Within or Without

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‘Do you see the will of God as outside you, or as in-built? Is it something you are meant to be doing for God, or is it mainly something God is doing in you? ’

I have been mulling over these questions this week. Thinking about how my attitude towards myself, others and God reflects my answers to the questions. The will of God is as big a concept as it is a minute and detailed one. There are two major ways of viewing God’s will; the panoramic view of the will of God encompassing plans for humanity as a whole, the story woven from creation right through to eternity. Or, the individual 20/20 vision of the will of God encompassing our daily decisions and lifestyle choices, how we practically walk out what we perceive to be God’s will for us individually in each moment.

I believe the will of God is not just something worked from without, but a mixture of within and without. It is working with God for God.

If we believe His will is something solely outside of us it is easy for us to become detached and distanced from involvement in it. Our responsibility to see His will worked out in our lives and in our world somehow seems ethereal, a product of Holy Spirit direction and not a collaborative effort with our own co-operation. In this instance, His will is external and aimed at reaching those around us; we take a backseat in the great cosmic plan. We retreat back to the age old refrain ‘the will of God is not about us…’

But, I think the will of God has everything to do with us and everything to do with Him. It is in-built within us from the day we were born. We have an innate desire to not only be with God, in His presence and in His glory, but to serve Him for a purpose much bigger than ourselves. To be creative in how we live out the story of our lives, to be like Him.

To be like Him means that we need to allow God to do something in us. Therefore, His will is not just something we are doing for God; it is something He is doing in us.

The will of God from without;

‘The Lord is not slow in keeping His promise, as some understand slowness. Instead He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.’– 2 Peter 3 v 9

‘For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.’– John 3 v 16

The will of God from within;

‘For those God foreknew He also pre-destined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.’– Romans 8 v 29

‘For it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfil His good purpose.’– Philippians 2 v 13

Within and without, with and for– God is working out His will in our lives.

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An Integrated Life

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“The adventure of life is to learn. The purpose of life is to grow. The nature of life is to change. The challenge of life is to overcome. The essence of life is to care. The opportunity of life is to serve. The secret of life is to dare. The spice of life is to befriend. The beauty of life is to give.”
― William Arthur Ward

In the business world, taking time to consider the aims and objectives of a venture is considered time well spent. Aims and objectives shape a venture and help to mould it into something viable and relevant. Aims and objectives keep things on track; they help maintain focus and direction.

I spent time this week thinking about the aims and objectives of my own life. I thought about the direction it is heading in and what drives the life decisions I am making or will make in the future. So here is a (brief) summary of my life manifesto…

I don’t want my life to revolve around the finite plans of my own little world, with a good work thrown in here and there. I don’t want a life with definable lines between stepping out in the things of God and my everyday routine. I want to give and live generously to the point where my life is an indefinable, integrated mesh which consists of pouring myself out into God’s Kingdom purposes, making a difference in the lives of others in small ways and grand ways. I want to be like Jesus, not anybody else. I want Him to be well pleased with me. I want my life to have lasting, tangible, eternal impact. No demarcation lines between my everyday life and the mission of God. I want the life that God designed for me from the beginning of time to run through the very veins of my daily lifestyle decisions, to shape how I work, rest and play. I want every facet of my life to follow the leading of His Spirit and to flow with Him, not against Him. I want to deliberately choose Gods way over the way of others. I want to please Him.

Listening to this song today reinforced my conviction of the above. I have decided…

Christ is Enough (Hillsong)

I have decided to follow Jesus
No turning back
No turning back
The cross before me
The world behind me
No turning back
No turning back

These are my aims and objectives. What are yours? 

Fully Alive

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It has been said that the glory of God is man fully alive, and I am inclined to agree. Show me a man or a woman who is squeezing the juice out of life, and I’ll show you someone exemplifying the character of our Creator.

Jesus packed more into 3 years then most of us do in a lifetime, more than most of us dare to dream about. But here’s the thing- we should. We should dare to dream of greater things. We have permission to dream with God, permission to believe for what is impossible with man but possible with the Almighty in us.

Therefore…Write the vision down and put it into action. Rally the troops and attack injustice with wisdom, love and the grace of God. Challenge the status quo, reject apathy and strive for excellence.

And then…We can feel the wind on our cheek and the sun on our backs, take a deep breath; make time to behold the masterpiece of God in His creation.

Apply for that job, move to that country. Give God an opportunity to direct a moving vessel, refuse to be stagnant. Shake off the religious chains, be unbound from the four walls of the ‘church’ building and get out among the people. Revel in the beauty of connection and the intricacies of relationship.

Thank Him for salvation, eternal life and unlimited hope.

Understand that there are more with us than with the enemy of our souls. Light overcomes darkness every time and He who is within us is greater than he who is in the world.

So… We can think of ourselves as pilgrims on the earth, destined for eternity and created with purpose. As long as we remain on this planet there is a deeper, more significant reason for our existence than we fully comprehend.

He knows the plans He has for us; the future is waiting in a place called hope.

Create with abandon, worship extravagantly, and ignore the doubters. Be at peace, victory is ours.

Join the joy revolution, the revolution of love. Be radically committed to following Jesus Christ, the anointed one who beckons us forward- the author and completer of our faith.

I heard this phrase recently, “Life is wasted on the living”, and it is sad but so frequently true. Life is happening every day, consistently, yet somehow we miss it as we’re busy planning other things.

Jesus was not joking when He said He came to give us life, and not just life, life to the full (John 10 v 10). I have a sneaky suspicion we need to seek Him on the meaning of fullness, for we shall never find it following the world’s directives.

“It doesn’t interest me what you do for a living. I want to know what you ache for, and if you dare to dream of meeting your heart’s longing.
It doesn’t interest me how old you are. I want to know if you will risk looking like a fool for love, for your dream, for the adventure of being alive.
It doesn’t interest me what planets are squaring your moon. I want to know if you have touched the centre of your own sorrow, if you have been opened by life’s betrayals or have become shrivelled and closed from fear of further pain! I want to know if you can sit with pain, mine or your own, without moving to hide it or fade it, or fix it.
I want to know if you can be with joy, mine or your own, if you can dance with wildness and let the ecstasy fill you to the tips of your fingers and toes without cautioning us to be careful, to be realistic, to remember the limitations of being human.”

– Oriah Mountain Dreamer

God’s Got My Blueprint

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‘For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do’– Ephesians 2 v 10

When I read these words I breathe a sigh of relief. I don’t have to plan my own good works (which can be overwhelming when I see the great needs in the world). God has planned in advance, and He has a tight reassuring grip on the blueprint.

There is comfort in knowing the blueprint of my life is in the right hands, in knowing that my job is not to run around creating good works but to discover them. After all, the government is on His shoulders.

God is a God of detail and specifics; He doesn’t fudge on clarity or circumnavigate the main issues.

He will readily share with me the details of my blueprint if I seek Him and look out for signs of it. He has promised I will find Him when I seek Him with all of my heart (Jeremiah 29 v 13), and aside from reading scripture and prayer, I am certain that ‘seeking Him’ manifests differently in each of our lives.

I love that aspect of God’s nature.

When I pray about my blueprint I can pray specifically, confidently waiting on God to show me a specific part of the blueprint in return.

I’m glad He took the time to plan my life’s good works in advance. To skilfully prepare how the works would come about, in which time and in which season.

Every detail planned out meticulously and lovingly- what a relief.

The passage in Ephesians suggests that we are God’s work of art, His handiwork that He wants to showcase to others. I believe good works are a way that He shows us off to the world. Believers in Jesus Christ should be renowned for good works; good works with a supernatural edge.

We were created in Christ Jesus to do good works, like our Father who created and declared that it was good (Genesis 1), like His son Jesus who went about doing good and healing (Acts 10 v 38).

We are created for good works; therefore we are anointed for good works. Good works are not always easy to accomplish well, they take time, effort and sacrifice but with the anointing we are more than able to do them. It’s the anointing that destroys the yoke.

Not by might. Not by power. But by His Spirit do we fulfil the good works.

“It is hard to see how a great man can be an atheist. Without the sustaining influence of faith in a divine power we could have little faith in ourselves. We need to feel that behind us is intelligence and love. Doubters do not achieve; sceptics do not contribute; cynics do not create. Faith is the great motive power, and no man realises his full possibilities unless he has the deep conviction that life is eternally important, and that his work, well done, is a part of an unending plan.”
― Calvin Coolidge

Have you asked God about His blueprint for your life?

On the Right Track

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‘If alignment does not focus on magnificence it is not worth anything. We are lining up with Jesus, in Jesus and behind Jesus…’- Graham Cooke

Alignment with Jesus is love. Then the assignment is power.’- Leif Hetland

God wants us to live in alignment with Him. He wants to release out of us what He has put into us. He wants us to experience and know the joy of coming into alignment with Him.

Alignment is defined as the act of aligning or state of being aligned, the proper positioning or state of adjustment of parts in relation to each other. Being rightly aligned with Jesus is to allow ourselves to be moulded and shaped, perfectly positioned to fulfil His purposes.

It is getting in line, playing our part, walking in our anointing and living out the call we’ve received. It’s being strategically placed as signposts directing the lost to Christ.

Alignment is a glorious thing. To see a person aligned is to witness the wisdom of God in action. Their countenance glows, their lives have momentum; they flow in the gifts and abilities God has given them. They are focused, undeterred, running with the vision planted within their hearts. We are drawn to them, everyone is drawn to them. We want what they have got; they exude righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. They reflect the beauty of God’s kingdom.

They do not waste time distracted by the cares of this world or succumb to the pride of life. They have understood that ‘The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever’ (1 John 2 v 17).

Most of all, they practice love.

Alignment with Jesus is love, walking in the love of the Father is a sure way to align ourselves with Him and get on the right track. Being aligned with Jesus will always lead us to a place of radical love (radical to us). It will lead us to His plan and purposes where demonstration and activation of His love is the only way to live.

So, how can we stay rightly aligned with God?

By regularly reviewing our hearts;

Trusting in the Lord with all our hearts and leaning not on our own understanding. When we do this, He has promised to align our paths. Keeping our hearts loyal to Him and the things that are important to Him…

For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the Earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to Him…’- 2 Chronicles 16 v9

By making space in our lives to hear from Him;

Our God looks down from heaven on the human race to see if there are any who understand, any who seek God. May He find us seeking and listening attentively for His voice.

By staying free and rooted in His grace;

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Let us stand firm then and not let ourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. We must be free to move into alignment.

By recognising what God is doing and getting involved;

‘For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.’- Ephesians 2 v 10

Being in alignment brings us to the place where we can fulfil the good works He has prepared for us.

Alignment is on a continuum, it is not a destination. Being rightly aligned one month may look different to being rightly aligned in the next.

May we all come into alignment and find ourselves firmly on the right track. May we hear the voice of God saying to us ‘this is the way; walk in it’ (Isaiah 30 v 21).

Have you come into alignment? 

Embracing Change

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‘Everybody’s changing and I don’t feel the same…’- Keane

Change is refreshing, exhilarating, exciting and inspiring. It is also discomforting, alarming, intimidating and challenging.

I have always thought of myself as a person who embraces change. I love the freshness of change, how it leads me to new people and adventures I have never encountered before. Personal resources that have lain undiscovered rise up to the surface. Risk to me is a necessary part of life, and I have taken many risks, choosing the seemingly illogical choice in favour of following my heart.

Change is like the seasons- we all have our favourite. Mine is the autumn, but I suspect the season I’m in is more like summer. The summer season is not my favourite; I enjoy the warmth in the shade, but usually feel overwhelmed and uncomfortable with the intensity of city heat waves.

So with this season of my life, I have experienced waves of intensity which have left me overwhelmed and uncomfortable. The pace is fast, the responsibility is heavy and the pressure is on. I am way, way out of any comfort zone, far from familiarity.

But Jesus does not call us to comfort. He calls us to purpose.

His will and purpose for our lives is good, pleasing and perfect…but not comfortable.

We take comfort in the fact that God knows the end from the beginning, so we don’t have to. He knows what our needs are before we ask Him.

His understanding is infinite. We can approach Him in every season and cry out for grace.

‘They are like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither- whatever they do prospers’- Psalm 1 v 3

As sons and daughters of the King, whatever season of change we find ourselves in, God wants us to prosper. God’s desire is that we produce something good in every season and refuse to wither in the process.

We must be connected to the streams of water. Connected to Jesus, the Word of God made flesh.

My season of change is filled with personal challenges but also opportunity. The opportunities are obvious and enticing. Opportunity to reach a whole new range of people; working closely with them, supporting them in their distress and brokenness. Opportunity to be a light in pervasive areas of darkness. Opportunity to trust God in ever increasing ways and pray like I’ve never prayed before.

We can decide to embrace change; counting and accepting the cost.

Everything God does in our lives is for a reason. The places God directs our lives to is for a reason. And every time God speaks to us there is a reason.

In our seasons of change we can set our hearts to glorify Him.  He is always the reason for the season. I am grateful that He does not change;

‘Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.’- James 1v 17

Do you see change as a gift? 

Knowledge of the Holy

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‘ ..Then they took him (Paul) and brought him to a meeting of the Areopagus, where they said to him, “May we know what this new teaching is that you are presenting? You are bringing some strange ideas to our ears, and we would like to know what they mean.” (All the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there spent their time doing nothing but talking about and listening to the latest ideas)’- Acts 17.

Things have not changed. Societies are still drawn to the latest theories, and people continue to search for knowledge and insight.

I have a passion for learning. When a subject intrigues me I want to delve into every aspect of it. I read about, research and contemplate the subject until I reach a place of understanding or comprehension.

But sometimes that desire to know can lead me astray and distract me. I can become confused by the array of information available and struggle to make sense of it all.  I often return to the original idea or thought about a subject, eager for simplicity and clarity.

Faith enhances the intellect, but the intellect does not necessarily enhance faith.

We must be careful not to accumulate knowledge while losing sight of its purpose. I admire the wisdom of those that can articulate  complex truths in the most simplistic of terms. Jesus kept it simple and still managed to amaze the crowds.

‘..Always learning but never able to come to a knowledge of the truth’- 2 Timothy 3 v 7

There are many who are frustrated and living in confusion as they search for knowledge…but never quite arrive at knowledge of the truth. Jesus is the way, the truth and the life. It doesn’t get much simpler than that.

The world doesn’t need to hear a deeper philosophy.

My prayer for myself, the lost and those seeking truth is that we would;

“Hear and comprehend,

See and perceive,

Understand with our hearts,

Be always learning, but also able to come to a knowledge of the truth.”

As people search for knowledge they will  ask us why we believe what we believe, why we have the faith that we do. Let’s prepare ourselves to give an answer to those who wonder about the hope we have in Christ.

Let’s explain with knowledge about our faith, but let’s do it with simplicity of heart.

Where has your search for knowledge taken you?