Thursday, 28 July 2016

The Apprentice Prayer

Dear Friends,

I receive devotional emails from the website "Soul Shepherding".  In one of the emails several months ago Bill Gaultiere shared  "The Apprentice Prayer".

I have printed it out and placed it in my journal so I can refer back to it and pray it again. 

This is the Apprentice Prayer: 

Jesus, I love you! Father, I adore you! Holy Spirit, I rely on you!

Lord Jesus, I seek to live as your apprentice in all that I do today. My life is your school for teaching me. I relinquish my agenda for this day and I submit myself to you and your kingdom purposes. In all situations I abandon outcomes to you, praying, “Your will, your way, your time.”

Dear Father, I ask you to ordain the events of this day and use them to make me more like Jesus. I trust you, Sovereign Lord, that you won’t let anything happen to my family or me today, except that it passes through your loving hands. So no matter what problems, hardships, or injustices I face today help me not to worry or get frustrated, but instead to relax in the yoke of your providence. Yes, today I will rejoice because I am in your eternal kingdom, you love me, and you are teaching me!

My Lord, I devote my whole self to you.  I want to be all and only for Jesus!  Today, I love you with all my heart, all my soul, all my mind, all my strength, and all my relationships.

Today, I depend on you, Holy Spirit, not my own resources. Help me to keep in step with you.

Today, I look to love others as you love me, dear God, blessing everyone I meet, even those who mistreat me.

Today, I’m ready to lead people to follow you, Jesus.

Amen.

This prayer helps me to remember that Jesus is my teacher and I am his student (or apprentice).  My life is about his purposes for me rather than about my will for my life.

It reminds me that my life is in his hands and that I can trust him whatever happens.  It helps me to keep him in his rightful place as first in my life, and that life is about loving him and loving others.  All the while living dependently on him and keeping in step with the Holy Spirit.

Praying this prayer sets my direction for the day ahead.  It helps me to focus on my relationship with God.  It helps me to start the day with the right attitude.

To Think About:
Why not print out a copy of this prayer so that you can pray it over your life. 

What difference does it make to your day when you begin it in conversation with God?

Here's the link to the Soul Shepherding website: http://www.soulshepherding.org/

Vicki

Friday, 22 July 2016

Individually Unique

Dear Friends,

My two children couldn't be more different from each other.  Their personalities, strengths, giftings, interests, etc. are so different.

Josh is outgoing, loud, academic and a born leader.  It's great watching him in his new season in life as he finishes at college and prepares to start in a new role as intern at Harbour Church, Folkestone.

Jess, at fifteen, is coming into her own now, still quiet but has a great sense of humour, guaranteed to make me laugh no matter how I may be feeling, and is so creative.

Both have their own growing faith in God and it's wonderful to have a part in helping them to develop as individuals.  They are both becoming the people that God has created them to be and it's a pleasure to watch this unfold.

Sometimes I'm amazed at how different they are - considering their upbringing and parentage is the same.  If you're a parent of more than one child, you probably feel the same.

Yet this doesn't take into account that they have been created by God - this is the miracle. 

"13 For You formed my innermost parts;
You knit me [together] in my mother’s womb.

14 I will give thanks and praise to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
Wonderful are Your works,
And my soul knows it very well.

15 My frame was not hidden from You,
When I was being formed in secret,
And intricately and skillfully formed [as if embroidered with many colors] in the depths of the earth.

16 Your eyes have seen my unformed substance;
And in Your book were all written
The days that were appointed for me,
When as yet there was not one of them [even taking shape]."  Psalm 139:13-16 (AMP)

When it comes to us, God never creates two people alike.  He lovingly makes each of us individually unique.  Who we are is carefully planned by God.  He has carefully and deliberately designed each one of us.  He did this before we were even born and he planted within us all that we would need to accomplish his plan for us.

"For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago."  Ephesians 2:10 (NLT)

I don't want my children to be the same as each other.  I want to celebrate who they are as individuals, not try to make them conform to some kind of uniform pattern.  They are different and different is good.

As their parent, I take delight in watching them enjoy doing the things they have been made for.  Watching them step into all God has planned for them.  I enjoy seeing the joy they have doing what they have been created for.

You know what?  I believe God has that same joy when he looks at me and you as his children.  He doesn't want me to compare myself with another and try to be like them.  He's made me to be Vicki and there's only one of me, no-one else can be me.  He's created you to be you, there is only one of you, no-one else can be you.

I gain so much from doing what God has created me for.  It brings with it a sense of satisfaction and fulfilment and a whole lot of joy.  When I'm living life this way I believe God looks at me as his daughter with a smile on his face as he says with satisfaction "This is what I made you for."  The psalmist says in Psalm 104:31 "May the glory of the Lord continue forever!  The Lord takes pleasure in all he has made!"  (NLT)

Just as I enjoy watching my children grow and develop and look forward to seeing how this progresses, God enjoys watching us, his children, as we grow and develop and become the person he has created us to be.

God's delight in us affirms us and confirms that we are living for him.  His delight encourages us to keep living a life which is pleasing to him.  It encourages us to focus on him.  To keep seeking to bring him delight, rather than seeking a life of self-pleasure.  These are healthy motives for us to have.  

The psalmist says in Psalm 147:11 "but the Lord takes pleasure in those who fear him, in those who hope in his steadfast love." (ESV)

 And in Zephaniah 3:17 we read "The Lord your God is with you. He is a hero who saves you. He happily rejoices over you, renews you with his love, and celebrates over you with shouts of joy." (GW)

To Think About:
If you don't yet know it ask God to reveal to you the delight and pleasure he takes in you.

How do you feel when you know you are doing what God has created you for?

Rather than trying to be like someone else, take joy in being you.  Learn to appreciate the way God has made you.

Vicki

Friday, 15 July 2016

Battlefield of the Mind

Dear Friend,


Do you ever find yourself thinking random thoughts or humming random tunes and wonder where they came from?

Last Summer I found myself singing a Christmas song as I was doing my housework.  When I realised what song it was, I thought how strange for that one to be in my head - particularly in the middle of Summer.  I then realised that my daughter had been singing it earlier (yes, I know, I have a crazy daughter!)  Without being conscious of it, my mind had obviously taken it in at the time and I was now replaying it.

Thursday morning this week I woke with another song on my mind.  It was one we had sung four days ago at my church.  It was a fairly new song to me, and I didn't know much of it, but what I did remember replayed over and over in my mind throughout the day: "Unending praise be yours, God, forever, all my praise be yours, God, forever...unbroken praise be yours."  (From the song by Matt Redman 'Unbroken Praise')

It was such a lovely way to wake up - singing my praise to God and great to be able to enjoy it throughout the day.  It really made a difference to my attitude and outlook.

These two examples showed me how easily my mind can absorb information from what goes on around me, even though I may not be aware of it at the time, and that what has entered my mind will come out in some form or another sooner or later. 

I believe that what we think about and allow into our minds has an influence, both for good and for bad, on our emotions, our attitudes, our speech and our actions.  The devil knows this too.

The mind is a battlefield and the devil is always looking for ways to win the war over our minds. "Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour." 1 Peter 5:8 (NLT) 

So when it comes to our minds we need to be very careful what we are feeding on.

Some years ago, God made it clear to me that I should be reading different books to the ones I was currently reading.  The books I was reading were not necessarily wrong, but there were better ones I could be reading and filling my mind with.  God wasn't telling me I shouldn't read novels anymore but to discern which kinds of novels I read.  I now read Christian novels and these bring much enjoyment.  I also read books on spiritual living which have helped me in my spiritual growth.

I choose to listen to Christian worship CDs and Christian radio as I prefer to fill my mind with songs that are pleasing to God.  Songs which help me to worship and honour him.

If I feed on rubbish - such as listening to gossip, the type of books that I read, certain things on the internet, what I watch on television etc - then rubbish is what will come out.

If I feed on that which is good, pure, and honouring to God then this will become evident in my life.  My thinking will line up with God's thinking.  My attitude will be more Christ-like, as will my speech and actions.

Paul tells us in his letter to the Philippians the kinds of things we should be thinking about: "And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honourable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise." Philippians 4:8 (NLT).

The Message Bible puts it this way: "Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse."

The choice is ours to make - will we choose to fill our minds with those things that Paul speaks about?  There is a need for us to be proactive in this, otherwise, we will be leaving room for the ways and the thoughts of the world to shape and fill our minds.  Not only that, we will also be leaving room for the devil to attack our mind and bring us down.

Let's not forget that whilst we have a choice to make, we also have one with us, the Holy Spirit, who will help us to think and live as God intended.  We do not have to face this battle for our mind alone and ultimately we have the victory because Christ overcame the devil at the cross.

Together let's pray this prayer: "May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer."  Psalm 19:14 (NLT)  Amen.

To Think About:
What has your mind been feeding on this past week?

How do you think it has influenced your attitudes, emotions, speech and actions?

Are there any changes you need to make to what goes into your mind?

Vicki


Friday, 8 July 2016

A Weekend With God

Dear Friends,

As an early birthday present Jason paid for me to go on a Women's Weekend run by the Inspiring Women Team from CWR.  I was really looking forward to it, and decided to go alone rather than with a group of friends.  Jason and I agreed that I needed time on my own with God and time to rest and be refreshed.  I went with high expectations and hopes of hearing from God.

As I entered the hall of the building where I would be staying for the weekend, I looked around me at all the women there.  Everyone seemed to have come with friends and they were all chatting happily together.  My immediate thought was: "Why on earth did I make the decision to come by myself?!"  I felt awkward and very much out of my comfort zone.  You see, I'm an introvert, and while I am happy to chat one-to-one or with a few friends, I struggle when it comes to socialising in a crowd.

As I settled in to the single room I had been allocated, I spent time with God asking him to be with me and help me during the weekend.  It also helped to know that my family back home were praying for me.

Even though this group of women weren't known to me at the start of this weekend, each one of us loved God which gave us something in common and a starting point to getting to know one another.  

They were a lovely group and it was a blessing to have fellowship with them over mealtimes and coffee breaks.  And I still allowed myself some time to enjoy being on my own and not feel guilty that I wasn't being sociable all the time.

Quite early on during the weekend I realised that I was not going to hear from God in the way I had been hoping for.

However, God revealed to me as I spent time with him (and also with the added advice my sister passed on to me via text messages) that I had come on this weekend with my own agenda and that God had a different agenda for me.  To be honest, I hadn't even thought to consider what God's agenda was for my weekend.

I don't know about you, but often I come to God with my own expectations, wanting him to do something for me or speak to me in a certain way. I come to him with my own agenda. Yet, God wants me to come to him, not because I want something from him, but because I love him and want to be with him.  He wants me to enjoy being in his presence.  The Psalmist said in Psalm 27:4 "I have asked one thing from the Lord; it is what I desire: to dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, gazing on the beauty of the Lord and seeking Him in His temple." (HCSB) 

All God wants is to be with me and for me to be with him.  For me to give him my time, my attention, my being.   

We have that wonderful promise of God's in James 4:8: "Draw near to God and He will draw near to you." (NKJV)

God's agenda for me that weekend was to enjoy some quality time with him.  He wanted it to be a time for me to rest - physically and spiritually.  To have space for solitude and quiet.  And some time to enjoy fellowship with other like-minded women.  

Jesus gives the following invitation to each one of us: “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest." Matthew 11:28 (NLT).  

When I realised what God was offering me I fully embraced the weekend and was blessed more than I can say.  God gifted me with a very precious time.

On the Sunday afternoon, one of the Inspiring Women team gave each of us a verse.  The verse I was given was taken from the passage we had been focusing on all weekend.  The verse was Matthew 14:23 "After he [Jesus] had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray." (NIV).  Jesus had been busy preaching to a crowd of over 5,000 people, but he knew the importance of getting away from everything and everyone to spend some time alone with his Father.  He made it a priority in his life. 

This weekend reminded me that it's important for me to do the same.  To have regular and quality alone time with God. 

To Think About:
How can you make sure that your agenda for your life is the same as God's?  Are you willing to submit to his agenda for you?

Have you experienced the joy of spending regular, quality time with God?  What blessing has that brought to your life?

What would help you to make time with God a priority?  What may be stopping you from doing this?  What will you do about it?

Vicki