Recently on the StartLiving blog:
So often I am challenged by how to make my Christianity practical – how to show people Christ on a daily basis.
I always start with first prize that is, sharing the gospel with them. Although this is the ultimate solution, because the gospel is relevant to any situation, let’s be honest, it’s not always that practical. There is often not enough time, not enough trust and a lack of context in our everyday.
This series will give you some practical ways in which to be Jesus to people, to radiate Love and to live Gospel. Instead of having to be stressed about never having opportunities to share your testimony or the Gospel of Jesus. This will lead to that.
“Let us always meet each other with a smile, for the smile is the beginning of love” – Mother Teresa
As Christians we are called to influence people with the Love, Mercy and Grace of the Father. As Paul puts it, “… put on Christ …” (Romans 3:14 and Galatians 3:27) we are to become Jesus. One of the supreme traits that stands out for me in the life of Jesus, is His seemingly effortless ability to give hope to the hopeless.
Hope can only be given away if you have it and if you have Jesus you have Hope. The easiest way to influence people with hope, is to smile. Nothing gives people an insight into your heart like the window of your eyes. We walk around the everyday encountering people, not necessarily able to build relationship with them, but able to deposit hope in them. Why not show them your heart through smiling at them? Brightening up your countenance with the light that is inside of you and therefore changing the atmosphere around you.
We so often underestimate the little things about being in relationship with Christ, about being in Love, it shows. Being in love shows whether you try and hide it or not. So, when we put on Love, a smile is an ideal opportunity to show people what they truly desire , to be in Love.
Want to be an influencer, a leader, someone who is a role model to others or believes that they have something to offer the world? Then start smiling!
“Spend more time smiling than frowning and more time praising than criticising” – Sir Richard Branson
It had been on my heart for a long time to organize a men’s retreat. This was never going to be your average men’s camp, it was always going to be challenging, full of adventure and full of God. The idea was to get a bunch of men out into the wild and just let men be men without worrying about mobile phones, e-mails or distractions of any shape or form.
I managed to secure an awesome location, far away from anything and just wilderness as far as the eye can see.We made plenty of time for alone-time in between the crazy activities, because it’s only when we get quiet that God can really deal with our hearts; it’s scary but so necessary.
Eventually seven of us managed to make it up the mountain into the unknown, setting ourselves up for an encounter with the God of the impossible.
On the first evening, sitting around the fire, I set the tone by encouraging the guys to take time to reflect and get quiet. I also emphasized that even though we were going to be doing some challenging things over the coming days that, the real adventure is our relationship with God. Out of this relationship every adventure in our life flows.
The next morning we had our first facilitator, Carl, joining us, he spoke on finishing what you start. He challenged us on 5 very important points when it came to finishing and being a man:
- Repent: Be humble about your weaknesses and admit when you are wrong.
- Love: Don’t move until you are being moved by love and with compassion.
- Be Brave: Jesus was brave, to the point of death.
- Persevere: Never, ever give up.
- Patience: Things take time, don’t force results.
He then taught the guys some rope-tying techniques, which they had to apply immediately in building rafts to get a teammate across a dam, safely and dry. Hands blistered and the clock running down they guys managed to lash extremely impressive rafts together and the race was on.
Later that afternoon saw us hiking into the mountains in search of elusive pools of water that the park rangers had vaguely alluded to on our scouting mission weeks before. We eventually found the pools and many other interesting things along the way as well.
Sitting around the fire again that night our next session was facilitated by another good friend of mine, James. He told us a bit about his story in the context of “Light in the Darkness”. He emphasized cultivating a lifestyle of being in the presence of God and that our light shines brightest in the darkness – don’t be scared of the dark, we bring the answer.This set us up for a night adventure of stalk-the-lantern, with a difference (the difference you’ll have to come and find out for yourself).
Sunday morning we had the privilege of having two facilitators, who had come up the night before, to take us through discussions on “Fathering with Grace” and “Direction”. Steve unpacked the effortlessness in which we can be men and fathers if we allow the Father to do flow through us. He asked us what we thought “leadership” meant and what we understood about “submission”. The one key point he drove home was that leadership is serving and that our wives must be willing to submit to us wanting to serve them. There is a lot to unpack there, but once we grasp what leadership really is, it is easy to see how submission is a blessed place to be in.
Sean then took us through his life, the good times and the not-so-good times, always pointing out that the Spirit has been giving him direction. Directing him to intimacy with the Father, directing him into how to better love his wife and lead his family. We all make mistakes, but as men we must take responsibility for those mistakes and allow God’s grace to enable us to get up and carry on.
Sean’s discussion led us to a session on orienteering. How to read a compass and a map and how to avoid getting lost. At this point the guys were sent out in two’s with a map and a compass, in order to find a specific location, from which they had to provide evidence that they were there. It was amazing to see how eager they were to tame this untamed landscape and accomplish the task no matter what. Only one team managed to do it in the time-period allowed, which shows how intense it was. They took a video of it (below).
A great weekend was a had by all. I think that men need to experience what it’s like to be wild again, there is something special about working with your hands and dealing with the elements – it’s something God has put inside of us. Keep a look out for the next adventure camp which is scheduled for October, be sure to get your friends who you care about, to come and discover something about themselves by discovering their Maker.
“Behold, how good and how pleasant it is For brethren to dwell together in unity! … For there the Lord commanded the blessing—Life forevermore.” – Psalm 133
The Bible speaks of an amazing blessing when God’s people are in unity. However, this is one of the most rare occurrences in the Body of Christ. I believe there are many reasons for this, but I would like to focus on how to foster unity instead of on the reasons why we so easily sow discord.
“But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not without effect” - 1 Corinthians 15:10
Grace is the chief unifying agent in the kingdom of God. Gods grace towards us, flowing through us, means that we now have the ability to accept people just the way they are. We did not have to earn God’s favour, He extended it to us and we took hold of this free gift by faith. By extending the grace we have received from God, to others, we no longer expect people to look, talk, walk and act the same as us in order for us to be unified. Let God’s grace in your life not be without effect.
” … Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other” - John 13:34
Love always needs an object. It needs a direction and it needs intent. God loved us so much that He sent Jesus to die for us. This is without any guarantee that we would ever love Him back in return. Love is always a choice. We have three fundamental choices to direct the thrust of our love towards: God, ourselves or others. When we love God, we will automatically love people. When we love ourselves we use people. We manipulate them in order to get what we want out of them and then move on. Unity is driven by love, if our motive is not love we will not and cannot be in unity.
“Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves … “ – Philippians 2:3
Humility, or the servant heart, is at the centre of every healthy relationship. Whenever we put others’ needs ahead of our own we are showing the characteristics of Jesus, who humbled Himself and became a man, a servant of men. He humbled Himself to the extent of death. Serving out of love and with grace is a necessity for unity, especially when communication can be a little difficult at times – actions do speak louder than words.
” … knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope … “ – Romans 5:2
Unity is not possible unless it is being fostered by and with people of character. People of good character are mature, they have no hidden motives, they are honest and are willing to take responsibility for their decisions. Why do you need people of character? Because fostering unity is not easy, there is a lot of resistance against it by people who think they are ‘right’ and make it their business to discredit others. People of character are hard to find, because character is built in the trenches and so few people have actually been to the front-line, so few have paid the price.
“I will be a Father to you, And you shall be My sons and daughters, Says the Lord Almighty.” - 2 Corinthians 6:18
We will only value unity if we see God valuing it. We can only see what God values when we realise that our values have become His values, that our nature has been changed to His nature. That our identities are no longer our own, but that we are now called SONS and DAUGHTERS of the living God, righteous, holy and blameless. We can’t act contrary to the way we see ourselves. If we see ourselves as secure, then we will be willing to take the risk of fostering unity, even if we are ridiculed.
To live in the fullness of what God has for us I believe that unity must be one of our core values, not an outward conformity to structure. But, rather an inward knitting of the hearts of Gods people. Together we can love so many more people.