Wednesday, 14 February 2018

The greatest love


As today is Valentines Day, it seems appropriate to talk about love.

I’m not going to talk about warm fuzzy boy meets girl love though. If that’s the love you’re looking for then you’re aiming to low.

There’s a love that is bigger, that is greater, that will never let you down, that will never leave you or hurt you.
This is a love that NEVER fails. This love never runs away, cheats, abuses or deceives you.

This love is; constant, faithful, will always desire you, it will not reject you even when you mess up. This love is always there, always ready for you to accept it. This love remains. This love is tough - it can stand up for you and up to you. This love loves you despite your weaknesses. This love will never end. This love loves you completely and without fail.

If you want this kind of love - the greatest love you could ever experience, then today, as we celebrate love, accept Jesus into your life.
God is the source of this everlasting, abiding love. He loves us all like this, whether you know it or not. He even loves you when you’ve gone wrong and hurt people. He will forgive you if you ask Him to, and then you can experience for yourself the greatest love available. The love that will never fail.

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.’
Lamentations 3:20

What are you waiting for? Reach out and grab the love that’s awaiting you.

Wednesday, 7 February 2018

Hopelessly hopeful

Now, has anyone ever felt the way the author of Lamentations does in these verses below?:

'He has walled me about so that I cannot escape;
he has made my chains heavy;
though I call and cry for help,
he shuts out my prayer;
he has blocked my ways with blocks of stones;
he has made my paths crooked.

He is a bear lying in wait for me,
a lion in hiding;
he turned aside my steps and tore me to pieces;
he has made me desolate;
he bent his bow and set me
as a target for his arrow.

He drove into my kidneys
the arrows of his quiver;
I have become the laughingstock of all peoples,
the object of their taunts all day long.
He has filled me with bitterness;
he has sated me with wormwood

He has made my teeth grind on gravel,
and made me cower in ashes;
my soul is bereft of peace;
I have forgotten what happiness is;
so I say, “My endurance has perished;
so has my hope from the Lord.”

Remember my affliction and my wanderings,
the wormwood and the gall!
My soul continually remembers it
and is bowed down within me.
But this I call to mind,
and therefore I have hope:

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul“therefore I will hope in him.”

The Lord is good to those who wait for him,
to the soul who seeks him.
It is good that one should wait quietly
for the salvation of the Lord.
It is good for a man that he bear
the yoke in his youth.

Let him sit alone in silence
when it is laid on him;
let him put his mouth in the dust—
there may yet be hope;
let him give his cheek to the one who strikes,
and let him be filled with insults.

For the Lord will not
cast off forever,
but, though he cause grief, he will have compassion
according to the abundance of his steadfast love'
Lamentations 3:7-32

Ever felt like that? Utterly bereft? Not knowing what to do or what's coming next? Not sure if there is hope for improvement because of the dire situation you're in? 

I read this at the weekend and could resonate with this. There are some problems that I don't know how to overcome, the struggle in our household is real and really difficult. I feel desperate. God isn't allowing us to escape this trial. We are having to walk through it. It's really, really difficult. It's emotionally draining and I feel like I'm going in circles. I feel exasperated and desperate. Where is God in all this?

Have you ever had a situation where you feel like this? Maybe you're in one right now.
I'm feeling like this, and I would consider myself an optimist! 

I read this section in Lamentations, and bizarrely it helped. Other people feel desperate, alone and hopeless too.
I like the verses where the writer says that they have no hope, then a few lines later that they do have hope. I think I understand that. In myself, I have nothing more. I have nothing more to give, and what I do have is not enough. Therefore I have no more hope in myself. I am at the end of what I can do. I am hopeless. So where do I go from here? In the middle of all this I have to do my best, as this writer does, to remember who God is. 

Our situations can knock us sideways, they can kick us whilst we are down, they can cause us to doubt who we are, but, whatever is happening in your life, please remember not who you are, but who God is. 
Who He is never changes, He is good, He is strong, He is, 'good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him.'

So, in the hopelessness and desperation, you can keep going. Wait for Him, seek Him. There is hope even if resolution seems far off:

For the Lord will not
cast off forever,
but, though he cause grief, he will have compassion

according to the abundance of his steadfast love'

Tuesday, 30 January 2018

Apollos

I've been reading about Apollos, Aquila and Priscilla in Acts 18 and I am struck by their relationship. 

Apollos was an 'eloquent' man, 'competent in the scriptures', he had, 'been instructed in the way of the Lord' and 'spoke boldly'. He was a confident, knowledgeable preacher. That's what you want in a preacher right? Someone who knows what they are talking about and who is confident in it? 

Yet, he was missing something. Aquila and Priscilla heard him speak, and realised he hadn't quite got a full grasp of, 'the way of God'. It was obvious to them through listening to him that he'd not quite understood all of what following God meant. So, what did they do? Did they heckle him, publicly correct him, tell other people of his error? No, they, 'took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately'. They showed respect and kindness, they didn't shout him down or publicly shame him, even though some of what he was saying wasn't quite right. Instead they recognised that this man, Apollos, had a lot going for him. They saw his potential, and they directed him to understand God better. How loving is that. They took time and effort so that Apollos would have a greater ministry than before, and so that he more fully understood what he was preaching.

On the other side, we have Apollos. Apollos allowed Aquila and Priscilla to instruct him, to teach him. The powerful preacher humbled himself, he was teachable. 

I admire these three, because they show a depth of relationship, a kinship, that we often miss. 
They watched out for each other, in a loving, caring, non-judgemental way. They were not afraid to point out errors or misunderstanding, in fact they faced them. They all responded so well to each other. 
This is something I need to learn. I hate being told I'm wrong. I hate it. I don't respond well to someone pointing out when I've not got something right (even though half the time I probably know they're right). I hate it because I feel judged. I feel like I'm not good enough and I feel a failure and I feel rejected. 

So I'm asking myself, how do I respond like Apollos?

I don't have the answer, I'm just asking the question.
I know I need to grow through this. I want to be confident enough in myself to accept that it's ok to not be right 100% of the time. 
It takes great strength to be able to accept correction. Maybe I'm not that strong despite how I might appear. 

Please God,
Help me to be more like Apollos, less like myself. Help me to accept the Aquillas and Priscillas in my life to guide me where I need it. Help me to not be brittle or defensive, but to be strong enough to admit that I'm not always right, that I do have more to learn and I need people to help me. 

Wednesday, 24 January 2018

Next Steps

Acts 16:6-10
'6 And they went through the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia. 7 And when they had come up to Mysia, they attempted to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them. 8 So, passing by Mysia, they went down to Troas. 9 And a vision appeared to Paul in the night: a man of Macedonia was standing there, urging him and saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” 10 And when Paul had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go on into Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them.'

When I read the above section of verses, I noticed four things; perseverance, problems, process and promise.

We are all on a journey, this journey of life, and like any good journey there will be ups and downs. 
The guys making the journey above certainly hit problems. Initially, everywhere they tried to go the door shut. Do you ever feel like that? No matter how hard you try things don't work out? Problems! 

Yet these men, they didn't give up - they persevered. The places they'd tried to go to must of taken months to travel between if not longer, but they kept going. That must of been hard, frustrating, disappointing, yet they persevered through the process. 

How did they do it? 
I don't know that there's any easy answer here, but they must of had faith. If you read before this chapter, you'd soon realise these men were faith-filled, spirit-filled men of God who knew their mission. I'm sure they got grumpy and despondent along the way, who wouldn't? But they kept going, they persevered through the problems. 

These men knew they had been called to preach the gospel, they knew that was their mission, so, they stepped out and did it. They took logical, practical steps towards this purpose. God had called them to do something and they faithfully took their next steps. I admire the fact that they didn't give up. 

God may of called you to something and it seems really hard work, well, you're in good company! I'd encourage you to keep persevering, if God has called you, whatever He has promised will come to pass.
When God speaks, His promises will be fulfilled. It might take time, it might cost, it might mean hardship, but it will happen. I still have promises that are yet to be fulfilled, but I'm certain they will happen because God says so. The question is, what am I doing about it in the mean time? Am I taking steps of faith towards these promises?


So, today as you read this, consider your journey of life. Where are you heading? What is the next step in your process to reach the promises of God? 

Tuesday, 16 January 2018

Family Faith Adventure

Over the summer I felt like I wanted to be on a family faith adventure. I don't know if it was a word from God, but it was something that I felt and that kept cropping up. 

I love God and I love our family. What I really want is for my kids to know God. Not just know of God, or understand theories about God, but to KNOW Him for themselves. When they pray I want them to expect answers. 
When they have troubles I want God to be their first port of call. 
When they celebrate - to acknowledge God's hand in it. 
I want them to step out of themselves and experience God. So that they have no doubt to his reality, to his care, to his power, influence and infinite love. 

This is what I want for my kids. I know if they have a relationship with God, then their lives will be alright. It doesn't mean that life will be easy for them, but they will grow, they will be ok.

So, over the summer I was thinking about this and I thought, what greater way for our kids to experience God than to go on an adventure with him. All of us together. Learning, strengthening and struggling along way. What better way for them to see God at work than to go on a family faith adventure? 

I had no idea if this was possible, or how it would come about, but it was something that I thought about and prayed about. 
It is also something that challenges me. Going on a faith adventure means stepping out of your comfort zone. It means you can't do it by yourself, you've got to trust God because you can't do anything else! 
It's scary and it means I've got to do some scary things. I've got to put myself out there. I've got to overcome some fear, I've got to step into things I've not done before, or maybe even things I've failed at. When you exit the comfort zone, you can no longer trust in yourself but in God. 

So, now it seems that this family faith adventure is launching - planting a church in Sittingbourne in 2018. This seems like an exciting prospect, but it's also pretty scary. (How do you even start a church?) This is going to challenge me and my family. It's going to mean upheaval and strain and overcoming barriers. It's going to mean recognising I can't do it all but trusting God can. It's going to mean being an example to my kids in a scary way, to do what scares me. To take chances and opportunities that I wouldn't normally. It means I'm going to have to have security in God my father rather than myself. 

Am I ready for this kind of challenge? 

Are YOU ready to be challenged and exit the comfort zone? 

Wednesday, 10 January 2018

Don't Disqualify Yourself

This week I have been thinking about how easy it is to disqualify ourselves. It's so easy to think we are not good enough, or that we don't have life sorted enough to do x, y or z. We can feel like we are not smart enough, good enough, or have enough to do specific things. How come we judge ourselves so harshly? 

Last week a couple of things happened in our family that I found it hard to deal with, I was feeling really hurt and let down. Then this question popped into my mind, "how can you think about planting a church when your own family has trouble?". 
It is easy to question our abilities, our family's capacity. It's easy to have a list of reasons to disqualify ourselves. 

I didn't really entertain this question too much, why? Well, because we believe God has told us to go. We believe God wants us to stretch ourselves. 
If you're like me, a christian, then He has called you for more than the easy life. 
Yes, we are not qualified. I have no clue how to build a church (- does anyone?) Our family in its make up is different from most others, and it's not always easy. 

However....

Our trust is not in ourselves.

We believe God has asked us to step out, to go somewhere new to show who He is. We don't have to be perfect to do that. In fact it's probably better if we are not, otherwise how will anyone relate to us?! 

God has qualified us with the call He has given us. So who are we to disqualify ourselves? 
God knows what is best for us personally and as a family, He would never ask us to do something that would destroy us. He is a good and faithful God. 

Whatever God has called you to do, go ahead and do it. Don't disqualify yourself. If God has told you to do/not do something, trust Him that He knows what's best and He is faithful. It's much more scary to NOT do what He's said than to get on and do it! 

He won't let you down. He has qualified you. 

Wednesday, 3 January 2018

Simple but effective

Over the festive period I have watched a few films; Martian, Happy Feet and The Last Jedi amongst them. 
What I have noticed is that they all have a clear theme. Strange when they are completely different types of film, but they all clearly show that our actions have an effect on others. 

What we choose to do or not do has an effect on those around us; our friends, family, neighbours and even those we don't really know. 

I'll give you an example; when we moved into our current house, I decided that I would say hello to people as I walked by. Simple, uninspiring really right? 
Now, four years later, we know a few neighbours, there are the 'regulars' I see and have a quick chat to, and I now have friends amongst those I stopped to speak to. How did it all start - It was as simple as saying Hello. You don't know what difference a simple action like that can make to your life or anyone else's. It was a small thing for me to do, maybe a bit weird, but it has effected lives. Maybe not in a deep, profound way, but it is true, our actions effect others. 

I know it's a simple example, but even simple small decisions can have an impact.
I realise this is the time of year when many people are making resolutions, and some can seem inspiring (yet overwhelming). So, if you're planning a change this year, why not make it a simple one. Even the small simple changes can have an impact on yourself, those around you and even your neighbourhood. 


Happy New Year People X