I Get to Live

I guess this is a continuation from my last blog post: about realising how precious right now is.

The other day, I went to the doctors, to check out something I was worried about. It was fine. I should have known, really. I worry far too much!

But that ‘all okay’ changed the day for me. Driving away from the doctors and realising I have so much.

It kept coming back to me through the day: this sense of gratitude; joy; new life.

It’s like life’s a gift again; like I get to live it again.

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I have a healthy body. I have life. I have health.

I get to live.

It’s a gift. Not everyone does.

Our team spent time that day praying for people who really are ill. I remembered the doctor’s visit again. I felt so deeply, deeply grateful.

Other things happened that day. Me coming down with a cold. It makes me feel a bit rubbish. Big deal! I’m alive. I’m healthy. I’m so, so blessed.

At lunchtime, I prayed for someone who’s suddenly been given a few weeks to live… and doesn’t know Jesus.

That made me so grateful, too. I’m forgiven. I’m a child of God. I have eternal hope. I’m His.

Then, later, I heard about people who spend big chunks of their time worrying about possible illnesses, researching on the internet just in case.

Ok, yes, I can relate a little. I worry far too much!

But not that much. And the truth is that I don’t need to.

Because I have Jesus. Because I’m forgiven. Because God works all things for my good.

Even if I was ill, even if the doctor’s visit had turned out differently, it would be okay.

I’m forgiven through Jesus. I’m in my Father’s hands, and He turns everything in  my life to good in the end, because I’m His.

It makes me think of other things, too.

God has been doing a lot in me over the past few years, doing a deep work of pouring in His love.

As part of that, He’s been teaching me about comfort: about the Father’s love. As His comfort fills up the scars of the past and He pours in His love… and it begins to overflow, I think you suddenly find yourself free to live in a new way, from His arms. With a whole lot less fear, because you are held. With a whole lot more joy.

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It’s beginning to click in me: this freedom to live, because of the overflow of His comfort and His love.

And the day of the doctor’s visit helped me to realise that joy.

I get to live. 

This life is a gift. Every moment. A gift.

I get to live it.

Because of Jesus, I get to live it in a way that matters. A way that will have impact far beyond my lifetime.

I get to know God. I get to live soaked in His love, and I get to share His love with others and help them know hope forever (and if you don’t have that hope yet, please, please seek Jesus and find it- it will change everything).

I get to live. 

Living.

Not perhaps in the way our culture thinks. Life is not satisfying our superficial desires all the time. The devil lies to us. That way of life is so empty, and it will come and bite you in the end… it’s not nice to talk about, but Judgement really is coming, anytime.

The devil lies to us.

‘He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it.’ from John 8:44

Life is belonging to Jesus. Life is knowing God. Life is giving our lives away because of Him.

The devil lies to us, but Jesus gives us life that is abundant. Through pain, yes, but through pain that is more like labour, leading, for all who follow Him, to eternal life beyond our wildest dreams.

‘The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.’ John 10:10

Because of Jesus, I get to live life abundant.

Now and forever.

‘You will show me the path of life;
In Your presence is fullness of joy;
At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.’ Psalm 16:11

Wow!

I am so, so blessed.

God has given me life.

And, so, I choose to live.

 

(The way to truly live, and to be rescued from the eternal judgement we all deserve and have hope of eternal life forever, is to find forgiveness through Jesus Christ. Come to Him. Surrender your heart. Ask His forgiveness for where you have gone wrong (and we all have). His forgiveness is there for the asking, when we let go of trying to earn it ourselves and just receive. Give your life to Him as Lord. Follow Him. No, it won’t always be easy, but it’s the way to love beyond your wildest dreams, and life… and life eternal).

 

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

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The Hope of Spring

How do you feel about spring?

I love it! It fills me with such joy to see the first snowdrop… the first daffodil… to hear the birds sing…

After the long, dark days of winter, though it comes gradually, spring keeps coming… and it feels like such a gift.

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Below is a poem I wrote one spring, when I’d been going through a rough time. Spring encourages me that, for those turn from wrong, follow Jesus as Lord and trust in alone Him for salvation (and we all need to), there is always hope ahead. Hard times do come to an end… and those who follow Jesus have an eternal hope awaiting them.

Spring

When hope comes sparkling, lifts cold mist

And sunshine beckons through bare trees,

And wind once silent trills with song,

The hope of spring has come.

 

When white buds peep through tired soil

And trees grow little, pregnant buds

And winter, old now, bows her throne

The hope of spring has come.

 

Then bouncing, laughing yellow life

And madly singing, thrilling world

And sunshine spilling, warming glow

The hope of spring has come.

 

The rush of colour, laugh of song.

Joy’s dance of rainbowed, flowering world.

Strong balm of beauty. Kiss of dawn.

The hope of spring has come.

 

Forget the long, dark, heavy days.

Gone are the hopeless, weary groans.

The old has gone. The new day dawns.

The hope of spring has come.

 

And oh! He calls me. Oh, He comes!

“Arise, dear one. Rise up and come!

The winter’s past. The rain has gone.”

The hope of spring has come.

 

I lift my weary, heavy head;

Look up with hope now, up to God.

I hear His voice; look up; live on.

The hope of spring has come.

 

(God is with you right now, waiting to give you hope. He gave His Son to provide a way of rescue from the judgement we all deserve. Jesus died on the cross so that we can be forgiven when we come to Him for forgiveness, turn from wrong and surrender to follow Him. It’s not always easy, but He is always there for us and it is the way to endless, eternal hope).

The True Source of Joy This Christmas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Published on Dec 25, 2015

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

 

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

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

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

My heart is satisfied, because of Him.

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

And, oh, He satisfies my heart!

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

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

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

He is with me now!

He is with me!

He is with us.

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

The only One Who truly satisfies our desperately thirsty souls.

And He is available to us all.

God is available to us all.

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

The greatest gift is God with us.

And He is with you now.

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

Because Your lovingkindness is better than life,
My lips shall praise You.
Thus I will bless You while I live;
I will lift up my hands in Your name.
My soul shall be satisfied as with marrow and fatness,
And my mouth shall praise You with joyful lips.’ Psalm 63:1-5

 

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

 

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

 

 

 

 

A Moment of Peace in a Crazy World

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

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

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

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

Well

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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.

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Is Your Soul Thirsting for Something?

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Are you thirsting for something more; deep; something real in your life?

I listened to a message the other day that reminded me of something I’d forgotten; the sweet, sheer joy of walking close to Jesus. It was a message about James Hudson Taylor, who was a missionary to China. Hudson Taylor lived a crazy, pressured life. But he learned the secret of abiding close to Christ, and it was the deep, joyful, satisfied root of his deeply productive, mission-centred life.

(You can find the message using the link below).

http://www.desiringgod.org/messages/the-ministry-of-hudson-taylor-as-life-in-christ

We were made for communion with God. All else is an empty, dissatisfying shadow that may promise much but will ultimately end in a nightmare. We were made to know God, and nothing can satisfy us apart from Him.

Every one of the longings of our thirsty, aching souls was meant to be first satisfied by God before being satisfied by anyone or anything else. He is God, and only He will satisfy, because He made us for Himself.

And He wants us to know the deep, sweet joy of living life with Him.

This is meant to be a moment by moment reality: the moment by moment of knowing God and walking with Him. Yes, we live in a broken world. Yes, we are broken by our sin. But He wants to help us learn and grow in walking, more and more, close to Him. Him. This is what life was like before people rebelled against God.

‘And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day’ Genesis 3:8a

We have a recorded example in the Bible of a man who knew something of this reality: the man Enoch. We don’t know much about him, but we know that he walked with God.

‘Enoch lived sixty-five years, and begot Methuselah. After he begot Methuselah, Enoch walked with God three hundred years, and had sons and daughters.  So all the days of Enoch were three hundred and sixty-five years.  And Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took him.’ Genesis 5:21-24

Hudson Taylor’s life inspires me because he lived like that: he lived close to Jesus, even as he carried the responsibilities of running a huge mission organisation. He lived seeking to abide in the Lord Jesus: looking at Him with the eyes of faith and drinking from Him for each need, whether big or small. The simple trust of knowing that Jesus is Enough, and that He will meet every need as you look to Him, can bring a life of deep joy and peace, simply trusting in Him.

Again and again, Hudson Taylor would sing his favourite song, and find peace as he sought to live the truth of its words:

Jesus, I am resting, resting,
In the joy of what Thou art;
I am finding out the greatness
Of Thy loving heart.
Thou hast bid me gaze upon Thee,
And Thy beauty fills my soul,
For by Thy transforming power,
Thou hast made me whole.

Refrain

Jesus, I am resting, resting,
In the joy of what Thou art;
I am finding out the greatness
Of Thy loving heart.

O, how great Thy loving kindness,
Vaster, broader than the sea!
O, how marvelous Thy goodness,
Lavished all on me!
Yes, I rest in Thee, Belovèd,
Know what wealth of grace is Thine,
Know Thy certainty of promise,
And have made it mine.

Refrain

Simply trusting Thee, Lord Jesus,
I behold Thee as Thou art,
And Thy love, so pure, so changeless,
Satisfies my heart;
Satisfies its deepest longings,
Meets, supplies its every need,
Compasseth me round with blessings:
Thine is love indeed!

Refrain

Ever lift Thy face upon me
As I work and wait for Thee;
Resting ’neath Thy smile, Lord Jesus,
Earth’s dark shadows flee.
Brightness of my Father’s glory,
Sunshine of my Father’s face,
Keep me ever trusting, resting,
Fill me with Thy grace.

Refrain

(Words by Jean S. Pigott 1876, Public Domain)

This is how Hudson Taylor handled the heavy, pressing responsibilities of running a mission organisation; one that faced horrific persecution and great pressures. He learned that every burden can be cast upon Jesus, and then peace comes. And the sweetest, dearest pleasures are from a life of knowing Him and walking with Him.

Howard Taylor, Dr and Mrs (1995). Biography of James Hudson Taylor, Hodder & Stoughton Religious.

Jesus is always with those who are trusting in Him. He never leaves us. And He wants us to know that: to revel in it! He wants us to delight in knowing Him there with us; in walking in His presence; in the light of His face.

‘Blessed are the people who know the joyful sound!
They walk, O Lord, in the light of Your countenance.
In Your name they rejoice all day long,
And in Your righteousness they are exalted.
For You are the glory of their strength,
And in Your favor our horn is exalted.’ Ps 89:15-17

I was only a very little girl when I first had an encounter with Jesus: an encounter that would begin a relationship that is sweeter than anything else in my life could ever be. My family had been at church that day, and our Pastor had been leading the children’s slot. He taught us the words of a song about looking at Jesus. As I listened, I memorised the words, not understanding how monumental they were. That night, as I lay in bed, before falling asleep, I began to sing quietly to myself, singing the words of the song I had learned. As I did, I was suddenly conscious of… Him. His Presence, so real, so near, so loving… A tenderness, a love I had not dreamed of finding… A joy that was so wonderful, so good… I did not understand what was happening, but I had fallen in love that day. I would never be the same.

It was the beginning of a deeply precious relationship, but the whole of life is meant to be about growing that relationship- about knowing Him and pursuing Him, and walking close to Him.

There are times when we know glimpses of that.

I remember the months after graduating from University when I couldn’t find any job other than working as an ‘agency girl’ in various kitchens, washing countless plates and dishes and scrubbing at dirty pots and pans. I remember the struggle with doing such a mundane task as my job after just graduating from University… And I remember how the Lord transformed the task for me as He made real to me the truth that we can do anything as worship to Him, even washing dishes! There were times when I remembered that, and I joyfully determined that I would wash dishes for the Lord, even if no-one saw me but Him. And I remember the deep meaning and dignity that that realisation brought to my work, and how I often deeply enjoyed those times of washing dishes, because they were meaningful and not empty. It was deeply good to invite Him into my dishwashing, and to know Him in it, delighting in the One Who gives meaning to everything.

It was a little glimpse of something that can be more and more of a reality: knowing Him in the everyday. Not that it’s always easy. There are seasons of darkness when He doesn’t feel close (believe me- I know about them). But there can also be a deep, close walking with Him- and it’s really what we are all searching for, deep down.

I often forget, but sometimes I remember: the answer is always Jesus- knowing Him and seeking Him. Working in ministry, again and again I have found it to be true: the answer is always coming away with Jesus. It’s the secret for every problem; the solution for every need. He always has what we need, and He is always Enough, and will never, never let us down if we belong to Him.

And He wants us, more and more, to know the sweet joy of living like that.

Don’t think I’m living this perfectly. I am not! But it’s what my soul thirsts for. Actually, deep down, I think it’s what we all long for: Him.

And the crazy thing is that He longs for fellowship with us, too!

‘The voice of my beloved!
Behold, he comes
Leaping upon the mountains,
Skipping upon the hills.
My beloved is like a gazelle or a young stag.
Behold, he stands behind our wall;
He is looking through the windows,
Gazing through the lattice.

My beloved spoke, and said to me:
“Rise up, my love, my fair one,
And come away.”‘ Song of Songs 2:8-10

(And He is waiting for you to come close to Him now). 🙂
(If you don’t know Jesus yet, you can- and you need to! He offers you forgiveness and eternal life if you will come to Him, turn away from your wrong and receive His free and generous forgiveness, submitting to Him as your Lord. The things of this world are so empty compared to knowing Him. He is waiting for you).
Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

More About Living Free From Worry and Fear…

I feel a bit of a hypocrite blogging so often on trust when it’s something I so often struggle with, but it’s helpful to write about it, and hopefully it can help you, too. So here are some more thoughts for the Christian who is struggling with fear and anxiety…

(As children of God through Jesus, Christians are so secure in God’s love. If you are not trusting in Jesus as Saviour and Lord yet, you are so welcome to read this post, but I need to tell you that you do have something you need to worry about- your eternal future. But God will change that as soon as you put your faith in Jesus as Saviour and surrender to Him as your Lord. He cares for you so deeply, and longs for you to come to Him… and then you will experience all the blessings of His loving care for you, too).

Do you live in a cage of fear, afraid? When you remember the love in your Father’s eyes, love deeper and stronger and wiser and more tender than you could ever begin to conceive, the fear will fall away. As you learn to trust His heart, the fear will begin to lose its power over you.

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I have often felt afraid. Fear has been a normal part of everyday life for me. But sometimes I remember to meditate on the Word of God… remember to think about how protected I am. And sometimes, in that place, fear begins to fall away.

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

‘”For the mountains shall depart
And the hills be removed,
But My kindness shall not depart from you,
Nor shall My covenant of peace be removed,”
Says the Lord, who has mercy on you.’ Isaiah 54:10

Your anxiety about the future begins to fall away when you realise that there are the strong arms of your Father around you, holding you secure. You are no longer so afraid when you realise that your Father is strong and able and will always protect you and provide for you. You’re not alone anymore, and there is Someone so strong and faithful, so tender and yet so powerful, Who has promised to protect, cherish and provide for you. The present is no longer threatening, because you know you are safe and secure. And the future loses its fear, because you know you are not alone. Again and again, the Lord tells us in His word, that He is with me, and not to be afraid of dismayed. Why? The world is big and scary and anything could happen. But He is with me. When we realise Who He is, that is all the comfort we need!

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

Isaiah 41:10

God’s grace is not given in advance- you only get it as you need it. But you never need to be afraid that it won’t be given. Your Father’s tender, yearning, oh-so-strong love is the certain assurance that He will always give you what you need. It is your Father’s job to provide for you, and He delights to do so! So you have no need to be anxious!

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

Does He want His precious, forgiven child to live afraid and burdened down, always clouded by worry and fear about what might happen? Of course not! He is good and wise and loving big and generous and powerful and in control, and He would have His children rejoicing and at peace, trusting in His tender Father heart! Have a look at the Psalms and see how many verses you can find exhorting you to rejoice! This is the full life: the life of rejoicing in the Lord always (Philippians 4), anxious about nothing but giving thanks and bringing every concern to Him, and trusting Him to meet every need according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.

There is a condition to all of this. The way of peace, joy and blessing is the way of total surrender: the way of taking up the cross and following Jesus with all of your heart. It’s the way of seeking to lay down your life and live out the call of Christ in every decision, little and big. It’s not the way of perfection: none of us will ever live perfectly whilst we are on this earth, and we all need God’s grace! We are sinners who need a Saviour! But it is the way of seeking to live fully in the light that we have, and giving Him our hearts. You cannot live in willful disobedience and know His peace. But what kind of attitude do you think a tender, loving, providing Father wants His children to have towards life? Anxiety? Fear? Gloom? Dread?

‘Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!’ Philippians 4:4

One of my favourite books is “Pollyanna”, by Eleanor H. Porter. It’s a beautiful story about a little girl whose dad was a pastor. Pollyanna and her dad lived a hard life. They were very poor, and often had to go without. But the Lord was encouraging Pollyanna’s father with how many times the Bible tells us to rejoice. And so Pollyanna’s father invented the “Glad Game”- in which the game is to find a reason to rejoice, no matter what is happening. After her father’s death, Pollyanna continues to play the game, and teaches it to many others, who find their lives transformed with sheer, simple, beautiful joy.

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

It’s a beautiful story, and it’s so helpful, too- a remember to find a reason to rejoice, because He is always good. I don’t mean to trivialise it- sometimes it’s hard to rejoice. But it’s a helpful game to play, and even the smallest things (such a beautiful flower, the smile of a friend or a glimpse of sunshine) are all from Him.

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

God is the God of the detail, and He doesn’t make mistakes. He works everything together for the good of those who love Him (Romans 8:28), conforming us into the image of His Son. Nothing is wasted. He is using it all for good, whether we see it or not. It’s like the illustration someone told me of a tapestry: from the back, it looks like a mess, but, from the front, it will one day look beautiful!

In the book of Daniel, God tells Daniel through an angel that his prayers have been heard because he is greatly loved. What a wonderful reality! He is loved. No matter what happens in life, that assurance can give you strength!

I remember once when I was feeling afraid. I was looking at things that were happening in the news, afraid of what the future will bring. I knew that I wasn’t supposed to be afraid, but I couldn’t work out how to stop the fear that was knotting me up upside. I was flicking through my Bible, trying to find peace, and I stumbled upon those words to Daniel.

Daniel lived in crazy times. God’s people were in exile in Babylon because of their rebellion. Daniel was living in a pagan land, where everything was opposed to God’s way of doing things. And God was speaking to him about the world’s future: about future kings and empires and events. It was crazy stuff! Scary stuff, too. Yet Daniel is given reassurance that he is loved.

Just before Daniel 9, Daniel works out that the time of exile for God’s people in Babylon is almost at an end. God had said he would judge them in exile for seventy years, and the seventy years are almost up. So Daniel prays to the LORD and asks Him to have mercy on His people, forgive them and bring them back to their own land. And an angel brings a reply.

‘”At the beginning of your supplications the command went out, and I have come to tell you, for you are greatly beloved; therefore consider the matter, and understand the vision:”‘ Daniel 9:23

Daniel’s prayers have been heard, because he is greatly loved.

In the midst of a crazy, mixed-up world, where things are changing and God’s people are under pressure, God reassures His child that his prayers have been heard, because he is greatly loved.

As I thought about the craziness of this world, I too was reassured as I read that. Yes, world events might be frightening. Yes, the thought of persecution is frightening. But there is no need for me to be afraid, because I am greatly loved.

I remember a day when I was being irrationally anxious. I was out in Belfast, in a city I didn’t know with a couple of friends, and I was feeling irrationally afraid of something bad happening in a place I didn’t know. We couldn’t find anywhere to go, and were walking around, and I was feeling haunted by anxiety. I was praying and trying to calm down, but it wasn’t really helping.

And then God did something amazing! You see, we weren’t the only ones in Belfast that day. Other friends were also in the country, as we had all been over for a wedding. But the chances of groups of us bumping into each other were very small. Only, as we are walking along, me feeling anxious and afraid, suddenly, randomly there were two more of our friends! It felt like such an encouragement from the Lord, and I suddenly felt protected and safe. Except, that wasn’t even the end of it! The five of us began to walk, chatting… and ‘randomly’ bumped into two more friends! Suddenly, there was a big group of us, laughing and going for coffee together.

It was a lesson from the Lord for me. He knew I felt alone and vulnerable, and so He sent friends to surround me. But it wasn’t really about them: it was about Him and His fierce, tender protection of me, His anxious child. As we walked back to our car, we passed an advert with words telling me that I would never be alone. And I knew God was encouraging me that it’s really true.

There is no need to be anxious about the big things, and there is no need to be anxious about the smaller things, either. The gaps in our minds can quickly become filled with anything we feel we could be afraid of; anything we don’t have control of. But the promises of God’s Word, and surrender to His plan, trusting in His goodness, can bring a sweet, strengthening peace. Because He will never, never ever let us down, and we will never, ever, ever walk alone.

And it frees us up to reach out in love to others, too.

What a way to live: to live loved, and knowing it; to live secure, wholeheartedly living in the love of your Father, fulfilling the purpose that He has for you, peacefully and joyfully loving and giving and being loved. This is a truly beautiful way to live- and it can have a powerful impact on the world. And it is rooted deeply in knowing that you are really, truly loved.

 

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