Friday, 28 June 2013

What Is Your Heart's Desire?

Dear Friends,

My friend, Gill and I’ve been enjoying an alternative SPA experience for the past 10 days or so.  Perhaps I should explain this is Gwen Smith’s Summer Psalm Adventure – the idea is to spend time in God’s word, reading 5 Psalms a day, recording, reflecting and responding. 

A few mornings back I was praying and talking over with God what I’m passionate about, my hopes and longings, those which have not yet been fulfilled in my life.  I was asking him that if these longings, or desires are really from him, as I believe they are, that he would fulfil them in my life.  I also prayed that he would help me to be patient for his timing, and asked him for the wisdom to know when I need to take action and when I need to just wait for him to open the way.

Then later that morning during my SPA time one of the Psalms I was reading was Psalm 37 and the following verse particularly struck me:

“Take delight in the Lord,
    and he will give you your heart’s desires.”
Psalm 37:4 (NLT)

What a wonderful promise God gives us that he will give us the desires of our heart.  Of course, there is also the premise in that verse that we are firstly to take delight in God.  We can’t expect God to give us our hopes, dreams and desires if we’re choosing to live for ourselves and going our own way.

What does it mean to delight in God?  I think it’s about enjoying being in God’s presence.  It’s about really knowing God and knowing his love for me and in turn loving him.  How do I get to know and love him more?  By spending time in his presence.

I take great delight in being with Jason and my children, it’s not necessarily about doing something with them, but it is about being together, enjoying each other’s company.  It’s the same with me and God.  

I think there’s also some great advice in the following verses which are applicable to taking delight in God and God giving us our heart’s desires:

1.      Commit everything you do to the Lord. v5 This is about committing myself to God – all that I am, my will, my desires, my ambitions, giving him my all, surrendering to him and his will and what he wants for me.

2.      Trust him, and he will help you. v5 When I commit myself to God and trust him for everything then I have nothing to fear or worry about as I know he is in control of my life.  I can have trust in him and his word because he is always faithful.  I know that I can trust him with my whole being, including my dreams and ambitions, I have confidence that he is my help, my guide, the one who shows me the way forward and which path to take.

3.      Be still in the presence of the Lord, v7. Taking delight in God is also about being still in his presence, taking the time to listen to him and learn what his plans and hopes for my life are.

4.      Wait patiently for him to act. v7 During this time I need to wait for God to act and to wait patiently which is not easy.  God knows that it’s good for me to wait patiently.  Only he knows when the right time to act is.  I can so easily get carried away with what I would like to happen, that I can act too soon.  Waiting on God stops me from acting too soon and also prepares me for when the time is right.  Waiting gives me time to align my desires with God’s desires, it gives God opportunity to show me where I may have got it wrong and point me in the right direction.  Waiting on God can also deepen my confidence and dependence in God’s word and his will so that I can hold firm to the desires that God places in my heart.

To Think About:
What is the desire of your heart?

Which of those 4 points mentioned above to do you believe God is particularly drawing your attention to?

What will you do about it?

Friday, 21 June 2013

Times of Celebration

Dear Friends,

There is much about praising God and celebrating in the Bible.  I believe he wants us to be a people who celebrate and rejoice.  Psalm 145 is a great Psalm about celebrating and praising God, v7 reads They celebrate your abundant goodness and joyfully sing of your righteousness.” (NIV)

The month of June in our home is a great month for celebrating.  As I thought about writing this I considered all of the celebrations that happen for my family in June, and how it’s not just about enjoying the celebrations, but recognising that God has provided us with the reason to celebrate and therefore he is worthy of my praise and thanksgiving for all he has given me.

Last weekend (16th) was Father’s Day – it was a day for my family to celebrate Jason as the father of our children.  God has created him to be a role model for our children, to show them what it means to be a man of God.  He is an example for Josh to copy and shows Jess the kind of man she should look for when the time comes for her to consider boyfriends (which I know will come all too soon) and the kind of man she should marry.  I praise and thank God that Jason is a good Dad.

Tuesday 18th was Jess’ 12th birthday – I believe that children are a gift from God and her birthday is an opportunity to celebrate this truth. Children are a gift from the Lord; they are a reward from him.”  Psalm 127:3. She is growing into a beautiful young lady.  I know God has good plans and a purpose for her (just as he does for Josh).  I celebrate that he has helped me to be her mum for the past 12 years and he will continue to do so.  I’m so thankful to know that God is with her, and that he loves her.  I look forward to watching as her life unfolds.

Monday 24th will be our 18th Anniversary – how time flies!  An anniversary is an opportunity to celebrate that God has been with us throughout our marriage so far and he has blessed us so much.  Of course, there have been ups and downs over the years but God has kept us as we’ve made him a priority in our own lives and in our marriage.  Jason is a wonderful husband, who has had to cope with a lot.  For most of our marriage he has had to live with my long term illness, and I know that’s not been easy for him, but he has certainly demonstrated his vow “To love me in sickness...”  Jason and I complement each other and I love partnering with him.  I’m so thankful to God for bringing him into my life.

On the 30th it will be Jason’s birthday (a special one I might add, but you won’t get out of me which one!) –the four of us are looking forward to celebrating his 40th (oops!!) in Paris, although I can’t say I’m looking forward to leaving home on Saturday 29th at 4am!  I praise and thank God for the man Jason is, I’ve had my prayers answered as I’ve seen him grow and mature spiritually.  I’m so proud of him as I see him live out God’s great plan and purpose for him, and I’m sure God’s got even more in store for him.

These are just some of the times when celebrating and rejoices comes easily, but there are also times when it’s not so easy to rejoice.  We all go through those difficult times, although each one is unique to the individual facing them.  There are times for me when I have to choose to praise God and choose to be joyful, when it’s a matter of the will, not about the way that I’m feeling.  I find the verse in Philippians that Paul wrote while he was in prison, helpful: “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” Philippians 4:4. You see, it’s not about rejoicing in our circumstances but it’s all about rejoicing in the Lord – in who he is and what he means to us.  We can do this with the aid of the Holy Spirit who gives us his joy.

To Think About:
What is there today that you can give thanks and praise to God for?

Plan to enjoy a celebration with friends and/or family.  There doesn’t even need to be a specific reason it could be just to enjoy each others’ company.

Are you finding it hard right now to be joyful?  Why not take it to the Lord and ask him for help. 

You may not be able to rejoice right now but hold onto the promise that there will come a time when you can, “weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.” Psalm 30:5 (NIV)

Friday, 14 June 2013

God - Our Heavenly Father

Dear Friends,

With Father’s Day this coming Sunday, I find that my thoughts are turning to God as my heavenly Father.

I have been so blessed in growing up with a Dad who loved me unconditionally, instructed and guided me, who gave advice and disciplined me when needed.  He isn’t a perfect Dad, no man is, but under God, he is the best Dad he could be and he has provided me with a good example of what God as my heavenly Father is like.  I would not be the woman of faith today without my Dad.

God loves us unconditionally and desires us to know him as our Father.  He is always there for us, he instructs, teaches and guides us and disciplines us too.  As our Father he wants the best for us and has a wonderful inheritance waiting for us to claim.

“See how very much our Father loves us, for he calls us his children, and that is what we are!”  1 John 3:1 (NLT)

Growing up, my Dad used a phrase on various occasions with my sister and me.  He would say “Let’s walk and talk.”

Whenever my sister or I were upset for whatever reason – a difficult day at school, issues with boyfriends, failing a driving test – my Dad would say “Let’s walk and talk”.  He and I (or my sister) would bundle our dogs (Silas and Barney named after Paul’s travelling companions in the bible, Silas and Barnabas, my Dad also being named Paul) in the car and Dad would drive to Ashdown Forest where we would walk and Dad would listen to my woes, share my heartache, talk with me and make me feel better.  The situation I faced may not always have changed but I was helped just by being able to share it, to put it into perspective, to know that I had a Dad who cared and was on my side.  What Dad was doing was giving me his undivided attention, there was no chance of being interrupted by a phone call or the doorbell ringing or distracted by other responsibilities.  While we walked he was devoting his time and attention to me, and I knew, for the time allotted to that walk, that no-one else and nothing else mattered to him like I did.

I didn’t realise it at the time, but he was modelling the Father heart of God, and the relationship God wants with each of his children.  Throughout the bible we have examples of God walking with his children, one such example being “Enoch lived 365 years, walking in close fellowship with God.”  Genesis 5:23-24 (NLT)

What a privilege we have to “walk and talk” with God our Father.  He is waiting for us to approach him, to ask him to walk beside us.  He is always available to give us his undivided attention, and he wants to spend time with us.  We can come to him at any time, knowing he loves and cares for us.  We can share with him whatever is on our minds, both our heartaches and our joys.  He helps us to re-focus, to re-gain our perspective and gives us the strength to face whatever comes our way.

I just love the idea of living a life in which I am walking in close fellowship with God. There is nowhere else I would rather be than walking step by step with my loving heavenly Father and in close communication with him.

To Think About:
Do you know God as your Father?  If not ask him to reveal himself to you as your heavenly Father.

Is there something, a burden, a worry, a concern, a heartache, that you need to take before God and “walk and talk” with him?

Have you heard God’s call to “walk and talk” with him?  What does that mean to you?

Friday, 7 June 2013

We Need One Another

Dear Friends,

“Dear friends, I am not writing a new commandment for you; rather it is an old one you have had from the very beginning. This old commandment—to love one another—is the same message you heard before. Yet it is also new. Jesus lived the truth of this commandment, and you also are living it.  1 John 2:7-8 (NLT)

We need one another if we are to walk the Christian life as God intended.

I’m an introvert and reserved by nature.  I’m happy with my own company –I just need a good book to read and a decaffeinated skinny latte with a shot of caramel and I’m well away!  However, I also know how important it is to surround myself with good Christian friends so that I can really flourish as a Christian. 

I’ve had people say to me that they don’t need to come to church to live their Christian life.  But that’s not what my bible teaches.  Coming to church won’t make you a Christian, but we all need to be connected, we can’t do it on our own, and we are definitely better together.  There are so many instances in the bible where we are taught to connect with each other.  That doesn’t mean we will have a deep, close relationship with everyone, but we all need a group of people around us with whom we can share honestly and openly, where we can give and receive encouragement, comfort, support, as well as advice, a listening ear and pointing out where perhaps we have gone off course and need to re-focus and get back on track.

Take a look at some of the things the bible teaches us to do for “one another”:

·         Love one another: Romans 13:8, Philippians 2:2, 1 Thessalonians 4:9, 1 John 3:11 (all from the NLT)

·         Serve one another: Galatians 5:13& I Peter 4:10,(both from the NLT)

·         motivate one another to acts of love and good works: Hebrews 10:24 (NLT)

·         Don’t judge one another: Romans 14:13 (NIV)

·         Accept one another: Romans 15:7 (NLT)

·         Encourage one another: Hebrews 10:25 (NLT) 1 Thessalonians 5:11 (NIV)

·         Kind and compassionate to one another: Ephesians 4:32 (NIV)

·         Forgive one another: Ephesians 4:32 (NLT)

·         Teach and admonish one another: Colossians 3:16 (NIV)

·         Fellowship with one another: 1 John 1:7 (NIV)

·         Bear one another’s burdens: Galatians 6:2 (NKJV)

·         Comfort one another: 1 Thessalonians 5:11 (NKJV)

Those seem to me to be a good description of what friendship should be.  They are some great qualities to have in my own life and to look for in a friend. God has blessed me with some really good friends.  My life would be so much poorer without them in it.  We make time for each other and we meet up over coffee and cake or a meal and share about ourselves and our families, there are times when we pray together, and there are also times when we just hang out together and have fun.  We look out for each other, send each other an encouraging text or email, or chat on the phone.  These relationships mean so much to me and they play an important part in my Christian journey and living for Christ.

I also meet regularly with a fantastic group of mums who love the Lord Jesus as I do. These mums have also become my good friends.  In fact we met just this last Wednesday morning.  They are my loved sisters in Christ and we have such a blessed time together.  We share together from the heart, our joys and our heartaches, we laugh together, cry together and we pray together.  We learn from each other and are a source of comfort, support and encouragement for each other.  Studying God’s Word together is also a big part of our gatherings.  I love to hear what each one is learning from God as they seek to tune themselves to hear his voice as they read their bible.  In this way we are learning and growing together.  I’m like a proud mum when I see how much they are growing and becoming more like Christ.

I would like to encourage you to make sure you too have some significant friends in your life, people who love Jesus just as you do and have the same aims as you do. These friendships shouldn't be characterised by one of you doing all the receiving and one doing all the giving, it should be one in which both are blessed and benefit from it. 

If you want to know more about being a friend you could do no better than to look at the life of Jesus.

To Think About:

What does being a good friend mean to you?

I've just discovered that Best Friends Day is Saturday 8th June, what could you do to celebrate this?  Don't worry if you've missed it, I also learnt that Friendship Day is 4th August , so this gives you a bit more time to prepare for!

Is there a particular person you feel God drawing you to befriend?  What will you do about it?

Perhaps now is the time to re-evaluate your friendships.  Is there one that needs to be nurtured?  Or is there one God is saying you need to let go of because it’s not a healthy relationship.

(PS I apologise for the change in font size at times, my laptop is being temperamental, and not being technically minded I can't put it right.  I hope it doesn't distract too much from what I've been trying to say.)