How Looking Back to God’s Faithfulness Can Help With Faith

Recently, something clicked in me. We listened to a message, which encouraged us to look back at the past, at what God has done, so you can have hope for the future.

And I realised that blogging to testify to God’s faithfulness is a really good idea.

photo of person sitting on rock during sunset

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That message was a helpful reminder. Sometimes you can feel stuck in the middle of something and forget that you won’t be in it forever.

Looking back, God has done an awful lot for me. Is it ok if I share some examples with you? I pray that will encourage you in your own battles that He can do far more than you ever thought possible.

I can see a pattern in my own life… in my own story. I guess we are all different, and God knows that, but I’m beginning to see a pattern in how He works with me. God often tends to bring an issue to the surface and deal with it deeply, slowly and thoroughly for a long time, until one day I realise it’s not there anymore… and He has done it so abundantly that I know what to do if it tries to come back… and I have a bit of wisdom for someone else struggling with the same thing.

I know we don’t get free from everything in this life. Those who follow Jesus are waiting for our ultimate, eternal hope. But I’m amazed by things He has done down here, which amaze me!

Like my battles with assurance when I was younger.

I was only a very little girl, maybe 4 or 5, when I gave my heart to Jesus. I was so blessed to be taken to Sunday School, where I heard that we have all done wrong, and we face God’s judgement… forever. But Jesus died so that we can be forgiven when we come to Him, surrender, turn from wrong, ask for His forgiveness and give our lives into His hands. I did. And I can honesty say that He has been my Best Friend, and so very faithful, since then.

But it took years and years and years before I knew I really was His.

When I was a younger version of me, I struggled, over and over again, with assurance of my salvation. Looking back, I knew Jesus since I was tiny. But I wasn’t sure I was really saved. Again and again, for years, I prayed for Jesus to save me. Worried and worried about whether He really had. Lived in deep confusion about it. Read my Bible and, though it helped me deeply, at times it felt like I was reading through a fog of confusion, coming across things I didn’t understand. I kept praying He would save me… and I lived in deep fear that He had not.

Freedom came later, when I was at University. God unlocked my Bible for me. I went to a course at my wonderful church about how to understand the Bible. I learned that, if you use some key tools, like the genre and purpose of a Bible passage, and where it comes in the Bible timeline, you get some big clues to understanding what it means. My Bible came alive to me in a new way. I heard some teaching on passages like Romans 6-8 and 1 John, which talked about the changes that happen when you come to Jesus. And things began to click into place.

The Bible was opened up in a new way for me. And, in a gradual process, my battles with assurance fell away. These days, I know I am a child of God. I have done for years. And it’s a wonderful, wonderful thing! 🙂

sunset on rain forest

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There was the journey to believe God loves me. I used to think I could never believe God really loved me. Others would try to encourage me in God’s love; in His grace… and it felt like they were speaking a foreign language. Years of prayer and teaching and being prayed for and hearing from others and reading books and soaking in the Father’s love… and it’s a deep, deep conviction inside me. I know I am loved by my Heavenly Father. Now, it’s a gut knowledge I love to share with others.

There was the journey into full-time ministry. Looking back on the seasons, you see them differently. Sometimes, hindsight really helps. When I graduated from University at 18, I knew I wanted to serve God. I just had a lot of confusion about how. I went through a long, hard year of seeking, doing temporary work and Bible study and struggling with different things. Looking back, it was a year in God’s presence. It was a year of a lot of time… rest… rebuilding… preparation.

During that year, I did a Bible course and I sat next to Alison. A lovely friend who was doing a job I would have loved to do, working as a student worker at her church. If I could have had any job right then, it would have been Alison’s. Time passed. That year passed too. And God surprised me near the end of it by an invitation to do Alison’s job myself! The next August, Alison’s job was mine! And I loved it.

And now, I’m thankful for that year of preparation. Along with Alison’s job came the spiritual battle of being in ministry. It was good, but it wasn’t easy. And I’m so glad now I had that preparation year. I needed some time to learn some lessons; to get alone with God. I did go into full-time ministry, and I loved it. But hindsight shows me that God was just getting me ready for the next thing. And I’m grateful for that preparation year first. And it wasn’t just preparation for Alison’s job.

During that wilderness year, I had begun attending prayer meetings at the UK office of GFA World. God had been stirring my heart for the nations for a long time… and I found myself being drawn to GFA. I was in York, and so was the UK office. I only went to learn to pray, but it linked me to a loving family who wanted to share Jesus’ love who have never heard of Him, in Asia. And those prayer meetings were a big part of a process that led to the realisation that God was leading me to work in the GFA UK office full-time, linking national workers on the field with supporters and pray-ers here ( http://www.gfauk.org ). After Alison’s job came GFA. And that was amazing, and a huge blessing … but it brought with it an intense spiritual battle. I don’t think I’d ever have made it without some preparation time first… and a whole lot of God’s faithfulness and provision since then.

And there was OCD. OCD that, in my life, manifested in different ways at different times, and came as a cloud stirred up by the enemy when I went into full-time ministry. Yep, I know OCD. OCD all tangled up with confusion and a deeply sensitive conscience. I didn’t even know what it was for a long time. It wasn’t obvious to me. I just knew clouds of darkness and confusion about little things, accompanied by a heavy sense of spiritual oppression. I remember crying desperately before God, pleading with Him to bring freedom. And He has! Through many different things, freedom came. It took a long, thorough process, and, in the middle of it, I could not see what God was doing or any way out… but it’s not there now. Hasn’t been for years. God used it to draw me closer to Himself: to show me more and His love. And He also set me free.

God took me on a thorough journey through and out of OCD, which has not only largely set me free from it but has taught me what to do on a tired day when it tries to come back. It does, occasionally, but it doesn’t really freak me out. I have learned what to do. OCD? Yes, I remember it. But it doesn’t really bully me anymore. It’s amazing. And, when I hear about someone else battling with it, I even have some hard-won wisdom I can share. And that’s a gift from God. 🙂

And there are aches, too, that have been birthed into joy.

gray and black butterfly sniffing white flower

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I’ve put a picture of a butterfly here because it’s a picture someone encouraged me with a few years ago: a butterfly coming out of a cocoon. At the time, it felt impossible. There were things I was carrying…. things I longed to do… and I just could not see how. How could I ever learn to fly? These days, aches are beginning to turn into joys.

Like songwriting. The ache to make music: to record music. The ache that was so deep it hurt. Sometimes I would listen to others singing at concerts and love it… but the longing to do the same would ache so deeply in me that I would almost despair. I remember going to a music event and leaving early to write songs, because the ache was too deep. Little did I know that, very soon, at a similar event soon after, I would be singing too. Little did I know that in a year or two I would have an album of my own. I still can’t really believe it because it feels too good to be true… but it is. 🙂

And the ache to write. Oh, the ache to write! I carried it for years, writing on the side, pouring out my heart in a journal or on a computer screen. But the idea of having a blog seemed to distant; too impossible… until, the other year, God encouraged me to start one. These days, the ache is not really an ache, but a joy. And I have confidence that other writing dreams will, at the right time, if they are from Him, come to fruition too. Why not? If it’s from Him, it will. He is faithful. 🙂

I could go on. There is more. Much more. But it’s true. Looking back at God’s faithfulness gives you hope for the future. It encourages your faith in Him.

He has been faithful. He will continue to be faithful.

You don’t always understand it in the middle of it all, but it’s true.

He does amazing things. He is doing amazing things.

And, if you belong to Jesus (and you can when you come to Him like I did when I was a very little girl), He will be faithful to you, too. 🙂

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What If I Really Believed God Will Answer My Prayers?

The Lord has been speaking to me recently about hope, and faith, and His promises.

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To be honest, I can tend to be negative; pessimistic. Anxious.

I have an overactive imagination. Imagining extreme things that could happen.

Imaging the worst.

Even though I am praying about things.

Even though I am His. I am forgiven. God has forgiven my sins and made me His child. Because of Jesus Christ, I can be at peace. Trusting in Him and following Him, the sting has been taken out of fear; of death; of disaster. God is on my side.

Yet still I fret.

Even when God gives me promises that He will take care of things.

His Word is full of them. Those who follow Jesus (and God gives no promise to answer us if we are living in deliberate sin) have a lot of wonderful promises we can claim.

And sometimes you just know. You just know you have committed something to the Lord, and that His answer is on the way.

‘Commit your way to the Lord,
Trust also in Him,
And He shall bring it to pass.’ Psalm 34:5

And, somehow, trusting Him; having faith in Him, is significant in it all.

I know God doesn’t always answer our prayers in the way we want or expect. This world is broken. Things can take time. His ways, in my experience, often seem to be on another dimension to what I expect.

But why does that need to take my hope, when His promises are bigger than the mess and the pain and the waiting and the tears, providing for all of my objections?

Through Jesus, I belong to the Father. He has promised that all things work ultimately for my good.

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

I know my prayers have weight in Heaven.

There are so many promises I can claim as my own.

And there is also provision. Every time. Abundantly.

Even for the waiting… the tears… the times when we don’t understand.

He always has a good plan in the end for those who follow Him.

For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.’ Jeremiah 29:11

So what about this?

What if I lived in the light of the answers to prayer that are coming?

The solutions that I don’t see yet that are on their way?

That may not look the way I think or expect, but are God’s provision?

What if I lived like God is always going to come through in the best way?

Like He is going to answer my prayers?

Like even suffering works for good for those who trust Him?

Like He hears me?

Like He promises to take care of me?

Because He does.

I look back on things He has done in the past. Abundant provision. I really didn’t need to worry! His provision was so good… so kind… so thorough, I had no reason to fear.

Trusting in His provision could change my attitude. Free me up to care more about others, because I’m less consumed with myself.

’33 But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.’ Matt 6:33

Because the Father’s children don’t need to be anxious; fretful; torn up inside.

Of course we suffer. It’s a broken world, and we’re on a collision course with the direction of the rest of the world, which is in rebellion against God.

But we can also know deep joy, and peace.

We can live like the Father’s listening, and He has got our backs. Because He has. 🙂

He showed me this recently:

‘I have called upon You, for You will hear me, O God;’ Psalm 17:6a

What an encouragement not just to pray, but to believe that He will answer, and to stand in faith for the answers that are on the way.

To pour out my heart and actually believe He will answer. 🙂

That means I don’t need to carry the burdens anymore.

I can be at peace, trusting His Father heart.

You know, sometimes I find myself suspicious of Him. His ways are higher than mine. I can be suspicious of what I will do.

‘8 “For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
Nor are your ways My ways,” says the Lord.
“For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
So are My ways higher than your ways,
And My thoughts than your thoughts.’ Isaiah 55:8-9

But He is good.

trees with pathway

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Actually, the verse before that gives context. He is kinder than we think He is. He is merciful.

‘Let the wicked forsake his way,
And the unrighteous man his thoughts;
Let him return to the Lord,
And He will have mercy on him;
And to our God,
For He will abundantly pardon.’ Isaiah 55:7

He is better than we think He is.

Our ideas of Him and His ways are always too small.

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

He is good. He is kind. He is faithful.

So I can commit my cares to Him, trust… and rest in Him. 🙂

(We all need to have God on our side. We all need His forgiveness. Judgement is coming. That’s why Jesus came. He came to bring us back to God, when we come to Him for His forgiveness, surrender and follow Him as our Lord. There’s nothing we can do earn His favour… He calls us to receive His free gift of mercy, and find love and faithfulness we’d never dreamed possible. This world is broken, but eternity is coming. Come to Him, follow Him, surrender to Him, and you’ll find help for this life, even through the tears, and hope for all eternity).

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

 

More Thoughts on Trust and Peace

So, more thoughts on anxiety and worry:

As the Lord has been teaching me lately about resting in Him, I thought it would be a good thing to keep writing about!

The Lord has teaching me recently about trust: about the Lord teaching us; helping us quieten down the anxious flow of thoughts and plannings in our minds- just living moment by moment, abiding in Him through Jesus.

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I was praying recently about anxiety: about the anxious thought that so often trouble my mind.

A picture came to mind: a little child tucked up in her Father’s embrace, head tucked under His arm, quiet. Just resting in His embrace.

And isn’t that the answer?

Just resting in His embrace. Not needing to understand. Not needing to know what will happen: just resting in His arms, and letting His love be enough for right now… and for the fear, too, because what drives out fear is perfect love, and tormenting fear has been broken for all who follow Jesus.

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

If you have been forgiven through Jesus and belong to Him (and that’s the key because we face God’s judgement without that and He longs to welcome us all when we come to Him, turn from wrong, surrender our lives to Him as Lord and receive His free forgiveness because of what Jesus did on the cross), you can learn and grow in the peace of living life with your Lord in control.

Living from His arms.

Moment by moment. Just doing what the song says: ‘Trust and obey’.

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

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

O Israel, hope in the Lord
From this time forth and forever.’ Ps 131

 

What can I do when something makes me anxious?

I can be that little girl again, coming back into her Father’s arms. Committing it to Him… and then nestling down, tucking my head under His arm, doing what He tells me to do and trusting Him to fight for me.

When the fear comes back, I can nestle closer; look up to Him more, and trust Him to work things out for me.

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

Like going to sleep in His arms.

 

‘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.’ Ps 127:1-2

It’s definitely a learning curve! Not that something that comes all at once. But it’s something I can grow in. I’ve definitely seen progress!

It reminds me of another picture that came to mind once, when I used to struggle more often with swirling thoughts.

It was a still, still lake, brilliantly blue, under a bright, bright sky.

Stillness. Perfect peace.

It was a picture of what my mind could be: of what He is doing in me.

I glimpse it sometimes. I suddenly notice that my mind is still: wonderfully, radiantly so. It’s incredible.

I can upset that peace with my worry. I often do.

But it’s growing. Sometimes I glimpse it.

Peace.

Because, really, God has me. I don’t need to know the answers. I can rest in Him.

‘You will keep him in perfect peace,
Whose mind is stayed on You,
Because he trusts in You.’ Isaiah 26:3

And, in Him, I am so very, very loved. And so many encouragements can hold me, because, through Jesus, I am His.

Those who belong to Jesus, look to Him for salvation and follow Him through our lives (as we all need to), have such confidence, and so many reasons, even when it doesn’t make sense, to be at peace.

Beloved

‘The Lord has appeared of old to me, saying:
“Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love;”‘ Jeremiah 31:3a

You are My beloved,

Apple of My eye,

My treasured possession,

Precious in My eyes.

 

My child, My creation,

By My hand designed

For something so special

With just you in mind.

 

Fear not, you are precious,

Cherished in My sight,

Embraced in My presence,

Held fast in My might.

 

Never will I leave you,

No, never forsake.

I will be your shelter

For each hour, each day.

 

When you walk through valleys,

I will still be here

When you face deep waters,

You never need fear.

 

I’m here as your Refuge.

I’m here by your side.

Loving My beloved,

Longing for My bride.

 

I delight to use you

In ways you’d never dream.

My plan and My purpose

Are wide and vast, unseen.

 

So wide is My promise,

My purpose so great

To awake the nations

To praise My great Name.

 

So live out your calling,

Be all that I made.

I’ll not fail to use you

To honour My Name.

 

You’re loved. Everlasting,

My faithful pursuit.

My love will not fail you.

I make all things new.

 

My love is unending,

My promise to you. My Arms everlasting

Will carry you through.

 

Soon I will come back

To take you to Me.

Each tear I will comfort.

You’ll belong to Me.

 

My treasure, My darling,

Apple of My eye,

My treasured possession,

Honoured in My sight.

 

Arise, My beloved.

You’re precious to Me.

Come rest in My presence.

Come walk close to Me.

 

(To know that wonderful hope in Him, come to Him. Surrender to Him. Turn from wrong. Receive His forgiveness through Jesus. Give your life, all your days, into His hands as your Lord. It won’t always be easy, but He will be all you need and it’s entirely worth it. He will amaze you by what He does!)

How Trust Can Really Simplify Things

Do you, like me, struggle with fear and anxiety, feeling like you need to know what will happen so that you can make sure it will be okay?

Gradually, I am finding more and more peace in life, and the reason is simple: knowing I am loved, and that I have a heavenly Father Who can be trusted.

I am forgiven. Because of Jesus Christ, my slate has been washed clean. I came to God by faith in Jesus, asking Him to forgive me. I gave my life into His hands, to follow Him, not to earn anything but because I am His. I am following Him. And now I have His promise to take care of me. Not because of anything I have done, but because of Jesus. And that security is available to all who will come to Him and follow Him the same way.

And something the Lord has encouraging me in recently is this: knowing the Father’s love through Jesus can really help with anxiety.

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You know, so often I think I need to know the answers: that I need to know why or how or what… or what will happen next…

But something has been clicking recently: I don’t need to know.

I am so, so loved. I can rest in my Father’s arms, and trust His heart when I don’t have the answers; when I don’t understand.

No, I don’t know the answer to  that.

No, I don’t know why. No, I don’t know what. No, I don’t know how.

But I choose to trust my Abba Father. I choose to trust His heart.

I don’t need to know. I don’t need to understand.

All I need to do is trust.

Because some things just don’t change.

God is good.

God is trustworthy.

God has promised to provide for those who trust in Him (and He also responds to our faith: to our trust!)

Ok, so it doesn’t always look like He is control- not at a superficial glance.

Ok, so it’s not always easy. Trust, and peace, are things we grow in. It doesn’t always come all at once.

But I chose to trust my Abba Father. I choose to trust His heart.

When I look ahead to the future, it doesn’t need to be in fear. Because fear does not take into account the loving heart of my Father God, Who has promised to give me all I need.

Living in the moment, from His arms.

Choosing to rest in Him.

Choosing to know Him now, because it’s only right now that I can know Him for right now.

Choosing to rest in His love.

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

Now, that could really simplify life!

What has God called me to do now? Then why am I worried about tomorrow?

’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

I’m not saying I’ve got this! I haven’t! Actually, whilst writing this post, I fell far short with it again. But it’s what He’s teaching me. And I think it’s the way of very deep,  very precious peace!

I can commit my burdens to Him and He will carry them for me, and He will provide.

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

And He will carry my burdens for me, and give my heart His rest.

’28 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 11:28-30

(Whether you know Him or not, He is reaching out to you right now. Come to Him through Jesus, receive what Christ did on the cross, turn from sin, surrender your life, your burdens and your cares into His hands and find the way to abundant peace).

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

The Faith That Delights God’s Heart

Something God has been teaching me about lately is faith.

I think that faith brings joy to the heart of God. Simple, childlike faith. Faith that believes God is good, trusts in Him and follows Him through Jesus, and chooses to live like He is good and run with it.

I belong to Jesus. My sins are forgiven. I am trusting in Him for salvation, by faith. And God wants me to live by faith, too.

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Trusting the Father’s loving heart.

I can find myself so negative, dreading what could go wrong; assuming the worst. Praying but not trusting the Father’s heart.

But something hit me the other day: I think God is thrilled when those who are His forgiven children through Jesus (as we all can be when we come to Him on His terms through the cross) choose to trust in His goodness: to expect Him to be good. I think that kind of faith thrills His heart, and makes Him smile. I think it’s a faith He loves to draw out; and to respond to.

I was chatting to a friend the other day. She was telling me about her little girl. Simple, childlike prayers from a little girl too young to understand all our doubts.

She was two. “Jesus, please heal Mammy’s sore throat.”

Gone. Just like that. No sore throat anymore!

Her mum was shocked. But she wasn’t. To her, it was simple. She was sure Jesus would answer. And He did.

I think that’s the kind of faith God delights in. The kind of faith that just expects Him to come through with something good.

The kind of faith that trusts in the love and goodness of the Father’s heart, and believes that He will answer in a wonderful way.

I know it’s tough. The Father doesn’t always answer the way we want Him to. This is a broken world. It’s messy down here. Sometimes there are long delays; obstacles we didn’t expect; difficulties that threaten to choke out our faith.

Pain that God longs to comfort, if we let Him, because He knows, and He cares so much.

And that’s when we get to choose. And then when our faith means the most. Will we believe that God is good then; choose to trust Him then when it doesn’t make sense what He is doing?

I think when we choose to trust then, in spite of our breaking hearts and our deep-rooted fears and all of the things that don’t fit into what we expected Him to do, it really makes Him smile.

Choosing to love God even when our hearts are breaking, because we love Him more than the things we want from Him.

Choosing to trust Him because He is good, even when it doesn’t make sense.

Like the woman in this story:

’21 Then Jesus went out from there and departed to the region of Tyre and Sidon. 22 And behold, a woman of Canaan came from that region and cried out to Him, saying, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David! My daughter is severely demon-possessed.”

23 But He answered her not a word.

And His disciples came and urged Him, saying, “Send her away, for she cries out after us.”

24 But He answered and said, “I was not sent except to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”

25 Then she came and worshiped Him, saying, “Lord, help me!”

26 But He answered and said, “It is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the little dogs.”

27 And she said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the little dogs eat the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table.”

28 Then Jesus answered and said to her, “O woman, great is your faith! Let it be to you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed from that very hour.’ Matthew 15:21-28

She needed something from Jesus. She knew He could heal her demon-possessed daughter. She asked Him to.

He seemed to say no.

She asked again.

He seemed to say no.

But He did answer.

He was drawing out her faith.

And she kept on believing.

Because she knew how good He is, she banked on His goodness anyway, and pressed in in prayer because she trusted.

And He answered her.

‘“O woman, great is your faith! Let it be to you as you desire.”’ from Matt 14:28

It means surrendering to Who He is, and His way of doing things. It means choosing to love Him first; more than what we are asking for. It means seeking His Kingdom first. It means letting Him decide how He answers, and when. But, if we are doing that and following Him through Jesus, I think we get a blank cheque and a broad, wide, wild invitation to ask… and to trust Him to answer in a way that is so good.

And to choose to trust His heart in the midst of it all.

Sometimes we are doing that, and we’re doing well! But then, like Peter, I think we can start looking at the waves instead of at the Lord:

’29 So He said, “Come.” And when Peter had come down out of the boat, he walked on the water to go to Jesus. 30 But when he saw that the wind was boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink he cried out, saying, “Lord, save me!”

31 And immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and caught him, and said to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” 32 And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased.’ Matthew 14:29-31

Peter was doing well! He didn’t need to give up! He just needed to keep his eyes on Jesus.

Keep going. Keep believing. Don’t focus on the waves. Focus on the Lord.

Keep going! Surrender your heart and your desires, yes. Surrender your ideas, yes. But keep pressing in in faith.

He does answer. I think it’s generally with something far, far better than we asked for, because He goes to the heart of our prayers and answers on another dimension.

‘“O woman, great is your faith! Let it be to you as you desire.”’ from Matt 14:28

And He wants to help us grow in that faith, too. 🙂

You can’t expect Him to be better than He is, because He is better than our wildest dreams.

And I think it thrills Him when you trust Him. 🙂

 

(God loves to be good to us, even though none of us deserve it, because we have turned away from Him. He is so good that He gave His Son to provide a way of rescue from the eternal judgement we all face. Jesus paid the price on the cross so that you can be forgiven. Turn from wrong. Ask Him to forgive you. Choose to follow Him, with His help. Surrender your life into His hands, and His way. Let Him be in charge of your life. He will rescue you for eternity, and blow you away with His goodness).

 

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

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.

 

 

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.