Categories
Christianity

Church: The Light of the World?

Is the church the light of the world?  Amongst the tragedy, hardship and the mundane of this world, does the church act as a beacon of light?  Can the lost see the church amidst the darkness?  With the deepest regret I would have to surmise that the answer is no.  Having gone through some very dark times in my own life and reaching out to God so desperately, urgently seeking comfort on earth from the Lord’s people, I did not see anywhere to turn!  Indeed, light may flow from some churches but on the whole I would suggest the church does not produce the beam of light required to bring the ships in!   

Forgive me if I cause offence as I am acutely aware of the aid the church provide by means of food banks, clothing banks, children’s work, evangelism, helping the homeless etc. and individually I see rays of God’s light radiate from Christians that I know.  I just feel that perhaps Jesus is not represented quite as brightly as He could be and that the church is not always easy to access.     

So, what could the church do to let the light of God shine?  Scripture gives us a few examples:-

  • Give money to the poor –

Matthew 19.21 Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

Luke 3:11 John answered, “Anyone who has two shirts should share with the one who has none, and anyone who has food should do the same.”

  • Care for others, Pay it forward –

Luke 14:12-14 Then Jesus said to his host, “When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or sisters, your relatives, or your rich neighbours; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid.  But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”

James 1.27 “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”

  • Be kind –

Proverbs 14:31 “Whoever oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker, but whoever is kind to the needy honours God.”

  • Support others –

Galatians 6:2 “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way, you will fulfil the law of Christ.”

Proverbs 31:8-9 “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute.  Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.”

  • Love with actions –

1 John 3:18 “Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.”

  • Feed the hungry, water the thirsty, welcome the stranger, clothe the naked, look after the sick, visit the imprisoned –

Matthew 25:35-36 “For I was hungry, and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty, and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick, and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ 

  • Work Hard –

Ephesians 4:28 “Anyone who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with their own hands, that they may have something to share with those in need.”

Acts 20:35 “In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ ”

  • Practice hospitality –

Romans 12:13 “Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.”

St John Chrysostom in his Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans explains that charity is not bare words but a “taking care … for instance, by relieving poverty, lending one’s aid to the sick, rescuing from dangers, to stand by them that be in difficulties, to weep with them that weep, and to rejoice with them that rejoice.”

There are approximately 37,501 churches in the UK, 140 of these in Aberdeen and 4865 in London.  Worldwide there are an estimated 2.4 billion Christians, with approximate figures of Australia – 12,201,600, Canada – 22,103,000, France – 36,700,000, Ghana – 19,300,000, Greece – 11,000,000, India – 30,000,000, Italy – 53,230,000, Japan – 2,921,000, South Korea – 14,601,000, Mexico – 107,780,000, Norway – 3,844,000, Pakistan – 3,300,000, Russia – 66,000,000, Syria – 1,800,000.  These figures are astonishing!  If we could all come together in some idea of unity, imagine the world we could be living in!  Let us imagine that all churches in any one city came together to strategize ways of dealing with local problems and worked together to a solution.  Our communities could be transformed!  Home by home, community by community, town by town, city by city, our world would become a better place!

I must point out this blog is not heavily researched but merely presents my own musings on this subject.  I am all too aware of the problems that face the church as a body and us as individual limbs of that body.  Our society certainly does not make it easy to help others and our suing culture makes everything all the more complex.   I myself, have discovered just how hard it is to help others.   I have felt as though I would like to enter chaplaincy when I complete my degree but without experience, I am unlikely to ever get a position and getting experience is almost impossible.  Volunteering these days is not a simple case of turn up and offer to help, forms must be completed, interviews undertaken, and most often previous experience is necessary.

So where could we start?  Because we have developed into a rather insular society, it can be difficult to identify those who need our help.  Many are too embarrassed to seek help and would rather muddle through on their own.  Yet we all struggle at some point in our lives and as fellow strugglers we can be well placed to help each other!  The church needs a new identity, one which shouts, “I am here for anyone who needs me!”, “I am here to help”, “I don’t judge!”, “I understand that all are made in the image of God and all are just as loved and just as important to God and therefore also to me!”  The early church gives us an idea of what our church could look like in Acts 2:41-47 “And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. …”.  Now I am not suggesting that members should start piling their money together and sharing it out but this sense of family, of fellowship, of “oneness” is certainly something that the church should look to exemplify.

Below is an example of what people may be struggling with, but this is by no means a comprehensive list and, indeed, by my living in Scotland, it is likely that I will be conscious of factors affecting people living in this area.  If we are to look across our wider church family, many issues will be quite different, indeed, many, heartbreakingly, suffer from severe persecution to the point of a threat to their very lives making our problems look somewhat smaller!  Beside each one I have given an example of what the church could perhaps do to help with these struggles:-

Loneliness –  Unfortunately, because of a high movement of peoples in our society today, many find themselves without family and friends close by.  Within the church there is likely to be many people in this situation so a group could be created where fellowship could be formed or perhaps numbers could be exchanged whereby, they could visit each other, or a rota could be arranged for members to visit those suffering. 

Hunger – Some members of the congregation may be too busy to offer much practical support, for example they may be working full time, have young children or elderly relatives etc. but they may be in a position to donate money towards a food bank or perhaps pick-up extra messages as part of their own shopping.

Housing issues, damp, neglect, dirt, garden requirements – Those in the congregation with a trade may be useful to help those with housing needs.  Some jobs may be small and take only 20 minutes to fix but which could have been causing the homeowner great distress.  Others could help with cleaning or undertake some gardening.  Still others may be able to offer housing advice to those living in inadequate housing.     

Homelessness – This is, of course, a challenging problem and not one that is easily solved.  There can be much red tape around providing accommodation for the homeless etc.  So, this would need to be discussed on a church-by-church basis.  Perhaps at the very least a collection could be taken for the homeless on some sort of regular basis.  If someone presents themselves as homeless perhaps a member of the church could try and assist them with a place to stay and advice about places to eat, places to shower, council numbers for assistance with housing etc.  For those in temporary accommodation perhaps a member could assist with providing them with the necessities and help them settle in and get used to living in a house on their own.   

Unemployment – There may be members of the congregation who could offer work or work experience to people, or others who can help with c.v. preparation, interview skills, details of volunteering opportunities which can enhance the c.v. and keep the person active.  

Single parenthood – Life as a single parent can be lonely and overwhelming, perhaps the church could arrange a single parent’s group where they could get together and share experiences and offer advice to one another.  Members of the church could help with babysitting or provide some company for a chat in the evening.  

Abusive relationships/Emotional abuse/Manipulation – There may be members of the congregation who have experiences situations like these themselves and are well placed to come alongside someone and counsel them through this.   

Mental illness/Depression/Anxiety – Again, someone with similar experiences would be well suited to be a listening ear and support.  A group may be a great way for people suffering from mental illness to share experiences and perhaps, do uplifting and positive activities together.

Ill health in adults, children and caring for those unwell – Perhaps any nurses or carers within the congregation could offer advice as to what the church could do to help those suffering from ill health and for those that care for them.  Support could be given where necessary to ease the burden of the carer and days out or special activities could be organised for both parties.  

Lack of spiritual guidance, requiring help with Bible comprehension – A group of people who regularly undertake Bible Study would be well placed to help others gain a more comprehensive understanding of Scripture and could come alongside them as spiritual guides. 

Childcare issues – I am sure there would be many people more than willing to undertake babysitting duties!

Boredom – This may seem like a strange one but how often boredom leads to bad practices, drinking, bad sexual practice, depression etc.  Perhaps the church could arrange plenty fellowship opportunities that both young and old can participate in.  

Illiteracy/English not first language  – There may be teachers within the church that could teach literacy and if not then many in a position to teach basic English comprehension, reading and writing.   

Alcoholism/Addiction – The church should be a safe space that offers help to anyone that needs it, a place where one can be honest about lifestyle choices, however, wrong they may be and be received in Christian love.  Although this is a particularly challenging problem, advice may be given about other agencies which can also offer support whilst a listening ear, general advice and company may be offered by the church.

Unruly children – We have all been through this to some extent and those with grown up children may be well placed to offer advice and tips.  Perhaps the church could organise a parenting course or a parenting support group.

Unhealthy lifestyle/Poor diet – We are all too aware nowadays how important a healthy diet is to our overall health, yet many have never been taught how to cook this way.  It may be that there are cooks and chefs within the church that could provide ideas for low-cost healthy meal plans or organise cooking classes to get people started but if not, there are many reasonably priced recipe books that offer low cost, healthy meal ideas that could be purchased and which many family cooks could help teach. 

Inability to get basic necessities – Members of the congregation could pick up another person’s shopping while obtaining their own or pick up a prescription while nipping to the shops etc.

Inability to attend appointments – Perhaps a newly retired person or mum of school aged children would be well placed to drive people to attend appointments.

I am not naïve enough to think that this is easy, but I would hope that it was at least something that the church could work towards.  All the red tape before us can be overwhelming and feel as though the task is impossible but nothing is impossible for our God.  If we align ourselves with His will then we will succeed!  Of course, each church community is different, and some may not be large enough to offer some of the suggestions above and this is where a unified church would be of such benefit so that one church may say “we don’t have that facility, but we know who does!”.   

As Christians we have not only the tools but also the power of the Spirit to undertake these tasks.  We have answers to life’s problems in our Bible and we have God as our guide.  How many of God’s servants stand idle, waiting for the chance to be a light in the darkness, to be a worker in God’s Kingdom?  I must be honest and admit I am one such servant, a willing servant in heart but one yet to be a warrior of action and I pray that the Lord guides me to labour for His glory.   

“ For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light” Ephesians 5:8

Love and Blessings

Louise xx

Categories
Christianity

I have A Dream …. that the church will be as one

Uniting quotes by the mighty Christian civil rights leader, Martin Luther King Jr and the infamous musician John Lennon may make for a rather obscure and juxtaposed heading but one I feel works for this piece of writing.    

“I have a dream”, four simple words uttered randomly in place of a preprepared speech in 1963 which have gone down in history.    

“I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.”  Luther’s dream was not merely a unity of like-minded individuals but a unity between opposing forces.

“You may say I’m a dreamer,

But I’m not the only one,

I hope someday you’ll join us,

And the world will be as one.”

“Imagine” named Song of the Century by the National Music Publishers Association and selling 21 million copies speaks of the same “oneness” of which Martin Luther dreams.  One coming from a Christian perspective, the other from an atheist perspective, both speak of unity.

Before going further, I would like to add a caveat … this is not an academic thesis, this blog consists only of one girl’s musings on her personal observance of the church and its place within the world.  Like Martin and John, I too am a “dreamer” and this dream I share with them, the dream that the world would unite in peace.  While I think we have some way to go with this vision generally, I believe that within the Christian community this should not be a dream but a reality. 

1 Corinthians 12:12 tells us “For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ.” 

Further, “So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God,” Ephesians 2:19-22.

A few years ago I happened upon an article on the Baha’i religion which accepts all religions as having true and valid origins and I loved this idea.  The central idea of this faith is unity, and they believe that people should work together for the common benefit of humanity.  This sounded perfect to me.  But what made me feel that this faith had something that mine did not.  Looking back, it was a lack of understanding on my part.  I did not understand the love of God and His desire for unity.

The Bible is a book of love and this shines from the first page where we read of God creating this perfect world for His people.  God, Jesus, and the Spirit were in existence before our world was created, and desiring companionship they created mankind.  Those of us who are parents know how it feels to seek to love another.  When we decide to have a baby, we do not desire a baby for what it can do for us rather, we have a child so that we can love it, and this is exactly what God did with us.  Yet His story is quite different.  What if before deciding to have a child you knew that this child would rebel against everything you stood for, and that despite this it was destined that you would lay down your life for your child.  Would you still go ahead?  God did.  Jesus knew his destiny lay on the cross and yet God gave us life.  This is the love God has for each and every person on earth.      

John 3.16:17 tells us “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”

It is this “oneness” that I dream for the Christian Church, that God’s love would slice through denomination, colour, race, and culture.  That throughout the world, the church of the living God would stand shoulder to shoulder with one another as brothers and sisters in Christ.

1 Corinthians 1.10-13 “I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment. For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there is quarrelling among you, my brothers. What I mean is that each one of you says, “I follow Paul,” or “I follow Apollos,” or “I follow Cephas,” or “I follow Christ.” Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?”

The way that I see it, we all in the Christian community have something to offer the other, practically, and theologically and we can use these differences to grow in Christ. For example, some Christians will cross themselves as they enter a church building, others will cover their heads and still, others will kneel before an icon, from this can one not learn of respect, worship, and adoration of the Father?  Some Christians rock the walls of their church with the sound of drums and bass, others gaze to the heavens with arms raised in worship, some dance joyfully along the aisles, from this can one not learn how to express their love and gratitude to our maker?  Some Christians baptize babies, is this not simply an act of love and care for their child, others baptize only as adults, an informed decision and declaration of faith.  Some believe that Jesus becomes communion bread, others that He is around the bread, do these Christians not both take of this supper in faith?  Some wear hats in church, some wear head scarves, some no head coverings, some dress in suits, others in jeans, are these same individuals not each presenting themselves to a church building to worship their Father?  Are these division enough to break up the family of God?  Let us always remember that God loves each and every one of us and God knows the heart of every man.  Every person that we share this earth with is known to and special to God so let them be special to us.

Pope Frances has said “our lack of unity is in fact not only openly contrary to the will of Christ but is also a scandal to the world and harms the most holy of causes: the preaching of the Gospel to every creature”.

Can each one of us who dare to call ourselves children of God place our hands on our hearts and say we do the will of God?  That we fulfil the commandment to “love our neighbour” given to us by our Lord?  Jesus said, “by this people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:34-35.  Do people know that we are disciples of Jesus?   

Pope Frances further voices “Our differences must not be excuses. Even now we can walk in the Spirit: We can pray, evangelize, and serve together. This is possible, and it is pleasing to God! Walking, praying, and working together: This is the great path that we are called to follow. And this path has a clear aim, that of unity. The opposite path, that of division, leads to conflict and breakup.”

Let us listen to Paul when he declares.

Let us unite so the angels can sing in the words of David, “Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!”, Psalm 133:1.

Love and Blessings

Louise xx

Categories
Christianity

How Can We Help You Today?

Words that are all too common to the shoppers amongst us!  Sometimes we are barely over the threshold before being accosted by a smiling shop assistant asking what they can help with!  Of course, this can sometimes be a little irritating when one wants to just have a wander around and is not seeking anything in particular.  But what of those for whom shopping is a challenge whether through anxiety, sight challenges etc.  They can be reassured that help is available should they need it, that their needs will be met.

These words should also be commonly spoken amongst Christians for Jesus instructs us “For I was hungry, and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ Matthew 25:35-40.

I wonder what changes we could see in our communities if all our churches were to ask How Can We Help You Today?

Someone recently told me about a man living alone in the most horrible condition who was completely overlooked by all agencies etc.  There was no one willing to help him.  This is one man’s story, but how many others live in dire need of help in our communities?

I pray that each one of us has the strength and kindness of heart to ask How Can We Help You Today?

Love and Blessings

Louise

Categories
Christianity

Praying with Scripture

Hello everyone!  It has been some time since I have had the opportunity to blog but here I am and I recently learnt a wonderful prayer technique that I would love to share with you.

Having struggled recently with my prayer life, having been very distracted, I have been desperate to find something that I can connect with and I am quite sure I will take this technique with me throughout my life.

I love to read, and I love to write so this form of prayer is perfect for me, however, I appreciate it is not for everyone and if this is not for you please pop back and visit my website again as I plan to share more prayer styles with you such as creative prayer and contemplative prayer. 

I have come to acknowledge that prayer style is as unique as the individual themselves and it can be hard as we feel as though we must slide into a prayer norm that we have witnessed or been taught.  I have written previously about prayer so please refer back if you would like to read more about prayer in general.

The technique that I wish to discuss today involves taking a piece of Scripture and writing a prayer using words and phrases from the specific passage.  You can use this for any type of prayer, perhaps a prayer of desperation when life becomes too much or a prayer of thanks as you look around and feel blessed by God or in worship of our wonderful Creator God.  For the example I have detailed below I have used the style of the Lord’s Prayer from Matthew 6:9-13.  This is the prayer that Jesus taught His disciples to pray.

“Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name (worship)

Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. (aligning our will with the will of God)

Give us today our daily bread. (Asking for provision)

And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. (confession of sins and seeking forgiveness)

And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from the evil one.” (asking for wisdom)

In and of itself this is a fantastic prayer to pray when you just don’t know what else to say or if you need to align yourself with God during the day etc.

However, it is also possible to use this as a frame in which you can develop your own prayer.  You will see in brackets above the general subject of each line.

So, to do this, you must choose a piece of Scripture, I have given some suggestions below if you are unsure what to choose.  Read through the passage so you are familiar with it and look for words or phrases that tie in with the subject of your prayer.  Perhaps write down the subject headings of your prayer i.e. Worship, Provision, Confession etc. and then write beneath these relevant words or phrases.  Once you have completed this begin to write your prayer using the words and phrases you have collected.  Of course, you can add in your own words to tie it together or sentences of your own that have been guided by your reading.  You now have a personal scripture inspired prayer that you can pray to your Father!!

Here is an example that I created earlier using Genesis 20-21:-

You will note that I have inserted the verse and chapter numbers following the text so you can see where I found the words and phrases in Scripture.

Worship

“I call upon the name of the Lord, the Everlasting God (21:33).  I worship you as my living water (21:19), you who are with us in all we do (21:22), you who hears our cries and lets us not be afraid (21:17).

Aligning our will

Your promises you never forget, and your plans are unalterable (21:1).  As we welcome your kingdom and await the return of our Lord, let others see your glory within us as Phicol and Abimelech saw you with Abraham (21:22). 

Asking for provision

Provide us with our daily needs as you provided so graciously for Hagar and Ishmael (21:19) and teach us to ask only for what we need and keep us from the greed and materialistic nature of the world around us.

Confession of sins and seeking forgiveness

Tell me how I have sinned against you (20:9), show me the sin that troubles me (21:17), bring guilt upon me (20:9) and in my asking for forgiveness, heal me (20:17-18).

Asking for wisdom

Let me listen for your commands (21:4) and grant me integrity of heart to carry these out (20:5).  Bring laughter to me Lord (21:6).

In the name of your precious Son, Amen

Here is the prayer in full, omitting verse and chapter references:-

“I call upon the name of the Lord, the Everlasting God.  I worship you as my living water, you who are with us in all we do, you who hears our cries and lets us not be afraid.  Your promises you never forget, and your plans are unalterable.  As we welcome your kingdom and await the return of our Lord, let others see your glory within us as Phicol and Abimelech saw you with Abraham.  Provide us with our daily needs as you provided so graciously for Hagar and Ishmael and teach us to ask only for what we need and keep us from the greed and materialistic nature of the world around us.  Tell me how I have sinned against you, show me the sin that troubles me, bring guilt upon me and in my asking for forgiveness, heal me.  Let me listen for your commands and grant me integrity of heart to carry these out.  Bring laughter to me Lord. In the name of your precious Son, Amen

I hope you enjoy this prayer method.  I find it wonderful because as you look for relevant words and phrases within Scripture you are spending time with God in His Word, allowing Him to teach you and reveal Himself to you.  Throughout this exercise your heart is praying to God.

If the Lord’s Prayer is a bit complex for this exercise, you could use ACTS that I discussed in a previous blog.   ACTS – Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, Supplication – that is, worshipping God, confession of sins to God, thanking God and asking of God.

Of course, as I wrote earlier you can also use this for a specific prayer, and I have given some Scripture suggestions that may be useful to you below from the Book of Psalms:-

In Desperation – Psalms 4, 5, 6, 7, 22, 42, 88

In Worship – Psalm 8, 19, 33, 47, 75, 77, 93, 97, 98, 99, 104, 136, 145

Seeking Comfort – Psalm 23, 63, 113

Seeking Protection – Psalm 71, 91, 121 125  

Seeking Guidance – Psalm 25, 28, 141

In Thanksgiving – Psalm 30, 40, 65, 103, 138   

Seeking Forgiveness – Psalm 32, 39, 51

In this way of praying, we are praying God’s precious Word back to Him, learning Scripture, getting to know our Father, and creating prayers far more beautiful than we could create alone.  

Happy Praying and feel free to comment on how you got on with this exercise or request more information.

Love and Blessings

Louise xx

Categories
Christianity

Growing in your knowledge of Christ

So, you have become a Christian and you are desperate to know more.  When you give your life to Jesus you can find yourself, as I did, in a state of frantic searching for more, a deep longing to know more of God and more of His Story.  There are many ways to go about this.  I began with a personal study of Paul The Apostle.  I studied his journeys and read many books about his life and writings.  Following this I began to study each book of the Bible individually, looking at who the author was, when it was written, the purpose of writing etc.  When I had completed this I was still desperately searching for more and so I enrolled in an Access to Degree programme with Highland Theoretical College and now I am on the degree programme.  Throughout the week I also take part in the BSF Bible Study, help out with Alpha, watch sermons online, attend a Dwelling in the Word session, go to worship virtually with my college and do personal Bible reading and journaling.   

Before embarking on any study, it is helpful to begin with a short prayer asking the Lord to help you to understand more of His Word and get to know Him more intimately.  I will close this blog with an example should you wish to use this.

I think it is especially important you understand that not one of us will leave this world with all the answers.  While Scripture is held amongst the pages of a book, It is not simply a collection of light-hearted words as a novel or simple poetry but a depth of knowledge stacked layer upon layer holding at It’s core, life itself. 

The Bible is our history, the history of the world we live in, it is our life, the air that we breathe, it details our King, Priest and Saviour, our ancestry, our heavenly family and our future, it is our guide to living, a parenting guide and marriage counsel, it is our hope in the darkness of despair and depression, an example of living and dealing with others, how to do business effectively, how to create friendships, what we should strive for and what we should avoid.  One may read Scripture for 50 years and pick the Bible one day and be completely taken aback by what one reads.  The reason for this is twofold, firstly, the sheer amount and depth of the information Scripture contains and secondly, because our ability to understand the Word of God is given to us by God Himself.  He will allow us to comprehend what He wants us to comprehend and therefore God will reveal new knowledge to us when it is the right time for us to know it!  I also feel when we are dealing with our relationship with God and our knowledge of God, there is both head knowledge and heart knowledge.  We can feel an understanding of who God is and what His purpose is emotionally as well as understand academically His story and His plan.  It can be daunting when we feel as though we are so clueless about God but rest in this, you are never clueless when you come to Jesus, you are a Child of God and as such God has supplied you with all knowledge you require at this stage and day by day, month by month, year on year it will be added to, what is important is your relationship with God.

Having understood that, a good place to start is with something that stands out to you, something that interests you, for me, as you have read it was Paul the Apostle, for you it may be Ruth, King David, Abraham, Peter, it may be civilian life in the time of Jesus, it may be spirituality in the time of Jesus, or church life, it may be the book of Romans, or Acts, or Genesis, it may be the person of Jesus, the miracles of Jesus, it may be the authors of the Scriptures, such as Luke, why did he write?  Who was he?  It may be Christian religions today and how they differ?  Different types of prayer?  The list is endless.  Whatever it is that interests you there is likely to be books about it and/or information on the internet to help you learn more.  I must add a caveat here … it is important to consider where information comes from online (as well as in book format) because everyone writes for a different purpose and not all information is likely to be accurate.)    

There is a great selection of Bible Study Guides online.  Below I have included just a small selection of what is on offer.  There are many more in each collection as well as different study collections I did not have space to include!

Eden.co.uk has a great selection including but not limited to:-

Life builder Bible Studies:

  • Psalms
  • Parables
  • Twelve Disciples
  • Listening to God
  • Philippians
  • Isaiah
  • Angels
  • Prayer
  • All around £4.90

Cover to Cover Bible Study:

  • Armour of God
  • Elisha
  • 1 Peter
  • All around £3.90

For Everyone Bible Study Guides:

  • Revelation
  • Matthew
  • All around £4.90

Loads more also available at Amazon, Wordery, Abe Books etc.  Just type Bible Study Guides in the search engine.  You will also find free Bible study questions online.

Why not also try reading Scripture thoughtfully.  It is easy for us sometimes just to scan through Scripture quickly in desperation to complete the Bible, but it is important sometimes to slow down and read slowly and mindfully.  I have included a short example below of a passage and the type of questions you could ask yourself:-

Matthew 8:23-27

  • “Then he got into the boat and his disciples followed him.  Suddenly a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!” He replied, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm.  The men were amazed and asked, “What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him.”

Interestingly, this passage includes questions which you may use!

V27 “What sort of man is this, that even the winds and sea obey Him?” 

Have a think about what Jesus’ ability to calm the seas speaks of the person of Christ? 

What do you notice about the way Jesus stills the storm?

V26 “Why are you afraid, you of little faith?” 

What do you notice about the way the disciples approach Jesus?

How does the way he reacts to the disciples speak of His nature?

Jesus calls them those of “little faith”, do you ever find your faith and trust in God is diminished and if so, what is happening when this is the case?

Read v18-22

  • “When Jesus saw the crowd around him, he gave orders to cross to the other side of the lake. Then a teacher of the law came to him and said, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.”Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” Another disciple said to him, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.”  But Jesus told him, “Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead.”

How would you have responded to Jesus’ response and requirements?  Would this information have affected your decision to follow Jesus? Why do you think Jesus responded to the disciples in this way?

Despite Jesus’ comments in v18-22, the disciples were keen to follow Jesus onto the boat, when do you find it easy to trust Jesus in this way?

Which of God’s promises/Scripture verses could you rest upon during your periods of difficulty?

A further question that always comes into my mind is, how was Jesus able to sleep amidst the storm?  Bear in mind these were small fishing boats so it would have been filling up with water and Jesus would have likely been soaking wet!

I hope this has given you some ideas of what you can do next in terms of learning more about our wonderful Father.  I have added below a prayer that you can use before beginning your study, of course, if you are comfortable, you can use one of your own!-

God, my heavenly Father, I long to learn more about you, I yearn to know you more intimately, your nature, your deeds, and your plans.  Be with me and help me today as I strive to know more of you.  Guide me to the chapters and verses that best equip me to your service today.  I ask all these things in the most holy name of your Son, Jesus. Amen

Love and Blessings

Louise x

Categories
bible art Bible Fun Christianity faith God Jesus Love Religion

The Art of Saying Grace

When I became a Christian, I often pondered the following question:-

What should my life look like now I have been born again?

Beyond the attending of a Sunday service, I had no idea what a Christian lifestyle looked like!  Trying to figure this out can be a confusing time.  Of course, the Bible holds the answers to this and any other questions that we may have, however, finding these answers can take a considerable amount of time, as many long-term Christians will attest to.  The questions will never stop coming as we journey through our earthly life and we must never stop seeking the answers.  It is likely that the point of our conversion is the time we question most in our Christian lives as we look at our lives and the changes we must make and make them we must.  As Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 5:17 “therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!”  Our old self is gone, we are a new creation and this new creation must be different from the old, as Paul explains, Colossians 3:7-10 “You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips.  Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.”

Paul explains to us why it is important that we show our new selves to those around us, 2 Corinthians 5:20 “We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.” We are ambassadors for Christ!  This is at once a huge blessing and a huge undertaking.  Working for Christ, we must always seek to glorify His name and lead others to His kingdom. 

This may seem daunting but bear in mind that this role is different for everyone, for some, the change is significant and almost instantaneous, we hear of incredibly violent prisoners becoming gentle giants overnight,  of drug dealers immediately turning from a life of crime, however, for others, the change is very small but slow and steady.  What is important is that others see the difference, that others see God through you.  Perhaps month by month you drink a little less alcohol, perhaps week by week you swear less or day by day you become a little more selfless.  So have a look at your life and ponder the changes you could make. 

One of the first things I decided to implement in my life was the act of saying grace before meals.  When I did some research on the internet about this subject, I found that worldwide, people of many religions and none say grace before meals, I have listed some examples below:-

Humanist Benediction – “For the meal we are about to eat, for those that made it possible, and for those with whom we are about to share it, we are thankful.”

Native American Thanksgiving:- “I’m an Indian.  I think about the common things like this pot.  The bubbling water comes from the rain cloud.  It represents the sky.  The fire comes from the sun, Which warms us all, men, animals, trees.  The meat stands for the four-legged creatures, Our animal brothers, Who gave themselves so that we should live.  The steam is living breath.  It was water, now it goes up to the sky, Becomes a cloud again. These things are sacred.  Looking at that pot full of good soup, I am thinking how, in this simple manner, The Great Spirit takes care of me.”

Hindu Blessing:- “May the Lord accept this, our offering, and bless our food that it may bring us strength in our body, vigour in our mind, and selfless devotion in our hearts for His service.”

Buddhist Blessing:- “Wisely reflecting, I use this food not for fun, not for pleasure, not for fattening, not for beautification, but only for the maintenance and nourishment of this body, for keeping it healthy, for helping with the Spiritual Life. Thinking thus, I will allay hunger without overeating, so that I may continue to live blamelessly and at ease.”

Muslim Blessing:- “Bismillah Al-rahman, Al-rahmin,” which means “I begin in the name of God most gracious and ever merciful.”

Isn’t it interesting that throughout the world people of all faiths are giving thanks for the food that they eat!  Saying grace before a meal allows us to humble ourselves before God and realise that all and any blessing we have is from God.  We may have grown the vegetables and prepared the meal but only through God has that been made possible, though we planted the vegetables, God created them, though we may have picked the vegetables from the ground, it was God that provided the rain in order that they would grow and the earth in which they were nourished.  Though we may have slaved in the kitchen for hours, it is only by God’s grace that we have the ability to prepare food and the utensils required to prepare and distribute our meals.  Giving thanks to God for this is only right!

Paul, the apostle, gave thanks to God before feeding all the men on the ship that he was travelling on, Acts 27:35 “After he said this, he took some bread and gave thanks to God in front of them all. Then he broke it and began to eat.” 

During one of Jesus’ miracles, in which He feeds over 5000 people with five loaves of bread and two fish, He gave thanks to God before serving them, Matthew 14:15-21  “As evening approached, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a remote place, and it’s already getting late. Send the crowds away, so they can go to the villages and buy themselves some food.  Jesus replied, “They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat.” “We have here only five loaves of bread and two fish,” they answered.  “Bring them here to me,” he said.  And he directed the people to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the people.  They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over.  The number of those who ate was about five thousand men, besides women and children.”

Again, following His resurrection Jesus, gave thanks before breaking bread with two of His followers, Luke 24:28-31 As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus continued on as if he were going farther.  But they urged him strongly, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over.” So, he went in to stay with them.  When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it, and began to give it to them.  Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight.” 

Paul and Jesus have led by example in the art of saying grace.  If it is important to Jesus to give thanks to His Father, how much more so for us!

Paul further advises us to give thanks for everything in Ephesians 5:20 “always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” And Romans 11:36 “For from him and through him and for him are all things.  To him be the glory forever! Amen”  Everything we see, hear, taste, touch, smell and those that we can’t comprehend are from God and we must be thankful. 

By saying grace, we are giving thanks to our Creator, we humble ourselves before God, we acknowledge that without God, we are nothing and we have nothing.

It can be intimidating beginning to say grace in front of others, and if this is how you are feeling at the prospect begin by saying a simple form of grace in your head before eating.  You can continue in this fashion if this is what you are comfortable with.  It can be difficult to know what to say to begin with so I have given some examples  of Christian grace below but, of course, if you are comfortable, you can construct your own grace prayer:-

Moravian Dinner Prayer

Come, Lord Jesus, our guest to be

And bless these gifts

Bestowed by Thee.

And bless our loved ones everywhere,

And keep them in Your loving care.

Amen.

Catholic Grace

Bless us, O Lord, and these
thy gifts which we are about
to receive from thy bounty,
through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Bénedic, Dómine, nos et haec
tua dona quae de tua largitate sumus sumpturi.
Per Christum  Dóminum nostrum. Amen.

Funny Form of Grace

Please Lord, bless this food, and then bless it some more.

We know it needs your blessing because we have eaten here before!”

Author Unknown

Our dear Heavenly Father,

We thank thee for this food.

Feed our souls on the bread of life,

And help us to do our part in kind words and loving deeds.

We ask in Jesus’ name.

Scottish, Selkirk Grace

Some hae meat and canna eat,
And some wad eat that want it.
But we hae meat, and we can eat,
Sae let the Lord be thankit.

Love and Blessings

Louise x

Categories
Christianity

All about Angels

I was recently doing a Bible Study where I was given a passage and asked the question, “How does it make you feel to know that you have an angel?”  This took me quite by surprise as although I had read of angels in Scripture, I had never really pondered this further than the scope of these particular verses.  To discover more, I decided to have a little Bible Study of my own and the result of this is what I share with you today!   

When you think of angels in Scripture, an image most likely to come to mind is that of Gabriel bringing the good news to Mary, Luke 1:26-38.  This scene is recreated in nativity plays worldwide but what I have always found interesting is that Gabriel is always played by a little girl!  I wonder if Gabriel feels as though he has been misrepresented somewhat!

There are a multitude of passages regarding angels throughout the Bible but for the purposes of this blog I have chosen passages from the New Testament only.  There were just too many to include so you will find additional verses footnoted at the bottom of the page.   

I have also added some Old Testament passages at the end of the blog so that you can peruse these at your own leisure.

So, let us try and answer some questions we may have about angels! 

How many angels are there?

  • There are thousands upon thousands.
    • Matt 26:53 “Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels?” [1] – A legion is said to consist of approximately 6000.   

What form do angels take? 

  • Angels can look like men but have the appearance of lightning.
    • Luke 24:1-8 “On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: ‘The Son of Man must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.’ ” Then they remembered his words.” [2]
  • Angels can look like you and me!
    • Hebrews 13:2 “Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.”
  • Angels are powerful and strong.
    • 2 Peter 2:11,  “yet even angels, although they are stronger and more powerful, do not heap abuse on such beings when bringing judgment on them from the Lord.” [3]
  • There is a hierarchy:
    • Jude 9 “But even the archangel Michael, when he was disputing with the devil about the body of Moses, did not himself dare to condemn him for slander but said, “The Lord rebuke you!”” [4]
    • Only 2 angels are named (Lucifer was also named prior to his fall whereafter he became known as Satan).
    • Luke 1:19  “The angel said to him, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news.” [5]

Examples of angels appearing to man

  • To Peter and John,
    • Acts 5:19-20 But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the doors of the jail and brought them out. “Go, stand in the temple courts,” he said, “and tell the people all about this new life.” [6]
  • Philip,
    • Acts 8:26-27  “Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Go south to the road—the desert road—that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” So, he started out, and on his way, he met an Ethiopian eunuch, an important official in charge of all the treasury of the Kandake (which means “queen of the Ethiopians”). This man had gone to Jerusalem to worship, and on his way home was sitting in his chariot reading the Book of Isaiah the prophet. The Spirit told Philip, “Go to that chariot and stay near it.”
  • Paul,
    • Acts 27:21-26  “After they had gone a long time without food, Paul stood up before them and said: “Men, you should have taken my advice not to sail from Crete; then you would have spared yourselves this damage and loss. But now I urge you to keep up your courage, because not one of you will be lost; only the ship will be destroyed. Last night an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I serve stood beside meand said, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul. You must stand trial before Caesar; and God has graciously given you the lives of all who sail with you.’ So, keep up your courage, men, for I have faith in God that it will happen just as he told me. Nevertheless, we must run aground on some island.”
  • John,
    • Rev 1:1 “The revelation from Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants what must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John.”
  • Zechariah,
    • Luke 1:8-20 “Once when Zechariah’s division was on duty and he was serving as priest before God, he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to go into the temple of the Lord and burn incense. And when the time for the burning of incense came, all the assembled worshipers were praying outside. Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and was gripped with fear. But the angel said to him: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to call him John. He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before he is born. He will bring back many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” Zechariah asked the angel, “How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.” The angel said to him, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news. And now you will be silent and not able to speak until the day this happens, because you did not believe my words, which will come true at their appointed time.”

What is the role of angels?

  • To minister,
    • Hebrews 1:14  “Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation?”
  • To bring messages,
    • Acts 8:26 “Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Go south to the road—the desert road—that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.”
    • Acts 27:23-24 “Last night an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I serve stood beside meand said, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul. You must stand trial before Caesar; and God has graciously given you the lives of all who sail with you.’”
  • To carry out God’s judgements,
    • Acts 12:23, “Immediately, because Herod did not give praise to God, an angel of the Lord struck him down, and he was eaten by worms and died.”
  • To carry out war with demonic forces,
    • Rev 12:7-8, “Then war broke out in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. But he was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven.”
  • To facilitate God’s will on earth,
    • Matt 2:13 “When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up,” he said, “take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.”
    • Matt 2:19-23“After Herod died, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who were trying to take the child’s life are dead.” So he got up, took the child and his mother and went to the land of Israel. But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning in Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. Having been warned in a dream, he withdrew to the district of Galilee, and he went and lived in a town called Nazareth. So was fulfilled what was said through the prophets, that he would be called a Nazarene.”[7]

Are angels still active and what are they doing?

  • Speaking with God
    • Luke 12:8 “I tell you, whoever publicly acknowledges me before others, the Son of Man will also acknowledge before the angels of God.”
  • Playing music as they will at the coming of Jesus
    • Matthew 24:30-31 “Then will appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven. And then all the peoples of the earth will mourn when they see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory.And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other.”
  • Rejoicing
    • Luke 15:10 “In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.’”
  • Taking instructions and power from God
    • Rev 7:1,2 “After this I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding back the four winds of the earth to prevent any wind from blowing on the land or on the sea or on any tree. Then I saw another angel coming up from the east, having the seal of the living God. He called out in a loud voice to the four angels who had been given power to harm the land and the sea:”
  • In the future they will come into the world with Jesus.
    • 2 Thessalonians 1:7 “and give relief to you who are troubled, and to us as well. This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels.” [8]

How do angels minister to people?

  • Angels are examples to us,
    • Matt 6:10 “your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”
  • Angels model worship,
    • Revelation 5:11-12 “Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand. They encircled the throne and the living creatures and the elders. In a loud voice they were saying: “Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honour and glory and praise!””
  • Angels comfort,
    • Mark 1:11-13“And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.” At once the Spirit sent him out into the wilderness,and he was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan. He was with the wild animals, and angels attended him.”
    • Matt 18:10 “See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven.”

Do we become angels in heaven?

No, although we will be like angels, we will not be identical.  We will have a different role.

  • Matt 22:30 “At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven.”
  • 1 Corinthians 6:3 “Do you not know that we will judge angels? How much more the things of this life!”

Can angels’ sin?

Yes, and they did.  These have become the fallen angels of which Satan is one. 

  • 2 Pet 2:4 “For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but sent them to hell, putting them in chains of darkness to be held for judgment;”
  • Jude 6 “And the angels who did not keep their positions of authority but abandoned their proper dwelling – these he has kept in darkness, bound with everlasting chains for judgment on the great Day.”
  • Rev 12:7-8,  “Then war broke out in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. But he was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven.”

What has stood out to me during this study has been the sheer power the angels hold, the ability to hold back the wind, the strength to move a gravestone!  The fact they look like you or me and the example of worship and love they provide for us.

What a comfort to us to know that we have angels there to strengthen us in order that we may carry out God’s will and what a lovely imagine to behold of the angels rejoicing, singing and playing music all because one little human like you or I has come to join the church family.   

A word of warning as we discover all about angels is that they, themselves, are not to be worshipped, they are under the direct command of God, just as we are and therefore we are not to address them directly, but through God He will send them to our aid if necessary. 

Lastly,  I will finish with a verse which I find of huge comfort.  As Jesus prays His most desperate prayer, as He faces His death, an angel comes to strengthen Him.  Just as He feels He cannot go through with God’s will.  As Jesus trembles in fear of what awaits Him, an angel comes to comfort Him and help Him to continue in His Father’s will.  What an encouragement for us and what a comfort.    

  • Luke 22:39-44“He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him.”

Love and Blessings

Louise x

Additional Old Testament Scripture

Genesis 18:2-15, 19:1-22

Joshua 5:13-15

Judges 13:6-21

2 Samuel 24:16

Psalms 78:25, 78:49, 91:11, 103:20

Job 38:1-7

Zechariah 2:3


[1] Revelation 5:11, Hebrews 12:22

[2] Matthew 28:1-7

[3] Matthew 28:2

[4] 1 Thessalonians 4:16

[5] Jude 9

[6] Acts 12:6-15

[7] Luke 2:8-15 and Matthew 1:24-25

[8] Matthew 13:49, 25:31-33, Luke 9:26, 1 Thessalonians 4:16

Categories
Christianity

Our Comforting Father

Sometimes, as Christians, we are blessed with experiences that we simply must share with others and this week is just such an occasion for me. 

For many years now I have suffered from ongoing familial struggles which have caused me great heartbreak and until this year I was not handling them in a godly manner.  This year, God stepped in …  I say this but rather God had been there all the time, but, I had not been prepared to listen to Him!  Given the nature of my struggles it is difficult to write about them although I have often been tempted to in order to reach out to others who may be experiencing a similar situation and are like I was, struggling alone.  This I must ponder over but for now I write about the comfort of God.   

A few days ago, I had been upset throughout the day and I could sense the all too familiar warning signs going off in my head, warning signs that if ignored lead to a very dark place that I do not want to revisit.  When my husband, Craig arrived home from work, he immediately decided to pray over me, for the peace and comfort of God to be upon me.  As he prayed, I felt peace, my spiralling thoughts start to slow, my anxiety which I had felt throughout my body calmed.  My mind which had been frantic 10 minutes previous was now relaxed and I settled down to read my books, something that would have been entirely impossible before this prayer.  Later Craig and I decided to play a board game and together we laughed and joked.  I cannot begin to describe the power of God in that moment of prayer, the sheer unlikeness of this situation.  Many will say, well that just mind over matter, I was convinced that God was working to bring me peace and so I believed it.  Well I can tell you that I didn’t believe that was going to happen.  I thought my mind had gone way to far to be pulled back, I had it in my head that I would most likely not get out of bed for at least the next few days.  You see, I am a sceptic.  I hate it.  It makes my faith life one big, never ending battle but I am sceptical about everything,  my mind is one which works best with scientific explanations, I believe what I can see with my own eyes and what I can touch with my own hands, etc.  Despite this, when Craig prayed, although my mind tells me “this won’t work, I am too sad etc. etc.” I felt peace.  God comforted me and His comfort has not left me.  Of course, I have felt God’s comfort before but in this instance, I was sure, I was past being able to be comforted by God.  How naive of me, like the God who created the entire world, universe and heavens cannot make me smile and feel peaceful!!   

One of the most beautiful passages on the comfort of God is found in Psalm 23.

“The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.

He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk through the darkest valley,
I will fear no evil, for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”

Let us unpack these verses a little:-

“The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.  He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul.”

The Lord, our God is everything we need.  When you imagine a shepherd what do you think of?  Perhaps take a moment to think about a shepherd, wandering the hillside surrounded by his flock?  What is the shepherd doing?  How is he caring for his sheep?

There are many metaphors to describe God, but few that encapsulate so many of the natures of God.

As we see above, we “lack nothing”.  God is provider, and He provides us with all we need and more as we see later in the passage “my cup overflows”.  Just as the shepherd guides his sheep towards green pastures where he can provide them with good grass, our Lord leads us to where we need to be, He provides us with the food that we need and the peace we require “he leads me beside quiet waters.”  He refreshes us.  Extremely popular today are Buddhist style spiritual retreats which offer peace and spiritual refreshment.  Christian spiritual retreats, however, can often be few and far between yet God tells us that He is the one that brings us peace, He is the one that can refresh us.  Jesus tells us “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”  Matthew 11:28-30.

“He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake.  Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”

God is our guide; He is our conscience.  When we trust in God, He will lead us down the right path and though it may be vastly different from that which we would choose for ourselves, it will be a much less troublesome journey.  God is fearless, whatever danger we face, however much sin we may have involved ourselves in, no matter what sin abounding hole we may cry out from, God will come to our side, He will remain by our side, such is His merciful love for us. 

“You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.  You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.  Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”

God looks upon this world with longing, longing to see more and more of us become His sons and daughters and He awaits you in His home, the home which he wishes to share with you forever.  He longs to anoint you with oil as He blesses you as His adopted child and thus, we can call him “Abba”.

To those who are struggling as you read this, those who feel as though their struggles are just too much for them to bear, those who have no one to speak to, or no one that can understand their pain, please cry out to God, cry out “Abba”.  The Hebrew “Abba” is a term akin to “Daddy”.  Although we should never forget how much respect, awe, and veneration we should hold towards our God, at the same time, know that He is your Daddy.  He will find you when you are lost, He will provide for you and He will comfort you when you are hurting. 

Paul says in 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort,who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.”  Paul could have felt that he was beyond the comfort of God, he was beaten, stoned, imprisoned, persecuted, hungry, thirsty, yet, he felt the other worldly comfort of God, through all these pains, Paul felt at peace because of the comfort he received from Jesus.  

Before facing His death, Jesus comforted His disciples who were themselves struggling to cope with this prospect.  Jesus said to them “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”  John 14:27.  Jesus says the same to you now.  Rest in peace and comfort in the arms of Jesus.

A note for those that may be suffering.  Please do not suffer alone.  Get in touch with someone, perhaps your doctor, a friend, family member, an organisation, someone at a local church or drop me a message (and my husband and I can pray for you).  Sometimes we can feel as though we are so alone and that we don’t want to bother anyone with our problems and bring them down, but chances are they are only too happy to help.  Just think how you would feel were it someone that you cared about.  Of course, God can provide the comfort to you but often God will send someone to you, someone to ease your loneliness, ease your suffering so please reach out.  If you are searching for God’s comfort today, please pray with me.

Abba, Father, please hear my cry.  I am so lost, and I just don’t know where to turn or what to think.  Please place your loving arms around me and bring me the peace and comfort of your heart.  Hold me close as you pull me up and set my feet on the path of your choosing and hold my hand as you guide me step by step along the way.  I ask this in the mighty, loving name of your Son, Jesus through whom it is possible for me to come to you.  Amen.   

Love and Blessings

Louise x 

Categories
Christianity

Why BSF?

Yesterday I posted a blog about the Alpha Course and today I felt it only right that I blog about another course which is close to my heart and that is BSF (Bible Study Fellowship). 

In April of this year I joined BSF in the hope that I could meet and interact with other Christian woman and have an opportunity to discuss matters of faith with them.  BSF has met these hopes of mine and more. 

Bible Study Fellowship brings Christians together in groups to explore Scripture and relate the Word of God to our daily lives.  Learning how to put my faith into practice is what I value most about my time at BSF.  Each week I come away feeling closer to God, knowing more about the nature of God, and knowing how I can practice my faith in my family life, my friendships, my neighbourhood, my church, my studies and every other aspect of my life.  Another aspect which I am grateful to this course for is my ability to speak in front of others.  When I joined this course, I was extremely nervous, and I thought that I would just sit back and listen to what others had to say.  However, this did not materialise.  The environment that BSF adopts is so loving and inclusive that you are likely to find yourself completely at ease, not feeling as though your responses will be judged and confident that if you need to raise something more personal and deep in nature, that the group will be very supportive. 

Now to how it works.  If you would like to find out if there is a course in your area please visit www.bsfinternational.org.  Of course, due to Covid regulations, meetings are all virtual at the moment so, in effect, you could join a group anywhere, but, as the groups are likely to return to normal post Covid it may be best to find a group that you will be able to attend. However, if there is not one in your locale perhaps email someone for advice?  BSF is a worldwide organisation so hopefully there is a group out there for everyone.  There are women’s classes, men’s classes, young adult classes, school programs and preschool programmes.    

When you have found something in your locality signing up is easy.  When you have signed up you will receive an email with instructions as to what happens next.  I did find it a little confusing to start with regarding which notes, and questions related to that particular week but one of the leaders was exceedingly kind to me and helped me by means of text, email, and a voice message!

In preparation for the week’s class you must print off or request printed copies of the questions (if neither is possible, I guess you could just work off your computer or phone?).  Read the prescribed Scripture and answer the questions.  You do not have to worry if there are some you prefer not to answer or that you find confusing.  Just listen to what others have to say about that particular question and take notes. In the small breakout groups in the class you will discuss your answers to the questions, of course, speaking is entirely voluntary and if you want to just listen in for a while to get used to things that is perfectly alright.  Some people are more willing to talk than others and this is natural.  Once the class is finished there is a lecture to watch which summarises all of the things you have learnt that week along with notes to read to further summarise and then you are back to reading the Bible and answering the questions in preparation for the following week’s class. 

Have a look through the website where you will also find a wonderful Prayer Guide and other information.  Although not in everyone’s budget they do offer trips to the Holy Land which certainly look as if they would be the trip of a lifetime.  The tour guides are all deeply knowledgeable and would have a fantastic understanding of the Holy Land and how it relates to Scripture.

In my blog on Alpha that I published yesterday you will see my views on virtual classes and how, for those who fear going into environments they are unsure of or speaking in front of others, this is a fantastic way to learn and meet new people without the associated pressures.  Now is the time to try Bible Study Fellowship and I pray that you get from it as much as I have.

Of course, if you find you are unable to attend BSF because of your locale or the timings of the classes please look around for other bible studies that may benefit you.  Perhaps ask your church if they have any or if they know of churches nearby that have organised one.  If it appears as though there are no bible studies in your area perhaps consider getting a group together and forming your own bible study.  There are apps online which can help with content such as Wordgo which was created by Bible Study Fellowship.  Bible studies are so important to enhance Scripture.   

Lord, I pray that you guide your children towards places of learning.  We know that the church is designed to teach yet the church has many more demands placed upon it.  As a church we are to worship, to pray and to support each other and some weeks we may not learn from the Word as much as we should and this is where a Bible Study group fills any gap that may have arisen.  Without a sound understanding of your Word, Lord, how are we to understand your nature, how are we to get to know you intimately.  I pray that you guide your children to learn more about you and where there is a lack of teaching please place teachers in their midst.  We ask these things in the glorious and majestic name of your Son, Jesus.  Amen.

Love and Blessings

Louise x

Categories
Christianity

Why Alpha?

This coming week Craig and I are to lead a breakout group on Alpha and I just wanted to write a short blog on this course. 

Earlier this year I saw an advert on Facebook for an upcoming Alpha Course.  Now, I have seen and heard about Alpha many times during my life and often thought about attending so the question begs to be answered, why didn’t I?  I would answer as follows:-

  1. Unable to get childcare.
  2. Course held in unfamiliar church.
  3. Don’t know anyone attending or leading.
  4. Alpha might not be for someone like me.
  5. Scared to speak in front of others.
  6. Don’t think I will fit in with Christian people.

The reason I admit to these fears is because I am confident I am not alone and that these are the very same fears many of you suffer from and are the same fears that prevent you also from attending Alpha so let us address them:-

  1. I would question myself as to whether it really was impossible to get childcare or whether I did not want to explain to anyone where I was going.  It can be difficult when we are surrounded by non-Christians to have the courage to tell them that we are attending a course about God.  This is humorously addressed in the Alpha course as we all understand how difficult this is, even those of us who have been Christians for years.  The fear of being different does not go away but experience makes it easier. 
  2. I am sure many of you feel this way.  Going to an unfamiliar church can be daunting even on a Sunday when you can sneak in, sit at the back and not have to contribute so the thought of walking into a church you have never been to and taking part in something is very daunting.  Sometimes the Alpha Course is also held in people’s houses, this would have been equally daunting to me!  What if I need to use the bathroom and I have to ask in front of everyone where it is?  What if I start coughing and have to ask for a glass of water?  What if I don’t know where to sit?  What if they serve food I don’t like, and I have to eat it anyway!  My mind would have been awash with these and many other anxieties.  Whilst I cannot speak for every host of Alpha (as I have not personally met them) I could be confident that if they are hosting Alpha they have a desire to reach out to those who have not encountered God and teach of His great grace and mercies.  With this purpose in mind I think it highly likely that these hosts would do everything in their power to make you feel comfortable and at ease to show the love of God that we as Christians are called to demonstrate. 
  3. I think realistically whether I knew people on the course or not I would be anxious.  When I think about it, I probably felt more comfortable not knowing anyone as I was free to speak and ask questions without worrying about prejudices that I was conscious people that know me may harbour. 
  4. I was scared Alpha was not for me for many reasons at different points in my life.  I remember a friend of mine did Alpha about 20 years ago and then I thought “I don’t want to be involved with this Christian stuff, what’s the point in going away for a weekend with a load of boring Christians when I could have my own weekend away doing the things that I like to do.”  As life progressed, I thought “I am too busy with the children to devote an evening for 11 weeks to this course and an entire weekend!”  Later still “I don’t think I am good enough to go on a course like this, people will see that I am not capable of such faith.”  When I eventually began Alpha this year I had been a Christian for some years and that made me think “this course is not for me because I am already a Christian so what can it teach me that I don’t already know.  Perhaps people will know I don’t belong there because I already have faith and they will think it is stupid that I am going along.”  After having attended Alpha I have to say that Alpha is for everyone.  There were people at all stages of faith there and those of no faith.  I believe that this contributes to better conversation and better learning opportunities because all stages of faith bring something to the table.  Those that are new to the faith often have such enthusiasm that many long-term Christians have long since lacked.  Newbies have so many questions that can push the long-term Christian to think over these questions of faith that perhaps they have long since forgotten or the newbie can challenge the long-term Christian to provide an answer that he doesn’t have and force him to learn for himself.  The advantage of having long-term Christians is that they have had many experiences that they can share with newbies and can provide a comfort to them, they can introduce the newbie to prayer and answer questions that they may have, suggested books that may help, etc. etc.  Believe me when I say there is no one out there in this whole big wide world we live in that would not bring something to Alpha. 
  5. It can be terrifying for some of us to speak in public.  For my husband, not so much, in fact he revels in it, for me it is so frightening.  I constantly question myself about what I have said, was it correct?  Will people think I am stupid?  Did I sound like a know it all?  Did I interrupt someone?  Am I speaking too much?  Am I speaking too little?  When we attended Alpha, I was terrified, I told my husband before we joined that he was to speak for me if I was too nervous to speak.  Everything changed as soon as we joined our first breakout group.  Our hosts were so lovely, welcoming, and instantly made us feel at ease.  Our group was fantastic, and at once I felt as though we had known each other for years.  There were 9 of us altogether at different stages of faith and every single one of us looked forward to our weekly chats, a chat that continued throughout the week in our What’s App Group that we created.  When it came to the last evening we were all really sad but we vowed to keep in touch and we have done so and still regularly chat on What’s App and one day we hope to meet in person whenever we get to the other side of Covid!  It will be so strange seeing each other for the first time and yet knowing each other so well through group chat, one to one chat and following each other’s lives on Facebook!      
  6. Christians are just like you and me.  Christians have the faith that God sent His Son Jesus to die on the cross for our sins and that through this and His resurrection those of us who believe are saved and are co-inheritants of eternal life.  These Christians also have “normal” jobs, they have relationships, they play sport, they sing, they go to the pub or restaurant, they hang out with friends, they travel, they watch movies, they have “normal” lives and are “normal” people.  Christianity, at times, can, unfortunately appear as though it is all bake sales, craft afternoons and tea dances (no offence to any bakers, eaters, crafters or ceilidh enthusiasts (I must admit to dabbling in all of these activities myself), however, I understand, for the young it may be off-putting!  I thought it may be helpful to make a list of some confessing Christians who are in the public eye in order that you may form your own ideas of what a Christian looks like:-   

Bear Grylls, Adventurer

Chris Pratt, Actor

Mark Wahlberg, Actor

Denzel Washington, Actor  

Justin Bieber, Singer

Stormzy, Singer

Matthew McConaughey, Actor

Tom Hanks, Actor  

Kanye West and Kim Kardashian, Rapper/Reality Star    

Elijah Wood, Actor  

Keith Urban and Nicole Kidman, Singer/Actor

Alice Cooper, Singer  

Tyson Fury, Boxer

Lionel Messi, Footballer

Neymar, Footballer

Sergio Ramos, Footballer  

Usain Bolt, Athlete

Bubba Watson, Pro Golfer

Manny Pacquaio, Boxer

Lewis Hamilton, Racing Driver

We have looked at many of the fears one can have about Alpha and I have explained how, in my experience, the fears I had turned out to be unfounded.  But I have something even more reassuring to share with you.  Covid 19 has given Alpha the ability to come to you!!  For the meantime, Alpha is virtual!  

Attending Alpha online means:-

  1. You attend from the comfort of your own home.  You can attend from your bed, from your sofa, from your dining table, from your garden, from anywhere you feel most comfortable.
  2. You can leave without any uncomfortableness.  Although I highly doubt you would want to, there is reassurance in the fact that at the touch of a button you have left.
  3. You have your own facilities, your own food and drink on tap.
  4. If nerves overcome you or a situation arises you must deal with, just pop your camera, and microphone off and listen in.  Just by the touch of a button you can listen whilst “invisible”.
  5. Here there is an opportunity to enter into this Alpha space, suss it out, see others that are taking part and test if you feel comfortable enough to continue and if not, the magic button is there to be pressed. 

Although I have explained how simple it is to leave I write this merely because I know it helped my fears knowing that this was an option, however, not once, did I consider it and I highly doubt you will either.  Sometimes we just need to know there is a safety net below us!  If you have these concerns or indeed any others please get in touch with me, a local church, or a member of Alpha because we, as Christians, are here to help.  It is part of our “job description” to love our neighbours as ourselves and this includes comforting and reassuring those who need it. 

Now a little about how the evening will progress.  The day before Alpha begins, and each week following, you are sent, by email, a link to a song which you listen to at 7.45pm (or whatever time the particular course begins), then at 8.00pm you click the link to a video which is really fun and informative.  There is a quick break before it is time to log into the group chats where everyone begins in a big group before being divided into small groups in order to discuss what was in the video or, as is often the case, many other topics that come up, which, at times, relate in no way to the Christian faith or Alpha but these are the times of growing relations with each other which are beneficial in so many ways, not least that you can all feel comfortable with each other to share and support.  A WhatsApp Group is usually set up so that your group can communicate with each other throughout the week, perhaps with questions you have thought of since the course or perhaps requesting support but mostly to support a friendship group.  This, of course, is voluntary and you are not under any obligation to give your phone details out to anyone.

Stepping out in an unfamiliar environment with unfamiliar people and unfamiliar discussions is daunting for the majority of us but Alpha is worth stepping out of your comfort zone for.  You will learn so much, you will make new friends and your life may just change forever!

Lord our God I pray that those reading this will be comforted by my experience and thereby given the confidence to accept the invitation to try Alpha.  I pray that their fears will be quenched by your comforting hand upon them and that their hearts will be open to learn more about you.  Through Nicky Gumbel’s salvation you have created the platform that is Alpha in order that people can come to know your grace, mercy and love and I pray that through virtual Alpha many more may experience this course.  In the merciful, loving, and mighty name of your Son, Jesus I pray. Amen.

Love and Blessings

Louise x

PS

If you would like to learn more about Alpha, please check out their Facebook page or Website where you will also find details of how to sign up for the course. www.alpha.org

Categories
Christianity

Today I Will Be Hopeful

This morning, as I read from the Daily Devotional Bible by Oswald Chambers, a passage struck me … “Darkness is not synonymous with sin; if there is darkness spiritually it is much more likely to be the shade of God’s hand than darkness on account of sin;”  What a beautiful way of looking at the darkness around us.  Scripture tells us that God’s hand is upon us, 1 Peter 5:6 “Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time.”  What a comfort to know that God’s hand stretches out above us like a protective canopy, temporarily shading us from the light whilst we undergo works of sanctification.

Oswald continues “it may be the threshold of a new revelation coming through a big break in personal experience.  Before the dawn there is desolation; but wait, the dawn will merge into glorious day, the light of dawn that shineth more and more unto the perfect day.”  Whilst in the darkness, what can we do but hope or despair.  With hope, we can confidently rise each day with a positive heart, prepared to fill our day with hard work and devotion in our workplace, with our colleagues and our family and friends.  Without hope, we have nothing but despair.  This may seem to you dramatic, but I write this from personal experience.  Earlier today when I began this blog on “hope”, I was not to know that later in the day, I myself, would need to hear the words I write to you now and the associated Scripture.  As I began to fall into despair from a longstanding personal issue I forced myself to go for a walk, a walk in which I was blessed with the fresh country air, the affection of my husband as we walked hand in hand, the joy of my dogs enthusiasm, the small talk with strangers and the beauty of God’s creation.  Because I have hope in the Lord, I see the events of my walk as blessings from God.  They are not circumstance of “nature” or “happenstance”, they are God’s blessed intention and by this hope I was rescued from despair.  Please do not misunderstand me, there are times in our wilderness seasons when the most committed of Christians can despair, as King David did (you can read about his depressions in the Psalms).  The difference between the believer and the non-believer is that hope in the Lord can pull us from this despair and set us on the correct path once again, Lord knows I have been wrenched out of some dark holes!  This hope in the Lord that I speak of has the ability to sustain us.  Paul groups hope along with faith and love, which shows the importance that he places on hope “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” 1 Corinthians 13:13.

As Christians we have the ultimate hope, for without Christ, what is there to hope for, without Christ, our lives end with our death … with Christ, our lives are just beginning as we depart from our earthly body.  Without Christ, we can hope for a better job, a partner, a baby, better family relations, a new house but we cannot escape the pain of the world around us.  With Christ we have hope that we will one day be free from the pain that the world often brings to our door.  While we sojourn through our earthly lives, we have the hope that Christ will protect us, that Christ will be our comfort and our guide.  We have this hope because Christ is faithful, Hebrews 10:23 “Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.”  The Lord planned for us to have hope, Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

So, as Christians what should we hope in?

  • Glory in Christ, Colossians 1:27 “To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.”
  • Inheritance as God’s child, Ephesians 1:18 “I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people.”
  • Eternal Life, Titus 1:1-2 “Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ to further the faith of God’s elect and their knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness in the hope of eternal life, which God, who does not lie, promised before the beginning of time.”

How can we hope?

  • By the power of the Holy Spirit, Romans 15:13 “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
  • By looking up toward the Lord, Colossians 3:1-2 “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.”  2 Corinthians 4:17-18 “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So, we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”

Why should we hope?

  • It gives us endurance, 1 Thessalonians 1:3 “We remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labour prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.”
  • It gives us strength, Isaiah 40:31 “but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.  They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary; they will walk and not be faint.”
  • We are saved by hope, Romans 8:24 “For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have?”

Let us pray together,

Father, thank you for your Word, your Word that brings us comfort, that guides us and reveals your nature to us.  Help us when we are weak, when the worries of this world become to much for us to bear.  Although you have done so much for us already by bearing our sins on your naked body upon the cross, may we ask that you take our yoke from us and replace it with your yoke which You tell us is much lighter and more bearable for us.  Come alongside us in our wilderness experiences and let us feel your presence.  We humbly ask these things in your mighty, loving and most esteemed of names, Amen.

May the peace of God be upon all who read this especially those struggling with despair or those who are experiencing a wilderness moment.

Love and blessings

Louise xx  

Categories
Christianity

What Is Sin?

The Doctrine of Sin is a vast subject and not something I could possibly cover in one blog.  However, I hope to be able to point out important Bible Verses to help you make a start at understanding this important aspect of faith.  

Ultimately, sin is anything that contradicts the nature and will of God.  In the beginning there was no sin, the Garden of Eden was perfect and sinless, however, upon Adam and Eve eating of the fruit sin entered the world and will be a part of our world until the day of judgement when the devil is defeated and every knee shall bow to Jesus.  Philippians 2:9-11 “Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honour and gave him the name above all other names that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue declare that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”  After this time, the Law will no longer be required as sin will be defeated.  Jesus has paid the price for our sin upon the cross and sin is no longer held against us by God, we can now be in a relationship with God, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, but sin is still a part of us.  

Most people will be aware of the 10 Commandments or at the very least be able to identify some of them.  God found it necessary to issue these commandments because of the sins of man.  When God rescued His people from slavery in Egypt and created the nation of Israel,  to try to keep them from sin He wrote the Decalogue, the laws of which are detailed in the picture below. You will also find these detailed in Exodus 20:2-17.

These commandments were to be kept close to one’s heart in order that one remembered them and adhered to them, in turn creating a peaceable land in which Israel could dwell.  Deuteronomy 11.18-21 “Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates,so that your days and the days of your children may be many in the land the Lord swore to give your ancestors, as many as the days that the heavens are above the earth.”

The 10 commandments were not the only law that God instructed to the Israelites, further instructions and laws were given to the priests with regard to cleanliness and uncleanliness, sacrifice of animals, sin offerings, ritual procedures etc. etc.  These were extensive and would require many, many years of study to get to grips with. 

Sometimes we can think to ourselves, thank goodness we do not have all the laws that Jews require to adhere to.  How hard that would be!  Well … the truth is Jesus did not come to make things easy for us, He came to save us from our sin.  Of the law Jesus says, “ Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfil them.For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.  Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven”, Matthew 5:17-19. 

When Jesus came to earth as both man and God, He upheld the importance of the Law, further still, He embellished it!  No longer is the sin of adultery the act itself but even the very thought or suggestion of it.  Matthew 5.27-28 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.  But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” 

Jesus came to deal with the sin and evil that lies in our hearts.  Whilst often we can obey the commandments quite easily, for example, it is generally quite easy not to kill someone, what is far more difficult is not to feel anger in your heart, Matthew 5:21-22 “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca, is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.” 

Jesus understands what it is like to be human, He faced the temptations we face, He saw first-hand, man to man, our struggles with sin, He understands the human heart and  He knows what we need to do in order that we are holy as He is holy, 1 Peter 1:14-15 “So you must live as God’s obedient children. Don’t slip back into your old ways of living to satisfy your own desires. You didn’t know any better then. But now you must be holy in everything you do, just as God who chose you is holy.”

Though Israel was given the Law, still the nation continued in sin.  Jesus tells us exactly where this sin is born, in our heart!  If we want to deal with our sin, we must look to our hearts and deal with the problem there.  Jesus tells us how to achieve this by pointing out the two most important commandments, that of loving our God with all that we have and loving our neighbour as we love ourselves.  Jesus tells us that if we follow these rules, we will in turn keep the rest of the commandments.  Matthew 22.37-39  Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.”  We all take care of ourselves, we all desperately defend ourselves when necessary, but do we have the same concern for others?  When Jesus told of the two most important commandments, someone asked Him but who is my neighbour?  Luke 10:30-37 gives us the answer.  “In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he travelled, he came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’  “Which of these three do you think was a neighbour to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”  The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”  Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”

Jesus tells us it is easy for us to love those who love us in return, much more difficult to love those who persecute us, but this is what we must strive to achieve.  Matthew 5:43-48 “You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbour and hate your enemy.  But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you!  In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike. If you love only those who love you, what reward is there for that? Even corrupt tax collectors do that much. If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else? Even pagans do that. But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect.”

God loves us though we do not love Him.  We must understand that if we are to accept forgiveness from God, we must forgive others for our sin towards God is far greater than any sin of man towards us.  There is a parable that explains this so well.  Peter asked Jesus how many times he should forgive someone.  Jesus replies “No, not seven times,” Jesus replied, “but seventy times seven!  “Therefore, the Kingdom of Heaven can be compared to a king who decided to bring his accounts up to date with servants who had borrowed money from him.In the process, one of his debtors was brought in who owed him millions of dollars.He could not pay, so his master ordered that he be sold along with his wife, his children, and everything he owned to pay the debt.  “But the man fell down before his master and begged him, ‘Please, be patient with me, and I will pay it all.’Then his master was filled with pity for him, and he released him and forgave his debt.  “But when the man left the king, he went to a fellow servant who owed him a few thousand dollars.  He grabbed him by the throat and demanded instant payment.  “His fellow servant fell down before him and begged for a little more time. ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay it,’ he pleaded.But his creditor wouldn’t wait. He had the man arrested and put in prison until the debt could be paid in full.  “When some of the other servants saw this, they were very upset. They went to the king and told him everything that had happened.  Then the king called in the man he had forgiven and said, ‘You evil servant! I forgave you that tremendous debt because you pleaded with me. Shouldn’t you have mercy on your fellow servant, just as I had mercy on you?’ Then the angry king sent the man to prison to be tortured until he had paid his entire debt.  “That’s what my heavenly Father will do to you if you refuse to forgive your brothers and sisters from your heart”, Matthew 18:22-35. 

Day after day we sin against God, day after day God forgives us, yet we withhold our forgiveness from another.  It can seem quite simple not to sin until we look at the full implication of each commandment alongside Jesus’ teaching.  Let us look at the most important, you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your strength and have no other gods before Him.   When this commandment was given there were many false idols to which Israel was worshipping, perhaps now, it is not so much other gods as in idols or statues but another type of “idol” that takes us away from God, perhaps you swap out your daily Bible reading in order to watch a movie!  Perhaps instead of morning prayers it is morning catch up on social media!

Looking at the commandment not to bear false witness, perhaps you told a lie convincing yourself it is ok because it’s just a “wee white lie”.  God does not have degrees of sin; never will God accept an excuse for a “little sin”.  Any sin is against the nature of God.  God is so holy and so far from the sin of the world that all of our sin is just an abomination to Him.  In our mind we can see degrees of sin, i.e. a little lie is much more minor that attempted murder; however, this is not the case with God.  Jesus tells us that to bear anger towards another is as sinful as committing murder.  This is hard for us to accept given we have created our own human scale of sin!  Jesus sees that murder does not begin with a knife thrust in the heart but in a thought!  To get above sin we must change our hearts!     

Let us look at some more common sins that enter into our lives.  Perhaps you see your neighbour take delivery of a beautiful new sports car and your heart pangs for one of your own!  Perhaps your friends return from a beautiful holiday and jealousy sparks in your heart.  Each and every one of us will suffer from sin, each suffering from a different type, whilst one person suffers from an addition to pornography, another addiction to drugs and still another, jealousy, always seeking what belongs to another, still others, an issue with anger.  Be comforted that we all experience these difficulties in our lives and that God forgives us and God is there to help us to overcome our sin, day by day, month by month, year by year, He is there to hold our hands as we progress along the road to sanctification. 

Oswald Chambers tells us that we can “Measure your growth in grace by your sensitiveness to sin.”  The more we find sin abhorrent to us the closer we are to become holy.  This is a great piece of advice to enable us to see our progression along the road to holiness.    

Love and Blessings

Louise x

Categories
Christianity

The Many Benefits of Testimony

This morning I was thinking about the power of testimony.  The Cambridge Dictionary describes testimony as “(an example of) spoken or written statements that something is true, especially those given in a law court.”  The Collins Dictionary, 1. A declaration of truth or fact. 2. Evidence given by a witness especially orally in court under oath or affirmation.  3. Evidence testifying to something.

In Christian circles, testimony is looked upon as a statement of one’s life experiences in relation to one’s relationship with God.  Usually one will begin with childhood experiences and descriptions, i.e. “raised in a Christian home”, “no knowledge of Christ as a child” etc.  One would usually go on to describe one’s life, being introduced to God, deepening relationship with God, etc. etc.

Testimonies are such a fantastic tool for church services as they provide so much towards teaching, understanding God and they provide food for thought with regard to one’s own journey with Christ.  In this way, everyone’s “testimony” is important, even those out with the Christian faith.  By listening to the views of Christ from the perspective of a non-Christian we can see from a worldview and thus we may be capable of coming alongside others to comfort, to guide them to Christ, ultimately, we may be in a better position to interface whilst seeing things from two viewpoints.  We all have something important to share.  We are all God’s children and as such, we all have a purpose on this planet, each and every one of us.

Testimonies can provide great reassurance.  When we hear or read some testimonies, we can falsely understand salvation to be a “ball of lightening experience”, so it is comforting to realise that this is not always the case.  Salvation is not a one size fits all, we are all in different places and all on different paths and thus our new birth will differ person to person.

Another important aspect of testimony is learning about the character of God.  We will find as we journey through our walk with Christ that we change, our character changes, we become a new self, 2 Corinthians 5.17  “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!”  By studying these new characteristics, we can see the character of Christ as it is through Him that gradually, throughout our lives, we become more and more holy.

So, what can we see of God from a testimony?

  • The power of God – Almost always we can see the power of God.  No-one who has been born again is exactly the same person that they were before.  They have all been changed to some degree or another.  What power this shows of Christ!  That one day we are one person, the next we are a new person!  Day by day our thought patterns change, and we become more and more in the image of God.   
  • Our need for God – Almost always we can see our need for God.  When one is born again, one becomes a new person, but more importantly, one becomes a better person, and this shows our need of God.  We need God to show us love, help us become more patient, help us to be more kind, more caring, more compassionate.  All men are capable of displaying these traits but only with God can we truly understand what it is to love.
  • What God communicates – Through others sharing their journeys we can hear what God has spoken to them.  We learn how God communicates with different people and what he communicates, perhaps He gives direction to one, words of comfort to another, teaching to yet another.  
  • What He does – Through the testimony we see actions of God in the lives of His people, we see His glorious provision in the lives of some, His protection in the lives of another, still we see His rule of yet others.

So, how do we give our testimony?

  • Simply, 1 Corinthians 2:1-5 “And so it was with me, brothers and sisters. When I came to you, I did not come with eloquence or human wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God.  For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. I came to you in weakness with great fear and trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power,so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power.”  Paul, the author of Corinthians, was a highly educated man, taught by one of the most supreme Rabbi’s in Jerusalem, yet he chooses to speak simply, so that the people will understand and also, so that God is glorified.
  • By the Holy Spirit, John 15:26  “When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father—the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father—he will testify about me.”  We are helped to deliver our testimony by the Holy Spirit who is within us.
  • Joyfully – Isaiah 12:4-6, In that day you will say: “Give praise to the Lord, proclaim his name; make known among the nations what he has done, and proclaim that his name is exalted.  Sing to the Lord, for he has done glorious things, let this be known to all the world.  Shout aloud and sing for joy, people of Zion, for great is the Holy One of Israel among you.”  A testimony is not to be given with a long face, or a quiet voice but with confidence and joy because in this way, people will see the wonder of God.
  • By our lifestyle – Philippians 1:27-30 “Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in the one Spirit, striving together as one for the faith of the gospel”  Words are not always necessary to testify to Jesus, rather one can provide a testimony purely by ones actions.

Why must we give our testimony?

  • To lead others to Christ, 1 John 1:3 “We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ.”
  • Because of what God has done for us, Jeremiah 1:2-3 “‘The Lord has vindicated us; come, let us tell in Zion what the Lord our God has done.  We would be very quick to tell everyone about the kindness or generosity of another man towards us but yet we are often less so about sharing God’s goodness with others!
  • So that Jesus will accept you, Luke 12:8-9 “I tell you, whoever publicly acknowledges me before others, the Son of Man will also acknowledge before the angels of God. But whoever disowns me before others will be disowned before the angels of God.”
  • To be a witness to Christ, Acts 1:8, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
  • Because this was part of God’s plan from the beginning, Matthew 24:14 “And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.”
  • Giving testimony is part of the good fight, 1 Timothy 6:12 “Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses.”
  • We are told to – John 15:27  “And you also must testify, for you have been with me from the beginning.”
  • It may be your purpose, Mark 5:19 “Jesus did not let him, but said, “Go home to your own people and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.”  This passage describes a moment after Jesus had healed a man from possession by demons.  This man wanted to follow Jesus into the boat and sail with him on his travels, however, Jesus does not allow him.  The man’s purpose was to tell others about Jesus. 
  • It can be a sharing of suffering in Christ, 2 Timothy 1:8 “So do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord or of me his prisoner. Rather, join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God.” Sometimes our testimony will be mocked, sometimes relationships will break down as others do not understand why you have chosen such a path for your life, however, this is just part of the suffering that we must bear for Jesus understanding the suffering He endured on our behalf.

The ultimate tale of salvation must lie in the testimony of Paul the Apostle, Acts 22:1-21“Brothers and fathers, listen to my defence which I now present to you.” When they heard that Paul was addressing them in Aramaic, they became even more quiet. Then he said,“I am a Jewish man, born in Tarsus of Cilicia but brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel, trained strictly according to the Torah of our fathers, being zealous for God just as all of you are today. I persecuted this Way to the death, arresting both men and women and throwing them in prisonas the kohen gadol and all the council of elders can testify about me. I also received letters from them to the brothers, and I went to Damascus to bring back to Jerusalem even those who were there in chains  to be punished. “But it happened that as I was traveling and drawing near to Damascus, about noon a great light from heaven suddenly flashed all around me. I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, ‘Saul, Saul, why do you persecute Me?’ “I answered, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ “He said to me, ‘I am Yeshua ha-Natzrati, whom you are persecuting.’“Now those who were with me saw the light but did not understand the voice of the One who was speaking to me. So, I said, ‘What shall I do, Lord?’ “And the Lord said to me, ‘Get up, and go to Damascus. There you will be told all that you have been appointed to do.’“But since I could not see because of the brilliance of that light, I was led by the hand by those who were with me and came into Damascus. Then a certain Ananias a devout man according to the Torah, well-spoken of by all the Jewish people living there came to me. Standing before me, he said to me, ‘Brother Saul, look up!’ In that very moment, I looked and saw him! “And he said, ‘The God of our fathers handpicked you to know His will to see the Righteous One and to hear an utterance from His mouth. For you will be a witness for Him to all people of what you have seen and heard. Now why are you waiting? Get up and be immersed, and wash away your sins, calling on His Name.’  “It happened that when I returned to Jerusalem and was praying in the Temple, I fell into a trance; and I saw Him saying to me, ‘Hurry! Get out of Jerusalem quickly, because they will not accept your witness about Me.’“And I said, ‘Lord, they themselves know that in one synagogue after another, I was imprisoning and beating those trusting in You. Even when the blood of Your witness Stephen was spilled, I too was standing by and approving, and guarding the clothing of those who were killing him.’ “And he said to me, ‘Go! For I will send you far away to the Gentiles.’”

Let us be courageous and honest like Paul and let us testify like the Psalmist in Psalm 71.15-18.

Love and Blessings

Louise x

PS

I shared my testimony early on in my blog, however, I felt it was right to add it again here.  I would love to hear and share your testimonies, so that others can benefit from hearing them.  If you are comfortable with this, please email them to newlivesinjesus@gmail.com.

My Testimony

When I was a child, I went to Sunday school and had some Christian books and as I grew up, I was aware of God as someone who was just there. I never really doubted there was a God, but I was not in a relationship with Him.  After many years away from the church I returned and I felt good after the service, however, my faith practice did not extend past Sunday.  Many years later I began to read the Bible.  I had no need to search for one as a simple stretch of my arm found my dust laden book in pride of place on my bedside table.  How thought provoking to look back and think of all the years my Bible sat there untouched, yet it was never hidden away in a cupboard or given to charity.  Was God begging me to pick it up all those years I struggled without Him?  Letting me know every day that He was there waiting for me?  So, picking up my Bible I begin with Genesis and the next day I read some more and the next then life happens, single mum with 3 little boys who won’t go to sleep and I am lucky to make my bed before sleep is upon me only to be woken through the night by a procession of little feet coming along the hall.  Hanging off the end of my bed or sleeping sideways with a toddler face directly in mine I wake, and another day begins.  Months later I return to my Bible and I have to start at the beginning again and this record plays again and again over the years.  Without God and going through many troubles alone I found myself very lost.  My mental health suffered greatly, and I rooted in a place of darkness and it was there in a pit of utter despair that God found me, and I met God for the first time.  In desperation I cried out to Him to save me from a rut I had found myself in and in all his glory He did.  Now I had no doubt that there was a God.  Surprisingly at this point I still did not seem to understand the need to get to know Him.  And life meandered on.  Then I met my husband Craig, a Christian from childhood, and I developed a thirst to find out more.  I read the Bible in less than 3 months and began finding out more about the Apostle Paul.  He, then as now, fascinated me in his transformation and his ability to suffer so greatly for Christ.  Once I had read books of him and studied his travels I wanted more.  I began summarising the books of the Bible and finding out a little more about them all.  Still I wanted more so I enrolled in an Access to Christian Theology Course with HTC and relished every moment of it.  Understanding Jesus that bit better aided my prayer life and I accepted Jesus into my heart.  Now I have no idea the day, the month, or quite frankly, the year but I would estimate around 3 or 4 years ago.  Previous to this I would have identified as a Christian because I occasionally went to church, took communion once or twice a year and believed there was a God.  I had never been taught the need to invite Jesus into my life, the need to understand basic doctrine or the need for a relationship with God.  I was fooling myself.  I was placing myself as bride of Christ and He did not “know” me.  Now when I gave my heart to Jesus there was no lightning from the sky, there was no audible voice from heaven, the ground did not shake, I did not have heat or tingles pass through my body … nothing happened.  I did not feel the Holy Spirit enter me and to this day I have experienced none of the glorious manifestations of the Spirit that many claim to have experienced.  I will admit I have struggled with this.  I have doubted that I am saved, that I am truly a child of God.  Yet, I am different.  I am not the person I was before.  I have an ability to forgive that surpasses human ability.  I have the capacity to love which surpasses all human ability.  I can withstand all heartache that surpasses human ability.  This is how I know that I am a daughter of Christ and sister to all those in the church of God.  I am now studying a Theology Degree and I could not enjoy it more.  I sign up to Bible Studies and courses that I see, I read mostly Christian material as has been the case for approximately 4 years and I revel in it all.  I hope that my testimony will help others understand that Christianity is not a set of rules and regulations, nor a one size fits all faith.  Each one of us will follow a different path on our journey with Christ and as I journey along mine sometimes at great speed, sometimes sliding backwards, and as I am being completely frank sometimes taking the wrong turn off, sitting in a traffic jam 20 miles long, before meandering along a one way path to nowhere, getting a puncture, no signal on phone, walking to nearest garage 20 miles away before finally returning to the road of righteousness a month later.  As you can see the journey is not an easy one, in fact it is far more difficult than the many other roads one can choose. The road of righteousness is littered with potholes, frequented by floods and narrow are the tunnels, however, this road is the only one on which you have an on board sat nav guiding you every step of the way and this sat nav does not break down or make mistakes, this sat nav knows every roundabout, every turn off, every roadwork and though you in your foolishness will make wrong turn offs this sat nav will always guide you back.

Categories
Christianity

Today I Am Going to Seek the Holy Spirit!

I feel today’s word is a bit of a trickier subject matter than what has come before.  Today I am to seek the Holy Spirit.  You may ask who is the Holy Spirit?

The Holy Spirit is:-

  • The Spirit of Truth, John 14:17 “The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.”  John 15:26 “When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father—the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father—he will testify about me.”
  • A Helper, John 14:15-16,  “If you love me, keep my commands.  And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever— the Spirit of truth.”  Romans 8:26 “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.”
  • A Teacher, John 14:26 “But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.”
  • Spiritual Illumination – 1 Corinthians 2:10- these are the things God has revealed to us by his Spirit.  The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God.  For who knows a person’s thoughts except their own spirit within them? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. What we have received is not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may understand what God has freely given us. This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual realities with Spirit-taught words.”
  • A Gift Giver, 1 Corinthians 12:1-11 “Now about the gifts of the Spirit, brothers and sisters, I do not want you to be uninformed. You know that when you were pagans, somehow or other you were influenced and led astray to mute idols. Therefore, I want you to know that no one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says, “Jesus be cursed,” and no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit.  There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work.  Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines.”
  • A Guide, Galatians 5:18 “But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.” John 16:13 “But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth.”
  • A Judge, John 16:7-11 “But very truly I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. When he comes, he will prove the world to be in the wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment: about sin, because people do not believe in me; about righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer; and about judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned.”
  • Righteousness, Peaceful and Joyful, Romans 14:17 “For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.”
  • Part of the Godhead, Matthew 28:19 “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”  2 Corinthians 13:14 “May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.”
  • God, 2 Corinthians 3:17-18 “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.”

Why must we seek the Spirit?

  • For guidance, John 16:13-14 “But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on His own; He will speak only what He hears, and He will tell you what is yet to come. He will glorify Me because it is from Me that He will receive what He will make known to you.”
  • For fellowship, 2 Corinthians 13:14 “May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.”
  • For sanctification, 2 Thessalonians 2:13,  “But we ought always to thank God for you, brothers and sisters loved by the Lord, because God chose you as first fruits to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth.”
  • For the fruit of the Spirit, Galatians 5:22-23 “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.”
  • For Common good, 1 Corinthians, 12:7 “Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.”
  • For Life, John 6:63 “The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you—they are full of the Spirit and life.” Romans 8:11 “And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you.”
  • For Hope, Romans 15:13 “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”
  • To become a new creation, 2 Corinthians 5:16-18 “So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer.Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation:”
  • To change our mindset, Romans 8:2-6 “because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. And so, he condemned sin in the flesh,in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires.The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace.”
  • To be born again, John 3:6-8 Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So, it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”
  • For power, Luke 24:45-49 “Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. He told them, “This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.”  Acts 1:8 “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
  • For a witness, Romans 8:15-17 “The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by Him we cry, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.”
  • For wisdom and revelation, Ephesians 1:17 “I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know Him better.”
  • For a voice, Mark 13:11 “Whenever you are arrested and brought to trial, do not worry beforehand about what to say. Just say whatever is given you at the time, for it is not you speaking, but the Holy Spirit.”
  • To become one body in Christ, 1 Corinthians 12:13 “For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.”
  • We are instructed to, Ephesians 5:18-19 “Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit,speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord.”

How do we seek the Holy Spirit?

  • Ask, Luke 11:13 “If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”
  • By faith, Galatians 3:5 “So again I ask, does God give you His Spirit and work miracles among you by the works of the law, or by your believing what you heard?”
  • Through Jesus, Galatians 3:14 “He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit.” John 14:16, “And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever.”
  • Through accepting Christ into your life by declaring Him to be Lord and believing in His propitiation on the cross.  From the following passage, you may understand that a baptism is required in order to receive the Spirit, but you will see from the following verse that this is not the case.  What Peter is referring to is the accepting of Christ and having faith in Jesus, Acts 2:38 “Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” Acts 10:46-48 “Then Peter said,“Surely no one can stand in the way of their being baptized with water. They have received the Holy Spirit just as we have.”  So, he ordered that they be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked Peter to stay with them for a few days.”   

Biblical examples of being filled with the Spirit:-

  • Stephen, Acts 6:5 “This proposal pleased the whole group. They chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit;”
  • David, Acts 1:16 “and said, “Brothers and sisters, the Scripture had to be fulfilled in which the Holy Spirit spoke long ago through David concerning Judas, who served as guide for those who arrested Jesus.”
  • Jesus, Matthew 3:16 “As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him.”
  • Barnabus, Acts 11:24 He was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith, and a great number of people were brought to the Lord.
  • All of God’s children, 1 Corinthians 3:16 “Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst?” 1 Peter 4:14  “If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.” Acts 10:44-45 “While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message. The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on Gentiles.” Romans 8:14 “For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God.” 

John explains what it is like to be filled with the Spirit.  Sometimes, you will not notice at first but, over time, you will come to witness changes in yourself, John 3:8 “The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So, it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”

At other times, the coming of the Spirit is very noticeable, Acts 2:1-5 “When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place.Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting.They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.  Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven.”

For more reading on this subject I would strongly recommend, Miracle Valley, The Story of Hollybush Christian Fellowship and A Rushing Mighty Wind by Angus Buchan.  Until recently I had little understanding of the Holy Spirit and I thoroughly enjoyed reading these books and finding out more.  Many churches hesitate to preach the Holy Spirit but as you can see from the many Bible verses I have used in this blog, the Spirit is very much part of the Godhead (Trinity) and very much a part of the sanctification of believers so it is important that we know and understand Him.  At some stage I hope to write a blog specifically on the Holy Spirit as well as the Trinity Itself.

Meantime let us pray.

Father, Son and Spirit, please help us to understand your Word, to understand you all, both individually and as the mighty Godhead.  We pray that the Spirit may come upon us and reside within us, helping us to understand the Scriptures and our role in God’s great plan and that by the Spirit we will have the power to complete our God given tasks.  We ask all these things in the precious and wonderful name of Jesus. Amen      

Love and Blessings

Louise xx

Categories
Christianity

Today I Will Be Loving

As it has been a while since I last posted, just to remind everyone that of late I have been expounding  upon attributes that I aim to be, this being a question I must fill out in my daily journal page.  The latest one is today I will be … loving.

So, how can one be loving?

  • Share your wealth with the less fortunate, 1 John 3:17 “If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person?” 
  • In action and truth, 1 John 3:18 “Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.”
  • Lay down our lives for one another, this need not refer to literally dying for another, although, this could easily be expected of us, but, this could also refer to our becoming a living sacrifice for Jesus, dying to our own desires and living for Christ. 1 John 3:16 “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.” 1 Corinthians 10:24 “No one should seek their own good, but the good of others.”
  • By honouring one another in humility, Romans 12:10 “Be devoted to one another in love. Honour one another above yourselves.”
  • Bear with one another, Ephesians 4:2 “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.”
  • Speak the truth, Ephesians 4:15 “Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.”
  • Our very lives should demonstrate love, Ephesians 5:2 “and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”
  • Serve others humbly, Galatians 5:13 “You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love.”
  • Show hospitality and care for strangers, Hebrews 13:1-2 “Keep on loving one another as brothers and sisters.  Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.”
  • In everything, 1 Corinthians 16:14 “Do everything in love.”

We have the ability to love like this because God has given us this power, 2 Timothy 1:7 “For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.”

We have the ability to love like this because God loved us 1 John 4:19 “We love because he first loved us.”

So, who or what must I love?

  • Our enemies, Luke 5:43-48 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbour and hate your enemy.’But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
  • What is good, Romans 12:9 “Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.”
  • God first, Matthew 10:37 “Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.”  Mark 12:30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.
  • One another, John 13:34 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” 1 John 4:20,21 “Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen.  And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.”
  • Your neighbour Mark 12:31 “The second is this: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’There is no commandment greater than these.”

What am I not to love?

  • The world 1 John 2:15, “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them.”
  • Material possessions, 1 Timothy 6:10 “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.”

Why must I love?

  • So that people know you are a follower of Jesus, John 13:35 “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
  • For God to dwell in us, 1 John 4:12 “No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.”
  • To drive out fear, 1 John 4:18 “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.”
  • To cover wrongs, Proverbs 10:12 “Hatred stirs up conflict, but love covers over all wrongs.”
  • To fulfil the law, Galatians 5:14 “For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbour as yourself.”
  • To overcome evil, Romans 12:20-21 “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.  In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”
  • To express our faith, Galatians 5:6 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.” 
  • To set an example, 1 Timothy 4:12 “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.”

Surely one of the most beautiful passages in the Bible is that written by Paul to the Corinthian church, 1 Corinthians 13:1-13:-

“If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.  If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.  If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonour others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.  For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”

To Paul, love is everything, love is greater than omniscience and omnipotence.  Love is everlasting, it will never cease to exist as prophecy and knowledge will.  In this passage, Paul warns us against the attributes that do not belong in love:-

Godly love:-

  • Does not envy
  • Does not boast
  • Is not proud
  • Does not dishonour
  • Is not self-seeking
  • Is not easily angered
  • Does not delight in evil
  • Keeps no record of wrongs

And Paul explains to us the attributes that are the very nature of true love.

Godly love:-

  • Is patient
  • Is kind
  • Rejoices in truth
  • It protects
  • It trusts
  • It hopes
  • It perseveres

As well as Paul’s beautiful teaching on this matter we have the perfect demonstration of Godly love in Jesus, who, by coming to us fully man, shows exactly what we are to do in order to possess Godly love. 

  • Jesus was patient, Mark 1:13 “and he was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan. He was with the wild animals, and angels attended him.”  During His period of temptation, Jesus was thirsty, Jesus was hungry, for 40 days He went without water and food, despite the fact that He had the ability to provide Himself with these at any time.  It was necessary for Him to endure this period of temptation and that He did, with ultimate patience.
  • Jesus was kind, Matthew 14:14 “When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick.”  Throughout the Gospels we see Jesus’ kindness, in healing, prayer, exorcism, in His very being.
  • Jesus rejoices in the truth, 1 John 10:10 “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”  Jesus came so that we would not just live an earthly existence which all too quickly is over but that we may have abundant eternal life with Him and in this Jesus rejoices!  Jesus drank wine and enjoyed meals with others, He brought 12 men into close fellowship with Him and was surrounded by many more followers including many women.  Jesus rejoiced in fellowship and he rejoiced in the Word of God.
  • Jesus protects, Matthew 8:16 “When evening came, many who were demon-possessed were brought to him, and he drove out the spirits with a word and healed all the sick.”  In this passage, Jesus protects people from demons.  We also see Jesus protect his disciples from the storms that endanger their boat.
  • Jesus trusts, Matthew 18.21-22 “Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?” Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.” 1 Peter 2:23 “When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly.”  Throughout His earthly existence, Jesus puts all His trust in the Father.  He endures all manner of pain and persecution for the trust He bears towards God.  He wishes that we will also have this trust and that no amount of persecution will affect our future hence why it is important that we continue to forgive others and not hold resentment that may impede our journey with Christ.    
  • Jesus hopes, John 17:20-21  “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.”  Jesus has hope that we will all come to Him and be joined in the Holy Family.
  • Jesus perseveres, John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”  Throughout His earthly life, Jesus knew how it would end.  Though he was terrified to the point of sweating blood, He persevered and had the courage to face the cross.

In this, His final act as man, Jesus epitomises the complete essence of Godly love, on the cross, Romans 5:8 “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”  Jesus hung there, beaten, tortured, and laughed at.  Bystanders mocked Him that as the “Son of God” He was unable to get Himself down off the cross.  In all this, Jesus did not retaliate.  He showed ultimate humility.  When we are made fun of or mocked, our immediate response is to defend ourselves and show that we do not deserve this, that we are better than what others suggest, that we are above this mocking, yet Jesus, being God incarnate humbled Himself beyond all measure, for you, for me and for all who call upon His holy name.  In this way the cross is the ultimate sign of love.  Whenever you see an image of the cross, imagine Jesus upon it, pain etched across His face, the weight of all the sin of this world upon his shoulders, the very sin you and I commit daily, Jesus bore on that wooden cross.  What love is this!!

If you would like to find out more about the heart of Jesus, I would strongly suggest reading the book entitled “Gentle and Lowly” by Dane Ortlund. Jesus describes His heart as “gentle and lowly”, Matthew 11:29.  The most powerful being in all the world, the creator of every aspect of existence has a heart that is gently and lowly! This is the love that is from God.      

Love and Blessings

Louise x

Categories
Christianity

Prayer Journaling

Over the last few days I have been busy sorting out all my lists of prayers and decided to create a few new journals in order to tidy things up. I have decided that the most practical journals that I can keep are

Salvation Journal – To pray for everyone I would like to see saved

Healing Journal – To pray for everyone I would like to see healed

General Prayers for Others – Prayers for others, out-with the above categories

My Prayer Journal – Personal prayers

Everyone is different so these journals may not suit you but I thought it best to make them available. Check out the Resource Page for a wider selection of free downloadable prayer journals for adults and for children.

I hope these are of use to you.

Happy Journaling.

Love and Blessings

Louise xx

Categories
Christianity

Today I Will Listen to God

Over the past few days, we have been looking at various words that I am going to be.  Today I am going to be Listening to God.

So, why must we listen to God?

  • For guidance, Psalm 119:105 “Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.”
  • For more faith, Romans 10:17 “Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ.”
  • For more wisdom, Mark 4:24, “Consider carefully what you hear,” he continued. “With the measure you use, it will be measured to you—and even more.”
  • For teaching, Psalm 25:4-5 “Show me your ways, Lord, teach me your paths.  Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Saviour, and my hope is in you all day long.”
  • To obey God, Deuteronomy 28:1-2 “If you fully obey the Lord your God and carefully follow all his commands I give you today, the Lord your God will set you high above all the nations on earth.  All these blessings will come on you and accompany you if you obey the Lord your God:”
  • To be part of God’s family, Luke 8:21 He replied, “My mother and brothers are those who hear God’s word and put it into practice.”
  • To open the door for Jesus, Revelation 3:20 “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.”

How can we listen to God?

  • Be of God, John 8:47 “Whoever belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God.”
  • Be a sheep, John 10:27-28 “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.  I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand.”
  • Through the Word of Christ, Romans 10:17 “Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ.”  In this way God speaks through Scripture.  This is probably the most common way that people hear from God.  Perhaps the same Scripture will keep appearing to you over and over again.  Recently, for example, I was struggling with my mental health and I kept reading 2 Corinthians 10:5 “we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”  Out of nowhere a friend of mine even began a Bible Study on this very subject!  I believe that God was giving me the answer to my problems.  I believe that God was telling me to filter my thoughts, keep the Godly ones and destroy the negative ones.  Sometimes you will just be reading your Bible, and something will just stand out to you so much that it is like a “eureka” moment, this happened to me just the other day with regard to the Trinity!
  • God can talk to us in prayer.  I think it is more common to have thoughts rather than to hear an audible voice from God.  Often your thought process is guided by God.  I am still at the confused stage where I never know if it is just me or God, but this is something I am working on!!  One way I am working on this is meditation.  As I concentrate deeply on a passage of Scripture, I find I can slow my brain down and, in this way, I hope to be able to free my mind enough to hear more from God. 

What does God sound like?

  • Silent, heard through Scripture, Romans 10:17 “Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ.”
  • Silent, heard through dreams, visions, in sleep, Job 33:14-18 “For God does speak—now one way, now another-though no one perceives it.  In a dream, in a vision of the night, when deep sleep falls on people as they slumber in their beds, he may speak in their ears and terrify them with warnings, to turn them from wrongdoing and keep them from pride, to preserve them from the pit, their lives from perishing by the sword.”  Acts 2:17 “‘In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people.  Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams.”
  • Powerful, Psalm 29:3-9, “The voice of the Lord is over the waters; the God of glory thunders, the Lord thunders over the mighty waters.  The voice of the Lord is powerful; the voice of the Lord is majestic.  The voice of the Lord breaks the cedars; the Lord breaks in pieces the cedars of Lebanon. He makes Lebanon leap like a calf, Sirion like a young wild ox.  The voice of the Lord strikes with flashes of lightning.  The voice of the Lord shakes the desert; the Lord shakes the Desert of Kadesh.  The voice of the Lord twists the oaksand strips the forests bare.  And in his temple all cry, “Glory!””  Psalm 46:6 “Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall; he lifts his voice, the earth melts.”  God’s voice contains so much power, by His voice he created our whole universe!!  Yet, we will see that at other times it is noticeably quiet!  

Who hears God in the Bible?

Samuel, The Boy Who Listened, 1 Samuel 3:-

“The boy Samuel ministered before the Lord under Eli. In those days the word of the Lord was rare; there were not many visions.  One night Eli, whose eyes were becoming so weak that he could barely see, was lying down in his usual place.The lamp of God had not yet gone out, and Samuel was lying down in the house of the Lord, where the ark of God was.Then the Lord called Samuel.  Samuel answered, “Here I am.”  And he ran to Eli and said, “Here I am; you called me.”  But Eli said, “I did not call; go back and lie down.” So he went and lay down.  Again the Lord called, “Samuel!” And Samuel got up and went to Eli and said, “Here I am; you called me.”  “My son,” Eli said, “I did not call; go back and lie down.”  Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord: The word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him.  A third time the Lord called, “Samuel!” And Samuel got up and went to Eli and said, “Here I am; you called me.”  Then Eli realized that the Lord was calling the boy.  So Eli told Samuel, “Go and lie down, and if he calls you, say, ‘Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.’” So Samuel went and lay down in his place.  The Lord came and stood there, calling as at the other times, “Samuel! Samuel!”  Then Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant is listening.”  And the Lord said to Samuel: “See, I am about to do something in Israel that will make the ears of everyone who hears about it tingle.  At that time I will carry out against Eli everything I spoke against his family—from beginning to end.For I told him that I would judge his family forever because of the sin he knew about; his sons blasphemed God, and he failed to restrain them.  Therefore I swore to the house of Eli, ‘The guilt of Eli’s house will never be atoned for by sacrifice or offering.’”  Samuel lay down until morning and then opened the doors of the house of the Lord. He was afraid to tell Eli the vision, but Eli called him and said, “Samuel, my son.”  Samuel answered, “Here I am.”  “What was it he said to you?” Eli asked. “Do not hide it from me. May God deal with you, be it ever so severely, if you hide from me anything he told you.”  So Samuel told him everything, hiding nothing from him. Then Eli said, “He is the Lord; let him do what is good in his eyes.”  The Lord was with Samuel as he grew up, and he let none of Samuel’s words fall to the ground.  And all Israel from Dan to Beersheba recognized that Samuel was attested as a prophet of the Lord.The Lord continued to appear at Shiloh, and there he revealed himself to Samuel through his word.” 

Isn’t it interesting that three times Samuel runs into Eli’s room believing the voice to be his!  On this occasion God’s voice must have been like that of an average man.  Also what I find very interesting is the fact that Eli realises that it is God’s voice that Samuel is hearing and tells him to go back and listen to God and yet Eli does not speak to Samuel again until morning!! Eli must be very accustomed to hearing God speak and also be very patient.  Would any of us react this way?  Personally, I would be up out of bed listening in at the door trying to hear for myself.  Then I would be straight in to question Samuel all about it!  

Moses:-

Ex 24:16, “and the glory of the Lord settled on Mount Sinai. For six days the cloud covered the mountain, and on the seventh day the Lord called to Moses from within the cloud.”  Numbers 7:89 “When Moses entered the tent of meeting to speak with the Lord, he heard the voice speaking to him from between the two cherubim above the atonement cover on the ark of the covenant law. In this way the Lord spoke to him.”  These are only two occasions, of course there are many more, God also spoke to Moses from a burning bush and on top of a mountain!

Elijah:-

1 Kings 19:11-13  “The Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.”  Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake.  After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper.  When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave.  Then a voice said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?””  Here God’s voice is a gently whisper. After all the noise and commotion, that God has created, earthquake, storm and fire, God whispers to Elijah.  Here we see the power and the wrath of God juxtaposed with his gentleness.  Deuteronomy 32:1-2 “Listen, you heavens, and I will speak; hear, you earth, the words of my mouth.  Let my teaching fall like rain and my words descend like dew, like showers on new grass, like abundant rain on tender plants.”

The crowd of people with Jesus:-

John 12:28-30 ““Father, glorify Your name.” Then a voice came out of heaven: “I have both glorified it and will glorify it again.” So, the crowd of people who stood by and heard it were saying that it had thundered; others were saying, “An angel has spoken to Him.” Jesus answered and said, “This voice has not come for My sake, but for your sakes.””

Peter, James, and John:-

Matthew 17:1-8 “After six days Jesus took with him Peter, James and John the brother of James, and led them up a high mountain by themselves.  There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light.  Just then there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus.  Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here. If you wish, I will put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.”  While he was still speaking, a bright cloud covered them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!”  When the disciples heard this, they fell facedown to the ground, terrified.  But Jesus came and touched them. “Get up,” he said. “Don’t be afraid.”  When they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus.”

When Will I Hear from God?

You will never know when God is going to speak to you, as you can see from the Bible verses above, it is usually quite “out of the blue”!  The most important aspect of listening to God is making yourself available, always be listening.  A popular motto is “God gave us two ears and one mouth for a reason!”  We are to listen twice as much as we speak!  James 1:19 “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.”  Perhaps you will need to explore different avenues in order to hear God, for example, meditation (this can help if you struggle with busy thoughts), prayer/Bible journaling (again, helpful for busy thoughts), listening prayer i.e. not constant chatter from our end with little time for God to speak.  Sometimes God will speak through others, so we need to be listening always. 

I am confident that somehow, I have heard the Word of God.  Though I have not heard God audibly, the journey of faith I am now travelling, could not have begun without God having guided me.

Love and Blessings

Louise xx

Categories
Christianity

Today I Will Be Hardworking!

The next word in my prayer journal that I chose to be was … Hardworking.

Today I will be hardworking … but why is it important for us to work hard?  Scripture gives us many reasons:-

  • We will be rewarded in heaven, Proverbs 11:18 “A wicked person earns deceptive wages, but the one who sows righteousness reaps a sure reward.”  In working hard, we are building our treasure for heaven, Matthew 6:19-20 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.”
  • Out of gratefulness to God, Colossians 3:23-24 “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters,since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.” 
  • For the glory of God,
  • For our wealth, Proverbs 10:4-5 “Lazy hands make for poverty, but diligent hands bring wealth. He who gathers crops in summer is a prudent son, but he who sleeps during harvest is a disgraceful son.”
  • To provide for ourselves, Proverbs 6:7-8 “Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise! It has no commander, no overseer or ruler,yet it stores its provisions in summer and gathers its food at harvest.”  2 Thessalonians 3:10, “For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: “The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.” 
  • Laziness is akin to destroying in the eyes of the Lord, Proverbs 18:9 “One who is slack in his work is brother to one who destroys.
  • Laziness can lead to other problems, 2 Thessalonians 3:11-12 “We hear that some among you are idle and disruptive. They are not busy; they are busybodies.  Such people we command and urge in the Lord Jesus Christ to settle down and earn the food they eat.”
  • God is always watching us, Revelation 2:2 “I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked people, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false.”
  • So as not to be a burden on anyone, 1 Thessalonians 2:9 “Surely you remember, brothers and sisters, our toil and hardship; we worked night and day in order not to be a burden to anyone while we preached the gospel of God to you.”
  • To please God, Galatians 1:10 “Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.”
  • We were created by God to be workers.  We are made in His image and God is a worker, John 5:17 “But He answered them, “My Father is working until now, and I Myself am working”  Henceforth, we must be also, Genesis 2:15 “The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.” 
  • For our health, “Better to hunt in fields, for health unbought, Than fee the doctor for a nauseous draught.  The wise, for cure, on exercise depend; God never made his work, for man to mend.” – John Dryden.  Keeping busy can keep us much healthier than if we are to sit around all day doing nothing! “Work is the natural exercise and function of man – the creature who is made in the image of his Creator.” Dorothy L Sayers
  • For our development and sanctification
  • It is part of God’s great design and in this way, we can appreciate rest, “After work rest is welcome” Peter of Celle.  We see in Genesis that God worked hard for 6 days creating the heavens and the earth and on the seventh day he rested.  Genesis 2:2-3 “By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work.  Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.”  The word holy also means to be set apart, God set apart the sabbath day for rest.  God designed the week around work and rest.  We are to work hard for six days and rest on the seventh.  This is an important concept because although hard work is an essential part of being a Christian it must not be allowed to take over our lives as is often the case.  Pope John Paul II warned of the dangers of this for priests, but I think we can see this affects more than just the priesthood!! “A constant danger with priests, even zealous priests, is that they become so immersed in the work of the Lord that they neglect the Lord of the work.”  It is important to acknowledge Jesus in everything we do and not become consumed by our workload.  This can also lead to pride and a sense of importance, never forget, anything you achieve is through Christ alone! By the grace of God, 1 Corinthians 15:10 “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them—yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me.”
  • We will be examined on our earthly works in heaven, 1 Corinthians 3:13their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work.”

What does it mean to be hardworking?

  • It means working hard in everything you do.  This does not relate purely to your paid employment but to everything you undertake to do, Colossians 3:17 “And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”
  • It means helping those who cannot do the work themselves, Acts 20:35  “In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ ” “Let the weaker be helped so that they may not do their work in sadness” – Benedict
  • It means working without complaint, Philippians 2:14  “Do everything without grumbling or arguing.”  1 Corinthians 4:12-13 “We work hard with our own hands. When we are cursed, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure it; 13 when we are slandered, we answer kindly. We have become the scum of the earth, the garbage of the world—right up to this moment.” 
  • It means being grateful for the work you have been given and not comparing yourselves with other workers.  We have all been in situations where we are working for someone who is less than kind, or we feel we are undervalued in our pay packet, or that others have been given certain perks we are not entitled to, however, this is of no consequence to us as Christians.  As Christians we work for Jesus, not man.  If we have problems at work, we must take them to Jesus in prayer and not quarrel.  Matthew 20:12-15 “These who were hired last worked only one hour,’ they said, ‘and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the work and the heat of the day.”  But he answered one of them, ‘I am not being unfair to you, friend. Didn’t you agree to work for a denarius?  Take your pay and go. I want to give the one who was hired last the same as I gave you.  Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous.”  Although this is a parable recited by Jesus which relates to access to heaven, I believe we can take from it our duty in our work life also.
  • It means accepting any type of work you are called to do.  “I must believe no work beneath me, since Jesus was a carpenter for thirty years and Joseph all his life.” Charles de Foucauld.  If God himself did not find carpentry beneath Him, then there must be nothing in this world beneath any of us.  

Let us not forget that we, ourselves are a work of God, Psalm 139:13-14 For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.  I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.”  We must strive to bring glory to God for His works!  The amazing epitaph below perfectly sums up God’s will in creation!

Lastly, I will leave you with this quote that I believe is the embodiment of my blog in a sentence!

“Let us work as if success depended upon ourselves alone; but with heartfelt conviction that we are doing nothing and God everything” – Ignatius of Loyola

Let us pray, Father, thank you for making us so wonderfully.  Please help us not to forget that we are your creation.  That when we doubt ourselves and disparage ourselves that we are only doubting and disparaging you.  Help us to see that we are wonderfully made.  Help us to work hard at all times for your glory knowing always that it is from you that we find all our strength.  In your Mighty and Wonderful Name.

Amen

Love and Blessings

Louise xx

Categories
Christianity

Today I Will Be … Grateful

The third word in my prayer journal that I was inspired to be was grateful.

The Oxford Dictionary describes grateful as “feeling that one values a kindness or benefit received.”  We are often grateful to others, for their hospitality, their generosity, their help, etc.  While we are busy thanking those around us for their kindness are, we forgetting someone far more important … someone that has extended to us a much greater kindness?  Who could we be overlooking? …   Our Heavenly Father, of course!  It can be so easy to cry out to God when we are desperate, in need or in want, but do we spend as much time, or rather, more time, thanking Him and showing Him how grateful we are for all that He has done for us?

You will notice that I often use God, Jesus and Spirit interchangeably, this is because whilst they are 3 persons they are one God, God is Jesus, Jesus is God, Jesus is Spirit, Spirit is Jesus, God is Spirit, Spirit is God.  The Trinity is something that is on my list of “things to write about”.  It is one of the most complex doctrines that we seek to understand within Christianity but hopefully, I can try and explain a little at some point!

So, let us look at the reasons we should be grateful for Jesus:-

  • It is God’s Will that we should be grateful – 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
  • For adopting us into His family – Colossians 1:12  “and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light.”
  • For giving us eternal Life – John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
  • For His wonderful deeds – Ps 9.1 “I will give thanks to you, Lord, with all my heart; I will tell of all your wonderful deeds.”
  • For His love – Psalm 107:8 “Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for mankind,”
  • For giving us strength – 1 Timothy 1:12 “I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength, that he considered me trustworthy, appointing me to his service.”
  • For His love and goodness – 1 Chronicles 16:34 “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.”
  • For listening to us – John 11:41 “So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me.”
  • For leading us – 2 Cor 2:14 “But thanks be to God, who always leads us as captives in Christ’s triumphal procession and uses us to spread the aroma of the knowledge of him everywhere.”
  • For His grace – 1 Cor 1:4 “I always thank my God for you because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus.”
  • For giving us wisdom – Daniel 2:23 “I thank and praise you, God of my ancestors: You have given me wisdom and power, you have made known to me what we asked of you, you have made known to us the dream of the king.”
  • For our salvation through His Son, Christ Jesus, John 3:16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.  Jonah 2:9 “But I, with shouts of grateful praise, will sacrifice to you.
    What I have vowed I will make good.  I will say, ‘Salvation comes from the Lord.’”
  • For His mighty reign – Revelation 11:17 “We give thanks to you, Lord God Almighty, the One who is and who was, because you have taken your great power and have begun to reign.”
  • For His provision – Deuteronomy 8:10 “When you have eaten and are satisfied, praise the Lord your God for the good land he has given you.”
  • For our victory – 1 Corinthians 15:57 “But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
  • For God’s goodness to others – Romans 1:8 “First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is being reported all over the world.”  1 Corinthians 1:4, “I always thank my God for you because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 3:9, “How can we thank God enough for you in return for all the joy we have in the presence of our God because of you?”

So, how can we show our gratefulness:-

  • In thankful, musical, worship – Colossians 3:16 “Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.” Psalm 95:2 “Let us come before him with thanksgiving and extol him with music and song.”  Psalm 69:30 ““I will praise God’s name in song and glorify him with thanksgiving.”
  • In prayer – Colossians 4:2 “Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.”
  • In giving to others – 2 Corinthians 9:11 “You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.”
  • In everything you do – Colossians 3:17 “And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”  

So, how often should we give thanks:-

  • Daily – Psalm 119:62 “At midnight I rise to give you thanks for your righteous laws.”
  • Always – 1 Thessalonians 1:2 “We always thank God for all of you and continually mention you in our prayers.”  Ephesians 1:16 “I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers.”
  • In every prayer – Philippians 4.6 “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.“
  • Many times, a day – Daniel 6.10  “Now when Daniel learned that the decree had been published, he went home to his upstairs room where the windows opened toward Jerusalem. Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his God, just as he had done before.” 

There are so many more reasons to be thankful to our Father.  The list is endless.  The greatest aspect of God’s glorious provision that we are to be thankful for is Jesus.  That God handed over His only Son to be crucified for us.  We all read in horror the story of Abraham and Isaac in Genesis 22:1-18.  Spoiler alert … God saves Abraham from having to sacrifice his son, yet He does not save Himself from this torture.  We must always remember; God has saved us.  If we were to be held at gunpoint and as the fatal shot rang out someone was to throw themselves before it in order to take the bullet for us, would we not be grateful for this person our whole earthly lives!  John 15:13 “There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”  Jesus died for us, us who are sinners.  We had not shown kindness to Jesus or showed friendship to Him, but he took the bullet for us in order that we could obtain eternal life.  For this we must be eternally grateful.

Love and blessings

Louise xx

Categories
Christianity

Today I Will Be Happy!

Following on from yesterday’s blog, the next word I wrote in my Prayer Journal that I would be is … Happy!

Today I will be happy.  The definition of happy according to the Oxford Dictionary is contented (satisfied with what one has), pleased (showing or feeling pleasure or satisfaction) and fortunate (lucky).  When I thought about how I would define happy I found it hard to answer!  I felt that it was more than contentment.  To me to be content is to be satisfied but to be happy is more than this.

The Hebrew for happy, ashar, esher is used interchangeably with blessed.  We so commonly use the #blessed in today’s society to indicate that we are happy!  To be happy is to feel blessed.  

So, what makes us happy?

Life: An old Scottish motto states “Be happy while y’er leevin, For y’er a lang time deid.”  This tells us life itself should make us happy because that is all we have, when we die, we cease to exist.

Childhood: “Ah! Happy years! Once more who would not be a boy?” Lord Byron

Absence of Pain: “But all the happiness mankind can gain, is not in pleasure, but in the rest from pain.”, Dryden

Love: “Little deeds of kindness, little words of love, help to make the earth happy, like the heaven above.” Julia Carney

Morality: “Be in general virtuous, and you will be happy.” Benjamin Franklin

Books: “Dreams, books, are each a world; and books, we know, Are a substantial world, both pure and good.  Round these, with tendrils strong as flesh and blood.  Our pastime and our happiness will grow.” William Wordsworth

Worldly Things: “The world is so full of a number of things, I’m sure we should all be as happy as kings.” Robert Louis Stevenson

Thoughts of Heaven: “There is a happy land, Far, far away, Where Saints in glory stand, Bright, bright as day.” Andrew Young, Hymn: There is a Happy Land

So, how can we obtain this happiness?

By gaining wisdom: “Happy are your wives!  Happy are these your servants, who continually stand before you and hear your wisdom!” Queen of Sheba to King Solomon, 2 Chronicles 9:7

By pleasing God: “For to the one who pleases him God has given wisdom and knowledge and joy, but to the sinner He has given the business of gathering and collecting, only to give to one who pleases God. This also is vanity and a striving after wind.” Ecclesiastes 2:26

By believing God: “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” Romans 15:13

By trusting in God: “The hope of the righteous brings joy, but the expectation of the wicked will perish.” Proverbs 10:28

By having God as our Lord: “Blessed are the people to whom such blessings fall! Blessed are the people whose God is the Lord!” Psalm 144:15

By putting the Lord before you: “I have set the Lord always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken.  Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being[a] rejoices; my flesh also dwells secure.” Psalm 16:8-9

By keeping God’s law: Psalm 1:1-3 “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord and on his law he meditates day and night.  He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season and its leaf does not wither.  In all that he does, he prospers.

By looking to God: Psalm 34:5 Those who look to him are radiant, and their faces shall never be ashamed.

By dreaming God’s dreams: “When the dream in our heart is one that God has planted there, a strange happiness flows into us.  At that moment all of the spiritual resources of the universe are released to help us.  Our praying is then at one with the will of God and becomes a channel for the Creator’s always joyous, triumphant purposes for us and our world.” Catherine Marshall

By giving our hearts to God: “We are to give our heart to God that he may make it happy, with a happiness which stretches its capacity to the full” Gordon S Wakefield

By not looking for it: “Happiness is never found until we have the grace to stop looking for it” J I Packer

By obeying God: “Man still wishes to be happy even when he so lives as to make happiness impossible.” Augustine of Hippo

You may notice that all the quotes above on how to obtain happiness involve God.  That is because I believe that true, deep rooted happiness and contentment can only come from a convicted faith in the Lord Jesus.  Only then can we be at peace with our inevitable death and the fragility of life around us.  Only then can we find happiness in the toughest of times since we know that God is with us and all we do is for God’s glory and when we are obedient to Him, he smiles down upon us.  Perhaps this is the reason why Billy Graham said “Christians are the only people in the world who have anything to be happy about” and Bonaventure said “Since happiness is nothing but the enjoyment of the highest good, and since the highest good is above, then no one can be happy unless he rise above himself, not by a physical ascent, but by an ascent of the heart.”

I will admit I know a lot of incredibly happy non-Christians.  I believe this is because of general provision.  Matthew 5:45 “that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” 

God provides for all, regardless of faith, so undoubtedly, non-Christians will be blessed with happiness, but true, deep rooted contentment can only come from the assurance of Jesus and His salvific act.  Happiness, like all characteristics of God, are not merely traits that He manifests but that He is.  God is Happiness as C S Lewis explains “God cannot give us happiness and peace apart from Himself because it is not there.  There is no such thing.”

The additional provision for Christians is that God will be our strength in times of weakness.  As Christians, even amidst the pain we should look back at our happy times and smile because we are to “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds,for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.” James 1:2-3.  We should not feel as others do that our past happiness increases our current pain.  “For truly in adverse fortune the worst sting of misery is to have been happy.” Boethius.  “There is no greater sorrow than to recall a time of happiness in misery”, Dante Alighieri.  “That is a sorrow’s crown of sorrow is remembering happier things.” Alfred Tennyson

I have used a lot of quotes here, the reason being I wanted to get a wide picture on what happiness is and how we are to obtain it.  The answer quite clearly is found only in Christ Jesus so pray with me:-

Lord, Jesus, Our Heavenly Father,

How great you are that you provide us with happiness and contentment for our earthly lives, that we have the hope that we will not cease to exist as others believe but that we will rise again to the highest heaven and live eternally at your side.

Lord, strengthen us to see our blessings even during our painful seasons,

Be with us as we grieve,

Be with us in our sorrow,

Be with us in our difficulties,

Be with us always,

We ask these things in your wonderful and precious name, 

Amen

Love and Blessings

Louise xx

Categories
Christianity

Today I Will Be …. Content

Recently I have been going back over my Prayer Journal.  Each day I am to fill in a section entitled “Today I Will Be ….”  Often, my answer is found within the Scripture I have just read or from the writings of Oswald Chambers whose Devotional Bible I read daily.  Recently I felt urged to write blogs about some of the words that I chose “to be”.  The first is Content.

Today I will be content.  This word came to me as I pondered over John 8:11 “She said, “No one, sir.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you. Go your way, and from now on do not sin again.”  In this passage Jesus is speaking to a woman about to be stoned for her sin.  A previous verse contains the very well known, “… Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.”, John 8:7.  This got me thinking about how our sin eats away at us unnecessarily because we are forgiven.  Whether Christian or otherwise, at some stage we feel guilt, and for many, guilt is a constant unshakable burden.  Scripture tells us this is unnecessary because Jesus is willing to take it from us. He wants so much to bear our sin for us that He went to the cross, voluntarily, in order to make this possible.  I am quite sure He did not suffer so, in order that we should continue grasping at our sin, desperately trying to hang on to it!  1 Peter 2:24 “who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness — by whose stripes you were healed.”

What does it mean to be content?

Being content is being happy with the little things.  Luke 12:22-23 “He said to his disciples, “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat, or about your body, what you will wear.  For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing.”  Hebrews 13:5 “Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have; for he has said, “I will never leave you or forsake you.”  Riches and material objects will come and go.  If we strive for the material, we will only desire more and more as the Dalai Lama points out “When you are discontent, you always want more, more, more.  Your desire can never be satisfied.  But when you practice contentment, you can say to yourself “Oh yes – I already have everything that I really need.””  There are many sad tales of extremely rich people, who have more than most could ever dream of and yet are discontented, never having enough to make themselves content.  This is a very real danger in our society of social media, where riches are constantly flaunted in our faces and more worryingly in that of our children’s.  It is important to consider the happiness that the little things bring and soon you will discover that the little things are actually the big things and the big things the little!!  When you wake in the morning to bird song, and look out of your window to the flowers, this is precious beauty that money cannot buy.  Or when you look out to the ocean or across the hillside, this is beauty, and this is a big thing!!

Paul is a fantastic example of someone who was content, 2 Cor 12:10 “Therefore I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities for the sake of Christ; for whenever I am weak, then I am strong.”   We need not be reminded that Paul suffered horrific beatings, banishment, loneliness, shipwreck, persecution, imprisonment, rejection and yet through all of this he was content.  He understood the purpose of his suffering and he understood that laying in the midst of all this horror was the light of Jesus and he knew that by these very experiences he was serving Christ and in this way he found ultimate contentment!    

Mother Angelica perfectly sums this up “The Christian experiences and lives a paradox.  He possesses joy in sorrow, fulfilment in exile, light in darkness, peace in turmoil, consolation in dryness, contentment in pain and hope in desolation.”  To be firmly rooted in Christ is not for us merely to endure all the hardships of life but to endure them with perfect contentment as though both blessing and persecution are one and the same.  

How do we go about obtaining contentment?

This seems such a daunting task and it is unlikely that many of us will reach the contentment that Paul experienced or the contentment that Mother Angelica describes, however, this is our goal and there are ways to achieve this.

First, we are not to worry and fret, Matthew 6:25-26 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?  Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?” 

Secondly, we must not concern ourselves with the past or the future more than is absolutely necessary.  Of course, there are times in our lives where we must rehash the past, when we are discussing events with friends or family, perhaps you are dealing with an issue you have had with someone.  There are also times when we must consider the future, for example we must ask ourselves, “Should we move to a new house?”  “Should we have a family?”  “Will this vocation suit me?”.  However, where possible we must leave our past and our future in God’s hands, Matthew 6:34 “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”  Luke reiterates this in chapter 9, verse 62 “Jesus replied, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.”

Thirdly, we must hand our worries over to Jesus.  We must remove our yoke which is heavily laden with our regret, sin, worry, fear, etc. and we must put on the yoke of Jesus which is light.  Matthew 11:28-30 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”  1 Peter 5:6-7 “Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time,casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.”

Next, we must understand that this is a learning process.  This is not something bestowed on us upon our salvation but something that we must work on throughout our lives, Paul, himself says in Philippians 4:11-13  “Not that I am referring to being in need; for I have learned to be content with whatever I have.I know what it is to have little, and I know what it is to have plenty. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being well-fed and of going hungry, of having plenty and of being in need.”

We must trust in God and seek Christ, Isaiah 26:3 “Those of steadfast mind you keep in peace — in peace because they trust in you.”  Proverbs, 19:23 “The fear of the Lord is life; indeed, filled with it one rests secure and suffers no harm. Hebrews 12:1-2 “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

We must understand that life is transient, what we are frantic about one day will be forgotten about the next, understand that things will pass, 2 Corinthians 4:18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” Ecclesiastes  3:1-8

One way of finding contentment is to consider others before ourselves, this is true humility. when we give to others, we find contentment, what we gain for ourselves, can be destructive because we can find we are never satisfied but to give to others is a blessing,

We must let go of our earthly desires.  When Jesus sends the disciples on a mission he tells them to travel light, Mark 6:8-9 “These were his instructions: “Take nothing for the journey except a staff—no bread, no bag, no money in your belts.Wear sandals but not an extra shirt.”  Our treasure is not to be found here on earth, our treasure is in Christ, it awaits us in heaven.  Matthew 6:19-21 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”  If we look to our earthly treasures then we overlook Christ, but when we look to our heavenly treasure then we look to Christ.  Jesus told a parable that teaches us of the dangers of earthly treasure in Luke 12:16-21 “And he told them this parable: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest. He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.  “Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain.  And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.”’  “But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’  “This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God.”

One way of grounding yourself is by keeping the Sabbath.  By resting on the Sabbath we are free to devote this time to God, we can read Scripture, attend church services, listen to worship songs, watch a nice movie, spend time with friends and family, walk in the countryside exploring God’s beautiful land, spend time in the garden, do craft work, the list is endless.  This is a good way to connect your heart and mind with Jesus.  If you are unable to sabbath on a Sunday, you can make it another day or perhaps do evening to evening rather than morning to morning.

Lastly, look to the Heroes of the faith for inspiration.  When I feel a little flat, I love to read books about missionaries, Christian leaders, Bible characters etc as it provides such impetus for me to try harder.  Examples are Paul, Peter, Stephen, Mary Slessor, Martin Luther, Martin Luther King Junior, Corrie Ten Boom.

I would recommend reading “Journey to Contentment” by Sally Welch which has many helpful exercises to help with finding contentment. 

I will leave you with two Scriptures which I hope will inspire and comfort you.  

Psalm 23:1 “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.”

Philippians 4:13 “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

Love and Blessings

Louise xx

Categories
Christianity

Christian Meditation

Hello Everyone.  You may notice it has been a wee while since you have heard from me.  Unfortunately, I have been struggling with low mood and anxiety.  This is something I have suffered from in the last few years and it can be quite debilitating.  I have felt as though all my inspiration has left me.  Whereas before I woke each day fuelled by God to write, assured that what I wrote was of God, lately I have struggled even to pray.  I have felt so far from God and I certainly could not attempt to write anything when I felt this way as I place the restriction on myself that what I write is Scripturally accurate and that it is of God.  To write during this period would be to write of my own volition and I am not qualified for that!!

I have tried various things to help me feel happy again, I have rested, I have read loads and loads of books, I have been in the garden, I have spent time with my dogs, I have gone for walks, I have listened to music but it wasn’t until yesterday that I felt a breakthrough.  The poor postie has been kept so busy these last few weeks delivering books to our home, luckily, he has a pully cart, or he would be weighed down with the sheer weight of them!  My husband is awoken every morning by the sight of Amazon emails detailing my latest purchases and he has politely asked me to calm down with my book buying but my reply is “if you are going to spend your money on something then let it be books!! 

Anyway, yesterday 4 books arrived on meditation and I got started immediately and that afternoon read 2 of them in full.  These were entitled “How to Meditate on God’s Word” by Daniel C Okpara and “Christian Meditation, Reviving A Lost Art” by Mark Hollis.  I absorbed what I had read in them and decided to follow Daniel Okpara’s book first as it is based more on Scripture meditation, although I am keen to try out the other style which is more mindfulness which allows you to become more aware of your mind and open yourself up to Jesus.  Perhaps I will write a blog about this future experience!!  

My meditation time began as I chose a piece of Scripture.  The one that I chose was 2 Peter 1:19.

I chose a relaxing place to position myself.  Lying down is not the most useful as it is perhaps too relaxed and you may fall asleep, I know I am likely to!  I chose to sit on a mat in my sunroom cross legged.  This way I was very alert but also comfortable and relaxed.  I read my Scripture from both the New Standard Revised Version and the Good News Edition and then I reread the NSRV a few more times as this was my preferred translation.  I then closed my eyes and spoke the words aloud from memory.  I could not remember the exact wording, but this is not important as long as you remember the meaning.  I then just relaxed my mind and pondered the passage, I thought about the questions suggested by my book:-

  1. Who said this?
  2. Who was he talking to?
  3. Who was he talking about?
  4. What was he trying to teach them?
  5. What was he telling the recipients to do?
  6. Can you remember any connecting Scripture to this one?
  7. How does this apply to me?     

At this point I didn’t write any of this down as I felt the need to just be and listen for God’s teaching regarding the passage, so I thought of the questions and I dwelt in the image I had created in my head of the Bible in my hands omitting a bright light in the darkness of the world around me. 

Once I felt that my mind was beginning to wander (as it so often does) I took to writing down the answers to the questions.  At this point you may need to research the answers as it can take time to recall who wrote each book and also what it was written for and to whom etc.  So don’t worry just type the question you have into the internet and there are many great Christian websites that will help you and there are also many books for instance Unlocking the Bible by David Pawson which explain this in a good amount of detail.  Some Bibles have some of this information at the beginning of each book. 

Answers:-

  1. The Disciple Peter wrote this.
  2. Peter was talking to early Christians.
  3. Peter was talking about God and His Word and the inerrancy of Scripture.
  4. Peter was teaching them to hold true to the Word of God until Jesus rises in your heart, Revelation 22:16.  The morning star described in the passage is Jesus.
  5. Peter was telling the recipients to read the Bible, dwell in the Scripture and hold fast to its teachings.
  6. Connecting Scripture, according to my Bible references are Revelation 22:16 “I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this testimony for the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star.”  1 Peter 1:10,11 “As to this salvation, the prophets who prophesied of the grace that would come to you made careful searches and inquiries, seeking to know what person or time the Spirit of Christ within them was indicating as He predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories to follow.”  Psalm 119:105 “Your Word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.”
  7. This applies to me because I need to view my Bible as the light of my life.  I need to see the light omitting from it each time I look at it.  I need to absorb myself in the Word of God daily, I need to meditate on the Word daily, I need to pray over the Word daily and I have to trust the Word of God in everything, daily.

I then prayed over what I had learnt, I thanked God for His Word, for giving me the Bible I held in my hands, for providing me with His light amidst the darkness.  I prayed about the day on which I will meet Jesus, my Morning Star, when all sin, pain and upset will have left my soul.  I  prayed that I see God’s precious Word as the one true light of my life.  I prayed over the connecting Scripture where Peter writes of the careful searches and inquiries of the prophets providing evidence for the inerrancy of Scripture and the Psalmist writing that the Word of God gives light and guides the way.

Next, I thought how I would apply this to my daily life.  I aim to have a period of meditation every day.  I need to change my way of life to incorporate more Jesus.  I need to wake with Scripture instead of my phone screen and I need to ground myself in the Word of God throughout the day.

So, my first meditation experience wasn’t life changing, it wasn’t earth shattering, I didn’t hear God’s voice speaking to me but, I felt content, I now feel closer to God again and I feel optimistic that this could be a way forward for me, a way to lift my spirit and set me on the path of contentment.  I feel that I absorbed the Word of God.  Sometimes when we read Scripture, we read as though we are reading a novel and the Word does not fully rest within us.  In this meditative way of reading Scripture, I felt the Word of God, dwelling within my heart and in this way, I believe I may be closer to Jesus and help the Spirit to overtake my heart.  When we feel far away from Jesus and we are not absorbing the Word of God, our hearts are ultimately, hardened towards Christ.  We need to remain in the Word in order to allow the Spirit to work within us connecting us to the Father and Son.

I hope that if any one of you is suffering, that you will find this blog helpful and that you will have a go at the meditation practice for yourself.  If at this stage, this is not for you, continue to read the Bible and pray when you are able.  The world is a dark place, there is so much pain around us.  Not a day goes by without bad news of some description, sometimes awfully close to home, other times, further afield.  The only light we have is in Jesus.  His is the only way to contentment. 

You can also try other things to help you up when you are down such as:-

  • Reading a book
  • Listening to music
  • Spending time in the garden
  • Going for a walk
  • Watching a feel-good movie
  • Baking
  • Cooking
  • Jam Making – I have had periods of intense jam making and cake baking (I had so much that I was running out of people to gift them to!)
  • Writing
  • Drawing
  • Colouring In – There are some great adult colouring books online or print offs
  • Craft, Collaging, Card Marking, Hand Lettering 
  • Crocheting
  • Knitting
  • Jigsaws

Really any activity which requires you to focus your attention is extremely helpful as your mind is free from negative thoughts.  Sometimes these little things can really make a difference.  I understand that it is hard sometimes even to consider doing these activities but try and you will feel better for it. 

I plan to write more about contentment so please pop back soon to have a read!

Love and Blessings

Louise xx

Categories
Christianity

What Is God Telling Me?

Generally, I write this blog very much based on my personal experience although I try to pre-empt what others may be struggling with or going through in their journey and relate to this also.

What I share with you today is a current personal struggle of mine.  I cannot hear God’s answer to my question!  The question I long to hear the answer to is this, “God, what am I to do for you?”, “What is my calling?”.  If you have read my testimony you will know that years ago, I felt the need to study the Word of God and so I began an Access to Theology Course with Highland Theoretical College.  This led to the Theology Degree I am now studying.  Unlike many in my class I have no idea why I am there.  Of course, I understand the usefulness of this subject and I have gained so much insight into the Word of God already, but what will this lead to?  Many of the people I study with are candidates for ministry, they know their goal.  People ask me, why are you studying theology?  What will you do with this degree?  What occupation does theology lead to apart from ministry?  My answer, inevitably is, “I don’t know!”, “God told me to do it and I’m doing it!”  Not the answer many are looking for I expect!!!

When my grandma’s were both unwell I spent most days with them and, although it broke my heart to see them this way I was able to bear it and I longed to be with them rather than apart from them.  When I visited them in hospital, I had a longing in my heart to help others who were struggling around them.  I wondered if I was to be a care worker, or perhaps a nurse?  I love to look after people, one of the happiest periods of my life has been caring for my children when they were small, I wonder if I am to foster or adopt?  Presently, I love to care for my furry babies, Winston, and Molly! In fact, I would have many more furry babies if only my husband would let me!!  

When I see people in hospital or care homes, with little to no visitors and no one with time to speak with them, I think perhaps chaplaincy is the role for me, as in this way, I can provide comfort and point people towards Jesus!  At the same time, someone recently suggested a Biblical Counselling Course which I undertook and thoroughly enjoyed so is counselling the occupation for me?

In my mind I feel as though I need to know so that I can be gaining the relevant experience meantime, while I am studying.  To this problem I know the answer, but I am just not willing to take it on board!!!  Matthew 6:34 “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”  There is a lovely piece in Corrie Ten Boom’s Book entitled The Hiding Place where her Dad seeking to comfort her says “Corrie, when you and I go to Amsterdam, when do I give you the ticket?”  She sniffled a little, and replied, “Why, just before we get on the train.” “Exactly,” her father responded, “and our wise Father in heaven knows when we are going to need things too. Don’t run ahead of Him, Corrie.  When the time comes that some of us will have to die, you will look into your heart and find the strength you need, just in time.”  In this instance, the father is the responsible one who is more able to take care of the ticket, if Corrie were to hold the ticket, in her foolhardy youth, she may lose it.  In this way, God holds our plans for us until we are required to know them so that we will not lose our way.

Every day I pray, “God, please reveal to me the plans you have for me and my husband?” and every day I do not hear anything back.  Lately, I have been wondering if He is answering and I am not listening!  Perhaps He answers without an audible voice!  Perhaps I need to take note of what is going on around me and look for God’s voice there?  The word of God is alive, it is working all around us, 1 Thessalonians 2:13 “And we also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers.”  The Holy Spirit is at work around us helping us to understand the will of God, John 14:26 “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.” 2 Peter 1:20, “Knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.”

To help me with this I have decided to create another Prayer Journal, this one will be entitled, “What is God telling me?”  Here, I will record instances that suggest God’s hand, for instance, recently I have had many book recommendations given to me which are evangelical and missionary in style and I wonder if God is telling me something in this!  I will write this down!  I have been thinking about the homeless in our society and what that could be done to help them?  This, I will write down.  In this way, perhaps I will get my answer!!  Of course, my answer may be this!! “It is none of your business.”  To which I would respond internally, “What, but it is my life, surely I need to plan it out so I can fulfil what I want to do with it.”  Wrong response alert! 1 sentence, 1 my, 3 I’s, yet it is not my or I, I gave my life to Jesus, Galatians 2:20 “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

I gave my life over to Jesus and therefore, it is no longer my plans but His and He will tell me only what I need to know at a particular time.  If it is not necessary for me to do anything at this moment, then I do not need to know.  When you think about it there is a particularly good reason for this.  More than likely, I would mess it up!  What God is planning for me may frighten the life out of me at this stage in my life whilst in 4 years’ time He will have prepared me for it, and I will be eager to get started!  I can see this already.  I used to be terrified of speaking to more than a couple of people at once and for this reason, I did not manage to attend my lectures last year as they happened, but instead watched them on a recording.  This year I have attended many Bible Studies and built up my confidence each time so that now I am much less anxious when it comes to my turn to speak.  Imagine, God telling Michelangelo as a small boy with his paint set that one day he would be commissioned to paint the Sistine Chapel, I expect he would have been a little daunted by it and this may have discouraged him!  Or telling a small Boris Johnson that one day he would be Prime Minister and as soon as he began the job, he would deal with Brexit followed immediately by Covid 19!  He may well have directed himself down another path!

So, all we can do is rest in God’s peace and take life day by day while always being alert to the sound of God’s voice in whatever form that may come to us!  We must pick up our Bible daily as the Word of God is alive in Scripture and from this we may discern God’s voice, Psalm 119:105 “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.”

So, I leave you with my newest Prayer Journal entitled What Is God Telling Me?  I have designed one with lines and another blank as some may like to write in sentences whilst others may find images more helpful and, in this way, there is room to draw, doodle, or mind map?

I hope that you find this useful in your journey with Jesus.

Love and Blessings

Louise x

Categories
Christianity

Printable Bible Art

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It can sometimes be difficult to genuinely believe what we read about ourselves in Scripture.  “You are the light of the world”, “You are the salt of the earth”.  If we are to progress in our walk with Jesus, then we must believe what He tells us about ourselves.  I find Bible Art can help to reinforce these affirmations.  Bible Art is also helpful in order to memorize Scripture and really consolidate it in our minds.

I have made many pictures to go alongside my blogs and devotionals and I would like to share these with you as a pdf in order that you can print out any that speak to you.  I confess I am no graphic designer and, as you may remember, I did not undertake a single art project before I began this website 5 short weeks ago so please accept these very amateur designs!

If you would like to make designs yourself, why not have a go with using Canva which is a fantastic site where you can create all sorts of designs with free backgrounds, pictures etc.  It is also possible to upload and include your own photos.  There are many other similar design programmes you could also check out.

You can also design something just with a pencil, paper, and pen.  Look online for hand lettering ideas and use a brush pen to write out a Bible Verse.  This is really effective and will look great on the wall.

Good luck if you decide to make your own designs and if you decide to print off one of mine then I hope it speaks to you.

There are so many resources at our fingertips in the Bible.  If you are in a season of need, whether you are struggling with anxiety, depression, illness, or heartbreak you will find a passage to help you in the Bible.  Many Bibles have a section at the beginning which will guide you to a passage for your specific need.  Once you find it, why not create something using this passage so that you see it regularly throughout your day and have it as a reminder of God’s love for you.

Love and Blessings

Louise x  

Affirmations

Bible Verse Art

Quotes

Categories
Christianity

Who Do You Follow?

During my prayer time this morning I felt I was led to write my own devotionals and so, here we are!

The Pied Piper of Hamlyn, a popular children’s story, speaks of a man who with the sound of his flute conveys images of faraway lands, woods, and mountains.  In this way the Pied Piper rids an entire town of rats.  The rats followed him believing they were going to a better place.  They did not believe this because the Pied Piper sat them down and spoke endlessly of these lands in order to convince them but, they heard the sound and they believed.  In this case, the rats made the wrong choice, this decision was to be their last as they are led to a river to drown one by one.

Who are you following today?  Are you following every move of our leaders around the world, eagerly waiting for their next response to Coronavirus today?  Are you following a movie star dreaming of a life you imagine they have?  Are you following the ideals of social media, spending hours on beauty treatments in order to get the latest look?  Whilst, in moderation, listening to the advice of our fellow man is not a danger.  We all benefit from some skincare advice, health advice or sporting tips, however, we are not to Follow our fellow man.  We are to Follow Jesus!

Oswald Chambers writes in his My Utmost Devotional Bible “The early disciples were not attracted to Jesus because they wanted to be saved from sin; they had no concept that they needed saving.  They were attracted to Him by a dominating sincerity, by sentiments other than those which we say make men come to Jesus …  They did not follow Jesus because they wanted to be saved, but because they could not help following.”

These men Oswald speaks of were working on their boats, probably looking forward to finishing up fixing their nets and heading home with their catch of the day for their wives to cook up a storm in the kitchen before gathering the family around the table to feast together when, in an instant, their lives changed forever.  They would not be at home for their family meal that evening, perhaps they would not return for many weeks or months, their eyes had rested on Jesus and their lives were no longer their own.  They chose to follow Jesus – not for what they could gain as so many of us do today but purely because of who He was.  The nature of Jesus was such that men would drop everything and everyone they had in order to follow Him. 

Mark 1:16-20 “As Jesus walked beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” At once they left their nets and followed him. When he had gone a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John in a boat, preparing their nets. Without delay he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men and followed him.”

Let us look to the man, Jesus, in order that we, like the rats of Hamlyn and the fisherman of Galilee will follow unblinkingly, knowing that He is the only one worth following.   

Love and Blessings

Louise x

Categories
bible art Bible Fun Christianity faith God Jesus Love Religion

Creative Christianity

You may remember me writing about a Creative Christianity Summit I attend online this summer!  It was organised by Menekse Stewart who owns Cheerfully Given, an online store which sells Christian jewellery, stationary, homeware and crafting materials.

This summit literally changed my life!!  Were it not for this summit I would not be writing this blog now as I simply would not have had the confidence.  Prior to the course I did not believe I was capable of anything remotely artistic.  I thought creativity was for those who attended art classes or designed graphics for a living.  This course not only removed this false impression from my mind but replaced it with an astounding reality … wait for it!!!:-

Everyone is creative!!!

Yes, absolutely everyone!! I know many of you are shouting at me right now saying “No way, I am absolutely hopeless!”, “Yeah Right, My 2 year old child paints a better picture than I do” or “you want a word with my school art teacher and he will set you straight on that one!”

Bear with me … remember I thought like you too!!  What does Scripture say?  Let us look at the very first page, in fact let us look at the very first words, Genesis 1:1 “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”  God is a creative!!  Now let us look a little further on, Genesis 1:27 “So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.”  When we say we are not creative, either we doubt the creativity of God, and thus, doubt Scripture itself or we doubt that we are made in the image of God, and thus, doubt Scripture itself!!!  The truth is we are God’s image bearers and God is creative, we can see that all around us!  Therefore, we are all capable of creating!  

If I needed further evidence of the diverse nature of creativity then this was consolidated by those involved in the summit, as many areas of creativity were catered for.  Creativity is not merely painting pictures but is in everything we do!! Our lives are one long string of creativity.   

Before I speak a little about crafting, let me introduce you to just a few of the guests and what I learned from them.

First up we had a daily sermon from Paul Blackham who is a minister in London.  Paul’s creative talent lies in his delivery of the Word of God.  He truly brings the Bible to life.  His love for Jesus is so evident and his enthusiasm is something to be envied.  I learned so much from his sermons but perhaps the most important was that Jesus needs to be everything in your life.  Jesus wants to be your identity and will accept nothing less.  Jesus wants everything or nothing!  We read this in Scripture, but do we live it in our day to day lives!?  Luke 14:25-27 “Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them he said: “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters-yes, even their own life-such a person cannot be my disciple. And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.”  Being a Christian means being a Christian first and foremost.  When someone asks “Who are you?”, you answer “I am a follower of Jesus” or “I am a Child of God”, not “I am a Mum”, “I am a student”, “I am a vegan”, “I’m Scottish”, “I’m a Man U Fan”.  These things will all pass away, they can be taken from us at any time!  Christ can never be taken from us, not in life, nor in death.   Athanasius, Bishop of Alexandria,  made this point abundantly clear “The only system of thought into which Jesus Christ will fit is the one in which He is the starting point.”  Jesus comes first! Everything must fit in with Jesus, we cannot try and manipulate Jesus to fit in with everything else in our lives!  

A Life Coach named Breeny Lee reaffirmed to me the need to do everything for the glory of God.  That one cannot be one person in one situation and another somewhere else.  As a representative of Jesus, we must bring honour to Him in the way that we behave, and this should not be affected on where we are or who we are with!

Thea Muir described how she manages her negative thoughts by removing the negative cassette tape from her mind, placing this at the cross and replacing it with a Godly thought cassette tape.  I find this imagery helpful in my ongoing battle with negativity!  Thea began doodling as a way of tuning in to the positive affirmations of Scripture and there are many for us to find, all helpful tools to developing a positive mindset.

Kathryn Hitchings spoke about the flow zone which is fabulous for people struggling with mental health problems.  This is a place of creativity when you are not really thinking about anything, just being, living in the moment.  Another inspiring message was that untaught naïve art can be the most beautiful!

Martha Shrimpton of Nimbus Collective emphasised the importance of a relationship with God.  I think we can often get too bogged down with the religious side of our faith, studying the Word, praying religious prayers but not ever just being with God.  It is important for us to be still with God, write with Him, journal with Him, create pictures in worship to Him, have a coffee and chat with Him.

Jonathan Self made me look at everything differently.  He makes photography look simple!  I had never thought of cooking tea as creating before, yet Jonathan made a simple kitchen image of utensils etc look beautiful! This inspires me to take a closer look around me, to look at God’s creation with wonder instead of complacency. 

I love this quote by Josie Gambel that says, “if a dream doesn’t scare you then it’s not big enough!”  This is because we are not dreaming, really, we are just imagining what we could realistically achieve!  When we dream of doing something that terrifies us then we are admitting we are not capable … but we are with Christ … Philippians 4:13 “I can do all this through him who gives me strength.”

We are all unique and therefore there cannot be a one size fits all rulebook to Christianity.  Not all of us are capable of sitting for 5 hours a day reading Scripture or 4 hours a day deep in prayer.  With creative Christianity, there is something for everyone!  For those with active minds, Bible journaling or doodling is a fantastic way to explore Scripture whilst relaxing our minds.  Young children may get a deeper understanding of the Bible through painting!    

It was at this summit where I first heard of Sermon Notes!  This is a fantastic idea for those who have wandering thoughts in church!  As the preacher is speaking draw the main idea of the sermon in the middle of your page and work out from there.  Add verses, words or drawings, anything that consolidates the sermon for you.  Put lines or patterns around the words and thoughts so they do not get jumbled.  You can also use an iPad and procreate for this.  You can draw this in pencil at church and colour when you get home.  This is a great way of remembering the teaching and being able to look back at it in the future.  One lady uses paints at her church!

Another way of doing this is at home using a passage of the Bible.  I love doing this as it helps me memorize my Scripture and keeps me focussed on the verse.  Begin by measuring out the paper carefully with a ruler so that your lettering is evenly spaced out.  Write the verse out initially in pencil and when you are happy that everything is in place, go over with a brush pen.  You can decorate a frame around the outside of your lettering with flowers for example.  

For Sermon Notes and Simple Hand Lettering you may need:-

Pens or crayons  

Pencil

Felt Tip Brush Pens

Ruler

Pointy paintbrushes

Water colour palette

Water

Kitchen roll

Paper or Notebook

Esther Thorpe of Origami Est demonstrated how to make an Origami diamond.  For a complete novice this was very manageable.  You will find origami videos on You Tube if this is something that interests you:-

For Origami you may need:-

Paper Square – You will require some of the same size

Glue

Coloured Paper

Scrapbooking Paper

Wrapping Paper

Bible Journaling is extremely popular and a great way of consolidating your Scripture.  You read a passage of your Bible and then make a relevant design either at the side of the writing (if there is a blank section for this) or you can colour the whole page with water colours.   The most important aspect to this is spending time in God’s presence and learning the Word of God.  You will get lots of great ideas online for this.      

For Bible Journaling you may need:-

Journaling Bible – some people find the thought of drawing over their Scripture too much to bear so in this case, you can use a notebook or paper.

Paints

Watercolour

Pencils, pens, crayons  

Glue

Scissors

Brush Pens

Magazine cut outs

Clear gesso to prepare Bible pages

Watered down poster paint

Ephemera

Washi Strips

Stickers

Stamps

Shakers – You make these by placing some sequence and a small card with a verse or aspirational saying on it inside transparent cellophane (I keep these when I get items delivered inside them) and secure it together and secure it to the page with Washi Strips.

Tip-ins – You make these with a piece of card (could be an old greeting card) and you fasten this to your page with Washi Strips.  This provides additional space for more creating!!

For Creative Photography – All you need is:-

A camera or phone

Your imagination

Many men reading this may think this creativity talk is for girls but that is certainly not the case.  There are plenty of other creative pursuits for men if nothing above appeals.  You could try sketching, creating furniture, learning to play an instrument, gardening or decorating.  There is no limit to creativity.

Craft Materials can be expensive so it is important to upcycle what you can, collect a stash in your home which can become your go to box of tricks when you are feeling crafty.  I collect cellophane, greeting cards, glass jars, cardboard, wrapping paper (you never know when it will come in useful!).  You will find a great supply of craft materials on Amazon, Hobbycraft, Cheerfully Given and Etsy. 

You Tube has many how to videos for lots of different creative pursuits.  The most important thing to remember is that you can do it.  It is not about whether your painting will hang in the Louvre, it is about whether your Father in Heaven likes what he sees and whether it brings Him glory.  The importance is in the time spent with Jesus and the peace and enjoyment that you get from switching off from the busines of life and relaxing! 

Just give it a go today! I am sure you will surprise yourself!

Always Remember, Philippians 4:13 “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

Happy Crafting!

Love and Blessings

Louise x

Categories
Christianity

Creative Christianity

You may remember me writing about a Creative Christianity Summit I attend online this summer!  It was organised by Menekse Stewart who owns Cheerfully Given, an online store which sells Christian jewellery, stationary, homeware and crafting materials.

This summit literally changed my life!!  Were it not for this summit I would not be writing this blog now as I simply would not have had the confidence.  Prior to the course I did not believe I was capable of anything remotely artistic.  I thought creativity was for those who attended art classes or designed graphics for a living.  This course not only removed this false impression from my mind but replaced it with an astounding reality … wait for it!!!:-

Everyone is creative!!!

Yes, absolutely everyone!! I know many of you are shouting at me right now saying “No way, I am absolutely hopeless!”, “Yeah Right, My 2 year old child paints a better picture than I do” or “you want a word with my school art teacher and he will set you straight on that one!”

Bear with me … remember I thought like you too!!  What does Scripture say?  Let us look at the very first page, in fact let us look at the very first words, Genesis 1:1 “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”  God is a creative!!  Now let us look a little further on, Genesis 1:27 “So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.”  When we say we are not creative, either we doubt the creativity of God, and thus, doubt Scripture itself or we doubt that we are made in the image of God, and thus, doubt Scripture itself!!!  The truth is we are God’s image bearers and God is creative, we can see that all around us!  Therefore, we are all capable of creating!  

If I needed further evidence of the diverse nature of creativity then this was consolidated by those involved in the summit, as many areas of creativity were catered for.  Creativity is not merely painting pictures but is in everything we do!! Our lives are one long string of creativity.   

Before I speak a little about crafting, let me introduce you to just a few of the guests and what I learned from them.

First up we had a daily sermon from Paul Blackham who is a minister in London.  Paul’s creative talent lies in his delivery of the Word of God.  He truly brings the Bible to life.  His love for Jesus is so evident and his enthusiasm is something to be envied.  I learned so much from his sermons but perhaps the most important was that Jesus needs to be everything in your life.  Jesus wants to be your identity and will accept nothing less.  Jesus wants everything or nothing!  We read this in Scripture, but do we live it in our day to day lives!?  Luke 14:25-27 “Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them he said: “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters-yes, even their own life-such a person cannot be my disciple. And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.”  Being a Christian means being a Christian first and foremost.  When someone asks “Who are you?”, you answer “I am a follower of Jesus” or “I am a Child of God”, not “I am a Mum”, “I am a student”, “I am a vegan”, “I’m Scottish”, “I’m a Man U Fan”.  These things will all pass away, they can be taken from us at any time!  Christ can never be taken from us, not in life, nor in death.   Athanasius, Bishop of Alexandria,  made this point abundantly clear “The only system of thought into which Jesus Christ will fit is the one in which He is the starting point.”  Jesus comes first! Everything must fit in with Jesus, we cannot try and manipulate Jesus to fit in with everything else in our lives!  

A Life Coach named Breeny Lee reaffirmed to me the need to do everything for the glory of God.  That one cannot be one person in one situation and another somewhere else.  As a representative of Jesus, we must bring honour to Him in the way that we behave, and this should not be affected on where we are or who we are with!

Thea Muir described how she manages her negative thoughts by removing the negative cassette tape from her mind, placing this at the cross and replacing it with a Godly thought cassette tape.  I find this imagery helpful in my ongoing battle with negativity!  Thea began doodling as a way of tuning in to the positive affirmations of Scripture and there are many for us to find, all helpful tools to developing a positive mindset.

Kathryn Hitchings spoke about the flow zone which is fabulous for people struggling with mental health problems.  This is a place of creativity when you are not really thinking about anything, just being, living in the moment.  Another inspiring message was that untaught naïve art can be the most beautiful!

Martha Shrimpton of Nimbus Collective emphasised the importance of a relationship with God.  I think we can often get too bogged down with the religious side of our faith, studying the Word, praying religious prayers but not ever just being with God.  It is important for us to be still with God, write with Him, journal with Him, create pictures in worship to Him, have a coffee and chat with Him.

Jonathan Self made me look at everything differently.  He makes photography look simple!  I had never thought of cooking tea as creating before, yet Jonathan made a simple kitchen image of utensils etc look beautiful! This inspires me to take a closer look around me, to look at God’s creation with wonder instead of complacency. 

I love this quote by Josie Gambel that says, “if a dream doesn’t scare you then it’s not big enough!”  This is because we are not dreaming, really, we are just imagining what we could realistically achieve!  When we dream of doing something that terrifies us then we are admitting we are not capable … but we are with Christ … Philippians 4:13 “I can do all this through him who gives me strength.”

We are all unique and therefore there cannot be a one size fits all rulebook to Christianity.  Not all of us are capable of sitting for 5 hours a day reading Scripture or 4 hours a day deep in prayer.  With creative Christianity, there is something for everyone!  For those with active minds, Bible journaling or doodling is a fantastic way to explore Scripture whilst relaxing our minds.  Young children may get a deeper understanding of the Bible through painting!    

It was at this summit where I first heard of Sermon Notes!  This is a fantastic idea for those who have wandering thoughts in church!  As the preacher is speaking draw the main idea of the sermon in the middle of your page and work out from there.  Add verses, words or drawings, anything that consolidates the sermon for you.  Put lines or patterns around the words and thoughts so they do not get jumbled.  You can also use an iPad and procreate for this.  You can draw this in pencil at church and colour when you get home.  This is a great way of remembering the teaching and being able to look back at it in the future.  One lady uses paints at her church!

Another way of doing this is at home using a passage of the Bible.  I love doing this as it helps me memorize my Scripture and keeps me focussed on the verse.  Begin by measuring out the paper carefully with a ruler so that your lettering is evenly spaced out.  Write the verse out initially in pencil and when you are happy that everything is in place, go over with a brush pen.  You can decorate a frame around the outside of your lettering with flowers for example.  

For Sermon Notes and Simple Hand Lettering you may need:-

Pens or crayons  

Pencil

Felt Tip Brush Pens

Ruler

Pointy paintbrushes

Water colour palette

Water

Kitchen roll

Paper or Notebook

Esther Thorpe of Origami Est demonstrated how to make an Origami diamond.  For a complete novice this was very manageable.  You will find origami videos on You Tube if this is something that interests you:-

For Origami you may need:-

Paper Square – You will require some of the same size

Glue

Coloured Paper

Scrapbooking Paper

Wrapping Paper

Bible Journaling is extremely popular and a great way of consolidating your Scripture.  You read a passage of your Bible and then make a relevant design either at the side of the writing (if there is a blank section for this) or you can colour the whole page with water colours.   The most important aspect to this is spending time in God’s presence and learning the Word of God.  You will get lots of great ideas online for this.      

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is let-your-light-shine-1.jpeg

For Bible Journaling you may need:-

Journaling Bible – some people find the thought of drawing over their Scripture too much to bear so in this case, you can use a notebook or paper.

Paints

Watercolour

Pencils, pens, crayons  

Glue

Scissors

Brush Pens

Magazine cut outs

Clear gesso to prepare Bible pages

Watered down poster paint

Ephemera

Washi Strips

Stickers

Stamps

Shakers – You make these by placing some sequence and a small card with a verse or aspirational saying on it inside transparent cellophane (I keep these when I get items delivered inside them) and secure it together and secure it to the page with Washi Strips.

Tip-ins – You make these with a piece of card (could be an old greeting card) and you fasten this to your page with Washi Strips.  This provides additional space for more creating!!

For Creative Photography – All you need is:-

A camera or phone

Your imagination

Many men reading this may think this creativity talk is for girls but that is certainly not the case.  There are plenty of other creative pursuits for men if nothing above appeals.  You could try sketching, creating furniture, learning to play an instrument, gardening or decorating.  There is no limit to creativity.

Craft Materials can be expensive so it is important to upcycle what you can, collect a stash in your home which can become your go to box of tricks when you are feeling crafty.  I collect cellophane, greeting cards, glass jars, cardboard, wrapping paper (you never know when it will come in useful!).  You will find a great supply of craft materials on Amazon, Hobbycraft, Cheerfully Given and Etsy. 

You Tube has many how to videos for lots of different creative pursuits.  The most important thing to remember is that you can do it.  It is not about whether your painting will hang in the Louvre, it is about whether your Father in Heaven likes what he sees and whether it brings Him glory.  The importance is in the time spent with Jesus and the peace and enjoyment that you get from switching off from the busines of life and relaxing! 

Just give it a go today! I am sure you will surprise yourself!

Always Remember, Philippians 4:13 “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

Happy Crafting!

Love and Blessings

Louise x

Categories
Christianity

Premiere!

New Lives in Jesus now includes Video Sermons by Craig.  If you go to the Menu you will see a Video Section has been added. We hope to add around two new video sermons per week and we hope you enjoy them.  The first one is based upon Jeremiah and is around 7 minutes long.  We believed this was an appropriate length of time so that you could enjoy a sermon whilst having a cuppa or short rest.

They are designed with new believers in mind, however, I am sure that they will resonate with older Christians just as much.

If you want to receive a notification when these videos are uploaded, you may wish to subscribe or turn on your notifications on You Tube as they will also be uploaded there.

Love and Blessings

Louise and Craig x

Categories
bible art Book Review Christian Books Christianity faith God Goodreads Jesus Religion

Book Recommendations

When I first came to faith, I filled bookcase upon bookcase with Christian Literature.  I just could not get enough!  I was about 38 years old and I felt as though I had 38 years of not being a Christian to make up for!!! I began reading the Good News Bible, then I read about Paul the Apostle before discovering John Stott who I found most helpful.  Below, I have made a list of books that I have rated 4 or 5 stars on Goodreads.  Some I read a long time ago, some very recently.  I have tried to divide them into different categories, however, it is sometimes the case that a book could have slid into a few categories or that a book is probably on the outer edge of that particular category but that is where I found it rested best.  For anyone living close to me, you would be so welcome to borrow any of my books, for others, you could try a local library, or there are some charity shops which stock Christian material.  Another option is looking at second-hand versions online.  Many of mine are preloved and still in great condition! Some may be reasonably priced new and others slightly more expensive. 

I pray that you uncover the same enthusiasm for Christian Literature that I did.  Please do not be put off if you read the occasional book that does not resonate with you at all or that you find to be doctrinally wrong.  This is inevitable if you are going through books like I did!  Just read carefully, always checking Scripture references and reading your Bible alongside.  If a book does not feel right, just put it down and start another one.  There is such a wealth of Christian Literature that it is inevitable some will be doctrinally unsound, so just use your God given wisdom to seek out the truth from the lies.

Happy Reading!!  

Love and Blessings

Louise x

Teaching on Doctrine

AuthorTitleStars
ATB McGowanThe New Birth: What Born Again Really Means5
J I PackerKnowing God5
 A Passion for Holiness5
Bruce MilneKnow the Truth5
C. S. LewisMere Christianity5

Teaching on History

AuthorTitleStars
Robert HuberThe One Stop Guide to the History of the Bible5
The New Lion HandbookThe History of Christianity4
Jenny RobertsonStrength of the Hills5
Bruce FiskA Hitchhikers Guide to Jesus4
Bernhard AndersonThe Living World of the Old Testament4
Terry Glaspey75 Masterpieces Every Christian Should Know: The Fascinating Stories behind Great Works of Art, Literature, Music and Film4

Understanding Scripture

AuthorTitleStars
John StottThrough the Bible Through the Year5
 Understanding the Bible5
Mark StaussFour Portraits: One Jesus: A Survey of Jesus and the Gospels5
David PawsonUnlocking the Bible5

Practical Help

AuthorTitleStars
Craig GroeschelDivine Direction: 7 Decisions that will Change your Life4
R T KendallWhen God Shows Up: Expecting the Unexpected5
Max LucadoOutlive your Life: You were Made to Make a Difference5
 In the Eye of the Storm5
 Come Thirsty: No Heart too Dry for His Touch4
John OrtbergIf you want to Walk on Water, you’ve got to get out of the Boat5
Rod ParsleyAncient Wells, Living Water: God Invites you to Come and Drink5
Nicky GumbelChallenging Lifestyle5
 A Life Worth Living5
Justin EarleyThe Common Rule: Habits of Purpose for an Age of Distraction5
Christina VinsonGod’s Peace When You Can’t Sleep5
Tony EvansDiscover Your Destiny: Let God Use You Like He Made You5
Robert J MorganReclaiming the Lost Art of Biblical Meditation: Find True Peace in Jesus4
Jennie AllenGet Out of Your Head4
Angus BuchanFaith Like Potatoes5
 A Rushing Mighty Wind5
 The Secret Place: Finding Quiet Time in the Presence of God5
 Come of Age: The Road to Spiritual Maturity5
Celia MarieGod Given Food: A Bible Study & Beyond4
Lee StrobelThe Case for Christ5
 The Case for A Creator4
 The Case for Faith4

Church and Revival

AuthorTitleStars
Richard TaylorHow to Read a Church5
Jim WilkinsonMiracle Valley: The Story of Hollybush Farm5

Missionaries

AuthorTitleStars
Paul HattawayThe Heavenly Man: The Remarkable True Story of Chinese Christian Brother Yun5
Brother AndrewGod’s Smuggler4
Max MyersEyes Turned Skywards4

Autobiographies/Biographies

AuthorTitleStars
Don Piper90 Minutes in Heaven5
Heroes of the FaithWilliam Carey5
 David Livingstone5
Oswald ChambersHis Life and Work5
Corrie Ten BoomIn My Father’s House5
 The Hiding Place5
 Tramp for the Lord4
John PollockPaul the Apostle4
Alexander WhyteApostle Paul5
John FoxeFoxe’s Christian Martyrs of the World5
Jock PurvesFair Sunshine4

Devotionals

AuthorTitleStars
Angus BuchanNow Is the Time Daily Devotional5
Alistair BeggRuth: 30 Day Devotional4
Oswald ChambersMy Utmost Devotional Bible5
 My Utmost for His Highest5
Selwyn Hughes & Trevor J PartridgeCharacter by Character, 365 Daily Readings5

Lastly, just a few extras.

Recently I have found the book of Common Order to be useful for prayers.  When you just do not know what to say, you can have a look at this book and there are prayers for morning, evening etc.

Also, an interesting way to the read Scripture is The Books of the Bible (NIV).  Here the chapters and verses have been stripped away leaving the text more like the original Scriptures.  The headings and verses were added in the 1600s so they may lead us to interpretations that are not helpful.  Here, you can read, for instance, the letters of Paul as a complete letter which would have been received by the addressee!!

Categories
bible art Bible Fun Bible Quiz Christianity faith God Jesus Love Quiz racism Religion

CHILDREN’S QUIZ

Over in the Resource Page you will now find a Children’s Quiz. There will be more coming very soon!! For ease I have copied it below and attached the pdf. For the answers head over the Resources.

Happy Quizzing and Good Luck Kids!

Love and Blessings

Louise x

Bible Quiz 1 – Children’s Questions

Old Testament

  1. What was the name of the man that God made from the dust?
  2. What did Eve eat that she was told by God not to?
  3. What was the name of the baby that was found in a basket on the River Nile?
  4. What did God tell Noah to build?
  5. How many sons did Jacob have?
  6. What was the name of Jacob’s son who wore a colourful robe?
  7. How many commandments did God give Moses?
  8. What was the name of the man who never had his haircut?
  9. Samuel heard someone speaking to him and thought it was Eli, the Priest, but who did he later find out it was?
  10. What did David kill Goliath with?
  11. Who did God ask to build a temple?
  12. With which wild animal did Daniel share a den with?
  13. Who was swallowed up by a whale?
  14. How did the Israelites win the battle for Jericho?
  15. What was it that spoke to Eve in the Garden of Eden?
  16. How many days did it take God to create the world and everything in it?
  17. What was the name of the Tower that people built to reach up to heaven?
  18. What heavy object did Elisha make float in the water?
  19. What was the name of Abraham’s wife?
  20. What did God write the commandments on?
Categories
bible art Bible Fun christian music Christianity faith God Jesus Love racism Religion

BRAND NEW!!

I would like to introduce you to my new page, Audio. Here you will find Audio Recordings of Scripture. To start off I have recorded The Parable Of The Good Samaritan.

For ease I have copied the page here but in future, head over to Audio to listen to my recordings.

Happy Listening!!

Love and Blessings

Louise xx

Have you two or three minutes to spare? Why not grab a cuppa, have a sit down and listen to some Scripture.

To begin with I am going to read various Parables of Jesus as an introduction into the Word of God. The Parables that Jesus told are stories from everyday life to get across a point that Jesus was trying to make. Have a listen and meditate on these verses. What do you think they are telling you? Can you think of any ways that you could practically live out these teachings in your day to day life?

Parable Of The Good Samaritan – Luke 10:25-37
Categories
bible art Bible Fun Bible Quiz Christianity faith God Jesus Love Quiz Religion

QUIZ TIME!

ADULT BIBLE QUIZ 1

Old Testament

  1. What was hovering over the waters “in the beginning”?
  2. From where did God first appear to Moses?
  3. Which tribe was set apart for the Priesthood?
  4. Who was Moses to commission to lead the people into the Promised Land?
  5. What was the name of the prostitute who sheltered the spies that Joshua sent to Jericho?
  6. Whose head was never to be touched by a razor?
  7. What was the name of Ruth’s mother in law?
  8. What did Eli accuse Hannah of when he saw her praying?
  9. How long was David’s reign as king?
  10. How was Elijah taken up to heaven?
  11. What were the names of Noah’s three sons?
  12. What did Solomon ask God for?
  13. What was the name of the King of Persia that God used to help the exiles return to Jerusalem?
  14. To whom did God tell not to law a finger on Job?
  15. How many Psalms are there?
  16. Who wrote the book of Proverbs?
  17. Fill in the blank.  Ecclesiastes 3:1 “There is a time for everything, and a                  for every activity under the heavens;”
  18. To what does “he” compare his darling’s hair to in Song of Songs Chapter 4?
  19.  What did Isaiah hear Seraphim call to one another?
  20. What does Jeremiah cite as a problem when God appoints him prophet?

Whenever my husband and I are eating out, having a drink on holiday or sitting relaxing of an evening, we really enjoy bible quizzing!! We have collected many Bible Quiz books and are quickly working our way though them! We find it a fantastic way to learn Scripture and have fun together. Sometimes we cringe when we get the wrong answer to something that we most definitely should have known and other times we impress each other by getting the correct answer to a very random question!!

I plan to compose both adult and children’s quizzes which you will find in the Resource section of this website. There you will find them in PDF Format so that you can print these off and take them anywhere!!

Have a go at the questions above and then head to Resources to find the answers!

Happy Quizzing!

Love and Blessings

Louise xx

Categories
Christianity faith God Jesus Love racism Religion

Church and Faith: Dead or Alive

I understand only too well what faith looks like both dead and alive as I have experienced both.  I have experienced a complete lack of trust in God, I have experienced anger with God, I have ignored God completely and rested on my own strength and I have doubted the very existence of God.  I have fooled myself by believing I was alive in faith when, in reality, my faith was dead.

Recently, thanks be to God, I have discovered what faith looks like when it is alive!!  Lockdown has literally saved my husband and I.  While, before our faith was dead, we are now truly alive in Christ!  We live for Jesus.  Previously, my husband, like many others, whiled away his days staring at his phone, now, he wakes at 5am for prayer and study before work at 9am.  He had intended to sleep until 7 or 8 at the weekend but he has been unable to, he is too excited to spend time with God!  He is reading an impossible number of books in order that he can write a book for new Christians exploring who Jesus is!  I have spent lockdown making lots of new Christian friends, I have undertaken various studies and summits which have inspired me greatly, without them I would not be writing this blog! Our plans are no longer our own and we are happier than we have ever been!  I woke this morning after a very disturbed night’s sleep and I thought I will just have a relaxing day, finish the book I am reading entitled “God’s Smuggler”, catch up on some housework and do some craft.  God had other ideas!  As I began to get ready and look forward to my lazy day, my mind became inundated with thoughts.  This has happened a lot since I became “alive” especially since I started writing my blog!  This told me that God had other plans for my day!  So here I am trying to assemble my racing thoughts into coherent English once again.  You may ask, how do you know this is of God?  The answer is simple, because despite my idea of a relaxing day being turned on its head and my plans being totally disrupted, I am happy, I am excited, I am eager.  At the drop of a hat, my plans changed, and I delighted in it.  I delight in it because I know that this is God’s will, that by writing this I please God and that by writing this I may help even one person who is struggling with their faith. 

Coming to faith or indeed recognizing your faith is dead can be torturous, it can be mentally exhausting, you can be confused about who you are!  For years I was at war with myself, I was a soldier in a silent battle between God’s will and my own.  When I was defeated and accepted God’s victory, I then became swamped with questions, far more than I could find answers to!  By my own selfishness I had kept Jesus at arm’s length and, inevitably, this is why my personal journey was so difficult.  I did not want to let go of “my life”.  I liked my life just the way it was, or at least I thought I did.  It took far too long but, finally, I realised that the very things I thought made me happy were having the opposite effect.  Life will never go the way we want it to all the time and therefore, focussing on oneself is unlikely to lead to happiness.  This is a difficult concept to understand as it contradicts our modern thinking which advises “Be who you want to be!”, “Do what makes you happy!”” etc. etc.  This may work when you are employed, healthy, in love etc.  What happens when you are sick, you lose your job, your partner leaves, how do we just make ourselves happy then?  The reality is true happiness and contentment is found only in Jesus.  The peace and happiness that rests in your heart when you finally ditch your sense of self and accept God’s will in your life is unlike anything else one can experience. 

So how can you achieve this?  Well, for me, it was learning to trust God, to completely trust that everything that is happening in my life right now is God’s will and that it is for the good.  I may not see the good in this lifetime, but I trust at some point, I will!  It is surrounding yourself with faithful believers.  Lockdown has provided so many opportunities for me to join in different church services, bible studies, summits, conferences etc. that I otherwise would have been unable to attend.  This has literally changed my life, from the Cheerfully Given Creative Christianity Summit which turned me from an adamant uncreative whose biggest artistic achievement would be the sun, grass, bird, house picture of a four year old child to a buzzing creative with her own craft trolley, who is so full of ideas that she carries a notebook around with her at all times so that her head does not explode! The Aberdeen Christian Fellowship Big Church Weekend which brought my husband and I into the community of believers in Christ who welcomed us warmly.  The Alpha Course where we met fabulous new friends who we keep in touch with regularly, we chat, we laugh, we pray for each other and, God willing, we will soon meet each other face to face for a time of fellowship.  Watching Angus Buchan’s Mighty Men’s Conferences which due to Covid are broadcast online!  Seeing the faithful heart of Angus Buchan inspires us so much to follow in his footsteps, to live our lives for Christ.  Watching an African Church Service where praise is paramount, little is spoken without “Amen” or “Halleluiah”.  This is the faith I strive for, the faith to praise Jesus without fear or embarrassment.  A “Get Out Of Your Head Bible Study” where as a group of women we come together to discuss our struggles and our faith, we pray for each other and we learn from each other and I see Jesus in each and every one of these woman.  Scripture tells us how important it is to fellowship with one another, Hebrews 10:24-25 “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”

I fully understand the fears that you may have as new Christians reaching out to believers.  It can be difficult; I understand that churches can be cliquey, and some church goers may not be approachable.  I want to say to you that this is your time!!  Coronavirus may have been meant for bad, but God is using it for good.  I would not have had the confidence to attend the above in person and though I was still apprehensive, sitting in my own house, in my chilling clothes made things much easier!  I did not have to worry about my appearance, I did not have to worry about whether I could escape if I were uncomfortable and anxious because all I needed to do was press the Leave Meeting button!  Luckily, I have never felt the need to do this!  So, I urge you, give it a go!  Sign up for Alpha, watch a church service, sign up to Bible Studies or small groups.  Just have a peek and see!!    

For the church, this is the time to rise to the challenge.  Statistics show a huge rise in church attendance during this pandemic, people are interested, people want to know more, people need Jesus.  Acts 2:46-47 “Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favour of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.” 1 Corinthians 3:9 “For we are co-workers in God’s service; you are God’s field, God’s building.”

Like Martin Luther King Jr I too have a dream and mine is this … that we will see the Church of God come alive.  That the church will unite throughout the world focussing on union and not division.  That this church will exist for the glory of God and that the living Word of God will be preached with joy and love and without errancy.  That this church will welcome each and every soul as their brother or sister, that they will be welcomed with open arms and encouraged each step of their journey and that those who arrive as strangers, leave as family.  I dream that this church will heal the sick and save the lost.  That testimonies will be shared with joy and fervour.  That the praise will be resounding and powerful that those outside of the building may know that God is alive.  That the walls of this church will tremble from the vociferous preaching held in its midst and that this good news will flow to the ends of the earth and not be silenced.  That no brother or sister is left in any need, but is provided for financially, practically, and emotionally and that this church stands together, shoulder to shoulder with each other living out the graceful love of God.

Ephesians 2:19-20 “Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone.” 

Romans 12:4-5 “For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.”

1 Corinthians 12:13 “For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.”

Let this season of tragedy emerge a season of triumph!  Let the people come!!

Love and Blessings

Louise xx

Categories
Christianity faith God Jesus Love racism Religion

What Is Love?

This is the age-old question….  What is true love?  Many of us believe we are in love when we start to miss a person when they are not around, perhaps we have an experience and think “I wish this person was here to share this.”  Maybe when we put their needs above our own i.e. you watch a movie of their choice rather than the one you have been desperately waiting to see.  Godly love surpasses what we, as man are capable of, yet as Christians it must be our goal.  We may believe that we are experiencing godly love when we feel we would lay down our life for another person, John 15:13  “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends”.  Yet, how many of us would lay down our lives for a stranger, or still yet, an enemy, Jesus did, Romans 5:8 “But God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

Love forms the basis of the two most important commandments which are present in all four Gospels, Matthew 22:35-40, Mark 12:28-34, Luke 10:25-28 and John 13:34.

So, what does Godly love look like?

  • Godly love shows honour, Romans 12:10 “Be devoted to one another in love. Honour one another above yourselves.”  More than this it humbles us to the point that we care more for the one we love than we do our own selves.  We put the needs of others above the needs of ourselves, we will go hungry in order that another can be fed.   
  • Godly love is everything, 1 Corinthians 13:1-3 “If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.  If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing”.  1 Corinthians 13:13 “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love”.  Paul explains to us in these passages that love is everything, nothing compares with love, without love, one has nothing.  It is the essence of God and without this essence we are dead.   
  • Godly love involves action, 1 John 3:18 “Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.”  Love is not something that we merely say to each other but something visible, love is alive, love is action in our day to day lives.  
  • Godly love is familial, Hebrews 13:1-2 “Keep on loving one another as brothers and sisters.”  Love is not casual.  It is not a complacent “Love Ya” that is so common on today’s society but the type of love that one has for his own flesh and blood, for we are all made in the image of God and within the church we are all brothers and sisters in Christ.  We are an eternal family. 
  • Godly love covers sin, 1 Peter 4:8 “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.”  Proverbs 10:12 “Hatred stirs up conflict, but love covers over all wrongs.”  We see this in our day to day lives, how often have our children misbehaved and treated us badly but we smile and forgive them because we love them.  We argue with our spouses then laugh it off becau