Month: May 2015

Stop Grumbling and Start Shining

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The upcoming general election has seriously done my head in over recent days!

Historically I have always voted as you’d expect a boy from the Welsh valleys to vote – red! However, as this current election campaign has rolled on I’ve found myself increasingly disillusioned by much of what each of the parties have to offer. I’m tired of all the spin and sick of hearing politicians bad-mouthing each other. But I think what has affected me most deeply as I’ve watched debates and flicked through manifestos is the unavoidable, inescapable reality that we are not merely a non-Christian country…we are fast becoming an anti-Christian country!

But with the help of some insightful articles by Andrew Wilson and John Stevens, coupled with some great conversations with my mate Jim, here’s where I have landed…

i) The role of politicians is to represent the people they serve.

I dunno exactly what percentage of the UK would be Christ following, Bible-believing Christians, but it’s probably somewhere between 1% and 5% of the population. Let’s be optimistic and go for 5%. Basic mathematics tells me that 95% of the UK don’t follow Jesus and are not led by the teaching of Scripture. I also dunno how many of our MPs are Christians, but it’s probably a similar percentage. Therefore, why in the world should we be surprised that so much recent legislation and political decision making is at odds with a gospel worldview?! While 95% of our nation shakes a fist in God’s face and opts instead for a society that is free from the ‘shackles’ of antiquated religion, I think it’s fair to say that our politicians are doing a great job of representing the people they serve!

ii) The role of the church is to offer salvation to the people.

God’s people have always had a mandate to be part of transforming the lives of those around them. Israel was established to be a blessing to the pagan nations that surrounded her, which they generally sucked at! One of my favourite passages in Scripture is Ezekiel 36 where God promises to cleanse and restore His rebellious people.

Why?

Then the nations that are left all around you shall know that I am the Lord (v36)

Similarly, when Jesus gathered His disciples around Him to teach them on a mountainside, He gave them this charge:

“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 5 v 14-16)

Furthermore, Paul encouraged the Philippians with these words:

Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain. (Philippians 2 v 14-16)

These verses in Philippians are especially poignant at a time when there is such disillusionment with politics and politicians. Imagine if one of the things that set God’s people…including me…apart from the 95% right now was that we chose to stop grumbling and start shining. To live, love, serve and speak as those empowered and impassioned by the gospel that is still the power of God for the salvation of all who believe!

iii) The politics will change when the people change

So if the role of politicians is to represent the people they serve. And the current political direction of our country is uncomfortable and undesirable for the 5% then PRAISE GOD because with the gospel in our hands and on our lips we have the power to see serious, seismic change because the gospel changes people and people change politics!

I love the story of Jonah the runaway revivalist. When he eventually rocked up to Nineveh, he didn’t tell the people that change could only come by rising up and dethroning the king who ruled over them. Instead he preached an 8 word gospel nugget to the men and women on the streets who responded in repentant faith, and such was the scale of the transformation on the street-level that word soon reached the king, who in turn brought in sweeping new laws that honoured God! (Jonah 3 v 6-9)

In conclusion then, let’s not allow the dire social mess and bleak political landscape that confronts us to steal our joy or rob us of hope. Rather, let’s see it as a divine moment to rise up as the people that God has commissioned and conditioned us to be. Let’s stop grumbling. Let’s start shining. Let’s step out with a fresh urgency to be on mission with Jesus to seek and save the lost.

Let’s see what God can do with five faithful percent who are on fire for Him!

And by God’s grace, let that change start with me!

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Graced and Grateful

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A few weeks ago I posted a blog that clearly made quite a big impact on people. It certainly received more hits and sparked more interaction than anything else I’ve posted for quite some time. So, here I am 2 weeks later and I thought it would be good to do a follow-up post to give an update on where I’m currently at, as well as to reflect upon some of the things that I wrote in that post.

Before I get going I just want to say thank you to everyone who connected with me off the back of the original post. There were plenty of comments  left on the page, and the number of text messages, tweets, emails and conversations that I had in the following days was quite overwhelming. It is clear that, while many commended my ‘courage’ for posting what I did, others were understandably upset and concerned by what they read. To be honest I’m kind of in two minds about whether or not I should have posted what I did, how I did, or when I did! The last thing I wanted to do was upset anyone, either in my own church family, or friends from further afield. With hindsight I possibly could have waited a little longer and phrased some things differently, so if my words upset anyone I am sincerely sorry.

Similarly, I acknowledge that there was definitely an element of unhealthy ‘self-pity’ that came through in what I posted. In fact, ‘unhealthy’ is probably the wrong word. ‘Sinful’ is a more appropriate term! I was recently challenged by an article I read explaining that, while the pressures on those in ministry are no doubt considerable and in some ways unique, there are also many blessings that I enjoy purely because of the life that God has called me too. These include:

  • Getting to eat breakfast and do school runs with my kids while most dads are already in work.
  • Having more time to study Scripture and pray each week than most other Christians do.
  • Enjoying more than my fair share of conferences and fellowship opportunities.
  • Pastoring a church who I know genuinely love me and my family.

To write of wanting to quit in the way that I did was self-indulgent, disrespectful and ungrateful and I have repented of this attitude. If it came across that way to you, then I sincerely ask for your forgiveness.

Finally (for this first bit), and perhaps most importantly, what I have been most convicted about was that to speak so flippantly of throwing in the towel was to totally disregard the privilege of the call of God upon my life. Not everyone is called to preach the gospel and serve God’s people full-time, and I acknowledge that this ministry was not and is not my idea. It was God’s idea. God’s call. God’s purpose for my life. He gave me this work to do for His glory and so He’s the only One who can and will decide when my work is done. I thank God that I never actually did quit, but God knows that I really wanted to, which means that in that moment my heart was both disobedient and idolatrous (I was seeking to be Lord of my own life). Again, I have repented of these attitudes.

However, having said all that, I think that there were still some very positive outcomes from my post. Firstly, it was actually very good for me to get what I did off my chest. What I expressed was very extreme…but that’s because what I was experiencing was also very extreme. It’s very tempting as pastor, leader, author etc. to present a phoney public version of myself as a strong, resilient, heroic man of God. The truth is, I’m not. I’m weak, needy and utterly grace-dependant. For what it’s worth I’m glad that I was able to be honest about that. To tear the mask off and let people see the real me. I really do suck…and it’s OK to acknowledge that, so long as where it leads me is not self-indulgent depreciation, but Christ-centred celebration:

Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

2 Corinthians 12 v 9-10

Secondly, it is CRAZY how many ministers, pastors and full-time church workers got in touch with me to say that what I expressed was something that they either had experienced in the past or were currently going through, and to thank me for putting words to their feelings. If nothing else, I feel more compelled than ever to pray for other pastors and leaders and also to be quicker to ask others to pray for me. I humbly ask that you also would be in regular prayer for your pastors and leaders. God knows they need it!

Finally, I have been reminded again of just how genuinely loved me and my family are. People have gone above and beyond the call of duty to pour love on the Hankeys in recent weeks. Family, friends, brothers and sisters from my home church, my church planting network, my publishers, encouraging scriptures, sincere prayer, cups of coffee, offers of babysitters and holidays, even a timely hug…it has done my soul such good to know the love of God expressed in both word and deed and I am DEEPLY grateful for the people God has placed in my life, not least my incredible wife, Michelle.

So there we have it. As I reflect on recent turbulent days I do so with a mixture of humble repentance and gratitude for grace. I am persuaded that God is in the process of emptying me of myself so that He can fill me with more of Himself. This is both daunting and very exciting! Am I out of the woods emotionally? Spiritually? Physically? Dunno! But to be honest, I’m not sure that those are the right questions! Better questions would be: Am I secure in the grip of God’s grace? In the centre of God’s will? In the love of God’s people?

Yes I am!

So I’m crackin’ on to the glory of God!

The Lord upholds all who are falling
and raises up all who are bowed down.

Psalm 145 v 14