The Problem of Pessimism

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Something I’ve been thinking through lately is this: negativity, pessimism and gloom can be tools for Satan to use in my life.

They can feed doubt; fear; unbelief. They can be a breeding ground for worry. They can stifle my faith, and the power of my prayers.

Like worry, pessimism can feel innocent.

But pessimism, like worry, is not innocent because, like worry, it can stifle faith in God through Jesus.

If life has hurt you before, you don’t want to be hurt again. Understandably. But there is a danger of becoming negative and pessimistic, filling your heart with negativity and stifling out the truth of the promises that God has given Christians through Jesus.

Things in our hearts from the past, or fears of bad things that could happen, can cause us to always accept the most negative conclusion.

It can cause a negative, fear-filled way of seeing the world, which always expects the worst and anticipates it, long before it has actually happened.

It can be a way you learn to handle the world, for a variety of reasons.

Pessimism can squeeze out our faith in the promises of God, because we simply don’t dare to believe they are true.

So when God promises something good to those who follow Jesus, we are very resistant to believing Him.

Lots of things can take our faith in God. But this is one of them. Always expecting the worst makes it very difficult to hear God when He speaks encouraging promises to the hearts of His children.

We can be too afraid to receive them; to believe them.

And that’s a bad thing, because faith is very important in the Christian life.

Yes, the Christian life is costly. Yes, there is suffering. Jesus promised that (along with great rewards). But dwelling on the suffering, and anticipating it, or being stuck in the suffering of the past, can take our faith and hope for the future, and stifle out the power of faith in our lives. And faith in very important.

‘But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.’ Hebrews 11:6

I’m learning I need to bring blockages to my faith to the Lord, so that He can take care of them… so that they don’t hold me back.

He cares so deeply for us in our suffering. This world is broken, and He knows that. He yearns over us. He longs to comfort us. He can minister into the wounds of the past. He can comfort like no-one else can. He can counsel us. He can share our deepest tears (and there is abundant space for them in His arms). He can heal our hearts up in amazing ways when we let Him in on His terms. He wants to!

And He wants us to hope in His goodness.

And I’m learning that it’s not helpful to be negative and pessimistic. I have an overactive imagination. I been a worrier for many years. I imagine the bad things that could happen long before they happen… and, most of the time, they don’t.

The life of faith is not a life based on seeing, but on trusting what God has said.

Pessimism is not more powerful than the promises of God.

God calls us to live by faith. The life of faith does involve suffering. It does involve pain this side of Heaven. But that does not need to include the anticipated pain that may well never actually happen, and will only haunt us when we don’t need it to.

The Christian life of faith down here on earth can be painful, but it can be positive, too.

God may answer prayer in ways and at times we don’t expect. It can be a journey we don’t expect. Our boxes are way too small for Him to fit into, after all. But I’m beginning to learn that that’s because His ways are bigger and better, not because they are bad.

God is always good, and He is always doing something amazing in answer to the prayer of faith through Jesus.

Because God always keeps His promises.

And prayer and faith are a powerful, powerful combination, which pessimism has no right to stifle out.

 

(There is a way to have hope, for this life and for eternity. It’s found in new life through Jesus Christ. Yes, we have all messed up, and all face God’s judgement. But God gave His Son to give us a way out: a way of hope forever. Jesus died so that we can be forgiven. When we come to Him as Saviour, confessing our sins and accepting His death in our place, surrendering our lives to follow Him as Lord of our lives, we are forgiven and given His Spirit to live within us, giving us strength and help for this life… and hope of new life with Him for all eternity).

 

Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

 

 

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A Very Powerful Force That is Available to Us All…

Something I’ve been learning about recently is prayer.

I’m learning that prayer is a powerful, powerful thing. Because God is all powerful and and prayer is God acting in answer to the words of feeble men and women.
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Those who come to God through Jesus (which we all can do if we come on His terms) have at their disposable an indescribably powerful weapon: the power of prayer.

I remember a quote I read from Charles Spurgeon, about prayer being like lightening, cutting through things with power.

“I do believe there is as much reality in a Christian’s prayer as in a lightning flash; and the utility and excellency of the prayer of a Christian may be just as sensibly known as the power of the lightning flash when it strikes the tree, breaks off its branches, and splits it to the very root.”

Spurgeon, C. (1993). The Power of Prayer in a Believer’s Life. ed. Lynwood, Washington: Emerald Books, p.69

And I believe that the power of prayer is greatly increased when you start to believe it really works, and you start making use of it in faith… and expecting God to answer.

 

I’ve heard a preacher say that Mary Queen of Scots was more afraid of John Knox’s prayers than the armies of her enemies.

And she was right.

Because prayer is more powerful than any army.

It’s like in 2 Kings 6:

’16 So he answered, “Do not fear, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” 17 And Elisha prayed, and said, “Lord, I pray, open his eyes that he may see.” Then the Lord opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw. And behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha. 18 So when the Syrians came down to him, Elisha prayed to the Lord, and said, “Strike this people, I pray, with blindness.” And He struck them with blindness according to the word of Elisha.

19 Now Elisha said to them, “This is not the way, nor is this the city. Follow me, and I will bring you to the man whom you seek.” But he led them to Samaria.’  2 Kings 6:14-19

The enemies could not touch the people of Israel, because they were depending on their God for help. God’s people were surrounded by the army of Heaven: far more powerful than the forces of their enemies. And God defeated their enemies in a way that was amazing!

And, if we are following Jesus, we too have incredible protection on our side.

If only we could see.

There are some powerful, powerful promises about prayer in the Bible.

And we can so easily water them down; reason them away.

But they are ours, not to be watered down, but to taken and used and claimed.

Sure, our hearts need to be in line with God’s will.

Sure, He gets the final say on how He acts.

Sure, we need to be surrendered to God’s plan and way of doing things.

But let’s not lose the power of the blank cheque we have been given.

Let’s think about some examples we have been given about what happened in answer to prayer.

God stopped the sun.

God stood up the sea.

God defeated huge armies.

God intervened in incredible, astounding ways.

Spurgeon also said this to believers in Jesus who pray with faith:

“You have power in prayer, and you stand today among the most potent ministers in the universe that God has made. You have power over angels, they will fly at your command. You have power over fire, and water, and the elements of the earth. You have power to make your voice heard beyond the stars; where the thunders die out in silence, your voice will wake the echoes of eternity. The ear of God himself will listen and the hand of God himself will yield to your will. He commands you pray, “Your will be done,” and your will, will be done. When you can plead his promise then your will is his will.”

Spurgeon, C. (1993). The Power of Prayer in a Believer’s Life. ed. Lynwood, Washington: Emerald Books, p.67

I found myself thinking last night what my life would be like if I could not pray; did not know how. I couldn’t imagine it. It would be too awful for words! Not to have the joy; the freedom; the relief of being able to lift my burdens up to my Father, and know He will act on my behalf. Life would be so very, very different.

It made me long for others to know this reality, too: the joy of bringing our hearts and burdens to God.

Maybe you already know Him too. Let’s make more use of this unlimited gift He has given us! I know I need to!

Maybe you have never prayed before. Oh, dear friend, you are missing out! God is waiting right where you are, waiting to hear you speak to Him… in your own words… from your own heart… because He wants to meet with you, and to answer.

This same God, Who did incredible things in the past, is waiting to do incredible things for us today.

Okay, so we need to do things His way. We all mess up. That’s why we need the blood of Jesus for forgiveness. That’s why we need to turn from the things that offend Him and follow Him His way. Sin blocks things up and gets in the way of what God wants to do for us.

But God is calling us  to speak to Him: the One Who did incredible things in the past, Who does not change, and ask Him for whatever we want, so long as our hearts are surrendered to Him. Whatever we want.

‘The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much. 17 Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain; and it did not rain on the land for three years and six months. 18 And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth produced its fruit.’ James 5:16b-19

So why do we limit God?

Why do we hold back from asking?

Sometimes I sense Him asking me, “What do you want Me to do for you?”

Well, I think He’s always asking it. But, sometimes, I’m more aware of it.

I guess He’s asking me right now.

I guess He’s asking you right now, too.

What do you want Him to do for you? For those you love? For the nations? In your wildest dreams?

Yes, we need to surrender to Him and His ways. Yes, we need to align our hearts with His. Yes, we need to allow Him to be God in the way and the timing He answers. But let’s not lose the power of this very, very powerful and effective blank cheque that God is holding out to us.

What do you want Him to do for you?

‘Delight yourself also in the Lord,
And He shall give you the desires of your heart.’ Psalm 37:4

Without reasoning it away, holding back or limiting what He can do.

What would I like Him to? What would you like Him to do?

Why not ask Him now?

He’s waiting for you. 😉

 

(The most important prayer we all need to pray is the one that opens the door to knowing God as our loving Heavenly Father: when we surrender to Jesus as our Saviour and Lord. Although we have all rebelled against Him, He loves us and longs to restore that relationship with Him. He gave His Son so that we can be forgiven from the judgement we all deserve and have the hope of living forever in His Heaven, when we come to Him, receive His forgiveness and surrender our lives to follow Him. He longs to meet with us, hear us and answer our prayers. He longs to give Himself to us).

 

Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Why Worry is Not As Innocent As it Seems…

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So, again, I think the subject for this post is worry… and trust. It’s the subject I feel God wants me to write about again, and it’s definitely one I need to grow in!

Do you ever catch yourself fretting about something you’re already committed to God through Jesus?

Over and over again?

And do you ever think that worry isn’t that big a deal, really?

The other day, I was spending time with the Lord, seeking Him about some things I was, yes, worried about. And He encouraged and comforted me. I could sense Him so gently encouraging me. It was so tender: as if He was saying, “Let go of your fear, Caroline. You can let go of your fear.” … and I kept fretting.

And then I felt Him, very gently and tenderly, encouraging me. It was so encouraging that it wasn’t really a rebuke… but I knew it was what I needed to hear. The sense of it was something like this: “Stop fretting, Caroline! You have given it to Me… over and over again. I know about it and I’m taking care of it! Just relax! You will see My answer soon!”

It was bang on. It was right. I had given my worries to Him. Now all I needed to do was stop fretting, and trust (and even praise Him for the answers that are on their way!).

And I, as I prayed into it, I felt Him showing me how often I fret about things. I allow anxious thoughts into my mind, and I play with them and try to solve them, when I’ve already given them to the Lord, and He’s already encouraged me that He’s taking care of them. And I felt Him encouraging me that this way of thinking needs to change. Yes, He is gracious. Yes, He still loves me when I worry! But I can change, and I need to if I want to achieve all the things God wants to do through my life and ministry. Worry will hamper my ministry and steal my faith in the Lord. Because God responds and does amazing things in answer to faith.

And fear chokes out faith.

Worry will hold back things that God wants to do in answer to faith in Him through Jesus, because it will choke out the faith. If I let Him change me, faith will rise up in new, wonderful ways, and He will do much more than I ever thought possible in answer to the faith that is left after the worry has begun to fall away.

Worry is not an innocent, harmless habit. Not only does it weaken us (and could even make us ill), but it chokes out the faith that God wants to use to do amazing things in and through our lives, when we come to Him through Jesus.

God led me recently to a sermon about how Satan wants to use fear and anxiety in our lives. It was a powerful message. I knew it would be- my computer kept refusing to play it, and so did my phone! So I guessed the enemy didn’t want me to listen to it! And I was right about that, I think. It was really helpful. Satan will try to get into our lives and hold us back in various ways. And one of those is worry and fear. It’s pretty subtle, too- worry doesn’t even feel like sin, and it seems so innocent! But the enemy can really use it to hold us back and keep us down, holding us back from what God wants to do in and through our lives. You can hear the message here:

https://www.preachtheword.com/sermon/life06.shtml

Because what children of God through Jesus really need to do is to stand in faith on God’s promises: to commit our worries to God, and believe that He will act in the best way and at the best time- as we trust in Him.

‘Commit your way to the Lord,
Trust also in Him,
And He shall bring it to pass.’ Psalm 37:5

But how can we stand in faith on God’s promises if we are letting anxiety take our faith?

The battle with worry is really a battle for faith in God.

And we are called to fight that battle in our minds.

‘casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ,’ 2 Corinthians 10:5

It won’t feel good to break the thought patterns. I guess it will be a healing process, over time. But I think the Lord is encouraging me that the process will be beautiful: like a butterfly emerging from a cocoon. As less fear is there, in the silence that remains in my mind, faith will rise up. And He will answer that faith in very beautiful, powerful ways.

My friend was wearing a t-shirt the other day: “Dream Big!” You know, if we’re following Jesus, there’s no reason not to dream big! There is no limit to what God can do in answer to the prayer of faith! All things are possible with Him! Sure, it may not look like what we expect. It means surrendering to His way. It may take a while. It may be unexpected. But that will be because He’s doing more, not less. If we let go of our fears and trust Him, I think He will amaze us by what He does!

As He says,

‘”Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it.”‘ Psalm 81:10b

And worry will only limit that faith; limit the beautiful, amazing things God wants to do through our faith.

So, yes, it’s time to let go of the worries… Over and over again, if necessary!

Because we really can cast our cares on Him.

“casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.” 1 Peter 5:7

It’s as if He is reassuring me, “You can let go, Caroline. You can let go. I’ve got you safe.”

If you’re following Jesus, He’s got you safe, too. And you can let go too!

(When you know Jesus as Saviour and are following Him as Lord, there really is nothing to worry about because you are His. But that pre-condition is really important, because we all have a big problem: our sin and the coming judgement. That’s why Jesus came, died on the cross and rose again. And He offers forgiveness and new life to all who will receive His forgiveness, turn from wrong and surrender to Him as Lord of their lives. When you have done that and are following Him, you can know that He will take care of you… now and forever.

Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

A Moment of Deep Peace…

The other week, I was blessed by a few days staying with a dear friend. My friend has a beautiful garden. One afternoon, I was sitting in it, reading and enjoying the sunshine.

In the peace and beauty of that moment, I could feel the sweetness of resting in God; of basking in His love; of knowing all is well for me, His child through Jesus, whatever may come. Yes, I get anxious, and yes, there are trials, but His reassurance is so real. For I belong to Jesus. I am forgiven. I am His. I am following Jesus. My future is in His hands. The One Who made the garden beautiful is the One who is doing beautiful things in my life, too, even when I don’t see the whole picture yet; even when it’s hard. I can trust in Him.

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I took up a pen and tried to put it into words.

In the Garden

Richness in a garden basked

In life and colour, warmth and light;

A breeze that ripples, silky; bright

Beneath a vast expanse- wide sky.

To rest within a Father’s arms,

To sit and smile; to know His care;

To hear; believe that all is well;

His love surrounding; everywhere.

 

I feel the kiss of shivered breeze.

The shadows dance; light moves; I hear

The rustle of the vital world.

I sit in beauty’s gentle bower.

To know the One Who made all this;

So loved; surrounded; endless care.

Soul happy in the loving gaze

Of Him who smiles and soothes each fear.

 

Fat flowers bob; their purple balls

Rise, dancing in this joyous light.

The wealth of rippling shapes and forms

That grow within this place of life.

Though I know not the way He leads,

His tender whispers quiet fear.

I soften as a weaned child

And smile; He holds me gently here.

 

All around, the things that grow

Sprout and bud their wholesomeness

And burst with all this rising life

And richly flower their ripening feast.

I know the One Who makes them grow.

Live in the care behind. Deeply.

He feeds each tree; each flower; each seed.

Yes, my Lord holds the world, and me.

 

My Lord tends to the tiny flower,

All pink and lovely, softly sweet;

So frailly flitting; tender; kept.

Her fragile beauty delicate.

I feel my smallness; know His care.

His touch so very gentle here.

And know that, as the smallest flower,

I am so safely kept; no fear.

 

In the garden, I can taste

The beauty of His offered grace.

The Hand that holds the world around;

The care that breathed it all awake

And know, behind the awesome power,

The tender love that gives me rest

And sit and still and breathe awhile

And know, soul deep, that God knows best.

 

(That peace of resting in God’s love can be yours, too, when you know Jesus as your Saviour. He offers each of us forgiveness from our guilt when we turn from our sin, trust in what He did for us on the cross, and choose to follow Him as Lord of our lives. It’s the way of knowing the peace of a Father’s care through all the trials of this broken world, and the way to life forever in His Heaven).

 

Do You Ever Put God in a Box?

Do you ever underestimate God?

Expect Him to act in a certain way? Limit what you think He can or will do?

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I remember a friend at University, who used to talk about ‘putting God in a box’.

Yup, I do that.

And then He bursts the boxes apart by doing far more than we could even ask, dream or imagine… usually on another dimension, with lots of extra thrown in!

I think I often underestimate my Heavenly Father.

Well, that’s an understatement!

Not just in what He can do.

But His kindness. His gentleness. His tenderness. His care.

He much He loves.

How deeply He knows me, in a way that no-one else does. How deeply I understands what I need.

How much He cares.

You see, He cares so very, very much more than we realise. He loves so much deeper than we could ever dream of.

Sometimes I think of Him in a certain way… and then He does something that blows my mind… and I realise… He is so, so much bigger and better and more wonderful than I could ever think of in my wildest dreams! He is real and He is there and He really answers and He really acts… wisely and wonderfully and powerfully, but also tenderly for His people, too.

In big ways, and in little ones. To be honest, it’s often the little ones that get me the most: things that only He could do; things only He could know about. Answering prayers I haven’t even realised I’ve prayed. Doing things I’ve forgotten to even ask for.

And He delights to do so!

He blows my mind, again and again and again.

And I find myself encountering the One Who is so much bigger; so much better than my wildest dreams.

But it’s not just in the big answers. It’s in encountering Him in and through it all.

He cares so much more than we realise when we are hurting. We forget; we go on our way; trying to keep strong; thinking He must want us just to push through. And, all the time, He is there, waiting for us to come to Him; because He wants to comfort us; because He wants to hold us close.

 ‘Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort,’ 1 Cor 1:3

He will fix the problems one day- ultimately, in eternity. Those who follow Jesus down the narrow road (and we all need to) have every reason to hope. But He also wants to pour His love in now. He wants us to find Him in it all.

He knows this is a broken world. He never meant for it to be like that. We are the ones who broke it, and He is the One Who is going to put it right when Jesus comes back to judge the world and collect His people: His bride. But even now, in the middle of all the mess, the Father longs to hold us; to pour in His love; to comfort us through it all.

To minister to us in ways we’d never even dream of. To counsel us. To protect us. To give us peace.

To answer our prayers. But, more than that, to give us what we never even realised we longed for: God.

Yes, He loves to amaze us by what He does. But He loves to amaze us in the process, too: by showing up; by pouring in His love; by giving us Himself.

It may be a painful process to do things His way (like labour). But He’ll burst our boxes apart in the process if we let Him in… as we find Him… and discover that He is really all we are looking for, anyway.

I’m learning that it means letting go of our ideas about how we think He should answer… and our timetables, too.

It means letting Him do things His way.

But it’s not because He’s cruel, and it’s not because He’s going to let us down. No way.

He is Love. Pure love.

It’s because our boxes aren’t big enough to hold what He wants to do.

‘”Then you will know that I am the Lord,
For they shall not be ashamed who wait for Me.”’ Isaiah 49:23c

And, when He bursts our boxes apart, we find Him waiting there… real, wonderful and beyond our wildest dreams.

Love.

God.

The One we have been looking for all along.

The One Who is waiting for us with open arms. 🙂

’20 Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, 21 to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.’ Eph 3:20-21

 

(He is the One Who cares so much that He gave His one and only Son to bring us into His family. Jesus died in our place, so that we can be forgiven… the slate washed clean… when we come to Him and receive His forgiveness, turn from our wrong ways and surrender to follow Him and do things His way. He is better than your wildest dreams, and He longs to receive you with open arms when you come to Him in faith. He is waiting to rescue you for all eternity: to give you an astounding, eternal hope. He is waiting for you now).

(To receive free encouraging emails, click ‘follow’. I’d love to keep encouraging you!) 🙂

 

Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

The Love That Can Truly Set You Free…

Lately, God has been teaching me a lot about His love for me as Father, and what that means. It’s so precious; so beautiful; so healing; so freeing. And I want to share more with you, if that’s ok. Because I think it’s crucially important in setting us free in all kinds of ways.

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You see, all of us are searching. We are searching for peace; for security; for significance. We have caught glimpses of these things sometimes; in our families; in good things; in things that make us, for a few moments, feel secure; feel loved. We spend our whole lives searching for more, in all kinds of places, good and bad. But it never truly lasts, does it?

What we are all truly longing for, deep down, is our heavenly Father.

And the truly amazing thing is that He is longing for us, too! He made us for Himself, and He longs to fill the holes in our hearts with His love. He has infinite, amazing, incredible, endless love, offered to each of us without limit or measure.

He waits for us to come to Him; to let go of the other things we look to, to surrender our hearts with Him, so that He can fill us up with Himself.

He longs to comfort our tears.

He longs to take away our guilt and fill us up with His peace; hold us in His eternal embrace.

He longs to fill the aches with something deeper; something better; something sweeter than the things we think we long for.

He loves to pour in love, and more love, and more love, until we are so full with Him that it overflows out of us to a hurting, broken world.

If we seek Him on His terms; if we let go of other things; if we wait for Him, He will meet with us.

‘And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.’ Jeremiah 29:13

His dreams for us are far bigger and more wonderful than our dreams for ourselves. And the best dream of all is knowing this Love that has been reaching out to us all along; the Love that we were made for. He longs to fill us up. He longs to give us joy. He longs to set us free to be ourselves in Him.

And this beautiful journey has all kinds of beautiful implications. As we come to Him on His terms and surrender and let Him pour His love in, we will begin to be truly more ourselves. We will begin to find freedom from hurts we have carried maybe all our lives. Fear and comparison will begin to fall away. Our lives will have meaning in ways we never could have imagined. We will become vessels who can impart life and love to others.

It’s not a once-for-all thing. It may take time. It’s a journey of knowing Him; surrendering to Him; letting Him be God; letting Him in. In my experience, He often doesn’t do what I think He will- it’s better, and deeper, and harder, and more beautiful, and more wonderful and more healing and more worth it than that.

And it does mean doing things His way. It does mean surrendering our hearts. It does mean doing what He tells us to do in His word: things like turning from our sins, and forgiving others, and following Jesus down the narrow road; and surrendering to let Him do things His way.

But it’s worth it. It’s good, not bad. It’s amazing!

It’s the way to life that is truly life… forever.

And, yes, it may involve a process of suffering. This is a broken world after all. It’s not the way it was meant to be, and it’s not the final word. Eternity will change everything, when He comes to judge the world and put everything right (which is why we need a Saviour). For those who follow Jesus, the future is ultimately only full of hope.

But knowing His love changes things here, too. He brings comfort. He brings peace. He brings deep heart healing. He brings hope. He brings joy. When will let Him in on His terms, there’s no limit to what He can do in our hearts and lives.

‘Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort,’ 2 Corinthians 1:3

He is always there, waiting for us, longing for us, yearning for us to come to Him.

And He can bring transformation and beauty in incredible, life- changing ways. The verses below talk about the ministry of Jesus:

“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me,
Because the Lord has anointed Me
To preach good tidings to the poor;
He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted,
To proclaim liberty to the captives,
And the opening of the prison to those who are bound;
To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord,
And the day of vengeance of our God;
To comfort all who mourn,
To console those who mourn in Zion,
To give them beauty for ashes,
The oil of joy for mourning,
The garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness;
That they may be called trees of righteousness,
The planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.” Isaiah 61:1-3

Whether you’ve known God for a long time or this is the very first time you let Him in, He is right there with you right now, waiting for you to come to Him and surrender; waiting to pour His love into your heart.

‘Therefore the Lord will wait, that He may be gracious to you;
And therefore He will be exalted, that He may have mercy on you.
For the Lord is a God of justice;
Blessed are all those who wait for Him.’ Isaiah 30:18

 

Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

When you Want the Very Best Gift of all…

What do you see as the best gift you could ever have in life? The thing you long for most of all?

Something has been clicking in me recently, and I want to share it with you, because it’s life-changing.

It’s something I should have realised a long time ago, and maybe I did, but the Lord has been showing me again.

The greatest gift God can ever give us is Himself.

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Knowing God. Knowing His love. Knowing Him as Father.

There are many good gifts in this world, and they all come from God.

‘Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.’ James 1:17

But none of them can ever truly satisfy the deep longings of our hearts. Only God can do that.

‘O God, You are my God;
Early will I seek You;
My soul thirsts for You;
My flesh longs for You
In a dry and thirsty land
Where there is no water.
So I have looked for You in the sanctuary,
To see Your power and Your glory.

Because Your lovingkindness is better than life,
My lips shall praise You.
Thus I will bless You while I live;
I will lift up my hands in Your name.
My soul shall be satisfied as with marrow and fatness,
And my mouth shall praise You with joyful lips.

When I remember You on my bed,
I meditate on You in the night watches.
Because You have been my help,
Therefore in the shadow of Your wings I will rejoice.
My soul follows close behind You;
Your right hand upholds me.’ Psalm 63:1-8

 

Only He can heal the deep wounds of our hearts.

Only He can truly meet our longings for love; for peace; for significance.

Only He can truly satisfy our souls.

We all have empty, thirsting hearts. We live in a broken world. We are broken too. Our sins have broken us, and the wounds of this life have knocked us down. Some of us are very broken. And we all search desperately for something to fill the ache. We all look in different places, but there are some common ones we look in- like other people, relationships, approval, money, pleasure, quick fixes…

And yet, none of these truly, deeply fill the ache.

‘“For My people have committed two evils:
They have forsaken Me, the fountain of living waters,
And hewn themselves cisterns—broken cisterns that can hold no water.”‘ Jeremiah 2:13

What we are really looking for is God Himself.

The Father we have been looking for all our lives.

The only One Who can truly satisfy our souls and make us whole.

Sometimes, God breaks in and gives us good gifts; things we have longed for for a long time.

But they are not the best gift (and seeing them as best will actually hurt us; not help us).

The very best gift God can ever give is Himself.

That dawned on me recently. God has been taking me on such a beautiful journey, revealing more of His love for me as my Father; pouring His love into broken places in my heart. But still I look for other things. But I realised this the other day: knowing Him and His love is the best thing He could ever give me.

This journey of discovering the love of my Heavenly Father is the best gift of all.

That doesn’t mean there won’t be other blessings. But none of them could be better than knowing Him; than delighting in how good He is; than discovering His love; than the outpouring of love into my heart from His Father heart.

It’s even worth going through tough seasons, when the tough seasons draw you into His arms, where He pours out His love.

There is peace in that. The more you know His love, the more you can stop striving; stop searching. Sure, good things will come in this life. Bad things will come too, until we (those who follow Jesus) make it to Heaven. But they never need to touch the deepest thing: I am loved by my Heavenly Father. He can satisfy every longing. He can quench every  thirst. He can fill every ache with Himself.

Whatever life brings, I already have the best gift of all, because I have Him. Drinking from Him, I am full to overflowing… and more and more as I discover more of His love.

Because He is the One we have all been searching for all along.

And He is reaching out to you with His love, too. He gave His Son so you can be forgiven and accepted as His dearly loved child. He longs to sweep you up in His love… whether for the first time, as you surrender to Jesus as Lord and Saviour, turning from your sin and receiving forgiveness through Jesus as you surrender to follow Him, or again and again as you get to know God more and seek Him to let Him fill and heal up your heart.

God is the One we need, and knowing Him is the best gift of all.

 

Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Why Life Doesn’t Have to be So Heavy

Do you know what it is to live often tense; often anxious? I sure do!

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The Lord has been showing me recently (again) that, the more I know I am loved, the more anxiety can fall away.

I so often worry: living tense; inwardly fretful; hyper-vigilant.

But I am His child. I am forgiven; accepted; secure in the Father’s love (and you can be too when you come to Jesus, trust in Him as your Saviour for His forgiveness, turn from your sin and follow Him as your Lord. It’s way of eternal rescue from the coming Judgement… and the way to know the love of the Father Who is reaching out to us all).

In the Father’s love, there is peace. There is security. There is provision for our every need. There is hope for the future. There is the promise that ultimately, when we belong to Jesus and follow Him, all will be well.

It doesn’t mean there will be never be trials, but it does mean that every trial is tenderly measured out; and accompanied by abundant provision, which we generally cannot see in advance.

Being so very, very loved by a heavenly Father is the grounds for being less anxious about life (actually, He tells us not to be anxious at all!), because He really has got it all in hand, and He really is so very kind, loving and wise.

‘As a father pities his children,
So the Lord pities those who fear Him.
14 For He knows our frame;
He remembers that we are dust.’ Psalm 103:13-14

The more I soak in His love, the more I will began to grasp how loved I am; and the more I will begin to be more relaxed; less tense; more at peace. Secure in the love of the Father. Because His strong arms are around me and His provision is assured, I really don’t need to be afraid.

‘Of Benjamin he said:

“The beloved of the Lord shall dwell in safety by Him,
Who shelters him all the day long;
And he shall dwell between His shoulders.”’ Deuteronomy 33:12

And I will have a happier heart in God.

‘A merry heart makes a cheerful countenance’. Proverbs 15:13

That doesn’t mean there won’t be trials. This is a broken world. God uses trials to grow us while we are down here. And He does give His people work to do for His Kingdom (not to earn anything, but as a response of love). But He promised to provide abundantly. Each trial is measured tenderly, with abundant provision. And He wants me to rest in His love to send the provision right when I need it; instead of fretting about what if.

Because He is the One Who wants to carry me.

‘“Listen to Me, O house of Jacob,
And all the remnant of the house of Israel,
Who have been upheld by Me from birth,
Who have been carried from the womb:
Even to your old age, I am He,
And even to gray hairs I will carry you!
I have made, and I will bear;
Even I will carry, and will deliver you.“‘ Isaiah 46:3-4

And, actually, God is such a gracious God that He delights to come through for those who lean on Him. He is glorified when we trust Him; when we live like He really is good. He delights to come crashing through with provision when we trust in Him alone.

‘Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
And lean not on your own understanding;’ Proverbs 3:5

‘In my distress I called upon the Lord,
And cried out to my God;
He heard my voice from His temple,
And my cry came before Him, even to His ears.

Then the earth shook and trembled;
The foundations of the hills also quaked and were shaken,
Because He was angry.
Smoke went up from His nostrils,
And devouring fire from His mouth;
Coals were kindled by it.
He bowed the heavens also, and came down
With darkness under His feet.
10 And He rode upon a cherub, and flew;
He flew upon the wings of the wind.
11 He made darkness His secret place;
His canopy around Him was dark waters
And thick clouds of the skies.
12 From the brightness before Him,
His thick clouds passed with hailstones and coals of fire.

13 The Lord thundered from heaven,
And the Most High uttered His voice,
Hailstones and coals of fire.
14 He sent out His arrows and scattered the foe,
Lightnings in abundance, and He vanquished them.
15 Then the channels of the sea were seen,
The foundations of the world were uncovered
At Your rebuke, O Lord,
At the blast of the breath of Your nostrils.

16 He sent from above, He took me;
He drew me out of many waters.’ Psalm 18:6-16

 

And it’s the way to a more peaceful, more joy-filled life- joyful in God.

‘”Do not sorrow, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”’ Nehemiah 8:10c

I know I won’t get this all at once, but sometimes it sinks in… and it will, progressively, all the way to Glory. And He wants bless you with it, too. He is reaching out to all of us, first to draw us to receive His forgiveness and rescue from judgement through Jesus when we come to Him truly sorry, and then to pour His love upon us as we walk with Him… and His love increasingly sets us free to live more at peace, with joy, even in this broken world, because we know that we are loved.

Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

It’s Not Over Yet

Below are some words I wrote to encourage Christians who are going through hard times.

When you are trusting Jesus as your Saviour and following Him as your Lord, though life can be very tough at times, there is always a reason to keep going, because God always has a good plan in the end.

Eternal blessing is coming for those who follow Jesus. It’s always worth holding on.

(And, if you’re not a follower of Jesus yet, He longs to receive you, forgive you, give you a fresh start and give you this hope too).

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‘Weeping may endure for a night,
But joy comes in the morning.’ Psalm 30:5b

I hope these words encourage you, too.

It’s Not Over Yet

It’s not over yet.

You can’t see the end:

What God is doing in love.

So don’t forget:

Lift up your head.

God will work all things for good.

 

All is not done,

Though you just can’t see

How your God moves; how He’ll come.

Faith will win out.

Time will tell yet

Why you were right to hold on.

 

You have a part.

You have a goal.

You still have something to do.

Keep pressing on.

Fulfil your call.

Sow through the tears. He’ll bless you.

 

Be still and know

That He is God.

Your God is still good; in control.

Weeping will turn

Into deep joy.

God has a plan all along.

 

It’s all in hand.

He thinks thoughts for you

Filled not with evil but good.

The end will be bright.

From tears will spring joy.

Be still and know He is God.

 

Fight through the night.

Hold onto what’s right.

God’s promises never can fail.

When Morning comes,

He will amaze.

You will be happy and whole.

 

And, after all,

God is your God.

He is the joy of your soul.

He will provide.

He satisfies.

He is your heart’s All in All.

 

(The Father is reaching out to all of us in such love. Though our rebellion has broken our relationship with Him and we all face His judgement, He gave His only Son to put that right. When you come to Jesus, turning from your sin and putting your trust in what He did on the cross, surrendering your life to follow Him as your Lord and Master, you receive complete forgiveness, eternal hope… and the encouragement that all things will ultimately work out for your good. He is reaching out to you today).

 

Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Is There a Safe Place in this Crazy World?

Is there a safe place in this crazy world?

Do you ever feel frightened by the vulnerability; unpredictability of this crazy life? I do.

And sometimes things happen that shock you, and could paralyse you with fear.

Like what happened this week in Manchester.

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Manchester. The place I have learned to call home.

I took a tram through Victoria station the other day, right near where the attack happened.

And then this.

It’s shocking. Sickening. Heartbreaking. Terrifying.

But the horrible thing is that it’s real.

A group of us went to a peace vigil the night after the attack at a local church. Actually, the church had planned to hold an election hustings. But then things changed. Bigger things because more important. So the election candidates can along, and we had a peace vigil instead at the local church. It was precious; beautiful. All were welcome, and many came, including some who had probably never before set foot in a church. A group of people joined together by a common humanity. Normal people like me. Politicians. The old and young alike. We sat silent in God’s presence… While they read prayers… While our local election candidates read well- known, well-loved passages of Scripture about the Lord being our Shepherd; about the One Who knows us intimately; about God Who is our fortress; about casting every care upon Him. It was a precious time of peace in a crazy world.

And I was asking God a question: how can I ever feel safe in this unsafe world? How do I know there won’t be another attack right where I am? How can I not be paralysed by fear?

Is there a safe place in this crazy world?

The passages they were reading answered my question.

‘The Lord of hosts is with us;

The God of Jacob is our refuge.’ Psalm 46:7

Yes, there is a fortress. His Name is the LORD. He is the only truly safe place in this crazy world.

You get into the fortress by putting your trust in Jesus as your Saviour, turning from your sin and following Him as Lord of your life. And you really do need to be in the fortress. Not just because this world is crazy now, but because it will only get crazier. We don’t like to think about it, but God makes it clear in His Word. Judgement is coming… anytime. That’s why we need a place of refuge.

And there is one. As you come to Jesus as your Saviour, turning from wrong and trusting in what He did on the cross, placing your life in His hands as your Lord, you are forgiven… accepted… welcomed… no matter what you have done.

And you are in the fortress. The place of safety. The place of security. The place of peace.

God doesn’t promise we will never go through suffering, but He does promise that, when we trust in Jesus and follow Him, He will always hold us tenderly, abundantly in His hands and provide for every single one of our needs. As we abide in Him, placing our lives in His hands, our hearts will find a safe place.

(The Lord led me to a helpful sermon about this yesterday- I recommend checking it out!   https://www.preachtheword.com/sermon/safe01.shtml  )

And something else clicked in me as I sat in that silent church, looking round at all of the people who had gathered. Other people need what I have. They need to know the peace; the hope; the security of what I have in Christ. And, because I have Him as my safe place, I am free to reach out to them in love.

When you know that you are held safe by God, you are suddenly free to reach out to others, because your heart is secure and because other people need what you have in Him. They too need the peace; the comfort; the eternal security that can only be found in Christ. I need to know that I am secure within the fortress of God, so that I can lean hard on Him… and reach out to others. Even if it puts me in harm’s way. Because God’s hand is on me, and He is holding me safe.

Other people need to know that He is God; that He can be their (your) fortress, too.

I think it is a journey to feel secure in this. It takes time. It takes leaning on the Lord. It takes soaking in His Word. It takes prayer. Maybe sometimes courage is deciding to act even though you still feel afraid. But it is true, however we feel.

There is a safe place in this crazy world. And He is available to all who will take refuge in Him.

‘God is our refuge and strength,
A very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear,
Even though the earth be removed,
And though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea;
Though its waters roar and be troubled,
Though the mountains shake with its swelling. Selah

There is a river whose streams shall make glad the city of God,
The holy place of the tabernacle of the Most High.
God is in the midst of her, she shall not be moved;
God shall help her, just at the break of dawn.
The nations raged, the kingdoms were moved;
He uttered His voice, the earth melted.

The Lord of hosts is with us;
The God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah

Come, behold the works of the Lord,
Who has made desolations in the earth.
He makes wars cease to the end of the earth;
He breaks the bow and cuts the spear in two;
He burns the chariot in the fire.

10 Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth!

11 The Lord of hosts is with us;
The God of Jacob is our refuge.’ Psalm 46

Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

A Place to Rest and Remember He is God

This is another full week when I’m busy preparing for a session in a recording studio. There isn’t a lot of time for blogging. So I thought I’d share a poem I wrote a while ago.

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I wrote it at a time when I was pretty anxious and fretful, and on holiday. In the midst of that time, God provided a beautiful day in a hotel spa relaxation space- a gift from a friend.

It was so quiet there, and peaceful, in a little haven deep below the rushing world. The light was muted and beautiful; water so blue and sparkling softly; everything gentle, soothing and calm. I sat there resting- and I had to get my pen and paper and put the peace into words. This is my attempt.

At the end of the day, God is God. If we belong to Him through Jesus (and that’s the issue that determines whether all is really well with us or not) and are following Him, ultimately, all is well. We sometimes fret and worry, but, honestly, we can receive His peace. All is well. We are loved. Our hearts can rest in Him.

Rest

Soft and shining, water plays,

Blue- a thousand depths of blue-

Smoothing, gleaming, ripples glaze

Still, yet ever shifting new.

Soft, a thousand voices fall

Silent in this melting peace.

Deep, this gentle quieting

To feel the troubled echoes cease.

 

Sapphire, sparkling all around,

Glistening in the muted light:

Calm- so calm and glowing down,

Whispering in softest flight.

Sleep, my troubled murmurs, sleep.

Find peace in the quietness.

Listen in this glowing light.

Echoes of Eden bring you peace.

 

Plunge, my weary worries. Bathe

Within this balm of gentleness.

Wait, my anxious plannings, find

Deeply now this place of rest.

Thunders roar and earth may quake.

Winds can blow around you yet

But now- still to hear His voice:

A gentle haven, where you rest.

 

(All is truly well with us when we know that we are forgiven, and secure in God’s love. He offers us His forgiveness and eternal salvation when we turn from our sins, trust in Jesus as Saviour and follow Him as Lord. That’s the way to true, lasting peace… now and forever).

You’re Surrounded by Far More Love Than You Realise

One thing I have been learning recently, more and more, is about living in the Father’s presence, aware of His love.

Whether or not we realise it, the Father is always there with us; surrounding us; reaching out to us in love.

He gave His Son so that we can turn back to Him, be forgiven and receive the love that has always been reaching out to us…is reaching out to us now.

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Sometimes I am more aware of it than others. Sometimes He gives us a special sense of His presence to help us through a hard time (and we can ask Him for that- and for every other time, too!).

But, whether or not we realise it, He is always there with us, waiting for us, loving us.

He wants us to reach out to Him. He is always there, waiting for us; reaching out to us; offering us His love.

He wants to take our cares from us and give us His peace.

He wants to comfort us; sweeter than any false comfort we try to turn to for relief from life’s hurts.

He is there to forgive us when we go astray.

He is there to hold us while we hurt; and while we heal.

It can be a journey of beginning to believe it. It has been for me. The moment I gave my heart to Jesus as a very little girl, my relationship with the Father, which had been broken by my sin, was restored, but it has taken years for me to come to a place of deep peace in the Father’s love (and it will probably ebb and flow while I am on this earth). I used to think it wasn’t possible; that I would never believe He truly loves me; truly delights in me.

I asked Him to help me believe it, and He has done a deep work in me. I believe it now, at least a lot of the time. But, in Jesus, it was true all along, whether I knew it or not.

And it’s still true now, on days when I feel like it and days when I don’t.

Because my identity is in Christ. I am forgiven. I am accepted. I am so very, very loved. My Father sings over me; holds me in His grace.

I am His because of Jesus.

And I am not the only one! If you belong to Jesus, it’s true of you, too.

And, if you do not belong to Jesus yet, you can! He is there, waiting for you, offering His loving and gracious forgiveness when you come to Him, turning from wrong and believing that Jesus died in your place. It’s the way of following Him as Lord of our lives, and it’s not always easy, but it’s the way to know the love of the Father we all long to know… and it’s the way to an eternal Home with Him… the way to the love that has been surrounding you all along.

You are surrounded by far, far more love than you realise.

And He is waiting for you… loving you… right now.

‘Bless the Lord, O my soul;
And all that is within me, bless His holy name!
Bless the Lord, O my soul,
And forget not all His benefits:
Who forgives all your iniquities,
Who heals all your diseases,
Who redeems your life from destruction,
Who crowns you with lovingkindness and tender mercies,
Who satisfies your mouth with good things,
So that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

The Lord executes righteousness
And justice for all who are oppressed.
He made known His ways to Moses,
His acts to the children of Israel.
The Lord is merciful and gracious,
Slow to anger, and abounding in mercy.
He will not always strive with us,
Nor will He keep His anger forever.
10 He has not dealt with us according to our sins,
Nor punished us according to our iniquities.

11 For as the heavens are high above the earth,
So great is His mercy toward those who fear Him;
12 As far as the east is from the west,
So far has He removed our transgressions from us.
13 As a father pities his children,
So the Lord pities those who fear Him.
14 For He knows our frame;
He remembers that we are dust.’ Psalm 103:1-14

Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Have you ever longed for a friend who will never let you down?

Have you ever longed for someone who would always be there for you? Who would listen to you and never say the wrong thing? Who would love you no matter what you had done? Who would help you perfectly through every season and never, ever let you down?

When I was a young girl at primary school, one of my school friends asked me who my best friend was. She tried to guess, and couldn’t. When she found out my best friend was God, she laughed. She couldn’t believe it. Really? Yes.

Years later, it is still true. He is the most faithful, faithful Friend you could ever dream of. And He constantly amazes me with how amazing He is.

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The Lord has stayed with me through thick and thin. He has held me through tears. He has forgiven me for so many things. He has comforted me through fear. He has answered my prayers about things big and small in astounding, incredible ways.

He has led me and carried me with a faithfulness I could not have imagined if it wasn’t real.

And He continues to amaze.

There is a verse in Proverbs that says this:

‘But there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.’ Proverbs 18:24b

I could say that of the Lord. Maybe you could too.

He is there, with me, through it all. Sometimes it’s more apparent than others. The times I have known it the most have been the hardest times. But it’s been always true, whether I have been aware of it or not.

One thing that has amazed me about Him recently is how He counsels. He really is the Wonderful Counsellor. He is not just wise; His tone is perfect, too. I am very sensitive; easily hurt. I hear the tone something is said in sometimes louder than what is said. And what amazes me about the Lord is how gentle He is with me. He doesn’t just give His counsel; He gives it so tenderly, so lovingly, especially when I feel fragile. He is just so, so kind.

Like with Elijah in 1 Kings 19. Elijah was exhausted; so worn down that he wanted to die. He walked miles because he needed to meet with God. And God did speak to him. But, first, God took care of him in a very tender way, and He also established the tone of the conversation by emphasising how gentle He can be. It was not a strong wind. It was not an earthquake. It was not a fire. It was quiet; gentle; tender, for Elijah’s worn down spirit.

’11 Then He said, “Go out, and stand on the mountain before the Lord.” And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore into the mountains and broke the rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; 12 and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice.’ 1 Kings 19:11-12

I want to encourage you to come to Him; to meet with Him; to cast your cares on Him. He loves. He forgives. He comforts. He consoles. He is just incredible. And Hereally is there for you.

Are you troubled? Take it to Him. Are you burdened? Take it to Him. Are you troubled by guilt? Take it to Him. Are you lonely? Heartbroken? Desperate? Take it to Him.

He is the Best Friend you could ever find, and it is amazing what He can do.

There is a song that has been well-loved in my family; an old, familiar hymn that you probably know. It’s stood me in good stead… even before that day when I told my friend my best friend was God. He still is. And He wants to be your Best Friend, too, through thick and thin.

What a friend we have in Jesus,
All our sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry
Everything to God in prayer!
Oh, what peace we often forfeit,
Oh, what needless pain we bear,
All because we do not carry
Everything to God in prayer!

Have we trials and temptations?
Is there trouble anywhere?
We should never be discouraged—
Take it to the Lord in prayer.
Can we find a friend so faithful,
Who will all our sorrows share?
Jesus knows our every weakness;
Take it to the Lord in prayer.

Are we weak and heavy-laden,
Cumbered with a load of care?
Precious Saviour, still our refuge—
Take it to the Lord in prayer.
Do thy friends despise, forsake thee?
Take it to the Lord in prayer!
In His arms He’ll take and shield thee,
Thou wilt find a solace there.

Blessed Saviour, Thou hast promised
Thou wilt all our burdens bear;
May we ever, Lord, be bringing
All to Thee in earnest prayer.
Soon in glory bright, unclouded,
There will be no need for prayer—
Rapture, praise, and endless worship
Will be our sweet portion there.

Joseph M. Scriven, ‘What a Friend in Jesus’, 1855 (Public Domain)

(If you don’t know Jesus yet as Saviour and Lord, He is waiting for you to come to Him. We all need His free forgiveness from the judgement that is coming. We all need to turn from the wrong in our lives; the things that hurt Him, ourselves and others. We all need to surrender our lives into His hands; to choose to believe in His grace; to follow Him. It’s the way to eternal life, and it’s also the way to the best Friend you could ever, ever find. He longs to be your Best Friend, too).

Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Remembering to Taste the Joy…

Do you ever forget to smile? To taste the joy? To be thankful for the little gifts right now?  Do you ever look back and wonder why you lived that season so miserably, fretting and complaining, instead of appreciating what was good about it?

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This is me processing something I think the Lord has been reminding me of lately.

The Christian life doesn’t have to be so miserable! There is a whole lot of joy available when we love Jesus first, follow Him and trust in Him.

I know this is a broken world. Tears are real. Some seasons are so painful. And God doesn’t ever take that lightly. He really feels our grief and walks with us.

And there really is a cost to following Jesus. I believe in reaching the lost at any cost. I believe in doing whatever it takes to reach people for Him. And that generally involves paying a price of some kind, especially when it involves people who have never heard of Him before.

But there can also be a lot of joy along the way… even and especially in pouring your life out for His Kingdom.

‘”Do not sorrow, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”’ Nehemiah 8:10c

Most of all, that joy is in knowing God. Sometimes, I think He protects us from too much of a good thing in this world, so that we can learn to find our joy in Him first. And joy in Him is just the best! Knowing God is always better. The more we focus on Him, spend time worshipping Him, lift up our eyes to Him, and deliberately delight in Him, the more joy we will find. Because He truly satisfies our thirsty hearts, first and foremost with Himself. Everything else is ultimately empty in comparison.

‘“For My people have committed two evils:
They have forsaken Me, the fountain of living waters,
And hewn themselves cisterns—broken cisterns that can hold no water.”‘ Jeremiah 2:13

Joy also comes from gratitude for the gifts He gives us. Gratitude from living in the moment with a childlike heart, thanking Him for the gifts right in front of us: the gifts we could so easily miss. That laughing moment with a friend. That happy song that makes you smile. That sweeping sunset. Take a moment to whisper, ‘Thank You’, and to realise Who it came from. Even in the midst of a trying time, it’s still a gift from Him.

It reminds me of a gift this week: singing in our prayer meeting with my friend’s little two-year-old Anna joining in: very loud, out of tune and with the wrong words!! I, as usual, was fighting my giggles! But I know the joy of that moment was a gift from the Father Who treasures little Anna’s efforts at worship- and shares them with us to make us smile, too!

Joy from expecting God to come through. Instead of the gloom of anticipating the worst, choosing to believe that His provision will come- because it always does, every time! Often in ways we don’t expect… but that could kind of make the anticipation and expectancy more fun! Worry really is unnecessary when we have a Father Who cares and always, always provides.

Joy from reaching out to others. There really is more blessing in giving than in receiving. Joy in choosing to forget ourselves for a moment and give something away to someone else: maybe something simple they need; or maybe truth; a word of encouragement; a prayer. I remember days when I was struggling, and I went to go shopping. It would have been so easy to ignore the person at the checkout. But I knew it would help me to reach out; to ask how their day was going. And, the times I did so, it did! There is actually joy in reaching out to others… and especially in sharing with them the Good News of Jesus that can change their lives.

Joy from the right perspective. The glass is always either half empty or half full. I often catch myself seeing it as half empty. But if I stop myself and ask, ‘What can I be thankful for right now?’, there is generally something so good right in front of me, if only I take a moment to notice it.

Joy from looking to the future; to eternity. For the person who is following Jesus, the future is full of such hope.

’16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. 17 For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, 18 while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.’ 2 Corinthians 4:16-18

Joy in trusting, instead of worrying. So much of the weight in my life is from looking ahead, and worrying how I will cope if such and such should happen, or with this or that… And it’s pointless because, firstly, it doesn’t make a difference and, secondly, God’s already got it covered anyway!

’33 But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.’ Matt 6:33-34

It reminds me of the time when a stranger came up to me with a strong sense that God wanted her to share a word with me: Lighter!! This life doesn’t have to be so heavy! And, yes, the word absolutely fits. It did then and it still does, years later.

My shoulders are often weighed down with things I just really don’t need to carry- because they’re His problems, not mine! When you are trusting Him, life can be lighter!

‘”Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”’ Matt 11:28-29

No, the Christian life really doesn’t have to be so heavy. The more we live soaked in His love and surrendered to Him, the more we will find peace, joy and freedom growing… gradually, maybe, but it will come. And it will grow as we live resting in His incredible love for us.

’12 Of Benjamin he said:

“The beloved of the Lord shall dwell in safety by Him,
Who shelters him all the day long;
And he shall dwell between His shoulders.”’ Deut 33:12

I think I’ll take a while to learn this. But I’m growing in it, slowly. And it makes life a lot happier… and lighter, too!

Want to join me? 😉

(To begin this joyful journey for yourself, come to Jesus for salvation from the judgement we all deserve, and face. Turn to Him and accept the free gift of forgiveness and new life He so freely offers, turning from wrong and surrendering your life into His hands. It will not always be easy to follow Him, but is so incredible and so worth it… and leads to an astounding, amazing, joy-filled eternal life. You will be amazed by what He will do!)

 

Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Help and Hope for the Journey…

A passage that the Lord has been speaking to me through a lot lately is Psalm 23, so I thought I would share some thoughts about it.

river

To be honest, life isn’t always easy, is it? Belonging to Jesus as Saviour and Lord is incredible. But it isn’t always easy. And, in my experience, serving in full-time ministry doesn’t exactly make it easier! Especially when it’s full-time ministry for unreached people groups. And, whether you’re in ministry or not, to be honest, the promise for God’s children who belong to Jesus in this crazy world is, well, suffering. So this has been my question: What help is there for those of who believe in Jesus and follow Him, not just for eternity but for the journey until we get to Glory?

God showed me Psalm 23. And it’s so, so encouraging!

‘The Lord is my shepherd;
I shall not want.
He makes me to lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside the still waters.
He restores my soul;
He leads me in the paths of righteousness
For His name’s sake.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil;
For You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
You anoint my head with oil;
My cup runs over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
All the days of my life;
And I will dwell in the house of the Lord
Forever.’ Ps 23

It’s a psalm about provision; about bounty; about God helping His children through Jesus as their Shepherd through every single season of life; about His tender care over us; His constant presence; His watchful provision. It’s not just a promise about the final destination; it’s provision for the journey of life.

The Lord is my Shepherd. He takes care of me as His sheep. Sheep are vulnerable; fragile;   often silly. They don’t often make the best decisions! But they are watched over so wisely; so tenderly; so carefully by their faithful, constant shepherd.

‘I shall not want.’ (Ps 23:1b) Now that’s a promise! I will always, always have what I need. Ok, so not always what I would like. But I’ll always have enough. And I see it, looking back. Not just enough, actually, but an abundance. Not just of food, clothing etc, but of the things I didn’t even know I needed: wise counsel when I was confused… friends to help me out… the perfect book or sermon for the issue I was struggling with… the right place to live in… people to speak things into my life that I’d never have seen myself… and so, so much more. An abundance.

And He provides for the journey. Seasons. Green pastures. Still waters. Restoration of my soul. Rest. The Christian life is a journey, and it involves seasons. Rebuilding times. Refreshment. Happy times as well as hard ones. Strengthening times when we are exhausted. I look back and see that, too. And I see a pattern: times when God stretched me; when He was doing deep, painful things. And times when He gave me rest, to rebuild me. Or times when I was being stretched on one level and resting on another. And blessing. Happy holidays with friends. Times when He ministered deeply to my hurting heart. Restoration and rest. And in ways that only He would have even known I needed. Like once when I was pretty low, and exhausted, and a friend suddenly gave me a ticket to Spain for a week! Abundant provision from an abundant God. Provision for the journey. 

‘He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.’ (Ps 23:3b) Leading. Guidance. A promise that, if we will look to Him, He will lead us in the best way; in His plan; in the way He would have us go; in the way of ultimate blessing and victory and eternal fruit.

And He is with me in the valley. Close. Tender. Present.  Comforting. There is no fear when He is that close. I have known it. Maybe you have, too. It’s such compensation for the pain when you feel Him that close. It’s worth everything. It makes the hard times somehow sweeter than the easier ones… because of Him.

A table in the presence of my enemies. Abundant provision. And, yes, I have enemies. Not so much human ones as spiritual ones. They warned me when I joined Gospel for Asia: you’ll have a target on your back for spiritual attack. And, over seven years later, I have felt again and again that I do! All of our team do. All believers face spiritual attack, actually. But this is true, too: in the presence of my enemies, there is a table of abundant provision. I have seen it again and again. And it’s not just a half-hearted table. It’s abundant. Incredible, amazing things He loves to do for us. Wonderful times with friends. Soaking times in His presence when He comes so close. Healing up of our hearts. Teaching that is so alive it seems to be directly from His heart to us. Provision of things we’d never dream of ourselves (and, yes, I really have been given, among other things, a piano, a car and more than one phone in answer to prayer!).

‘You anoint my head with oil’. (Ps 23:5b) He pours out oil over my head. That makes me think of the oil of His Spirit; His presence. And there is nothing better; nothing more wonderful than knowing Him; than encountering the Spirit of the Lord. And it’s not just His presence; His Spirit gives us power for the journey; strength for the journey; anointing for the journey, to be powerfully used by Him.

‘My cup runs over.’ It’s a powerful picture; an overflowing cup. Not just enough, but abundance. Abundance for our thirst. When the missionary Hudson Taylor lost his wife, he came to realise that the Lord will always satisfy our thirsty hearts if we drink from Him. He said it like this:

‘Then it was I understood why the Lord had made that passage so real to me, “Whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst.” Twenty times a day, perhaps, as I felt the heart-thirst coming back, I cried to Him,

“Lord, you promised! You promised me that I should never thirst.”

And whether I called by day or night, how quickly He came and satisfied my sorrowing heart!’

Howard Taylor, Dr and Mrs. (1989, 20009 edition). Hudson Taylor’s Spiritual Secret. ed. Chicago: Moody Classics, Chicago. p. 179-180.

We never need to be thirsty. If we keep drinking from Jesus, our cup will be running over; our thirst will be satisfied from the Fountain of living waters.

‘Surely and goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life’. (Ps 23:6a) That’s hope. Hope when I look into the future, knowing that there will be trials, uncertain of what life will bring. What will follow me down the road? Goodness and mercy. The goodness and mercy of the Lord. I don’t know what will happen, but I can be sure of that.

And at the end? ‘I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.’ (Ps 23:6b) Now that’s Hope. With the Lord forever, in His house of abundance and peace and joy… and love. 

‘He brought me to the banqueting house,
And his banner over me was love.’ Song of Songs 2:4

Yes, the Christian life is hard. Maybe it will get harder as times get crazier in our crazy world. But that doesn’t change this: there is abundant provision for the journey from our abundant Shepherd. 

And that’s an abundant reason for hope… and even to relax in His faithful promises!

If you’re in a tough time right now, look for His provision. If you can’t see it, ask Him. It will be there… and will continue to be there as you follow Him, all the way to His (and our, if we belong to Him) eternal Home.

(To know this hope and abundant provision for yourself, come to Jesus. Receive His free and loving forgiveness for all you have done wrong. Turn from your sin. Surrender to Him as your Lord. Follow Him on the pathway and you will know the most tender, abundant, wonderful Shepherd as yours, too… forever).

 

Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

The Day That Changed History Forever…

What does Good Friday mean to you?

To me?

How easily it can become routine: to remember the cross where He died. How easily it can become normal to take bread and wine; taking it lightly that He gave His life. But it isn’t light. It’s earth- shattering. It’s shocking. It’s life-changing. It’s real.

image
He did it for me… For all of us who will receive it. His wounds should have been my wounds. His death should have been my death. His tears should have been my tears. He was taking my place.
The death I should have died, He died. The blood I should have shed, He shed. The pain I should have known, He knew.
He took my sins. He bore my shame. He paid it all.
Now He clothes me with His stunning righteousness; receives me with His grace.
Why did He die? For me.
Not just for me. For all who will receive Him; for all who will turn from their sins and receive His salvation.
‘It was for Caroline.’
It was so she could know Me. It was so I could have her with Me forever. It was because I love her.
It should have been me, but it was Him. It was Him taking my shame.
I can’t change it. I can’t add to it. I can’t do anything… Only receive it. That’s all.

‘He said, “It is finished!”’ John 19:30b

There’s nothing else to done. The price has been paid. God’s love is poured out on all who receive the shed blood of His Son in their place.
All we can do is surrender… turn from our sin… receive… Receive being forgiven. Receive being free. Receive being loved.
Peace. Joy. Hope. Life.
Forever.
Because He has done it all.

But I can’t help living differently because of it. Because it’s earth-shattering. Because it’s life-changing.
Because His blood changes absolutely everything.
Everything.
Nothing can be the same again.
I am forgiven. I am free. I am whole.
I am His.
I am covered by His blood, and I am so, so very loved.
And I can never be the same again.
Bought with a price… Such a price.
The price of His broken body… His given life.

‘Love so amazing, so Divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all.’ (Isaac Watts, ‘When I Survey’, public domain).

I found this beautiful old hymn a few years ago:

O Love divine, what hast thou done!
The immortal God hath died for me!
The Father’s co-eternal Son
Bore all my sins upon the tree.
Th’immortal God for me hath died:
My Lord, my Love, is crucified!

Is crucified for me and you,
To bring us rebels back to God.
Believe, believe the record true,
Ye all are bought with Jesus’ blood.
Pardon for all flows from His side:
My Lord, my Love, is crucified!

Behold and love, ye that pass by,
The bleeding Prince of life and peace!
Come, sinners, see your Savior die,
And say, “Was ever grief like His?”
Come, feel with me His blood applied:
My Lord, my Love, is crucified!

Then let us sit beneath His cross,
And gladly catch the healing stream:
All things for Him account but loss,
And give up all our hearts to Him:
Of nothing think or speak beside,
My Lord, my Love, is crucified!

Charles Wesley, 1742, public domain

The other year, I wrote a poem that borrows the last line, thinking through what it means that He died for me… that He is mine.

Crucified

My soul has found her All in All,
Resting in love immeasurable,
Passionately by grace pursued;
Intimately by mercy wooed;
With tears of blood, cost of His life,
My Lord, my Love is crucified.

My heart is singing, tears of joy:
Deeply secure, my soul is full.
Despair to hope, with pledge of blood,
Tears become peace, promise of God,
Laid down His life to draw me nigh,
My Lord, my Love is crucified.

Why all these doubts? He paid in blood.
Why these quick fears? My debt secured.
My soul can sing, for I am free.
It is now finished. All is peace.
He pledged His love. He gave His life.
My Lord, my Love is crucified.

New hope of life with Him to share.
His blood the pledge of future care.
Passionately by grace enclosed,
Intimately by mercy known,
Promised in blood. Forever mine.
My Lord, my Love is crucified.

(To receive this incredible love and forgiveness for yourself, come to Jesus. We all need Him to rescue us from the judgement that is coming… that’s why He died. Turn from your sin. Receive His forgiveness. Give yourself to Him. Surrender your life and your future into His hands. He longs to pour His love into your life and set you free…. forever).

Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

How the Father’s Love Can Help With Fear…

You know I struggle with fear and worry. I blog about it often, because I battle with it often!

Here is me processing more, in the light of what God has been showing me about His love as Father, and how His love can help to cast out fear.

IMG_9996

’18 There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love.’ 1 John 4:18

Do you live in a cage of fear, afraid? Those who believe in Jesus as Saviour and are following Him as their Lord can know a love that can set us free from fear. When you remember the love in your Father’s eyes, love deeper and stronger and wiser and more tender than you could ever begin to conceive, the fear will begin to fall away. As you learn to trust His heart, the fear will lose its power over you.

The safest place in the world is being held by your Heavenly Father.

The reason that believers in Jesus don’t need to be anxious about the future is that our Heavenly Father loves us. Really loves us. He cares so much. No detail is too small for His tender concern. No situation is unknown to Him. He loves and He cares, and that is why we can be sure that we have nothing to be afraid of. He has promised never to fail us, and He never will. He will never break His promises to us. He is God, and He never breaks His word. And… He loves us!

God’s children through Jesus are secure, because He holds us in His arms.

’12 Of Benjamin he said:

“The beloved of the Lord shall dwell in safety by Him,
Who shelters him all the day long;
And he shall dwell between His shoulders.”’ Deuteronomy 33:12

Oh, and by the way, He knows just how to take care of even the most fragile and vulnerable, and just what pace to take them forward.

’13 But Jacob said to him, “My lord knows that the children are weak, and the flocks and herds which are nursing are with me. And if the men should drive them hard one day, all the flock will die. 14 Please let my lord go on ahead before his servant. I will lead on slowly at a pace which the livestock that go before me, and the children, are able to endure, until I come to my lord in Seir.”’ Genesis 33:13

Your anxiety about the future falls away when you feel the strong arms of your Father around you, holding you secure. You no longer need to be afraid when you realise that your Father is strong and able and will always protect you and provide for you. You’re not alone anymore, and there is Someone so strong and faithful, so tender and yet so powerful, Who has promised to protect, cherish and provide for you. The present is no longer threatening, because you know you are safe and secure. And the future begins to lose its fear, because you know you are not alone, because you are His. Again and again, the Lord tells His people in His Word not to be afraid. Why? The world is big and scary and anything could happen. But, He is with us. When we realise Who He is, that is all the comfort we need! Your Father’s tender, yearning, oh-so-strong love is the certain assurance that He will always give you what you need. It is your Father’s job to provide for you, and He delights to do so! So you have no need to be anxious!

‘”‘Fear not, for I am with you;
Be not dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you,
Yes, I will help you,
I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.’”‘ Isaiah 41:10

‘”The eternal God is your refuge,
And underneath are the everlasting arms;
He will thrust out the enemy from before you,
And will say, ‘Destroy!’”‘ Deut 33:27

‘“Listen to Me, O house of Jacob,
And all the remnant of the house of Israel,
Who have been upheld by Me from birth,
Who have been carried from the womb:
Even to your old age, I am He,
And even to gray hairs I will carry you!
I have made, and I will bear;
Even I will carry, and will deliver you.”‘ Isaiah 46:3-4

God’s children are carried.

He longs for us to know His peace; His presence; the tender, sweet release of simply being still and knowing that He is God.

Something God has been ministering into my fear has been this: no matter what happens, I am held. Whenever I become conscious of fear, I can remember that my Heavenly Father is right there with me, holding me. And I can look for His provision, for it will always, always be there.

When I become aware of my fear, I can take it to Him. I can bring it into His presence, and rest in His arms. I can be held, and let Him minister to my fear with His love.

‘Lord, my heart is not haughty,
Nor my eyes lofty.
Neither do I concern myself with great matters,
Nor with things too profound for me.

Surely I have calmed and quieted my soul,
Like a weaned child with his mother;
Like a weaned child is my soul within me.

O Israel, hope in the Lord
From this time forth and forever.’

Psalm 131

I am always safe, because I am always held in His loving arms. Sure, I may come under attack, but I am held within a strong and mighty fortress.

‘He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High
Shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say of the Lord“He is my refuge and my fortress;
My God, in Him I will trust.”

Surely He shall deliver you from the snare of the fowler
And from the perilous pestilence.
He shall cover you with His feathers,
And under His wings you shall take refuge;
His truth shall be your shield and buckler.
You shall not be afraid of the terror by night,
Nor of the arrow that flies by day,
Nor of the pestilence that walks in darkness,
Nor of the destruction that lays waste at noonday.

A thousand may fall at your side,
And ten thousand at your right hand;
But it shall not come near you.
Only with your eyes shall you look,
And see the reward of the wicked.

Because you have made the Lordwho is my refuge,
Even the Most High, your dwelling place,
10 No evil shall befall you,
Nor shall any plague come near your dwelling;
11 For He shall give His angels charge over you,
To keep you in all your ways.
12 In their hands they shall bear you up,
Lest you dash your foot against a stone.
13 You shall tread upon the lion and the cobra,
The young lion and the serpent you shall trample underfoot.

14 “Because he has set his love upon Me, therefore I will deliver him;
I will set him on high, because he has known My name.
15 He shall call upon Me, and I will answer him;
will be with him in trouble;
I will deliver him and honor him.
16 With long life I will satisfy him,
And show him My salvation.”’ Psalm 91

Help will always come to God’s children. Provision will always come. Strength will always come. He will give His children through Jesus all we need, because He is our Father and He loves us.

Now that’s security! 🙂

(To know this security for yourself, come to Jesus Christ as Saviour and Lord. Turn from your sin and believe Jesus died to buy your forgiveness. Surrender to Him as your Lord. Place your life in His hands and follow Him. You can know the security of the incredible, unending love of the Father for yourself… forever).

Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

A Love that can Change your Life…

Something God has been ministering to me deeply is His love as Father.

It’s the most astounding, healing, freeing, wonderful truth… And it’s everything our souls truly crave and long for. I’d like to blog about it because it’s so wonderful, and so, so transforming and healing and good!
heaven-blog-post

Knowing that you are loved by God as your Heavenly Father is so, so healing. It’s not something to know on the surface: it’s something to soak in; to drink in; to bathe in; to live in. It’s soaking in His presence, drinking in His love, listening to His tender, gentle voice. Because His love is real, and solid, and powerful, and unimaginable, and unending, and so, so, so very good.

Knowing God as Father is the answer for everything; everything. It’s forgiveness through Jesus when we mess up. It’s strength when we are weak. It’s arms of comfort when our hearts are racked with pain. It’s strong arms of security when we are afraid. It’s peace when we are anxious and confused and anxious. It’s assurance that we are loved when we worry what people will think. It’s hope for the future and deep, pure, wise strength for today. It’s everything we need for the journey.

No matter what the problem is, the solution is always coming to our Heavenly Father, and letting Him be all we need. He has comfort for our sorrows; joy for our tears. He holds us in strong arms. He surrounds us with a fierce, powerful love. He is fiercely tender and wonderfully protective. When we look to Him through Jesus, He will meet each one of us with whatever we need each day.

It starts the way of the cross; turning from our wrong ways and receiving the gift of forgiveness through His Son Jesus, because He loves us so much that He gave His own Son to make a way for us to come back into His Arms. It starts with surrendering our lives to His powerful, wonderful love- to do things His way, because He knows best. That’s the beginning of the relationship, and the way of rescue from the judgement we all deserve and knowing eternally the love that He longs to shower on each one of us.

But that’s only the beginning. The beginning of a life surrounded by His love, whether we are aware of it or not. There is nothing like being held in the Father’s arms and being loved. Sometimes life hits so hard and hurts so much. Sometimes pain is so deep that it feels like no person can come close enough to truly help. Sometimes no person is gentle or patient enough to speak into a place that is raw inside you. But the Father always, always understands. He is always, always there for us. He can minister to our hearts with love in a way that is soothing and healing and deep and true. There is no gentleness; no kindness; no peace like His. Come into His presence, and soak your heart in His love.

And, no, sometimes He doesn’t feel close. I’ve known seasons like that. Sometimes He is growing our faith based on truth, and not on feelings. I remember begging Him with tears to come close, because He felt so far away. But that didn’t change the reality. He is there, and He loves us,  just the same.

And there are so many implications of being loved like this. One that God is encouraging my heart with at the moment is this: it takes away the need for worry, because it means that you are safe, protected and provided for. I am such a worrier- have been as long as I can remember. But God has been encouraging me to rest in His love for me. If I truly believe that I am loved, I won’t be striving to always have all the bases covered. I won’t be looking ahead in fear, trying to provide for every eventuality. I won’t be living today burdened with fear of what might happen tomorrow. I’ll be secure; at peace; able to live and laugh and love and rejoice because I know deep down that He already has tomorrow covered. When I get there, I will find the provision He has had planned all along… because He is a good Father and He actually, truly cares. 

Here are some verses that have been encouraging my heart about my wonderful Heavenly Father, to help you process how good He is:

 

‘The Lord is merciful and gracious,

Slow to anger, and abounding in mercy.

9 He will not always strive with us,

Nor will He keep His anger forever.

10 He has not dealt with us according to our sins,

Nor punished us according to our iniquities.

11 For as the heavens are high above the earth,

So great is His mercy toward those who fear Him;

12 As far as the east is from the west,

So far has He removed our transgressions from us.

13 As a father pities his children,

So the Lord pities those who fear Him.

14 For He knows our frame;

He remembers that we are dust.’ Ps 103:8-14

‘He heals the brokenhearted

And binds up their wounds.’ Ps 147:3

‘Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort,’ 2 Cor 1:3

‘He will feed His flock like a shepherd;

He will gather the lambs with His arm,

And carry them in His bosom,

And gently lead those who are with young.’ Isaiah 40:11

‘7 casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.’ 1 Peter 5:7

I’m writing a song at the moment. It’s not finished yet and it may change, but here are the rough words so far. It’s about being held by my Father through every need, and every season of life.

 

Father Me

Being held by you is my refuge;

Being held within Your mighty wings;

Safe within Your fortress;

Comfort in Your peace;

You are all I need.

You are enough for every sorrow.

You are enough for every fear.

 

Father me, Father me.

Hold me, Lord, tenderly

Father me, Father me.

Hold me in Your peace

As You’re singing over me.

Throughout all my journey,

Through all the joy and tears,

As a Gentle Father,

Father me.

 

You can heal my broken heart; my sorrow.

You forgive my sins and wipe my tears.

I meet You in the valleys.

You comfort all my fears.

You are all I need.

You are enough for every sorrow.

You are enough for every fear.

 

Bridge

Soothe me with your songs;

Held beneath Your wings;

Wipe away my tears;

Hold me through the years.

 

You are enough for every sorrow.

You are enough for every fear.

You are enough for every circumstance.

You are enough for everything.

Why not come into His presence right now, and ask Him to meet you and minister to you with His powerful love?:-)

(If you don’t know this love yet, He is waiting for you with open arms. He cares so much that He gave His beloved Son to pay the price so that you can be forgiven and rescued for all eternity. Turn from your sin. Receive His forgiveness. Surrender your life into His hands. Ask Him to forgive you because of Jesus, and to change your heart. You will find the love you have been looking for all your life).

Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Where We Can Find Everything We Need…

Ok, so this is a bit of a crazy week- another day in a recording studio is coming up, Lord willing! There hasn’t been much time for blogging.
So I thought I would share another poem with you: a poem I wrote for my parents about our shared faith. I hope it is an encouragement!
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Everything We Need
Through the joys and struggles
Of life’s winding way,
We have found the Answer:
Peace in Jesus’ Name.
Yes, in Jesus only
Is our only plea.
We find in our Saviour
Everything we need.
At the cross of Calvary,
Forgiveness is free.
Mercy found in Jesus
Meets our every need.
What a Friend in Jesus
Through each joy and care,
Coming to the Saviour,
We find comfort there.
Just looking to Jesus,
Just letting Him be
Every needed Answer:
All the peace we seek.
Though our sins and failures
Bring us to our knees,
Still we find in Jesus
Grace. Abundantly.
Though it may be costly
To take up His cross,
There is Life abundant,
Joy in every loss.
Though the road may wander,
Though there may be tears,
Still looking to Jesus,
Faithful through the years.
Onward down the pathway,
Forward to Glory’s shore,
Waiting for the Morning
When the wait is over.
Then- to wake with Jesus,
Safe on Mercy’s shore.
There to find together
Joy forevermore.
He will be our anthem
Through eternity.
Yes! We find in Jesus
Everything we need.
Hope it’s an encouragement! God bless you!
(If you don’t know Jesus as Lord and Saviour yet, He waits for you with open arms! Turn from your sin, receive His wonderful forgiveness, accept Him as Lord of your life… follow Him and you, too, will find Him as everything you need… for this life and for eternity).

Fighting the Bully of Fear

Something I have been thinking through lately is how to fight fear. Because it’s something the enemy tries to get me me with… often. And, to be honest, I think it’s been a stronghold in me. So this is me thinking out some thoughts on how to fight!

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I know my sins are forgiven. I know I belong to God through Jesus. But, oh, how the enemy loves to use fear in my life!

Fear can seem so innocent, but it become crippling. The enemy can use it to do so much damage in our lives: to stop us from doing what God has called us to do.

I was convicted by this quote:

“Fear is the enemy of everything God wants  to bring forth from your life. Fear will stop a woman dead in her tracks and keep her there for years- even decades. Fear will keep you from your God-given dreams and ambition. Fear will make you deny your gifts and turn a deaf ear to your calling. If you are going to move forward, if you are going to participate in the life God imagined when He thought of you, if you are going to drink deeply from the well of passion and grace, you must run with everything you have into the strong arms of God and let His perfect love drive out every fear.”

Thomas, A. (2003). Do You Think I’m Beautiful? ed. Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson Publishers. (p.170)

But how do believers, as children of God through Jesus, fight fear?

Well, we have weapons. And one of those is the Word of God.

This is a verse that the Lord used to help me recently:

“For I, the Lord your God, will hold your right hand,
Saying to you, ‘Fear not, I will help you.’” Isaiah 41:13

It suddenly hit me as I looked at that verse. God is the One Who will help me. Often, God’s help comes through people; through people who step in and provide practical help. It hit me one night when I was struggling and I needed a lift and friends from church gave me one: I am not supposed to do this alone. God has provided people who are there to help me. But He also showed me something else: the help really comes from Him. It’s not dependent on a particular person or circumstance. It comes from Him, and it will come in different ways at different times, and maybe not always as I expect. But that doesn’t matter! It can be fun journey of watching out for how the Lord will provide: and realising that He always will.

Like once when I bumped into a friend who asked how I was doing. I admitted that I was feeling the battle, and he asked how he could pray. I asked him to pray for God’s peace, and he promised he would. And then suddenly, he spied a little rabbit and pointed it out! It was just a fun moment, spying an unexpected rabbit in a car park. And he, laughing said, “It’s a rabbit of peace!” It made me laugh, and kept me laughing when I would have been battling the fear. And I knew the laughter was God’s gift in that moment, to give me victory over the fear. It encouraged me so much: the help that will come from Him every time as we look to Him to provide it.

He promises that He will hold my hand. He will help me. And He promises that He will strengthen me, too.

I love these words:

“But you, Israel, are My servant,
Jacob whom I have chosen,
The descendants of Abraham My friend.
You whom I have taken from the ends of the earth,
And called from its farthest regions,
And said to you,
‘You are My servant,
I have chosen you and have not cast you away:
10 Fear not, for I am with you;
Be not dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you,
Yes, I will help you,
I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.’” Isaiah 41:8-10

And this:

“Behold, all those who were incensed against you
Shall be ashamed and disgraced;
They shall be as nothing,
And those who strive with you shall perish.
12 You shall seek them and not find them—
Those who contended with you.
Those who war against you
Shall be as nothing,
As a nonexistent thing.” Isaiah 41:11-12

My enemies (including fear) have no chance against the God of the universe! They will disappear into nothing!

And I have another weapon: prayer! And the prayers of others!

Working in full-time ministry, I have found that the spiritual battle can be fierce. Sometimes, there is a heavy sense that I am being attacked, and it just feels like it won’t lift. And I have learned something: a very wise thing to do when things feel like that is to send out a prayer letter to my supporters. Without fail, I have found that it works! Within a day or two, the weight has lifted. Something feels different. I feel upheld. I feel the strength of prayer behind me. And you don’t have to have a team of prayer supporters behind you to ask some friends to pray. Sometimes, it’s hard to do. I know that. It makes me feel vulnerable, and sometimes I just don’t like showing I am that vulnerable. But it’s worth it, because prayer works!

Worship, too, is such a powerful weapon when we know the enemy is at our back. I remember hearing a speaker talk about how, in spiritual warfare, the enemy hates to hear about the blood of Jesus. So he learned to sing about the blood of Jesus when he was struggling! I find it really helpful, too!

Ok, I’ll be honest here. Probably the place where I struggle most with fear is in my car. Driving and I have a love/hate relationship, with a history of struggles. There’s something about going 70mph (or even less) down the motorway that I have really, really hated- and still do sometimes! It can come back when I’m tired or stressed. God showed me that the way to tackle it was to gradually face the fear and build up my driving, leaning on Him, and He has helped me so much. But the fear comes back sometimes. And I need to fight it!

There’s no reason why my car can’t be a place of worship: a place where I can put on a worship CD and praise my God as loudly as I like, especially when driving feels tough!

And, you know, I think sometimes the fear is from the enemy, and I can speak out loud and tell it to leave in Jesus’ Name, bringing the blood of Jesus against it. Maybe that’s a new concept for you but, honestly, I have learned that sometimes it just needs to be done. I wouldn’t advise doing it if you’re not in a right relationship with God but, if you are, it can really help. It’s in Jesus’ Name, and never in our own. But sometimes it just really, really helps to tell the fear to LEAVE in Jesus’ Name! After all, He has the victory!

Those are some things I’ve been thinking through recently. It’s not complete thoughts- just me processing. I so don’t have this sorted! But I’m learning. And, if it’s a blessing to you, too, I’m glad.

We never have to give in to fear. If we belong to Jesus (and that’s available to all of us), we have victory in His Name, and He will always send us the help we need when we look to Him.

And, actually, in His Arms, the children of God through Jesus are so safe, no matter how fragile we feel. I’ve shared this poem on here before, but I want to share it again:

The Swallow’s Nest

‘Even the sparrow has found a home,
And the swallow a nest for herself,
Where she may lay her young—
Even Your altars, O Lord of hosts,
My King and my God.’ Psalm 84:3

Where swallows lay their babies,

My heart finds her rest

In refuge strong, Almighty,

By tender, loving Breast.

When tears and tearings bleed deep,

I can come away.

This bruised reed finds her comfort

Where nestlings sleep, all safe.

 

If lambs lie in His bosom,

And chicks beneath His wings,

Then I can still be broken

And healing find in Him.

For though He rules the thunder,

He holds the little lambs

And fragile ones find refuge

Close to the great I Am.

 

The winds may roar around me

Wild waves toss round my way,

Or cruel tongues mock and taunt me

Or darkness dim my day.

Where swallows lay their babies,

My heart find her rest.

How lovely are Thine altars

Beside the swallow’s nest!

(If you don’t know that security of God’s love through Jesus yet, you can! He waits for you with open arms. Come to Him and turn from your sins, receiving His free and gracious forgiveness because of what Jesus did on the cross. Surrender your life to Him and let Him lead as your Lord. It may not always be easy but it’s the best decision you could ever make, for now and for eternity… and you will know the security of being held in God’s loving arms… forever. He loves you and longs for you).

Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Because You Are So Loved

If it’s ok with you, I want to use this post to explore something God has been encouraging me with, because I think it’s something He wants me to share.

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(Image: Bible: (ESVUK))
I am so, so loved. Really. So, so loved.
I am delighted in by my God. He cherishes me. He sings over me. In Christ, He looks upon me with joy.
That doesn’t mean He loves my sin. He doesn’t! I fail all the time. But my sin is forgiven. My identity is secure in Christ. I wear Christ’s righteousness- and it’s a beautiful robe that covers me.
‘I will greatly rejoice in the Lord,
My soul shall be joyful in my God;
For He has clothed me with the garments of salvation,
He has covered me with the robe of righteousness,
As a bridegroom decks himself with ornaments,
And as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.’ Isaiah 61:10
He crowns me with His love and forgiveness.
‘Who crowns you with lovingkindness and tender mercies’ Psalm 103:4b
And that can free me from an awful lot of stuff.
Other people’s reactions to me never need to move me. They do not define me. I am His, and what He says goes.
‘”I, even I, am He who comforts you.
Who are you that you should be afraid
Of a man who will die,
And of the son of a man who will be made like grass?” Isaiah 51:12
I don’t need any person to validate who I am. I am His… And so very delighted in.
My story and my past do not define me. He will use it all for good. But it does not define who I am. I am His. And so very delighted in. He can redeem and restore and bring beauty in an incredible way.
‘”The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me,
Because the Lord has anointed Me
To preach good tidings to the poor;
He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted,
To proclaim liberty to the captives,
And the opening of the prison to those who are bound;
2 To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord,
And the day of vengeance of our God;
To comfort all who mourn,
3 To console those who mourn in Zion,
To give them beauty for ashes,
The oil of joy for mourning,
The garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness;
That they may be called trees of righteousness,
The planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.”’ Isaiah 61:1-3
But it’s separate from who I am. I am His. And the identity of God’s people, Christ’s bride, is stunning.
‘You shall also be a crown of glory
In the hand of the Lord,
And a royal diadem
In the hand of your God.’ Isaiah 62:3
Because I am His, I am free to offer, already secure. I am reach out and express what He has given me to share, knowing that I am already loved, and it doesn’t matter how things go. I don’t need to hide away. He has given me much to offer, and other people need it, even when I feel inadequate.
Because I am so loved, I don’t need to be afraid of the future. I battle with this a lot, but the truth is that I am entirely secure, because I will never be alone. Trusting Him, I will never be abandoned. He will always be there, loving me, giving me what I need.
He is always, always there, loving me.
It means all that, and so much more.
And it’s true.
If you are following Jesus as your Saviour and Lord, that is your position, too. And, if you are not yet, He is there, waiting, loving you, longing to pour out all this on you, too.
Because He is that good. He is love. 🙂
The words below are a poem I wrote to encourage a friend. It applies to all who follow Jesus- not as a token thought but in reality, believing in what He has done for us on the cross for salvation, trusting in His blood for forgiveness and living with Him as Lord of our lives, not to earn anything but because we are His. As His, forgiven and accepted, being loved is our security and everlasting hope. I pray these words are an encouragement to you.
Loved

Loved with everlasting love

Which never ends, never gives up;

Enfolding you, around, above;

You are so loved.

 

Woven, knitted, planned above,

Dear design all known, God-touched;

Held, hemmed in, by Heaven cupped:

Forever loved.

 

Enwrapped, enclosed on every side,

Invisible and undefiled,

So vast, so high, so deep, so wide-

This all-embracing love!

 

Hands stretched out, brow ripped with thorns,

Love spilled out, heart broken, torn;

Bled ’til death, spilled out and mourned.

He gave His love.

 

Bursting through the gates of death,

Victory’s healing; bright, immense;

Hope all open, fear falls, dead.

Life swells; sheer love.

 

Resting like a weaned child

Who knows her Father charts the miles.

She has peace, for all is held.

You are so loved.

 

Loved with everlasting love;

Brings a peace this world can’t touch;

That will hold til Home above;

You will be loved.

 

Live pursued by Heaven’s arms;

Can’t escape from mercy’s charms;

Held, all tender; safe from harm.

You are so loved.

 

And though this life may knock you down,

Though the way may twist and turn,

Whate’er the future holds til Dawn,

You will be loved.

 

(The words above can be yours, too. He is waiting with open arms to forgive you, rescue you and give you eternal hope. Surrender your heart and life to Him. Receive His forgiveness. Be washed in His incredible love, and the power of His blood. Surrender your life and decisions and choose to follow Him, and be part of the incredible story He is writing, all the way into a stunningly amazing eternity. He longs to meet with you now… and He longs to meet with all of us).
To receive free emails from this blog, click ‘follow’ and enter your email address. I’d love to keep encouraging you!
Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

When You’re Wondering Whether You Should Just Give Up…

Have you ever thought about giving on what God has called you to do; on trusting Him?

I’ll be honest here. I have.

Sometimes, the road is just too hard. The setbacks are just too many. You wonder how you can ever keep going.

The Christian life can be HARD. Serving Jesus can be HARD.

And Satan tells us, loudly, to just give up.

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Maybe you don’t know Jesus yet. Maybe this doesn’t make sense to you. But maybe life just feels too hard. You need to know that Jesus is the One Who can give you all the help you need; can give you hope; can give you love.

You need to know that Jesus is right here, reaching out to you, offering you forgiveness, love beyond your wildest dreams, a fresh start and new hope… forever. Come to Him, and find new life. Come and find forgiveness. Come and find peace with God. Come and find hope for eternity. Come and turn from the sins that chain you. Come and receive His forgiveness. Come surrender your life and heart to Him as Lord of your life, and receive the forgiveness, love and hope He loves to give you as your Saviour and Lord. Following Him won’t always be easy, but it’s what you’re searching for. He is the One you are searching for. He is the hope you need.

You are loved.

And that’s what we need to do every time, no matter how long we have known Him. Come to Jesus.

Those who follow Jesus as Saviour and Lord are on the right path, but sometimes it is just hard. Sometimes it feels like it would be far easier to just give up.

But giving up on what God has called us to do, or on trusting Him, is never, ever the right option.

Why? Because He is good. Because He is faithful. Because holding onto Him is always, always worth it… and because He always, always keeps His promises.

It doesn’t always look like we think it will… but, then, it is always ultimately better. He is far, far more generous; more kind; more wise; more faithful than we could ever dream.

I have noticed that God often answers my prayers on another dimension, which I’d never even thought of!

But it’s always too soon to quit.

I remember sensing the Lord showing me something like, “If you give up now, you won’t see the blessing I have been preparing for you.”

Sometimes, blessings are on their way to us that we could not begin to imagine… If only we wait for them… if we don’t give up.

There are always unimaginable blessings coming to those who follow Jesus… If only we hold out for them. Whether in this life or the next, we couldn’t begin to imagine the good things He has planned for us. Sure, this life is hard. But God is also very, very kind, and very, very faithful.

What if it means an awful lot; that decision not to quit; that decision to take one more step forward? That one decision to live as though God will be faithful… and to do the next thing? What if all of Heaven is cheering for us? What if our perseverance is doing far more than we could ever imagine?

What if it’s not as far as we think it is? What if it really is going to be okay… if only we trust Him and hold on?

‘The blessing of the Lord makes one rich,
And He adds no sorrow with it.’ Prov 10:22

Some things are just Rock. Solid. True.

‘”Then you will know that I am the Lord,
For they shall not be ashamed who wait for Me.”’ Isaiah 49:23b

‘5Those who sow in tears
Shall reap in joy.
6 He who continually goes forth weeping,
Bearing seed for sowing,
Shall doubtless come again with rejoicing,
Bringing his sheaves with him.’ Ps 126:5-6

‘Cast your bread upon the waters,
For you will find it after many days.’ Ecclesiastes 11:1

‘Therefore the Lord will wait, that He may be gracious to you;
And therefore He will be exalted, that He may have mercy on you.
For the Lord is a God of justice;
Blessed are all those who wait for Him.’ Isaiah 30:18

‘For since the beginning of the world
Men have not heard nor perceived by the ear,
Nor has the eye seen any God besides You,
Who acts for the one who waits for Him.’ Isaiah 64:4

We don’t have to know how God’s promises will come true… Or even when. But you can be certain, and utterly confident in hope, that, for the child of God through Jesus, they will.

Sometimes it helps to think back when I was a little curly-headed girl in Sunday School, and things were simple. Just trust Jesus. He will take care of me.

‘The Lord is my shepherd;
I shall not want.’ Ps 23:1

‘Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
And lean not on your own understanding;’ Prov 3:5

Hope is On the Way

Things look dark now but don’t give in.

Hope is on the way.

Tears sow streams for growing seeds

That will bud one day.

Keep your head up. He will come.

He is on His way.

Light will break through deepest night.

Keep trusting today.

Things look bleak now. You can’t see

Sun behind the storm.

Rainbows birth from cloudy skies

If you wait for morn.

Healing comes from honest prayers.

Hope springs from despair.

The righteous path is like the dawn,

Bright, brighter every hour.

Things look down but don’t let go.

He will lift you up.

He is tender with bruised reeds.

He will heal with love.

He is working through this pain;

His plan never fails.

Harvests bathed in faithful tears

Reap rewards one Day.

Things look bleak but stand in faith.

Let Him hear your songs.

Let Him see your loving trust.

Let Him hold you close.

Nothing done for love of Him

Ever is a waste.

Love Him hard through this deep dark

And He will amaze!

Some day soon, He will reward

All your tears have sown.

Live to hear His tender voice:

‘Well done, faithful one.”

Brightness bursts through streaming Dawn;

You will see His face.

Morning breaks on Heaven’s shore.

Night has turned to Day.

You don’t need to have strength right now for all of days ahead. You only need to lean hard on the LORD. You only need to take the next step. As you do, help will come. You can be sure of it.

The words below are part of an anonymous poem that has blessed me at various times. It’s called ‘Do the Next Thing’. I thought you might enjoy them.

“Many a questioning, many a fear,
Many a doubt, hath its quieting here.
Moment by moment let down from Heaven,
Time, opportunity, guidance, are given.
Fear not tomorrows, Child of the King,
Trust them with Jesus. DO THE NEXT THING.

Do it immediately; do it with prayer;
Do it reliantly, casting all care;
Do it with reverence, tracing His hand
Who placed it before thee with earnest command,
Stayed on Omnipotence, safe ‘neath His wing,
Leave all resultings. DO THE NEXT THING.”

(source unknown)

Sometimes it’s just leaning hard into Him, and then making the decision to wash the dishes. To sweep the floor. To go to work. Trusting that, as you take a step forward, He will meet you with all you need. And, when you look back, you will be amazed at how He came through.

And I have learned that the best thing to do when you don’t know what to do or you don’t know how you will keep going is to get alone with Jesus, and seek Him until He gives you what you need. In His presence, we find the missing pieces. We find His love. We find what we need to keep going. Often, it’s just peace and His presence… which is really all we need. Sometimes His answers aren’t what we expect. Sometimes He doesn’t feel close. But He will always be faithful to answer our cries.

‘My God of mercy[a] shall come to meet me;
God shall let me see my desire on my enemies.’ Ps 59:10

Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

When you Long to Feel Secure…

I recently felt prompted to share a poem that I recently wrote for a friend. I wrote it to encourage her in the love of our Heavenly Father, and how secure she is in Him.

Those who are trusting in Jesus for salvation and following Him are so very, very loved, and so very, very secure in His love.

Just to clarity, that security never a licence to grow complacent and play with sin- and doing so may even be a warning light that we do not really believe in the way we think we do. Maybe part of the proof that we believe is that we keep believing; keep following Jesus all the way. But, yet, there is deep, sweet security in the Father’s love, and resting in His gracious, tender wisdom and plan for our lives. No matter what life throws at us, believers in Jesus are surrounded, secure and enfolded in the love of a Father, Who loves us so very, very dearly, and holds us so very tenderly in His hands.

After all,

‘The eternal God is your refuge,
And underneath are the everlasting arms;’ Deut 33:27a.

(And, if you don’t know that yet, you can- it’s what Jesus longs to give you!).

I hope the words below bless and encourage you. They are not Scripture, but my attempt to encapsulate comfort and encouragement in following the Lord. I hope they are a blessing to you. 🙂

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In My Love

‘The Lord has appeared of old to me, saying:
“Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love;
Therefore with lovingkindness I have drawn you.’ Jer 31:3

In My love you are surrounded.

In My peace, you’re reconciled.

In My plan, you’re safe, enfolded,

Treasured as your Father’s child.

 

Trusting in your Saviour’s promise,

Follow Him along the way.

He will lead you as, surrendered,

You walk, believing in His grace.

 

Treasured in the love that keeps you,

Held fast in the love of God;

Everlasting Arms beneath you;

Cherished, kept, in My strong hold.

 

Trust in Me for each new moment.

Rest in Me. I’ll keep you safe.

I will shield you as you trust Me.

I will carry all the way.

 

For the future, grace is promised.

For the present, I Am here.

For the past, all is forgiven.

In My love, you are secure.

 

Follow Me through every valley.

Every step, look up to Me.

Live surrendered, looking upwards.

I will give you all you need.

 

‘Til forever, safe in Heaven,

You’ll reach your eternal shore.

I will meet you. I will comfort.

You’ll be with Me evermore.

 

Treasured, held, enfolded, promised,

Loved and lifted all the way.

You can rejoice. You can trust Me.

In My love, I’ll keep you safe.

 

(To experience this for yourself, come to Jesus as your Saviour, confessing your sin and receiving His full and free forgiveness for the things you have done against Him, and surrendering your life to Him as your Lord. He is waiting to meet with you, set you free and give you eternal, abundant hope. Don’t wait- seek Him today. He longs to meet with you and wrap you up in the security of His love).

Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Final Memories from Manila… and how Manila Changed Me

As my days in the Philippines began to come to an end, there wasn’t much time to write prayer letters. But I still have memories: memories that have impacted me deeply.

There are so many memories; far more than I could write down here. Each of the people I met was so precious. And so much happened in five weeks.

But I will capture just a few:

I remember the day I went to the opening of the new home for street people. As part of the opening ceremony, a group of street people sang a song about the Good News of Jesus, and how He can rescue and redeem forever. I remember the tears standing in my eyes, watching them and knowing that He really can… and He is doing.

I remember the team there giving me a present: a simple little bracelet. They told me to keep it always, to remember. I still have it now… and I still remember.

I remember little Ronalyn (with the red t-shirt below), and how she was learning English at school. I remember the day she came up to me, shyly, and said, “How…. are…. you?” I remember how it melted my heart.

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I remember editing report after report of the children’s stories… so many stories of abuse and neglect and trauma. I am so thankful to think that God can heal broken hearts.

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I remember the Saturday morning we got up so early, climbed into the van and set off for the market: some house mothers, some girls and I. It was crazy and unforgettable: the big shed full of Asian faces and Asian foods and so many things I’d never seen before: men carrying whole pig carcasses on their shoulders; people selling all of the parts on stalls; fish still jumping on the counter; me with one of the only white faces in the market, sticking out like a sore thumb and feeling like I was at the other end of the world… It was another experience I would never forget.

I remember being so humbled by the gifts I was given by the dear sisters I had found in the Lord.

I remember the gift Ate Reah gave me: a gift I still treasure. It is a simple bracelet, made of simple plastic threads. It’s bracelet she wore to remind her to pray for Edward, one of the street people, who had tuberculosis. I remember feeling so humbled that she would give it to me. It reminds me of all I learned while I was with her.

I remember my last evening in the Philippines; when something happened that impacted me very deeply.

That was a sad last day: a day of goodbyes and gifts that humbled me and precious people I did not want to leave. During the day, I went to the office. Usually, when it was time to go home, I would be with one of the CCM team, who would go with me on a Jeepney. That night, there was no one available, so they left me with Emy, a dear girl of around 16. What none of us had bargained for, though, was rush hour.
Emy and I waited on the street, confidently expecting a Jeepney to approach. One did. We waved, asking the driver to stop. He did not. Too full. We waited. Another Jeepney came along. We waved. No answer. Too full. One by one, the Jeepneys went past. It was rush hour, and no-one had any room. So we began to look for taxis or FX’s, too. Again, we waved. None stopped. No-one had any room. I was beginning to get a bit anxious. ‘Lord,’ I was praying, ‘I’m on my own in Manila with a sixteen year old girl and my flight goes tomorrow! Please help me get back!’
‘Let’s walk,’ Emy said. Figuring that she knew the city better than I did, I agreed. We began to walk along the street, waving at the Jeepneys, and taxis. None stopped. We kept walking. I kept praying. No success.
Time passed. We were walking on and on through the streets of Manila, Emy and I, I getting more and more anxious, and Emy probably a bit like that, too!
Suddenly, I recognised where we were. We had reached the street where the church was… Where the street people lived, whom I had got to know. ‘Ate Caroline! Ate Caroline!’ They were calling. They were street people and I was a white girl with so much more than they would ever have, but we were friends. 
Animatedly, Emy explained our problem. We stood talking to our friends. It gave me a few more precious minutes with them, including some of the street children. I wrote in my journal of  “The little clutch of Princess and her sister as their dear, dirty little hands encircled mine, and they watched me with childlike love and trust. My heart ached over them. I was wearing Ate Reah’s bracelet- may it always, always remind me.”
But my friends were now planning a solution to my problem. In shock, I realised what was happening: they were going to help! Springing into action, my new friends from the streets began to gather their other friends. Running down the street, dodging the traffic, they hurried, in and out of the cars, trying to track down a Jeepney or a taxi: anything that would stop. Still amazed, and terrified that they would get hurt on my behalf, I followed helplessly with Emy.
It was surreal. It was crazy. It was so humbling. Street people risking their lives through traffic to get a lift for me? I was too shocked to say how grateful I was.
Before long, they had succeeded in getting me a lift, and were beckoning me to hurry and get into it. I wanted to tell them… To thank them… But there was no time. We had to hustle on board… And get back… To the home and my aeroplane and the rich life I had back in England.
As I sat there in the FX, I processed what had happened. God had answered in a crazy, out-of-the-box way… and with a lesson I would never forget. They were so poor. They had so little. I had so much. Why would they go out of their way to help me? They probably couldn’t afford a taxi or a Jeepney for themselves! But I knew something as I sat there. I would never forget what they had done.
I remember the last moments at the Girls’ Home: the realisation that I had to go to catch my aeroplane, and some of the children were still asleep, and I would have to leave without hugging them goodbye. I went into the rooms and looked at their sleeping faces, wondering if I should wake them up. I still wish I had; that I had woken them and hugged them and told them how much they mean to me. Maybe they don’t remember now, but I do. They’ll be young women now, going out into the world. I received a photo of some of them recently: lovely young women in beautiful dresses. And I thought of the little girls I had grown to love.

If any of them ever read this, I would want them to know how precious they are; how special they are to God. How much He longs to work in and through their lives in stunningly beautiful ways. How much He longs to forgive their sins, heal up their hearts and set them free to know Him and His incredible, healing, freeing, restoring love. And I would want them to know that I have not forgotten them… that they will always be very precious to me.

I remember the gruff, urgent way Monica clung to me and looked up at me as we said goodbye, and said, ‘Don’t ever forget’. Dear Monica who was rescued as a baby from the Mumbai streets. And I wanted to convince her; to make her believe I never could… but I was too overcome with emotion. I still want to tell her it now. I never have forgotten, and I never could. I could never forget what I saw; what I experienced. God has used it to change me forever.

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I remember sitting in the aeroplane, looking out of the window; thinking of the precious people I was leaving behind. I knew that I would probably never see them again this earth, and my heart was bursting.

But my heart was bursting with more than that. My heart was bursting with a call; with a decision.I would never forget. I was going back for people like them. I was going back because God was calling me to serve Him; to live my life so that others like them could know His love; could live forever. I looked out of the window as the plane lifted; as I began the long trip back to England. And I knew that my life had been marked.

I remember that it was strange to be back. I remember walking around a shopping centre, feeling so angry with the lavish expense and waste. I remember thinking of Manila, and how much we could help if we would only share.

I remember looking at statistics: about over 2 billion people who have still never heard the Name of Jesus even once. About 80,000 people dying every single day without a chance even to experience His love. And I remember thinking that they could no longer be statistics any more; not after Manila. Each statistic is a precious person with an eternal soul.

In time, things became clear. God was calling me; not to the Philippines (though I will always love my dear friends there) but to people who have even less access to what I have than they do: to help the billions in the 10/40 Window with no chance whatsoever to experience the love of Christ. Now I work for Gospel for Asia (www.gfauk.org ). But I will never, ever forget what happened to me in Manila.

What I found out afterwards… 

Years afterwards, I saw a Facebook post: a page about Noelyn. I remember Noelyn: how could I ever forget her? The sweet, affectionate girl of 14 who had lived as a scavenger on the streets, trying desperately to survive; the dear, warm Noelyn who had clung to my hand and chatted to me, and won a place in my heart as each of the children did.

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I had written in my journal about  “Dear little Noelyn’s sad, sad eyes as she hugged me so tightly and said, ‘I miss you’ as I said goodbye to her. I think she had been waiting for me. Oh, Lord, would You  go to her?”

What I came to realise through that Facebook post is Jesus did go to Noelyn… and He took her to Himself, too. I found out that dear, sweet Noelyn has gone ahead of me: she is with Jesus now. Health problems took her away suddenly, at only 20 years old.

This is from the report about her death:

“Noelyn left behind a diary and a half finished testimony. She had been hoping to apply for church membership. The last diary entry spoke of her health: “I know God is testing my trust in Him. But I will not give up, I will prove to Him that He is my only Saviour and Keeper and that I want to be His servant and child until the last breath of my life”. Staff had spoken with her during recent months about salvation and believe that she is one of God’s children. 

Written on a piece of paper taped to her mirror the morning she died was the reference John 3:16. Her room mates said she must have written it the night before as it wasn’t there before that.”

You can find the whole story here:

http://www.ccmmanila.org/news/noelynstatement

That brought me to tears. Little Noelyn, who held my hand. Little Noelyn, who had lived as a scavenger on the streets until CCM took her in. Little Noelyn, who is now at peace, with Jesus.

It touches me so deeply to think of that: to think of how much it means that Noelyn is with Jesus now. And it makes it all so real; so important. What matters is sharing Christ’s love with those who so badly need it.

May it wake us up. May it help us realise that, if Jesus Christ really is the only way to Heaven (and He is), then this is worth giving our lives for, no matter what the cost. It is worth doing whatever it takes to share His love.

’18 And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go therefore[c] and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.[d]’ Matt 28:18-20

Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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Memories from the Philippines, Part 4

August 2007, Manila, Philippines

On Thursday evening, CRBC hosted their Drop-In again. It wasn’t as packed as last week (they had a lot of people last week, praise the Lord), but still busy. I went with Ate Virgie to help with the kids’ club. She was teaching the kids about Abraham, and how God can do the impossible. It was so, so good to see those precious, neglected children being fed the most precious thing: the Word of life. It is far better to be a street child who hears the truth than a rich one who never does. I wasn’t there for the main talk to the adults, but apparently the adults listened very attentively. Please pray for their salvation. Two have made a profession of faith, praise God!! He WILL build His church!! The Word is powerful, and, blessed by the Spirit, it does its own work!! 🙂

Friday morning was a good reminder of the urgency and the need to share the Good News of Jesus. We went to the hospital to visit a dear CCM client who has just ben re-diagnosed with cancer. This hospital was very, very different to the hospital I visited before. It is one of the best hospitals in the world. It was set up by a church, and provides some free care for poor people. It’s a pretty impressive place- marble floors and lovely lifts and clean, pleasantly curtained cubicles, even for the poorest people. Praise the Lord for it. Seeing this dear lady, though, was a good (and needed) reminder of the uncertainty of life. As we sat talking to her, she said that the lady in the next-door bed had just been told that her cancer was terminal. She only had days left. I closed my eyes as the realisation hit me. Every day, thousands more fall into the abyss, starving for the Gospel of life. I left the lady with a tract- please pray that she would not die without His forgiveness. So, so many people think that they are Christians when Jesus makes no difference to their lives and they do not really have a living relationship with Him at all. The visit was a good reminder- oh, that God would impress these things onto our hearts, so that we see how urgent this message is and how much people need to hear it before it is too late!

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Friday afternoon was touching, and inspiring. We went to visit Danika, a girl who is being sponsored by Becky’s church. She is fifteen, and in High School. Through the Educational Assistance Program, CCM helps to pay for her education, which, if she completes her studies, will provide her with a chance to get a good job. The whole visit was so lovely. Danika and her mother were so, so welcoming. They showed us to their tiny shack and Danika’s mother had even invested in some cake and lemonade for us. Money must be so tight for them. It so humbling, and precious, to eat cake and drink lemonade they had provided when they must have so little. For a start, Danika was very shy, and embarrassed about the size of their miniscule shack. Gradually, though, she opened up, and both she and her mother were so obviously grateful to Becky and the church. They had kept the photos and letters that the church had sent them, and clearly treasured them. Danika kept saying how happy she was to see Becky. They both escorted us out, and were reluctant to say goodbye. The Lord was so, so right when He said, ‘”It is more blessed to give than to receive.’” (Acts 20:35c). To see Danika so happy, in her school uniform, is priceless. Most of all, I long for her to know Him.

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On Friday evening, I attended the GMA (Grace Ministerial Academy- training men from all over the Philippines to be pastors) Bible class- the Friday evening class is open to everyone. It was so, so good to be at Bible School for an evening! We went through the doctrine of justification by faith, which was very helpful. It is just incredible that this is reality: that our God cared so much that He gave His Son so that wicked sinners like me could be forgiven. To think of where we would be without justification is unthinkable. If this message is true (and it is), then it puts everything else in perspective.

On Saturday, a group of us went on a trip to Tagaytay, which is just outside of Manila, to see the Taal volcano. We took two of the girls (little Jena, who is nine, and Maricar, who is in her late teens) with us. The day was a blessing from Him. To get to the volcano, we went on a boat to a little island very near the mainland. I was sitting on the boat looking around and it was just so exciting to think that this is Asia- on the other side of the world! I found a blow-up globe in the CCM library the other day. Home looked very, very far away! I can’t believe I’m actually here, in the Philippines!! The boat ride was lots of fun- we got very wet because the ride was bumpy! We climbed up to the crater, which is full of water- a mini-lake. Apparently, it smokes sometimes, although the volcano is now inactive. After the volcano, we went up to a viewing point and looked over Tagaytay- blue mountains etched in the distance; rolling green fields; the curving twist of a road… His creation is stunning. The water, the trees, the fields, the mountains… it was breathtaking. And every atom was fashioned by the One Who now lives inside of every true believer, closer than our skin and more intimate than breathing… all because Jesus went through separation from the Father so that wicked rebels could live! What a message! If that isn’t worth shouting from the rooftops, I don’t know what is! It was also good to spend some time with Jena, although she speaks very little English. She climbed up to the top with me, with both of us talking to each other in our own language, bemused that we didn’t understand each other, and yet content. The best way of communicating with the little ones is to point at things and get them to teach me the names, which works both ways because they’re also trying to learn English. It’s a challenge, but a lot of fun, and the little ones make me laugh- they’re all so individual; so perfectly made by a God of variety and creativity and beauty… He is truly amazing. 🙂

Sunday was spent back at CRBC, which was so good. Church families are precious beyond measure. It’s so good to go to CRBC now and begin to feel like I belong. More and more faces are familiar, and I’m learning more and more names. The girls are also becoming more and more comfortable with me. One of them, little Noelyn, is so keen to make friends. Her story is heartbreaking. After her mother had died of tuberculosis, Noelyn lived as a scavenger for two years, desperately trying to find food for herself and her brothers. She is now fourteen, but she looks like a small child because she was so malnourished. Yet she is one of the most sweet, affectionate children I have ever met. She holds my hand and walks round with me, and my heart just melts! Oh, that she would come to know Him Who can heal our wounds as no-one else can! In the evening, we had After-Church Fellowship and some of the church members shared their testimonies. As we were sitting there, God really reminded me of the need for action. So many of the people gathered round were CCM teenagers- young, beautiful Filipino girls, with the rest of their lives ahead of them, hearing the precious Word of Life. Please do pray that He will work in their hearts and save them to lives of devotion and usefulness to Him, and also that my time with them would not be wasted, despite the English/Tagalog barrier.

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Today (Monday), I went with Ate Nida to lead a Bible Study for three local women, all mothers of young children. They live in very basic little shacks, and it was such a privilege to be welcomed to spend time with them. How I long for them to know His love!

Ok, I think that’s enough for now!!!!!!! I think I’ve written a mini book!!! Sending greetings across the ocean. 

Hopefully more to come another time…

Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Memories from the Philippines, Part 3

Emmaus Home, Masinag, Quezon City, Philippines                                                                                                         

13th August ‘07

Kumusta? (How are you?)

Mabuti! (I am fine!)

I think it’s helpful having coming here for a while. I feel more and more settled every day, which directly affects the ministry- once situations start to make sense, it’s a lot easier to use them for the Lord, because you know how they work, what to do and how. Pieces are gradually fitting into place and I’m beginning to see how the world works out here. God has also been providing much more alone time with Him, which is everything. Praise the Lord, I’m even beginning to get a grasp of some very, very basic Tagalog, which is very gradually opening up a whole new world of understanding! Once you realise that the incomprehensible communication is actually the same as what it would be in English, the world suddenly feels a whole lot more familiar! Praise the Lord for all that He is teaching me. 🙂

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On Sunday, Ate Nida took Becky and I to visit her family, who live in Velenzuela, which is on the other side of Manila. We went to the Velenzuela Reformed Baptist Church, which is where Aries and Jodith Libero (GBM missionaries) are working. I hadn’t expected to have a chance to meet them, and it was so good to see the work that they are doing. Their church has around 20-something members. They meet in a building right in the middle of the squatter areas, which is a problem because the building often floods during the rainy season (which we are right in the middle of at the moment). The service was encouraging, though. Matt Gamston preached in Tagalog. The service was followed by Adult Sunday School- a seriously good idea! It’s basically an adult Bible class, tackling things like doctrinal teachings or Bible history or Bible-handling or topics… I seriously recommend it! After the service, we had lunch with Aries and Jodith, as well as their little son. It was lovely to spend a little time with them.

I spent Tuesday afternoon and evening at the new CCM Boys’ Home, which began only a few months ago. Kuya Scott and Ate Emilyn have just moved over here from America to act as the houseparents, along with Ate Virginia, and they now have about 10 boys in the home. I realised when I visited that the boys are a whole lot crazier than the girls! If you left the girls alone in a room, they would probably do naughty (masama in Filipino) things, but they would be calm naughty things! If you left the boys alone, they’d run around and play-fight and go crazy! They were so funny- using their orange peel to make ears and false teeth, and doing this funny dance they’ve made up to an exercise video! It was lovely to spend time with them, although particularly difficult because most of the boys are very young, which means that they hardly know any English at all. It’s so strange to spend time with kids when you can’t talk to them or give them instructions or even tell them off! I had a go at teaching them to read in English. It was good, but slow progress. Quite a few of the boys are seriously behind in their studies. I think as many as four of them are in Grade 1 (Reception or Year 1 in our system, I think), even though they are as old as nine or ten. The boys have such sad, sad stories. When I was in the office last week, I made profiles for them. Their stories are heartbreaking. Some were abandoned, passed from person to person without a place to call home, some are orphans and all, I think, have seen horrible things that will (apart from the Lord’s healing) leave scars for life. One was sold by his mother. It’s so, so sad, and yet, in a way, they have been given the best thing they could ever have, which is a Christian upbringing. So few kids are brought up on the Word of Life, and the knowledge of the way of salvation is priceless. Yet, still, these kids have huge scars. Please pray that they would be led to the One Who comforts as no-one else can comfort.

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On Thursday morning, I went with Ate Reah to visit some of the street people. It was shocking, and yet also amazing. God has given people an incredible ability to survive in the most challenging conditions. It is normal for these people to live on the streets and they get on with it, day by day. Scaffolding becomes a washing line; carrier bags are stashed in doorways; children take naps on the pavement. The street people always have access to a very basic income because the Jeepney drivers (the Jeepneys are the public transport here- loud, brightly-coloured jeeps with thumping music and rainbow-coloured slogans, many of which are superficially Christian, like “God bless our trip”) pay them to call out for passengers. But life is so tough. Families have lots of children and there are many teenage pregnancies. Life is so hard on the streets, and there are so many challenges. The constant need is very real. And what about their eternal needs? What will all of this be when dawn breaks and eternity comes? It was so good to meet the street people. As ever, I can’t say much to them because of the language barrier, but I had been given a stash of Tagalog tracts, so I could share Christ with them (assuming they can read)- please pray for God’s blessing on the people (including two precious, precious prostitutes- oh, the need of this generation!) who received tracts.

Thursday afternoon was a good reminder about why this is all worth it- why every single sacrifice made for the Gospel is worth everything. We went to visit another couple of “communities” (slum areas). One of them was particularly horrible. It had been raining (there was a typhoon further north, although the rain has gone now). This slum is built right on a river- if you can call it a river. The water is absolutely filthy, and it smells. The shacks are located either side of the water, with some of them hanging precariously over it. Whenever it rains too hard, the lower shacks flood.

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We went inside to visit some of the CCM clients. To get to the shacks, you walk down dark, dank tunnels, some of them wet with filthy water. You have to have directions or a guide, or you’ll get lost in the maze of shacks. The shacks are stacked one on top of the other in a big, corrugated structure. To get to the higher ones, you climb up shaky wooden ladders and negotiate your way from one level to the next. Some families live in than one level, joined by precarious stepladders. Yet these are homes, too. Families have made them livable with their bright pictures and taped flooring and electrical appliances, although you can still see glimpses of corrugated metal and graffiti and dirty wood. I wasn’t too fazed by it all until someone mentioned the rats, which freaked me out a bit- rats scare me!!! I was just beginning to get a bit scared, even starting to grumble mentally, when God reminded me of why this is all worth it. We went into the shack of one lady, and Ate Lorna (the social worker) informed us that this lady had become a Christian directly through the ministry of CCM. She is now a member of CRBC (Cubao Reformed Baptist Church). I felt the tears sting in my eyes. This is why Gospel work is worth it! Yes, this lady lives in a tiny shack, in poverty and hardship. But now she has an eternal hope. I will spend eternity together with her in Heaven. And what are her sufferings in comparison to the Glory that awaits her now, all because someone made a few sacrifices so that she could hear the Word of Life? When the CCM social workers get to Glory, they will see her face there: the face of someone they witnessed to here on earth… along with His, of course, Whom to know is life itself. And that makes everything worth it, no matter what.

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More to come…

 

 

Thoughts On Stepping Out

Has God ever asked you to step out? To do something that scares you a little?

This is the week of stepping out: of doing something that has been on my heart for a long time, and God has increasingly been encouraging me to do. I’ve been a songwriter (of a sort) since I was tiny, but this is the week when God is asking me to start the process of recording and sharing some songs. Saturday, Lord willing, will be a whole new experience in a recording studio. I hope to share some on here sometime soon, God willing. But I thought it might be good to use this space as a place to process right now, while I’m messy and in process, and hopefully encourage you, too.

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I feel hesitant; inadequate. How could I think I have something to share; something that matters? And yet, He has been impressing upon my heart that I do. It’s not really about me; it’s about gifts He has entrusted me with; gifts that were meant to be a blessing to others. How could I withhold them if somehow I have something that someone else needs?

Faith is always about walking, one step at a time, in the light that we have, following the One Who leads us.

Sometimes, it’s easier to hold back; to stay hidden away. But how can I, when He is leading me forward? Only, in moving forward, I want to try to do things the right way. Not perfectly: none of us can ever achieve that on this earth. That’s why Jesus died. He died to cover our mess, and, if we come to Him in repentance and faith, trusting and following Him as Saviour and Lord, He covers it forever… and continually. But He is giving me some insight about how to do things in a way that will last. Not that I have this sorted- I don’t! This is just me writing them out. But here they are:

A conviction is growing in me about creativity for the Lord. I love being creative. It’s a big part of why I blog… why I write songs. But, more and more, I’m coming to believe something. What matters is not so much how good something is, or how talented you are, but how anointed it is by the Lord (if that’s the right word). How much God’s hand is on it. How much it has come from the secret place, with Him in prayer. How much it has been birthed in His presence, under His leading.

Of course, it is good to strive for excellence. But it is far better to commit what you do to the Lord, and to do it in His way. That;s the way your plans will bear fruit.

‘3 Commit your works to the Lord,
And your thoughts will be established.’ Proverbs 16:3

Only, success may look more like fruit than fame, if you do things His way. It may look like someone coming to know Him, instead of people knowing who you are. But isn’t that far, far better? Because it’s eternally, wonderfully good.

We can succeed greatly in the world’s eyes, only to find out one day that it was all only ‘wood, hay, straw’ (from 1 Cor 3:12). Or we can fix our eyes on Him and seek to do it His way… which may not look so flashy, or appealing. But it carries more lasting power.

’12 Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, 13 each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is.’ 1 Corinthians 3:12-13

And behind it all, what you need to know when you step out is that you are loved, no matter what happens.

Peace comes from knowing that you are deeply, deeply loved. That it doesn’t matter how things go. That it doesn’t matter whether you succeed or fail in the world’s eyes. What matters is being faithful with what He has given you. Following His lead. Because that really is success. And knowing that, however things go, He loves you. And He sees all you do for Him.

To the woman whose offering was rejected and misunderstood, He said,

‘6 But Jesus said, “Let her alone. Why do you trouble her? She has done a good work for Me.’ Mark 14:6 (some versions say it was beautiful to Him).

And so I’m stepping out. Not that confidently, but confident that He is leading me. Believing that, while preparation is important, prayer matters far more. Believing that, no matter how things go, I am loved, and secure in His grace.

If you would like to pray for me this Saturday, please pray that I will do this His way, with His help. Lord, help me be faithful and fruitful for You!

I hope I have a recording to share sometime. But, far more, I guess we all need to remember what really matters in the end: hearing His voice say,

‘”Well done, good and faithful servant”‘ (from Matt 25:23).

Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

(If you don’t know Him yet as Saviour and Lord, you can! You can know complete forgiveness, breathtaking love, incredible acceptance and astounding eternal life. Turn from your rebellion, come to Him and receive His full and free forgiveness through Jesus. Surrender to Him, confess Him as your Lord and give your life to Him. He longs to meet you and transform you forever).

Remembering How God Worked in me in the Philippines…

More from the Philippines, Summer 2007, Part 2

Well, another week in Manila and, as ever, I am a living testimony to His faithfulness. Still trying to learn what it means to relax in His loving Hands because, honestly, if we are His through Jesus, we are so, so safe and we don’t have to be afraid of mosquitos and crazy driving and rabid animals (things I am currently scared of!). In His Hands, I am safe: It’s like a security bubble all around me: Nothing can touch us without His permission! He doesn’t promise His children long lives or that we will never suffer, but He does promise that He is in control of everything that happens to us.

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A Refreshing Break

Last weekend, seven of us went on a mini-trip to Bagiuo, which is a city in the mountains in the north of the Philippines. There were four of us British visitors, escorted by Kuya (the word of respect for a man) Amor, Ate Cathy and Ate Reah. It was really helpful to get away, actually- to have a chance to breathe and relax and get to know some people.  One precious element of the trip was Christian fellowship: the church family in Tomay (near Bagiuo) were so hospitable. They fed us and let us stay in an old house that one of the families owns and were so warm and welcoming… It’s beautiful to see the character of Jesus in people you have never even met before.

On the Saturday, we had a fun, touristy day. Went to look at an amazing view of the mountains (Our Creator God is mind-blowing amazing!), visited some botanical gardens, and then went shopping in a huge mall. We had lunch in the mall. It was a flashy new food hall with lots of takeaways dotted around the edge and chairs in the middle. I was just buying my lunch when it suddenly hit me that… I AM IN ASIA!!! I looked around the mall and all of the faces were Asian… I’m on the other side of the world! It wasn’t at all threatening- just so exciting! I’m learning that God is so amazing and you just never know what is around the corner when you belong to Him!

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We went shopping- good but also challenging- I guess shopping always is. So tempting to buy and buy and buy, especially here because everything is dirt cheap by UK standards. I was beginning to be sucked in by the greed, until God gently rebuked me on the taxi ride home, through someone who humbly said, “It’s so easy to get greedy”. Yes. It is. The thing is that, if the pound can buy so much in poor countries, just think of how much good it can do! It can even help people (many people) have the chance to know Him.

The Little Girl at the Market

We went to the market, and the Lord really dealt with me there through the precious street children. We were wondering through the market, looking at the trinkets and things, when some small boys and girls came up to us, trying to sell carrier bags for us to carry our shopping in. Of course, I did as I had been advised: a firm “No”, not matter how much they persisted. But then the Lord began to work in my heart. One of them, a little girl, was trying to sell us carrier bags (small blue-striped carrier bags- a pitiable attempt at trying to earn money). Suddenly, God broke my heart for her. There she was, dirty and poor, trying to sell me carrier bags so that she could eat… and God helped me to see how precious she is. She is not just some little nuisance who was trying to take our money. She is a child with an eternal soul: a child who laughs and cries and struggles and could have been me. It’s not really about her, either: it’s about all of them: all of the precious little children who are falling off the cliff into eternity, crying out for food and love and with no idea that they are in so much greater need of the only message that can save their souls…

Finding Far Away Family

On the Sunday, we split into two groups to support two churches in the localty- the two English guys who were with us (currently doing church apprenticeships) were both preaching. I went to a tiny little fellowship that meets in a hotel room in Bagiuo City. The maximum amount of people they get on a Sunday morning is about sixteen. It was lovely to meet with them, and the sermon was so helpful; living by faith in His Word- it’s all about seeing the unseen, and yet the unseen is so, so real! After the service, we went to join another church for lunch, and we managed to catch the end of the service, which was lovely- they were looking at the hope of Heaven. We stayed for lunch and it was lovely to meet the church family there. How precious to have brothers and sisters with the same Saviour, yet on the other side of the world!  Eating the food was also an experience. I tried seaweed salad, which tastes a bit like pasta!! The whole trip was a great blessing from Him and it was so helpful to have a chance to get to know Ate Cathy and Ate Reah better. I’m beginning to feel a bit more at home amongst everyone now.

When I got back to Manila, Becky had arrived. She’s another English visitor who will be staying in Masinag (where I am) now that Ate Mary has gone back to Scotland. She’s a speech therapist from Lancaster. It’s lovely to have another English friend, and she’s also an inspiration- she came here three years ago, and she knows quite a bit of Tagalog, and she’s been so quick to practice it, learn it, use it as much as she can… Obviously you can only learn a little amount, but even a little makes such a difference with the people and the children. I feel His challenge- I’ll try harder now!

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Tales of Heartbreak

This week has been based around editing reports in the two offices (at the home or in the city), but there have been plenty of experiences alongside reports, and it’s good to be useful. I’m glad that being English makes me useful here, because the CCM Social Workers have so many reports to write (to send back to people who sponsor the children), and it makes such a difference to have native English speakers to check their English. It’s also so helpful for me to read the reports and learn the backgrounds of the girls. On Tuesday, I helped to make some profiles of some of the children who are now in the homes here. It was so heartbreaking. Tales of failed relationships, tangled families, unwanted and abandoned children, sexual abuse…Some of the children don’t even have birth certificates. We have no right to think that these children aren’t so, so precious.

Life is So Short

On Tuesday night, I went with some of the teenage girls to a traditional Filipino wake- their schoolteacher’s father had died. It was a really good chance to get to know some of the girls a bit better, and to begin to build relationships with them. I think the lesson of the evening was that it’s not supposed to be about me or my strength: just coming in helplessness to Him and letting Him use me. On the way, I was feeling pretty useless at communicating with the teenagers- although they speak some English, some of them don’t speak much, and you can literally only say “Hello. How are you?”, and then you’ve run out of words! But I gave it to Him anyway, and, as ever, He answered- I ended up having a great chat with one of them. Her story is what this is all about. It was so encouraging to talk to her and to see, again, the hope and transformation that the Lord can bring.

The wake in itself was an experience. It was more like a celebration. They were a Christian family (the man who had died was a Christian), and what happens is that they have the body in the coffin in a room and people come and go, looking at the body in the coffin and then chatting to the family and eating food. Looking at the body was, once again, His reminder: the body was so lifeless; so cold. A few days before, that was a person. Now, he has gone. He knew Jesus, but many do not. Another day, and 80,000 have perished without ever hearing the Name of the Lord. The urgency does not diminish.

Placing Hope in Their Hands

On Wednesday night, after the prayer meeting, a group of us went and handed out tracts in the streets. It was sheer joy to place the message of life into the hands of tricycle drivers and street vendors and people living on the streets… In only a few moments, you can give a person the message that could save them from an eternal Hell. For a long time last year, I resisted God’s call to tract… Now (only by His grace), to do so is a joy most of the time… oh, the hope of giving someone the Word of Life! What a privilege to hand out the cure to the world’s deadly cancer on a piece of paper! What a privilege… what potential… and what a responsibility, with all the knowledge that we have!

On Wednesday, Ate Nida took me with me to visit some of her friends who live nearby- my first experience of visiting people in poverty, I guess. We went to a few houses, visiting people she has been studying the Bible with. They live in very, very small, basic houses, and, as you progress through the community, they get closer and closer together, and there is a lot of disease. I felt pretty inadequate again- how can you communicate when you don’t speak the language? And I’m very conscious of being white… and rich. But it was so good to see the people, even if all I could do was smile. Ate Nida asked me to pray a couple of times, and she said the people would have understood my prayers, which was encouraging. She also said it encourages them to have a white person visit. I keep forgetting I’m white, because obviously I don’t see it, but I’m beginning to realise that I stick out… a lot! When we walk down the streets, a lot of people stare or say things to me. It’s bizarre to be the outsider, and yet such a privilege to be here, too!

Hope in a Slum

One of the most amazing experiences this week was joining a Bible Study in a slum area. Ate Cathy took me with her to join the Bible Study, and it was so amazing to go. The people live in tiny, one-room shacks made of corrugated sheets, cardboard and other makeshift materials, all joined together in one big structure with one room on top of the other. They’re all so close together, and it’s pretty dirty. There are quite a few animals walking round, and they suspect that a lot of the people have TB, although some of them are too scared to check whether they have or not. CCM are trying to organise a mass check-up. The people rent the shacks, struggling to make enough to do so, so that they don’t end up on the streets. The Bible Study was in a tiny room rented out by a family of seven- I think that they might have more than one room, but there certainly wasn’t much space! They had made the room really nice with decorations etc, but it was still so small and it’s hardly safe for a family to live there with so many germs floating around… When it started raining, they put cloths across the makeshift windows. 

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There were about 6-8 mums at the Bible Study, I think, plus one man and a few children, who were a bit of distraction for their mums. It was such an experience to sit there, in the slum, seeing the precious people hear the Word of God. Last summer, I went to Madeira on holiday with my family and God was breaking my heart for the people but I couldn’t (or didn’t) respond. To see how response is not only possible but can happen is beyond amazing. Oh, the joy of responding to the deep, urgent and real need!

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A huge encouragement followed: We went to see Rubie Joy (the girl who had Dengue Fever last week), who is now out of hospital and basically well again! Thank you for praying. I’m beginning to learn that prayer works and it is such a resource and so I should use it for all it’s worth, because it’s a resource from God and it does change things, by His grace!

The Drop-In

On Thursday night, I went to the Drop- In run by the church. The idea is that they serve a meal for people who live on the streets, and also share a Gospel message at the same time. Ate Virgie has also just started taking the children out to do a mini kids’ club at the same time- I love the way she is just grabbing the opportunity and using it to do a makeshift Sunday School right where the children are! The whole experience of being at the Drop-In was amazing. So, so many people came- the room (the church hall) was packed with people. The kitchen was crazy- lots of willing volunteers from the church were working so hard to make the food, put it on plates, send it out, clear up…  I went out into the hall for a bit and tried to chat to the people. It was a little daunting because there were so many and I don’t speak much Tagalog, but also so necessary- I came here to be as challenged as possible! I spoke to people a little, and then spent a bit of time with the children, some of whom were very intrigued by a white person! It was humbling and challenging to be with them. One of them, a little toddler, was really dirty and his teeth were black- some had already fallen out. He’s just a little toddler! And he is as precious as the children we treasure in our own families. How the Lord must care for these forgotten little ones. Some of the little ones kept holding out their arms to me, to be picked up. They were dirty, but the Lord helped me to see that they are so precious, so I picked them up, one at a time… putting one down so that the next could be picked up afterwards! It was an unforgettable moment.

Peeza!

Last night, I led a Bible Study for a group of teenagers from Faith House and Hope House- the homes where the older teenagers go after CCM or when they are taken off the streets. I had dinner with Pastor Ellis and Ate Necy beforehand. On Wednesday night, Pastor Ellis had told me that he would get takeaway pizza for me, but I didn’t understand what he meant- I thought he said “peas” or something, and that it was some Filipino food, because he said “peeza”, not “pizza”! I found it so funny when I found out he had meant pizza all along!

There were about twelve girls at the Bible Study. Pastor Ellis translated as I spoke. I hope God used me. The girls are so precious! What a blessing it would be to see a generation of seriously godly women raised up out of CCM! God can do it, and He tells us to pray!! 

Celebrating With Family

This afternoon (Saturday), Cubao Reformed Baptist Church had their 28th Anniversary, and they had such a lovely service- lots and lots of the church family came, plus unsaved visitors who know the church through CCM, and we had a very encouraging message on the need to endure in the light of the Glory that awaits- so, so helpful. It’s a little strange to hear the message on headphones through a little FM radio, translated by someone out the back, but so, so good- it’s such a blessing to be fed from the teaching, and so kind of CRBC to translate the message for us. I’m really learning how crucial it is to feed on the Word, and to pray! After the service, we had dinner together- they had put it all in polystyrene boxes- rice and meat and this stuff like pasta- I haven’t learned the name yet. So good to eat together as a huge family in the Lord, celebrating His utter faithfulness over so many years. Praise the Lord for what He has done and IS doing here in Manila!

Thank you for reading! Hope it encouraged you!  Hopefully more to come another time. 🙂

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(To find out more about Christian Compassion Ministries and Cubao Reformed Baptist Church, use the links below).

http://www.ccmmanila.org/

http://www.crbc-ph.org/

Memories from the Philippines…

If it’s ok with you, I want to experiment a bit on the blog. I’ve been toying with an idea, and I think the Lord has been encouraging me to go with it.

Almost ten years ago now, I went to Manila in the Philippines on a mission trip for around five weeks. While I was there, I wrote journal entries and letters home about the things that happened, and I have recently felt prompted to share some of my writing and memories here. I’ll see how it goes, but I want to have a go and see what happens!

I’ve done a bit of editing- I wrote with a lot of exclamation marks back then! But they’re basically the same- stories of my experiences there.

To give you a bit of background, I went to Manila for five weeks just after I graduated from Uni, to help with Christian Compassion Ministries. While I was there, I stayed in a girls’ home and also helped with various things, including helping to edit reports, visiting the slums and seeing different aspects of the work, trying to help out where I could. You can find out about Christian Compassion Ministries here: http://www.ccmmanila.org/

Manila is a needy place, with lots of poverty. The blessing there is that there are some Christians there reaching out with the love of Jesus, but many people don’t truly understand their need of Him, and there is much poverty and oppression. Things have moved on in ten years, I think, but much is essentially very similar. I hope these words give you a feel for what it’s like.

Here goes:

July 2007, Manila

Well, here I am in Manila, and I am, as ever, a living testimony to the Lord’s faithfulness. He has been so good and, as ever, all my fears (about long-haul flights, changing flights in Hong Kong in only two hours, not coping with the heat, not coping with the food, insects and plenty of other things!) have been answered by His faithfulness. What does He tell us? 

‘6 Be anxious for nothing’ (Philippians 4:6a)

 The sooner I learn to implement that, the better!
 
The flight over here was so exciting. I couldn’t believe I was on my way to Asia! I guess I was pretty much dreading the long-haul flight, but it was absolutely fine. It was overnight, but I didn’t actually sleep that much- I kept watching the map on the screen! I couldn’t believe that I was actually flying over all of those places! We flew over so many places: Europe and then the Middle East, and then Russia… China… so many Asian countries…. And then landed in Hong Kong, which was just so amazing… whenever my friend Nora has talked about Hong Kong, it has always seemed like another world… and I was actually there for two hours! Watching the map on the screen was also deeply challenging… I’ve been learning recently just HOW MANY PLACES IN THE WORLD are unreached… It took us literally hours to fly over country after country with names I’ve never heard of, all full of thousands and thousands of people starving for the message of eternal salvation that we hold in our hands, falling like lemmings off a cliff, and not even knowing the danger they are in.

’14 How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher?’ Romans 10:14

The statistics say that 80,000 people die per day without ever having heard the Name of Jesus. And I was flying over those precious, precious people… The need is unbelievable… and the potential of the Gospel is amazing, because Jesus does save!
 
When my friend Sarah (travelling with me on route to a slightly different destination) and I arrived in Manila Airport, I was pretty overwhelmed, but took it to the Lord and He, as ever, strengthened me. Outside the airport, I was met by Ate (the word of respect used for all older women, so I’m Ate Caroline to the girls) Mailyn, Ate Nida and Ate Annie, two of the house mothers at the children’s home. They led me to the CCM (Christian Compassion Ministries) van, where Ate Mailyn introduced me to “her girls”: teenagers who have all been rescued from horrible situations. Four or five of the older girls were in the van, and I talked to them as we drove back. I was amazed by how perfect all of this is: I love ministering to girls, and so God sent me to a home for… girls! This whole trip was such a miracle… I literally booked it at the last minute, and I seriously didn’t have much time to plan or even consider the fact that I should work in a home for girls. Yet… He had arranged it all, just like He has planned every other step of the way. Just see His Hand in every little detail of our lives!

It was pretty late (Filipino time), so Ate Mailyn and Ate Nida showed me my room. As we walked to my room, I had my first glimpse of the little ones: we peeked into one of the girls’ room (4 girls per room) and there was one of the little ones, curled up on the rug in the middle of the floor. She hadn’t even made it to bed!
 
And so… sleep, and my first experience of Manila: The cockroach!! It was a little scary… But very funny now that I look back on it! I got to my room by 12.00 Filipino time, but that’s only 4pm UK time. Even though I was pretty tired, I couldn’t really sleep, and so I decided to unpack a little. I turned on the light, all ready to unpack, and saw… a very big insect on the floor! In shock, I watched it scuttle very quickly across the floor and into the bathroom. I guessed that it was a cockroach but I couldn’t remember if they were dangerous or not, and I was already pretty traumatised by fear of mosquitos! Frozen in fear, I thought for a long time about what the best plan of action would be… and eventually decided to trap it into the en suite bathroom! So I shut the door, stuffed my towel under the door, wedged the door as tight as I could with my suitcase and finally stuffed every single crack I could find with carrier bags! Then I prayed that it wouldn’t get me, checked my bed a LOT for insects and tried to sleep! In the morning, I went sheepishly out of my room and said to Ate Mailyn, “I have a question: There’s an insect in my room.” She laughed when she saw how I had trapped it in the bedroom… and soon killed it with some spray!! I’m not scared of those insects anymore, which is good because apparently the children will put them under visitors’ doors in the middle of the night!

My first day was Sunday, which is always the best way to begin things… with the Lord and His people. The day at Cubao Reformed Baptist Church was lovely: everyone was so warm and welcoming and friendly (of course- they have same Lord!). Before the service, they had a session about “Fear of Man”, which was pretty appropriate for me at the moment- it’s something God’s showing me that I really need to conquer. The main service was in Tagalog, which will take a bit of getting used to (not understanding what’s going on is a little bewildering at first!), but they have a translation system for English speakers- you wear a radio headset tuned into a channel with translation. And the teaching was great. It was also so, so special to look around and see a congregation of almost wholly Filipino people… SEE what the Lord is doing in saving people from every corner of the Globe! They sang in Tagalog and Ate Mary (a Scottish lady who is staying at Emmaus House with me at the moment) and I joined in in English. How wonderful to praise Him in different tongues!!! One of the songs was “How firm a foundation”: a good reminder.
 
Fear not, I am with thee.
Oh, be not dismayed.
I, I am thy God, and I’ll still give thee aid.
I’ll strengthen thee, help thee, and cause thee to stand
Upheld by My righteous, omnipotent Hand.

(From ‘How Firm a Foundation’, author unknown, public domain).
 
I’m staying in a home for twelve girls, in one of the four houses in Masinag. Each has around 12 girls, as well as their housemothers and social workers (all of whom are so lovely and real examples of non-complaining love for the lost and service to Christ). The girls are just so lovely! On Monday night, I came home (Ate Mailyn and Ate Fay took Ate Mary and I out for the day) and the children were all there. They were chasing round in the garden, running round everywhere with plenty of energy as ever… One of them, called Roselle, wanted me to sit with her, and she read me a poster of “Philippine National Symbols”. She showed me all the symbols and the Tagalog words. It was so precious to chat to her. We then played “Hide and Seek”: children everywhere, of all ages! Such a precious treat…

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Monica is around ten years old. She rescued as a baby from the streets. After dinner on Monday, Monica was reading to me from her Bible, in Tagalog and then in English. It was just amazing to see her flick to Genesis and then Psalm 23 and then the Ten Commandments, reading and quoting and translating and engaging… darling little Monica who would have been in some horrible situation on the streets had God not sent CCM to give her EVERY hope in the Gospel of Christ… along with a home, mothers, sisters, food, schooling… Yes, yes, yes, there is need. Oh, there is NEED! But THIS is what faith acting in love can do!

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I watched the Emmaus family devotions. They were in Tagalog, so I couldn’t understand what they were saying, but, oh, it was so beautiful to see them sitting round with their two mothers, engaging animatedly with Proverbs 6, the words flying from girl to girl, teenagers and little ones alike. They were a family, and you could see the love on Ate Nida and Ate Mailyn’s faces as they taught them. They then had a family fun night, as Ate Mailyn explained afterwards (I was a bit confused about what was going on- it’s bizarre when you don’t understand the words!). The banter was literally flying from girl to girl, as the whole family joined in… Little April sang a song, which was apparently about eating vegetables, and they were all very, very amused by it… But for the grace of God, where would these girls be? On the streets somewhere? Probably hopeless and broken. And here they are now: a family… hearing the Word of God.

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I’ve been spending quite a bit of time getting used to my surroundings… and the crying need there is here. You walk through the streets, and poverty greets you in many ways. Yet there is, at the same time, great wealth: The new “Gateway” mall is huge, spotless and extravagant. The prices are ridiculous in comparison to the UK. I bought a children’s book for 70p. Eating out is less than a pound. Riding a Jeepney (the public transport, which is pretty hair-raising!) costs 20p. What we have in the West is unbelievable.

I can’t call this a wake-up call, because God had already shown me this stuff through books before I came. Yet it is HERE: this IS what the world is like, outside our comfortable, extravagant, easy waste and luxury in the Western world.

On Tuesday, I visited the public hospital with Ate Cathy and Ate Reah. It was pretty overwhelming. We visited a girl, from the slums, I think, called Rubie Joy, who has Dengue fever. She was in the children’s ward. It was heartbreaking. I walked in with Ate Reah and Ate Cathy, and there were simple metal beds everywhere, each with two or three children lying in them or sitting next to them (taking turns in the bed). Parents sat next to their children, fanning them. Rubie Joy was with her mother, and she looked up at me with these sad, pleading eyes. It was overwhelming. This is the reality outside our comfortable English lives… And the world is fast headed into eternity, far, far from ready to meet its Judge… Who died so that they could have a chance to live forever. Yet they perish fast, and so few know the way of salvation… Standing there looking around, I began to feel faint and totally out of my depth, but I cried to the Lord and He strengthened me. As Ate Cathy talked to Rubie Joy’s mum, Ate Reah told me that, because there isn’t enough money, the children share beds. The hospital was a public hospital.  You have to pay to go there, although you can apply for financial help, which is generally given. People are turned away because there aren’t enough beds. There aren’t enough nurses. They are all leaving to go abroad, where you get paid more. Doctors will visit patients a maximum of once a day… They’re overworked. And THIS is our world.

I’ve also been helping out in the CCM office, editing reports and checking the English. It’s great fun, because I love working with words! It’s also heartbreaking to read the reports. CCM runs programmes to help street people, and the reports are updates sent to the children’s sponsors. Some of the families are in such a mess… They survive day to day by the skin of their teeth. And they’re NOT just irrelevant statistics… They’re NOT! The many, many little ones running around in the streets in bare feet are just like the little ones in the CCM home- precious like Monica and April who were once in very similar situations, and are now the little darlings who run up to greet me when I come in, and fill this home with their laughter and energy and fun… These little ones are lost and abused on the streets of Manila… and what happens at CCM (rescue, love and HOPE) is what the love of Christ can do. 

This weekend, the other English visitors (there are four of us) and I are going away on a mini-trip to Bagio. It will be a mini-break, and hopefully a chance to breathe a little and get my head round all this stuff! But I don’t want this trip to be luxury… Just look at the crying need! It was only grace that let me be born in England and not the streets of Manila. It was only GRACE that gave me a childhood in Sunday School and faith in Christ, rather than being brought up somewhere where I would NEVER have heard, and would have fallen off the vast, vast cliff into eternity. I am praying that He will show me what He wants me to do in response.

(Continued after the trip)

I’ll be in the office this afternoon, editing more reports for Ate Analyn. Ate Mary has a birthday party this evening- all the children will join in, and I can’t wait to see them all again- I realised yesterday that I miss them when I haven’t seem them for a while. Scott (an American who has just moved out here with his wife Emily to run the new Boys’ Home) said he came to Manila and “fell in love”… with the kids. I think that’s happening to me, too!

Ok, I think I’d better end the mammoth letter there! We just had Ate Mary’s birthday party, which was so special. The children were crazily running round putting chocolate cake on each other’s faces! What was far more precious was to see them listen as Ate Mary taught them from the Bible. This is what the Lord is doing: He has taken the hopelessness of children suffering in the streets, and has turned them into a family… with hope… and the wonderful, wonderful message of eternal life! And this is what He is like. 🙂

Thanks for reading! Hopefully more to come another time… 🙂

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Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Do you Ever Struggle to Trust God?

Do you ever struggle to trust God? Do you ever wonder whether He is really kind? Do you struggle with doubts that maybe He hyasn’t seen… Or He doesn’t care… Or He isn’t as good as you’re supposed to believe He is? I sure do!

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Over the past few days, the Lord has been helping me to see something: it actually grieves Him when I don’t trust Him; when I live in fear because I think He won’t be kind… or I think He does not care enough. It hurts His heart when I live in fear that He will be cruel, or indifferent, or remiss.

I belong to God through Jesus. My sins have been forgiven because I have turned from my sin and believed in Christ. Yes, before I was forgiven, there was reason to fear the wrath of a holy God- not because He is cruel but because He is wonderfully, gloriously pure and good. But He is so kind; so gracious… that He gave His own Son to buy the forgiveness I don’t deserve. I am forgiven now. He is for me, and He wants to do me good!

‘What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?’ Romans 8:31

The other night, He tenderly showed me that it hurts Him when I don’t trust Him. It was so gentle: not so much like a rebuke as like a hug! It grieves Him when I don’t trust Him… because I really can trust Him, and He wants me to know that, and to rest in His awesome, tender, incredible, life-changing love!

He helped me to look back to the past; times of such tender protection and provision… Times of impeccable timing… That could only come from such tender, caring, unbelievably wonderful love.

Like…

  • When I was so sad, and only God knew, and suddenly a friend engulfed me in a surprise hug.
  • When some news was coming that I wasn’t expecting and I didn’t want… and everyone else knew but me… and, by chance, though I was around everyone, I didn’t find out until days later, when I was ready to take it.
  • When He led my friends and I to the perfect house to rent, complete with all sorts of little blessings and details that only He could engineer.

And a thousand other examples.

The other night, I picked up a book: ‘Communion with God’, by John Owen (Banner of Truth Trust, Edinburgh, 1991). I used to love it years ago, and it’s been sitting on my shelf. I began to read, and it was such a tender confirmation of the same lesson. I’ll share some quotes with you, because they’re just so wonderful!

“Many dark and disturbing thoughts arise to hinder our walk with God. Few can rise to the height of the Father’s love by faith, so as to rest their souls in his love. They live far below it in the troublesome region of hopes and fears, storms and clouds. Abiding in the Father’s love, all is peace and quiet. But how to rise up to the height of the Father’s love they do not know. It is God’s will that he should always be seen as gentle, kind, tender, loving and unchangeable. It his will that we see him as the Father, and the great fountain and reservoir of all grace and love.”

Owen, J. (1991).Communion with God. ed: Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust, p.16-17

“Why, then, this foolishness? Why are we afraid to have good thoughts of God? Is it too hard to think of God as good, gracious, tender, loving and kind?” p32, ibid

Actually, it’s our enemy who wants us to think hard thoughts of God.

God longs to bless His people… abundantly.

(Actually, He longs to bless everyone, but only those who come to Him through Jesus place themselves under that ultimate blessing).

“It is a love which fills God with desires to do good and great things to and for us.” p 21, ibid

“He that loves desires only to do good to the object of his love.” p22, ibid

As Scripture says,

’17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.’ James 1:17

Those who know Him; who live close to Him; can live in peace and joy, surrounded by His love.

“The saints… are sweetly wrapped up in the love of their Father.” p36, ibid

‘8 The Lord is merciful and gracious,
Slow to anger, and abounding in mercy
9 He will not always strive with us,
Nor will He keep His anger forever.
10 He has not dealt with us according to our sins,
Nor punished us according to our iniquities.

11 For as the heavens are high above the earth,
So great is His mercy toward those who fear Him;
12 As far as the east is from the west,
So far has He removed our transgressions from us.
13 As a father pities his children,
So the Lord pities those who fear Him.
14 For He knows our frame;
He remembers that we are dust.’ Psalm 103:8-14

And He is so very, very kind. He loves to provide for His children… abundantly.

I was talking to Him the other day about what difference it would make if I trusted Him more. And suddenly I realised something: I would relax! I would stop fretting so much! I would enjoy the blessings of today more without worrying about the potential problems of tomorrow!

I would relax.

I would still work hard. I would still throw myself into the duties of today; into loving others; into seeking His Kingdom first. But I would do it with a lot less angst- because it is so unnecessary!

One day, I was fretting about something. I was talking to God about it, but I was still pretty knotted up. And then I found a packet of Love Hearts in my bag, which I had been given. I opened the package and took out the first one. It said, ‘Relax’. And I knew it was from God, encouraging me not to worry so much!

I remember when I began reading one of my favourite children’s books, Pollyanna, by Eleanor H. Porter.

I opened to the part where a pastor is deeply troubled by  a perplexing problem. He is going over it, over and over again, trying to solve it… but he can’t.

In walks little Pollyanna, and she knows something is wrong. She doesn’t know the answer, but she shares something with him: something her pastor father taught her to do: Rejoice!! There are so many exhortations in the Bible to do so!

So he does. He doesn’t know the answer yet, but he is beginning to have a joyful change of perspective.

Soon afterwards, he works out what to do.

Porter, E. (1994). Pollyanna. ed. Ware: Wordsworth Editions Ltd. (p181-190)

What a lesson: even before the problem is solved, remember Who your Father is! He’s got it covered! You can relax… and you can even rejoice! Yes, there may be tears this side of Heaven. But He is good. We can trust His heart, and His ultimate desire to do His children good.

And why?

What is behind all this?

His heart of love. His heart of kindness and mercy. His heart of love, that I can actually, truly trust… Because He really is trustworthy. Because He really is kind. Because He does over and above all that I could ask or imagine, over and over and over again.

Because that’s just what He is like.

Because He really, truly is love. 🙂

(He longs to pour His love upon you, too, in forgiveness and mercy through Jesus. If you never have before, come to Him and tell Him you’re sorry for things that hurt Him. Receive the forgiveness that is freely available through Jesus. Give your life back to Him as your loving Lord and King. He longs to receive you in His wonderful, tender, eternal love).

(To receive free emails, click ‘Follow’ and type in your email address- I’d love to keep encouraging you!).

Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Thoughts on Going into a New Year…

I don’t know how it happened, but already we are on the cusp of another year, and it’s time to reflect and pray and take stock again.

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How do I look at another year? To be honest, sometimes I’m a bit afraid of what the new year will bring; what trials will come; how I will cope if this were to happen or this were to happen…

But I’m often reminded of those words from Proverbs 31:

‘Strength and honor are her clothing; She shall rejoice in time to come.’ Proverbs 31:25

Some versions say that she laughs when she looks at the future.

The godly woman of Proverbs 31 laughs when she looks at the days ahead.

Why? Because she is confident in her Father’s provision.

I must be an expert worrier. I look ahead and see the problems long before they’ve ever arrived… And they probably won’t anyway. Yes, there may be trials, but they probably won’t be what I expect, and the provision for them will probably not be what I expect, either.

And God has been reminding me to look back at how He has provided and led me in the past… Abundantly. Most times, His provision was on another level entirely to what I’d expected… Something I didn’t see coming because it was just so much better than I could imagine.

His provision was deep and thorough and very, very wise, and very, very good. He led me in ways I didn’t expect, but ways that were so right.

He knows us so well. He cares so deeply. He knows just how to provide. There has never, ever been a time when He has let me down.

When He closed doors, it was because He had something better. When He did things slowly, it was because they were thorough, and whole. When He led me through valleys, He met me in them. Even in the little things, His provision has been so abundant, so tender, so wise, and so good.

And He loves to throw in blessings and surprises and gifts I never would have expected… Even in the darkest times, but also in the good ones, too. Blessings I never would have thought to ask for, because He knows us far better than we know ourselves and His provision is so very kind.

This verse often encourages me:

‘I would have lost heart, unless I had believed That I would see the goodness of the Lord In the land of the living.’ Psalm 27:13

Because I have been forgiven through Jesus, that’s my future. That’s where I am headed in Christ: the Promised Land. It may be a way off, but it’s the final destination. And I will see His goodness and provision all along the way there.

There may be valleys, but they will be lit with His presence. There may be tears, but He will wipe them abundantly away. There may be brokenness, but it’s the way to far greater healing.

He will always be with me and He will always give me all I need.

I have no reason to be afraid.

In the light of that, how do I face a new year? Confident that He will provide, it’s a great time to look forward and take stock: to prayerfully seek Him and plan ways to serve Him in the coming year.

I always like to take time before a new year to pray and seek Him and write down some goals. I’m generally too ambitious! But it’s still good to seek Him about His plans for this new year.

It’s a good thing to make goals. It’s wise to do it after seeking Him in prayer. There are things He has called me to do, and it’s good to refocus and to plan. If we are not careful, time gets wasted on Facebook and shopping and watching films… Or a thousand other things…
And we let go of the things God is calling us to do.

Like reaching the people around us who don’t know how much they need salvation… And the over 2 billion who’ve never even once heard His Name.

But the best goal of all is to know Him; to love Him; to seek to stay close to Him through whatever comes.

Paul put it like this…

‘…that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.’ Philippians 3:10-11

And to live to glorify Him, and to make known to the nations how good He is.

How can I look into a new year?

‘Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.’ Philippians 3:12-14

Laughing at the days ahead, confident He will provide. Putting His kingdom first, knowing He’ll give me all I need (Matt 6:33). And seeking to know Him, no matter what comes.

Knowing that I will see His goodness every step of the way, and I have no reason to be afraid.

So I can hug my friends and say ‘Happy New Year’ and smile with confidence, because, although I don’t know the future, my Father does, and He will go with me all the way. 🙂

(If you don’t yet know the salvation and forgiveness He offers, the best way you can go into a new year (if you ever see it, for none of us know how long we have) is to get right with Him now by surrendering to Him as Lord and receiving His forgiveness… So that His love will lead you forward into the mercy and grace He wants to pour into your heart and life. Seek Him today, before it’s too late).

Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

If I Was at the Manger…

Christmas is almost here and I want to spend more time thinking about what it means before it’s all over and life rushes forward. I want to think with my words: to stop slow at the manger and breathe- and grasp something of what it means. So I want to try and do that in a blog post, if that’s ok.

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I want to imagine, for a few moments, that I’m there too- in that world-famous little stable in the tiny little town of Bethlehem. It’s just me imagining, but here goes…

There, in the manger, lies a baby. He is weak and vulnerable. He is newborn, only a few hours old. He may be shivering. There may be baby cries. It is probably dirty and smelly and cold, and the world is new and strange and not very welcoming.
This is my God. This is God the Son, eternal and wonderful and equal with the Father. This is the One Who created this world… for the world was made through Him.
‘All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made.’ John 1:3
This is the One Who planned me out; Who designed me so intimately and lovingly in my mother’s womb… Only, now, He has been formed in a womb, too… And the plan for His life is full of tears and suffering… So that the plan for my life could end only in eternal good.
My God spoke the universe into being. He placed the stars in the sky. He sits enthroned above it all. He holds it all together. None of it could exist without Him. Yet, here He is… Asleep in the straw. Tiny hands. Tiny feet. Tiny lungs. Tiny frame.
He must learn like any of us did… How to speak… How to walk… How to work.
But He existed before any of it. He knew it all before it was ever around.
Yet here He lies, so small.
If I could go there, I would want to hold Him. I would ask His mother if I could cradle Him… If I could hold Him close… And, if I had been there, I could have done: hold in my arms the One Who made me; the One Who is holding me all together even now. And I’ve always loved holding babies but this One is different… This is my God… And I’d be terrified that I’d drop Him but hold can you drop the One Who is holding you all together? And yet He made Himself breakable… Hurtable… Crucifiable.
And I would want to cradle Him; to protect Him; to keep Him safe from all the suffering down here. But, if He does not suffer for us, our suffering will never end. That’s why He came.
It’s stunning and astounding and crazily, breathtakingly good.
I could walk outside with Him in my arms; gaze up at the stars He made; the stars He is holding together; the galaxies He formed… that ‘were made through Him’. (from John 1:3) I could breathe in the good, clean oxygen that He needs to breathe too. But, then, it would be cold outside… and He would be so very small… and the stable, however dirty, is shelter from the cruel world… The cruel world that He will live in for 33 years… The cruel world that He will die to save.
For it won’t end here, in the stable. He will grow. He will suffer. He will feel pain down here. He will cry. He will hurt. He will be betrayed. He will love and serve and counsel and help and heal. He will change so many lives for good.
His beautiful, wonderful, world-changing life will lead to the cross… To the agony for my sins… To the bursting forth from the tomb… To the eternal reign of glory and justice and joy. It will be so glorious… And so painful… And so good.
Maybe I’d be too overwhelmed with His presence to take it in. Maybe I could only feel awe… and faltering, trembling, tearful love. But maybe there are some things I could take away…
If God loves me so much, that He would give me His only Son, how will He not also give me everything else I need? If He cares this much… If He loves this much… why do I ever worry about the smaller things? He gave His own Son. He will freely, abundantly, give me His best… because I know He already has.
’32 He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?’ Romans 8:32
God is not distant. God is not far away. God came this close… into the very heart of the mess. I can let Him into my mess, too… let Him come close… and let Him work.
God has given Himself to me… to us… to all who will accept Him through Christ. He gave Himself at the manger, and He has given Himself to us for always. This Gift will never be taken away, if we only receive it. He is God with us… and He always will be. Through every need… every trial… every moment. He is mine… He is ours… for always…. forever.
 
And how can I keep this to myself? I cannot leave the manger unchanged… and I cannot leave it silent. Too many others need to know… need to encounter Him as I have done… need His love to change their lives forever.

It’s stunning and overwhelming and life-changing. I cannot take it in, but I cannot stay the same. And right now I just want to wait here: to gaze: to hold Him close in my arms and marvel that that’s what He is: close.

(If you don’t know Him yet as Saviour and Lord, come to the manger… come to the cross… turn from your sins, surrender your life and receive His full and free forgiveness. He loves you so much that He came so small… and so full of love. He longs to meet with you).
May you have a very blessed and happy Christmas. 🙂
Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

What Do You Really Want for Christmas?

What do you really want for Christmas?

What do I really want for Christmas?

A present? Something you’ve wanted wrapped up with a ribbon?

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We may or may not get those things wrapped up in a box for us on Christmas Day.

But there’s one thing we can know for sure: God has given us a Gift already.

It’s a gift that will fill our deepest longings, whether we know it or not. It’s a Gift that satisfies the longing soul. It’s a Gift that deeply quenches the thirsty heart. It’s a Gift that meets our deepest need.

For all who will receive Him, God has given us Himself.

For the past few days, I’ve been camped out in Christmas verses- like these in Isaiah 9- a prophecy written hundreds of years before Jesus… about what God would do… about what happened in the manger and what will happen Forever afterwards.

‘For unto us a Child is born,
Unto us a Son is given;
And the government will be upon His shoulder.
And His name will be called
Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of His government and peace
There will be no end,
Upon the throne of David and over His kingdom,
To order it and establish it with judgment and justice
From that time forward, even forever.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.’ Isaiah 9:6-7

God has given us Himself.

When you start to think about what God is saying here, it’s incredible!

‘For unto us a Child is born’. Isaiah 9:6

God gives us a Child. Actually, God gives us Himself.

More than what we think we want, more than what we think we need, all we really, truly want is God Himself.

And God has given us Himself in Jesus.

Who is this Child?

He will rule… forever.

He will be King of a whole new order… a whole new way of doing things.

What is He like?

He is the Wonderful Counsellor.

He is wisdom for all of the things that trouble us. He is help for all the perplexities of life. He is the One Who always listens; always understands; is never too busy and always has the wisdom we need.

For many years, I lived with a lot of confusion that troubled me deeply. I sought Him for wisdom, sometimes desperately. I am still amazed at how much He has done in answer: at how He has brought peace and wisdom into questions I thought would always trouble me. There are more questions, of course, but there has been so much healing… and deep peace. No one can counsel like Him!

He does counsel! I’m amazed by the wisdom in His Word… the way He puts a perfectly timed book into my hands when I need it… the way He gives wisdom in a variety of ways.

Whatever is troubling you, ask Him about it! He is the best Counsellor you could ever have.

He is the Mighty God. He is the One Who rules; the One Who reigns; the One Who created it all. He is sovereign and powerful and oh-so-good. He is strong and faithful and powerful to save. He is Mighty God… with us.

Everlasting Father.

Deep down, all of us crave the love of a perfect Father. We long to hear the tender, powerful affirmation of a Father Who loves us just as we are, treasures us and longs to give us His best. We can find the Father we have always yearned for through Jesus Christ.

He is the Prince of Peace. The One Who brings peace; deep wholeness into our troubled hearts and minds. The One Who waits to impart to us deep, calming peace.

He gives peace with God and peace between people it seemed impossible to unite. He gives peace in incredible ways.

And He is bringing an eternal reign of peace, justice and joy to all who will surrender to Him as Lord and receive Him as Saviour.

We live in a crazy, unstable world. But there is a new order coming: an eternal reign of peace under King Jesus. Everyone who knows Jesus as Saviour and Lord in this life will be there in the next. To live in His Kingdom will be pure joy. There will be freedom. There will be harmony. There will be happiness forever. And it is all because King Jesus will be on the throne.

He was not just a baby in Bethlehem. He is the Answer to our deepest longings. He is God… God giving us Himself in His Son.

No matter what your circumstances, there are reasons to rejoice this Christmas. God Has given us a Child.

God has given us a King.

God has given us Himself.

In Him is hope beyond our wildest dreams… Forever and beyond. 🙂

And He is reaching out to you right now.. in love.

(if you don’t know Him for yourself yet, He waits for you with open arms. Come and tell Him you are sorry for choosing other things instead of Him. Come and ask His forgiveness for things that you have done. Come and surrender your life to Him as your Lord- and let Him change it in incredible ways. You be amazed by what He can do in response to a prayer like that).

Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

When I feel Inadequate and Afraid…

I don’t know about you but I often seem to find myself going back to the same old familiar Bible passages in December.

And God speaks to me through them.

One of the things that has gone deep, again and again, is what the angel said to Mary.

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‘Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.’ Luke 1:30 

Again and again, God has used those words to encourage me.

‘And having come in, the angel said to her, “Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!”Luke 1:28

And, yes, it’s a bit of context. My story is different to hers. Mary had a very particular blessing on her life. She was extraordinarily blessed. Mary got to bring the Messiah into the world! She was blessed among women in an incredible, astounding way.

But I am a child of God, because I belong to Jesus. And I, too, in Christ, am blessed. God’s favour is on my life, too.

And sometimes I think God wants to remind me of that.

I often let fear torment me, but it has no place. God is with me. His hand is on my life.

I am blessed.

I’ve been reading the book of Genesis recently. What did God say to Isaac?

‘And the Lord appeared to him the same night and said, “I am the God of your father Abraham; do not fear, for I am with you. I will bless you and multiply your descendants for My servant Abraham’s sake.”’  Genesis 26:24

It was as though God stopped me in the middle of that verse.

Don’t be afraid. I am with you. I will bless you.

So simple, yet so helpful.

No, I am not Isaac either. God had a very particular plan for Isaac’s life, and a very special blessing on his future. Isaac was Abraham’s child of promise.

But God is with me, too. I have been forgiven. I am in Christ. And, because I am, I too am blessed… and I don’t need to be afraid of what will happen to me… or what others will think.

God has a plan for my life, too. His hand is on me… in blessing.

I who live afraid of the future. I who live hesitant and held back, nervous about what could happen. I who often live anxious and afraid.

He says to me, Don’t be afraid. I am with you. You are blessed.

I remember when I was at a conference a few years ago. We were listening to a speaker. We were singing. We stopped to pray; to seek a touch from the Lord.

Suddenly, it was as though God was showing me something. Because I have been saved through Jesus, I am His child. Because I am His child, I am blessed. There is an open Heaven above me. God answers my prayers. All of Heaven is on my side. I am blessed.

A lady had asked me to pray for her. I didn’t feel qualified. I felt small and unsure. But He was showing me something: I am His child. Because I am His child, because He is my Father, He hears my prayers, no matter how small and halting I feel. Of course I can pray for others! I am His! So I prayed- and it really seemed that God was answering. And He encouraged my heart. I am His child. He hears me because I belong to Him.

Blessed. It doesn’t always guarantee an easy ride. It doesn’t mean no tears this side of Heaven. It doesn’t mean I will always get what I want… Yet. There are plenty of misunderstandings out there about what it means to be blessed in the here and now. It doesn’t mean every superficial material or physical blessing I could want. It’s also not an excuse to mess around with sin (though, in the light of that, why would I want to?).

It is far sweeter; far greater than that. It is ultimately eternal… and it is also eternity bursting into the now.

It means I am loved. I am protected. I am secure. Everything that happens to me will turn out for my good.

‘And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.’ Romans 8:28

Tears will only multiply the blessings. Every trial will have a silver lining. He will be with me through it all.

Most of all, I have Him.

‘And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.’ John 17:3

I have no reason to live in fear… No reason to hold back.

What did God say to His people Israel?

’22 And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying: 23 “Speak to Aaron and his sons, saying, ‘This is the way you shall bless the children of Israel. Say to them:

24 “The Lord bless you and keep you;
25 The Lord make His face shine upon you,
And be gracious to you;
26 The Lord lift up His countenance upon you,
And give you peace.”’

27 “So they shall put My name on the children of Israel, and I will bless them.”’

Numbers 6:22-27

He tells me:

Don’t be afraid. I am with you. You are blessed.

And that is a reason to rejoice! 🙂

(And that reality can be yours, too. It is, if you belong to Jesus, trusting not in your good works but in Him alone as your Saviour, following Him as your Lord. And, if  that’s not you yet, it’s not too late! Turn from your sin, surrender to Him as Lord of your life and receive His full and free forgiveness… and find love you’d never dreamed existed. And you, too, can live secure… and blessed).

Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

When Christmas feels too busy… or too routine… or too hard…

Somehow it’s got round to December again.December with the sparkly lights and the glowing colours and the busy days and the old, familiar ways… The traditions we have experienced again and again and again.

What does Christmas mean to you?

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Maybe it’s become routine: something you do every year. Maybe it’s a pretty hectic, stressful time. I know it can be for me! There’s so much extra going on: so much to do!

And yet… when I stop to think about what it all means, it suddenly takes on far deeper significance.

I want to encourage you to do that this year: to think about what it means.

Remember what they called the Baby Jesus? Emmanuel. God with us.

God with us.

In a baby.

God, the Creator, the One Who spoke the stars into being, came close to us.

Have you ever meditated on the incarnation? When you stop to think about it, it blows your mind! What kind of wonderful God must our God be, to be willing to come as a tiny baby in a sinful world?!!! Just think about it: God became a foetus!! Meditate on it: look up at the stars- at the millions and billions of lightyears and galaxies out there… and then think how our Creator humbled Himself so lovingly, stepping down to be born as a baby! What awesome glory… and what tender intimacy and proximity to the creation He so lovingly made!

Think about it! Think about life as a human being in our fallen world: babies crying and dribbling… so helpless and needy… learning to eat, learning to walk, struggling with the first ‘dada’ and ‘mamma’… and look up at the stars and marvel at God doing that!

The One Who spoke and this universe came into being… The One Who holds each star in place… The One Who is Creator and Judge of all… Became a tiny, vulnerable embryo in the womb of an unmarried peasant girl. He was born as a tiny baby who had to learn how to walk and talk just like any of us. He Who was bigger than the universe became so very, very small.

He was fully human. And still fully God.

God the Son come down to be the Saviour.

He knows what it is like to live and hurt and suffer in this world.

I don’t know what Christmas means to you. Maybe you are feeling blessed, in a happy time. Maybe you are carrying sorrows so deep that you feel you cannot breathe. Maybe this season is crazily busy. Maybe it’s heartbreakingly hard. Either way, the message of Christmas is far deeper than tinsel and trees and presents we don’t really need.

The message of Christmas is God. With. Us.

‘Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us.”’ Matt 1:23

God Who cares so much that He came as a tiny baby to share in our suffering and then die to give us an eternal way out of it.

God Who humbled Himself to the mess of humanity… To the point of death so that we can be forgiven and whole and free.

‘Who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, 7 but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.’ Philippians 1:6-8

We can never say God does not care when we look at the manger… At God sleeping close in the dirty straw. We can never say God is far away… Because He came so very close.

I have lived through hard Christmas years, carrying sadness deep inside. And Christmas meant more during those times… Christmas thinking about God who cares… God Who came close. Emmanuel, Who didn’t stay far away but is God with us in it all.

God with us in it all.

Why not use this December as a time to think deeply about what it all means: to draw close to God? To spend time in His presence? To meditate on His Word? To ask Him what it means?

The Christmas story means hope in the middle of the deepest darkness, because He is with us now and He has made a way for us to be with Him forever.

It means God reaching out to you right now, no matter what you are going through.

God Who cares that much.

God Who is with us… With you.

Below are the words of a song I tried to write about the incarnation. It’s not finished, but I thought I’d share them, as a way of trying to process the Christmas message.

With Us

Closer than breathing,

Our God came near;

Stooping in mercy

To find us here.

He came looking for us.

In the lowly manger,

He was waiting for us

Oh, see such love!

 

The Father’s heart was searching.

Christ came to bring us close.

In love so deep, such bleeding cost,

He came in search of us.

Emmanuel- God with us!

Cos He wants to be with us.

 

Bowing the heavens,

He came so young.

Such a tiny baby,

So vulnerable.

He came rescuing us

At greatest cost.

Hurting for us.

Oh, see such love!

 

And now He waits

To give His love;

That gave His all

To bring us close.

And now I see

The cross, the cost,

I know His love

God has come.

 

The Father’s heart was searching.

Christ came to bring us close.

In love so deep, such bleeding cost,

He came in search of us.

Emmanuel- God with us!

Cos He wants to be with us.

He does. He wants to be with us. In Jesus, He is with us. He is no longer on this earth but He sent His Spirit to be with us now, until He comes for us, so that we can be with Him forever. If you are trusting in Christ as Saviour, that is your present reality… and your hope. If you don’t know Him as Saviour yet, He is reaching out to you… waiting to bring you close… when you turn from your sin and believe in Christ as your Saviour, letting Him reign in your life as your Lord.

It’s worth thinking about. It’s worth dwelling on… because it’s so wonderful.

It’s worth taking a few moments to think about it this Christmas… because, no matter what your circumstances, it’s true.

He wants to be with us.

Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Even if you’re not American…

This is the time of the year when my friends and I get together to celebrate Thanksgiving. No, I am not American. But our team began celebrating Thanksgiving years ago for the sake of our American friends, and it has become a tradition-and a joy!

We get together in a beautifully decorated house for a meal and a time of fun and celebration. Everyone brings food, generally homemade, which steams invitingly. The room is decorated with bronzed leaves, warm colours and glowing candles. We welcome each other with love and laughter.

thanksgiving

We smile at each other over the flickering candles and loaded table, and take turns to talk about the things we are thankful for. It helps you to realise how much you have.
Even if you don’t have everything you think you want, it helps you to realise how very rich you are: how very good God has been to you. It fills you with contentment, and joy.
Because, when you notice some of the things He has done for you, you begin to realise how blessed you are.
My friend and I talked the other day about gratitude: about being thankful for what you have right now. Someone in Syria, for example, would probably give anything just for somewhere safe to live… Enough food… Freedom. I have those in abundance.
Most of all, I have Christ. The deep thirst of my soul has been satisfied. When I am in need, I know where to go. He always meets me with His help. He has given me forgiveness, and eternal hope.
I was talking to someone the other day about what it would be like to earn lots of money- and I realised I’m glad I don’t (although I guess we all have so much compared to many people who struggle through this world). Actually, I feel so rich already, with the blessings He has showered upon me.
A loving family. So many caring friends. More than one church family. Life and freedom and, most of all, knowing Christ. Food and shelter and creativity… And so, so much more. I am so very, very blessed.
Sometimes, our team take time in prayer meetings to write down ten things we are thankful for. It can be big things or little things. It can be anything. There have been times when I didn’t feel like doing it- when I felt sad and it felt too hard to rejoice. But I had to write my list anyway… And it encouraged me so much. How easily I forget the things He has done for me… the things He blesses me with!
It helps me realise that I am a lot richer than I think I am.
It is so good to take a moment to stop, reflect and say ‘thank You’. To take a moment to breathe right where I am, look around and pick out something I can be grateful for.
He’s been speaking to me recently from Psalm 23. Those words: ‘I shall not want.’ (Ps 23:1b) Ever. He will always provide for His child who belongs to Christ. I have seen it the past. When I stop to look, I realise I see it now. And I will see it tomorrow, and every day after that until He calls me home.
It helps me realise that He is trustworthy for the future, too.
I don’t know if you celebrate Thanksgiving. If you don’t, I recommend it (even if, like me, you’re not American!). It’s lots of fun! But, whether you do or not, Happy Thanksgiving!
Either way, I recommend making your own list of things to be thankful for, and taking a moment to say ‘thank You’ to God.
I think it will make you smile. 🙂
Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

When you feel in need of some Divine TLC…

Do you ever have times when you feel fragile and worn, and in need of some TLC?

That is exactly what God delights to provide for those who look to Him, and come to Him through Jesus.

There are many astoundingly beautiful characteristics of God. Some examples: He is holy. He is faithful. He is powerful. He is just. He is righteous. He is good.

But, sometimes, I think that my favourite characteristic of God is His tenderness. Ok, so I don’t really mean that: everything about Him is astoundingly wonderful.

But His tenderness is very precious to me.

pic-bench

The truth is that I’m very sensitive. He made me that way, and it has its benefits, but it sure makes life painful sometimes. And it also makes it so very precious when He meets me in His tenderness, and ministers in a way that is so very personal; so very intimate; so very gentle; so very kind.

Maybe you’ve seen it in your own life: something so intimate that it could only be God, because no-one else could have known how much it mattered, or could have orchestrated it in such a detailed way.

Maybe you had no idea that it was from Him.

I can think of many examples in my own life. Here are a few:

The day I was so very sad, and my friend, who didn’t know, bought me roses. I know God timed that.

The day I pulled up in my car, my mind clouded with worry, stepped out onto the street… and looked up at a rainbow I hadn’t even known was there.

The day I was crying, asking God to help me believe He loved me because He felt so far away… and along came my friend’s cat and started rubbing against my face.

The messages of encouragement that were perfectly timed. The friends who prayed just when I needed it. The little things that meant so much.

The things only God could do.

He is such a tender Father.

He is far more merciful than we could ever dream.

This is a broken world. He never intended it to be that way. He made a perfect world, with no tears. We broke it by our rebellion. And now there are all kinds of tears, and all kinds of broken dreams.

But that doesn’t mean He doesn’t care. We can’t draw simplistic conclusions about His intentions when we have His promise that He loves us so very, very much.

He holds a bottle of the tears of His child. He counts them all. That’s how much He cares.

‘You number my wanderings;
Put my tears into Your bottle;
Are they not in Your book?’ Psalm 56:8

He cares so much that He gave His own Son to die a cruel death on a cross to buy you a way out of this mess, forever.

He knows when your heart is fragile- and His protection of it is fierce when you take refuge in Him!

‘The Lord is near to those who have a broken heart,
And saves such as have a contrite spirit.’ Psalm 34:18

‘For You, O Lord, will bless the righteous;
With favor You will surround him as with a shield.’ Psalm 5:12

‘A bruised reed He will not break,
And smoking flax He will not quench;
He will bring forth justice for truth.’ Isaiah 42:3

I listened to a message the other day about how tender He is with the bruised reed: how gentle He is with those who are broken and helpless and at the end of themselves. It was so precious and encouraging because we all get knocked down sometimes, don’t we? And He knows. And He cares. And He is tender with those who are fragile and look to Him.

http://www.preachtheword.com/sermon/misc0075-bruisedreed.shtml

If you’ve never come to Him as Saviour, surrendering to Him as Lord, you have no idea of what you are missing out on. You have no idea of the things He has done for you, which you missed. Every breath comes from Him. Every heartbeat. Every caring hug. Every piece of chocolate. Every sunset. Every smile. And how He yearns to receive you as His own, offering you His forgiveness and eternal life when you turn from wrong and believe in Christ.

Sometimes I look around at the people living around me, seeing the sadness, the brokenness in their eyes, and yearn for them to know what He offers to us all: His forgiveness, His hope, His love, His comfort and His peace. Please let Him in. His mercy will amaze you.

And His tenderness never changes, no matter how long we have known Him… or how many tears we have cried.

He knows just how much we can take. He cares for us as a tender Father, and He never stretches us too much.

‘As a father pities his children,
So the Lord pities those who fear Him.
14 For He knows our frame;
He remembers that we are dust.’ Psalm 103:13-14

My friend Carole pointed something out from Bible history once: when Jacob’s family were travelling, they only went as fast as the little ones could take. And the Lord, also, knows how much His little ones can take. He takes us patiently on a journey we can handle.

‘But Jacob said to him, “My lord knows that the children are weak, and the flocks and herds which are nursing are with me. And if the men should drive them hard one day, all the flock will die. 14 Please let my lord go on ahead before his servant. I will lead on slowly at a pace which the livestock that go before me, and the children, are able to endure, until I come to my lord in Seir.”’ Genesis 33:13

Jacob would not push the little ones too hard. And our Lord won’t, either. Actually, he carries them!

‘He will feed His flock like a shepherd;
He will gather the lambs with His arm,
And carry them in His bosom,
And gently lead those who are with young.’ Isaiah 40:11

Sometimes I can get frustrated with the pace of the journey God takes me on. Sometimes I think He is being too slow. But what if what feels painstakingly slow is actually His tender loving care? What if He knows I can’t handle things as fast as I think I can? What if the pauses are actually just a chance for me to rebuild and catch my breath? They say even good things can cause stress. He knows us so well. Maybe He takes things slowly sometimes for a reason.

And He knows your personality perfectly, too. What if the pace is tailor-made to your design? What if it’s really His tender loving care?

There are seasons to the lives of God’s children in Christ, measured by His gracious hand. He gives His people rebuilding seasons as well as tough ones. He tenderly provides just what we need to keep going. Sometimes He breaks in with wonderful mercies and encouragements, to give us a reminder of His Father heart.

He is so very, very kind.

It’s easy to forget that. There’s a lot of suffering to life in this broken world. If you follow Jesus, there is even more suffering, because you’re going the opposite direction to everyone else. But you are also so very, very loved.

And you can rest in His Father heart when you don’t understand.

‘Who among you fears the Lord?
Who obeys the voice of His Servant?
Who walks in darkness
And has no light?
Let him trust in the name of the Lord
And rely upon his God.’ Isaiah 50:10

Come into His presence. Seek Him. Surrender. Talk to Him. Ask Him to comfort you. He is so very, very precious and so very, very kind, and He loves to bring His tender comfort, and His love.

‘Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.’

2 Corinthians 1:3-4

And knowing how much He cares is a great reason to trust in Him, no matter what you’re going through right now. 🙂

 

Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Are you wondering where the world is headed?

I had a blog post pretty much planned for this week, but I decided to change it. Because it’s been a bit of a crazy day or two in the world, and there’s something I feel compelled to say.
 It started with a conversation I had recently,about where the world is heading. About how things feel a bit out of control. About how everyone’s talking about where the world is headed.
 image-sky
Maybe you’ve asked that question, too.

It sure feels a bit like the world is unstable at the moment, doesn’t it?

I don’t want to get into politics. I have my thoughts but I could be wrong! I’m no politician. But things this week have made me think.
Because, to be honest, it sometimes feels like the world is shaking… like things are getting a bit out of control.
People ask where the world is headed.
People ask what the world is coming to.
To be honest, I’m sure I know the answer, and I need to share it, because it matters very much.
Where is the world headed?
Well, to be blunt, Judgement Day.
Is that my opinion? No, it’s what Jesus said. You can take it up with Him.
Things do shake in this world, and they will. This world is on a collision course with eternity, and things will get more and more crazy until the end comes.
Deliberately.
They’re supposed to wake us up: to make us think about the future. They’re supposed to shake us up. Not in cruelty, but in love.
They’re supposed to act as a wake up call… To call us to repent. To turn from our rebellion. To turn to God for mercy and a clean slate. To surrender to Him as Lord, and receive His salvation.
Because He cares so very, very much, and He wants to rescue us before it’s too late.
‘Behold, He is coming with clouds, and every eye will see Him, even they who pierced Him. And all the tribes of the earth will mourn because of Him. Even so, Amen.’ Revelation 1:7
‘And the kings of the earth, the great men, the rich men, the commanders, the mighty men, every slave and every free man, hid themselves in the caves and in the rocks of the mountains, 16 and said to the mountains and rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of Him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! 17 For the great day of His wrath has come, and who is able to stand?”’ Revelation 7:15-17
That’s why we need to come to Him.
Not just a token coming for forgiveness and a free ticket to Heaven (which He offers, by the way), but surrendering to Him as Lord, following Him with everything- with your whole life. Taking up your cross and following Him, no matter how much it costs. Because He loves you. Because He gave His own life on the cross to buy your forgiveness. Because He wants to rescue you from what is coming on the world.
Before it’s too late, and you have eternal judgement to face.
Then, when you have that sorted, you don’t need to be afraid, no matter how much things shake. Instead, you are free to live at peace, living for eternal things, not to earn salvation but in peaceful gratitude for what He has given, because you are loved: because you are held in His hand.
God’s been encouraging my heart with that.
If you are His, you are secure.
If you’re on His side, you will always have His help. You will always have His grace. You will always have His provision. You know what the end will be: eternal life with Him.
‘Fear not, for I am with you;
Be not dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you,
Yes, I will help you,
I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.’ Isaiah 41:10
‘You will show me the path of life;
In Your presence is fullness of joy;
At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.’ Psalm 16:11
We don’t know all the details, but do know the end of the story.
Jesus wins.
If you’re on His side, so do you.
You don’t need to shake, no matter how things shake around you.
He will keep His little ones safe.
‘He will feed His flock like a shepherd;
He will gather the lambs with His arm,
And carry them in His bosom,
And gently lead those who are with young.’ Isaiah 40:11
You can be still, and know He is God.
‘God is our refuge and strength,
A very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear,
Even though the earth be removed,
And though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea;
Though its waters roar and be troubled,
Though the mountains shake with its swelling. Selah’ Psalm 46:1-3
‘Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth!’ Psalm 46:10
My heart still quakes a bit when I look at the news, but it doesn’t need to. I am His. 🙂
And you can be too!

‘Of Benjamin he said:

“The beloved of the Lord shall dwell in safety by Him,
Who shelters him all the day long;
And he shall dwell between His shoulders.”‘ Deuteronomy 33:12

Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Thoughts on Autumn

What’s your view about autumn?

To be honest, I used to really dislike it. The amount of sunlight affects how I feel (like many others- maybe you, too), and the darkening descent into winter used to fill me with dread. It still does, a bit, but my attitude has also changed. My friend Jenny helped me to notice the beauty of the autumn colours. Once I began to pay attention, I began to realise that autumn is- well, stunning! I began to love things about this rich season with all its glorious, understated beauty.

It makes me realise again that God is such an incredible, all-wise Creator. He doesn’t just do things. He does them in style! Ok, so we need seasons in this world. He gave them for a reason. They’re part of a rhythm He put into our world.

“While the earth remains,
Seedtime and harvest,
Cold and heat,
Winter and summer,
And day and night
Shall not cease.” Genesis 8:22autumn-blog

He made the seasons so beautiful! Even the slow descent into winter is attractive! And winter is never the end. God is the expert at bringing new beginnings. I think spring is an object lesson in God’s ability to bring new life when you think there can be nothing left.

It’s an encouragement to trust in Him. He always does things abundantly. He loves to make them beautiful. What He does is stunningly, amazingly good. If you’re on His side through Jesus, that’s a reason to be filled with hope, no matter how dark things may be.

He does all things well. He never makes mistakes. The seasons He makes are beautiful. His ways are abundantly good. His timing is perfect. He is trustworthy.

‘To everything there is a season,
A time for every purpose under heaven:’ Ecclesiastes 3:1

Ok, so this is a broken world. We only see echoes of Heaven here, amidst all the brokenness. But aren’t they beautiful echoes of Heaven? If you are trusting in Jesus as Saviour and following Him as Lord (and it’s not too late to do that now), it’s a reminder of hope in His plan, not just for this life but also a reminder of the Christian’s eternal Hope, where the beauty will be unspoiled.

‘Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea. 2 Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. 4 And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.”

5 Then He who sat on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.”’ Revelation 21:1-5a

And sometimes it’s good to just appreciate the joy of the moment; of the gifts He has given right now.

‘He has made everything beautiful in its time.’ Ecclesiastes 3:11a

I was blessed the other week by an afternoon at Castle Howard in Yorkshire. It was a mild, sunny autumn day. I walked around the rose gardens, framed with gently bronzing leaves and warmed by brightly streaming sunshine, and the beauty was breathtaking. I tried to capture it in a poem. It’s not perfect (and it’s also about October!), but I thought I’d share it. I hope it helps you enjoy autumn, too- and trust in His perfect ways. 🙂

October Moment

Glowing out, all shimmering,

October slows. The birds still sing.

All gentle whispers, softly gleams

In peaceful beauty, softening.

 

As nature cools, the final blaze

Of colour wakens, spreads with grace

Across the patient, slowing days

And ripples peaceful in the trees.

 

I breathe this moment: glowing space

Before this beauty pass away.

Still catch it while it, glorious, spills

Across the gentle, soothing fields.

 

In stunning glory, final song,

This gentle, burnished beautiful.

Just for a moment, take and hold:

Drink in this splendour growing old.

 

This something waiting, breathtaking

That gleams across this peaceful scene.

It calms and joys and wakens yet.

It softens, soothes and takes my breath.

 

And, if you listen, you can sense

This beauty’s promise: cannot end.

And though to winter’s sleep it sends,

Its lullabies breathe spring again.

 

Then let brave nature blaze to rest:

To sleep within its pregnant nest

And grateful, sated, cool and wait

And dream rich dreams of spring again.

 

Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

When you’re striving and all you really need is to be still…

picture-peace-blogThe more I go through this life, the more I’m learning that the answer is always to come back to my Heavenly Father: to come into His presence and wait on Him.

In His presence, we find all we need.

There is a place where we can find comfort for our trials; peace for anxiety; forgiveness for our wrongs; healing for our tears. It’s in the presence of Father God.

If we belong to Him already, this is where we always need to come back to in everything: back to Him. He is always the answer.

And if you don’t know Him yet, it’s where you begin- coming to Him as Father, receiving His forgiveness through Christ, surrendering to Him as Lord… and finding a love you never dreamed of. It’s the way out of the eternal judgement we all face without Christ, but it’s far more than that: it’s finding what our souls have yearned for all along. Come into His presence. He is waiting for you.

In the presence of Father God, surrendered to Him, we find all we need.

Wisdom for the confusion; peace for the striving; a safe place for the tears… what we are searching for is found in God.

And sometimes what we really need is to come into His presence, to surrender to Him and to be still, and let Him minister to us.

Sometimes, what we really need to do is to just to come away with Him; to be still and receive from Him; to, as my friend put it the other day, ‘soak’ in His presence: to be still and know that He is God.

‘Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth!’ Psalm 46:10

A few years ago, a lady shared something with me. I still need to remember it, because I so often strive, and forget. It was this: “God just wants to hold you.”

Sometimes, I think He just wants to hold us: to spend time with us: to comfort us; to minister to us; to be with us. Not to look at the clock and rush away, but to just wait in His presence. Not to hold on to our sins, but to bring them to the cross of Jesus and know that His forgiveness is free. Not to stay in the confusion of our minds but to read His Word, and listen to Him speak. Not to stay all locked up inside, but to let Him in to bring His healing; His freedom; His comfort; His release. Not to look to other places to find our souls filled, but to look up at Him and love Him; to drink from Him and find all we need in Him.

And, yes, sometimes it’s not easy. Sometimes He seems far away and the feelings don’t always come. But it’s not about feelings. It’s about Him.

And yes, sometimes it’s a process. Sometimes it takes time. He is wise and thorough and good.

But, whether we feel it or not, He is always there, and He is always waiting to meet with us, and to help us.

‘You have hedged me behind and before,
And laid Your hand upon me.’ Psalm 139:5

‘Where can I go from Your Spirit?
Or where can I flee from Your presence?
If I ascend into heaven, You are there;
If I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there.
If I take the wings of the morning,
And dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
Even there Your hand shall lead me,
And Your right hand shall hold me.’ Psalm 139:7-10

I can often be pretty restless, trying to come away with the Lord but still striving. But I sense that He wants me just to come to Him; to surrender; to receive.

The poem below isn’t perfect and it’s not Scripture, but it’s me trying to encapsulate something of this, and I think that maybe the Lord wants me to share it. I hope it blesses you.

No matter what the need, He is always the answer we really need.

Still

Cease striving and be still,

For I am LORD of all

And my deep love will heal.

Be still, My child, be still.

 

Wait humbly and be still.

I do not need your strength.

I only want your all.

Be still, My child, be still.

 

Don’t carry. Just be still.

The burden is not yours.

Just lay it down. I’m All.

Be still, My child, be still.

 

You’ve walked a painful road

And I have shared it all.

I care. I’m here to heal.

Be still, My child, be still.

 

You cannot change what’s gone.

The work has all been done.

It’s finished. I have won.

Be still, My child. Just come.

 

Don’t rush away. Wait on.

I want to hold you, long.

Oh, hear my tender songs.

Be still, my child. Hold on.

 

You’re loved, My child. I’m all

You yearn for. I can fill.

Secure and all is well.

Be still, My child. Be still.

 

Look up, My child. Hold on.

You’ll be Home before long.

The morning light will dawn.

Be still, My child. Hope comes.

 

Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Did this little boy touch your heart, too?

Did you see little Alex on the news?

Did he touch your heart, too?

I want to tell you about him. But first, let me go back a bit…

Sometimes I need to write the ugly stuff… the stuff that isn’t nice or pleasant or encouraging, but it needs to be said, because so few people are saying it… because we can all get wrapped up in our own lives and forget. And I think that breaks God’s heart.

There’s horrible stuff going on in the world out there. And I don’t think it should be forgotten. And that includes by me.

Right now, people are starving and dying and being bombed. Most of them have never even heard the Good News that Jesus died so that they can have forgiveness and hope, in this life and the next.

There are so many heartbreaking examples. Here are a few:

I saw this on the news the other day: babies starving in Yemen, because there is nothing to feed them with. Precious people on the verge of starvation.

http://www.itv.com/news/2016-10-13/the-starving-children-of-toheita-yemen/

I’m sure you’ve seen the images of Aleppo in Syria. Bombs and starvation, grief and carnage and broken  hearts.

There are millions of children on the streets in many places, not even knowing who their parents are.

There are refuges much closer to home, too, in need of help and struggling because maybe we cling so closely to what we have.

I was talking to a friend the other day. He made friends with a refugee who came to his church after a harrowing ordeal getting to the UK. He was going to be kicked out of where he was staying in the UK and he had nowhere to go. My friend and his wife talked about it. What if one of their children was in a foreign country with nowhere to turn? So they took him in. Since then, he’s been staying in their spare room.

Doesn’t it refresh your heart to see people responding to an appeal for food or toys or clothes in an emergency? Doesn’t it warm your heart to see the things pile up and the sudden joy on the people’s faces as they share?

And then there’s Alex.

Maybe you saw the news story a few weeks ago: a little six- year old boy called Alex wrote to President Obama, offering a home to a little Syrian boy called Omran he had seen on the news covered with blood and ravaged by war.

http://www.itv.com/news/2016-09-22/boys-letter-to-president-obama-offering-home-to-syrian-refugee-read-out-at-united-nations/

Alex offered the little Omran his own family… a bedroom… toys… Of course, it will most likely never happen. But Alex’s fresh innocence and willingness to help touched hearts across the world. It made many cry. I think it made God smile.

Because we all know, deep down, that Alex is right.

Why shouldn’t he share what he has with another boy so desperately in need?

Maybe God raised up little Alex as an example.

…”that now at this time your abundance may supply their lack”- from 2 Cor 8:14

I know we can’t do everything. But surely each of us can do something to help someone. Little things, after all, do much more than we realise.

How could I learn from Alex’s example? I can’t write to the president and magic away all of the suffering, but is there something I could do?

Could I skip some meals and fast and pray for those who are starving?

Could I sacrifice something and give a little bit (or even a big bit) to help?

Could I look for a moment at all that I have been given and somehow find a way to share?

And, most of all, they need my Saviour.

Could I ask God if there’s anything He would like me to do? Maybe it’s just a little thing- an offered prayer. Maybe it’s not what I expect. But, whether it’s offering a little prayer or a few pence or my whole future, I bet He’d like to show me.

‘Deliver those who are drawn toward death,
And hold back those stumbling to the slaughter.
If you say, “Surely we did not know this,”
Does not He who weighs the hearts consider it?
He who keeps your soul, does He not know it?
And will He not render to each man according to his deeds?’ Proverbs 24:11-12

I don’t mean to be condemning. I don’t have this sorted. Maybe these things are complicated and messy and maybe we can’t help everyone.

But let’s not lose Alex’s wisdom. Maybe it’s not as complicated as we make it out to be.

And surely we can’t do nothing. Especially not when we realise how much God loves us.

Maybe I can’t do much, but I do have words, and I know that there are people out there who don’t have a voice.

Just because they are far away (if they are) doesn’t mean they don’t matter. They matter so much to God.

And doesn’t it feel so good when you know you helped someone out?

Please, please, let’s not forget them.

Let’s talk a moment to talk to God and do something for them now.

Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

What if there was something astoundingly, mind-blowing good in your future… forever?

Over the last few days, I’ve been thinking a bit about my eternal Hope. My friend Angie has been encouraging me for a while to read the book ‘Heaven’, by Randy Alcorn, and I’ve been dipping into it. And it’s been speaking deeply to my heart.

Alcorn, Dr R. (2004). Heaven. ed. Illinois: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.

Knowing you have a certain, amazing, satisfied, beyond-your-wildest-dreams eternal future because you belong to Jesus sure changes your attitude towards life in the here and now.

heaven-blog-post

This is, after all, a disappointing world. We glimpse little bits of satisfaction, only to leave us craving for more. Our bodies wear out and grow old. We never have the time or the opportunity or the energy to do all the things we wish we could do. Dreams can crumble to dust. And sometimes life breaks our hearts in ways we never dreamed it could.

And that’s for us over here in the west, who, in some ways, have it so good. What about those in Syria right now, facing bombs and starvation and heartbreaking grief? What about those who lost everything in the earthquakes in Nepal? What about those who live on the streets of Mumbai, never knowing who their parents are?

If this life is all there is, it would be easy to be cynical… or to try to squeeze out everything from it we can… only to find ourselves disappointed and endlessly craving more.

But this isn’t the only life there is.

Eternity will follow, much sooner than we realise, in one of two destinations.

If you are trusting in Christ as your Saviour and following Him as Lord (and you can do that now), this life is only the very beginning. As C.S. Lewis put it in the last battle, it’s only the first page of the story.

“But for them it was only the beginning of the real story. All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read: which goes on forever: in which every chapter is better than the one before.”

p.172, Lewis, C.S. (1996). The Last Battle. ed. London: Diamond Books.

Those who are trusting in Christ have an endless, eternal future of bliss awaiting us.

And the heartbeat of that eternal joy is knowing Him: the One Who can satisfy our deepest longings with Himself in ways we could never dream possible.

And how can that change the here and now?

If you know that all of our your dreams will come true forever and ever, you don’t need to be discouraged if they don’t come true now. You can focus your heart on building God’s Kingdom, knowing He will take care of you.

If you know that you are, in Heaven’s terms, a multi-millionaire in what really matters, you are free to live simply and give extravagantly because you are eternally rich.

If you know that you have an eternal hope, you don’t need to be jealous of anyone else. You can pour out your life in free and abandoned service of others.

If you belong to Jesus, you don’t need to let the most excruciating pains of this life take your hope. You never need to despair. They are working for you an eternal weight of glory.

For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.’ 2 Corinthians 4:17-18

If you belong to Jesus, you don’t need to guard your life. You can give it away. Giving it away will only multiply your eternal blessings, anyway.

The more you think about it, the more you realise that having an eternal hope changes everything. Knowing that you are rich beyond your wildest dreams frees you up to live with a light hold on this life, giving yourself away, because you are eternally secure in hope.

As Paul tells the believers in Corinth, ultimately, it’s all theirs.

‘Therefore let no one boast in men. For all things are yours: whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas, or the world or life or death, or things present or things to come—all are yours.  And you are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s.’ 1 Corinthians 3:21-23

Really? Like, all things? We learn in Psalm 37 that the meek will inherit the whole earth. The whole earth? Really?

‘But the meek shall inherit the earth,
And shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace.’ Psalm 37:11

It’s all ours, if we are His.

This is shadow land. That is the reality.

Diamond rings? Cars? The moon?

Your wildest dreams?

It’s all too small. Our dreams aren’t big enough.

We won’t even begin to imagine what He will give us.

‘But as it is written: “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard,
Nor have entered into the heart of man
The things which God has prepared for those who love Him.”’ 1 Corinthians 2:9

‘Delight yourself also in the Lord,
And He shall give you the desires of your heart.’ Psalm 37:4

And don’t buy the lie that God’s people will just sit on clouds and be bored forever. Really? If you look into the Bible, you glimpse something very different: a real, physical, curse-free reality. A real, physical reality where all the brokenness has gone and everything is astoundingly, unimaginably, crazily good.

We glimpse it sometimes, don’t we?

Have you ever stood on top of a mountain and wanted to somehow eat the beauty; to taste it forever? I bet you can in the new earth.

Have you ever been touched by stirring music and tasted something you never wanted to let go of? Maybe it was an echo of something eternal.

Have you ever known moments of precious relationship with others that suddenly felt free and honest and safe? Relationships will be wonderfully perfect there.

And, most of all, have you tasted moments of being in God’s presence? The amazing joy and love and peace that suddenly satisfies your deepest soul? In Heaven, God will be our portion forever, with nothing in between.

For eternity, it will all be satisfied.

But, actually, none of the stuff of this life really matters after all. If we only want things in Heaven, and not God, we don’t really know what it means to surrender to Christ as Lord, because He is really the Prize. If we only want the blessings, maybe we don’t truly know Him. He is the Fountain that satisfies.

‘”For My people have committed two evils:
They have forsaken Me, the fountain of living waters,
And hewn themselves cisterns—broken cisterns that can hold no water.”‘ Jeremiah 2:13

Because everything is empty compared to knowing Him.

And, forever, He will satisfy.

‘You will show me the path of life;
In Your presence is fullness of joy;
At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.’ Psalm 16:11

Yes, He will give blessings, too. In crazy, astounding ways we could not begin to dream of now.

But, most of all, He will satisfy with Himself.

Think about it a bit (and make sure that it will be yours!).

Pray about it. Dream about it.

I bet it will change how you see the here and now. I know it’s helping me. It isn’t all about this life. But this life is about investing in the next. And knowing that the next is so good can sure bring joy and hope into this one!

‘Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea. Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.”’ Revelation 21:1-4

(Getting to Heaven isn’t automatic. And there is an alternative that is automatic: Hell. As astoundingly good as Heaven will be, Hell will astoundingly horrific… forever.

‘But there shall by no means enter it anything that defiles, or causes an abomination or a lie, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life.’ Revelation 21:27

There is a way to have your name written in the Book of Life and to escape Hell through the forgiveness God freely offers because Jesus Christ died in your place, taking the punishment you deserve… if you will turn from your wrong and receive His forgiveness, surrendering your life to Him as your Lord. This life is nothing compared to eternity. Don’t risk it! Come to Him today).

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Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Is Your Soul Thirsting for Something?

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Are you thirsting for something more; deep; something real in your life?

I listened to a message the other day that reminded me of something I’d forgotten; the sweet, sheer joy of walking close to Jesus. It was a message about James Hudson Taylor, who was a missionary to China. Hudson Taylor lived a crazy, pressured life. But he learned the secret of abiding close to Christ, and it was the deep, joyful, satisfied root of his deeply productive, mission-centred life.

(You can find the message using the link below).

http://www.desiringgod.org/messages/the-ministry-of-hudson-taylor-as-life-in-christ

We were made for communion with God. All else is an empty, dissatisfying shadow that may promise much but will ultimately end in a nightmare. We were made to know God, and nothing can satisfy us apart from Him.

Every one of the longings of our thirsty, aching souls was meant to be first satisfied by God before being satisfied by anyone or anything else. He is God, and only He will satisfy, because He made us for Himself.

And He wants us to know the deep, sweet joy of living life with Him.

This is meant to be a moment by moment reality: the moment by moment of knowing God and walking with Him. Yes, we live in a broken world. Yes, we are broken by our sin. But He wants to help us learn and grow in walking, more and more, close to Him. Him. This is what life was like before people rebelled against God.

‘And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day’ Genesis 3:8a

We have a recorded example in the Bible of a man who knew something of this reality: the man Enoch. We don’t know much about him, but we know that he walked with God.

‘Enoch lived sixty-five years, and begot Methuselah. After he begot Methuselah, Enoch walked with God three hundred years, and had sons and daughters.  So all the days of Enoch were three hundred and sixty-five years.  And Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took him.’ Genesis 5:21-24

Hudson Taylor’s life inspires me because he lived like that: he lived close to Jesus, even as he carried the responsibilities of running a huge mission organisation. He lived seeking to abide in the Lord Jesus: looking at Him with the eyes of faith and drinking from Him for each need, whether big or small. The simple trust of knowing that Jesus is Enough, and that He will meet every need as you look to Him, can bring a life of deep joy and peace, simply trusting in Him.

Again and again, Hudson Taylor would sing his favourite song, and find peace as he sought to live the truth of its words:

Jesus, I am resting, resting,
In the joy of what Thou art;
I am finding out the greatness
Of Thy loving heart.
Thou hast bid me gaze upon Thee,
And Thy beauty fills my soul,
For by Thy transforming power,
Thou hast made me whole.

Refrain

Jesus, I am resting, resting,
In the joy of what Thou art;
I am finding out the greatness
Of Thy loving heart.

O, how great Thy loving kindness,
Vaster, broader than the sea!
O, how marvelous Thy goodness,
Lavished all on me!
Yes, I rest in Thee, Belovèd,
Know what wealth of grace is Thine,
Know Thy certainty of promise,
And have made it mine.

Refrain

Simply trusting Thee, Lord Jesus,
I behold Thee as Thou art,
And Thy love, so pure, so changeless,
Satisfies my heart;
Satisfies its deepest longings,
Meets, supplies its every need,
Compasseth me round with blessings:
Thine is love indeed!

Refrain

Ever lift Thy face upon me
As I work and wait for Thee;
Resting ’neath Thy smile, Lord Jesus,
Earth’s dark shadows flee.
Brightness of my Father’s glory,
Sunshine of my Father’s face,
Keep me ever trusting, resting,
Fill me with Thy grace.

Refrain

(Words by Jean S. Pigott 1876, Public Domain)

This is how Hudson Taylor handled the heavy, pressing responsibilities of running a mission organisation; one that faced horrific persecution and great pressures. He learned that every burden can be cast upon Jesus, and then peace comes. And the sweetest, dearest pleasures are from a life of knowing Him and walking with Him.

Howard Taylor, Dr and Mrs (1995). Biography of James Hudson Taylor, Hodder & Stoughton Religious.

Jesus is always with those who are trusting in Him. He never leaves us. And He wants us to know that: to revel in it! He wants us to delight in knowing Him there with us; in walking in His presence; in the light of His face.

‘Blessed are the people who know the joyful sound!
They walk, O Lord, in the light of Your countenance.
In Your name they rejoice all day long,
And in Your righteousness they are exalted.
For You are the glory of their strength,
And in Your favor our horn is exalted.’ Ps 89:15-17

I was only a very little girl when I first had an encounter with Jesus: an encounter that would begin a relationship that is sweeter than anything else in my life could ever be. My family had been at church that day, and our Pastor had been leading the children’s slot. He taught us the words of a song about looking at Jesus. As I listened, I memorised the words, not understanding how monumental they were. That night, as I lay in bed, before falling asleep, I began to sing quietly to myself, singing the words of the song I had learned. As I did, I was suddenly conscious of… Him. His Presence, so real, so near, so loving… A tenderness, a love I had not dreamed of finding… A joy that was so wonderful, so good… I did not understand what was happening, but I had fallen in love that day. I would never be the same.

It was the beginning of a deeply precious relationship, but the whole of life is meant to be about growing that relationship- about knowing Him and pursuing Him, and walking close to Him.

There are times when we know glimpses of that.

I remember the months after graduating from University when I couldn’t find any job other than working as an ‘agency girl’ in various kitchens, washing countless plates and dishes and scrubbing at dirty pots and pans. I remember the struggle with doing such a mundane task as my job after just graduating from University… And I remember how the Lord transformed the task for me as He made real to me the truth that we can do anything as worship to Him, even washing dishes! There were times when I remembered that, and I joyfully determined that I would wash dishes for the Lord, even if no-one saw me but Him. And I remember the deep meaning and dignity that that realisation brought to my work, and how I often deeply enjoyed those times of washing dishes, because they were meaningful and not empty. It was deeply good to invite Him into my dishwashing, and to know Him in it, delighting in the One Who gives meaning to everything.

It was a little glimpse of something that can be more and more of a reality: knowing Him in the everyday. Not that it’s always easy. There are seasons of darkness when He doesn’t feel close (believe me- I know about them). But there can also be a deep, close walking with Him- and it’s really what we are all searching for, deep down.

I often forget, but sometimes I remember: the answer is always Jesus- knowing Him and seeking Him. Working in ministry, again and again I have found it to be true: the answer is always coming away with Jesus. It’s the secret for every problem; the solution for every need. He always has what we need, and He is always Enough, and will never, never let us down if we belong to Him.

And He wants us, more and more, to know the sweet joy of living like that.

Don’t think I’m living this perfectly. I am not! But it’s what my soul thirsts for. Actually, deep down, I think it’s what we all long for: Him.

And the crazy thing is that He longs for fellowship with us, too!

‘The voice of my beloved!
Behold, he comes
Leaping upon the mountains,
Skipping upon the hills.
My beloved is like a gazelle or a young stag.
Behold, he stands behind our wall;
He is looking through the windows,
Gazing through the lattice.

My beloved spoke, and said to me:
“Rise up, my love, my fair one,
And come away.”‘ Song of Songs 2:8-10

(And He is waiting for you to come close to Him now). 🙂
(If you don’t know Jesus yet, you can- and you need to! He offers you forgiveness and eternal life if you will come to Him, turn away from your wrong and receive His free and generous forgiveness, submitting to Him as your Lord. The things of this world are so empty compared to knowing Him. He is waiting for you).
Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

More About Living Free From Worry and Fear…

I feel a bit of a hypocrite blogging so often on trust when it’s something I so often struggle with, but it’s helpful to write about it, and hopefully it can help you, too. So here are some more thoughts for the Christian who is struggling with fear and anxiety…

(As children of God through Jesus, Christians are so secure in God’s love. If you are not trusting in Jesus as Saviour and Lord yet, you are so welcome to read this post, but I need to tell you that you do have something you need to worry about- your eternal future. But God will change that as soon as you put your faith in Jesus as Saviour and surrender to Him as your Lord. He cares for you so deeply, and longs for you to come to Him… and then you will experience all the blessings of His loving care for you, too).

Do you live in a cage of fear, afraid? When you remember the love in your Father’s eyes, love deeper and stronger and wiser and more tender than you could ever begin to conceive, the fear will fall away. As you learn to trust His heart, the fear will begin to lose its power over you.

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I have often felt afraid. Fear has been a normal part of everyday life for me. But sometimes I remember to meditate on the Word of God… remember to think about how protected I am. And sometimes, in that place, fear begins to fall away.

The reason that we don’t need to be anxious about the future is that our Heavenly Father loves us. Really loves us. He cares so much. No detail is too small for His tender concern. No situation is unknown to Him. He loves and He cares, and that is why we can be sure that we have nothing to be afraid of. He has promised never to fail us, and He never will. He will never break His promises to us. He is God, and He never breaks His word. And… He loves us! His love will never change.

‘”For the mountains shall depart
And the hills be removed,
But My kindness shall not depart from you,
Nor shall My covenant of peace be removed,”
Says the Lord, who has mercy on you.’ Isaiah 54:10

Your anxiety about the future begins to fall away when you realise that there are the strong arms of your Father around you, holding you secure. You are no longer so afraid when you realise that your Father is strong and able and will always protect you and provide for you. You’re not alone anymore, and there is Someone so strong and faithful, so tender and yet so powerful, Who has promised to protect, cherish and provide for you. The present is no longer threatening, because you know you are safe and secure. And the future loses its fear, because you know you are not alone. Again and again, the Lord tells us in His word, that He is with me, and not to be afraid of dismayed. Why? The world is big and scary and anything could happen. But He is with me. When we realise Who He is, that is all the comfort we need!

‘”Fear not, for I am with you;
Be not dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you,
Yes, I will help you,
I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.”‘

Isaiah 41:10

God’s grace is not given in advance- you only get it as you need it. But you never need to be afraid that it won’t be given. Your Father’s tender, yearning, oh-so-strong love is the certain assurance that He will always give you what you need. It is your Father’s job to provide for you, and He delights to do so! So you have no need to be anxious!

‘”Listen to Me, O house of Jacob,
And all the remnant of the house of Israel,
Who have been upheld by Me from birth,
Who have been carried from the womb:
Even to your old age, I am He,
And even to gray hairs I will carry you!
I have made, and I will bear;
Even I will carry, and will deliver you.“‘ Isaiah 46:3-4

Does He want His precious, forgiven child to live afraid and burdened down, always clouded by worry and fear about what might happen? Of course not! He is good and wise and loving big and generous and powerful and in control, and He would have His children rejoicing and at peace, trusting in His tender Father heart! Have a look at the Psalms and see how many verses you can find exhorting you to rejoice! This is the full life: the life of rejoicing in the Lord always (Philippians 4), anxious about nothing but giving thanks and bringing every concern to Him, and trusting Him to meet every need according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.

There is a condition to all of this. The way of peace, joy and blessing is the way of total surrender: the way of taking up the cross and following Jesus with all of your heart. It’s the way of seeking to lay down your life and live out the call of Christ in every decision, little and big. It’s not the way of perfection: none of us will ever live perfectly whilst we are on this earth, and we all need God’s grace! We are sinners who need a Saviour! But it is the way of seeking to live fully in the light that we have, and giving Him our hearts. You cannot live in willful disobedience and know His peace. But what kind of attitude do you think a tender, loving, providing Father wants His children to have towards life? Anxiety? Fear? Gloom? Dread?

‘Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!’ Philippians 4:4

One of my favourite books is “Pollyanna”, by Eleanor H. Porter. It’s a beautiful story about a little girl whose dad was a pastor. Pollyanna and her dad lived a hard life. They were very poor, and often had to go without. But the Lord was encouraging Pollyanna’s father with how many times the Bible tells us to rejoice. And so Pollyanna’s father invented the “Glad Game”- in which the game is to find a reason to rejoice, no matter what is happening. After her father’s death, Pollyanna continues to play the game, and teaches it to many others, who find their lives transformed with sheer, simple, beautiful joy.

Porter, E. (1994). Pollyanna. ed. Ware: Wordsworth Editions Ltd.

It’s a beautiful story, and it’s so helpful, too- a remember to find a reason to rejoice, because He is always good. I don’t mean to trivialise it- sometimes it’s hard to rejoice. But it’s a helpful game to play, and even the smallest things (such a beautiful flower, the smile of a friend or a glimpse of sunshine) are all from Him.

He longs for us to know His peace; His presence; the tender, sweet release of simply being still and knowing that He is God.

God is the God of the detail, and He doesn’t make mistakes. He works everything together for the good of those who love Him (Romans 8:28), conforming us into the image of His Son. Nothing is wasted. He is using it all for good, whether we see it or not. It’s like the illustration someone told me of a tapestry: from the back, it looks like a mess, but, from the front, it will one day look beautiful!

In the book of Daniel, God tells Daniel through an angel that his prayers have been heard because he is greatly loved. What a wonderful reality! He is loved. No matter what happens in life, that assurance can give you strength!

I remember once when I was feeling afraid. I was looking at things that were happening in the news, afraid of what the future will bring. I knew that I wasn’t supposed to be afraid, but I couldn’t work out how to stop the fear that was knotting me up upside. I was flicking through my Bible, trying to find peace, and I stumbled upon those words to Daniel.

Daniel lived in crazy times. God’s people were in exile in Babylon because of their rebellion. Daniel was living in a pagan land, where everything was opposed to God’s way of doing things. And God was speaking to him about the world’s future: about future kings and empires and events. It was crazy stuff! Scary stuff, too. Yet Daniel is given reassurance that he is loved.

Just before Daniel 9, Daniel works out that the time of exile for God’s people in Babylon is almost at an end. God had said he would judge them in exile for seventy years, and the seventy years are almost up. So Daniel prays to the LORD and asks Him to have mercy on His people, forgive them and bring them back to their own land. And an angel brings a reply.

‘”At the beginning of your supplications the command went out, and I have come to tell you, for you are greatly beloved; therefore consider the matter, and understand the vision:”‘ Daniel 9:23

Daniel’s prayers have been heard, because he is greatly loved.

In the midst of a crazy, mixed-up world, where things are changing and God’s people are under pressure, God reassures His child that his prayers have been heard, because he is greatly loved.

As I thought about the craziness of this world, I too was reassured as I read that. Yes, world events might be frightening. Yes, the thought of persecution is frightening. But there is no need for me to be afraid, because I am greatly loved.

I remember a day when I was being irrationally anxious. I was out in Belfast, in a city I didn’t know with a couple of friends, and I was feeling irrationally afraid of something bad happening in a place I didn’t know. We couldn’t find anywhere to go, and were walking around, and I was feeling haunted by anxiety. I was praying and trying to calm down, but it wasn’t really helping.

And then God did something amazing! You see, we weren’t the only ones in Belfast that day. Other friends were also in the country, as we had all been over for a wedding. But the chances of groups of us bumping into each other were very small. Only, as we are walking along, me feeling anxious and afraid, suddenly, randomly there were two more of our friends! It felt like such an encouragement from the Lord, and I suddenly felt protected and safe. Except, that wasn’t even the end of it! The five of us began to walk, chatting… and ‘randomly’ bumped into two more friends! Suddenly, there was a big group of us, laughing and going for coffee together.

It was a lesson from the Lord for me. He knew I felt alone and vulnerable, and so He sent friends to surround me. But it wasn’t really about them: it was about Him and His fierce, tender protection of me, His anxious child. As we walked back to our car, we passed an advert with words telling me that I would never be alone. And I knew God was encouraging me that it’s really true.

There is no need to be anxious about the big things, and there is no need to be anxious about the smaller things, either. The gaps in our minds can quickly become filled with anything we feel we could be afraid of; anything we don’t have control of. But the promises of God’s Word, and surrender to His plan, trusting in His goodness, can bring a sweet, strengthening peace. Because He will never, never ever let us down, and we will never, ever, ever walk alone.

And it frees us up to reach out in love to others, too.

What a way to live: to live loved, and knowing it; to live secure, wholeheartedly living in the love of your Father, fulfilling the purpose that He has for you, peacefully and joyfully loving and giving and being loved. This is a truly beautiful way to live- and it can have a powerful impact on the world. And it is rooted deeply in knowing that you are really, truly loved.

 

Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

When the road has seemed just too hard…

Has your story felt too hard? Has your hope been stretched too thin?

Have you begun to think that there’s no way you can find hope again?

Give space for God to work.

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If you are a Christian, belonging to God through Jesus Christ and following Him, then you can be sure that God has an amazing, astounding plan to bless you in the end.

Sometimes, this life is so tough. Sometimes the road takes you into far darker places than you ever thought you’d go. Sometimes, following Jesus and sharing Him is the very reason it gets so hard.

But that’s never the end of the story.

He can restore in wonderful ways. Don’t underestimate what He can do! The deepest, darkest places of your story, the places where you felt forsaken by Him and stretched beyond what you could bear, can become places where His light shines the brightest… if you let Him in.

Offer yourself fully to Him, scars and all, and let Him work. Let Him shine His healing love into your darkest places, filling you with new peace and freedom.

When things are hard, and have been hard for a long time, it’s easy to draw the conclusion that God’s heart is not kind: that somehow He is being cruel, or maybe overlooking your suffering, because He doesn’t really care. But that is never, ever our Father’s heart. He is always plotting something good for those who are trusting in Christ. And, more than that, He is hurting with you. It hurts Him even more than it hurts you.

And I think maybe it hurts His heart even more when your heart doubts His love.

‘You number my wanderings;
Put my tears into Your bottle;
Are they not in Your book?’

Psalm 56:8

God has a bottle in which He holds all of your tears. That’s how much you mean to Him. He has seen your suffering, and He knows what He has been through. He does not waste anything.

And your story is not over yet.

Oh, how God wants to comfort you with His love!

‘Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.’

2 Corinthians 1:3-4

Ever wanted someone to hold you close as you cry?

‘As one whom his mother comforts,
So I will comfort you;
And you shall be comforted in Jerusalem.’

Isaiah 66:13

And don’t you believe that any tear will ever be missed. He is waiting to wipe every one dry, not just comforting you now, but soothing indescribably with His tender love in eternity… when He will put everything right.

‘And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.”‘

Revelation 21:3-4

In the Old Testament, we see how God’s people, Israel, suffered in their exile. This was their own fault. It was punishment for their idolatry and rebellion. They had disobeyed God, and He had warned them that judgement would come. But, even so, God bled with them. We see His heart in Lamentations, as Jeremiah pours out God’s heart of grief for His people’s suffering. And then we see His tender, wholehearted yearning to do His people good. He cannot wait to restore! He even tells them about it in advance, before the suffering has even properly begun, because He is so keen for them to have hope, and not to give up in despair. He is so good that He will not spare the good that must be done through allowing the suffering, but He is longing for the time when He can bless them and do them good. In fact, He says that He will delight in doing them good! He is our Father, too, and surely He has this heart for us, too.

The darkest places in your life can become places of double honour, and double joy, in God’s amazing ways of turning brokenness in beauty. Offer them up to Him, and for ask His help. He can bring joy into the hurting places, peace into the pain and even double joy!

Look at what He said to His Old Testament people in Isaiah:

“Instead of your shame you shall have double honor,
And instead of confusion they shall rejoice in their portion.
Therefore in their land they shall possess double;
Everlasting joy shall be theirs.” Isaiah 61:7

He can transform the wilderness and the waste places in your life. He can make them like Eden: like that first, tear-free garden of the Lord, when all was pure and good. He can fill the dark places with gladness and joy. He can replace the tears with songs of hope.

‘For the Lord will comfort Zion,
He will comfort all her waste places;
He will make her wilderness like Eden,
And her desert like the garden of the Lord;
Joy and gladness will be found in it,
Thanksgiving and the voice of melody.’

Isaiah 51:3

Freedom begins when we surrender: when we let go of our plans, our ideas and our holding onto things, and we let God in, turn things over to Him and let Him be in charge.

And, yes, there is a cost. Sometimes God cuts deep into our hearts; takes things from our clinging fingers; cuts deep like a wise Surgeon; take us deeper than we really want to go. But it’s always for a good reason. It’s always to do something good. And the greatest good of all is knowing God Himself.

Sometimes we are clinging too tightly to other things, when God wants to give us Himself.

‘For My people have committed two evils:
They have forsaken Me, the fountain of living waters,
And hewn themselves cisterns—broken cisterns that can hold no water.’

Jeremiah 2:13

We can’t truly know the joy until we let go of what we are clinging to, surrender and let Him be All in all.

That’s when the healing begins.

It may take time. It may take tears. Sometimes it can feel like a long, hard process. Sometimes it gets harder before it gets better. Sometimes God feels far away, and the process is deep and painful. But our Lord is thorough in His love and His healing because He really wants us to be free. He really wants us to have joy! And, if we do things His way, surrendering to Him, seeking His kingdom first and choosing to pour out our lives for others, sowing through our tears, no matter how had it feels, there will be a day when we know joy that we never had imagined.

‘When the Lord brought back the captivity of Zion,
We were like those who dream.
Then our mouth was filled with laughter,
And our tongue with singing.
Then they said among the nations,
“The Lord has done great things for them.”
The Lord has done great things for us,
And we are glad.

Bring back our captivity, O Lord,
As the streams in the South.

Those who sow in tears
Shall reap in joy.
He who continually goes forth weeping,
Bearing seed for sowing,
Shall doubtless come again with rejoicing,
Bringing his sheaves with him.’

Psalm 126

Sometimes we see it in this life. Sometimes there is God’s afterwards, where Heaven breaks in with amazing provision, and we stand stunned at what God has done. Sometimes we must wait for eternity before the tears are wiped away. But we can be sure that He will not fail us, and He will never give us more than we can bear. His plans are good beyond our wildest dreams: so good that we couldn’t begin to imagine what they will be!

‘But as it is written:“Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, Nor have entered into the heart of man The things which God has prepared for those who love Him.”’ 1 Corinthians 2:9b

‘For since the beginning of the world
Men have not heard nor perceived by the ear,
Nor has the eye seen any God besides You,
Who acts for the one who waits for Him.’

Isaiah 64:4

Wait for Him, and He will work for you. Oh, He will work for you!

Don’t ever underestimate Him.

Oh, and, by the way, the greatest good is knowing Him. Sometimes, the sweetest places are the darkest, because it’s where we meet Him. When you have nowhere else to go, you can find Him. Jesus is always Enough.

Seek Him in your sorrow. Bring it to Him. Turn towards Him, not away from Him, let go of what you are clinging to and let Him be God. He will amaze you by what He does.

So don’t let your enemy take your hope.

Look up to your Lord, surrender, and He will blow your mind!

Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.’

Ephesians 3:20-21

 

Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Thoughts from my tent..

I just got back from another week of camping. These are thoughts I wrote while I was there…

So I’m back in a tent for another week of worshipping Jesus with many others and sharing about what He is doing across the seas in Asia. And, again, it has made me think.

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There is something so, so good in lifting up our eyes and remembering the glory of the One Who reigns above all: about realising that it’s really all about Him. True, lasting joy is found not in the blessings of this world, but in revelling in Who He is and what it means to know Him. And it’s so good to lift up our eyes and know that God reigns. Beyond the suffering, beyond the trials, beyond the tears, the Lord is on the throne, and He is worth it all. There is no joy like worshipping Him.

There is something so precious about worshipping Him together: about forgetting for a few moments the tough, narrow road to Glory and remembering why it’s worth it to follow Him: remembering where we’re headed: remembering Who He is.

Because there really is a living, loving God, and He really is on the throne. He remains supreme and He is stunningly, astoundingly good. At the cross, He made an intimate, tender, crazily beautiful way for us to know Him as Father. And, for those who trust in Christ and follow Him, the ultimate reality is stunning and astounding and unbelievably good: the satisfaction of the deepest, yearning longings of our hearts: the marriage of Christ and His people for eternity.

This is a broken world. It’s not how it was meant to be, and sometimes it’s very, very tough. But there is a plan… An ultimate, eternal plan of everlasting, glorious Hope with God forever…With the One Who reigns and rules and loves… and Who saves all who come to Him through Christ.

We stood last night, rejoicing in a big tent, singing together in different languages to celebrate our unity across the nations in Christ. We sang about our eternal Hope. We sang it passionately, full of joy, anticipating our eternal future with Him.

One day, not too far away, God’s people be with Him forever, where there are no tears or pain, and He will wipe our tears away… And we will realise more than ever that all our hearts have ever really longed for is Him.

‘And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.”’ Revelation 21:3-4

He is the ultimate Reality. He is on the throne. And He is the One Who really satisfies, and is worth it all.

‘You will show me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.’ Psalm 16:11

It’s so good to lift up our eyes and worship and celebrate in revel in that.

If you know Jesus, the Reality is so, so, wonderfully, freeingly, eternally GOOD!!

(And if you don’t know Jesus yet as your Saviour and Lord, you really, really need to get to know Him before you meet Him as your Judge. He is waiting for you with open arms).

 

Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

More on anxiety… How being loved changes everything…

Our Father always knows what’s best. Sometimes that’s easy to see. Often, it’s very hard. But it’s true, just the same. If we are following Jesus, we are so, so secure in God’s love (and if you’re not a Christian yet, you can find that security by becoming one!).

God has been encouraging me in a lot of thing lately- and I’m struggling to grasp them, and live them. But they’re still worth sharing, because they’re true… and I think they could be life-changing!

As Christians, we are surrounded by more love than we could ever dream of. As God’s children, we are secure in His love.

Because He loves us, we can have peace that His plan is best.

Because He loves us, we can trust in the dark, when we don’t understand.

Because He loves us, the sting of fear of the future can be gone.

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“There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love.” 1 John 4:18

In Him, we can find peace, because He loves us. We can rest in the Lord- trusting, and therefore at peace. No hurry, because God’s timing is perfect. No care, because God is our heavenly Father. No worry, because God cares for us.

Do you,like me, live in constant low-level anxiety, afraid that everything will fall apart, afraid that you won’t be able to cope; afraid that you won’t have what you need? Being in control will never resolve that, because little human beings are never ‘in control’ enough to silence our fears. Knowing what will happen will never resolve that, because there are always new things we could worry about in this world (and God knows we can’t handle knowing too much).  There is really only one resolution, and that is grasping more of the Father’s love. The more we meditate on His love as Father, the more we can be at peace, because we know that He cares so much.

“As a father pities his children,
So the Lord pities those who fear Him.
For He knows our frame;
He remembers that we are dust.” Psalm 103:13-14

When we begin to understand that our Heavenly Father cares for us so tenderly, and that He reigns sovereign over circumstance in our lives, our fear begins to lose its grip. If He shows tender compassion to His children like a father for his child, then we can be assured that He is watching over us so very, very tenderly; so very, very lovingly… and we can trust that He always has our best interests at heart, and will never make a mistake.

The more we trust in His love, the more we will find peace. This is the life He wants for us: the life of simple peace and quiet trust, abiding in our Father’s love.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
And lean not on your own understanding“. Proverbs 3:5

As we meditate on what He is like, we realise that He is tender, compassionate and kind. He will not let your needs slip through His fingers. He never forgets how frail you are, or how much you need His care. If you belong to Jesus, Jesus is always interceding for you, and He will never forget your need. You are dearly, dearly loved and cared for, and in that you can find abundant hope, rest and peace. Where is the place for fear in the light of such loving care as this?

He often asks me a question: “Do you trust Me?”

It’s so simple. Will I actively decide to believe: to rest in His goodness: to trust that He is in control: to trust that He will be good to me?

If I trust Him, the fear, anxiety and striving will go away. The weight comes from thought patterns I practice so that I will be control. But He asks me to lay down my understanding and simply to trust. In that, I will find peace, joy and strength to face whatever He sends.

“Who among you fears the Lord?
Who obeys the voice of His Servant?
Who walks in darkness
And has no light?
Let him trust in the name of the Lord
And rely upon his God.” Isaiah 50:10

Trust. It feels such a good, wholesome, comforting thing to do that I somehow think it’s a luxury that is just too good… But it’s not just a luxury. It’s a command. And it’s help and healing and peace: actively resting in the peaceful assurance that He is Who He is, and that He will do me good. And He wants to give the sweetest, most incredible peace that He wants to give as we trust in His goodness, wisdom and love.

“Do not sorrow, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” Nehemiah 8:10b

Nor my eyes lofty.
Neither do I concern myself with great matters,
Nor with things too profound for me.

Surely I have calmed and quieted my soul,
Like a weaned child with his mother;
Like a weaned child is my soul within me.

O Israel, hope in the Lord
From this time forth and forever.”

Ps 131.

 

“Underneath us, O how easy!

We have not to mount on high,

But to sink into His fullness

And in trustful weakness lie;

And we find our humbling failures

Save us from the strength that harms;

We may fail, but underneath us

Are the everlasting arms.”

(‘Art thou sunk in depths of sorrow’, Albert B. Simpson: 1843-1919 (Public Domain))

This is the place of freedom: the place of being little: a little child with a big Dad. When you are little, you don’t have to know the answers. You don’t need to be in control. You don’t need to understand anything at all! You can just be still and let Him be God. And we see in Psalm 131 that this place of humility, of not lifting up our hearts or eyes too high, is not a difficult place to be but rather a place of peace and rest: a place where we can just rest in our Father’s embrace… and just be loved. It reminds me of Zephaniah 3:17:

‘In that day it shall be said to Jerusalem:
“Do not fear;
Zion, let not your hands be weak.
The Lord your God in your midst,
The Mighty One, will save;
He will rejoice over you with gladness,
He will quiet you with His love,
He will rejoice over you with singing.’ Zephaniah 3:16-17

What an encouragement! It’s a picture of our Heavenly Father singing over us, rejoicing over us with delight as He holds us close to His heart. What a reason to hope! As human beings on this little planet, we see very little. We have no idea of the heavenly realities going on around us, do we? And, yes, there is the reality of spiritual battle… of the demonic… of the angelic… of lots of things we have no idea about. But there is this, too: there is the Father’s song of loving delight over His children in Christ! And we can be little, and rest in that!

Oh, how your Heavenly Father loves you! If only you could get a grasp of His wide, vast, unending love, what a difference it would make to everything! He is there, waiting for you to realise how much He loves you… waiting for you to realise that He is waiting for you, waiting for you to realise that you can come… just as you are… that all of your trying is only keeping you away… that all He wants is you: humble, surrendered, just as you are… and He will meet you there. And oh, oh, His love! His wide, wonderful, astounding love… His love that satisfies… His love that we can never understand because it is so, so big! Let go of your trying. Just look up. Look at Him. Receive. Let Him meet you just where, just as you are. His love will meet your every need… will set you free, if you will only come to Him.

 “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 

For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30

No, I haven’t ‘got’ these things yet. But I think they could be life-changing… don’t you?

 

Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

More for worriers like me…

Ok, so I think I need to blog again on trust, because it’s an issue God is speaking to me about, and trying to encourage others encourages my heart, too!

I once heard a talk about faith that described faith as risk. The talk was about the story of Ruth. Faith was described in this way:

Faith is the calculated risk of the person who knows her God.

Whilst I was greatly helped by that statement, it needs clarifying: from the world’s side of things, sometimes obeying God looks like risk. From the side of reality, which is the side of faith in God’s promises, there is no risk at all… because the risk is grounded in the character of God, which guarantees that the outcome for God’s child in Christ can only be good… not necessarily everything we want in the way or at the time we want it, but what God ordains for us, which will always be good! 🙂

This is what the statement is saying: if you know the character of the God of the Bible, you will be prepared to act on the basis of His promises, taking what seem to be crazy risks, because you trust the character of God.

And what is our God like? He is all-powerful, completely wise and so very, very loving.image

In God’s power, we find our confidence that He has the power to whatever He wants to, and that nothing is impossible for Him. Nothing can happen to us without His permission.

In God’s wisdom, we find our confidence that He will always do the best thing.

In God’s love, we find our hope that God will do us good (if we come to Him through Jesus), despite the fact that we don’t deserve it… this is the glorious goodness of our God! He delights in doing His children good!

So…. If God’s promises are true, and they’re not going to break… If God’s Word is not going to fail, and God has promised in His Word to always give what’s best for His children in Christ… Why not relax and enjoy the ride? Be radical and go and have fun as you obey God and wait for His perfect will for you! After all, there is no risk! He’s not going to fail you! So… live with a merry heart! I dare you!

Yes, the Christian life may be hard. In fact, the very fact that we are following Jesus will bring us trials, some of which will stretch us to the very edge of what we can bear, because our Heavenly Father loves us enough to teach us and because His aim in our lives is to make us like Himself. However, God does not want us to live in fear of what will happen to us. Instead, the Bible contains amazing teaching about how to live in joy and peace, no matter what our outward circumstances may be. We can trust His loving heart, His perfect sovereignty over every situation and His amazing, wonderful, ultimate plan.

God did not mean for us to live our lives in worry and anxiety, always worried about how things will turn out. No, He wants His children in Christ to be free, living in joy and peace and hope no matter what our circumstances may be today, no matter what they have been in the past and no matter what they will be in the future… because we can trust Him to do us good.

“For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.” Jeremiah 29:11

God wants us to live in freedom, joy and peace, honouring Him as we continually trust Him to provide for our needs and as we live in the freedom of faith.

“I know that nothing is better for them than to rejoice, and to do good in their lives, and also that every man should eat and drink and enjoy the good of all his labor—it is the gift of God.” Ecclesiastes 3:13

And we can know that, if we belong to Him in Jesus, His heart is always ultimately to bless us.

“Therefore the Lord will wait, that He may be gracious to you;
And therefore He will be exalted, that He may have mercy on you.
For the Lord is a God of justice;
Blessed are all those who wait for Him.” Isaiah 30:18

I remember when the Lord gave me this verse. It was so obviously from Him: it just jumped out at me from the Word, and it deeply comforted me. At the time, I was deeply worried about my future; about things I could do nothing about. It was so simple, and yet so profound. What was I called to do? Was I called to engineer things myself: to worry and plan and work it all out and make it all happen? No, it was so, so simple: I was called to rest: to simply be quiet and to trust in God. This was the way to strength and help: simply to rest in God. I knew that this didn’t mean inactivity: the Lord had things for me to do there and then. But, nevertheless, there was nothing that I could do, apart from to pray and to live out the tasks God had given me each day… with joy and peace and energy, because there was no point being worried and anxious when the Lord had promised to provide for me!

I began to find a sweet, wonderful joy in living one day at a time: committing the future to the Lord and focusing on the immediate task at hand, with a heart that increasingly began to be at rest. As I did so, I found so much strength and hope in serving in the immediate: whether that was helping at an evangelistic event, meeting a younger Christian sister or carrying out mundane tasks.

Whenever I gave in to worry, my strength was drained and I became weak and despondent, selfish and distracted from the needs of others. Whenever I put my hope in the Lord and focused on serving Him where I was, I would be filled with strength and joy, and find myself able to serve with deep happiness in God.

I’d forgotten that. But it’s very good to remember!

But it’s not always easy to live that way, is it? Especially not when there are real things you could worry about.

I think that trust is something you fight for: it’s not something that comes easily all the time. It’s not something that always feels good.

It’s a decision that is made with or without feelings: a decision to bank your all on the faithfulness of the One Who is always faithful.

Maybe trust is choosing to do the thing God has placed in front of you; to serve the person who needs your help, even when you are anxious yourself, choosing to believe that, as you take care of others, He will take care of you.

“But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” Matthew 6:33-34

I remember a time when I had a bit of a breakthrough revelation. I would get into swirling downward cycles of anxiety which pulled me down, and I couldn’t work out how it had happened. And then I realised something: it always starts with one thought. And I can choose to fight that thought with God’s truth (or to do so as soon as I catch it!). I can choose to prevent that cycle by deliberating filling my mind with other things: by singing, listening to Scripture, listening to Bible teaching, calling a friend or choosing to dwell on positive things. It wasn’t an immediate fix, but there was real progress. It’s something I’d forgotten, and it’s something I need to remember again. And it’s something I need to choose to do constantly! It’s not automatic and it’s not easy, but it works!

“Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.” Philippians 4:8

It’s not easy and it’s not immediate, but we can grow and make progress- and find increasing peace and joy in our God and increasing freedom as we serve Him.

I’m in. Want to give it a try? 😉

(If you don’t know the blessings of knowing the Father through Jesus yet and the amazing peace He can give, the Father is longing to bless you, too- with the blessing of eternal salvation and forgiveness through surrendering to Jesus, believing in Him and following Him as your Saviour and Lord… for your rescue from the coming judgement… and for eternal hope. He has been waiting for you all along. His heart longs to sweep you up in His awesome, eternal love).

 

Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

For worriers like me…

Do you ever struggle with worry?

So often, the answer is found just in resting in the Father’s love.

I am such a worrier. I look ahead and try to see what God will do: how He will provide. I panic and fret and try to make God’s plans for Him. But I am learning that there is a place of peace: a place not of knowing the answers, but of knowing Him.

A lesson that God has been speaking to me lately is about trust. One of my greatest failings is anxiety, and God has been speaking into it: encouraging me that the solution is found in trusting my Father’s love: that He really loves me, and, because He does, I don’t need to worry, because He really will work everything for my good.

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The Christian life is not meant to be a life of hopelessness, but a life of peace, joy and victory. Yes, it is likely to be a life that includes trials and tears, and, yes, there will be tough times, but, through it all, dependence on the Lord Jesus can bring a peace and joy into it all that the unbeliever would think impossible.

The key to joy is worship: having God first in our lives and being satisfied in Him alone, with or without any other gifts that He may choose to give us- and not for the sake of joy itself, but out of deep and real love for God.

“Whom have I in heaven but You? And there is none upon earth that I desire besides You. My flesh and my heart fail; But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” Psalm 73:25

And there is such peace in His presence: in simply knowing Him as Father: in knowing that He is love, and that His love is always, always enough.

Knowing Him is better than knowing the answers. Knowing Him is better than knowing what will happen. Knowing Him is peace in the very middle of the storm… because, if you know Him and you know that He loves you, you can trust… and trusting takes away the need for answers.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths.” Proverbs 3:5-6

I was speaking to a friend the other day, and she was reminding me of something very simple and very true: we are called to trust Him. We are called to have faith. We are called to believe Him, even when we don’t understand.

And that believing is surely rooted in knowing Him; in His presence; in His love.

Because, when you know Him, you can trust Him as Father; you can trust in His love.

“For thus says the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel:“In returning and rest you shall be saved; In quietness and confidence shall be your strength.” From Isaiah 30:15

You know, it sounds crazy, but the more I think about it, the more I’m beginning to think that the life God means for His children is a life of freedom and joy: not without hard work or trials, but without worry, because He really has got it all in His strong, capable hands.

When I was nineteen, I went to a summer school at a Bible college. During the final question session, a number of us asked questions about guidance and finding God‟s will for our lives. As students wrestling with the impact of the Bible in our lives, there were important questions to consider about questions like full-time ministry, mission, vocation, marriage, money… I don’t know about everyone else, but, for me, those questions were questions full of anxiety- I handled them with a heavy heart, fearful that God would let me down…

So the advice of one of the speakers really stuck with me. He gave principles, advice and information about possible options. But before he did that, he said the most helpful thing:

“Relax!”

If we were honestly seeking Him, we weren’t going to miss God leading us! He would make it clear, in His time… so, instead of sinning by worrying, we should relax and enjoy the ride!

What if we could relax and ENJOY abundant life in Christ as we joyfully serve Him? He will not fail us and, boy, will we miss out if we spend all our time worrying! Instead, maybe we can even have fun as we watch for Him to work things out in His wholly faithful and wholly perfect way and time! 

“A merry heart does good, like medicine, But a broken spirit dries the bones.” Proverbs 17:22

“Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:4-7

The Lord recently reminded me of a time when He really encouraged me: I was out for the day, and I was waiting at a bus stop when a stranger, a girl, came up to me. She said that she felt that God wanted to encourage me with something: LIGHTER! It’s not meant to be a heavy burden!

I knew that that was from God. And I have found it so  hard to apply. But it’s true- and it’s good news! We can relax! Trusting in God, life isn’t meant to be so heavy!

The bedrock of this attitude is the character of our God… He is LOVE!!!

And, when we are sure of Him, we are free to pour out our lives in service of others, seeking to share His love with them, secure that He will take care of us. 🙂

“But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” Matthew 6:33

I love the very true words of this old hymn:

Like a river glorious is God’s perfect peace,
Over all victorious, in its bright increase;
Perfect, yet it floweth fuller every day,
Perfect, yet it groweth deeper all the way.
Stayed upon Jehovah, hearts are fully blest
Finding, as He promised, perfect peace and rest.

Hidden in the hollow of His blessed hand,

Never foe can follow, never traitor stand;
Not a surge of worry, not a shade of care,
Not a blast of hurry touch the spirit there.

 

Every joy or trial falleth from above,

Traced upon our dial by the Sun of Love;
We may trust Him fully, all for us to do;
They who trust Him wholly find Him wholly true.

(‘Like a River Glorious’, Francis Ridley Havergal, Public Domain)

I’m not saying I’ve got this. I really haven’t! Just ask my friends! But it’s what He’s showing me is possible. And I think it’s worth growing towards, don’t you? 😉

 

(Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.)