This is my last post before the end of winter here in Australia. It’s been the coldest winter we’ve had in a long time. I’ve enjoyed more stews and soups than I can remember. I’ve snuggled down under thick blankets and worn heavy clothing. But the cold is coming to an end. The days are beginning to grow warmer.
Personally I love winter and I’m a little sad that it’s passing. But, there is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven Ecclesiastes 3:1(NIV). And so I’m looking forward to longer days, warmth and sunlight. I’m looking forward to ice in my drinks again and fresh summer salads. I’m looking forward to my tomatoes ripening and my herbs growing.
Our Lord gives us these things to celebrate His presence in our lives. He gives us these things to appreciate with joy. For us, change is inevitable. We can fight it and miss out on the gifts God gives us, or we can embrace change and make the most of every moment.
What are some things you’ve enjoyed most about the season that is about to pass and the season that is to come?
Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.” Luke 23:34a (NKJV)
This cry from the cross, this agony drawn out in a bloody breath, spoke volumes of Jesus’ love for us. He saved us despite the evil things we did to him. He saved us despite the agony he went through. He saved us because he knew it wasn’t about him; it wasn’t about the moment; it wasn’t about the decay in our actions, thoughts and hearts. It was, and is, about God’s Love.
On the cross Jesus touched our hearts and spoke to our souls. When he rose again, he changed us forever. How can we not respond to such a love?
When I was young I used to have big plans about all the things I was going to do with my life. I was going to be a great artist, a world traveller, a famous writer, an adventurer, a movie star, an animator, a dancer, a singer and I was never going to get married. Some things came to pass, others did not, and there are still others yet to come.
Did I plan even half the things that happened in my life? No. God had better plans for me. I am married to the most wonderful man in the world. I couldn’t have dreamed up a better man. He is good for me in ways I could never have written on a shopping list for the “perfect man”. He taught me to trust, and to love, and to be myself.
I never dreamed I would end up leading youth groups or fellowships, or even the elders of the church. But I did. I never dreamed I would grow such a passion for my Lord. But I did.
He leads me in ways that are both scary and exciting. He takes me down roads I would never have walked on my own. He carried me through darkness and safely delivered me into His Light.
I can’t imagine what tomorrow will bring, but knowing my hand rests in His, I will gladly walk with Him wherever He will lead me.
The one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world – 1 John 4:4 (NIV)
Devastation, floods, droughts, pollution, war, famine, violence, selfishness, pride, greed, fear. All these things belong to the world. They cause us grief. They cause us suffering. They cause us to lose hope.
But there is hope.
God gives us this hope when all else seems hopeless. He grants us courage in a world where we tremble. He lends us strength in a world that saps our spirit. He cradles us in His love in a world where we don’t deserve such a love.
He is our light in the dark because He is greater than the world. He is greater than we could ever be, greater than anything we could ever make, greater even than creation itself.
He gives us hope and a future because He has overcome the world. I can't express how blessed we are to be a part of God's family - loved, saved and protected because He is so Great.
"Come, follow me," Jesus said, "and I will make you fishers of men." Matthew 4:19
I used to go to the local bay and fish off the jetty there. I don’t think I ever caught anything even though I’d tempt the fish with tasty bait or wiggle the hook in the middle of their schools. I think the main reason I caught nothing was the fact that I was impatient and kept trying to force the matter.
Jesus told his disciples that he would make them fishers of men. He taught them to spread the good word of the gospel just as he teaches us. You and me. Jesus didn’t use hooks or bait. He didn’t try to force anyone to make the leap of faith. Instead he used himself as an example to others. And that is what his disciples did also.
So too we are to be living examples. To live our lives as Christ would. To be kind and loving. To show our love for others. Not to judge, but to be self controlled. When we do this we won’t need the hooks or the bait. God will shine through us and others will see His glory.
To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps 1 Peter 2:21 (NIV)
What are some things you do to be a living example for Christ?
I tell you the truth, anyone who gives you a cup of water in my name because you belong to Christ will certainly not lose his reward. Mark 9:41 (NIV)
The benefits of belonging to Christ and living in God’s kingdom are many. God’s blessings are bountiful and it is a great privilege to be counted as one of his own. But it is not a thing to hoard away as a private treasure. It is not a thing we are meant to hide for fear of it being taken away. No one can take it from us and we only gain more by giving more.
So, walk tall, showing pride to bear Christ’s name and know that anyone who blesses you because of that name is also blessed. It doesn’t diminish your own blessings, but instead increases it. It’s a wonderful cascade of blessings. A thing to be shared. And it’s all because of the love of God.
Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.
John 1:12-13 (NIV)
To be a child of God is to know that we belong to God, that we are dearly loved by God, and that we will inherit his kingdom.
To be a child of God is to know that we are God’s creation, that he chose the time and place of our birth, and that his individual plan for us began before even the world was born.
To be a child of God is to live refreshed and daily renewed in his Spirit. It is to be washed clean by Christ’s precious blood and to be set free from the shackles of sin and darkness.
To be a child of God is the greatest blessing we can know.
My husband recently listened to a science podcast. He told me that scientists discovered that the phrase that was used most by couples with a successful relationship is, ‘Thank you’.*
One would think that, “I love you”, would be the winning phrase, but those words are all too often bandied around and abused. They lack power because on their own they are just mere words. On the other hand, saying, “Thank you,” is showing that love because it is an expression of our gratitude towards the person we thank – for who they are, for what they have done, or what they have promised.
To thank someone is humbling, it pushes pride aside, and it’s not asking for anything in return. And the added psychological bonus is a boost in happiness and healthiness.
This led me to think about our relationship with our Lord. When we thank God for His presence in our lives, we are saying that we accept Him, we value His promises, we appreciate His love, we are grateful for His sacrifice. When we thank Him, we show our love for Him.
Have you sat in humble thanksgiving with the Lord today?
*Unfortunately I can’t find the podcast to link it here, but the theory behind it can be confirmed here.
This is a Hebrew word you will find scattered about in the Psalms. Because the Psalms were songs accompanied by musical instruments, it is thought to be a musical mark that notes a break in the song, or to mark a musical interlude. But it is more than that. It is also popularly believed to mean, “Stop and listen.”
To me the word is a reminder to contemplate God’s word. Rather than scanning the Scriptures and calling them read, I try to read smaller portions at a time. I then stop and I think about what I have just read and I pray for understanding.
Our faith is not a thing to be rushed through. It is a new way of life that is set apart from the frenzy of the world. It is an inclusion of God. And God is timeless. Selah.
I remember as I child I prayed to God late at night when I should have been sleeping. I would ramble on with Him and tell Him all about my day, my hopes, my dreams. I knew I should finish the prayer and say, “Amen”, but I thought the word was like a goodbye or a door that closed. I didn’t want to speak it because I wanted God to stay with me forever. I didn’t realise then He would never leave me. I didn’t realise “Amen” didn’t mean, “Ok, I’m done talking with you, Lord. You can go now.”
The word, ‘Amen’, instead means, “It is so” and it is derived from the Hebrew āmēn which means “truth”, “certainty”, and “verily”. It’s not a goodbye or a full stop. It is so much greater than mere punctuation.
To me, it is a declaration of God’s Truth. It is a one word song of praise to Him. It is a mighty agreement to His presence in my life.
Therefore, prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed. As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: "Be holy, because I am holy."
Since you call on a Father who judges each man's work impartially, live your lives as strangers here in reverent fear. For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake. Through him you believe in God, who raised him from the dead and glorified him, and so your faith and hope are in God.
1 Peter 1:13-21 (NIV)
Countless stories have cropped up over the ages about those willing to sell their souls for something they desire, usually knowledge, youth, fortune or power. As Christians we would like to believe we would never do such a thing. However, is it possible to sell your soul without realising it?
Apparently thousands of gamers sold their souls to a gaming company. The company wrote the clause into their terms and conditions. Who ever shuffles through all that fine print? The company intended it as a light-hearted joke, but it made a very good point. You can read about it here.
So many of us sell our souls and we don’t even realise it. We neglect to read the fine print. We think it’s enough to attend church. We think it’s enough to believe in Jesus. We think we are saved if we are good people. But we are mistaken.
We deny God when we decide we don’t need Him. We deny Him when we think our actions alone can save us. We deny Him when we don’t include Him in our lives, when we toss Him down our list of priorities, when we fail to recognise his awesome greatness.
So, rather than pushing our Lord away, embrace Him and all that He offers. Remind yourself daily of His worthiness, His wonder, His amazing love. Give Him your soul, your mind, your body and your strength. He will keep you safe.
I did a short stint of university level psychology. In an experiment to demonstrate the way people think, a situation was set up where a loud crash was heard in an adjoining room to where people were waiting. If the majority in that room didn’t react, then neither did the test subject. It works the other way around as well: if the majority suddenly got up and ran from the room, then the stranger who had no idea what’s going on ran also.
We are creatures of community and learn to rely on those around us – even strangers. This leads to the question: from whom do you get your cues?
The world says we have to fight for our rights and our freedom. God says He has given us our freedom. The world says we have to earn respect. God says we must respect everyone, whether they ‘earn’ it or not.
God says we don’t belong to the world. We belong to Him. This means we are set apart from the world. This means we can get our queues from God Himself. We don’t have to run and hide because everyone else around us runs and hides. We can lend a helping hand and show a caring heart in places where no one else is doing these things.
God is our cue because He has transformed us. He is our Lead, and our Compass.