Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Decision Navigation

I was thinking this morning about the day ahead and the share number of potential decisions that will need to be made.
In the course of my normal weekly routine, I actually make hundreds of them.
Some are easy, others not so.
Some don't have major consequences if I get them wrong, while others have major consequences if I do get them wrong.
People each and every day ask me to help guide their decision navigation. In those moments I truly hope I help them and not hinder them.

So how do you decision navigate during your day?
Is there a strategy that works best?
Is experience working for us every time?
Do I delay some choices paralysed by analysing the potential cost of getting it wrong?

Before I do my best to give a simple answer, trust me when I say I am not always super confident in my decision navigation. What I can honestly say is that I do my very best.
Faith is the hallmark of every believer, meaning faith in Christ is tied to my decision navigation. If I think God wants me to do such and such, I don't need to feel 100% about it, faith in God is my anchor.

My approach has been refined over the years...

  • Most days I pray and ask God to help me to get it right.
  • Then I ask the Holy Spirit multiple times a day to guide my choices, through my conscience, words or any other means He might want to use.
  • Then I back myself. And when I say that I maybe aren't backing myself in the traditional sense of having all confidence in myself. It is more than not based on confidence in Him.
God promises each of us that He will never leave or forsake us.
The Holy Spirit was sent to earth after Jesus ascension to be the ultimate counsellor. I believe a key role He has in each of our lives is to purposefully help us make the best choices.

Can I encourage you today to simply pray?
Ask as many times as you like and feel the need, for the Holy Spirit to lead you in your decision navigation.
It should bring your more success than not.
It should bring you a measure of peace.
It should help you to enter into everything the God has for you today.

Something to think about...

Thursday, May 23, 2019

The reality of fantasy...

Why am I not surprised that a whole bunch of loyal viewers to Game of Thrones are venting their displeasure? I seem to recall maybe similar feelings when Lost closed out its many seasons of entertaining my wife and I. In the end I felt like I was lost...

While these stories draw us in, many times they leave us wanting.
Maybe that is the reality of fantasy?

Fantasy is such a powerful thing.
It can take you to places in your soul. Maybe give you a perceived relief for a time.
I can't help but wonder whether our desire for fantasy is a mixture of escapism and a drug of choice for many of us?

While I haven't watched GOT, I do sympathise with those wrestling in their disappointment.
Your fantasy world has ended and now what?
Maybe you fantasy turned into a nightmare? Judging by the venting on social media that might very well be the case? 

Some people accuse people like me of living in a fantasy world.
That following Jesus is like believing in a tooth fairy or similar?
I would rather have others perception of fantasy over a TV show any day!
Following Jesus has changed my life for the better in many ways.
A TV show can only distract me for a moment.

Something to think about...

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Have I made it?

One of the challenges I face as someone with a role of communicating what I hope are the truths of life and faith, is that I don't want to come across negatively.
It is easy to pick holes in things.
Easy to see the negative in situations and people.
So before I fire off a thought that might be confronting, let's start with something encouraging...

I am teaching a series in our Church right now called Alter Altar.
It is based around a conviction I carry.

"God loves you and accepts you just the way you are.
But He also loves you far too much to leave you just the way you are!"

I also believe that until you go to spend eternity with Christ (after you die), that there is always something for you to do on this earth and a work that God wants to do in you.
Your life journey is about a mixture of knowing God for yourself, being made more and more in His image, and seeing your life help bring something of heaven to earth.

Jesus shares a story one day that has many powerful meanings for us.
It is about two men.
One a religious person who apparently in his own eyes is "all good".
The other is a man who in his own eyes and those probably around him, is known as a man with "issues".
Mr "Got-it-all-together" reveals a lack of having it all together and a desperate need of God's grace when he says "Thank you God that I am not like that sinner over there" referring to our 2nd character.
It truly frightens me that there is a possibility that we could become this man or a version of him.
That we could think we have reached a place in life and faith where we better than others.
I have seen and experienced people like this.
There are very difficulty to lead in the life of a Church Family!
Check out what our 2nd guys says for a moment...

13“But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’
14“I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”
Luke 18:13-14 niv

Can I encourage to open your heart today to the Spirit of God and allow Him to help us ascertain your own heart? Are you more man 1 or man 2?

Paul said he is a man being poured out for Christ.
Jesus said for us to take up our cross daily.
I approach this whole idea as though I need to stay on the altar.
To allow God the opportunity to finish the work He began in me.
He calls "good work", so no matter the pain, no matter any questions, the results will be good.
It is like in a sense for me that we need to stay humble and hungry and honest.

Can I encourager you to get back on the altar today?
Because God aint finished with you yet!

Something to think about...

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

I got what?

My family and I recently treated ourselves to some takeaway burgers and fries from a major New Zealand franchise chain with a more premium market approach.
In fact for the last 10 years of living in Taupo they have been our burger of choice.

To save standing around after ordering in-store I used their online system.
Paid. Then travelled a reasonable distance there and back home.
It was only when I came home I discovered the order had a small mistake. Something of lesser value replaced something I ordered. A bit disappointing, but not enough to be incensed about. The earth was still going to spin on its axis and the sun was still going to come up the next day.

Even though I knew they were busy I thought a simple to call the manager was in order, only to let them know about the issue so they could avoid it in the future maybe? Honestly I wasn't going for free stuff to alleviate my potential "pain, suffering and offence".
As expected I got an answerphone, so preceded to leave a simple message about the fault.

Sometime later after not receiving a reply I emailed their head office just to let them know.
They said they would followup.
Another few weeks past and I haven't heard anything, so send another message to head office.
You are smart, you already know where this is going! It was just a cycle of silly...

2 months later I get a call from a 'manager'.
He seems real genuine and wants to make things right by sending me some meal vouchers.
I thank him profusely and reaffirm I was not gunning for that as the response but certainly appreciated the gesture.

With excitement I let my family know we should be having something nice for dinner this week.
The vouchers would be appreciated by us all.
Yesterday they arrive in the mail. And when I opened it, salivating as I pondered my evenings burger choice, I discovered it was vouchers for some fries.
2 months of messages, emails and calls for some fries.

Honestly I am laughing.

As I have had 24 hours to think on this little journey, I have come to realise we face moments like this throughout our live. And when we do, we face response choices.
Do I defend my honour? Or should I just ignore it and move on?
Should I exact a price from those who have wronged me? Wouldn't that be right to teach them a lesson?

As a Christian this is a palpable dilemma for me.
I think I oscillate between two schools of thought that I will try and summarise from scriptures that we are taught regularly.

The Lord will make you the head, not the tail. If you pay attention to the commands of the Lord your God that I give you this day and carefully follow them, you will always be at the top, never at the bottom. Deuteronomy 28:13 niv

Based on this I should defend my honour and act like someone who is not a tail.
My life is not a butt end, but my position is the top end.
I am child of the King so I am someone and deserve to be treated with respect.

...Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be cheated? 1 Corinthians 6:7 niv

Jesus also amazingly taught that we should turn the other cheek.
That being wronged and responding with grace undeserved is His way of doing things.

I think I am looking to encourage you to consider this with me...
When we are wronged to first prayerfully consider your approach.
Should I defend myself or relent?
Should I in whatever case, right a perception of being wronged or let it slide?
We should ask the Holy Spirit to guide our conscience and the resulting response.

As for me and my house...I am looking forward to some fries.
Time to move on and live my life!

Something to think about...

Wednesday, May 08, 2019

Even if God doesn't, I still will...

It has been something I have been thinking about during my times of prayer and reflection this week...
Even if God doesn't, I still will...
Sometimes it feels more like a question than a statement.
Sometimes it feels more like what I want to believe.

In my over quarter century of trying my best to do what I believe He wants me to do, I have certainly faced a few moments of question.
What if moments.
Where I wonder how I will be and will react if God doesn't do what I hope He will do?
Sometimes it has been the timing of something.
I truly hoped and prayed for an answer to come by a certain time, and that time has passed without my prayer being answered like I hoped?

Maybe you can relate?

Dena Martin Joseph phrased it like this...
Even if He doesn’t…
Even if He doesn’t save my marriage.
Even if He doesn’t heal my child.
Even if He doesn’t provide me with a new job.
Even if He doesn’t save me from bankruptcy court.
Even if He doesn’t give me a relationship with my estranged father.
Even if He doesn’t rescue my spouse from addiction.

Whatever your "even if He doesn’t" might be - I want to encourage you to hold on to what you already have as you look to your future with a measure of hope in Him.

17Though the fig tree should not blossom,
    nor fruit be on the vines,
the produce of the olive fail
    and the fields yield no food,
the flock be cut off from the fold
    and there be no herd in the stalls,
18yet I will rejoice in the Lord;
    I will take joy in the God of my salvation.
Habakkuk 3:17-18 esv

That is a big point for me!
If God only gives me salvation am I ok with that?
Scripture and God's character clearly show He wants to and does do far more that for us, because He is our Father and we are his children.
But I want to be ok with God and what He does.
I want to have truly in my heart "even if God doesn't, I still will..."
I still will follow, I will still trust, I will not give up in the hope I have in Him...even if what I am looking for personally doesn't happen now, later or even ever!

Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego famously replied to a king determined to be honoured above God...

17If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. 18But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.
Daniel 3:17-18 niv

I am praying for myself.
And I am praying for you...
That even if God doesn't ________, we will still trust Him!

Something to think about...

Wednesday, May 01, 2019

Am I at the centre?

I have been thinking today this one thing...
Am I at the centre of God's will, His plan right now for my life?

At the same time I felt drawn to consider what my measurements are? To consider also just who am I am comparing my journey and current station with?
Wondering what is really happening in my heart and what is my conscience that God has given and ordained, saying to me?

I am a pastor as my 'job'. It is an amazing opportunity and something I dreamed of for a long time before it came to be.
At the same time I have spent too many moments questioning whether it is 'working', am I doing it 'right', am I at centre of God's will for my life and 'ministry'?
Those questions came thick and fast when I am not being as successful as I hoped and expected.
You see, you and I in our western faith circle equate obvious success and blessing with being right with God. If we are doing well it is all because we are right with God, being lead well by His Spirit.

As I pondered this today again, I couldn't help but think of the extremes of this thinking...
On one hand I see leaders like me but far more successful and influential. They have Churches that don't seem to stop growing each week. They are blessed with the best of many things.
On the other I see all around the world others being tortured and even murdered for their faith in Christ.
To which you have to ask, "who is at the centre of God's will?"
And if you are honest and basing it on His Word and His will, His historic model and way of doing will probably conclude both are at the centre?

The Bible narrative is amazing and diverse, even to what being in the centre of God's will actually looks like...
There were Prophets who knew God well, yet had to live in very trying times.
There were others who went through dramatic seasons of high and lows, where ministry moments were spectacular, but then faced very dark nights of the soul following.
Others waited decades to see what God had promised.
Others never saw everything God revealed would happen.
If you want to read with me where I am coming from, take some time to check our these passages from Hebrews.

My only suggestion for you and me is too simple for many!
They want a prophet to tell them. Or a pastor.
They want their circumstances to indicate their being right in God.
Others want experiences in the Spirit to indicate the same.
All of those are fine, but are not all together accurate in the sense of the God's big picture.

I have learned that you have to be honest with yourself and God...
There is no other way!
Through prayer and petition.
Through service.
Through seeking Him on your own and with a faith family.
Through genuine care of others.
That is the path the centre.

When you know, you will know a true measure of peace.
There is no more questioning at a level that robs you of His peace because you are being blown backwards and forwards. Comparison to others faith journey should either encourage you or cause you to have compassion, not send into an emotional tail spin.

Today may this help you if you are wrestling with where you are at...
May God lead you and bring you comfort whatever the place you face.
Keep looking to Jesus and you will always be at the centre of all God has for you.
His face is shining on you no matter what my friend!

Something to think about...