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.