Radical Giving

So recently I went out to Brazil to spend some time with Everton, our CVM man in Brazil.

Everton has a faith that inspires you and challenges you whenever you meet him.
I remember on one occasion he came to stay with me in the UK at my place. His flight was long and delayed and he arrived exhausted. We had planned to get up at 6am to walk and pray together for an hour, just encourage each other but with the flight and sitting up late chatting, he was worn out.

I woke up at 6am in a bit of a rush, went downstairs and it was all quiet. I thought to myself, ‘ah, he’s slept in, don’t blame him.’ As I turned into the living room he was sitting on my sofa, bible open in prayer and he’d been their since 4:30am.

This deep commitment to prayer is so tangible in his life, once a desperate drug addict and criminal, he has found a source of life that he just wont neglect, even when he’s exhausted.

On this recent trip to Brazil he informed me that he had be given R$3,000. That’s a good lump of cash for a bloke who lives on R$600 (£1500 a month.)

He set about spending this money quickly and I was absolutely speechless at his radical generosity.

He booked a venue for the weekend, invited over 50 families, ordered all the food, then drove around picking anyone up who couldn’t get there. He worked and worked all weekend, up first to bed last. He paid for it all, no one had to pay a penny. They arrived, relaxed, played with the children, swam in the pool, sat and heard the gospel. A few of us spoke about families, relationships, marriages and the truth of Jesus Christ. I shared our winning men vision and CVM’s heart for winning men to Jesus.

But behind all this I was so humbled watching Everton serve others. He could have legitimately pocketed that 3K and sorted out some of his own financial needs. I asked him about it, and why he did this, and his reply was ‘I want people to meet Jesus Nathan, that’s all.’

I was silenced fellas, I have seen men of God get edgy with each other over 3 Euros change on a meal out. In truth, at times I have been driven by this too, and we must guard our hearts when it comes to money.

Keep your heart soft for the gospel and spend yourself on championing Jesus in any and everyway you can. If it costs you and your pocket then do it. The amount of times I have seen one bloke foot the bill for a men’s event, silently paying the bill because it’s about getting men to hear about Jesus.

Lets operate with a radical generosity, that sometimes hurts us to do it if it means men hear about Jesus.

Hadn’t planned for that!

Every man on earth is always self-conscious of having a Doctor looking at their testicles.
However, I was one man who bravely took a step of faith to let my Doctor look at them and it turned into the best decision I made. Finding a lump is always a concern as there are always so many excuses for what it is. “It’s only a cyst, a bacterial infection, a skin tag etc”. For me however, a little more concerning: testicular cancer. A 26 year old with testicular cancer. I’m too young for this, or so I thought. Studies had shown most common cancer amongst men between the ages of 15 – 35 is testicular cancer, to which the goal posts have recently moved to 15 – 44.

I had always been proactive in checking my tackle and had never found anything for concern. However, the lump wasn’t as read in text books; it was more of a bulge located posteriorly. I only found this lump from checking in August 2015, when out of the blue, I was struck by a voice and had an overwhelming urge to have a talk with my Doctor about this lump (as if God was telling me to go call the Doctor). I instantly got up from my chair at work and booked an appointment.

Hardest part done, just needed to go to the Doctors to be told that everything will be ok, then carry on with life. Honestly, I won’t lie that it’s weird having a Doctor look at you balls but they see a lot worse. He said it was a bacterial infection, take some tablets but he’ll send me for an ultrasound to be on the safe side. Good news! However, the ultrasound wasn’t so positive with an abnormality found and 1 was referred to a specialist urologist. I had some time prior to the consultation to which I gave all my worries to God, who placed a real peace on me. When we met with the specialist, he confirmed that I had testicular cancer. Fortunately, the consultant said it was unlikely to be fatal as I had a 97% chance of being cured from the surgery alone.

This felt like an absolute blessing, not the fact I had cancer, but the statistics were in my favour. My surgery was 2 weeks after the consultation (whilst also doing the necessary deeds in-between) which was quick and since the operation, I had one mop up of chemo and I’ve had the all clear. I just have 5 years of check-ups that become less frequent as time goes on.

I know it seems like a daunting prospect of finding a lump and being told it’s cancer however, throughout this whole episode, I trusted God’s will for me and my life is so much better than before when I thought ‘life was going well’. God knew better, has greater Plans for me (and you) beyond what we can imagine.

There is plenty of advice online and some great charities supporting this cause:

Image Credit: Patrick Pilz

Getting excited about the gospel

Have you ever been to a game or been at an event where you have really gone for it? Not worried about who is around you and what they might think, you just shout out or lift your hands, punching the air and giving it some?

British culture can be a little bit, well, stiff upper lip old boy. Self-restraint in the face of emotion, fortitude and courage in the face of adversity. I love all that stuff but actually, sometimes we need to just give it some!

Let me explain.

We are building up to the Gathering now, and there is one thing I love to see there, it blokes giving it some in worship and wonder at how amazing God is.
I remember a young guy came to the front at last years Gathering to kneel at the foot of the cross for the first time. As he did so, behind him were four fellas, his uncles. They were giving it some, in a big way! Punching the air, face full of tears and just celebrating at how amazing the grace of God really is.

Why don’t we see that more? In our churches, factories, building sites, prisons, on the street and in the boardrooms? Maybe you do see it?

As I am writing this I am at the HUB, I was getting updates on Instagram, and a mate of ours called Simon Edwards had just put up a photo of him sharing Jesus in a Prison. 27 fellas gave their life to following Jesus!

That made me pumped, like I had just lifted 130kg deadlift in the gym! (I did this on one occasion and seriously hurt my back, ended my heavy lift career early)
When I read this post, I wanted to scream out, ‘yes LORD, what a result! HAVE IT!!!!!’ But I clicked on the little like button instead, ‘ah that’s nice, well done boys.’

What’s going on? This is the best news ever and we need to get excited about this stuff because Jesus saves! He transforms the hardest of hearts and calls to the deep in us to come alive. That is flippin exciting.

Last weekend I went to the Message Trust where Beechy and Andy Hawthorne are taking ground like there’s no tomorrow. 100 evangelists, all ages, all backgrounds came together to get seriously excited about Jesus and his message of hope.

It was amazing, why? Because this is what we are about, if we follow Jesus our
Captain and friend he is excited about people finding him, so we need to be too. If you have lost that passion, then recapture it’s urgency, the drive and passion for seeing people saved from sin and an eternal separation from the most wonderful creator who made them for more.

Jesus Christ is the same, yesterday, today and forever.
Hebrews 13:8

Photo Credit: Andre Hunter

A Christian Vision for Politics

The political landscapes of two countries I love greatly are currently swaying like a suspension bridge in an earthquake. On my side of The Pond a referendum on membership to the European Union is to be held this coming Thursday. The implications of this vote are potentially huge.

Across the Atlantic and, 8 years on from then-Senator Obama’s first successful run to the White House, the Democrats and the Republicans see gaping fault lines within their own ranks as they summon the courage to unite under banners they just simply can’t all believe in.

The votes cast in June in the UK and in November in the US could be hugely divisive.

The rhetoric being deployed to promote particular campaigns is much the same across the board. On matters like the economy, immigration, national security, and sovereignty we are told there are disastrous consequences if we go one way, and a terrible future if we go the other. We are informed that it is a bold move to vote [Out|In] or [Hilary|Trump] because [your choice] is the only way forward for our country. And Woe! to us if we vote [against your choice], for calamity is lurking at our doorsteps.

Searching for a Vision

“Where there is no vision, the people perish.” The Bible says it and we trot this out in at moments like this, to support a strategy and endorse an idea. We use this verse in our personal lives, when we feel that our our own outlook has stagnated and it’s time to refocus. We use this verse to help support the pastor’s strategy for the new direction of the church. And yes, we can use it when our national political viewpoint is contested.

And right now I think this verse is indeed apt, although not perhaps for assumed reasons based on first glances. This verse is not really talking about personal, church, or national strategies at all. It is talking about a revelation of God and His law to His people.

Interesting, this oft-quoted verse from Proverbs 29:18 is usually rendered in the King James vernacular (although we seldom use this version in our churches or personal study any more). The NIV says, “Where there is no revelation, people cast off restraint”, and the ESV puts it this way, “Where there is no prophetic vision the people cast off restraint.”

The verse is really a warning to heed God’s commands, to follow the vision of the Lord because, as the second part to the verse tells us, “blessed is he who keeps the law (ESV).” If the Bible is God’s primary revelation, then nations who turn from it do indeed “cast off restraint” and unrestrained by this life-giving governance they drift, at best uncertain, and at worse under misguided zeal leading to despair.

Our Political Decisions Should Serve Us; They’ll Never Save Us

I am alarmed by what I see in our countries right now. I am alarmed by the state of the discussion, the level of conversation, the tactics being employed to convince swathes of voters to lean one way or the other. I am concerned by the standard of debate, because it so rarely seems to approach a state even remotely close to being generously termed ‘debate’.

The Bible I believe does speak about politics and Christians should be keen to get involved. Our politics should serve our human flourishing, something Christians ought to be deeply concerned with. Our politicians serve as our leaders, individuals the Bible without qualification tells us to pray for. The economy, immigration, national security, and sovereignty – not to mention the many other issues – concern people, concern the planet, concern a world that the Bible quite clearly demonstrates repeatedly that God cares for enormously.

Our politics are important because people are important, and people are important because God made them and made them in “His image”. We are immensely valuable, which means that the decisions that we make about our lives and our futures are indeed deeply important.

But politics won’t fix our broken world. A certain individual elected and given more power, or a certain decision reached over national governance, these won’t fix our world. Broken people voting for broken leaders with imperfect abilities and imperfect desires can’t bring us to the promised land.

The Bible tells us that the root problem in our world is not political, but moral. And that each person in this world is affected by the problem. Pardon me for sounding trite and overly-simplistic, but if as a nation we all got on our knees before God and repented for our individual selfishness and pride and pleaded for mercy would we not be more likely to be united?

If our individual hearts were more bent towards God’s would not our corporate gaze spot the injustices, the brokenness, the problems more quickly and act with greater compassion to heal them?

Democracy, moulded by Christian thinkers over centuries, seeks to restrict evil intentions and promote good; limit abuse and release healing. It acknowledges that the human heart is fickle and that humanity has a problem. It is not naive in thinking that all we need is a little more effort, a little more education, a little more this and that and we will see great happiness in our time. Nor is it pessimistic in thinking that people from all walks of life and from all beliefs can’t make a positive difference for us all.

Democracy is not a perfect system, but a system suited to a broken world. Democracy doesn’t change the core state of the world, but deals with the condition that we find ourselves in. Therefore democracy – or any other form of rule or government for that matter – will never heal our deepest wounds. The condition that affects us all is beyond our own ability to fix, and therefore all our efforts, of which our politics is a part, have no potency in the matter.

A Christian Vision for Politics

The issues before the voters in the UK and the United States this year are large. They are important and I believe we should get involved. How we do that and to what extent is probably a matter of conscience for each Christian.

As for me, I know I don’t pray enough for my leaders. I know I don’t know enough about the matters at stake. I know I’m not gracious enough in how I respond to different views.

So: pray more, learn more, and show more grace. That’s my personal Christian political vision going forwards.

Pray More

Prayer acknowledges that we have limits, that we don’t know everything, but that God does know everything.

Prayer puts me in closer relationship with the Creator of the Universe, who holds the master plan.

Prayer properly aligns my allegiances.

Prayer brings me to task over my shortcomings as I hold my life openly before God.

Learn More

We have a rational God who communicates to us rationally. Therefore Christians have affirmed the use of the mind for centuries (many great universities of the world serve as markers of rich historic Christian heritage).

We have a sure foundation for trusting our thinking, because we believe there is ultimately a rationality to this universe. We believe there are rational reasons to our existence – it’s not blind chance – and we can know them and communicate them.

This foundation supports our learning. Because we can know, we can learn. We have a firm base from which we love the Lord our God with all of our mind by increasing our knowledge and wisdom of the world and so bringing the mind of God to all matters around us.

Grow in Grace

If there’s one thing above others I ask for more of that my life might reflect more of God, it’s grace.

Extending deeper grace to others can only be supplied by my leaning on a deeper grace that I have received myself. To show more grace, I must rest on God’s grace more.

Too often I lean on my own perceived strengths and abilities, too proud to continue to acknowledge my unceasing need for grace.

To bend the knee before God to receive salvation by grace was a defeat to my proud soul. My old self is dead, yes. I have new life in Christ, but my soul does not always know this. I encounter acts of prideful rebellion that seek, with the passing of time, to justify that one act of humility by proving myself worthy.

My soul believes that Jesus death for me was deserved.

How utterly disgraceful. In grace we were saved, in grace we live our lives. By the power of Christ’ Spirit were we raised from death to life, and by the power of Christ’ Spirit we are to live this mortal life to His glory.

I need more grace, to give more grace. And more grace in how I deal with people is going to be more winsome and thus aid – nay, fuel – my goal to share my faith more than all my other designs and plans.

With grace and by grace Christians can enter the political fray, indeed any part of this created world, and demonstrate something of the nature and character of God who holds all the answers to all our problems.

Some of us are called to be politicians, some of us will campaign, some of us will pontificate on Facebook – all of us will give an account for our activities and will be asked whose kingdom we were building.

Reformation and Revival

The history of these two great nations is replete with times when after much prayer God poured out His Spirit – Revival – causing many to return to Him and the study of His Word – Reformation.

A people with a redeemed heart and a renewed vision of God’s truth have sought to inform politics, the arts, business, education – all areas of life – to demonstrate and reflect God’s great love for all that He has made.

If we think we’re beyond this now, know that there were those who went before who faced the same doubts. But by faith and great prayer and great effort much was accomplished that now stand as examples to us in history.

The challenges our countries currently face can be the alarm that awakens us to the need for a true vision, that spurs us to repentance, revival, and reformation.

I believe there is a present opportunity to bend the knee, call out to God, and by His grace add a chapter of success to our nations histories. Let us not miss it.

This post was first published on jonathansherwin.net

Gambling can be dangerous

A friend revealed to me recently, that although she was a primary school teacher she too had been caught up in gambling.

It seemed to her that a trip to the bingo offered a night out to enjoy herself with her friends but unfortunately as time passed those feelings passed by and the thoughts of gambling started to consume her, She had also started playing on the machines as well as playing bingo within a relatively short period of time she had amassed debts of £7000.

You see gambling does not affect just those who want to try and get themselves out of poverty but it can affect anyone at anytime irrespective of their status.

She received the Love and support from a Christian couple at church who reminded her that

Romans 8:1
“So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus”

Ian Bartlett
+447814 147156

Putting God First

There’s a book on the shelf in our daughter’s bedroom that has been a favourite of all four children. Not Now, Bernard, by David McKee, tells the story of parents too preoccupied to notice a monster has eaten their child.

Like Bernard’s parents, there are so many things that compete for our attention: work, families, hobbies, the list goes on. Unquestionably we have a real challenge preventing them from becoming more important or more of a priority than our relationship with God.

Jesus said, “Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only” (Matt. 4:10) It’s true we don’t set out with the intention of ‘worshipping’ these other things, but they can easily control our thoughts and energies. Allowing God to hold the central place in our lives keeps these things from turning into gods.

But in a world that encourages ‘self’ how do we live a life with God at the centre? The world tells us men to be someone, to achieve, to live the good life. However, the life of a Christian is characterised by selfless service to God, flowing from a love for Him and our neighbour. Any success, influence or talents we are blessed with is set aside for building the Kingdom (Matt. 25:14-30).

Perhaps foremost is the discipline of daily prayer and time reading our Bibles. By spending time in God’s Word we’re able to draw on wisdom, encouragement, comfort and inspiration for every conceivable situation we could face. Making God our first port of call enables us to face all things in His strength.

But putting Him first is also revealed in how we answer some simple questions:

Is God first in our relationships?

Can our love for God sustain a difficult relationship, with a partner, child or sibling? Can we still extend unconditional love to that person at work or across the street who we really don’t like? “We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love our brothers. Anyone who does not love remains in death” (1 John 3:14).

Is we are in work is God first in the workplace?

No matter where our workplace is: home, office, factory, building site, behind the wheel, we serve God, who expects our work to reveal integrity and true diligence. “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men” (Col. 3:23).

Is God first in our church life?

Each of us has been blessed with unique gifts. By humbly serving in our church we’re building up the Kingdom of God. “Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it” (1 Cor. 12:27).

Is God first in the giving of our time and money?

Do we have a generous spirit? Inviting God’s sovereignty over our finances and time brings fullness and contentment. Jesus says, “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matt. 6:33).

Is God first in our leisure?

Hobbies and interests help us to unwind from the routine of life; to relax, to let off steam, to be entertained, and that’s great, we just need to be wise with our choices, ensuring we’re not preoccupied in the pursuit of the next buzz, the next rush. “Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil” (Eph. 5:15-16).

Ultimately it’s not a case of ‘God first then focus on the rest of our lives’. But rather that God is in everything and in every way a part of our daily living. Its being intentional about making God’s agenda our agenda, God’s will our will, caring about what God cares about; because we live every day with an awareness of the presence and power of Him. “‘For in him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28). God is worthy of our attention in everything we do, in everything we say, and in everything we think.

Think about how our time reflects our relationship with God. Are we too busy for God? What needs to change in our lives to devote ourselves more fully to Him? How can we better lead our families? How can we better set an example and be a witness to our colleagues? Is God, like Bernard, vying for our attention, warning us of a monster? Are we too preoccupied to take notice?

Image Credit: Bhavyesh Acharya

Stand Up, Step Out and Saddle Up

I came across this quote from John Wayne the other day and it really got me thinking. “Courage is being scared to death but saddling up anyway!” For some of us the thought of evangelising to our mates or work colleagues can scare us to death.

What will they think of me? What if they ridicule me? What if they laugh at me? What if they ask me questions that I can’t answer?

Often we get scared and don’t saddle up and share our faith. But it is our faith that enables us to stand up, step out and saddle up. Throughout the Bible we see great examples of faith working miracles in the impossible situations of life. I love Hebrews 11 and how Paul looks back at some heroes of the Old Testament and how they achieved amazing things because of their great faith. Guys like Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses and many more. Verses 16 – 18 in the Message translation sum it up perfectly:

Each one of these people of faith died not yet having in hand what was promised, but still believing. How did they do it? They saw it way off in the distance, waved their greeting, and accepted the fact that they were transients in this world. People who live this way make it plain that they are looking for their true home. If they were homesick for the old country, they could have gone back any time they wanted. But they were after a far better country than that—heaven country. You can see why God is so proud of them, and has a City waiting for them.

Each of these people could stand up, step out and saddle up because they lived out their faith as a lifestyle. They didn’t rely upon or trust God in the big things or the important decisions but in every area of their life, no matter how big or small.

As we begin to live out our faith as a lifestyle we can be ready to stand up, step out and saddle up when God asks, not just when it suits us! We will become ready to share our faith with our mates no matter what the results are or even the ridicule that may follow.

Hebrews Chapter 11 also says this (v 11-12):
By faith, barren Sarah was able to become pregnant, old woman as she was at the time, because she believed the One who made a promise would do what he said. That’s how it happened that from one man’s dead and shriveled loins there are now people numbering into the millions. (Message)

It takes faith to stand up, step out and saddle up, but when we do amazing things can and will happen.

Photo Credit: Christian Spies

Always Be Prepared

Life is busy. Responsibilities and commitments rarely abate, and new challenges require our attention and focus.

This is in addition to our increasingly cluttered lives. Lives where the in-between parts are filled up by technology, media – digital distraction. Like water finding the cracks in a pavement, so our empty spaces so easily fill up with things that are just a click away.

I have known times in my life where I have suddenly come to the realisation that it’s been a while since I’ve stopped, prayed, read my Bible etc.. This wasn’t intentional, it just sort of happened.

I may have become aware of this rather gently: no dramatic incident in my life, just a realisation of something familiar that was no longer there.

These unassuming moments where I return to my private life with my Lord can mask the danger that may have just been averted. Perhaps there were slight feelings of guilt, or nostalgia, but it didn’t feel like anything bad really happened. I, or others, weren’t seemingly hurt from this lapse.

But something bad could have happened.

Spiritual Preparation

When Peter tells the church to “always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have” (1 Peter 3:15, NIV) he is in part instructing the church to think through the reasons for faith: to be able, when called upon, to explain the basis for hope. But there is more to the defense of the faith than having all the answers. We must be spiritually prepared too.

There is no strong apologetic that is not rooted in relationship with God. The “hope” we proclaim is relational. God, come to earth, to redeem the world. Sharing Christianity is not only sharing reasons for faith, but includes an active demonstration of the relationship between God and us.

When we spend time with God in prayer, when we learn of His truth through the Bible, we cultivate a spiritual preparedness. We’re more on God’s wavelength, so to speak. Then, when we are presented with an opportunity to share our faith, spiritually we are much more informed. By being closer to God’s heart and His truth we are more able to share it more quickly with others.

Taking Stock

I am surrounded by devices. My computer, my phone, my iPad, they’re all close by. It’s so easy to either always be checking for the latest update, email, score, or, be informed of the latest photo, tweet, or post.

The technology is great. It serves me well, but only when it serves me.

I have found that it’s useful to, perhaps at the end of the week, ask myself some questions – and be honest – about how I’ve spent my in-between time. Have I been purposeful with it? Have I prayed, have I meditated on Scripture, have I been active in involving God in my life? Or have those spaces been consumed by distractions that have crept in?

(If you have a hard time being honest with yourself, ask your wife or someone else close to you for his or her honest thoughts on how you spend your time.)

It’s not a question of grading myself, but a decision to prioritise the most important things. It’s not a religious check list to make me feel good about my life, but I genuine desire to be more in communion with my God who has shown incredible love and grace towards me.

All of this is incredibly beneficial to me, individually. Walking closely with God has knock on advantages in all areas of my life. But the other side of this is that one day it might be incredibly beneficial to someone else who asks you for “the reason for the hope that you have”. You’ll smile, and begin to explain the reasons for this amazing God who were just moments ago talking to and thinking about. And that could make all the difference.

Mind Games

The other week I was off work for 3 days due to a sickness bug, nothing serious just one of those bugs that seem to knock the stuffing out of you completely and leave you rolling about the floor wishing your mum was around to nurse you better.

I had to cancel meetings and miss a 2 day conference that I was due to attend. As I started to feel better and didn’t have to remain within 10 feet of the toilet, I started to feel sorry for myself in the way that only us blokes do. I was wishing that I had a little bell that would alert my wife to come running with the chicken soup and a cloth to mop my brow…

My mind began to wander to the missed opportunities due to cancelled meetings and I began to follow the conference on Twitter, realising that fantastic Kingdom business was taking place and I was missing it!

As these negative thoughts started to go round in my mind one thought kept on coming back: “God doesn’t really care about you”. Now of course this statement is totally rubbish and untrue, God loves us so much that he sent His Son to die for us, even when we were his enemy. But it made me realise how easy it is for negative thoughts to start in our minds. The enemy of course loves this kind of thinking and is actively engaged in trying to convince us that God is against us.

The danger comes when we start to focus on and believe the negativity that can often sneak into our thinking. We start believing the lies that the enemy is subtly telling us, often placing these thoughts over the truth of scripture. After allowing these thoughts to affect my thinking for a few hours while I was feeling sorry for myself, I was quickly brought back to what the Bible says about the matter. I really love the weapons that God has given us in our daily battles with the enemy and the reminder to put on our armour every day.

Put on all the armour that God gives you, so that you will be able to stand up against the Devil’s evil tricks  For we are not fighting against human beings but against the wicked spiritual forces in the heavenly world, the rulers, authorities, and cosmic powers of this dark age. So put on God’s armour now! Then when the evil day comes, you will be able to resist the enemy’s attacks; and after fighting to the end, you will still hold your ground. Ephesians 6:11-3

As we face new challenges each and every day let’s remember to put on our armour, resist the enemy’s plans and focus on the truth contained within scripture and not the negative thoughts that can often plague our thinking.

Photo Credit: Henry Hustava

Keep Looking Up

I was a bit early arriving at my meeting in a town centre church and as it was Scotland’s one day of summer I decided to go for a walk around the town. This is something I really enjoy especially in a town I am visiting for the first time. As I still had a good few minutes before my meeting I decided to grab a coffee, sit outside and watch the world go by.
As I enjoyed my well-deserved coffee, I began to notice that people were walking around looking down. No one really seemed to be looking up, smiling or acknowledging each other. It was almost like they were trapped in their own little bubble.

This got me thinking as to where we as Christian guys fix our gaze. Often we are filled with sorrow or regret and we are constantly looking backwards. We analyse things that happened in the past and replay it in our minds over and over again. Often we try to imagine what would have happened if we had done or said something different. I am sure that you don’t need me to tell you that this is a totally futile exercise and just causes us further hurt.

Another thing we constantly do is keep looking around, especially when we have a problem. We are worrying about a situation or a problem, desperately looking for a solution, trying to do everything on our own, in our own strength. Of course we are men and can fix anything!

Instead of constantly looking backwards or around us, we need to refocus our attention upwards. Faith looks up towards God and what He has done and is doing for us.

When we are struggling with sorrow or regret over something that has happened we need to fix our gaze upwards and be reminded of what it says in Ephesians (Message Version) “Because of the sacrifice of the Messiah, his blood poured out on the altar of the Cross, we’re a free people—free of penalties and punishments chalked up by all our misdeeds. And not just barely free, either. Abundantly free!” You see when we gave our lives to Jesus, all our sins in the past, present and future have been were dealt with and we don’t need to constantly drag up the past in our minds and beat ourselves up about it.

When we are faced with problems and situations that cause us to worry, it’s time to stop looking around and trying to fix the problems in our own strength. We need to look up and be reminded of God’s promises as in Romans 8:28 “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” We must make prayer our first port of call and not the last, trusting that God has it all under control as He has promised.

As I was sitting outside that coffee shop, I wanted to hold up a sign that says “LOOK UP”. Advice which I also need to heed every day as I too get fed up looking at my shoelaces.

Keep Looking Up!

Photo Credit: Dennis Ottink

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