Tuesday, 15 September 2015

Jesus is all I need

Wouldn't it be great is we could really grasp that without having to have everything else stripped away.  I fail, but I am striving to to rest solely in Jesus - He is all I ultimately need.

I can see my life would be so much better if I could sort this out without God having to take everything else away for me to realise it.  But when I have so much, there is so much distraction.  Times of change help, that's for sure, stepping out every now and then puts us in a position where we have to rely on Him again. I think I'm going to have to find continue ways to step out, to change it up - it certainly helps keep me focused on Jesus.

Wednesday, 9 September 2015

Lifting your eyes.

Some years ago a sociologist accompanied a group of mountain climbers on an expedition. Among other things, he observed a distinct correlation between cloud cover and contentment. When there was no cloud cover and the peak was in view, the climbers were energetic and cooperative. When the gray clouds eclipsed the view of the mountaintop, though, the climbers were sullen and selfish.
The same thing happens to us. As long as our eyes are on God's majesty there is a bounce in our step. But let our eyes focus on the dirt beneath us and we will grumble about every rock and crevice we have to cross.For this reason Paul urged, "Don't shuffle along, eyes to the ground, absorbed with the thingsd right in front of you. Look up, and be alert to the things going on around Christ - that's where the action is. See things from his perspective" (Col 3:1-2 MSG).
Max Lucado, The Great House of God
I think I have been personally experiencing this lately.  This time of transition has been difficult. 3 months is a long time to continue working after you have resigned.  Your plans are out there - the intention of moving on is known - and whether people intend to or not, their attitude towards you changes. It's very strange after having invested in people's lives over 3 1/2 years that I now experience them pulling away, even before I have left.

It's left me confused with my own emotions, it was never a case of wanting to leave, but feeling God calling me on - but with people's attitudes it actually gets to a point where it would be just easier if I was gone.  However that's not how I am wired, and I desire to finish well the job God gave me.  And that's where I realise I have to lift my eyes to the mountain peak again - and other's in the church need to do that too... because when we drop our eyes, or let clouds of doubt roll in is when our attitudes change, when we treat each other badly, when we become selfish and sullen like the sociologist saw in the mountain climbers.

Unfortunately I cannot do that for others, but I can for myself, and I can ensure I am not creating a cloud covering that blocks other's view of the mountaintop. I realise now that's how I finish well.  I get the impression some people can't wait for me to leave (either out of their own hurt or just wanting everything to move on), and that was drawing me down and making me think I didn't have the opportunity to finish well. But now, I will lift my eyes again and do what God wants me to do. I will focus on His majesty and have a bounce in my step with these few weeks to go.

Monday, 7 September 2015

Appeasement verses Satisfaction

It seems Bible Studies I have run, and sermons I have preached lately have revolved around a certain theme... the idea of appeasement verses satisfaction.

In our humanness we attempt to appease our wants, our desires, our emotions and our physical urges by filling our lives with material possessions, relationships, acquaintances, parties, social media and social interactions, as well as other comforts. I look at the world around us and see a cycle of just trying to find the next thing to appease us continuing on and on... and then I look at the church and I don't really see anything too different.

Young people especially are driven to appease their desires themselves - through gaining friends (or boyfriends/girlfriends), or through the latest clothes and computer games, or through drinking and clubbing and partying endlessly, or through so many other things - and I am seeing this in churched young people, not just the general life of a young person in our world today.

...and it concerns me greatly.

...and I think it concerns God greatly, as He has been showing me as I prepare studies and sermons that always seem to be coming back to this idea.

Because no matter how hard we work to appease those feelings and desires... nothing we do will actually completely satisfy us!  Why?  Because we are wired to find satisfaction in only one thing... our Creator.  God, when He made us, made us to find our satisfaction only in Him.  Looking anywhere else is useless because it is taking our eyes off the One who ultimately satisfies. I understand that the world may not have grasped that, but it stuns me that Christian young people, who know Jesus, who know what He has done to provide that satisfaction, continually turn to other things they think will provide a better means for them.  Though they may enjoy it in the short term, my heart breaks knowing that eventually they are going to be hurt and feel a deep sense of being unsatisfied, and maybe a huge sense of regret and guilt as well.  I know I have felt that over my life, and I just wish I could communicate the Gospel in such a productive way that others avoid it because they truly find their satisfaction in Jesus.

I can resolutely say that my satisfaction only comes when I centre myself on Christ, what He's done for me and my response in worship to Him. I know there are times I look away, but I find I am quickly dissatisfied and feel the call to turn back to Jesus - a thing I am eternally grateful for, that I can turn back time and time again because of His grace.

We all need to get to that place, where turning away even for a moment leaves us instantly unsatisfied. Because that is the place where the Gospel has done its work - that is the place a true Christian is found.

Tuesday, 1 September 2015

My rules for posting on social media.

In a previous blog post (here) I spoke about our need to think about how we use social media. In that post I mentioned I had some rules I always try to adhere to before posting anything - and I said I would outline them in a separate post... well this is that post.

As best as I can, I try and think about each of these things before I hit the 'post' button.

1: What is my intention?
This is the most important thing I think of when I am writing  - even just a 140 character tweet.  Why am I going to share this, and is my intention a correct one?  That doesn't mean I never post anything negative, because sometimes with the right intention a negative veined post can bring about resolution, or a call to arms or something that is not inherently 'wrong'.  But I ask myself is that what I am trying to do - or am I wanting people to see I am angry (that is not always a good intention) or am I wanting certain people to know I feel hurt (that is not a good reason) or am I wanting people to think I am especially good at something, or I am important (again, not good intent).  Many times I have written a status update, a tweet, or even a blog post - and then in considering it's intent simply decided to delete it rather than post it.

2. Am I being ambiguous?
And if I am, am I using that to generate constructive conversation, or attention on myself, or room for implying gossip? Sometimes ambiguity is a beautiful thing - it can generate interest and bring about a good discussion on an important topic.  However a real trend on social media to is ambiguously post so that people have to assume what is really going on.  A post like "That sick feeling in your stomach when someone hurts you so deep" naturally leads people to wonder 'who hurt you?' or 'what happened?'   Sometimes this is done in the worst passive aggressive way, knowing the person who hurt you will read it and know what you mean while other's will be in the dark.  This is not the way to handle conflict - especially publically.  So I always re read my post to ensure it is clear, or that if I am being intentionally ambiguous that it is for the right reason.

3. How might this post be received?
Text based communication leaves a lot of room for misunderstanding - especially with short and sharp status updates and tweets. I don't claim to think through every conceivable possibility - but I do think through some things, like 'have I had a conflict with someone recently who may read this and think it a personal attack' (I admit I learnt this from an unfortunate life experience), or 'is there someone hurting at the moment who won't appreciate this' (posting an epic car roll video on Facebook knowing a friend was just involved in a traumatic car accident isn't being very sensitive).  This is especially important if I am choosing to be ambiguous, because that leaves a lot more room for misinterpretation.

4. Is it worthwhile?
Even if I am simply posting to share a little insight into my life, I feel it has to have some worth. "I just ate a chicken sandwich" isn't an overly worthwhile post, but letting someone into your life by showing a photo of an amazing crafted sandwich and sharing your gratefulness at getting to enjoy it might be.  If the post is going to have a negative connotation, it's very important to make sure that it is worthwhile and not just me having a vent.  I don't feel social media is a constructive place to vent, and most venting is not worthwhile for those reading.

I know I don't get it right every time, but asking myself these four questions time and time again have certainly refined the way I use social media, and have definitely reduced the amount of conflict I encounter on social media.  I have a few other rules too... there are certain topics I simply won't comment on via social media - I don't think it is a conducive environment for political, social, even religious discussion - instead I'll simply offer an invitation to speak about it privately or in person.  Also another huge rule is I don't post if I am feeling personally hurt and angry about something.  I might write something - but I don't post it... I'll go to bed, or leave it for a day... then I will come back and read it and with a bit of perspective then decide whether or not to post.  Posting as an emotional response usually leads me to break the rules I mentioned above, and that usually gets me in trouble.  I especially think that if I wouldn't say this to someone face to face, then I shouldn't feel comfortable posting it on social media.

Now I've going back to re-read this post and check it out before hitting 'Publish' ;-)

Monday, 31 August 2015

Judging Success...

I struggle with judging success when it comes to my ministries... what measurements do I use? Is it purely a numbers game, or are numbers not important at all?  I would love to measure it by a depth of spirituality, but how does one quantify that, especially when it seems some people may be going deeper in their faith only to then turn around and walk away all together?

I do think numbers play some role.  Even just last night at church, nearly everyone involved with the young adults ministry was there - the numbers brought a greater feeling of belonging and purpose, just because the room was filled, and I wasn't left wondering where different people had gotten to, and if there were issues keeping people away I was going to have to work through.  Growing numbers is also a good sign, especially if it is coming through those already there inviting and bringing along new people - I think that points to the depth of the group as well, that they are receiving from whatever ministry it is, seeing its worth, and sharing it with others.

But when that's not happening, is it my failure, or is it a hardness in the group, or is it some other element outside the scheme of control?  That's where I struggle to judge where things are going right or wrong.

It's hard to set Key Performance Indicators on such a organic community, which is hopefully being designed to follow the Holy Spirit - and not so much set goals defined by the group leader.  It's also hard to set KPIs when they would be dependent on the individual relationship people are having with God - I can teach and encourage, but that is ultimately up to them to maintain.

It's not a new problem I know, but I am wondering if anyone out there has some tangible measurements they use, or ideas for implementing things with ways to reflect on the success or failure of the workings.

Thursday, 27 August 2015

A little more than useless

There's a Relient K song that says:
And sometimes I think that I'm not any good at all
And sometimes I wonder why, why I'm even here at all
But then you assure me
I'm a little more than useless
And when I think that I can't do this
You promise me that I'll get through this
And do something right
Do something right for once
We often feel useless... and label ourselves as useless. And in some senses that is correct; on our own - depending on ourselves - we are pretty much useless.  But to actually label ourselves that denies that God has anything to do with our lives at all.  God sees us as 'more than useless' because He chooses to input into our lives, all of our lives whether we recognise Him or not.  He sent Jesus so that we would not be useless.

So don't deny God the recognition of what He puts into your life... you are more than useless!

Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Concerns on the social media worldview

Social Media is a fantastic tool, a great way to connect with people from all over the globe.  I love that I can talk with people I served on the mission field of The Gambia with - or old school friends - or American friends who have headed home - or even just church friends during the week in a much more relaxed way.

But time and time again I am reminded that I have to make sure I don't view the social media world as equivalent to the real world.  There are many things that make the world of social media a dangerous place if you take all of your experience and information from it, without regarding what is going on in people's real life.

People say things on social media (both publically and privately) they would never say in person.  It's very easy to type out a harsh comment, or not consider the circumstances or intent of how their words will be received.  It's also very easy to misunderstand someone's social media post, because it's tough to gauge emotion, sarcasm, intention and intent from written words.

There certainly is a need for 'real world' communication to supplement and, ultimately, complete the conversation that may start on social media.

Also just as it's easy to amass a large following of people whom you hardly know... it's easy to disconnect from people you know, but find yourself in conflict with.

In times of conflict it is very easy to find the 'unfriend' button, or maybe just the 'unfollow' or in those moments of complete anger the 'block' button. But that doesn't stop the real world does it.  It's not so easy to disconnect when you are seeing the person in person.  However it does create an awkwardness... I know that I notice when people have 'unfriended' or blocked me on different social media platforms and it becomes a little strange when you go to interact in the real world knowing the person has purposely disconnected on social media: do they actually want to talk to me? should I resolve some conflict I am not really even aware of? are they still a friend here in the real world?

So as amazing a tool social media is - it has to be used carefully, and with a correct intent.  I have a few rules about what and when I post (I may share those in another post sometimes - **update** I have written that post... here), but I think everyone needs a reminded now and then that what happens on social media will affect your real world life, so you need to consider that in all things you do online!

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