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?
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.”
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.
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.
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!
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 because we love one another, were this an argument with a stranger we would surely not be so quick to forgive.
Godly love provides for others, 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?” John is not just suggesting that we help each other out but insisting that if we do not do this and we do not have empathy for others that we do not have God within us at all! Paul also calls us to help each other, Galatians 6:2, Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfil the law of Christ.”
Godly love rejoices in the truth, 1 Corinthians 13:6 “Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. Lies have no place in Godly love. Lies are not of God. Whenever we lie, we lie to God Himself, Acts, 5:1-4 “Now a man named Ananias, together with his wife Sapphira, also sold a piece of property. With his wife’s full knowledge, he kept back part of the money for himself, but brought the rest and put it at the apostles’ feet. Then Peter said, “Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land? Didn’t it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn’t the money at your disposal? What made you think of doing such a thing? You have not lied just to human beings but to God.”
Godly love is our goal and our aim as Christians, Paul, in praying for the Thessalonians, asks for an increase in love, 1 Thessalonians 3:12 “May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you.”
Godly love is part of the fruit of the spirit Galatians 5:22,23 “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” The fruit of the spirit is all goodness. There is no law against these because in these there can be no evil.
Godly love is patient and kind, 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.” Because we are so egocentric being patient can be exceedingly difficult for us, but we must strive for this virtue as this is part of Godly love.
Godly love glorifies God, John 13:34-35 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are My disciples if you love one another.” When we radiate love, we radiate Jesus. Others can see Jesus in us. If, while we claim to be Christians, we mistreat others, are self-centred, angry, etc etc. others will not see Jesus in a good light, they will not think that this is a God they want to follow. However, when they see kindness in the face of hostility, love in the face of hate, forgiveness in the face of bitterness, then they see our God for who He is, our loving God.
Godly love even loves enemies, Lev 19:34 “The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the LORD your God.” Matt 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.” Romans 5:8, “But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us”. We see in the Old Testament as well as the New this commandment to love one’s enemies. This is important in order to separate God’s people from the rest of the nations. When we think of the most evil people that we can imagine in history, these people still loved their families very much, therefore, it is having the capacity to love those who would harm you that shows the power and glory of God, our Father. Jesus taught us this beautiful in the Parable of the Good Samaritan:-
Luke 10:25-37 “On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?” He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and ‘Love your neighbour as yourself”. “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.” But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbour?” 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, 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.”
Godly love is the Law and the Prophets, Matt 22:37-40 ”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.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”. Gal 5:14, “For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbour as yourself.” Romans 13:8-10 “Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law. The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not covet,” and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbour as yourself.” Love does no harm to a neighbour. Therefore, love is the fulfilment of the law”. When one is truly filled with Godly love, it is physically impossible to break the Law, if one has the love of God, one cannot steal from another, or murder, or blaspheme, the evil is not present because the love is too great!
God has demonstrated this love for us, 1 John 4:9 “This is how God showed his love among us: He sent His one and only Son into the world that we might live through Him.” God bore the pain of parting with His Son for us, the very people, who turned away from God, who would rise up against Him… God, our mighty Father humbled Himself, taking the form of man for us, for those who would blaspheme against Him.
God, in His very being is love. He does not just love as an emotion. His very person is love itself. 1 John 4:8 “Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.”
We cannot be separated from this love, Romans 8:38-39 “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
I hope to come back to this again and cover this in more detail especially looking at 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 so please check back soon!
Meantime, please meditate on the many Bible verses I have shared with you, pray about them and let us all try and live them out more and more in our day to day lives for God’s Glory and the advancement of His Kingdom.
In an earlier blog I suggested using a prayer journal to help you if you are struggling to pray or if you want to develop your prayer life. These are available online in journal format or there are single page designs which you can download for free from the internet. Just type in prayer journal or prayer sheet and then click on images and you will see a large selection that you can print off.
I have designed a simple one based on the “ACTS prayer guide” I spoke about earlier:-
I have attached a PDF link for you to use should you wish to download this.
There is space for the date at the top so that you can fill this in and later go back and check what you have written. You may wish to do this to see how your prayer life has developed over time or how your focus has changed!
The Adoration Section is where you praise God. Write down His glorious attributes or simply how much you love Him.
The Confession Section is where you admit where you have gone wrong. We know that all the sin we confess will be forgiven so do not let this affect you negatively but simply admit your guilt and let God’s gracious forgiveness be upon you.
The Thanksgiving Section is where you write down all the things you are grateful for. I find depending on my state of mind, this can be overflowing to the point I struggle to stop, or I can find it hard to think of anything. When I am feeling negative, I have learnt to think simple, I woke up, so I am alive, I have been granted another day. I don’t know how many of you watched I Am A Celebrity Get Me Out of Here last year, but I was really inspired by Caitlan Jenner’s attitude. Every morning on waking she would shout to the rest of the camp “It’s Another Day to Excel!” What a positive attitude! I think this sort of enthusiasm is something that we all should strive for!
The Supplication Section is where you write your prayer requests. These may be for your own needs or the needs of others.
You may need additional space for any one of these sections, so I have created Individual Prayer Sheets for each of these.
I have included space for your confession and a space for the date of your confession.
I have been lucky enough recently to be introduced into Creative Christianity and it has changed my life! I do not think I can quite put it into words…. I just feel like my life with God is fuller in some way, that rather than giving things up for Christ, I have been given so much more. My life is enhanced by my walk with God. I would like to devote a blog entirely to this so I can hopefully inspire you to have the courage to get creative, so I will not go on too much here! I will just say that the blank spaces on your prayer sheets could be used for further writings, poetry, lettering, drawing, paints, decorating with stickers etc. There are so many fabulous ideas in which you can creatively worship God.
I presume if you are reading this that you are a new Christian, considering becoming one or just trying to find out a bit more about Christianity. If you have been visiting a church or meeting Christians, you may have been asked the following questions:-
“Are you saved?”
“Are you born again?”
“Have you said the sinner’s prayer?”
“Are you baptised?”
I found these types of questions very alarming when I was first asked them. I had absolutely no clue what they were talking about and I also had no idea whether this was something I wanted to be involved in or not! Having grown up with the idea that one’s religion was a private matter it was uncomfortable for me to hear people speak like this!
Now I understand these questions, I can assure you there is nothing to be scared about. It is just part of being a believer. Let us look at some Bible verses in order to understand what being “born again” means.
Paul tells us in Romans 10:9 “that if you confess with your mouth Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved;” O.K, so, here we see what we must do in order to be saved, we must confess with our mouths that “Jesus is Lord” and we must genuinely believe that Jesus came back to life and that it was God who raised Him. Luke further emphasis the need for faith in Acts 16:31 “ “They said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” The only way to be saved is through Jesus Christ, as Acts 4:12 tells us “And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.”
You may ask “Do I need to be saved?” The answer unquestionably is Yes!! Romans 5:9 states “Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him.” 1 Corinthians 1:18 tells us “For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” So, without being saved we face the wrath of God and we will perish, in other words, we will not be accepted into heaven.
You may still ask, “How does being saved work?” When you realise how holy and perfect God is, it becomes apparent just how sinful and depraved we are and therefore how does this holy God save us? Our holy God cannot look upon evil yet by His great grace He saves us. Ephesians 2:8 tells us “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God;” 2 Timothy 1:9 “who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity,” Here we can clearly see that our being saved has nothing to do with us but God and His grace that He has extended to us. You will see that this passage also mentions that this grace is granted us in Christ Jesus. This refers to the crucifixion. Only through the atonement of Jesus can God look upon us sinners and grant His grace to us in order to provide us with salvation.
So, how does being saved happen? Another word for being saved is salvation or being born again. The Ordo Salutis tries to simplify all these weighty theological doctrines into a chart. There are different forms of this chart, so I have used a simplified version.
First God must call you to Him. You may have felt a growing or sudden desire to attend church or perhaps someone spoke to you about Jesus and you felt the need to learn more. This is effectual calling. God has called you and you have responded. Romans 10:17 “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.”
Next you are regenerated. You may have heard this term before on a popular science fiction series! The difference here is that on the outside nothing has changed, you still look exactly the same but, on the inside,, you are changed, you are born again, John 3:3-8.
Justification means that you are made right with God. This is where the sacrifice of Jesus comes in…. Imagine you are in the dock and God is judge and jury, you are convicted of sin and sentenced to death, then Jesus, God’s only Son stands up and demands to take your place so that you may live … This is the truth of what He has done for you. You are now justified, and God will not hold your sins against you. Ephesians 1:13 “In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation—having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise”
God, accepting this substitution, frees you from the guilt of sin and adopts you into His Family. You are now a Child of God.
Now the hard work starts!! It is time for you to be transformed into a likeness of Jesus. This does not happen overnight and, indeed, it will not happen during your lifetime. Bit by bit, month by month or year by year you will notice that you become more and more aware of your sin, that you strive that bit more to avoid the sins of this world and instead work hard as Jesus’ hands and feet on earth.
Only at death will we be made holy so as to be acceptable to live with Jesus in heaven. This is called glorification.
I hope I have managed to explain a little of this vast subject. A lot of complex doctrine is involved here but the basics of what you need to know are:-
To be a Child of God you must be born again, not as in an infant birth but a birth of the Spirit. The Holy Spirit will come to you in order that you can do the work of the Lord and understand Scripture well. For this to happen you must genuinely believe in the resurrection of Jesus and say the words “Jesus is Lord”. There is a Sinner’s prayer that is not found within Scripture but may be useful for you to have an idea how you can pray about this. I have detailed a simple example below:-
All that is important to salvation is that you voice the words “Jesus Is Lord” and that you believe in your heart that God raised Jesus from the dead, however, an important part of prayer is the confession of sin and the request for forgiveness so if you are comfortable praying the prayer above then Go For It!!
I understand this is a lot to take in so if you have any questions, please get in touch with me and I would be more than happy to help you.
Do not forget to call on the Lord! Romans 10:13 “for “Whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
When you first become a believer, it can be hard to find good Christian music to listen to. At first the only Christian Songs I knew were the old-fashioned hymns but now I have found loads of brilliant artists. While, of course, there is nothing wrong with listening to secular music, Christian songs give us a chance to sing praise and worship God. This may be while driving to work, cooking tea, doing the gardening, or cleaning the house!
I have compiled a list of songs which I think suit every taste. I have a very eclectic taste in music myself but I must admit not all these genres are to my taste, luckily, one is my husbands so he helped out with that one and the other I have just had a guess at which songs sound good!!
You will find these on the usual channels, Amazon, Google, Spotify, You Tube etc.
I really hope you find something that you like!
Love and Blessings
Modern Worship Songs
I Will Trust My Saviour Jesus
Ancient of Days
The Goodness of Jesus
Jesus Is Alive
God Is for Us
Yet Not I But Through Christ In Me
UK Blessing – You Tube
I Can Only Imagine
I Am They
My Feet Are on The Rock
What A Beautiful Name
O Praise the Name
So Will I
Who You Say I Am
Deep Cries Out
Build Your Kingdom Here
Marching On (feat Hillsong Young & Free)
Light of The World
Holy Is the Lord
Made to Worship
Lindsey Stirling feat Rivers Cuomo and Lecrae
Don’t Let This Feeling Fade
God Bless the Broken Road
Keith and Kristyn Getty
There Is A Higher Throne
It Is Well
You’ll Never Walk Alone
He Is My Everything
Bosom of Abraham
There Is Power in The Blood
Are You Washed in The Blood?
I’ll Fly Away
How Great Thou Art
We You There When They Crucified My Lord
Three Wooden Crosses – Randy Travis
What A Day That Will Be
There Was Jesus
Children, Go Where I Send You
Mary, Did You Know
In the Sweet By and By
Truth Is Truth
God’s Not Dead (Like A Lion)
All the Way
Here We Stand
I Am Second
The King is Coming
Live with Abandon
Love Like I Mean It
Mighty to Save
More Than Enough
Pouring It Out for You
Saviour of The World
Eye of The Storm
About A Mile
Born to Live
I Give You My Hallelujah
This is Living
Voices of Freedom
The Lost Get Found
When She Cries
Walk on The Water
Promise My Prayers
Lead Me (I’ll Follow)
Open Up the Heavens
Spirit of The Living God (Radio Edit)
A Million Saints
The Celebration Choir
A Safe Stronghold Our God Is Still
All Creatures of Our God and King
The Leeds Parish Church Choir
All Things Bright and Beautiful
The Royal Scots Dragoon Guards or Bonnie Anderson
Salisbury Cathedral Choir
I Danced in The Morning
Aled Jones and Russell Watson
In Christ Alone
The Lord Is My Shepherd
London Regency Choir
The Lord Is My Shepherd
The St Michael Singers
When I Survey the Wondrous Cross
The Power of The Cross (Instrumental)
I’ll Fly Away
Oh Happy Day
Amen, This Little Light of Mine
103rd Street Gospel Choir
Swing Low Sweet Chariot
The Gospel Choir
Go Down Moses
I Will Move on Up A Little Higher
Joshua Fit the Battle of Jericho
Just A Little While to Stay Here
Let the Church Roll On
When the Saints Go Marching In
The London Community Gospel Choir
What A Friend We Have in Jesus
Light at The End of The Tunnel
Go Tell It on The Mountain/Aint No Mountain High Enough (Medley)
Yesterday I asked the question Am I Good Enough? We looked at Moses and how he did not feel “good enough” for the job that God had assigned to him.
I was going to look at a few different characters today, however, I would really like to devote today’s blog to Paul The Apostle. I do not think there is anyone in the whole Bible who seems less equipped for the job of apostle than Saul of Tarsus!!
Saul of Tarsus was a zealous Jew who hunted down believers of The Way (which Christians were called at this stage) in order to persecute them. Saul stood by and watched as Stephen; the first Christian martyr was stoned to death. Following this we see him plan his journey to Damascus. “Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. He went to the high priestand asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem.” Acts 9:1-2.
It was during this journey that Jesus presented himself to Saul. Let us think about that for a moment, Saul is on his way to persecute, imprison and put to death the very family of Jesus and this is when Christ appears to him. One might think that Christ has come to strike him down in revenge for the death of his faithful disciple Stephen and the many others who have been persecuted yet no, Christ comes to adopt Paul into his family and employ him in the work of the gospel on earth. Why would He do this? For God’s Glory of course!
When I first came to Christ, I read many books on Paul and his story really spoke to me, I still love him greatly and thoroughly enjoy reading his letters. This was a man that truly despised Christ and His followers, a man who would go to any lengths in order to persecute believers and hamper the work of Christ yet in the blink of an eye Saul becomes Paul The Apostle, who in my mind is the most inspirational witness to faith in the whole of Scripture.
My favourite poem is one by Rudyard Kipling entitled “If” which he wrote for his son. While reading this beautiful poem let us think about Paul. I have attached an image of the poem and later intertwined this poem with Bible verses in order to show that Paul meets this criterion and more!
If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
1 Corinthians 4:12 “and we toil, working with our own hands; when we are reviled, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure”
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
Romans 1:16 “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile.”
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or, being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Philippians 1:22-26 “If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labour for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know!23 I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, so that through my being with you again your boasting in Christ Jesus will abound on account of me.”
Or, being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise;
1 Corinthians 9:19-23 “Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.”
If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;
1 Cor 6:19 “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own.”
If you can meet with triumph and disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
Philippians 4:11-12 “Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.”
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with wornout tools;
If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
Philippians 3:8 “Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ.”
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you;
2 Cor 4:8-9“We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. except the Will which says to them: “Hold on”;”
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings—nor lose the common touch;
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you;
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run—
Acts 28.30-31 “For two whole years Paul stayed there in his own rented house and welcomed all who came to see him. He proclaimed the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ—with all boldness and without hindrance.”
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!
Paul would undoubtedly qualify as a man by Rudyard Kipling’s standards, yet he is so much more than that, Paul is the personification of the Man of God.
As Paul sat in prison, likely aware the day was drawing near that he would be put to death he writes to Timothy “For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time for my departure is near. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.”
Paul could look back and see just how ill equipped he had been for the work of the Lord, yet he did not allow this to hinder him going forward. Instead Paul used this as a testimony for God’s glory. Putting aside all the shame that he must have felt, he boldly admitted his atrocious acts. Acts 22:4“I worked hard and killed men and women who believed as I believe today. I put them in chains and sent them to prison. The head religious leader and the leaders of the people can tell you this is true. I got letters from them to take to our Jewish brothers in the city of Damascus. I was going there to put the Christians in chains and bring them to Jerusalem where they would be beaten.” God sees the bigger picture. Paul would be the last person we would have thought of to write the majority of the New Testament, yet God knew what a righteous soldier of Christ Paul would be!
God will give you the ability if you give Him obedience and when you don’t feel “good enough” just think about this:-
Something that I have really wrestled with since coming to Christ is accepting that I am good enough to be a part of God’s family. At times I have felt so out of touch with other believers and that I was very much the odd one out. There was one occasion I left church swallowing hard to choke back my tears. I felt like such a sinful person compared to everyone else and I told my husband that I would not be returning to church. Luckily, he replied “you will be going again next week even if I have to fireman carry you there!” I remained adamant for the next few days but then the feeling began to clear especially when my father in law put his arm around me and told me “Dear, none of us are good enough!” Of course, he is right, there is not one person in the Holy Bible that is good enough apart from God Himself. God does not want people that are righteous in and of themselves, who are able bodied for the task. He wants people like you and me, people incapable of the job. Why? Because this is the way that He is Glorified.
Moses didn’t feel good enough as we see in Exodus 3:11 “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and I that I should bring the children out of Egypt.” And again in Exodus 4:10 “Then Moses said to the Lord “O My Lord, I am not eloquent, neither before nor since you have spoken to your servant but I am slow of speech and slow of tongue.” Yes this is the man God chose to speak to from the burning bush, calling him by his name and this is the man who God chose to lead approximately two and a half million people out of Egypt and guide them through a 40 year journey in the wilderness!!
I have found a lovely passage in a book by Angus Buchan entitled “Come of Age”
“The question is not whether you are able, the question is: Are you available? I have come to realise that God always honours faith. God always uses faithful men and women to do His work, not men and women of great learning or great natural ability but men and women who are prepared to believe Him and do whatever He says no matter how ridiculous it might seem at the time.”
We must remember that we do not do anything in our own strength and thus our human, physical capabilities are irrelevant to God, the only thing that matters is our attitude. We just need to listen to what God wants of us and have the courage to do it. I can tell you sometimes it is not easy. When I started this blog a few weeks ago, I was nervous, and the following fears went round and round in my mind:-
What if I make a mistake?
What if people don’t like it?
What if people think I am crazy?
What if it is not God’s will and I just think it is?
What if people defriend me because I am too Christian for them?
What if people are talking about me behind my back because of my views?
What if I plagiarise someone and I get sued?
What if my relationships with others are affected because they are not Christians?
What if people think I am annoying because I am being evangelical?
Despite all these misgivings I had to trust God. At the end of the day, God is all we truly have. All else can be taken away from us, our loved ones, our money, our possessions but God is with us forever. Before the world was, He was and after the world is no more, He will still be. God is infinite and omnipresent. God is everywhere, there is nowhere we can go, and God will not be there, He is at once transcendent and imminent. I could not allow these thoughts to gather pace in my mind.
I have been doing two Bible studies recently on mind management and checking our thoughts and have learnt much from these which I hope to share with you in another blog. The main focus is on this scripture passage in 2 Corinthians 10:5 “take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”. We need to be aware of our spiralling thoughts which are not of God, take them captive and allow the thoughts which are of God to rule our heads!
Don’t get me wrong, at times I am still scared but I do not let the thoughts take hold. I have chosen to trust God with this. My goal as a believer is to trust God in everything and I will continue to strive for this, but, as regards my blog, I have decided to trust God that this is what He wants from me and I have received some lovely messages from people saying how much a blog has helped them and this reassures me that my blog is of God. The most wonderful achievement for me personally from this is that in trusting God and in doing His will I have found growth in my faith. I have found happiness in something other than pleasing myself. I find happiness in pleasing God! It is likely some of my fears have come true, but it is irrelevant. My heart is happy because I have aligned myself with God’s will and this is such a blessing to experience.
There are many more biblical characters that seem “not good enough” who are such an inspiration to us, so I am going to continue with this theme in Part 2.
Meantime, when you feel God telling you to do something (and bear in mind this may not be audible but rather your own voice in your head or perhaps the same topic cropping up continually in your readings) you may be scared, you may question God, you may be ashamed to do what He has asked of you but “Just Do It”. There is no greater feeling of peace than knowing your actions are pleasing to God and that your relationship with Him is growing and developing.
I leave you with this Scripture which is a favourite to many Christians, and you will see why!
If you were to ask people this question, what do you think would be the reply? I expect they would answer “a person that believes in God” and they would be correct, but we must be more specific. There are many other religions of this world who believe in a god so we must make clear who the God is that we serve. A Christian believes in the God of the Holy Bible who is at once one, God and three, Father, Son and Spirit, otherwise known as the Trinity. A Christian believes in the Word of God. A Christian does not treat the Bible like a pick and mix, he does not pick the aspects that suit his lifestyle and leave those that are troublesome for him. Of course, there are those that claim to be Christians and do this very thing. This is not what God has asked of us.
I have found on my journey there are two types of Christian, the Sunday Christian, and the Believing Christian. The Sunday Christian devotes the hours of 10-11 on a Sunday morning to worship God or at least appears to worship God and on exiting the church he leaves God behind.
God demands that we identify as Christian above all else, before identifying as wife, father, nurse, teacher, female, dog lover, body builder, artist, etc. etc. we are to be Christian. God comes first and we are to love God above all else. John Baillie, the Scottish Theologian sums this up well “A true Christian is a man who never for a moment forgets what God has done for him in Christ, and whose whole comportment and whole activity have their root in the sentiment of gratitude.”
I love this quote by Billy Graham, the North American Evangelist “The real Christian is a person who can give his pet parrot to the town gossip.” At first glance you may think, ok so a real Christian is so free of sin that he is happy for his pet parrot to share all the goings on of his household to the whole town. But is there in fact more to it? Is it that no man is without sin, but the real Christian humbles himself to admit where he goes wrong? He does not pretend to be perfect, puffing out his chest as though he were as holy as Jesus but rather, humbly shares his imperfectness with other imperfect people in the hope that together they will gravitate towards Christlikeness.
I used to feel that “Christians” were people who thought they were perfect and sinless, a people who felt superior to others and looked down upon them. I am sure on some occasions I was right. There are certainly some tv evangelists who would definitely fall into this category. But when one is a true child of God, this is not how your mind works, in fact, it is the opposite. Christians, getting to knowing God and His Word, become more aware of their sin.
When you become a Christian, you become a representative of Christ, the hands, and feet of Jesus on earth. Therefore, one of faith must demonstrate this by his actions. This is a mighty task, the most important task a Christian is assigned. Note Well … You will fail. Of that there is no doubt. We will still sin. Do not let this impede your walk with God, simply ask for forgiveness, apologise to anyone that you have sinned against and start again. Every time you fall, just get back up. There are many characters in the Bible who have fallen many times, yet they got back up. Let us think of Peter, a disciple of Jesus. While Jesus was being interrogated Peter denied even knowing him, not just once but three times yet it is Peter that Jesus built the Church upon, it was to Peter that Jesus handed the keys to heaven.
The true church of God consists of all Christians throughout the world joining as one family in Christ.
When joining a church, it is important to look for the good fruits of which Matthew speaks, but also look for unity and welcome, above all, look for Jesus. If you find these, you have found a believing church!
I pray that you are thriving in a believing church or that you soon find one in order that your faith may grow in the fellowship of your brothers and sisters.
Doubt is something that will creep into the hearts of each and every Christian at some point in their journey with God. I would imagine that this has become a factor more and more as we have progressed in science and technology and come to rest on our own abilities more and more. Thousands of years ago, things were different. Around the world men had their own gods and they rested in the power of these gods for everything, rain, provision, fertility. Nowadays we feel we can provide everything for ourselves, we turn on our taps and we have a never-ending supply of water, quenching our thirst and that of any crops we may grow in our gardens. With an egg and sperm, we can create a human being from a petri dish and we even have the capability of manipulating species to create an entirely new one … just look at all the designer dogs out there!! Less and less we look to God to provide for us and more and more we stand on our own abilities. Thousands of years ago and, indeed, in many faiths and cultures today people see their gods work in everything. They pray for rain and when it rains, they thank their gods, they have a baby and they thank their god for their fertility. They thank their god for the gift and guidance of their elders etc. etc. etc. How often do we as Christians look to God this way? We may say grace and we may show our gratitude to God but moment by moment do we genuinely believe and recognise God’s work in our lives? Meditating on this can be a helpful tool in times of doubt.
If you are in a period of drought and your faith is wavering remember this, you are still a Christian, you are not alone in how you are feeling and you are still a Child of God. I used to allow thoughts of doubt to take hold and go to war in my head. Before long I was back to my old ways and not really feeling like a child of God at all. I neglected to go to church, I neglected to read the Bible and before long my faith had withered away and, in my head, I was no longer a Christian. How wrong I was! How many mistakes I made! Ever since I accepted Jesus into my heart, I have been a Child of God and for eternity this is what I will remain! Accepting this reality is so helpful in our walk and is the one focus we need to cling to no matter whether we are standing on a majestic mountain top or curled up in a putrid pit.
Let us look at some Bible characters and see that they were no strangers to doubt themselves!
Adam and Eve doubted God when they ate of the forbidden fruit, Genesis 3:1-6.
Abraham did not believe God when he insisted Sarah will bear a child for him, Genesis 17:17-19.
Sarah did not believe God when he insisted, she will bear a child, Genesis 18:12-14.
Israel, despite having seen signs of God still refused to believe in Him, Numbers 14:11. This carried on for generations, 2 Kings 17:14.
Gideon doubted God and asked for proof not just once but twice, Judges 6:36-40
John the Baptist despite being the chosen one to proclaim the coming of Jesus The Messiah doubted this was the real Jesus, Matt 11:2-3.
Thomas doubted that Jesus had resurrected insisting he would believe it when he saw it, John 20:24-29.
Miguel de Unamuno (1864-1937) – “Faith which does not doubt is dead faith”
Alfred Tennyson, English poet (1809-1892) – “There lives more faith in honest doubt, Believe me, than in half the creeds.”
These examples above are such an encouragement for our times of doubt. Sometimes we doubt because we are humble enough to ask why me? To awe that there could be such an amazing being such that God is! Of course, other times, we are just being human and resting on our own mind. It is during these desolate times of our lives that we often emerge stronger in faith. This is summed up so well in the quote below:-
Lesslie Newbigin, British United Reformed Church theologian – “The life of faith is a continually renewed victory over doubt, a continually renewed grasp of meaning in the midst of meaningless.”
I am going to leave you with a quote by an English hymn writer called Charlotte Elliot which puts so beautifully our walk-through faith and doubt.
Meantime, have a look at the Bible passages above and be reassured that God is not expecting you to be perfect, no one on this earth is and perhaps many who present themselves righteous in faith, in reality suffer from doubt just as you do but are to proud to admit it!
Psalm 42:9 “I say to God, my rock, “why have you forgotten me? Why must I walk about mournfully because the enemy oppresses me?”
Psalm 43:2 “For you are the God in whom I take refuge; why have you cast me off?”
The Book of Psalms is a fantastic book to look through when you really do not know what to pray. Perhaps you are tired, perhaps you are suffering from depression or anxiety or you are angry with God. It can be helpful to know that you are not alone! King David, the author of many of the psalms faced these very same struggles and he has written about them in beautiful poetic language that we can use in our prayers. One of the most wonderful things about Scripture is that the characters within its pages are just like you and me! King David committed adultery, the lady became pregnant, he tried to cover his sin by bringing her husband back from the army that he may sleep with her and think that the baby was his. They did not sleep together so David had him killed! All of this began because David caught sight of this woman bathing! The sin of lust became adultery and murder!
1 John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” The wonderful aspect of Christianity is that all sin is wiped clean! Acts 3:19 “Repent then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord.” There is no one on this earth that is too evil for God to forgive! God loves every single person he has created and is waiting for them to turn to him. It does not matter what you have done, God knows, and God is ready to forgive. Do not be too ashamed to bring your sin to God, instead, with a humble heard confess all, receive God’s forgiveness and try again! You will undoubtedly fail again, and again, and again because we are all sinners, but you will be forgiven again, and again, and again because of God’s infinite grace!
Philippians 4:6 “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” God wants us to go to him whatever our situation, in the happiest of moments and the most tragic of moments. There are times in our life when we cannot bear the weight of despair upon us, but God can, and He is willing to take it from us so go to Him. I can say from personal experience that God shoulders our burdens and allows us to continue day to day. I am not saying the pain is no longer present, but it certainly becomes bearable.
I know there are times when you try to pray, and you have no words, or you cannot even contemplate prayer, but I have recently found a solution! Creative Time with Jesus! Now until a few weeks ago I considered myself appalling at anything remotely arty and I shied away from doing anything creative! However, I attended an online Cheerfully Given Creativity Christianity Summit and it literally changed my life! I now write this blog, do lettering, designs on paper and pc, I draw, I paint, I upcycle objects and I am willing to give anything a try! God is wonderful at putting things into your life at just the right time!! It is worth giving these things a go if you are struggling with prayer time. Take a section of Scripture, grab a piece of paper and some pencils or pens, and just write and draw what is in your heart. By doing this you are spending time with Jesus and you are learning Scripture also! Of course, if this is not your “thing” there are loads of alternatives, do some knitting, make clay models, paint, write poems, the world is your oyster. There are no boundaries to creativity!
Another piece of advice I would love to pass on to you is using a Daily Devotional. I find this a wonderful aid to my prayer time. Find one that suits you, they come in lots of forms, books, booklets, apps etc. The one I use has a written piece by the author and Old and New Testament Scripture, a Psalm, and a Proverb and by reading this, I will read the Bible in one year. From these readings I write in my prayer journal whatever has touched my heart and use this to guide my prayers.
Prayer Journals are a fabulous way to guide your prayer. There is usually a space to write the Scripture you are reading, how you will apply this to your life, prayers for others, things you are thankful for etc. You will find many of these sheets online which are available as a free download or you can purchase a book or design your own one!
I really hope you have found this to be useful and please do not hesitate to get in touch if you need any advice or prayer.
I want to finish my blog with a simple prayer. Just as we struggle with prayer sometimes so did the disciples, so they asked Jesus to teach them to pray and Jesus answered them:-
“When you pray, say:
Father, hallowed by your name.
Your kingdom come.
Give us each day our daily bread.
And forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us.
And do not bring us to the time of trial.” Luke 11:2-4
When prayer is hard, this is all you need to say. Give it a try today!
In my last blog I introduced you to the acronym, ACTS:-
Let us look at this in a bit more detail. At the end of each paragraph I have added some Bible verses which will help relate these passages to Scripture:-
Adoration – How does it make you feel when someone you care for tells you they love you and that you make their world a better place. It makes you feel a glow in your heart doesn’t it! Well God likes it too! It is so important that we take time out to let God know we love him. God designed man in order that he could fellowship amongst us. God wants companionship. God, in his very essence being love wants to see this love in others and this love returned to him. Start with a simple “I love you God” and then tell him why “because you are always there for me”, “because you have taken my into your family”. If you are going through a time of struggle and perhaps you are not able to feel love for anyone ask God to help you by pouring His love out to you.” Deuteronomy 6:5, Psalm 99:5, 116:1, John 15:9, Romans 5:5, 1 Corinthians 8:3.
Confession – How do you feel when someone has done something wrong to you and will not acknowledge it or apologise? You likely feel anger towards them. Perhaps you want to cast them out from your friendship group or your marriage, family etc! God, in his very being is goodness. Goodness is not just a characteristic of God but his very being and, for that reason, he cannot look upon evil, he abhors evil and this is why it is so important to confess your sins to him. Of course, he already knows what you have done wrong, even evils you are not even aware of! However, he wants you to acknowledge your sin, he wants you to confess it and ask for his forgiveness and only in this way can the relationship between you and God remain unimpeded. Acts 3:19, Romans 10:9, 1 John 1:9
Thanksgiving – Imagine that you spend a whole afternoon traipsing around the shops looking for that perfect birthday gift for someone or over the course of a month you knit several beautiful baby outfits for a new mum and now imagine when you hand over the gift that you receive no acknowledgement whatsoever. Although you have not given the gift in order to receive anything you are still likely to feel a little upset. Jesus suffered the most horrific death for you! Jesus hung for 3 hours on the cross, struggling for every breath, the pain would have been agonizing in his hands and feet, but nothing compared to the pain in his chest as the weight of his body bore down upon his organs before, eventually, his lungs could breathe no more and he did this for you! The night before his crucifixion, Jesus sweated blood (a medically understood phenomenon occurring when the body is under great stress). He sweated blood from fear and anxiety as he cried to his Father to remove this fate from him. Yet this fate was not taken from him and the next day he faced the dreaded cross for you! If you were the only sinner on this world, Jesus still would have faced this for you! I think that is worth thanking him for regularly! I have faced times of heartache and there have been times that I could not think of anything good in my life, my soul was in such torment, however, this is the time you need to get back to basics. You lie down in a soft bed, thank God, you wake in the morning, thank God because he is giving you a new day and maybe today you will see the light at the end of the tunnel, you can lock your door and be safe inside your house, thank God, you have food to eat, thank God. Once you get started you are sure to find many blessings to thank God for and this really helps your mental health as bit by bit you find reasons to be of cheer! 2 Corinthians 4:15, Ephesians 5:19-20, Colossians 3:17, James 1:2-4.
Supplication – What would happen if you had a friend that only contacted you to request something, sometimes money, often your time etc. Do you think you would be in fellowship long with this friend? Definitely not! This is completely one sided. In many ways so is our relationship with God, however, God’s grace far outweighs ours! God does not ask anything from us but our acceptance of his son Jesus and his work on the cross and if God wishes us to have our requests then He will grant them to us. Matthew 7:7-11, 21:22, Philippians 4:6, James 1:5.
To Be Continued ….
Meanwhile, have a look at the verses, pick a quiet spot and have a chat with your heavenly Father.
It can feel strange at first when you start praying. If you are like me the word itself can make you uncomfortable to begin with. We can be so used to thinking negatively about prayer. We may have heard comments such as “Like that is going to work!”, “Do they really think someone is listening” or “Look at the weirdo speaking to himself!” Yet when man finds himself in a pit of despair and tragedy strikes who do they so often turn to, whether Christian or otherwise? They turn to the one that deep down they know is the only answer to their problem, the one they have supressed in their lives believing they have the strength themselves to get through life but now they discover they are weak and they need the one who has infinite strength, Jesus.
You may have heard other people pray and it may sound complex or emotions may be displayed that are foreign to you. Please do not let this dampen your spirit for prayer. Prayer is different for everyone. Put simply, prayer is a conversation, a chat between you and your saviour and you can speak to him as you would your father, your friends, or your spouse. God has no expectations of you. He just wants you to come to him. He can see into your heart so before you utter a word, he already knows what you are going to say so think on this and just let your heart empty before him. If you need help to pray, ask him, if you do not know what to pray, ask him. A helpful acronym I have learnt to guide prayer is:-
Begin by finding a time where the house is quiet, and you can be alone and uninterrupted … if this is possible! Then with eyes closed or open, hands open or closed in prayer position, lying down, standing up, in the shower, hanging out washing just begin to talk to God. You can talk out loud or in your head, God will hear either way. Imagine that Jesus is sitting with you. He is looking into your eyes and he just wants you to accept him, he wants you to acknowledge what he did for you and love him for it, he wants you to recognise what gifts he has bestowed upon you, to confess your sins to him so that he can forgive you and help you to become more like him and he wants you to tell him your desires.
As I write this, I am very conscious of the problems I have with prayer myself. Suffering from a continually active mind which from time to time represents itself as anxiety I find it difficult to focus. My husband gave me a great tip … Pray little and often throughout the day! Perhaps you are having a lovely walk with your dogs, just say a quick thank you to God for the blessing of these puppies and the health you have to be able to walk with them. Perhaps you are doing gardening in the sun, tell God how wonderful a creator he is that he has created such beautiful flowers! If you are stung by a bee and a less than desirable word flows from your mouth, confess your sin to God and ask for his healing hands to rest upon the sting and take the pain from you.
Another confusing thing can be who to pray to! I have heard many people pray to Jesus and I have heard people pray to God. I have also heard people pray to the Spirit. These are all perfectly acceptable as God is both one and all of these persons. If you feel comfortable chatting to Jesus and imagine him sitting with you then pray to Jesus, if you have more of an idea of God on his heavenly throne then chat to him and if you want the Spirit to come into your life more abundantly then pray to him.
I am beginning to realise that this is a huge topic, so I am going to unpack this further tomorrow but meantime, happy praying and enjoy your special time with your father.
Prayer is the most important aspect of being a Christian. This is the medium through which we can connect with our Father. Prior to the resurrection of Jesus there was no access to the Father but, through the sacrifice of Jesus and the help of the Holy Spirit, we can speak with God, anywhere, anytime!
There are countless reasons for prayer. I have detailed some below:-
To confess our sin, 1 John 1:9 “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” Our sin has been forgiven through the sacrifice Jesus made on the cross, however, it is still necessary to confess our sin daily and ask for forgiveness in order that we can be right with God because sin raises a barrier between man and God.
To thank God and show gratitude, Colossians 4:2 “Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.” It can be easy to pray when we need something or when we are in a desperate situation and see no way out. We are all guilty of this and surprisingly even those who would not class themselves as Christian frequently turn to prayer in times of tragedy! While there is nothing wrong with this per se it is important that we thank God through the good times and bad. Even when we cannot see beyond the fog it is highly likely there are still blessings in your life, Having a roof over your head! Having food to eat! Being of reasonable health! Having family around you! Having God to speak to! The more you do this, the more you will see what God has done in your life! If times are hard right now and nothing seems to be going right, just thank God for waking you up that morning and for causing the sun to rise another day bringing hope for a brighter future!
To get healing, James 5:16 “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” It is important to note that it is not always God’s will to heal. If someone is not healed this not necessarily because of sin or ineffective prayer, but that God, sees the bigger picture. We will never understand this as we view things from such a small perspective. It can seem cruel and unfair in our finite mind, but we must trust that God’s plans are much better than any that we could imagine!
To ask for wisdom, James 1:5 “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” When we first start to read the Bible, it can be very confusing because we don’t know the characters, we don’t know the history and the narrative can be very different to the type we are used to. There is a simple answer to this … pray. Ask for the wisdom to discern the text and it will be given unto you.
To get help with anxiety and worry, Philippians 4:6-7 “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” It can be very easy to let our human worries overwhelm us and our loads can be very heavy but Jesus asks us to take our load off and hand it to him and he will bear it for us! I know that this is not an easy prayer … it is something I struggle with myself. However, it is important because when we hold onto the anxieties and worries, we are sabotaging our work for God and our relationship with him.
To be close to God, Psalms 145:18 “The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth.” If we were to ignore our friends, never text, never call, never go round to see them, it is unlikely they will be your friend for much longer. Although God promises to never leave us or forsake us, he is waiting for us to come and speak with him, he is our heavenly father and we need to draw close to him.
To get help for unbelief, Mark 9:24 “Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” Another problem that I have experienced frequently is lack of faith … Sometimes this can be something Christians are embarrassed to admit but it is likely we all suffer from it from time to time. How can we speak to someone that we cannot see! Usually when we do this, we are accused of being insane!! However, there is someone there and just because we cannot see something does not mean it does not exist! I cannot see the oxygen I breathe but I know it is there because I am still alive!! It is clear in this bible passage and many others that it is perfectly acceptable to ask God for help with unbelief. Remember God sees your heart and so he knows of your unbelief before you ask him. He will be pleased that you seek help!
To humble oneself before God and submit to God’s will, James 4:10 “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.” Matthew 26:42 “He went away a second time and prayed, “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.” It is necessary that we give credit to God. It is never in our own strength that we achieve but through him who created us. How annoyed are we when our work is plagiarised? Then think of our father in heaven when we puff ourselves up with our achievements! We must be humble before our father. Only by humble submission will we achieve the will of God in our lives. Even Jesus himself, God incarnate submitted to the Father’s will so how much more should we!
To get help withstanding temptation, Matthew 26:41 “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Temptation is all around us and the only one who can save us from this is our Father.
To ask for something, 1 John 5:14 “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.”, James 4:3 “When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.” There is nothing wrong with coming before our Father to ask for something, however, this must be of his will. It is unlikely if you present yourself before the father asking him to make you rich so that you can buy a fancy car and a wardrobe full of designer clothes that he will grant this because it is unlikely to be his will unless through this somehow his name will be glorified! Be careful what you wish for that it is in line with the spirit of Jesus!
To sing praise, James 5:13 “Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise.” Prayer need not always be a solemn devotion to God. There are many tales of exuberant praise in the Bible, so it is just as important to recite praise to God or perhaps put on a worship song and sing to him or play your instrument to the father.
You may wonder why I have so many Bible references throughout my writing? The reason is that I desire my blog to be of God and not of man and therefore it is especially important that everything that I write has its foundation in the Word of God.
It is important that you look at these verses and learn from them. Some are from the Old Testament and some from the New. The chapter numbers are the large numbers beside headings (it is important to note that these headings were not in the original text but were added much later). The verse numbers are small and are placed throughout the text. At the top of each page you will see where the page begins i.e. Mark 1:28 and on the opposite page where it ends i.e. Mark 3:12.
I have provided quite a lot of information in this blog, so I think it best I leave it at this for today and continue tomorrow with more information on prayer!
Meantime, enjoy the scripture readings and if you have a Bible have a look at them in there, you may want to read a little extra from before and after the above texts to familiarise yourself with the setting, If you are yet to purchase a Bible check in the app stores as there is a wide choice of Bible software to choose from and you will have access to this immediately.
Please remember that I am here for any advice that you may need so do not hesitate to get in touch.
Lastly, “Pray always. “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.”” Romans 12:12.
During my life I have visited many churches and received a different experience in each. It is not my mission to criticise or show favouritism towards any one denomination but rather highlight these experiences in order that you may be helped to identify a church type that would best suit you. I am aware of the type of church that is more suited to me at this point in my life, but this is not a one size fits all situation. Taking the above into account, let us look at the different styles.
There are so many different churches out there that it can be difficult to know which is the right fit for you. I think I would be accurate to say that the majority of Christians are not perfect and only when we ascend to heaven will we find the one true church of God.
As I only have an understanding of churches in the UK, this is all I can advise on. Different cultures of course make for different styles of worship. In the UK, the majority of Christian churches would fall under Church of Scotland, Church of England, Free Church, Baptist, Independent and Catholic.
Catholic services can be conservative, with traditional hymns and sermon etc. It is important to note that Catholic doctrine differs from that of the rest of the churches above quite significantly. This is something I can go into more detail about in another blog. Cathedrals are often incredibly beautiful buildings which are often open throughout the day for private worship, confession etc.
The closest service to that of the Catholic service would be the Church of England or Episcopalian Service. The Church of England was formed when Henry VIII broke away from the catholic church and so many of the features still exist. The service is again very traditional though it is important to note that styles will differ depending on the minister as some may be more flamboyant and extravert than others! Again, these churches are often open for private worship. There is no confession within the Church of England.
The Church of Scotland again tends to be very conservative, the congregations belonging to the churches I have visited were generally of an older demographic. The hymns are usually of the traditional variety accompanied by an organ although there may be some variations at times.
The Church of Scotland and England are held accountable to a national assembly which is positive in that there is a body of accountability in order to protect the Word of God. If a minister is seen to misrepresent Scripture or abuse his position, he is likely to face the assembly.
In recent years there has been a huge rise in independent churches. These may be called Community Churches, Fellowships, Vineyard etc. These are usually found within halls, schools etc although there are purpose built, modern buildings, housing these churches also. Here you will tend to find modern worship which may be accompanied by guitar, drums etc. The congregation will tend to be more visibly involved in praise which to an outsider can seem a little strange until you get used to it and realise that this is likely how worship was undertaken in Biblical times – with hands raised up to God and eyes closed in adoration! It was within these churches that I first discovered the role of the Holy Spirit. Again, this is completely Scriptural given that God is both one and three, Father, Son and Spirit (I will leave the Trinity explanation for another blog!). In my experience the brothers and sisters that belong to this church tend to be more involved with one another, they are commonly divided into small groups who fellowship together and are there to support one another. They also have frequent events and get togethers.
I have tried not to sway readers in any direction but instead give a testimony of my experiences so what I would say is read the passages about the church in the New Testament and come to your own conclusion of which church meets these expectations. There are also other factors to consider. If you have young children, for example, it is especially important that there is a good Sunday School for the children to grow up in the Lord. It is important that you connect with people of your own age so that you can support one another through life’s ups and downs. Worship is a valuable time to connect with your brothers and sisters and if you do not connect with old fashioned hymns or modern worship is too loud for you then this time will be wasted and ineffective. If you have an insular nature, then perhaps the exuberant and heavily involved modern church may be too much for you and you may be more suited to a quieter church with a more traditional feel.
Of course, by necessity I have generalised somewhat, but I hope that I have given an example of what is out there, what to expect and what is important when choosing a church. The most important aspect is that the Word of God is preached. I would suggest taking your Bible along with you to church and you can always have a look and check the accuracy of the sermon or better still take some notes during the sermon, go home and read along with the passages referred to.
Every word of Scripture is important and should not be overlooked or added to, 2 Timothy 3:16 “All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.”
If you feel daunted by walking into a church I would suggest you try and get someone to go with you, if this is not possible then why not message the church before you plan to go and I am sure they will get someone to look out for you at the door and show you the ropes. Another idea is to let the people at the door know that this is your first time and they should make you feel comfortable.
Finding the right church for you is so important as your place of worship has the capacity to fuel your faith or ultimately extinguish it! I have experienced both. The profoundly important aspect is your relationship with God so please let this be your true guide. Happy Worshipping!
Going to church for the first time can be a very daunting experience. You have no idea what will go on there, if people will accept you, if you will do something wrong. Even moving from one church to another can fill many with fear. Sadly, this is not what Jesus intended, indeed, it is something that he fought against during his time on earth. Like a lighthouse bringing her boats into safety, so the church should be a beaming light in the darkness, where anyone can seek refuge.
Let us have a look at what the Bible tells us about church. Firstly, who does the Bible say is welcome? The answer is Everyone!
1 Corinthians 12:13 “For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body – Jews or Greeks, slaves or free ….”
Jesus tells his disciples to “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations …..”, Matthew 28:19 and this sentiment is reiterated in John 10:16 when he says “I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.” Up until this point, God’s sheep were the nation of Israel, here Jesus speaks of the gentiles coming to join Israel as people of God.
These passages make it clear that all are welcome within the church, whatever one’s ethnicity, financial situation, race, sexuality, gender, etc. No one should be excluded from the house of God. There are certain exceptions if a person continues in sin and is causing disruption etc. but this would be a blog unto itself! It is important to understand that every single person in that church building is a sinner, including the preacher, minister or elder.
When you walk into a church building you should be made to feel welcome. You should feel comfortable enough to approach anyone and ask any questions you have about the service or the Scriptures. If you are not received warmly please do not think negatively at all about yourself, I assure you this is a problem with the particular church and not you. It is quite normal to try out a few churches sometimes even more before you find the one that fits you best so do not be at all discouraged. Instead just check out some other ones online and try a new one the next week!!
What should happen at a church service?
1 Corinthians 14:26 is a great description of a church service “What then shall we say, brothers and sisters? When you come together, each of you has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. Everything must be done so that the church may be built up.
James 5:14 Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord.”
The above passages show us that a service should include musical praise which need not necessarily be old fashioned songs. God wishes his children to worship him and he would be just as happy with praise in any form however modern or noisy! If one looks at the Old Testament you will find the worship of God was often a noisy affair! The service should also include teaching and instruction in the Lord and the person undertaking such work must be qualified not necessarily by degree etc. but he must be intimately familiar with the Scriptures.
However, the service is undertaken whether the praise is led by organ or drums, the instruction given by minister, pastor or elder, prayers spoken on bended knee, sitting, or standing, all must be done for the glory of God. A teacher of the law asked Jesus what the most important commandment was, and Jesus answered “‘…. Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.The second is this: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:29-31.
This blog may have confused many of you rather than made things clearer! You may be wondering why, when the Bible so clearly details what a church service should look like why there are so many differences? It confuses me too! My next blog will continue this theme and try to help you find a church that is a good fit for you, however, in the meantime, just focus on the important factors above and remember you always have the truth in the palm of your hand when you hold your Bible!!
There are countless people today identifying as Christian, who read their Bible and pray daily yet never visit a church and there are those who never miss a Sunday service, yet Monday through Saturday their eyes will not as much as glimpse at the Bible and the name of the Lord will not leave their lips.
Neither of the above lifestyles fit with the biblical description of what a Christian should look like. Luke 6:6 and Mark 1:21 show that Jesus regularly went to church. Even when only 12 years old he remained in the temple while his parents left to journey home believing he was within their midst. Later, when they found him, “He said to them, “Why were you searching for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s House?” Luke 2:41-52.
Being a Christian on your own can be incredibly challenging. I have experience of this myself. The world is not always accepting of the faith and it can be extremely hard being singled out and labelled. For many years I have not been quite sure where I fit in. I have been at times very much part of the world and far from God and the next longing to be close to him and doing my best to imitate Christ. Lately, this has changed for me. I used to think committing myself fully to God would mean having less friends because as far I was concerned there were not many Christians of my age group around me, however, recently, I have discovered the opposite. I have made many new friends and my walk with the Lord has turned into more of a hop, skip and jump! I feel at home now. I occasionally have a wobble, but I have learned this is normal. Having people around me going through the same journey I can be encouraged at these times and be reassured. Now I know this feeling will not last because I am firmly rooted in God’s love and I am going to meet more brothers and sisters in Christ as I journey on. I now have the confidence not to worry what others may think about my decision to accept Christ, I know I am part of something wonderful.
In Colossians 3:16 we see what a church service should look like “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teach and admonish one another in all wisdom; and with gratitude in your hearts, sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs to God.” It is so important to teach one another in the Scriptures, to hold each other firm when one slips away from the Lord, with gentle admonishment guide each other back and worship the Lord with instruments and voice. This gives us the opportunity to come together as children of God in worship to him. We are all given a different gift to be used in service to the Lord, 1 Corinthians 14:26 “What should be done then, my friends? When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up.” To neglect to go to church is like living as a hand or an eye without the rest of your body, of course, impossible, and thus neither is it possible to serve God on one’s own, 1 Corinthians 12:17 “If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole body were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? Paul teaches us here that we all have something to share and give to the service of God and therefore it is necessary to find a church that one can serve in by whatever gift has been bestowed upon you.
James tells us, 5:16 “Therefore confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The power of the righteous is powerful and effective.” James recognises the importance of supporting each other. We need each other’s prayers through our struggles with sin or our difficult seasons.
Pop back to see my next post on finding the right church for you but in the meantime, have courage my brothers and sisters, reach out and get that powerful family of God network around you. If you are let down, do not be disheartened, a true brother or sister will come alongside you, so just keep your arms open.
So, you have decided to read the Bible, you go to the bookstore or visit Amazon and you are faced with a menagerie of choices! Which one is for you?
What does the Bible consist of?
The Bible comprises of the Old and New Testaments. The Old Testament, comprising 39 books, details the beginning of man and tells the story of the Israelites from their formation until approximately 500 years before the birth of Jesus. This was originally written in the Hebrew language. The New Testament, comprising of 27 books continues the story of God’s plan and in many ways fulfils the promises of the Old Testament. These books introduce us to Jesus, his life, death and resurrection, and the work of his disciples. This was originally written in Ancient Greek.
How was the Bible was formed?
The New Testament was written over approximately 40-50 years by various people in various places and therefore it took years to be bound together into one unit. During this time there were many false witnesses to the Word of God, those that would assume the name of a disciple or prophet. Councils were therefore set up to protect the Scripture and to discern the true from the false. Three characteristics were deemed necessary in order for a piece of writing to be declared part of the Holy Bible, these were: They must belong to a prophet, an apostle or one who had a special relationship to such, the witness of the Spirit must be clear in the writing and there must be an acceptance of the people of God i.e. those of Jesus’ disciples who were blessed with the Holy Spirit must accept them, for example, Jesus’ disciple Peter accepted the writings of Paul, 2 Peter 3:15,16. By 400AD the canon we know as the New Testament was confirmed.
Which translation should I choose?
For a first-time reader of the Bible some translations can seem intimidating such as the King James Version which was published in the 17th century and hence the wording can be a little tricky to understand. For a first timer I would suggest the Good News Bible. It is written in a format which is very readable. There are also versions of the Bible which are written without chapters and headings and this can also be a good choice to begin with. In fact, this is more relatable to the original texts as the chapters and verses were only added in the 16th century! The New International Version is widely used amongst churches and universities.
Which Type of Bible should I choose?
You will also find various types of translations such as Study Bibles, Reference Bibles, Journaling Bibles and Audio Bibles. Perhaps while travelling to work pop on a CD and learn Scripture on your way to the office! There is an extremely popular audio Bible which is read by David Suchet. Study and Reference Bibles include a description of the text i.e. it may explain the original meaning of the words as in the ancient Greek and Hebrew languages one word could take on a variety of meanings so in our translation we can sometimes miss the full effect of the writings. These Bibles may be a little distracting for a first time read but if you are desperate to really get to grips with Scripture then why not give it a try! For the creatives out there and those who find the written word hard to understand or get to grips with I would strongly suggest a journaling Bible. These have lines or a blank section to the side of the page which can be used for notes or pictures/paintings etc. Why not read a few verses of Scripture and get to work with a design that encapsulates what you have learnt, this can be a fantastic way to spent time getting to know God and really getting to grips with His word.
Lastly, as many people of you would rather use technology to read, you will find the same choice of Bibles for kindle or another fantastic way of reading the Bible is through the various apps you will find. I would suggest Bible in One Year by Alpha Int. However, You Version is another fantastic resource with lots of different study guides and advice for newbie children of God.
Just have a look what is out there, find the best fit for you and enjoy getting to know Jesus!
Happy Reading and please get in touch for any further advice.
Yes! Yes! Yes! Though Paul The Apostle makes it clear in his letter to the Romans, (1:20) that everyone knows of God by the world around us it is important that we get to know him better. Would you describe a relationship you have with a “friend of a friend” who you only hear about second hand as a loving relationship? Certainly not. There are elements of God’s character that we can find out about by looking at the beauty around us just as there are elements you would discover from your friend about her friend. We understand that God is loving to provide such a special place for us to live. We can tell he is creative by just how impressive the world is. We do not, however, form a relationship with him through this “General Revelation”. We need to read his story, get to know him, understand his plans for us and his will for our lives. Whatever your literary genre of choice you will find it in the Holy Bible. There are action stories of war and suffering, both defeats and great victories for the Israelites, there is romance, dare I say on the side of erotic romance in the Songs of Solomon. Horror abounds as we read of demon possession, you will read of crime and punishment galore in the form of murder, assault, adultery and more… Throughout the Old and New Testament we journey with the characters as they travel throughout the Middle East and as far as Rome. Within these pages are little biographies of hundreds of historical figures that we can resonate with and discover how people lived over 2000 years ago. The Gospels combine political intrigue with a biography of Jesus including his sometimes comedic similes, Matt 15:14 “And if one blind person guides another, both will fall into a pit”. Matthew 23:24 “You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel! If you are a fan of self help books, you will find the ultimate guide in Scripture, from Proverbs which teaches wisdom and discernment to the Epistles of Paul which explains what Christian life should like, there is no aspect of your life that you will not find guidance for within these most sacred of pages. Happy Reading and please pop back tomorrow to see my next blog entitled, OK I need to read the Bible, but which one??