Friday, 27 May 2016

Recognising When God Speaks

Dear Friends,

Towards the end of last year I had a strong sense God was telling me that I needed to get Jess tested for dyslexia.  God didn't speak to me in an audible voice, yet he spoke so clearly to my heart that it was just as if he had spoken the words aloud to me.  "The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, [Jesus the Good Shepherd] and the sheep [that's you and me] recognize his voice and come to him. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. After he has gathered his own flock, he walks ahead of them, and they follow him because they know his voice.  John 10:3-4 (NLT)

I shared with Jason what I believed God was saying and he agreed it was important for us to look into it.  I am so glad I had Jason's support and that we were in this together.  So we went through the appropriate channels at her school.

I have to admit part of me wasn't too sure about acting on what God was telling me to do.  What if I'd made a mistake?  What if nothing was wrong?  What if her teachers thought I was making an issue where there was none.  What if I was wasting everyone's time? I was afraid that people would think I was foolish for bringing it up.

But, at the same time, I knew that if it really was God prompting me, then I needed to do something about it.  Especially as it concerned my daughter and her needs.  I didn't want Jess to miss out on receiving help just because I refused to do anything with what God was asking me to do.

So I listened to God and acted.  "But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves." James 1:22 (NLT) The school agreed to look into it for us, but the waiting list was just too long for our liking so they put us in touch with someone who would do the test for us privately.

During the Christmas holiday, Jason drove us to the home of the woman who would carry out the test for us.  Even as we were driving there I kept thinking that I must be wrong and that it would turn out there was nothing wrong.  That I was making a fuss about nothing.

By the end of a morning of putting Jess through various tests, we were told that Jess was indeed dyslexic and that she was a very bright girl to have kept it so well hidden all these years and to also have managed to produce such a good standard of work 

I was so pleased that I had paid attention to God rather than ignoring his voice.  Having the diagnosis has been a blessing for Jess.  Whereas before she thought she was stupid and suffered with low self-esteem, she has now begun to understand that she is not stupid.  It has given her more confidence and others have noticed the change in her too.  She is getting more help at school and when she takes her GCSEs next school year she will be given extra time in exams to put her on an even level with other students.

When I told Jason how grateful I was to God for stepping in and telling me what to do, he questioned why God hadn't told me it sooner, before Jess had gone through much of her schooling.  I don't know the answer to that.  Maybe God had told me before and I hadn't put myself in a place to hear him speak.  Maybe I'd not taken the time to listen.  Maybe I hadn't recognised his voice when he had spoken.  But maybe God hadn't spoken about it before.  Maybe he spoke now because now was the time to do something about it.  I have discovered that God's timing is always different to mine.  I often wish he would act sooner.  But I've also learned that he knows the right time when something needs to happen.  He always has a good reason for any decision he makes.  I will never fully understand God's timing because I will never fully understand God this side of heaven. Paul says in Romans 11:33 "Oh, how great are God's riches and wisdom and knowledge! How impossible it is for us to understand his decisions and his ways!" (NLT)  Even without fully understand God I know I can still trust him and his timing.

I admit, I don't always find it easy to recognise when God is speaking to me.  But I know that when I make myself available, when I put myself in a place where he can speak to me, then I know that I am more likely to hear and recognise his voice.

But it's not just about recognising his voice, it's also about what we do when we have heard from him.  It can be easy to dismiss what he has said as just in our imagination.  We can also be afraid of what people will think and what they will say if we do respond to what he is saying.  We may not want to embrace the change that will come if we obey him.  We may be afraid of the consequences. 

Or we can choose to be obedient to his word.  We can decide not to let anything or anyone hold us back from doing what he asks of us.  Yes, it can be scary, uncomfortable, challenging etc.  But we will be better off when we have obeyed God.  I've known it in my life and as the example I gave at the beginning of this post shows, Jess was also better off because I listened and acted on what God said.

When you and I recognise God's voice and when we then act in obedience to what we hear, not only will we be blessed because of it, but those around us will also be blessed.  Jesus said in Luke 11:28 "blessed are all who hear the word of God and put it into practice." (NLT)

To Think About:
How well do you recognise God's voice?  What can you do so that you are more able to recognise him when he speaks?

Has there been a time when you heard God speak to you?  What was your response?  What was the outcome when you acted in obedience?

Has there been a time in your life when you refused to listen to God?  What was the outcome?


Saturday, 21 May 2016

Where Do You Place Your Hope?

Dear Friends,

I waited in hope for a devotional I had submitted online to be accepted.  The previous one had been accepted so I was hopeful that this one would also be accepted.  Surely they would like what I had written?  Yet hope dwindled as time went by and I had received no response.  The deadline for hearing back from them had passed.  With the passing of time, hope left me.

I was so disappointed. I had really hoped to hear a yes from them.  There were brief moments when I was able to think objectively.  When I was able to tell myself, "That's OK.  What I had written did not meet their requirements this time.  It wasn't needed because it didn't fit with the direction they wanted to take. It's alright.  I can try again another time." 

However, my heart was saying something else and I began to have doubts and fears: I'd been so sure God had given me a gift to write.  I thought God had called me to share his truth through the written word.  Perhaps I wasn't as good at writing as I'd thought.  Maybe I'd got it wrong.  Maybe my desire to write hadn't come from God.  I shouldn't be wasting my time on writing if I'm no good at it.  Why did I think I could write?  Why did I think I had anything to say that people would want to read.  Who did I think I was?  I just can't compare with the well-established writers, they're the ones who really have a way with words.  God hasn't called me to write, it was all just wishful thinking.

Foolishly, I paid attention to those unhealthy thoughts and feelings.  I allowed them to make their home in my mind.  I listened to them rather than listening to what God might want to say to me.  The more I dwelt on them, the stronger they became.  They fed my insecurities, my feelings of inferiority and inadequacy - feelings that once had been so strong in the past, were surfacing once more.  By listening to these things I was giving myself permission to think this way. 

How do you respond when faced with an obstacle or barrier in your path?  When you are faced with what seems to be "no" rather than "yes"? 

Does hopeful expectation give way to doubts, fears, concerns?  Do you question yourself and God?  Do old insecurities, past feelings of inadequacy and inferiority resurface?  Do your thoughts and feelings stop you from trusting in what God has said to you and stop you from pressing on?  Do they stop you from doing what you believe God has called you to? 

These thoughts and feelings can paralyse us so that instead of taking action and continuing to seek God's will, believing what he has said, trusting in his way forward and his timing, we stand still and do nothing.  And if we stand still for too long we will never achieve what God has purposed for us. 

When everything is going well with us it's easy to have confidence in what God has told us to do.  Yet, those times when we encounter closed doors, obstacles and barriers, we can so quickly start to doubt what God has said.  If we are not careful, we can focus on our circumstances and decide that we must have heard God wrong.  Instead, we should be keep our focus on him, lean in to him, trust in his word and keep persevering.  Believing him rather than believing what our circumstances seem to be telling us.

Weeks later, I actually received a response to my devotional I had submitted.  They apologised for and explained the delay, and said that they would actually like to use my devotional.  I was so surprised.  In my eyes God had done a miracle, where hope had died, God now brought new life to my hope. 

And in the meantime, God had done some work in me.  He had taught me that my hope had been in the wrong place.  I was hoping for a 'yes' in my writing, hoping in others and their opinion, hoping in my own ability, rather than placing my hope in God and trusting him for the outcome. 

I need to keep trusting God's plan for my life.  Trusting that he will fulfil it in his way and in his time.  Nothing good can come from trusting in my own understanding of what I think should happen.  I need to give up my desire to be in control.  To stop thinking that God can only work in a certain way, i.e., my way.  I need to remember his words from Proverbs 3:5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. (NLT)

A closed door is not always a permanent one.  Sometimes it can be temporary.  A closed door is not a dead end, it can be closed so that God can take us in a different direction.  Sometimes God takes us where we didn't believe we could ever go, but is still in keeping with his original plan for us.  

The way we see what God has planned for us can be very different to how he sees his plan for us.  We need his eyes, his way of seeing things.  We need to ask God to help us see with his eyes, just as the Psalmist did in Psalm 119:18 Open my eyes so that I may contemplate wonderful things from Your instruction. (HCSB) and also as Paul prayed for the believers in Ephesus: I ask—ask the God of our Master, Jesus Christ, the God of glory—to make you intelligent and discerning in knowing him personally, your eyes focused and clear, so that you can see exactly what it is he is calling you to do, grasp the immensity of this glorious way of life he has for his followers, oh, the utter extravagance of his work in us who trust him—endless energy, boundless strength! Ephesians 1:18-19 (MSG) 

I know I will face more barriers, more rejections along the way.  But I hope I've learned some valuable lessons which will help me when I do come across them.  I don't need to go down that old route of listening to my doubts, believing what my feelings are telling me or indulging in unhealthy thinking - these things do me no good whatsoever.  Instead I can keep my focus on God, keep my hope in him, and him alone.  As the Psalmist said: Let all that I am wait quietly before God, for my hope is in him.  Psalm 62:5 (NLT).  I can trust that God knows what is best.  I can trust in his timing and his leading.  I can know that although I only see a part, perhaps only as far as the next bend or obstacle, he sees the whole of my journey from start to finish. 

To Think About:
How do you respond to a closed door?  How do you respond when you face a barrier or an obstacle?

What might God be wanting to teach you when you encounter a closed door or an obstacle in your path?

In who, or what, do you place your trust?  What difference does it make when you choose to place your hope in God, especially when everything else seems to be telling you to do the opposite? 


Friday, 13 May 2016

What A True Friend Looks Like

Dear Friends,

Today's post is different to my usual ones.

Deeper Waters accepted a devotional I submitted to them, and it is ready now to view online.

It is called "What a True Friend Looks Like". 

If you are interested in reading it then just click on the link below: 


Friday, 6 May 2016

Creation Points to The Creator

Dear Friends,

I recently watched a documentary, "Do We Really Need the Moon?"  The presenter, a Space Scientist, posed the question: "What would happen if the moon was in a different position?" She explained that the moon is nearly 1/4 million miles away and that if it was twenty times closer it would be catastrophic because of the moon's affect on life and tides.  It would result in a mighty tidal bulge which would mean London was flooded, followed by other cities such as New York.

When I heard this my response was to be in awe of our Creator God.  The moon being where it is, is no coincidence, it's not happenstance.  The moon is in just the right place for us to have life on earth because it's where God deliberately placed it.  He knew exactly what he was doing.  For me, it again reaffirmed that the universe and everything in it, did not just appear, or gradually evolve, it was designed and shaped and purposed by God.

The presenter went on to explain that the diameter of the sun is about 400 times larger than the moon's, but the sun is also roughly 400 times further away from the earth.  This means when we look out at the sky, the sun and moon appear to be roughly the same size.  So from our viewpoint on earth, when we have a solar eclipse, the sun is obscured by the moon.  The presenter explained this as a "cosmic coincidence".

I don't believe in coincidences because I believe God is in control of everything.  What, for this scientist, is just a coincidence, is, for me, evidence that God is the Creator. "For ever since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through His workmanship [all His creation, the wonderful things that He has made], so that they [who fail to believe and trust in Him] are without excuse and without defence." Romans 1:20 (AMP) 

In one of David's praise psalms he writes "The heavens proclaim the glory of God.  The skies display his craftsmanship.  Day after day they continue to speak; night after night they make him known. They speak without a sound or word; their voice is never heard. Yet their message has gone throughout the earth, and their words to all the world.  God has made a home in the heavens for the sun."  Psalm 19:1-4 (NLT)

God designed the universe and spoke it into being.  We read that in Genesis 1 and 2.

In Genesis 1:14-18 we read: "Then God said, 'Let lights appear in the sky to separate the day from the night. Let them be signs to mark the seasons, days, and years. 15 Let these lights in the sky shine down on the earth.' And that is what happened. 16 God made two great lights—the larger one to govern the day, and the smaller one to govern the night. He also made the stars. 17 God set these lights in the sky to light the earth, 18 to govern the day and night, and to separate the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good." (NLT)

In Isaiah 45:12 we read: "I am the one who made the earth and created people to live on it. With my hands I stretched out the heavens.  All the stars are at my command."  

You and I have been created in God's image. God breathes his life in to us.  He has given us his Spirit. "And God has given us his Spirit as proof that we live in him and he in us." 1 John 4:13 (NLT).  God calls us to have faith in him, but he doesn't then expect us to give up our intelligence or ability to reason or think.  We are thinking beings, with the ability to reason and be logical and we are also spiritual beings. 

So when I look at creation, the only explanation is that there has to be a Creator God.  I believe God's Word, the Bible, is true and therefore  I believe the bible's account of creation.  And when I look around me at nature and creation - the moon, the sun, mountains, forests, oceans - I am awestruck by God's magnificent handiwork.

To Think About:
Do you believe creation points to God?  If so, how is God revealed through creation?

Find some time this week to be alone with God and focus on the wonder of his creation - e.g. take a walk in the countryside, sit quietly in your garden, watch the sky at night, walk along the beach etc.  Use it as a time to rest in his presence and the beauty of his creation.  Be unhurried.  Be quiet.  Be refreshed. Enjoy.