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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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’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.