Peace – is not dependent on circumstance

I recently came upon a quote that really really annoyed me. I was reading a book about Christian leadership and the author had used a quote from John Wesley.

“Though I am always in a haste, I am never in a hurry, because I never undertake more work than I can go through with perfect calmness of Spirit”

His point that we should be weary about becoming overburdened by the stresses of ministry. In fairness he had a point, many church leaders burnout and enter extreme moral failures because of overworking.

Nevertheless it still irked me. So much so I had to put the book down, pull out my notebook and dig deeper in my heart as to why this annoyed me so much. Here is my thought-splurge (please excuse my honesty):

Why this annoys me:

  • The Peace of Christ for our spirit is NOT dependent on how much work we undertake.
  • The poor, the weak, the uneducated, the desperate and tired, are the ones who God most delights to use! The single mum juggling three jobs, two infants and a terminal illness, is just as able to go through ‘with perfect calmness of spirit’, as the wealthy church leader who has the luxury to choose which work he will undertake each day.
  • Ultimately, even John Wesley, cannot determine every day, this is for the Lord to do. We have peace not because we choose our workloads but because we trust in God.
  • May we have more spiritual leaders who are examples, in that they can show us how to seek first God’s kingdom in the midst of busy schedules, hectic jobs and family chaos. May we have examples of people who maintain ‘perfect calmness of spirit’ in the midst of intense trial.

Downsizing Word Output

“Our instinct is too often to speak of everything we know, as if doing so is the only way to authenticate ourselves”.

“Talking too quickly, too much, and too cleverly is [oftentimes] destructive…the spiritual men and women I’ve come to admire were generally quiet-spirited and more silent than verbose”

It is probably ironic that on a blog, where it is my job to write, monologues of thoughts, I am recommending speaking less. Nevertheless, words are powerful and good, God-created and utilised by Him. Words are not the problem. Too many of them, used at the wrong time, in the wrong way – that is the problem.

How can we downsize our word output:

  • Ask more questions
  • Listen (to the person in front of us, as well as the Spirit of God who loves both of us)
  • Renounce fixing as a way of life – so often we are tempted to be the problem solvers in people’s lives. Rather than to be the people who sit with them in the midst of suffering.

Our opinion, our endorsement, our rebuke is often much less needed than our Presence.

The Bible agrees that we ought to downsize our word output: with God (Psalm 46:10, Ecclesiastes 5:1-3) and with Man (Job 2:13, James 1:19).

In fact when we look at one of the first interactions with God and man, we see that God is a man who asks questions before He speaks, judges, vindicates and promises (Genesis 3-4).

Trust in the Bible

Following on from yesterday’s post, I wanted to share a handful more thoughts and ideas around this concept of trust.

Trust is connected to love – we often make trust a separate factor. But the Bible teaches us that ‘love always trusts’ (1 Corinthians 13:7). This is a risky position to take, do we trust those we claim to “love”? (If I could put Selah in a blog post, without feeling pretentious I would!) But consider the love of God, who entrusted to us the body of His Son, knowing that we would crucify, mock, and reject Him. God is love, and He trusts us. When considering our giving of trust to others, let us not measure them and their “trustworthiness”, instead let us measure love. We may be surprised, by how little we actually love.

There is probably a caveat there. But I want to cover more.

Trust in God produces peace – Isaiah 26:3-4 says ‘You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you’. Our feelings of peace are not circumstantial. They are dependent on our trust in God. This is uncomfortable. This sounds insensitive. I know. And yet, does Jesus not say ‘do not worry’, and Paul ‘do not be anxious about anything….the peace of Christ, that transcends all understanding, will abide in you’?! This peace, which comes from trusting God, does not make sense, in the midst of unemployment, terminal illness, national suffering, COVID-19.

Quietness and Trust is Strength – Isaiah offers more wisdom on trust, in 30:13, when he says, ‘in quietness and trust is your strength’. Do you need strength, to get you through your days, the demands of your job, the pressures of family. Then seek it in quietness and trust. My mum would always say ‘the noise is always loudest in the shallow end’ (talking about public swimming pools)…likewise though, we often mistake strength for loudness. The way of God though is to give strength to the humble, grace to the weak and to hear the hidden prayers of the men and women who cry out to Him in their rooms with the door shut!

There are two further stories in the Bible of two characters in the Bible who exhibited trust. May we as people called to great love emulate them.

Ruth who trusted Naomi (Ruth 1:16-18)

The armour bearer who trusted Jonathan (1 Samuel 14:6-8): ‘Do all that you have in mind. Go ahead; I am with you heart and soul!”

How to build Trust

“People will follow you for a while because they picked you. But they’ll follow you over the long term because they trust you.”

“Charm and charisma are like a glider; they fly, but not indefinitely. And they do not do well in turbulent times”

Trust is essential for leadership. But it is also essential for everyday living. My parents used to tell me that in order to drive on the motorway, you needed to attribute a certain level of trust to the drivers on the road – that they would continue to move forward.

But the level of trust required for effective leadership is a little higher. So how can we build more trust?

  1. Consistency (in good and bad, in the secret place as well as the public place)
  2. Dependability (do we make good on what we say)
  3. Openness and honesty (even, and especially, in areas of failure and weakness)
  4. Hard work (oftentimes a reputation of being a hard worker will trump success)
  5. Impartiality
  6. Longevity (it can be harder for a new leader to acquire the same level of trust as one who has ‘stuck around’)
  7. Intimacy and Pursuit of Jesus (As Christian leaders, and Church leaders, people will cotton on to your motives. We can do “all the right things” without a passionate pursuit of Jesus – and people will notice. In contrast, we can make all the mistakes, yet have an evident intimacy with God – and people will notice. Consider the words of the great king: We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on You. Consider the words of the great church founder: I made to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ. Whatever were gains to me I now consider loss. I did not come with wise and eloquent words, but rather with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power.

May we, as Church leaders, as Christian leaders, be people who have large accounts of trustworthiness. In a world where trust is savagely dismembered towards our leaders, may the Church step up with leaders who are trustworthy.

Sunday Summary 10th January – New Year!

It’s been a while since I’ve done one of these, so I’m a little out of practice! I won’t try and cover everything that happened in December and Christmas.

Some of the most exciting things this week has been the return of snow, where I live in the UK snow is a rare phenomenon. We’re lucky if we get it twice a year. But one morning I woke up early, saw the snow, and decided to go for a walk. Spoke to a friend over the phone, and then enjoyed the fresh cold snowy atmosphere.

Another highlight this week was the progress I’m making with latte-art. Yes, you heard me right. When we first got married some friends of ours moved to America, and gave us their fancy coffee machine. That was 5 years ago! Recently I discovered a YouTuber – called James Hoffman – who is like this proper coffee snob/expert. And it inspired me to finally learn how to use the fancy machine for coffee. (Embarrassed to say, I’ve been using it wrong all this time!)

Although I’m still far-off from making anything resembling a heart or a flower, this latest attempt was long debated amongst my family as to whether it looked more like a lobster or a peacock!

I’ll let you know if I make any steps closer towards a professional image.

All this is well and good, but it does mean I’m making (and therefore drinking) a lot more caffeine than usual. So far, no adverse events.

What am I watching?! Well, I’m glad you asked.

Around October time my wife and I jumped into the world of the 1980s and watched the Karate Kid! We loved it, around 30 years late to the party. But we were instant fans, and watched all the old films. Not long after we discovered that Netflix/Youtube had been working on a spin-off sequel. Cobra Kai. Well if you haven’t watched them, I’d highly recommend it. This New Years day, wife and I sat down and binged the entire third season (which was released in the UK on that day!).

It is incredible! Not just exciting, with great characters and good story line, character development and awesome fight scenes. But it also manages to draw the fine line between cultural differences between the left and right, in a tasteful yet sharp way. Not only that but each episode is only 30 mins and each season only 10 episode.

Finally, I got down with my tool-kit and did some personal DIY this week, see if you can spot the difference! How long do you reckon before I forget it’s not there and roll off the back!!

Persistent Widow and Friend

There is the story in the Bible about a persistent friend who stands outside his neighbours house a pleads for food. I think the moral of the story, is to be persistent with God. To keep praying, to keep asking Him for goodness etc etc.

But I wonder if there is a place for being persistent with our friends, neighbours and family about the good news of the Gospel.

Yes, I know at one point Jesus tells his disciples that if people don’t accept their message, they should ‘shake the dust from their sandals and move on’.

But, is there also a time and a place for being persistent? To continue offering past the initial objection?

I heard a priniciple recently from the controversial Jordan Peterson, who explained that most people only have a handful of objections to ideas. If you can get past those, most people will “give in”.

One website backs this up: 80% of non-routine sales occur only after at least 5 follow ups. But despite this statistic, 44% of salespeople give up on a prospect after hearing ‘no’ just once. After 4 objections, 92% of salespeople have fallen by the wayside. By combining these numbers it can be reasoned that the 8% of salespeople who continue to follow up after hearing ‘no’ 4 times will be rewarded with 80% of non-routine sales, which only occur after 5 follow-ups.

I know our job isn’t impersonal salesmanship. And that our friends and family are not customers. But, don’t we have something more valuable than new hoovers, beauty products and subscription package? Is it not worth sticking around past the sub-standard knee-jerk reactions & “4x objections”, and see what happens beyond this.

This won’t be the case for every friendship, conversation and relationship. However, the ones we have with people we care about can probably handle a bit of loving-persistence.

3 Prayers to Go deeper with God

The following Prayers were extracted from Moses’ conversation with God in Exodus 33:

  1. “Teach me Your ways.” We are surrounded with the ways of our society, culture, friends, family and social media. Depending on where we live, we may be subject to capitalist or communist ideals. But we are from another Kingdom, and Kingdom of people belonging to God. And so we ask God, to teach us His ways, the ways of His culture, His Kingdom, His methods.
  2. “Guarantee to me, Your Presence.” Without His presence, how can we partner with Him in His global, eternal mission. How can we be distinct like stars in the midst of a dark world? How can we set an example to believers in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity?
  3. “Show me Your glory.” This is a prayer of a brave man or woman, who dares to speak to God face to face. This is the prayer of someone who is not satisfied with seeing worldly vision statements, plans, and ambitions. Who wants a Why that will empower all their actions. This is the prayer of a man or woman who hungers for the fulness of joy and pleasure forever more. This is the prayer of the person who wants to overcome sin, shame, addiction and brokenness. This is the prayer of the saint who wants to worship God powerfully.

Motive for Ministry

Gordon Macdonald, in His book Building Below the Waterline, vulnerably shares four flawed motivations for his entering ministry.

  • Need for Approval
  • Validation by Achievement
  • Longing for Intimacy
  • Power of Idealism

Motives are very rarely pure, when I first considered taking a year out of work to serve a Navigators ministry at the university. I asked my pastor at the time for wisdom. I admitted to him that my motives were quite muddy, either way. His response was that ‘motives are very rarely pure, even when they are they remain susceptible to twisting and distortion’.

This has been a principle for me in discipleship all these years later.

But if motives are so susceptible, what can we do about it?? 2 quotes from Macdonald which may help:

“Only the man or woman who baptises his or her motivations every dat will have any hope that things will not turn sour down the road”

“The moment you think of the Kingdom as a place to achieve, to become valuable, to connect, or to be a major player, you will quickly discover that this was never what Jesus had in mind when He said, ‘Follow me’.”

May we be a people who ‘baptise our motivations’ daily, and purge ourselves (with the Spirit’s help) of any and all fleshly residue!