Are you a good sheep?

I remember a while back my Mum telling me a story about a shepherd.  Someone had commented to him that sheep were basically a bit thick.   Having seen a little of the way sheep function, they could be forgiven this view.  But his reply was outstanding:

“Sheep know exactly what they need to know to be a sheep!”

Simple country wisdom eh?  Now bear with me…

I was on my bike going to work the other morning.  I’m very blessed in that most of my journey is along quiet rural roads through some pretty countryside.  I’m doubly blessed at the moment because it is now pretty much light when I leave for work in the morning!

So there I was cycling along, taking in the sights and I just couldn’t shake the beginning of Psalm 19 from my head:

“The heavens proclaim the glory of God.  The skies display his craftsmanship.
Day after day they continue to speak; night after night they make him known.
They speak without a sound or word;  their voice is never heard.
Yet their message has gone throughout the earth, and their words to all the world.”

All of this beautiful scenery calling out the glory of God.  Worshipping without words.  But how?

Thinking on a little more, I was struck that everything that I could see, hills, trees, hedges, birds, even sheep, were just doing what they were created to do.  Being what they were created to be.  Perfectly and without getting in their own way.

Then I was struck again by how different it can be for us!

I honestly believe that discovering and living out life’s purpose is one of the most important things a person can do.  So if you’re like me you may spend a lot of time thinking and praying about the reason you were created.  Wondering what your real purpose is and the reason you were born.  Sometimes you may even get a little glimpse of what that might look like.

But then we go and get in the way.  Trying to force things to happen in the way we envision, rather than being where God has put us and living that moment out to the best of our ability.  We look for milestones of transformation, step changes, something “else” rather than relying on the cumulative effect of day after day after day of obedience.

We are blessed with the capacity to think, but have the terrible tendency to overthink things.

Maybe it would be easier if, like those sheep, we simply rested in what he has made us to be? If we prayed with abandonment daily to be used for his purpose and trusted that where we are is where he needs us to be?

Then perhaps, like the beauty of God’s creation which so impacted the Psalmist, we would glorify him, worship him and bring him praise without the need for words.


Where is your frontline

I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned it before but, in my day job, I work as a Project Manager in a large engineering company.  I think like a lot of Christians, especially early on in my relationship with our Father, I thought that some people had proper Christian jobs, and some people like me didn’t.  And so I longed to find a calling that would see me quitting my day job and moving into a “proper” ministry.
Maybe that will happen one day and if that’s God’s purpose for my life, then great.  But maybe it won’t and the more I learn, the more I realise that it doesn’t actually have to matter.  That for Christians,  there isn’t a divide between the work of the sacred and the secular.  

I’ve just finished reading an excellent book that I bought at New Wine entitled “Fruitfulness on the Frontline” by Mark Greene.

It is aimed at those of us who spend our time living and working in secular roles in the secular world.  The workplace, supermarket, residential community, school gate etc.  The author lays out a brilliantly simple framework to help us to live out our faith and be fruitful in the place that we are called to be.  

If your days are much like mine, and you have a real heart to see God’s kingdom come where you are, I very much recommend you read this book.  It’s helped to reshape my perspective on where I am called to minister at the moment.  

Here’s a picture of my current frontline. What does yours look like? 

Praying with Jabez

A few months ago, a friend of mine lent me this book.  It all about a small part of the Bible and a character that you could easily just whizz past, sitting as it does in a long list of other names.  But among all of those names, Jabez gets a special mention:

“There was a man named Jabez who was more honorable than any of his brothers. His mother named him Jabez because his birth had been so painful. He was the one who prayed to the God of Israel, “Oh, that you would bless me and expand my territory! Please be with me in all that I do, and keep me from all trouble and pain!” And God granted him his request.”

‭‭1 Chronicles‬ ‭4:9-10‬ ‭NLT

I won’t paraphrase the whole book but essentially what Jabez was praying was:

  • Father, bless me today in the way that YOU KNOW I NEED TO BE BLESSED so that I can be a blessing to others
  • Let all that I do be done through your power, through an anointing of your Holy Spirit
  • Keep sin and temptation away from me so that I can be fully effective in my ministry

Seems like a lot from such a short verse doesn’t it?  However, I’ve been praying variations on this short prayer almost daily since reading the book. And it works!  

I’ve seen:

  • A deepening of my faith and etionship with my Abba Father
  • Doors of opportunity open at work
  • A huge increase in preaching opportunities with other churches
  • A deepening of faith conversations with non-believers that I know

And lots of other small, daily things too.  

A word of caution:  These blessings don’t often look like we imagine they will!  But the most important things is that it all has to be done in God’s way not ours.  We have to trust him from a standpoint of abandoning everything to him.  To trust that he knows the blessings we need.  And then to ask, to seek, to knock for the things that he wants to give us.  

OK it’s easy to be cynical and say that the changes I’ve seen might have happened anyway.  That my praying the Jabez prayer has just made me frame regular life events in the light of that prayer.  To look for answers to it.  All I can say in response, is that I have no idea how prayer works.  And for that matter, other than through the lens of their own experience, neither does anyone else.  But I believe that it does and more doors have opened since praying like Jabez than they did before.  I believe that as we pray this way it opens us up, in a special way, to receiving all of the blessings that our Father has for us.

I’ll end with a story: 

There’s a short story in the book of a guy (it may well have been the author) that had a vision.  In the vision, he saw an huge warehouse with millions of shelves.  Each shelf was named for one of us and was stacked high with all of the blessings that God wanted to give that person each day.  

Sadly, there were many, many blessings which has not been asked for and which, as a result, had not been given.  All of those opportunities to grow, to develop and to bless others, not received.  All of those opportunities to change the world missed.  

Like the author, I don’t want to end any more days with blessings left on that shelf.  And so that’s why I’m praying every day, like Jabez did…

“Father God, bless me and increase my territory!”

I hope you can too – and be blessed as a result.  

What’s the point?

Before going to New Wine last week, I had begun to question the point of writing this blog.  Sure, it serves a purpose in helping me to process what goes on between me and God, but so does my journal.  And the journal has the advantage of being private!  I’d basically lost touch with the reason that I began to do this in the first place.  

Very early on Friday morning, when mulling this over, I thought I d turn to the Psalms.  Always a good place to find words of help, solace and encouragement.  I opened my Bible, pretty much randomly at Psalm 96 and read this:

“Sing a new song to the Lord! Let the whole earth sing to the Lord! Sing to the Lord; praise his name. Each day proclaim the good news that he saves. Publish his glorious deeds among the nations. Tell everyone about the amazing things he does. Great is the Lord! He is most worthy of praise! He is to be feared above all gods. The gods of other nations are mere idols, but the Lord made the heavens! Honor and majesty surround him; strength and beauty fill his sanctuary.”      Psalms‬ ‭96:1-6‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Like a hammer, the words “Publish his glorious deeds among the nations. Tell everyone about the amazing things he does.” hit me.  I need an unsubtle reminder sometimes and so greatly encouraged, I went about my day.  

That morning in Impact, the bass player from the worship band shared the story of the transformation in the way he uses social media.  Of how he was challenged by God to use it in a much more positive way to bring love, light, inspiration, and ultimately Jesus, into the lives of others.  And so again I was reminded of those words:

“Publish his glorious deeds among the nations. Tell everyone about the amazing things he does.” 

Reminder number two…   I began to feel that God had a message in there for me somewhere!

Then later on in the service, Sam Ward took to the stage with a bible reading.  Anyone like to hazard a guess at what it was?  Yep, that’s right – Psalm 96 again!!!  

And so I’m making a fresh commitment to this blog.  A commitment to use it to publish God’s glorious deeds in my life and to tell everyone about the amazing things that he does.

I know it doesn’t reach a huge audience, but ministry is never about the numbers.  It’s not about me – it’s all about him.  If the right words reach the one person that needs to read them, then it will have served his purpose.  And to be honest, that part of the deal is God’s responsibility and not mine.  

Worship is stepping out in obedience, even when it doesn’t seem to make much sense, or when it risks our fragile self-esteem.  So this is just another act of worship for me.  I’m going to write the things that my Abba Father gives me to, pray, then hit the “publish” button.  The rest is up to him.

That’s the reason why I’ll continue to do this.  That’s the point.  

Where do we go from here? 

So many times this week, the message given and the call for prayer has been something I’ve needed to hear and respond to.  I woke up at 5am today and, not being able to get back to sleep straight away, started to pray and process the experience of this week at New Wine.  

My thoughts drifted to what it’s going to be like when I get back to work and “normal” life next week.  Specifically how I’m going to take what I’ve learned and the ways in which I’ve begun to change this week into my everyday life and the lives of those around me.

We were given a postcard during the morning session in Impact on which we were encouraged to write “FROM” and “TO“.  Then against those titles, the place in life that we’ve come FROM and the changes or challenges that God has sown in our hearts this week.  In other words, where or what he is calling us TO.

For me, the journey has been about moving from an understanding about God, to a deeper knowledge of him as my loving Abba Father.  I’ve experienced such a sense of love and peace during the times of worship and ministry, which I’m sure is just an inkling of the way he actually does love me.  Like I said, it’s a journey and there’s much more to come.

On top of this though is the challenge, spoken about so well this morning by Adam Dyer.  How is that change in us going to result in a change in the world? How do we go from here and have an impact where we are called to be?

During the ministry time, I received prayer from a lovely guy and he gave me the word “heart”.  In particular, that God is calling me by planting a passion in my heart, rather than my head, for certain things.  That by hearing him more and listening to the call in my heart, I’ll move into the calling that he has for me.  So exciting!!!

I have a strong sense of what this direction might be, which was confirmed during prayer.  It’s going to take a bit (a lot?) more prayer yet, so I’ll save the details for another blog post.

But it has reconfirmed the words of Jesus in Luke’s Gospel:

“And so I tell you, keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.”     ‭‭Luke‬ ‭11:9-10‬ ‭NLT‬‬

I’ve been praying all week for the changes in my relationship with my Abba Father – changes that I’m now starting to see answered.  

This is real! 

Prayer works!  

So do you know what changes he wants to make in your life and how he wants you to be the positive change your community needs?

The Father’s love for us

Yesterday morning, there weren’t any kids’ groups at New Wine.  So trying to be the good Dad I asked Bea, my youngest, if she fancied coming with me to Impact.  Kind of a “bring your daughter to work day” but on holiday!  Being a bit of a Daddy’s girl, she jumped at the chance.

It was lovely having her there alongside me experiencing the noise, light and fun that is the Impact venue.  But it was in one of the quieter times of the service that having her there gave me one of those lovely little revelations into God’s 
Apropos of nothing really, as we sat next to one another, Bea snuggled right up to me. As the music played and the people worshipped, I put but both of my arms around her and knelt there for what seemed like ages, just holding her. And I had the most beautiful feeling that that’s exactly how God is with us. A snapshot, if you will, of how our relationship with him works.  That all we have to do is draw near and he will sit with us, holding us, unconditionally, whatever we are going through.  

Usually, I suppose I love to worship in quite an extroverted manner; singing loudly, arms aloft.  Even dancing.  It was so wonderfully reassuring to know that, sometimes, all we need to do is to come quietly before our Heavenly Father and let him hold us.  To let him love us in the way that only a Father can.   Not an earthy Father like me, with all of the flaws that entails, but a perfect Heavenly Father who loves us no matter what.

I don’t know if anyone else has been praying, as I blogged the other day, that I would know more of the Father’s love.  But if you have thank you, because it seems to be working! 

Is your gift waiting on the altar?

At the New Wine conference in Harrogate last year, Mark Batterson said something that has stuck with me since. Well, many things actually, but one particular thing that is relevant to this post.

I digress..

He said when there is a call to go forward for worship or ministry, to go for it and (in his words) not leave your gift on the altar. 

In the impact venue at New Wine this summer,, the large floor space in front of the stage has been left clear.  It’s there for us to step forward and fill – to make that deliberate (albeit completely symbolic) step to draw closer.  I’ve been taking them up on the offer since Monday morning and have experienced some of the most spirit-led, intense and connected worship and ministry ever! 

I know that God is not blessing those of us at the front any more than anyone else in the room. He loves us all equally. But for me, that literal step of faith is resulting in a growing of that heart to heart connection that I crave with our loving Heavenly Father.

The space is there and the call has been given, so I’m not intending to leave my gift on the altar!

It’s been incredible so far, for many more people than just me, and I can’t wait to see what he’s going to lead us into over the rest of the week.