When You Can’t Sleep

Do you ever struggle with not being able to get to sleep? I do!

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A battle I go through regularly is a battle to get to sleep. I’m so blessed not to have full insomnia, but getting enough sleep is something I struggle with often. It often comes back every few days, more depending on how much is going on around and inside me! I’m not sure how much wisdom I have on it yet, but I thought it might be a good idea to blog about it, if that’s okay. I pray it blesses you too.

So here are some of the things I think I have been learning…

Normally, I can’t sleep because I am tense: anxious about something, trying to figure things out, or else just too busy processing everything that has happened until my heart can get to a place of quiet. Good things keep me awake as well as bad ones, especially if I am processing them.

It’s generally anything that is not yet quiet in my heart and mind- and often, if it is becoming an issue, tension because I’m anxious that I’m not asleep yet! Then, of course, I get more and more tense, and I lay there for a long, long time… until eventually all goes quiet… and I’m asleep.

I think sleep comes when your mind goes quiet.

And I think a big part of the solution is to relax.

And the foundation for that is knowing that, ultimately, all will be well. That root of that is being forgiven; accepted; lovedand secure in the love of Father God (which happens when you come to Him, turn from wrong and receive His forgiveness through Jesus, following Him as your Lord).

I’m an expert at overreacting to things; assuming the worst and getting upset… when things probably aren’t that bad.

And lack of sleep probably isn’t a big a deal as I think it is when I’m lying awake.

I’ve learned by experience that I won’t die if I have a night of no sleep at all. It doesn’t happen often, but it does sometimes. It’s not great, but I’ve survived.

I’ll feel pretty rubbish the next day, but I’ll be okay. I’ve also learned by experience that the insomnia will break eventually. In a few days, if I just stay calm about it, one day soon I’ll be surprised by a good night’s sleep, and I’ll feel more strength come back again, and I’ll feel loads better. And, the more I just relax and stop stressing about it, the more quickly that will happen.

I’ve also learned that being very tired is not necessarily a bad thing. It does make me more sensitive, more easily upset and more easily stressed. It does make it hard to get through the day. But it also makes me very dependent on God because of that. I know I can’t do an exhausted day on my own: that I need God in a special way. And so I’m more intentional. I pray harder. I lean on God more. I ask others to pray for me (I’m so blessed to work in an office of believers). And I find deep peace and strength coming in. It’s more of His strength, and less of mine. It’s beautiful.

I’ve also learned that often I just expect too much of myself. I stay up late and try to do so much because I think that must be what God wants to do. A few years ago, the Lord spoke to me deeply through Ps 127:

‘Unless the Lord builds the house,
They labor in vain who build it;
Unless the Lord guards the city,
The watchman stays awake in vain.
It is vain for you to rise up early,
To sit up late,
To eat the bread of sorrows;
For so He gives His beloved sleep.’ Psalm 127:1-2

It was a breakthrough realisation.

I am only called to do the things the Lord is leading me to do, and, even then, it won’t work unless His hand is on it and, if it is, He’ll be the One carrying the weight and opening up the way. I am not called to do everything. And it’s okay to take time to sleep. Sleep is a gift from God.

That means that an early night isn’t a crime. Making time to ready a book to wind down is okay. I am not called to do everything, and it really is okay to make time to rest.

I’m called to serve God for the long term. It’s a marathon, not a sprint.My salvation is dependent on what Jesus did for me, not on anything I do. And sleep is a gift from God.

But, I also think something that would be really helpful with getting to sleep is to receive the peace of God into my spirit. If I can tune into the spiritual reality of my Father’s love for me, quietening me, reassuring me, my heart will be quieter; more at peace.

I realised that the other day: I lay there, trying to get calm and go to sleep, and I sensed that Father there, loving me, wanting to pour peace into me; wanting to hold me in His arms and soothe my restless thoughts.

‘”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 3:17

‘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,
10 Even there Your hand shall lead me,
And Your right hand shall hold me.
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness shall fall[a] on me,”
Even the night shall be light about me;
12 Indeed, the darkness shall not hide from You,
But the night shines as the day;
The darkness and the light are both alike to You.’ Psalm 139:7-12

‘Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed.
And in Your book they all were written,
The days fashioned for me,
When as yet there were none of them.’ Psalm 139:16

Actually, I suspect maybe the Lord allows the sleeplessness to show me the tension in my heart, because He wants to comfort it. If He gave me sleep straight away, every time I asked for it, I wouldn’t learn how to receive His peace for the things that are keeping me awake. I wouldn’t discover the peace He wants to give.

Realising that my God is with me, for me and in control. Because I am a child of God through Jesus, I have no reason to live in fear anymore. Realising that the things I have not yet resolved in my mind are secure in His hands. Realising that I am loved and, in Christ, because I am forgiven through Him, everything is ultimately going to be okay.

I think the Lord has also given me a key that I’m still learning how to use: His Word. If you repeat a Bible verse to yourself, over and over again, your mind and your spirit will go quiet. It’s like a muscle; I forget to do it. I struggle to do it. Sometimes it feels like it’s not working. But there have been lots of times when it’s really helped… when I’ve woken up in the morning and I realise I had decided to think about a verse… and then I woke up, and it was morning.

My dear friend Jane recommends this verse:

‘I will both lie down in peace, and sleep;
For You alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.’ Psalm 4:8

It speaks peace into your spirit; as well as your mind.

And there are others, too:

‘I lay down and slept;
I awoke, for the Lord sustained me.’ Psalm 3:5

‘“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

‘Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.’ Matthew 6:34

‘Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.’ John 14:27

There will be grace for tomorrow, however tired I am. There is grace for lying awake, too. I can use the long moments of sleeplessness to pray; to receive rest into my spirit: to lift my heart and concerns up to God; to rest in His arms; to receive His love.

And, whether I sleep or not, I can rest in His arms, knowing He will give all the grace I need and fill all the exhausted gaps with His love. 🙂

 

(There is so much comfort and help we can draw from God, and He longs to give it to us. However, the first thing we all need to do is come to Him for forgiveness and rescue from the eternal judgement we all face. We need to come to Him, turn from wrong, surrender to follow Him and receive what Jesus did for sinners on the cross. That’s the way back to God: the way to His forgiveness and grace and eternal life. On sleepless nights and all the time, He is waiting for you to come to Him).

 

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

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How Knowing God’s Love Can Help With Fear of a New Year…

Do you ever feel a little bit of fear about going into a new year?

To be honest, I do.

I think one of my greatest weaknesses is fear and hesitancy. There’s generally some low-level fear going on in my heart about something or other.

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I know Jesus. I am forgiven and accepted in Him. I have eternal hope. But, when I look at a new year, I find a little bit of fear rising in my heart, especially if there are things I’m worried about.

My sweet friend Ellen encouraged me a while ago with something like this: ‘Be strong. Don’t be afraid.’ It was wise advice. Ellen knows me well. And it’s advice I generally need- to be strong and not be afraid.

My friends prayed for me the other day about my fear of the new year. Dear Brenda encouraged me to live one moment at a time, and take one day at a time. Wise advice! We also prayed about a situation where someone needed help with a stair lift. And I realised going forward with God can be a bit like getting on a stair lift: you get on and you are carried.

And I sense my Heavenly Father encouraging me with something like this: Because I am forgiven through Jesus (as we all need to be), I have such peace and hope in Him. I am surrounded by His love. His loving arms are always round me. I am His precious, dearly loved child. His provision will always meet me (maybe in ways I don’t expect, but it will). It doesn’t mean there won’t be suffering, but it does mean I don’t need to be afraid of it. He will give me all I need, tenderly and abundantly. So long as you are trusting in and following in Jesus (and that’s the big condition), everything is ultimately going to be okay.

I hear this phrase in my head often these days: Do not be afraid. 

And it’s spot on. What reason do I have to be afraid when I have such a kind, faithful Father leading the way?

God recently encouraged me with the words He spoke to Jacob when he was about to go to Egypt.

 ‘So Israel took his journey with all that he had, and came to Beersheba, and offered sacrifices to the God of his father Isaac. Then God spoke to Israel in the visions of the night, and said, “Jacob, Jacob!”

And he said, “Here I am.”

So He said, “I am God, the God of your father; do not fear to go down to Egypt, for I will make of you a great nation there. I will go down with you to Egypt, and I will also surely bring you up again; and Joseph will put his hand on your eyes.”

Then Jacob arose from Beersheba; and the sons of Israel carried their father Jacob, their little ones, and their wives, in the carts which Pharaoh had sent to carry him.’ Genesis 46:1-60

The Lord was moving Jacob forward in His plans for Jacob’s life, but there was no reason for Jacob to hesitate or be afraid. The Lord knew why He was sending Jacob back to Egypt, and it was for a good reason. And Jacob was going to be carried all the way there, tenderly provided for in a wagon by Pharaoh himself. It was time to move forward, but it was not time to be afraid, because God was going with him, would bless him and would carry him all the way there and meet him when he got there.

I like to take time before a new year to seek Him for goals for the year. It’s a really helpful way to focus. It’s a big reason why I managed to make an album last year (I knew it was one the goals for the year that I felt God had given me). But sometimes I need to seek Him for His encouragement, too.

Do not be afraid.

Why? Because the Lord is going with me all the way, and He will abundantly be all I need.

If you trust and follow Jesus (and you need to, and can!), He will be abundantly all you need too. 🙂

God bless you in 2018! 🙂

(The way to find true peace and hope (and the rescue from judgement that we all need) is to follow Jesus: to believe He died for what you have done wrong, to turn from sin, believe in Him and surrender to follow Him all your life. It’s the way of rescue from eternal judgement and Hell we all face, and it’s the way of true peace and hope through this life… and the way to eternal joy. It’s not always an easy path, but it’s the way of true blessing as you find your true hope in God and His incredible love for you).

 

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

 

 

What Does it Mean?

What does it mean? We take it so lightly; sing it so familiarly.

But it’s breathtaking. Astounding. Life changing.

God came down to earth as a baby.

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What did Charles Wesley write? Our God contracted to span. Incomprehensibly made man.

He spoke the world into being. Forever, He has always been there, in an endless reality of abundant, loving life.

His voice holds all of us together.

He placed the stars in the sky; knit me together in the womb; holds all of our days in His hands.

The awesome, eternal, infinite God.

Think of space: the huge, wide, stunning expanse that goes on and on and still cannot begin to contain the God Who made it all.

Think of eternity.

Think of a Voice that spoke the universe into being.

Contracted to a span.

He grew in the womb. The cells divided. The embryo was formed. He grew there: His brain; His hands; His heart.

But He was God.

God Who was born in a mess of blood and tears as all of us were… the King Who was born into dirt and dust in a smelly stable.

But He was God.

God contracted to a span.

The words are so powerful: talking of hope for all who believe and follow Him:

“Let earth and Heaven combine,
Angels and men agree,
To praise in songs divine
The incarnate Deity,
Our God contracted to a span,
Incomprehensibly made Man.

He laid His glory by,
He wrapped Him in our clay;
Unmarked by human eye,
The latent Godhead lay;
Infant of days He here became,
And bore the mild Immanuel’s Name.

See in that Infant’s face
The depths of deity,
And labor while ye gaze
To sound the mystery
In vain; ye angels gaze no more,
But fall, and silently adore.

Unsearchable the love
That hath the Savior brought;
The grace is far above
Of men or angels’ thought:
Suffice for us that God, we know,
Our God, is manifest below.

He deigns in flesh t’appear,
Widest extremes to join;
To bring our vileness near,
And make us all divine:
And we the life of God shall know,
For God is manifest below.

Made perfect first in love,
And sanctified by grace,
We shall from earth remove,
And see His glorious face:
His love shall then be fully showed,
And man shall all be lost in God.”

Charles Wesley, ‘Let Earth and Heaven Combine’, public domain

God Who is not just infinite and vast and eternal (though He is).

God Who was willing to be made small.

God Who cares so very tenderly.

God Who is love.

So when I feel the pain of this world’s sting, so has He.

So when I feel alone and misunderstood, so has He.

So when I think no-one understands, He does.

He is God.

But He came close; was made small.

There He lay in the manger, with tiny lungs; tiny hands. Tiny cries of a newborn child.

God reaching out to us.

Coming so small; so vulnerable. Placing Himself at the mercy of this cruel, heartless world. Reaching out in a way that you and I could never have imagined.

‘6 who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men.’ Philippians 2:6-7

The Son of God became one of us, because He loves us that much.

Take time. Make time. Kneel at the manger.

Gaze at Him; think of Him; love Him.

Baby Jesus lying in the manger. Your God, Who loves you that much.

Who gave Himself to make a way for you to come back to Him.

The God Who is with us now.

No matter your circumstances, may you meet with Him this Christmas and ever afterwards… and find all your heart has ever truly craved in Him.

Happy Christmas and God bless you!

 

(He gave Himself in the manger, and then on the cross, that you might know Him. When you come to Him, turn from wrong and receive the free forgiveness He offers, surrendering your life to follow Him, you will find the hope, forgiveness and eternal life He offers. He is reaching out to you now).

 

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

 

The True Source of Joy This Christmas

Where do you try to find joy at Christmas? In family? In friends? In parties? In gifts?

The Lord has been reminding me of something so very precious: the greatest Gift of all is God.

In the presence of God, we find all our hearts are truly craving for.

And Christmas is an amazing reminder of something truly, astoundingly incredible: God gave Himself to all who will accept Him. In such an intimate, vulnerable, beautiful way. God Who reigns on high. God Who spoke the universe into being. God Who rules in glory. As a baby. A baby. Because He is that kind; that loving; that good.

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Yesterday, the Lord really encouraged my heart. I was sitting at my desk, listening to teaching while I was working.

And the Lord encouraged my heart, deeply, that we can have joy at Christmas no matter what, because joy truly comes from knowing Him.

The true source of joy is in knowing God. And that joy of the presence of God, with us, is available to all who accept it, no matter what our circumstances are this Christmas.

Because the source of true joy is not in stuff or circumstances, but in knowing God.

Then I came across this beautiful video, reminding my heart that all I truly need is Him, and that what our hearts are craving for is the presence of God.

 

Published on Dec 25, 2015

~from Ann Voskamp’s book, The Greatest Gift, Unwrapping the Fully Love Story of Christmas: bit.ly/GreatestGiftforyou
http://www.annvoskamp.com

 

It’s such a wonderful reminder: the best Gift of all is the presence of God, with us.

I realised God was speaking to me- an incredible, astoundingly amazing message. Sitting at my desk, listening to teaching as I worked, I was suddenly close to tears… heart bursting with joy… at the wonder of it all.

God has given me many precious gifts in this life. This week, I finally got to hold in my hands the CD album that I’ve been yearning to make since I was a little girl (I’m planning to post a link soon). It was a dream come true… and yet it didn’t satisfy my heart completely. Nothing in this world ever does… but He does.

My heart is satisfied, because of Him.

It’s been a journey: a journey of walking with Him. A journey of discovering more and more of my beautiful, incredible, amazing God. He hasn’t always felt close, but He always has been, whether I’ve known it or not.

And, oh, He satisfies my heart!

He is there, loving us, reaching out to us.

And Christmas reminds us. God is a manger. God in a manger! God giving Himself to all who will receive Him on His terms.

The true source of joy is God Himself, and God has given Himself to me!

He is with me now!

He is with me!

He is with us.

’23 “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

The only One Who truly satisfies our desperately thirsty souls.

And He is available to us all.

God is available to us all.

He has given Himself to us all, if we will only receive Him.

The greatest gift is God with us.

And He is with you now.

’63 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.’ Psalm 63:1-5

 

(The Father gave His Son as a baby to grow up and die on a cross so that all who come to Him, turn from wrong, receive His free forgiveness and choose to follow Him as Lord can be forgiven and know Him forever. It’s the way of rescue from eternal Hell and the way to eternal life… and it’s the way to the greatest, most satisfying, most wonderful Gift of all: the gift of God Himself with you… close to you… forever. He is with you now, reaching out to you in love).

 

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

 

 

 

 

When God Makes a Dream Come True

Do you ever find yourself assuming that ‘God would never make that dream come true?’, or, ‘That’s just impossible?’, or, ‘It’s too late?’

I want to give testimony to the faithfulness of God.

Sometimes, you’ve carried a burden: an ache for something, for so long, and you almost don’t dare believe it could ever come true because it hurts to touch it.

The longing to make an album has been like that for me.

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I’ve always loved music. When I was a little girl, some songs would touch me so deeply that it almost hurt. They still do, but I’m used to it now.

I wasn’t very old when I starting writing songs. I came to know Jesus when I was tiny, and songs were growing inside me from when I was very small. They weren’t very good, but I’m learning they were probably precious to the Lord anyway! I was blessed with piano lessons, which gave me a way of growing in music. And the urge to write music kept growing.

I almost took GCSE Drama instead of Music. I signed up for GCSE Drama, and was all set to go. That summer, I lost my peace about it. I found myself composing music in my head, as I had done before, but more and more. I was young and inexperienced, but somehow it felt as though God’s hand was stirring up this music in me: that this was something I needed to pursue. So I switched to GCSE Music. I learned about composing and making music. I loved it… so much that I took A- level Music, too. But I knew I wanted to do more. I just didn’t know how… and I didn’t think it could ever happen.

I got older and went to University. Life was busy with other good things. Time passed and God called me into full-time ministry. Music is not the only thing I am called to do. But the songs kept coming, too: me on my little keyboard, trying to finds words and notes to express the things God was teaching me in my walk with Him.

The ache to make an album stayed with me. But I was busy in the ministry God has called me to. I learned about surrender, and how we need to lay our longings down and put Him first. Laying down the dream of recording songs hurt a lot. But surrender is so key to walking with Jesus. And it’s the only way to peace. We must never love anything, even gifts He gives us, too much. It’s a really important lesson, and one we always need to remember. I’m glad He asked me to lay music down first.

But He kept bringing it back. Songs came through the seasons, and the ache to record them never left.

The longing to record music was something I thought could never happen, because it seemed impossible. It was an ache that just hurt. I couldn’t quite give it up because it felt more like a call, and I prayed about it and tried to learn more about making music, but I didn’t really know what to do. It just seemed impossible, and my negativity said it would never happen.

I went for prayer about it at a conference. A lady prayed with me and she encouraged me. She said she sensed that I would see God opening up the way, providing, showing the way through. To be honest, I didn’t really believe her! But it happened.

After that, I went home and began to stumble upon resources that would help: books and online courses. I started to learn more, and I kept praying.

Last year, I was reading a book about goals. It contained stories of how God has been at work in different people’s lives, bringing to birth things they’d never felt was possible. As I was reading it, I found myself asking the Lord, “Oh, Lord, could I make an album?” I waited, and suddenly felt a deep sense of peace and excitement. It felt like a ‘yes’. I couldn’t quite stand on it, but I was pretty sure. I was amazed!

Then I carried on reading the book. The very next story (I am not kidding) was about a lady who had made an album in her 30s!! She shared how, though she had never thought it was possible, and though she thought it was too late, she and suddenly found herself meeting someone who offered to help her! And she made an album!!

Gerth, H. (2013). You’re Made For A God-Sized Dream. ed. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Revell. (‘God-Sized Dream Stories’, ‘It’s Not Too Late: Mela Kamin’)

It really seemed that God was confirming the ‘yes’ when I read that! And I was excited. I wrote it down. I was pretty sure God had just told me that I, too, would make an album in my 30s… when it felt impossible and too late.

heaven-blog-post

But I didn’t know what to do next. Life was busy with other things, and I didn’t know how. So I prayed about it… and a friend mentioned someone who helped Christians make albums… and I began to explore possibilities… and then God began to confirm the call.

I was in a meeting a few months afterwards when the speaker encouraged us all to take a few moments of quiet to ask the Lord, “What’s the next thing You are asking me to do?”

It wasn’t audible, but I knew what He was asking me to do. To make an album.

The ache was no longer just a longing. It was now about obedience. And He kept confirming that, giving stronger and stronger confirmation, leading me to people who could advise me… opening doors… I heard about Andy and Wendy Green (Cornerstone Productions), who live pretty close to me, who love Jesus and are very gifted at helping with recording music…

I had the chance to sing at an open mic night (another dream come true). The night before, I was praying about it, and I really sensed Him encouraging me that He is the One Who put music inside of me, and He was going to open up the way. I also sensed something else: anointing is far more important than being good at making music. What matters is that what you do comes out of relationship with God. That makes it powerful, even if the music isn’t perfect (and I know mine isn’t!). I gave it to Him again.

The next night, I sang at the open mic. Afterwards, my sweet friend Lucy encouraged me with pretty much exactly what I’d sensed from the Lord the night before: God’s hand is on me to do this, and it doesn’t matter if it’s not perfect. But it’s something He is asking me to do. And God was asking me to make an album.

So I booked my first day in a recording studio, with Andy and Wendy Green (their site is below), who love Jesus and know how to make beautiful music. 🙂

https://www.facebook.com/awcornerhouseproductions/

The first day in the studio was like a dream. Amazing. Real, tangible reality after years of believing it could never happen. And Andy was such a gift- he knew just what to do to make the music come together in an amazing way. God’s provision is so abundant!

And now my album is almost finished, and in a few days, Lord willing, I’ll be holding it in my hands, probably half incredulous that God has really done it. I’ll be able to post it online very soon, and, though I don’t really believe deep down that it could bless anyone else, I think He’s telling me that it will… and that just blows me away.

The ache I carried was so painful that I thought it could never happen.

But God has made it possible. He has blown me away with His faithfulness.

Yes, following Jesus means we need to surrender our dreams. The Lord wants our hearts, after all, because He is worthy and He is to be our First Love. Yes, we need to do things His way. Yes, we need to put Him first. But don’t ever underestimate what God can do. Yes, in Heaven for those who love Jesus, but also sometimes down here, He really does make dreams come true. 🙂

“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.” Ephesians 3:20

 

(More than any dream come true, more than anything, we all need the best gift God offers us: the gift of forgiveness for our sins, rescue from Judgement and eternal life knowing Him (the best of all dreams come true). That’s why He gave His Son. He offers salvation freely to all who turn from their sins, receive His forgiveness through Christ alone and surrender their lives to follow Him as Lord of their lives. It can be hard, but it’s an incredible journey of knowing Him, and it ends, for those who follow Jesus, in every dream coming true in Heaven).

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

A Moment of Peace in a Crazy World

Do you ever get stressed out by life in this crazy world? I sure do!

I thought I’d share another poem I wrote about peace. Sometimes, in all the craziness  of life, you catch a moment where you can breathe; when you can glimpse beauty; where you can find deep, wholesome rest in the knowledge that God is God.

If you belong to Jesus and follow Him (and that’s the thing- we all need to), however crazy life may be, behind it all, you can know that God is God and, ultimately, eternally, all will be well.

I had a day like that the other year on a trip to America, a couple of years ago now, and I tried to put it into words. I thought I’d share it.

Well

Light sparkles on the shimmering glass,
Silver beneath a gleaming sky,
And sunshine breaks through gentle splash,
And catches rainbows in the light.

The brightness spreads all high and wide,
Just touched with gentle wreaths of cloud
And blue, blue lifts the world to heights-
Awakening you now.

And plash, plash- ripples, soft then still.
A thousand mirrors play with light
And move so gentle: soothing thrill
Of sunlight, wild and bright.

You breathe a moment, taste the scent
Of beauty’s glimpse at Heaven’s peace
And almost catch the hope unsaid:
An echo of His whispered kiss.

You look up, catch, unclench, arrest
And, with a sudden, unseen thrill,
Your soul hears truth your heart needs yet:
That God is God. All will be well.

 

(God offers the peace of knowing that, ultimately, all will be well… when you turn back to Him and receive His forgiveness. Yes, judgement is coming to this world, but there is hope for all who turn from their sin, receive God’s forgiveness because of Jesus’ death on the cross and turn to follow Jesus as Lord. He is coming one day soon (maybe even today) to put everything right, and all who follow Him have every reason to hope. Though life may be tough sometimes, following Jesus is the way to eternal hope and peace).

The Power of Hope

Recently, I’ve been reading the book of Ruth. And I have been seeing in it the theme of hope.

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In the book of Ruth, God shows us a contrast: two ways of responding to life’s hard knocks. Two women in deep grief, who respond differently. Naomi gives way to bitterness, whereas Ruth chooses faith.

Both Naomi and Ruth have lost loved ones. Both of them have been deeply hit by grief. But they respond differently.

Naomi has been battered by life, and it has made her bitter. She has almost given up hope that God could ever be good to her, even though she is His. She chooses to follow God, but she lives in fear, holding out only very little hope that God’s mercy will break in. She says it herself: bitterness has taken hold of her heart. It has become part of her.

’20 But she said to them, “Do not call me Naomi; call me Mara, for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me. 21 I went out full, and the Lord has brought me home again empty. Why do you call me Naomi, since the Lord has testified against me, and the Almighty has afflicted me?”’ Ruth 1:20-21

That’s what can happen when life knocks you down again and again. Bitterness takes root deep in your heart. You begin to see life coloured by the darkness. You can’t believe that God could ever be good to you again.

You look at the future with pessimism, anticipating the worst. Naomi’s bitterness causes her to discourage her daughters-in-law from following God. She cannot see any hope in their future either… or only a small glimpse of hope far, far into the future that could never really work very well.

Naomi has allowed bitterness and grief to take root so deeply that it has become how she sees her whole identity.

Ruth, too, has been knocked by life. Deeply. She has lost her husband. She has no child. She is largely alone and destitute in a very sad world.

And she does not know God very well: she has only glimpsed Him through her broken-hearted mother-in-law’s fading faith.

But Ruth chooses to bank everything on the faithfulness of a God she has heard of, and is beginning to hope in, in spite of what she sees around her.

Ruth lives with hope in a God she does not know. She chooses to follow Him, believing that somehow He will provide. She lives with hope; expectancy. She chooses to follow Him down the road of sacrificial faith, choosing to sacrificially serve another and trusting He will provide. She lives like God will be good to her.

And He is. God already has His provision prepared. It is just waiting for Naomi and Ruth to step out in faith, for Him to bless them.

Actually, God is good to both of them. Extravagantly, abundantly good. He is writing a story that is stunning in its mercy and kindness and extravagant grace. He is preparing the way for the Messiah, Jesus, to come into this broken world.

But it takes Naomi a while to hope in God’s goodness, and it is only when she begins to see God at work that she starts to believe His kindness has not forsaken her after all.

’20 Then Naomi said to her daughter-in-law, “Blessed be he of the Lord, who has not forsaken His kindness to the living and the dead!”’ Ruth 2:21

Hope is dawning. Naomi is beginning to hope in the goodness of God.

And God’s goodness is going to blow her away. Although, of course, Naomi has no idea that Ruth’s son will be in the family tree of the Messiah, Jesus, Who will be the salvation of them both (and us, if we follow Him).

Eternity alone will reveal the incredible things He was doing in and through their story.

I think we can learn from Ruth and Naomi. I think God wants those who trust in Jesus and follow Him (which we can all do) to hope in His mercy; to live like He will be good to us; to live putting His kingdom first, because we believe He will be good to those who follow Him.

‘Behold, the eye of the Lord is on those who fear Him,
On those who hope in His mercy,’ Ps 33:18

Hoping in His mercy. That’s not a glib, superficial thing. It can be through deep tears; deep pain. It can mean a long road. It can be choosing to trust Him when trust is excruciating hard (and He shares in that pain with us, in this broken world). It means letting Him comfort us; hold us in our tears, in His Everlasting Arms.

But it is trust in a God Who is deeply, deeply good.

And that hope in His mercy brings Him pleasure.

’11 The Lord takes pleasure in those who fear Him,
In those who hope in His mercy.’ Psalm 147:11

A God Who gave His own beloved Son for all who will choose to follow Him. A God Who loves us that much.

’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

If you are trapped in the bitterness of the past, you are not ready for the new things God wants to do for you. Your faith is not engaged because you have given up hope. But God acts for those who wait expectantly for Him.

‘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

God responds to faith, which is closely wrapped up with hope. And bitterness quenches faith. It snuffs it out.

Sure, God doesn’t always do what we expect. Ruth and Naomi didn’t expect Him to answer the way He did (it was bigger than they could conceive). And yes, it can be a broken road, with tears along the way (it certainly was for them). But He was good to them. Extravagantly, abundantly good.

And He will be to all who choose to follow Him.

 

(God gave His Son to give us all a way back to Him; a way to discover His mercy. We have all rebelled against Him and gone our own way. But God in His incredible mercy gave His Son to die in our place so that we can be forgiven. When you come to Him through Jesus, confessing your sin, trusting in Jesus alone to save you and surrendering your life to follow Him, He will forgive and accept you, too. It won’t always be easy, but He offers you eternal hope that ends only in good).

 

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

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.

 

 

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.