our past lives, so we can have the power to set others free.

Romans 8:1-2 “Therefore, there is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of  THE SPIRIT OF LIFE set me free from the law of sin and death”

Without Jesus and his Spirit within us we would have no hope at all. However thank God that he has declared us not guilty and has offered us freedom from sin and power to do his will. So understanding this profound truth from Romans allows each one of us to walk, talk and see as Jesus does.

The Spirit of Life in this verse refers to the Holy Spirit, which was present at the creation of the world and is now the power behind the rebirth of every Christian. He gives us the power we need to live the Christian life. We can only use this power when we fully understand that we have been given it.

Many of us find it so hard to relate to this power in our everyday lives. However we must have total confidence that Jesus loves us and His promise that our new birth comes with it the power of the Holy Spirit.

Father thank you for your power source that sustains us, changes us and releases people from past lives

Inconvenience of Easter

I had the good fortune to bump into an old colleague from my Police days this morning. It was a great opportunity to share a coffee and catch up. He got the debate about faith well and truly started with the following statement. “Typical of Easter getting in the way of the shop opening times.” Now my friend, who is a confessed atheist, made me laugh with this comment. However when you take away the comical aspect of this statement, there is a fundamental underlying  issue about our society today.

It may not come as a surprise, but for many people in this country Easter comes as a surprise. Over the years the Church has increasingly been marginalised with a powerful secularism that has attacked a Christian’s belief in many different forms. From employees unable to wear the cross to councils abolishing prayer times before meetings. The beautiful thing about Jesus though, is that no dark forces of secularism or the negative views of Christianity from the atheist  lobby can take away the loving, forgiving heart of the believer.

As I was sharing my faith to my friend, it dawned on me that this is the most important thing we are called to do. The good news of the gospel in all its glory and magnificence gives a deep and meaningful hope into people’s lives.  I was also made aware that God gives us many opportunities in order for us to share out faith. It is then up to us whether we are bold and obedient enough to follow God’s challenge.

It has been evident to me that so many people have the wrong idea about what the Church really represents. It is only when we show Jesus, explain Jesus and share Jesus that people begin to understand the REAL Jesus. 

The Great Commission may be an inconvenience to non believers, but for us as followers of Jesus it is a very convenient time to live up to that commission. To many it may be about shop opening times, and chocolate eggs, but for us its celebrating the knowledge that Jesus died for us personally so that we may not be broken but have the promise of eternal life.

Showing and Sharing Jesus, the convenient truth at Easter

What is your worth based on?

Ever felt like that you are not making a jolt bit of difference in the world? Everyday your working really hard for the Kingdom of God to breakthrough but you don’t see any fruit. Over the last week I have heard a couple of people state that because their ministry is not growing compared to the perceived favour they see in others, then the only conclusion is that they cannot be loved by God. Now I think this is really important to explore a little further because this mindset harms people. Let us look at what Paul says in the book of Timothy.

1 Timothy 1:5 “The goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.”

I think it is always helpful to see what we can learn from the trials and tribulations in our lives, and allow them to reveal wrong goals that we may have in our hearts and minds.  It’s during these times of pressures that your emotions raise their warning flags signalling blocked goals, uncertain goals, and impossible goals which are based on our desires instead of God’s goal of proven character.

Paul says in this scripture ‘The goal of our instruction is love.’  If you make that your goal, then the fruit of the Spirit is love, Joy (instead of depression), peace (instead of anxiety) and patience (instead of anger).

What is your worth based on?

  • Is it based on a goal to win over the community for Christ?
  • Have the best youth ministry in the town?
  • Put in as many hours as possible for the Kingdom?
  • Increase your giving by 50%?
These are all worthwhile desires, but they are poor goals by which to determine our worth, because they can be blocked by people or circumstances. Better still our goal should be the person who God wants us to be. That is a great goal because nothing can block you from achieving it.
God’s basic goal for your life is character development, becoming the person God wants you to be. Because it’s a Godly goal, no one can block it accept you.