Friday, 18 December 2015

At Just The Right Time

Dear Friends,
At Just The Right Time

There are certain phrases in the Bible which draw my attention.  They speak into the depths of my being, bringing encouragement, reassurance, comfort and hope.  These are the words I want to focus on this morning: "at just the right time".

When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners. Romans 5:6 (NLT)

But when the right time came, God sent his Son, born of a woman, subject to the law.  Galatians 4:4 (NLT)

I used to consider myself a great time keeper - I was rarely late for appointments, preferring to actually be early rather than late.  However, that was before I had children.  When you have two children (not to mention one husband) and yourself to get ready it takes much longer than expected.

The Bible teaches us that God always moves and acts at just the right time.  He is never late, never too early and neither does he only just make it by the skin of his teeth.

The Jewish people had been waiting a long time for their prophesied Messiah - hundreds of years.  It must have felt at times that he was never going to come.  There must have been times when they believed, surely now is the time for him to come.  Yet God always knew when the proper time was for him to send his Son, to be born of a virgin.  God cannot, and will not be hurried.  His gift to us - Christ - came at just the right time, not too early and not late.  He is Lord of time. Nothing thwarted God's plan for when he would act.

There are so many examples in the Bible of God acting at just the right time.  They are there to give us encouragement and reassurance for today.

It's hard to wait on God for him to act.  Sometimes he expects us to wait for what seems a long time.  There are a few things that I'm waiting for God to bring to fulfilment.  I confess I thought that they would happen more quickly.  To me, the time has seemed right.  But when it doesn't happen I can easily become impatient and frustrated.  At times it's felt as though God will never act.  I worry that if he doesn't act now, then the time will have passed, that it will just be too late.  At times I've also lost heart and been tempted to give up.

Yet I know, deep down, that if God hasn't acted yet, then the time is not right, because God always, always, always answers at the right time.

How about you?  Are you in a period of waiting for God to act?  Perhaps you've been praying for years for a loved one to know him as their Saviour.  Maybe you've been praying for a new job opportunity to open up.  Or to be able to move home.  Or for your rebellious teen.  Or for something else.  Will you take heart from God and the examples of how he always acts at just the right time.  Will you trust him, who is unchanging, to do the same in your situation?

I know that I need examples from the Bible and verses such as those mentioned above, as a reminder that God does make things happen at just the right time.  In fact, I need that reminder right now.  The Christmas story helps me to focus on the truth that God does fulfil his word at the proper time.  So, this Christmas season I'm going to write out one of these verses on card and place it where I will be able to look on it often.  So that when I become discouraged or impatient or frustrated, God's truth will soothe my soul and will strengthen me and encourage me to keep trusting and waiting.

Whilst you and I wait and trust, God is working behind the scenes, and at just the right time, at the proper time, in due time, in the fullness of time, we will see God's answer.

To Think About:
What are you waiting for?

What encourages you in your time of waiting?

Spend some time over advent thanking God for the gift of Jesus, who he sent to earth, at just the right time.


Friday, 11 December 2015

A Blessing in Disguise

Dear Friends,

I have found that sometimes God gives us a blessing which is packaged as something entirely different.  Let me explain what I mean.

From a human point of view, living with a long-term illness is no blessing, in fact, it appears to be quite the opposite.  To be honest with you, being in the middle of a rough patch right now it seems like anything but a blessing!  Yet I do know it to be a blessing in disguise.   You see, God's ways are not our ways, and God's thoughts are not our thoughts.  It has been God's gift to blessing to me in that God has taken me into a deeper relationship with him and he has taught me things and transformed me in ways that I might never have known or experienced any other way.

Perhaps you too have experienced a particular blessing from God which has been packaged in an unexpected way.  I hesitate to refer to anything specific, but if you have, you will know what that is.

Paul certainly saw his thorn as a gift and a blessing from God. In 2 Corinthians 12 writes "Because of the extravagance of those revelations, and so I wouldn’t get a big head, I was given the gift of a handicap to keep me in constant touch with my limitations. Satan’s angel did his best to get me down; what he in fact did was push me to my knees. No danger then of walking around high and mighty! At first I didn’t think of it as a gift, and begged God to remove it. Three times I did that, and then he told me, My grace is enough; it’s all you need.  My strength comes into its own in your weakness. Once I heard that, I was glad to let it happen. I quit focusing on the handicap and began appreciating the gift." (MSG)

There are more examples from the Bible of blessings disguised as other than what they seem, but, as it's drawing closer to the Christmas season, I'd like to focus on Mary, the mother of Jesus.

In Luke 1:28-30 we read "Gabriel appeared to her and said, 'Greetings, favoured woman! The Lord is with you!'  29 Confused and disturbed, Mary tried to think what the angel could mean. 30 'Don’t be afraid, Mary,' the angel told her, 'for you have found favour with God!'" (NLT).

Then look at the greeting Mary receives as she visits Elizabeth:
"Elizabeth gave a glad cry and exclaimed to Mary, “God has blessed you above all women, and your child is blessed." Luke 1:42 (NLT).

Mary was blessed by God in a way that no one else has ever or will ever experience.  God chose her to be the mother of the Messiah, his own dear Son.  What a blessing and an honour for her to know God in this way.  She must have enjoyed a very special relationship with him.

Yet, I think there must have been times for her when it seemed like anything else but a blessing.  Consider if you will, what life must have been like for this ordinary village girl.  She knew the Jewish law, she knew that for a pregnant, unwed girl, living in her parent's home, the punishment was stoning.  She knew Joseph was within his rights to divorce her.  You can also imagine what kinds of things were said to her and about her by the people in her village - the judgement, criticism, harsh words, people turning their backs to her, wanting nothing to do with her.  She had some idea of the cost involved in such a blessing.

How blessed was she to have to travel for miles on a donkey, whilst heavily pregnant, to Bethlehem?  How blessed was she to have no home, no family, no midwife around her as she went through the pains of childbirth alone?   How blessed was she to then only have at hand a feeding trough for the Son of God's cradle?  She must have wanted so much more for him.

How blessed was she to see the misunderstanding, the judgement, the hatred of the religious leaders towards her dear son as he ministered to his people for three years?

I can barely begin to imagine how it must have been for her as she watched the unjust trial Jesus was put through, as she saw him abused, mistreated, beaten, and then watched him suffer the most degrading, painful death imaginable.  Death on a cross.

These must have been times which were almost unbearable for Mary.  Difficult times.  Painful times. Times when it felt as though her heart was breaking in two.  As Jesus' mother she suffered much.

If we look at her life from this perspective, using only our human eyes, it's hard to see how she was blessed. Sometimes it's hard to look at our own situation (whatever that may be for you) and see the blessing God intends for us.

Yet, let's not forget that Mary truly was blessed by God.  Out of all the women he could have chosen to bear his son, he chose Mary.  The gift he gave her has also become a gift that is now available to each one of us - the gift of having the Lord Jesus Christ in our lives, of having a relationship with him.  God blessed Mary with his presence, his strength, his joy, and his peace. Every day of her life, he was with her, revealing precious truths about himself, showing her his love and care.  Every day she must have grown closer to God and depended on him in a way that she could not depend on anyone else. Surely it was the blessing of his presence and strength which enabled her to endure all that she did.  She is an example of incredible faith in God.

I believe God longs for us to see things the way he does.  To trust in him who only gives good gifts and blesses us in ways we don't always understand.

My hope for you is that whatever you are going through right now, that you will be able to see beyond the packaging, to what the gift from God really is, that it truly is a blessing in disguise.

To Think About:
Spend some time thanking God that through his blessing on Mary's life, we too are a people who are blessed with the presence of Jesus in our life.

What is happening in your life at the moment? Is it easy to see it as a blessing or does it seem like something entirely different?

What could help you to see it from God's perspective?


Saturday, 5 December 2015

Unforced Rhythms of Grace

Dear Friends,
I often find that when God wants me to pay attention to what he is saying, he will reinforce it several times.  It was certainly so a few weeks ago. 

I had already decided to write about resting in God, based on my meditations on Psalm 23:2-3 “He makes me to lie down in green pastures…He restores my soul;” (NKJV). 

The verses that also came to mind were from Matthew 11:28-30 ‘Then Jesus said, “Come to me all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you.  Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy to bear and the burden I give you is light.”’

It was these verses that God kept bringing to my attention through a variety of means.  So I’m writing this as much for myself as I am for you, dear friends.

The Message paraphrases it as “The words of Jesus: ‘Are you tired?  Worn out?  Burned out on religion?  Come to me.  Get away with me and you’ll recover your life.  I’ll show you how to take a real rest.  Walk with me and work with me – watch how I do it.  Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you.  Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.’”

In the past I lived a life which was too busy, although I didn’t realise it at the time. This way of living was one of my own choosing. I focused on doing things for God, but neglected my relationship with him.  It was through experiencing some specific difficulties that God taught me to value and appreciate rest.  He showed me that my work for him was to flow from my relationship with him.  To this day, I still continue to learn from him “the unforced rhythms of grace”.

I find it’s all too easy to step back in to old habits and my old way of doing things.  I think that’s why God has to remind me that there's a better way to live.

There are so many advantages to the rest that Jesus gives us:

·        Our relationship with him deepens and grows as we spend time with him.  We get to know him better.  The more we know him, the more we learn to love him, and the more we know and love him, the more like him we become.   This will only happen as we rest in his presence and make him a priority in our life.

·        Relaxation and restoration - we can relax in God’s presence, comfortable in being who we are, knowing we are loved and forgiven by God.  When we are in the company of others it can sometimes be hard to be ourselves.  We can so easily feel we have to be something other than ourselves so that we fit in and are accepted.  This can be very tiring.  But with God we are free to be ourselves, there’s no need for pretence and we can rest in his compete acceptance of us. As we relax in God’s presence he brings restoration to our body, mind and soul. He restores my soul” Psalm 23:3 (NKJV).

·        Refreshment and renewal – the Holy Spirit reenergises us and transformation happens as we spend quality time with him.  God refreshes us as we spend time feeding on his Word.  As we read his Word, the Holy Spirit reveals God’s truth to us.  Times of rest with God allows him time to show us areas where and we need to change and how this change can happen.  It is then that we are renewed from the inside out.

·        Rest gives us time to review and reflect on what is happening in our life.  It gives us the opportunity to reflect on things such as our attitude, our actions, our words.  We can be so busy in life that we have no room for reflection.  We move from one activity to the next without stopping to pause and consider what we are doing and why we are doing it.  So, when we have a rest time with God we make space for reflection.  Reflection helps us to see what we may be doing well, what could be done differently or what needs to be removed from our schedule.  Reflection has the best outcome when it’s done with the aid of the Holy Spirit.

·        Rest realigns us with God’s will for our lives.  We understand more about God’s plan and purpose for us.  We receive direction and guidance on how to live day by day.  We gain perspective on our situation and what we have to face.  We become more in tune with God and recognise his voice more.  We start to care more about the things that he cares about.  Our focus returns to God and what his will is, rather than focusing on our circumstances and our own needs or desires.  Rest enables us to then live our lives from God’s perspective, not from our own limited perspective.

We all need times of rest and when we build these times in to our day we will be blessed and benefit from them.  Rest times with God bring us in to a deeper relationship with God.  Rest times also offer us much needed relaxation, restoration, refreshment and renewal. Rest times provide us with room to review and reflect and finally, rest times realign us with God’s will for us.  And so, rest times help us to “Learn the unforced rhythms of grace.”

To Think About:

Do you make time in your busy life to enjoy the kind of rest Jesus promises us?  If not, what changes could you make?

How can you make the most of your rest times?

From the list above, what would you like to experience more of and why? 

Friday, 27 November 2015

What Does The Bible Mean To You?

Dear Friends,

Monday 23rd November was International Day of the Bible.  The idea was to share, either publicly or online, with the world how much the Bible means to your life, by sharing a favourite Bible verse or passage. 

It got me thinking about how much the Bible has meant to me since I was a young child.  How I loved the Bible stories I was taught in Sunday School.  Then as a teenager being part of a youth group where we were taught God's Word.  How much it meant to me as I left home to go to university and relied on a regular quiet time and how that has continued to this day.

As a result, I have many favourite Bible verses, and the list is continually growing.

When I was baptised at the age of eleven I shared my then favourite verse from Hebrews 13:5 “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” (NIV)  That very day I became ill with terrible stomach pains which progressively got worse over the next twenty-four hours.  My GP had no idea what was causing it, so he called an ambulance to take me to the hospital.  It turned out to be appendicitis, and because my GP had failed to diagnose it (being convinced that was one thing it was not), they operated just in time before it ruptured.  In those days, it meant a long stay in hospital and I hated being away from home.  So, my favourite verse became even more real and meaningful at that time.

Over the years, various verses have become meaningful to me and a favourite for a particular season.  They have become part of my testimony.  It's a mistake to think that our testimony is just about when we first became a Christian.  We have a testimony to share with the world which is regularly updated as we daily experience the presence of God in our life.  I think it sad if all we have to share with others is something that happened years ago.  It's as if we are telling people that God changed our lives once but makes no difference to us now.

In the last few weeks Psalm 71:16a (TLB) has become a favourite of mine.  "I walk in the strength of the Lord God."  I have it written on card and keep it near my bed so that it's one of the first things I see when I wake.  Being only a few words in length, and also because it means something to me, it is easy to memorise and repeat to myself during the day. 

It means a lot to me in my present circumstances as I'm so aware of my physical weakness.  Actually, not just physical weakness but my spiritual weakness too.  In my weakness I am far more dependent on God's strength.  I need him in all that I do.  I need his strength working in and through me so that I can accomplish all he calls me to do. 

When I was healthy I was far more independent, I did things in my own strength.  But now, in my weakness I can do more because it is not me doing it but the power of God working in me.

This verse is a great reminder for me and brings me much needed encouragement.  There's no need to do something on my own and in my limited strength because I have God's presence with me, providing me with his strength.  Whatever I do, whether it's cooking a meal for my family, meeting up with friends, serving God at church, I do it in the strength of the Lord.  Wherever I go, whether it's staying at home, going shopping, worshipping at church, I go in the strength of the Lord.

There is so much for us to discover in God's Word and it can help us in so many ways.  "All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. 17 God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work." 2 Timothy 3:16-17 (NLT)

To Think About:
What does the Bible mean to you?  How can you use the Bible to encourage yourself and others?

In what ways has it made a difference in your life?

What is a favourite verse of yours and why does it mean so much to you? 
Would you consider posting a comment - I'd love to hear what your answer is.  Let's encourage one another. 


Friday, 13 November 2015

Using Our Time Wisely

Dear Friends,

Do you ever wake up and feel overwhelmed at all you need to accomplish this day?  Or do you get to the end of your day and feel like you've wasted the time?

I know I can often feel like that, and I know there's so much more for me to learn when it comes to using my time wisely - in work, rest and play.

Psalm 23 has been in my thoughts a great deal these past few weeks and I've spent time meditating on just one phrase or sentence at a time. 

It was while I was meditating on Psalm 23:1 "The Lord is my shepherd; I have all that I need." (NLT) that I realised God had given me all the time I need for each and every day.  His gift to you and me is time, but it's up to us how we use what he has given us.  The psalmist writes in Psalm 90:12 "Teach us to number our days so that we may truly live and achieve wisdom."  (VOICE)

I'm conscious that I can waste my time on things, that while not necessarily bad for me, are not that beneficial.  Such as the time I spend on social media or playing an addictive game on my mobile phone, or watching television.

Paul writes to the Corinthians "All things are lawful [that is, morally legitimate, permissible], but not all things are beneficial or advantageous. All things are lawful, but not all things are constructive [to character] and edifying [to spiritual life]." 1 Corinthians 10:23 (AMP)

I can be so easily distracted from what I'm supposed to be doing.  I start to daydream or try to do too many things at once. 

I get caught up doing things that aren't for me to do, things that God hasn't called me to do, but I do them because I've been afraid to say no to someone, or because I mistakenly think I'm the only one who can do them properly.

If you and I are to live a balanced life then we need to use our time wisely in our work, our rest and our play.  Let's take a moment to look at those three areas:

Work: Do we make the most of our time at work?  Are we diligent in our work whether our boss is there to oversee things or not?  Do we take longer breaks than we are entitled to?  In our service to God are we living out our calling and focusing on that which he has asked of us or do we get involved in too many other things?  Jesus focused on what God's purpose was for him.  He did not allow anything or anyone to distract him from this.

Rest: Jesus modelled what it means to have time alone with God.  Times when he would get away from the crowd just to be with his Heavenly Father.  The wisest use of our time is to spend our first waking moments in God's presence.  This sets the direction for our day. 

We all need rest and sleep.  Living with M.E is teaching me just how valuable times of complete rest and sleep are.  I cannot function without them.  Having the appropriate time to rest and sleep is a good use of our time and makes us more effective in the things we do.

Play/Leisure: Do we make time to be with family and friends and enjoy their company?  What do we do for relaxation?  Do we do things which are good for us, such as going for walks, developing a new hobby or mastering a new skill?  Do we choose carefully what we read or watch on television? 

If we misuse the time we spend in our work or our service, then other areas of our life will suffer, such as our relationships.  I believe that relationship is important to God and should also be important to us.  Jesus knew when to serve and when to spend time enjoying the company of friends.  For example, he shared a close friendship with Lazarus, Martha and Mary, and could be found relaxing in their home on more than one occasion.

Using our time wisely is not about being constantly busy.  Busyness does not always equate to having a productive life.  We can be busy doing all manner of things that may not actually be necessary.  We can be so busy that we make ourselves ill (I've known that from personal experience) and that is not using our time wisely.

To use our time wisely we may need to eliminate some things from our life.  It may also mean spending more of our time on something else.  For example, for me it means ensuring I have periods of complete rest structured in to my day.  For you it may be something else, such as including some quality time with a family member.

If we are going to be wise in the way we use our time, we need the kind of wisdom that comes from God.  Not only that, we also need to be constantly in tune with the Holy Spirit, open to his prompting and reminding.  We need to listen to his words of wisdom and the guidance he gives us as we move through our day.  Then we will be living carefully and as Paul writes in his letter to the Ephesians  "making the very most of your time [on earth, recognizing and taking advantage of each opportunity and using it with wisdom and diligence], because the days are [filled with] evil."  Ephesians 5:16 (AMP). 

To Think About:
Consider how you spend your time.  Is there something you need to eliminate from your life so that you are using your time more wisely?

Is there something that you could be spending more time on so that you are making the most of your time?

Is there something you could put in place which would help you to use your time wisely?


Friday, 6 November 2015

The Best Laid Plans of Mice and Men

Dear Friends

I like to be organised and I like to make plans.  I like to plan the things I need to do and when they need to be done.  I like order and having a system.  I do not like it when that order is disrupted!  However, our plans don't always go according to, well, plan!

Recently, my computer crashed which also meant my plans for that day crashed too.  I was so frustrated.  I now couldn't spend the time I had put aside to work on my laptop.  It made me feel that my time was being wasted because I wasn't able to do as I had wanted to.  Jason suggested I take it in to him at work to take a look at.  It was kind of him, but this was not how I had envisioned spending my day.  It was all taking up what I saw as my precious time.  What made it worse was we weren't able to fix the problem that day.

At around the same time our dishwasher broke, a copper pipe in the kitchen came apart, which meant we needed to have the water turned off while we waited for it to be fixed, and the pump (situated in the airing cupboard) for our shower began leaking. It all meant that time, which I had planned for other things, was now being used up on these issues instead.

As annoying as these disruptions to my plans were, God used the situation to remind me of some things:

1. Technology is great all the time it works.  However, we can't always rely on it.  Sometimes we rely on things and people too much.  This is sure to cause us problems because no person and no thing is 100% reliable.  God, on the other hand is totally reliable.  I can lean on him at all times.  I can rely on him to meet my needs.  He is always there for me and he will never let me down.  "Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord God is an everlasting rock." Isaiah 26:4 (ESV)

2. There is nothing wrong with making plans, but rather than making my plans based on my understanding and what I want, I need to take the time at the start of a new day to be with God.  To talk with him about what plans he may have for me for that day. "Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand." Proverbs 19:21 (ESV). I try to make it my habit at the beginning of the day to ask for his help to use my day and time wisely.  To concentrate on the things he wants me to do that day rather than the things I think are important or urgent.  To be willing to make changes to my plans if he sees fit to bring something unexpected in to my day.  This should help me to have a better attitude during the day and feel less frustrated about my plans.

3. As much as I like to be in control over what I do, the truth is that it's not possible to have control over everything.  My laptop crashing, the dishwasher breaking down, the leak in the airing cupboard were all outside of my control.  Any control I have over a person or thing is fragile at best.  The only one who has complete control over all things is God because he is sovereign. "The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it.  The world and all its people belong to him.  For he laid the earth’s foundation on the seas and built it on the ocean depths."  Psalm 24:1-2 (NLT).  He wants me to surrender my need to control over to him.  To submit to his will.  When I remember how much God loves me and that he only wants the best for me, it becomes easier to surrender my will to his.  "I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me." Galatians 2:20 (ESV)

So, when my day doesn't go according to plan I can remember these three things: First, God is the one I can have complete confidence in.  I can totally depend on him for all my needs. Secondly, God knows best how I can spend my day, therefore, to make the most of my day it would be wise to spend time early on in his presence, to seek his purpose for the day.  Thirdly, to surrender my desire to control over to God and rest in him and his sovereignty.

To Think About:
What is your natural reaction when your life doesn't go according to plan?

Have you relied on things or people too much and felt let down by them?

Are you willing to surrender control of your life over to God and watch what he will do?


Sunday, 1 November 2015

Is It Really Possible To Worship God On A Bad Day?

Dear Friends,

Back in the summer I was really struggling with my frozen shoulder.  The pain had got so bad that it wasn't just  certain movements which caused me pain.  The pain was pretty constant, whether I was doing something or sitting still.  The physical pain was also affecting me emotionally, mentally and spiritually.   I really did not feel like worshipping God.  In fact, to be honest, it was the last thing I felt like doing.
Worship is fine when things are going well with us.  We come along to church on a Sunday and join in with the praise and worship – we feel like worshipping God.  During the week we worship God in our hearts and attitude easily because we feel like it.  It comes more naturally.

We are called to worship God.  Paul writes in Romans 12:1 " And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him.”  (NLT)
But what about when your life feels like it’s falling apart in front of you?  When you are suffering with long-term health problems, when someone you love becomes sick, when your spouse walks out on you, when your child rebels, when you have financial problems, or you are in danger of losing your home?  Is it really possible to still worship God then?
We can learn a lot from King David who wrote Psalm 13 when he was a fugitive, on the run from King Saul.
 O Lord, how long will you forget me? Forever?
    How long will you look the other way?
How long must I struggle with anguish in my soul,
    with sorrow in my heart every day?
    How long will my enemy have the upper hand?
3 Turn and answer me, O LORD my God!
     Restore the sparkle to my eyes, or I will die.
4 Don’t let my enemies gloat, saying, “We have defeated him!”
     Don’t let them rejoice at my downfall.
But I trust in your unfailing love.
    I will rejoice because you have rescued me.
I will sing to the Lord
    because he is good to me. (NLT)
David is totally open and honest with God - he tells him exactly how he's feeling.  In v2 he asks God four times “How long?”  Is that where you’ve been or perhaps are right now?  How long is my suffering, this hardship going to go on?  When’s it going to end?  How much longer?  When you are in the midst of hardship it can feel like forever.
David feels like God has forgotten him.  That God doesn’t care about him anymore.  He feels abandoned.  He feels like God is looking the other way, ignoring what David is suffering.  Have you ever felt that way?  That God has forgotten you? 
It can be very hard to feel God’s presence when we are suffering. But, our feelings are unreliable.  We can't trust them, however, we can trust God and his Word.  God has promised us that he will never leave us and never forgets us.
David is saying to God in v3-4: “Are you listening?  Will you hear me?  Will you do something?  I can’t take it anymore.  Don’t let my enemy win.  Don’t let me be overcome.”
At times it can feel like we will be overcome by our troubles.   That they are just too much to bear.  That perhaps life is just not worth living anymore.  It’s all just too hard and got too much for us.  But when we go to God he give us the power and strength to keep standing, to overcome.
God wants us to admit our weaknesses, to admit our need of him.  He wants us to come to him and ask for his help.
When life is going well we can have a tendency to think we don’t need God’s help.  Troubles remind us that we do.
In v5-6 we see that by turning to God, by opening up his heart and being real, and by praying to God, David’s perspective on life has changed.  His situation and circumstances are still the same, but his outlook and attitude is different now.
Going to God has allowed God to work in his life and his mind so that he can move from fear to faith, from worry to worship.  Now that David’s focus has shifted from his situation to God he is able to worship God.  We can follow David's example.
David worships God for who he is.  He doesn't say God has been good to me, he says God is good to me.  God is good - it's his character, who he is.  Therefore, whether I'm experiencing a good or bad day, God is still good.
David remembers how God as always been there for him in the past and he is confident that God will be there for him now and always.  God has never failed him and will never fail him.  He is able to put his hope in God.  We can have that same confidence in God as we look back over our lives and remember his faithfulness.
David chooses to respond in worship, "I will rejoice" and "I will sing".  He may not feel like praising and worshiping God but he makes the choice to praise God anyway.
So we learn from David that it really is possible to worship God on a bad day by:
  • Crying out to God - being honest with him about what we are going through and how we are feeling.
  • Go to God with our troubles -knowing that he is the source of our help.
  • When we do this, we open ourselves up to allowing God to work within us.  Our focus shifts from ourselves to focusing on God – making him the centre of our life.  We are then free to choose to  give God our praise and worship.

The question is: Will you and I do this?

To Think About:
What is your natural reaction when in the midst of a trial?

Will you go to God, tell him exactly how you are feeling and look to him for his help?

Will you choose to focus on God rather than your trial or circumstances?  What are some practical ways you can worship God?





Saturday, 24 October 2015

Take Time to Listen

Dear Friends,

When you believe God has placed a desire in your heart or given you a dream, it can be really hard to wait patiently for his timing.  Then, when you sense that he is telling you now you can go ahead, it can be easy to get carried away with it.  At least, I can find that so and when God says "Yes" I just want to get on with it straight away so that it happens tomorrow at the earliest, not months ahead! 

Jason has been with me on this journey and I was talking with him recently about what I felt God was telling me was the next stage.  Before I had got very far, he said one sentence which I interpreted as meaning that he didn't think now was the right time, and I thought he was being negative and unsupportive.  It's amazing how quickly your brain starts to process your thoughts, sift through them all and come up with a response almost before the sentence is out of the other person's mouth.  I was just about to either react badly to what Jason was saying or I was going to put my fingers in my ears, as it were, and not listen to anything more he had to say.  After all he was wrong and I was right and he didn't have a clue.  Have you ever been there or done that?  But somehow, God managed to quickly get my attention, stop me in my tracks and told me not to say anything, but just listen to Jason, be open to what he had to say and hear him out before I responded.

As I listened to Jason I realised that I had completely misunderstood what he was saying and I was so glad God had stopped me from responding too quickly.  What in fact Jason was saying was that he was in total support of what I felt God was calling me to do, but that there was actually another, possibly better way of going about it.  Rather than rushing into it, I needed to plan and organise it properly, so that the outcome would be the best one it could be.  He was able to look at it objectively because he was a little removed from it and he was able to give me some good advice and words of wisdom.  He was even willing to actively support me to make it happen. 

God knew what he was doing when he brought Jason us together.  I have certain gifts and abilities that Jason doesn't have, and Jason has many that I don't have. Both are needed in this undertaking, so we actually complement each other very well.  Jason was happy to use his gifts and abilities to help me see my dream become a reality.

This experience has reminded me once again of the verse in James 1:19 "Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry." (NLT) 

I believe God has placed people in each of our lives who have wisdom to share with us if only we will stop and take the time to listen.  It's also about being open to what someone tells us, rather than closing our mind just because it may not fit with our way of thinking.  Proverbs 19:20 "Get all the advice and instruction you can, so you will be wise the rest of your life." (NLT)  Of course, we also need discernment as we decide whether what they have just said to us is in fact in line with what God is saying, and we can have this discernment if only we ask God for it.  "If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking." James 1:5 (NLT) 

It has also reminded me how beneficial it can be to work with others.  I admit, I don't always find this easy as I like to work alone and I find it hard to delegate.  Working as a team can bring it's own share of problems but there are many advantages to working together, such as a greater mix of skills and gifting.  Paul writing to the Christians in Rome says "Just as our bodies have many parts and each part has a special function, so it is with Christ’s body. We are many parts of one body, and we all belong to each other. In his grace, God has given us different gifts for doing certain things well." Romans 12:4-6 (NLT).  

In discussions, others can suggest good ideas which we had not thought of, they can bring solutions to problems and can share in the work load.  We read in Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 "Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. 10 If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble...  12 A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken." (NLT)

If you have a desire or a dream that you know God has placed in your heart, share it with a select few, those Christians whose judgement and wisdom you respect, and listen to what advice or suggestions they give you.  Keep an open heart and open mind so that God can speak to you through them.  Then again when the time is right, gather around you a team of people who you know will buy into your dream and will help to make the dream a reality.

To Think About:
How easy do you find it to be quick at listening and slow at speaking?  Who has God placed in your life you can turn to for advice and help?

What gift(s) has God given you to equip you to accomplish the desire he has placed in your heart? 

Ask God who you should approach to work alongside and with you.  God may be asking you to practice the art of delegation.