A New Season

I’ve really enjoyed being able to share some thoughts and lessons here. Unfortunately all seasons have a start, and they all have an end. Writing this blog was a project I started to help me write better and to express some thoughts. At the same time anyone that was helped through my posts was a bonus 🙂 But I feel that there is a new investment that I need to make with the little spare time that I have. A few weeks ago I felt that I should write a sermon a week in training myself to get better at it. Because of that I have really found it hard to upkeep this blog. As such this will be the last regular post here. I would still love to write the occasional post, but I won’t be able to write a weekly post (not that it’s been regular over the last month!). I would like to thank any reader who has visited the page, and I hope you’ve been encouraged and blessed by the words I’ve written.

I pray that God continues to bless you on your journey!

Nate

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The Year that is 2012

Instead of the usual teaching type post that I’ve been writing, I feel a little reflective today, and hence today’s post. 2013 has absolutely flown by, but for me it has also been absolutely jammed packed with experience. I feel as though I would be unrecognizable to myself a year ago if we met.

I started the year thinking that I had gotten a pretty good handle on how to do my role as a pastor, and how I could be a good boyfriend to Bec. That is probably one of the biggest changes that I’ve gone through. I almost see Nate 2012 as a bit of an arrogant know-it-all, and I would understand it completely if some people would still see me that way 😛 But navigating through a year of many challenges has eroded my confidence and comfort in myself, and replaced it with a deeper faith in God. And if this year is meant to be a bit of a precursor to what God wants to bring my way, then I’m going to need to have that rock-solid faith in Him!

I guess one of the things that has been kind of constant this year is that I’ve given everything that came my way my best shot. However many of them didn’t quite turn out the way I wanted it to. In fact there have been a couple of occasions that the outcome wasn’t anywhere near the ball-park of what I was hoping for. Yet my confidence that God has called me to this, and therefore graces me to face each and every one of these challenges just seemed to increase. Things that don’t go our way is probably a way for God to prove Himself. I don’t feel the need or the pressure to make things happen quite as much anymore. I just simply try my best and wait to see what outcome God brings. With that mindset I’ve seen some trying times, but at the same time I’ve seen tremendous blessing. It proves to me that God’s ways are higher than mine.

2013 will come soon with new challenges, and with this new found confidence in God, I’m ready!

Wisdom’s kryptonite

 

I’ve been caught up with what “wisdom” is over the last few days. I’m reading King Solomon’s story at the moment and I’m startled at how this wise king doesn’t seem to really be that wise in some of the choices that he made. The dictionary defines wisdom as “the quality of having experience, knowledge and good judgement”, yet some of Solomon’s actions would seem to be in direct contradiction to that. It is true that Solomon had knowledge. The Bible talks about how Solomon made exceptional observations about nature. People from other nations would travel all the way just to hear Solomon speak about the things that he knew about, and they would be astounded. Yet there are 2 main decisions that Solomon made that leads me to question the validity of the claim that Solomon was the wisest man on earth. And through the Solomon’s story, I propose to you that wisdom’s kryptonite comes in the form of selfishness.

The first of these decisions was when Solomon decided that his house was going to be quite literally twice as magnificent as God’s house. The temple took 7 years to build; Solomon’s house took 13. The amount of gold and wood that went into God’s house was nothing compared to what Solomon used on his own (1 Kings 7).

The second decision that Solomon made was his choice to marry foreign women, in direct contradiction to what God had said (1 Kings 11:2). God said that marrying into foreign women would lead a person to serve foreign gods, and Solomon did just that. Now the question that came to mind as I read this was, “how can a man who was known to be exceptionally wise, with wisdom that came from God Himself, choose to do such things that would destroy his legacy?” And the thought that came in was that Solomon’s desire for satisfaction and contentment destroyed wisdom’s influence on his life.

Solomon chose to glorify himself by building a larger house for himself than for God. His focus went away from living for God to living for himself. He chose to have 700 wives and 300 concubines because he “clung to these in love” (1 Kings 11:2). Could this be real love? Or would it be more the case of lust? I do not think it possible for a man to truly say that he is totally in love with 1000 women! He was more concerned with satisfying his own emotions and physical desires that to listen to God, the very source of his wisdom. Wisdom’s kryptonite is selfishness. I find this verse really sad: 1 Kings 11:9 “And the Lord was angry with Solomon, because his heart had turned away from the Lord, the God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice“. If God ever appeared to me once, I doubt I would ever forget that occasion. TWICE? How can you turn away from that? As Lifehouse wrote in their song, “how can I stand here with you and not be moved by you?” We have got to realise that our selfish desires can actually stop us from turning to the source of life and wisdom.

We marvel at people who seem wise, who always seem to know the right things to say or do. But I believe that wisdom is available for all. As James 1:5 says, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.” We have just to realise that wisdom does not override emotions, and does not necessarily dictate choices. Wisdom may give us an insight into how we should approach a situation, but it is still your choice to choose to follow wisdom’s guidance in the face of emotions or desires that tell us otherwise. That is true wisdom.

One key for future success

 

It’s been a very interesting month to say the least. There have been situations that brought big celebrations, and other situations that brought big questions. These situations make it easy to get sucked into the emotions of the present, narrowing your ability to plan and focus on what God wants to do next. Normally my issue is the opposite where I’m planning too far ahead and failing to be with the people I’m leading and encouraging and building up those around me. However this season seems to have crept under my skin more than usual. The effect of this on my life has been quite interesting to note. I’ve been feeling a little more unfocussed and more tired than usual. It has been great that this season has coincided with my church’s 21 days of fasting. So far we are a week in, and it’s really helped to bring me back to God. So while God always needs to be the #1 focus that brings future success, I’m going to assume that you are familiar with that, and touch on something that seems to come really naturally for me, and I’ve recognised this as a key in my life.

This key that I’m talking about is a thirst to continue learning. As Steve Jobs often quoted, “Stay hungry, stay foolish”. I’ve tried to approach every situation I find myself in with an appetite to learn something. This can be something about myself: how I work, something that I can improve on, an attitude that I’m carrying, etc. This has really helped me grow in my leadership. When I first became a pastor I was very much focused on the tasks I was doing. This often would be at the cost of people around me. I was happy to chop and change things in the effort to see something happen but without thinking about the people doing those tasks. Feedback from people I trusted helped me to develop a principle I try to stick to now: people before product. This lesson that I’ve learnt has helped me avoid some critical errors in leading people.

From situations that arise you can also learn the strengths of people around you (as well as their weaknesses). This can help you build a team around you based on their strengths and passions. I believe that as a pastor my role is not to simply make the church service work or something like that. I find myself growing in my obsession to see people thrive in a role that they are passionate about, and skilled for. I believe that God has placed specific giftings on people, and I am to be held accountable for my people. A part of this accountability is to see them rise up and thrive in a role that is suited to them.

One final area I would like to write about is learning to listen to God better. Through trials and tough situations, learning to listen out for God is so important. But that is also true in celebration moments. In other words, leading is about leaning into God more. Quite often what we hear from God confuses us because it isn’t quite what we were expecting. But learning to trust and obey can only bring you under God’s covering, which is the best place to be.

So a key to build future success is to learn right now where you are at, and build keys and experience to help you through future situations 🙂

Deal or No Deal: don’t settle for second best in your relationships

 

After a hectic week with a conference last week, finishing off by preaching at church was simply a joy. As I got some great feedback regarding the message, and with a couple of people being in kids and unable to hear the message (technology let us down yesterday), I’ve put a skeleton of my notes as this week’s post.

The premise that I was going for was that in our society of instant gratification, we have become accustomed to dealing on second-best (and many times far worst) in our relationships. The Bible teaches us that relationships are based not on selfish desires, but on selflessness; on sacrifice and love. I draw these conclusions by reading through the book of Ephesians. I find it interesting how Paul often writes to churches that are struggling with some sort of issue or theological questions, but with the case of the letter to the Ephesians, he wrote solely to encourage them as he had heard that they were going well. The two main things that he covered in the letter was the foundation of the Gospel (e.g. grace, adoption, etc), and then he dives into how we are to act towards one another because of our salvation. He covers a range of relationships we would encounter in our day to day life, such as between parents and children, spouses, employee and employer, and to church brothers and sisters. In other words I believe that Paul was encouraging the church to continue growing in their knowledge and love for the gospel, as well as in their love for one another. These two areas will ensure continued maturity in life!

For us to be able to live selflessly in our relationships then, we need to do so out of a place of understanding of the gospel. We are unable to naturally love continuously unless we are rooted in God’s love! By default, we as human beings take and take when it comes to relationships instead of being generous and giving. We take value, validation, attention and affirmation from people around us, and in the process such them dry instead of build them up. I say this not our of condemnation but out of experience. My first relationship ended because I was turning to my girlfriend to find my identity. Such behaviour can only lead to burn out. Paul teaches us that we need to understand our identity and position in Christ to truly allow us to love people around us unconditionally. So with that, here are 2 perspective changes that we need to take on in order to have relationships that are top-notch instead of second best:

1. I can because He has.

The Gospel is one of God giving graciously to us. He made us whole, blameless, gave us a destiny and calling, and continues to work in us (Eph 1:3-14). We need to understand the store of God’s goodness available to us. His intention is to have us filled up with Him, in order that we can live for His glory. So we don’t have to go around from person to person looking for someone to give us value because our value is solely from God alone! And He has done everything necessary for you to live up to your God-given destiny!

2. I can because I am.

This revelation was very true for me. Growing up in a household where I was greatly supported and given love and acceptance, I still went around looking for a girlfriend to further prove my worth. When that relationship broke down, God really spoke to me and help me to see that even though I knew of God’s promises in His word, I preferred to work for it rather than accept it as a gift. But when I realised that I was a child of God and that I simply needed to accept the gifts of God, it opened up a new way of living. In fact I realised how painful it is for God to hold out His gifts to us, and we turn around and say “I’d rather work for that”. Understand that you’re God’s child, and take the gifts that you may be able to live life full!

Relationships in the world needs work. It needs perseverance. And only with God are we able to live that way. Let this be an encouragement to you: you CAN go the distance because God has already done everything necessary to allow it to happen, and because you’re His child 🙂

How leadership is a scary business

 

Leadership is a scary business. The picture I came across above kind of depicts how it feels; you’re alone up the front, looking for a direction to take while also having to make sure that everyone is following and is safe, and if there is a bit of a dip in the road ahead, hey, you’re the leader! It’s no wonder that people are scared of leadership, because to be a successful leader it feels like on of the biggest things it’s going to take is sacrifice, and a heck of a lot of it. I heard one church leader put it bluntly, if you want your department to thrive, then you’re not going to have a life. He said that that is the kind of mentality one must have in entering leadership, and hold that with the tension of looking after yourself and family. It is a fine balance to strike, and it feels as though if you get something wrong, someone’s going to get hurt or something go terribly wrong.

After reading that do you still want to step into leadership? 😛

While leadership is a scary business, its rewards are massive as well. Jesus tells us that in life we are to love God, love life and love people, and leadership affords you all three in large doses. Leading people can be tough and sometimes really confusing, but seeing people grow in their God-given destiny is simply stated, one of the most amazing things in my opinion. Rough-cut diamonds turn into crown jewels under the hands of a dedicated leader. A motley crew of disgruntled and broken people can work as a well-oiled machine marching forwards for the glory of God’s kingdom when a leader is available to lay down his or her life. I know those statements are very simplistic but if you’re not looking at the end-goal, you can be stuck in a spot not knowing what you’re doing, or whether it’s worth doing.

So a few things I picked up in continuing my journey as a leader:

1. Trust God and surrender to Him TOTALLY. There’s no other way. If you truly believe that God’s called you to lead, then you need to trust that He’s given you EVERYTHING you need to do it well. At the same time, you’ll need to take every step with his leading. Joshua in the Bible did not get his full victory because he left out God when confronted with the Gibeonite deception. One small moment of self-confidence can take you away from God’s path. Another thing to trust God with is your identity. You’re not what you do, you’re who He says you are. Knowing that takes lots of pressure away.

2. Serve scared, it’s gonna be okay. So a few things in that statement: leadership Biblically is more about serving others than anything else. Other’s interests first, putting others before yourself, it’s all in the Bible. Realise that, then do it scared. Know that you’re going to get some stuff wrong, but people are not wanting your head at the first sign of a mistake. As always, trust that God can make even your worst mistakes turn out for the best. Worry will only serve to take up brain space, and kill your ability to lead well.

So those are a couple of bits that I’ve picked up in my leadership. I would love to hear your tips and thing that guide you as you lead 🙂
Much love 🙂

The Hardest Question You Could Ask Yourself

 

It’s kind of strange that trusting a good God is one of the toughest assignments the Christian walk has for us. I mean, if God is so good and loving and merciful, shouldn’t it be easy to simply do everything He says? I guess that’s the whole idea of faith and trust. We cannot know for sure that we are able to fully trust in God if everything is easy. Faith is tested in tough situations and when things don’t seem to be going the way we want it to. And it often seems in life that the plans that we make don’t quite work out, and the journey of walking with Christ seems to be in a manner that goes against everything we believe in.

And it seems like this tension is greatest when it comes to desires of the heart. I mean in Ps 103 doesn’t it say that God “satisfies your desires with good things, that your youth would be renewed like the eagles”? If that is the case, then why do my desires seem to be the very thing that I need to lay down in order to be able to fully follow God. To sum up in a nutshell what I believe God spoke to me about this, I believe that our role in this is to lay down our lives including our desires, and then we trust that God will bring about everything that we need, and will satisfy us. This doesn’t happen in our timing, but according to His. And with that, our deepest desire is God, who is our Creator and our everything.

In trying to live according to that, I find myself constantly having to check whether I’ve surrendered myself totally to God, or whether I’ve slowly shifted control back to myself. The way to do that is to ask myself the hardest question: “Should (insert personal desire here) be unfulfilled, would I still be able to love and follow God totally?” In different moments in my life, the personal desire has been different. At one point it was whether I would ever have a girlfriend. More currently the desire is to see my campus grow and increase in influence under my leadership. And to be honest, I haven’t always been able to answer a resounding “yes” to that question. It is a tough question after all. But when I find a “no” bubbling up inside of me, I try to switch back and remember the goodness of God, and everything that He’s already done for me. I choose to continue to love and serve my God even when it feels like it doesn’t make sense, or it is going to bring about some hurt in the present. I believe for God to bring about His victory, and I choose what He wants for me because He sees beyond me.

As I read the story of David in 1 Sam 21 and how he had just found out that King Saul was after his life and so he fled to Nob, I sympathise with how messed up life must have seemed to him. He had been anointed king, but he was a fugitive. He was promised the kingdom, but now he struggled to even feed himself. In the midst of all of that he is given the sword of Goliath, a token from a time that must have seemed long past. It was a reminder to how God had used him to bring a great victory to Israel, and propelled him into a place of authority in the kingdom. It was a reminder that God had called him, and no matter what the current circumstance was God hadn’t changed. What is your sword of Goliath? Have you got your token that you can hold on to when your destiny seems to be slipping away from you? Have you got something to help you say “YES” to the hardest question you could ask yourself? If you don’t, why not step out in faith and kill your giant?

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