Sunday Special

Psalm 118 ‘This is the day that the LORD has made we will rejoice and be glad in it’.(NKJV)

As we all consider this morning whether we should be self isolating for the better of the wider community, our dear precious Church family, the weak and the vulnerable particularly our little babes and our older folk.

Can we really depend on the above verse or do we purely consider it a nice Christian platitude to attempt to bring some hope into a hopeless situation?

When Israel sang this song it was often sung when they were rebuilding the temple or when they were heading into a particular difficult battle. It was a reminder that they were not their own, that they belonged to the living God, it was also a picture into the future of a one who would come and take the place of the sinful, proud people who could do no right on their own.

So as we consider this verse this morning, in the reality that many feel battle scarred and without hope, let us take on the armour of this verse to ready us for the battle ahead, bringing certain hope to a lost and broken world.

A world that needs to know that our confidence in self will always destroy but our confidence in Christ will always build up and join us together in the very kingdom of God.

So let our battle cry of ‘ This IS (without God there would be no day) the day that the LORD has made (there is much for us to learn about ourselves and God through the experiences/trials we have to face this day). We WILL (a mindset and heart attitude) rejoice (worship God) and be glad (grateful) in it (the battle of the day).

After all in Christ it is sin that is defeated not us.

It’s God’s World

Did you do it?  Did you find time to read Genesis 1 to discover who God says he is?

No?  Never mind let us all take a moment and have a look together now.

Genesis 1:1 In the beginning God made the heavens and earth.

This one sentence, which starts the whole bible, holds the key to how we relate to God.  In the very first sentence of the very first chapter of the very first book of the bible where God declares he was there in the beginning, before anything was made, God was there ready to go to work.

This is one of the most challenging verses in the bible, we find here God is making a declaration of himself and what he did.  He declares it but he challenges us to believe it.  Within this first sentence lies a challenge to our sinful heart.

Are we willing to see beyond the small mini universe that we have created ourselves, this mini universe where we decide who enters, how and what we think, how we live. This mini universe where we decide how others should live too?  But at the same time we are determined that no-one is going to tell us how to live.

Or are we willing to consider God’s challenge to us all, look to Him the one who created not only you but all that you see around you, all that you experience, the air you breathe, the seasons that happen around you, even the sky that is beyond your control?

God is God not because we believe he is, God is God because He declares it.

This sentence will be the one sentence that you will always need to come back to regardless of where along the journey of life you are.

Do I believe there is a creator?  Do I believe I am created?  Do I believe all I see around me was created too?

Is this too much to accept?  Lots of questions but where can I find the answers?

Well if God is God and God did what God said he did don’t we owe it to ourselves to explore God’s world and God’s word?  After all isn’t that what our niggling doubts need?

There has to be more to life than this.

My mini kingdom is falling apart, what can I do next?

Why are all my relationships messy?

Why do I have this unsettled feeling that I’m missing out on something?

No matter where I go nothing seems to keep my attention for long, why am I always looking for the next thing?

If only I had more stuff, if only I had more money.

No problem, this is it there is nothing to worry about beyond this, I get one life I just need to make the most of it….don’t I?

As we take the step of being willing to consider that God is God and He did what He did, where does that takes us?

Well before us is the living word of God that helps us to engage with questions like these, if we have a willingness to put aside our doubts, put aside our own assurances and embark on an exciting journey of discovery.

Until next time; let me leave you with a thought.

How did God create the heavens and earth?

A Change of Focus

For many of us we know we are sinful, we have hidden guilt and shame that hides away under years and years of damaged conversations. Whether we know Jesus or not we seem to be on an endless cycle of sin which is becoming more and more hopeless.

What we don’t realise, if we know Jesus, is that we are half-way to being able to walk in victory from the slavery to sin. We already know we are sinners! We already know we are broken. The hopelessness of our situation shines a light on the lie that sin is good and is for our benefit.

That’s all very well and good I hear you say but how does that help me, how does facing up to my sin really transform my life, I know I’m hopeless and weak but I feel helpless to do anything about it.

Well maybe we need a different approach; a different focus.  Maybe we should start at the beginning and consider who we think our Saviour is or who do we think our Saviour should be.

Just maybe our stumbling block isn’t our sinful behaviour but that we don’t really know who God is, maybe it’s our perception of God that needs to change.

Have you ever considered who God is or considered where your ideas of who God is came from?

How can any of us know who God is or if he really exists?

Our biased viewpoint

For many it is the experiences of life that draws us to make a conclusion about God.  Maybe you believe he is a tyrant waiting to catch you out or maybe he is indifferent to your issues here on earth or some may consider God in light of how your own earthly Father treated you.  There are dangers considering God purely from our own biased viewpoint.

We are in danger of relating to God without knowing him and if we don’t know him then how can we understand the plans and purposes He has for his creation.

The only way to truly get to know God is to allow Him to introduce himself.

Who does God say He is?

God has given us the bible so that we can get to know who He truly is, He wants to explain why we are here, He wants to tell us about the plans he has for each and everyone of us, he wants to share his creation with us, He wants to share his love with us, in essence God wants to be in relationship with his created children.

If we want to get to know God, then we need to read the bible for ourselves.  The bible can seem a really daunting place, or seem stuffy and boring however it is our perspective that needs to change not the bible. In fact unknown to many of us, the bible is a love story which needs to be explored and uncovered.

When I first went on this journey of discovery a wise friend said ‘don’t worry about what you don’t understand but do something about the things that you do’.

Where to start?

From the words of a famous film…..Lets start at the beginning a very good place to start.

For many of us we know Jesus from the Gospels which is fantastic because these are the real live accounts of life with Jesus when he was on the earth. This is were we get to know the person of Jesus and are drawn into a personal relationship with Him.

However, to get a fuller picture of God the book of Genesis is a perfect place to consider who God is, who we are and the plans God has put in place for the benefit of His creation.

Genesis means beginnings, here we discover beginnings of all creation, in particular it is the beginning of relationships. God with us, us with God, us together with God, spoiler alert it is also the beginning of death and destruction.

In Genesis God introduces us to a relationship, a relationship of three, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  Genesis 1:26 ‘Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness…’ As we read through the bible we get to see that God is Jesus and Jesus is God.  We also learn that the Holy Spirit is God, the invisible outworking of our God and Saviour.

As human beings it is a really hard step for us to grasp the concept of the Holy Spirit and that is why God says it takes faith to decide to trust him.  We cannot get to know him purely through logic but equally he doesn’t want us to throw logic out of the window, he wants us to consider all things and be willing to learn.

The amazing miracle of this journey is God can be known in the first place, if we are willing to put our trust in Jesus to show us the way to the Father, he will also show us ‘Who’ he is and all that he has planned for us.

The question is, are we willing to make that step?  Mmm where’s my bible….

Silent Sufferers

How many of us are trapped by our sin?  How many of us just accept we are sinful and hold onto the hope that in eternity we will be free?  Is this truly the abundant life that Jesus has promised us?

What if there was much more to this life than we realise?  What if there is a solution to our hard, deceitful hearts?

Why are we willing to suffer in silence rather than fight for our freedom?

Good girl Bad girl syndrome

For most of us who had good parents who were willing to discipline us, we quickly learnt that to get good things we needed to be good and if we were naughty then we would miss out.  Depending on our personalities and the circumstances we faced growing up, for some of us we interpreted this as if I am good then I will be loved and if I am bad then no one will love me.

As an adult I have suffered from this syndrome of earning love or of qualifying to be loved.  It wasn’t something I have been aware of until recently when Jesus shined his light into this area of my life.  I have always known that I am a naughty girl, whether this was from a Catholic school of education or just my own high moral standard of justice but deep down I knew I wasn’t a good girl. On the outside I behaved like an angel, whenever anyone was looking but on the inside I felt rotten to the core.

My Dad and I used to have a joke I would say ‘Angel by name, angel by nature’ and my Dad would say ‘with black wings’.  Even though this was our little joke, he was absolutely right.  Unfortunately for me my moral compass was skewed, and I didn’t really care that I did the wrong thing I was more bothered about whether I would get caught or not.  My whole focus was to get away with whatever wrong choices I made.  If I did something wrong and was afraid of getting caught I would cross myself with Father, Son and Holy Spirit and sure enough I would be let off ‘scott free’!  God became my lucky charm, my get out of jail free card! However this wasn’t enough to take away the guilt.

  1. ‘Romans 3:23 For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God’.
  2. ‘Galatians 6:7 Do not be deceived. God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows’.

For many years I lived under the condemnation of these two verses.  I knew I was unworthy of Gods love because of my sin and I knew that I would be judged for everything I did wrong and believe me there was a lot to be judged.

Rule makers, rule breakers

Many of us live in light of our inadequacies for one reason or another.  We feel trapped with no escape, even as a Christian I felt God’s liberty evade me, where was the freedom He had promised. However, it wasn’t God’s promises that were lacking; I had become trapped by my own law setting. God’s purposes for his word wasn’t to condemn the world but to save it.  My guilt was false guilt set by my own standards and expectations.

John 3:17 ‘For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him’.

I failed to understand God’s true character, I failed to understand why God says what he says and I failed to understand how much God loves me.

As parents we make rules for our children to follow to bring peace and harmony into the home.  We want our children to have a moral compass so they know the difference from right and wrong.  We want our children to learn responsibility so that they can be effective in the world.

However, because we are broken people then our rules don’t always make sense, they often don’t have effective consequences and we often break our own rules which sends mixed messages to our children.

If we’re honest as parents our rules can be there for our own benefit, to get 10 minutes break or to get some peace and quiet.  Which becomes confusing to our children because if we are in a good mood then our rules become a little lax and when we are in a bad mood they become excessively strict.  Or sometimes our rules stem from fear, fear of them being in danger, or fear they will become sick or fear of what other people think of us if our children aren’t well behaved.

God’s rules are different, because God is different.  God’s rules/commands are holy because he is holy.  God’s commands are written out of love because God is love.  God’s commands are for his children’s protection because he created them and wants what’s best for them.

When we realise that God alone is the rule maker then we will put our trust in Him to show us how to live.

When we realise that God alone has plans and purposes for us that surpass any dreams we could have for ourselves then we will choose to give him everything we have and let go of the control we try and exert over our own lives and the lives of others.

When we realise that God alone is a God of love and we are created out of love then we will choose to love him back by wanting to do what is right.

Freedom fighters

Galatians 5:1 ‘It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.  Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery’.

Don’t allow your sin to define who you are or how you behave.  Trust Jesus when he says he came to set you free from your sin, if we have fully given our whole life, body, mind and spirit to Him then we can learn to say no to sin and yes to the freedom Jesus has already provided.

We don’t need to earn His freedom, we don’t need to justify our behaviour, we just need to bring our sin out of the shadows and into His marvellous light.

Choose not to be ashamed of your past or allow your present to limit who you are but be willing to turn to Christ and ask him to expose what needs to be confessed, what needs to be forgiven, what needs to be healed.  Then you will see the shackles being loosed and with a shout of victory you can share in the words of the apostle Paul;

Romans 7:25 ‘Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord’.

Whose really in control?

Last time we were considering the impact of sin and the devil in our lives.  We were considering the need to submit by daily taking up our cross.  However, what does this look like in everyday life, is true submission possible, and what is the cross we are to take up, hasn’t Jesus already dealt with that through his death and resurrection?

As Christian women we like to think that we have completely submitted our hearts to Jesus and have given him control of our lives.  Is this true or does the outworking of our daily living contradict this belief?

The core root of sin for every woman is the desire to be in control.

This is the place of curse for every woman because of the sin committed by Eve ‘your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you’.

I believe this is the place of pride for us woman a desire to be in control.

At face value to have desire for our husbands sounds a positive thing, a oneness, a coming together however when we look to the original language the meaning becomes much clearer, this desire wasn’t one of love it was a desire to control.  God’s perfect plan for mankind was for their relationship to be one of co-operation and support however after the curse it became the source of conflict; a power struggle.

The woman would demand her right to control however God has given the man His authority to care and provide for the woman.

We can see the truth of this played out, not only in our own lives but throughout history.  As woman we tend to focus on the sin of the man for his desire to dominate and his misuse of his God given authority (which God will judge him for).  However, we are reluctant to consider our part in this battle of the will.

What we first have to accept is that this battle wasn’t God’s original plan for marriage or for mankind.  The next thing we need to accept is that God has a perfect plan for the redemption of his creation. When Jesus comes back His creation will be restored to the perfection that God first planned and He will be our perfect Bridegroom but in the meantime, we have to learn to live in the truth of the fallen nature.

We need to have an honest look at our own lives to see this fallen nature being played out on a daily basis.

Take a minute to consider your life and ask the Holy Spirit to show you ways in which you try and take control of your own life or even worse the lives of others.

As a Christian Mum I have the responsibility of managing the home and directing the lives of my children.  However, as a Christian Wife I apply this same principle to my Husband.  I try to manage the home and direct my Husband’s choices.

For many years my only way of managing my responsibilities was to take control of the people in my life, if they did what I needed them to do then everything would get done that needed to be done; everything would be in all the right places.  However, if no-one followed my exacting plan then chaos would ensue.

As you can imagine, from the perspective of my Husband and children, this didn’t make for a happy household.  It became a place of conflict and fear.  It was a place of appeasing a tired, grumpy Mum/Wife or an attempt to stay in favour to keep the peace.

In my sin I had no idea that it wasn’t a directing of lives that I was doing but a dictating.  I have no right to do this to others, there is no place in God’s kingdom that says I’m in charge in fact God showed me through his word that I was standing in place of my Husband’s God given authority and attempting to override God’s plans and purposes.

I took on an aspect of responsibility that wasn’t mine.  As God took me and my family through the healing process (over a number of years) I have come to the conclusion that the source of all the sin and conflict in my life is that I haven’t fully submitted my heart to Christ, I am trying to hold onto the responsibility that isn’t mine to have, I am claiming my right to rule.

This is true for us all whether we are married, single, parents or not we demand the right to rule our own lives and our own hearts unfortunately for us this is out of our control.

The gift of submission

As a Christian we have already demonstrated an act of submission, a recognition that without Christ we will always be separated from God therefore we put our trust in Jesus to rescue us from our sin which brings us into relationship with the Father.  This first act of submission teaches us that to submit to Jesus is to recognise our need to face up to our sin, seek God’s forgiveness and learn to live in the freedom that His forgiveness brings.  This is the moment of new birth, a new beginning.

At the moment of salvation, we are given the assurance of new birth by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit however the new birth process hasn’t finished it has only begun.  It’s a bit like a pregnancy, the expectant mother knows her baby is to be born and the process of birth has begun but she isn’t in the presence of her baby yet.

In the same way we are promised new birth but we are in the process of growing into Christ before we meet him in person.  The added complication for us is that we have already been born into flesh but this new birth is one of spirit.  Therefore, we now have the conflict between flesh demanding its own way against the work of the Holy Spirit.

When I speak about submission to other women it can get the hairs on the back of their neck on edge and a war ensues within.  As women we can hate the idea of submission and see it as a loss of our rights.  Women’s lib stems from this inbuilt repulsion against submission.  This is a sign that we demand the right to control unfortunately for us that puts us at odds with our Father in Heaven.  Even if we have received Christ as our Lord and Saviour deep within the recesses of our hearts is the desire to stay in control.

This conflict highlights a life changing truth, that we are not only sinful but are the source of our sin.

This is a big ask isn’t it?  To believe that we are the source of our sin!

It’s a matter of the heart

This is the reason Jesus tells us to take up our cross daily.  Jesus knows that the source of our sin is within our own hearts, that it is only by being willing to say no to the sin within that we will engage with the process of change, of the transformation Jesus wants to do in our lives.  This is the process of sinner to saint.  Jesus knows this will take a daily, minute by minute act of submission.  To recognise our sin, confess it to God, repent (a desire to move away from the sin) and receive God’s forgiveness.

For some of us this statement will confirm what we have always known but have no way of dealing with.  Sin just seems to overcome us, and we are not able to do anything about it, so we swing from one extreme to the other of self-pity to self-determination.  For others it horrifies us that anyone could even think such a thing, it’s not our fault we have a disposition to these difficulties in life; you don’t understand what I’ve been through!

In Luke 10:27 Jesus brings us to the root of the matter.  As a true disciple of Christ, we are commanded to ‘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’.

Notice in the scripture the word ‘all’.

We know we fall short of this however this scripture isn’t to add to your guilt it is an opportunity to face up to reality.  The reality that even as a believer we haven’t given over our everything to our Father God.  This is the process of sanctification, a process we need to have a willingness to take part in rather than resist.

Jesus is the source of the power of change however we need to have a willingness to engage in the process.

The next aspect to consider is the areas in which this scripture highlights our need to change ‘heart, soul, strength and mind’.

The bible is filled with scriptures that highlight our need to bring our hearts and minds in line with who God is instead of who we are.

For those of us who are obsessed with getting to the perfect size; to getting rid of the excess pounds; to feeling acceptable to others; to fitting into nice clothes; our focus is always on the physical however until we move our eyes to the core problem then we will constantly struggle with our weight.

This is a problem with the heart and mind.  If we think it we will believe it; if we believe it then we will act on it.

We see this played out repeatedly in our struggle with weight gain.

I am fat therefore I will never lose weight, so I might as well carry on eating what I want to eat to make myself feel better about being fat.

Other people rob me of my time, so I need to keep them away if I eat then no one will disturb me.

No one really loves me, so I need to love myself instead and I will treat myself with lots of goodies which will make me feel better about not being loved.

Consider what your sentence would be; what truth do you believe in your head that you see being reinforced in your heart and acted out in your behaviour.

Mind + heart = behaviour.

Christ has set us free

In the world we judge one another by our own set of standards and we use the behaviour of others to decide if they are acceptable to society or not.  Society says it is your behaviour that is letting you down what you must do is stop your negative behaviour and then you will be acceptable.

However, as a society we have got it wrong, we are not capable of changing our behaviour without addressing our mindset and heart attitude.

No matter how much we try we cannot change our behaviour, no matter how much we think we are in control of what we do, as we grow closer to God  the more this belief unravels.

Isn’t it strange that the more we want Jesus to step in and change us the more our lives seem to become messy.  So we panic and try to take back the control however instead of our lives falling apart Jesus is actually stepping in to teach us the heart of the problem.  At the moment of change we need to let go of the control and ask Jesus to take over, allow him to take the reins and be willing to go where he leads.

Jesus does this by using his word to expose our sin, he then uses the Holy Spirit to pinpoint areas of change and he encourages us to turn our mind and heart over to him so that these changes can become evident in how we live out our lives.

Galatians 5:1 tells us ‘It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.  Stand firm then and do not let yourselves be burdened again by the yolk of slavery’.  Seems strange that Paul would tell the church that Jesus has set us free so that we can live in freedom this seems obvious! Is it?  How many of us do not live in the freedom Jesus has provided? How many of us allows our sin to dictate who we are instead of the freedom Jesus death and resurrection has given?

The freedom Jesus has provided is not just for us in eternity it is for us to live out in the here and now.

We have the choice to submit to the truth that Christ came to set us free or fight in our strength to change our behaviour.  No Christian wants to stay in their sin however it will all depend on whether we are willing to submit or try to stay in control.

Mind over matter

So where do we start? How is it possible for a control freak like me to be able to submit to Jesus?

The bible tells us ‘Set your minds on things above not on earthly things’.  What things matter to God?  What areas of life does God want you to address?  Is your focus purely on the physical and not on your spiritual life?

Maybe for so long our focus has been on wanting or demanding to lose weight when all along we have been the saboteur because our weight gain makes us feel safe or we feel a failure, so we might as well live like one.

These beliefs begin in the mind and the bible tells us that the solution is to think about the things of God rather than the things of self.  For one minute take your mind away from your troubles and focus on how God wants you to live out your life.  What wonders has he got waiting for you to do?  How can you draw others to Jesus if your focus is always on self?

We are reluctant to serve Jesus because the devil is using our sin to get us going round in circles instead!

For most of us it is our heart that drives us to make our decisions, how we feel transposes to how we think.  As always, the bibles solution is always the opposite of how we behave.

In Romans 8 : 5-6 Paul teaches that ‘Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace’.

Here is the key to change; that our mind is to be focused on Jesus and his word so that our hearts can be programmed by our minds instead of the other way around.

This is because our hearts are aligned to the flesh, our hearts are deceitful and corrupt but with minds convinced of the truths of Christ we will be able to teach our hearts how to submit to Jesus.

Rest in Him

So, we have considered the mechanics of what happens to us when we choose to submit or when we choose to stay in control.

It feels like all of this is beyond our ability and it would be so much easier just keep doing what we’re doing.

The solution for all of this is to rest in Jesus.

Matthew 11:28 ‘Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest’.

The amazing truth is that we don’t have to figure it all out, we don’t have to drag ourselves out of the mess. The solution is to take all our burdens, all our fears, all our responsibilities and bring them to the foot of Jesus.  When we hand over the control of our lives to Jesus then we begin to see the light, then we begin to see how we fit into his plan rather than trying to squeeze him into our tiny little plans.

Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. John 6:35 NIV

The rest Jesus provides isn’t a break from responsibility it is the opportunity we need to be equipped for the journey towards eternity.  The moment of the completion of our new birth.  If we are not daily minute by minute turning our hearts and minds over to Jesus and bringing them under the judgement and direction of His word, then we will not be able to live in the freedom Jesus has provided.  We will continue to flounder on our own; to the outside world we may seem in control, our lives may look like it is ordered however our hearts will declare to God who we truly are.

Hebrews 4:12 For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.

When we truly give Him all we are we gain all He is.

This statement just stopped me in my tracks!!

Let us spend the next week considering how to give Jesus all we are; sin and all!

This means war!

As Christian’s we are in a spiritual battle.

When we responded to Christ’s call on our lives the Holy Spirit entered our life and made us aware of the sin within.  He is growing a desire within us to change from sinner to saint unfortunately for us the sin within declares war against the Holy Spirit.

This is the part of our lives that is described in the bible as ‘the flesh’ the part of us that doesn’t want to change, or is convinced that it is impossible to change or that we just want things to stay the same until we get to heaven then we will be happy to be completely perfect but for the time being we fight not to change.

For many Christian’s this has been the level of their hope, the hope that Jesus light will bring an end to our darkness once we leave this earth.  However, the bible teaches us a different version of the journey. A hope that we can know now.

The war is won

For many of us who can’t seem to shake habitual sin, it seems that we will never know true freedom.  We may even convince ourselves that maybe we need to put up with it, like the thorn in Paul’s flesh, a reminder of his humanity so we excuse our sin or we go all out to change it. The truth is Paul’s thorn was a place of suffering not of sin, we can not excuse habitual sin but we can’t seem to be able to anything about it either.  Is there really any hope for us this side of heaven?

In despair we resolve to do something about the sin within, we resolve to change and become a better person.  This is the moment we lose the battle.  In that moment of resolve we pick up our own sword and try to battle through.  Unfortunately our success is often short lived; for some of us we can make it to a couple of years before the sin within rears its ugly head again, but for most of us it can often be just a few short weeks or even days when we are back to the same old habits that only bring chaos and destruction.

That’s because we have failed to understand that we are engaged in a battle.

The war has already been played out between God and the devil.  The devil has lost and will at the end of time be banished to hell forever.  During our lifetime, even though he knows he lost the war, he challenges God’s people to a battle.  Usually this is a battle of wills, that’s because the devil knows his will is stronger than ours.  There is no denying it the devil is powerful and seems to be able to control us through the sin we refuse to let go of.

Our own personal battle becomes a constant place of defeat, our resolve weakens and we doubt whether we are truly a Christian; we doubt whether this journey is worth it; sometimes we see non-Christians become successful at anything they put their minds to so we are tempted to go back to the place we were before we met Christ.

 The battle belongs to the Lord

Where we have gone wrong is that we focus on the power of sin and forget about the power of God. We stop reading our bibles so we don’t see God’s power in the pages, his power to love, his power to heal, his power to judge, his power to transform.

If we do read our bibles we allow the devil to convince us that God didn’t know what he was doing, or that God can’t be trusted because the things he did was horrid.  He persuades us that God’s power is limited or used against others.  He tries to convince us that God is against us not for us. That we are more advanced now because of our ability to create and manipulate technology so have no need of God’s input.

The horrendous thing about all of this is that we believe him and when this happens our lives reflect the power of sin rather than the power of God.

The devil uses life’s circumstances to distract us from the fact he has already lost the war, that we as Christian’s are actually on the winning side.  He persuades us to enjoy the pleasures of today so we are distracted from the need to be transformed into Christ’s image.

We become defeated people so that we are ineffective in demonstrating to others God’s power against sin, the world and the devil,

We stop caring about a fallen world who are in need of God’s love and forgiveness and we focus on our own inability to achieve or our own determination to be better.

We’re not alone

I was watching a film the other night and the tag line throughout was ‘Use the weapon’.  This reminded me of Hebrews 4:12 ‘For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.’

This is the weapon God has given to all his warriors.  His word. The bible.  The most underused resource ever given.

Ephesians 6:10-18 gives us a framework of living as a warrior; it sets out who has the authority and power; it sets out the equipment; it sets out the battleground and who the antagonists/enemies are; it shows us the purpose of being equipped; it demonstrates how we are equipped and how to use the equipment provided but most importantly it declares who has already won the war.

We maybe in a battle but we are not alone and God’s power is sufficient for all our needs.

Freedom is possible

We may be in a battle but it is a battle where the war has already been won. It is a futile battle by the devil because he has already lost but he still wants to stop as many people as possible from living in the light of Christ and finding freedom from sin.

In John Chapter 10 verse 9-10 Jesus describes himself as ‘the gate whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full’.

This isn’t just speaking of eternal life but a life of freedom that we may come and go, we may travel this life with confidence that we are not alone, that Christ our Saviour has provided a pasture for the journey as well as the final destination.

However, it is only possible to find this place of safety when we lay down our own life at the foot of Christ’s cross.

Jesus demonstrates to us throughout the bible that the beginning of transformation from sinner to saint begins by us laying down our arms.  By submitting our whole being into his hands recognising that He has already won the war.

Freedom from sin isn’t a result of our right choices; our right choices are a result of Jesus provision of freedom from sin.

Christ has done it there is nothing we can do in and of ourselves.  We need to learn to live in the freedom Jesus death and resurrection has provided. What we can be certain of is if the Holy Spirit convicts us of a sin within that needs to change then the Holy Spirit will continue to use God’s word to transform us.

Our greatest temptation is we think we can do it on our own, we are unwilling to let go of our pride, we are unwilling to trust God to come through for us.  We are only willing to trust if life is good; we are only willing to trust if we lose the weight or become happier; we are only willing to trust if there is no pain or disease.

From here to eternity

Jesus told his disciples in Luke 9 that whoever wanted to be his disciple then they would need to take up their cross daily.  Being a disciple costs us something, often it’s something we’re not willing to pay.

For many of us we say I would give my right hand if……but would we do anything to get what we want or need?

Would we be willingly to stop eating chocolate forever?

Would we willingly do exercise regularly?

Would we stop looking to self and look to Jesus to rescue?

Would we willingly lay down our own plans and dreams and trust God with his?

There is much we wouldn’t do, so we should stop promising to change when we don’t even have the power to try.  We need to learn how to trust Jesus with his power, trust Jesus loves us enough that he won’t leave us where he found us.

Over these last 25 years of seeking the perfect body, seeking the praise of others and failing miserably Jesus has been transforming me:-

From jealousy to submission

From bitterness to forgiveness

From greed to unconditional giving

From laziness to unconditional serving

From chaos to self-control

From pride to humility

From offense to love

From demand to unconditional love

These have not been perfected yet but I am loving the journey, I love it when I respond differently to how I did in the past.  I love it when I notice someone in need and have a willingness to meet that need, I love it when someone tries to hurt me and I offer love, I love it when I am tempted to overeat and walk away.

I love learning what it is to walk in the freedom that Christ has provided.

Something to ponder

What if God’s plans and purposes were far greater than our own?

What if our weight wasn’t God’s top priority?

What if you are exactly where God wants you to be so that he can begin to transform you from sinner to saint?

What if the desire for weight loss is stopping you from receiving God’s blessings?

What if trying to lose weight is limiting what you can achieve?

 

Do you measure success by what the scales say?

Do you measure a good day by what the scales say?

Do you measure your relationship with God by what the scales say?

Is the scales voice louder than God’s?

 

If you put weight on does that make it a bad day?

If you lose weight does that make it a good day?

Do you measure God’s relationship with you by how much you weigh?

Do you measure God’s love for you by how much you weigh?

Is it time to deal with the core issues rather than the symptoms?

 

Maybe now is the time to lay down your arms and take up God’s weapon!

 

Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future”.

The question is are you willing to trust?

 

 

 

 

 

This means war!

As Christian’s we are in a spiritual battle.

When we responded to Christ’s call on our lives the Holy Spirit entered our life and made us aware of the sin within.  He is growing a desire within us to change from sinner to saint unfortunately for us the sin within declares war against the Holy Spirit.

This is the part of our lives that is described in the bible as ‘the flesh’ the part of us that doesn’t want to change, or is convinced that it is impossible to change or that we just want things to stay the same until we get to heaven then we will be happy to be completely perfect but for the time being we fight not to change.

For many Christian’s this has been the level of hope, the hope that Jesus light will bring an end to our darkness once we leave this earth.  However, the bible teaches us a different version of the journey. A hope that we can know now.

The war is won

For many of us who can’t seem to shake habitual sin, it seems that we will never know true freedom.  In despair we resolve to do something about the sin within, we resolve to change, to become a better person.  However, this is the very moment we lose the battle.  In that moment of resolve we pick up our own sword and try to battle through.  Unfortunately our success is often short lived; for some of us we can make it to a couple of years before the sin within rears its ugly head again, but for most of us it can often be just a few short weeks or even days when we are back to the same old habits that only bring chaos and destruction.

That’s because we have failed to understand that we are engaged in a battle.

The war has already been played out between God and the devil.  The devil has lost and is permanently separated from God.  During our lifetime, even though he knows he lost the war, he challenges God’s people to a battle.  Usually this is a battle of wills, that’s because the devil knows his will is stronger than ours.  There is no denying the devil is powerful and seems to be able to control us through the sin we refuse to let go of.

Our own personal battle becomes a constant place of defeat, our resolve weakens and we doubt whether we are truly a Christian; we doubt whether this journey is worth it; sometimes we see non-Christians become successful at anything they put their minds to so we are tempted to go back to the place we were before we met Christ.

 The battle belongs to the Lord

Where we have gone wrong is that we focus on the power of sin and forget about the power of God. We stop reading our bibles so we don’t see God’s power in the pages, his power to love, his power to heal, his power to judge, his power to transform.

If we do read our bibles we allow the devil to convince us that God didn’t know what he was doing, or that God can’t be trusted because the things he did was horrid.  He persuades us that God’s power is limited or used against others.  He tries to convince us that God is against us not for us. That we are more advanced now because of our ability to create and manipulate technology therefore there is no need to include God in anything we do.

The horrendous thing about all this is that we believe him and when this happens our lives reflect the power of sin rather than the power of God.

The devil uses life’s circumstances to distract us from the fact he has already lost the war, that we as Christian’s are actually on the winning side.  He persuades us to enjoy the pleasures of today so we are distracted from the need to be transformed into Christ’s image.

We become defeated people so that we are ineffective in demonstrating to others God’s power against sin, the world and the devil and we stop reflecting the glory of God.

We stop caring about a fallen world who are in need of God’s love and forgiveness and we focus on our own inability to achieve or our own determination to be better.

We’re not alone

I was watching a film the other night and the tag line throughout was ‘Use the weapon’.  This reminded me of Hebrews 4:12 ‘For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.’

This is the weapon God has given to all his warriors.  His word. The bible.  Often the most underused resource ever given.

Ephesians 6:10-18 gives us a framework of living as a warrior; it sets out who has the authority and power; it sets out the equipment; it sets out the battleground and who the antagonists/enemies are; it shows us the purpose of being equipped; it demonstrates how we are equipped and how to use the equipment provided but most importantly it declares who has already won the war.

We maybe in a battle but we are not alone and God’s power is sufficient for all our needs.

Freedom is possible

We may be in a battle but it is a battle where the war has already been won. It is a futile battle by the devil because he has already lost but he still wants to stop as many people as possible from living in the light of Christ and finding freedom from sin.

In John Chapter 10 verse 9-10 Jesus describes himself as ‘the gate whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

However, it is only possible to find this place of safety when we lay down our own life at the foot of Christ’s cross.

Jesus demonstrates to us throughout the bible that the beginning of transformation from sinner to saint begins by us laying down our arms.  By submitting our whole being into his hands recognising that He has already won the war.

Freedom from sin isn’t a result of our right choices; our right choices are a result of Jesus provision of freedom from sin.

Christ has done it there is nothing we can do in and of ourselves.  We need to learn to live in the freedom Jesus death and resurrection has provided. What we can be certain of is if the Holy Spirit convicts us of a sin within that needs to change then the Holy Spirit will continue to use God’s word to transform us.

Our greatest temptation is we think we can do it on our own, we are unwilling to let go of our pride, we are unwilling to trust God to come through for us.  We are only willing to trust if life is good; we are only willing to trust if we lose the weight we have strived to lose or become happier; we are only willing to trust if there is no pain or disease.

From here to eternity

Jesus told his disciples in Luke 9 that whoever wanted to be his disciple then they would need to take up their cross daily.  Being a disciple costs us something, often it’s something we’re not willing to pay.

For many of us we say I would give my right hand if……but would we do anything to get what we want or need?

Would we be willingly to stop eating chocolate forever?

Would we willingly to exercise regularly?

Would we stop looking to self and look to Jesus to rescue?

Would we willingly lay down our own plans and dreams and trust God with his?

There is much we wouldn’t do, so we should stop promising to change when we don’t even have the power to try.  We need to learn how to trust Jesus with his power, trust that Jesus loves us enough to not leave us where he found us.

Over these last 25 years of seeking the perfect body, seeking the praise of others and failing miserably Jesus has been transforming me:-

From jealousy to submission

From bitterness to forgiveness

From greed to unconditional giving

From laziness to unconditional serving

From chaos to self-control

From pride to humility

From offense to love

From demand to unconditional love

These have not been perfected yet but I am loving the journey, I love it when I respond differently to how I did in the past.  I love it when I notice someone in need and have a willingness to meet that need, I love it when someone tries to hurt me and I offer love, I love it when I am tempted to overeat and walk away.

I love learning what it is to walk in the freedom that Christ has provided.

Something to ponder

What if God’s plans and purposes were far greater than our own?

What if our weight wasn’t God’s top priority?

What if you are exactly where God wants you to be so that he can begin to transform you from sinner to saint?

What if the desire for weight loss is stopping you from receiving God’s blessings?

What if trying to lose weight is limiting what you can achieve?

 

Do you measure success by what the scales say?

Do you measure a good day by what the scales say?

Do you measure your relationship with God by what the scales say?

Is the scales voice louder than God’s?

 

If you put weight on does that make it a bad day?

If you lose weight does that make it a good day?

Do you measure God’s relationship with you by how much you weigh?

Do you measure God’s love for you by how much you weigh?

Is it time to deal with the core issues rather than the symptoms?

 

Maybe now is the time to lay down your arms and take up God’s weapon!

 

Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

The question is are you willing to trust?

 

 

 

 

 

Soul Food

As a Christian, we are made up of body, soul and spirit. Body representing the physical, soul representing the emotional part of who we are and the spirit which Jesus gave us by being born again.

For many of us we are obsessed with our physical form, we are forever comparing one another or realising we don’t measure up to how others look.  If only we could fit in; if only I looked normal; if only my body was perfect.

This obsession with the physical is robbing us of considering the other aspects of who we are.  We are limiting the experiences of life that God wants to share with us by only looking to our physical needs.

The soul is the driving force behind our emotions, its purpose is to seek Jesus, it will never be satisfied until it has found the true source of satisfaction.  This is the part of us that God has built within for us to seek him out.  The soul has an unquenchable thirst to seek after satisfaction however if we try and fill it with satisfaction from worldly things it will never be fulfilled.  Our souls will continually drive us towards a deeper satisfaction a spiritual satisfaction that only Jesus can provide.

Scripture tells us : Matthew 7:7 “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you’.

This is God’s plan and desire for each of us and it is programmed into our souls to seek God out.  However, our pride is determined to find a way to live and find satisfaction without God.

God loves all those who he has created and he knows that he is our best, only he can bring true satisfaction and stability.  God promises in Matthew 7:8 ‘For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened’.

God has already provided all we need God himself, Father, Son and Spirit is our only source of true satisfaction, purpose and pleasure.

Once we are convinced of the true source of our satisfaction then we will be able to find nourishment for our souls.

From physical to spiritual

As we considered last time Jesus is our bread of life, he brings the nourishment to our souls. How do we do this, how is it possible to feed on God’s word? We need to learn to feed in the same way we learnt how to eat when we were babies.  We need to be weaned.

This spiritual growth has many parallels from our physical life and it is from the union of physical and spiritual that Jesus brings about our understanding.

In the physical as babies we have hunger to demand nourishment for our bodies. Babies scream so that they are not abandoned and that their parents have a compulsion to feed them.  The demand of a baby is only satisfied when hunger is relieved and allows the baby to flourish and grow.  The relieving of hunger also provides the baby with a satisfaction to the soul as an offering of love.  We all have a basic need to feel love and respond to it.  It is love that compels a parent to provide the food their child needs, so responding to their child’s demands of hunger a parent communicates that the child is loved and provided for.

However, for some children they experience no satisfaction in their demands to be fed, some experience neglect or provision of food without the nurture of love.  As parents, many of us aren’t aware of the link between the provision of food and the desire to be loved.  Many people grow up physically with a need to be loved but without an experience of what true love is.

We need to learn of true love and the source of that love only comes from God himself. We are all sinners and no matter how good we parent we cannot be a perfect parent.  Only God is the perfect parent and capable of providing the love that our souls cry out for.

If we are frustrated by the way we were parented or how we parented then we need to recognise that no human relationship can provide us with true satisfaction, we need to have a heart that is willing to both confess our sin and have a willingness to forgive recognising that we are all human with sinful flaws and all in need of a Saviour.

In Matthew 7 God provides the link between the physical body and the soul’s need of satisfaction, in verse 9 God continues with ‘“Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? 11 If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! 12 So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets’.

Can you see God’s provision for his children is from the emotion of love?  It is God’s love for us that drives him to provide good things for his children.  We can see that our drive to have our hunger relieved is also a desire to be loved.  God’s provision of love for us is also for the benefit and growth of others. We love because God first loved us.

If we don’t receive the love our soul’s desire then we will be driven to look for it elsewhere. For many of us we resort to the basic need of food, we assume our hunger for love can be satisfied by our hunger for food.  We are looking to the physical to relieve the symptoms of our spiritual hunger.

Our souls will be satisfied only by God’s word because this is our soul food.  We need to learn how to feed on spiritual food first before we look for physical hunger to be relieved.

I am convinced that our desire to overeat will be alleviated when we learn how to feed from God’s word and recognise how much He loves us.

 Milk or Meat

The bible teaches us that our feeding from the word of God comes in stages first it is drinking milk and once we have found the nourishment to grow from babies into adults then we will be able to eat of the meat of scripture.

This means that we need to learn how to find nourishment, practice it daily and grow in God’s grace towards spiritual maturity.

As a baby Christian, we need to be taught how to access scripture, we need to be taught that reading scripture is a necessity for our growth.  We need to learn the things of God in a way that we can understand.  The amazing thing about scripture is that it meets your spiritual need wherever you are on the weaning process.  However, many of us miss this step either we see no purpose in always reading the bible, we don’t know where to start so we make do with a weekly dose at church.  Or we head straight for the meaty stuff engaging with spiritual battles but don’t have doctrinal truths as our foundational base or protection.

We need to engage with the learning of scripture gradually and carefully.  We need to ask for help, we need to be involved in bible groups that will help us answer some of the questions we come across.

When we see feeding from scripture as a gradual process we are more patient to feed regularly. Once we learn how to feed from scripture regularly then the Holy Spirit guides us to desire more ‘meaty’ aspects of scripture.  We will begin to chew over major doctrinal issues; our hunger will drive us to search commentaries and seek the wisdom of mature Christians who have much to teach about the power of scripture and the necessity of feeding daily.

Hebrews 5:11-12 ‘We have much to say about this, but it is hard to make it clear to you because you no longer try to understand. 12 In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! 13 Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. 14 But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.

This passage is warning Christians that we fall away when we don’t move from infant into maturity.  When our indifference or our confusion causes us to stop reading scripture regularly because we dont ask the Holy Spirit to show us how to apply God’s word.

Many of us don’t understand that this is the process of spiritual growth and don’t know of the necessity of the weaning process.

The great news is that it is never too late to learn.

Spiritual nourishment plan

As a child, I was taught to eat four meals a day.  As a Northerner this was Breakfast, Dinner, Tea and Supper.  There were never any snacks except the occasional ice cream during holidays or sometimes weekend treats.

Today the pattern seems to be Breakfast Lunch Dinner and two snacks or others say we should be eating five or six smaller plates of food over the course of the day.  I think we have played around so much with diet plans, what we should or shouldn’t be eating that most of us are confused what we should or shouldn’t do. However, I think we are starting in the wrong place, I believe there is a link between our physical hunger and our need to be in fellowship with God and one another.  We need to consider what the soul needs before meeting our physical needs.

Today’s society is a much more individualistic society, we keep ourselves to ourselves staying behind closed doors, accessing society through the internet instead of personal contact.  We have become self-sufficient and are determined to make it on our own.  We’ve also become a leisure society; our work provides us with the money to decide how to spend our spare time.  However, our bodies were created to work, work is a physical desire we have all been given by God.  Physical work means using our bodies daily not sitting behind a desk.  In the past most workers had very physical jobs, housewives’ chores were very physical but today we have so many gadgets that help us achieve our daily tasks that there isn’t much left for us to do.

I think many of us are bored because we are not engaged in physical labour. Therefore, the need of gyms and exercise machines has increased and everyone seems obsessed with exercise.  We need to have physical exertion for our bodies to function well however the pursuit of self whether it be in food or exercise is still an idol.  Whether we are fat or thin we need to consider our motivation for all we do are we worshiping self or the God who created us?

God provided physical activity to worship Him not self!

God’s original plan was for his people to be loved by Him so that we can love one another, to work with joy in all that God has provided by meeting the needs of others.  It is that simple however our pride stops us from being loved by God we convince ourselves that he is a God of retribution and terror, we convince ourselves that no one can tell us what to do because we are better off on our own. We don’t love God therefore we find it difficult to love one another.  We don’t work for God therefore we’re reluctant to serve others.

However, it is scripture that teaches us who God really is not who we think he is.  It is scripture that teaches us who we are without God and our potential with God, it is scripture that teaches us how much God loves us and what he is prepared to do to save us. It is scripture that teaches us how to live out the life God has planned for us.  It is scripture that tells us of God’s eternal plans for each of us.

Rather than focus on our food and what we should or shouldn’t be eating I think first we need to bring into our daily life a spiritual nourishment plan.  To read, meditate and pray scripture throughout the day.  Just as we eat food regularly we need to feed on our spiritual food regularly too. Just as our physical needs are met one meal at a time so are our spiritual needs.

One thing I am learning is that God’s word nourishes the body as well as the soul.  Jesus told the devil when he was being tempted that man does not live by bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.

This is the attitude we need to learn, we need to learn from Jesus how to live out this life then we will see our lives transformed, we will see old habits and sins melt away before our eyes.

May I encourage you to take your eyes from the weigh scales and set your eyes on Jesus but be patient Jesus isn’t in a rush he will take all the time it needs to nurture you and grow you into maturity for he knows your eternal life depends on it!

Matthew 5:6 ‘Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled’.

Our Daily Bread

Up to this point I have written about 13 blogs which have been received with some enthusiasm but I’m sure with some criticism too. Who does this woman think she is, I bet she isn’t perfect, I bet she still succumbs to sin.

No I am not a size 10, no I haven’t got the perfected body or shape, no I’m not an athlete and I haven’t received fame or fortune.

I am not writing as an expert, I am not a nutritionist or a health guru, I am an ordinary person seeking to find God’s solution to living this life.

I am still a sinner I still need to daily walk hand and hand with my Father God, I am learning that when we make mistakes it isn’t a failing; this is the very place we need to be, the place of nurture, the place of discipline, the place of security is only found by being in the presence of our Father God, learning from the Father how to follow the Son and learning from the Son how to honour the Father.

Give us today our daily bread

This is a verse from the Lord’s Prayer which formed part of the instructions Jesus gave to his disciples during the ‘Sermon on the Mount’ to equip them for their future ministry and teach them how to live out the Christian life.

We too need these instructions today to help us to grow in our faith and be transformed into Jesus likeness, for our lives to reflect his desires, his purposes and for our attitudes to be in line with who He is.

Matthew 6:9-13

This, then, is how you should pray:

“‘Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
10 your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
11 Give us today our daily bread.
12 And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation,[a]
but deliver us from the evil one.[b]

If you have been brought up in a Church particularly the Church of England you will be familiar with this prayer.  Many of us say it at least once a week but do we really pray this prayer in the way Jesus taught.  Do we really understand the implications and benefits of this prayer?

When we really consider the Lord’s prayer we see it is not just a prayer it’s a pattern of living.

Verse 9 – Our Father in Heaven hallowed be your name.

As followers of Jesus we have the honour of calling God ‘Our Father’.  This means he is not some imaginary figure who we wishfully pass our requests to, Jesus is reinforcing the relationship between us and God of a child responding to their Father.

The title Father provides us with a means of knowing who God is.  Father represents the person who provides, who protects and who teaches.  It also is a title of authority, there is no greater title than Father, he is the Head of the house therefore He is entitled to our respect and obedience.

‘Hallowed be your name’ represents our response to knowing God as Father.  It teaches us what our heart attitude needs to be in response to understanding all that God has willingly done for us. The treasure of truth held in this one verse of the bible can take us a lifetime to unpick, maybe a lifetime to learn how to respond to God as Father and willingly respond to his authority in praise and worship.

But there is a warmth here, the respect shown is one from a grateful child, a child who recognises their need of the protection and love of the Father.

Verse 10 – your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven

This verse teaches us that our desires need to be lined up with the way God has planned his creation.  This is a place of submission and a demonstration of faith in God’s authority. This is in direct opposition of a selfish heart, a heart that demands its own way, a heart that insists that all things should be for its own benefit, a heart that seeks its own way.

To have a heart that desires God’s ways and a desire to submit to his authority is a heart that is willing to go where the Father leads, it is a heart that wants to serve a loving Father, it is a heart that trusts.

This verse also gives us a glimpse that the plans and purposes God has is far beyond our own understand, its implications are far reaching and reminds me of the descriptions given in Revelation where we are given a glimpse of the complexity of the heavens.  We also learn how the angels respond to God in praise and worship. If the angels worship with all their hearts how much more should we.

Verse 11 – Give us today our daily bread

At face value this verse is really straight forward.  ‘Please God provide what I need’, this varies depending on the circumstances we find ourselves in however, this isn’t the heart attitude that Jesus was teaching.

This verse demonstrates an attitude of recognition that all things come from God and that God willingly and lovingly provides.  This causes our hearts to praise and thank Him for his provision, it also teaches our hearts not to demand what isn’t necessary for the day.  In our society of more is better, excess has become a god, an idol.  This prayer reminds us that God’s provision is a daily provision.

Verse 12 – And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors

Forgiveness is something we all desire but is something we find difficult to give or often refuse to give. This line of the prayer reminds us of our need to be forgiven, that we sin often and need to have a repentant heart that is ready to turn to the Father for forgiveness.  Amazingly Jesus ties this in with our unwillingness to forgive others.   When we fully grasp all that God has rescued us from and our daily need of his forgiveness then our hearts will be ready to offer the same to others.

Verse 13 – And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one

Jesus knows our weaknesses, he is aware that as human beings we are vulnerable to temptations and makes provision for this in his prayer.  We are not to give into temptation but recognise that our Father in Heaven is far more powerful than any temptation we will face.  He also demonstrates to us that all temptations are from the devil himself.  Here we are faced with a choice to seek God’s power to resist temptation or succumb to the devil’s schemes and follow his ways instead.

Jesus knows the power of temptation but he demonstrated that he has all authority and power over all things physical and spiritual.

There’s more to this than meets the eye

I am just scratching the surface of the power of Jesus’ prayer however you can see that Jesus teaching was for the benefit of the disciple, to equip them to follow Him, to demonstrate their vulnerability and need for guidance.

However, there is more to this prayer than the physical aspect of the daily walk with Jesus there is much to understand with regard to our spiritual life, a life to transform the hardened heart, a life to transform the double minded, a life to transform a selfish heart to a serving heart.

Jesus has expanded on these teachings in the parables in the gospels.  He teaches us about the Father, his provision, his power and authority he also teaches us about the consequences of our response to him.

Jesus also tells us in his word that we are no longer just flesh and blood but now we are spirit too. When we give our lives to Jesus we are promised the gift of the Holy Spirit, this is the moment we are born again.

In all of Jesus teaching there are not just physical truths for us to understand but a spiritual life to learn about too.  In our human physical life, we are spiritually blind, we find it difficult to see anything beyond ourselves and our own experiences.  However, when Jesus removes the scales from our eyes we begin to learn of spiritual things, things that were previously beyond our understanding.

The Lord’s prayer isn’t just a guide for our physical life but for our spiritual life too.  It teaches us much about our Father in Heaven, a place we have no idea about but much to learn.  Jesus teaches us of the spiritual battle that we have now entered, a battle that we can’t avoid but a battle that Jesus himself has already won.

It is a prayer that takes us beyond a physical hunger to a spiritual hunger, a hunger that can only be satisfied by the true bread of life.

Jesus is our daily bread

In John:35 Jesus refers to himself as the bread of life ‘Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty’.

As someone who struggles to control the amount of food I eat and seek the satisfaction that food brings, I love the way God uses food as a metaphor, it puts me at an advantage because no one needs to explain to me what Jesus means when he describes himself as the bread of life.

Those of you who share this struggle, really know what it feels like to hunger for food, those feelings of determination to have our hunger abated, nothing stops us from raiding the fridge when the stomach rumbles, there is no thought for anything else until we find the satisfaction we gain from food, we don’t stop to think whether we are hungry or not, our priority is to find the food, find the snack, find the satisfaction.

However physical food has its limitations, its purpose is only to feed the physical it has no power to feed our spiritual lives in fact too much physical food is bad for us, it poisons us and makes us unhealthy, it limits our ability to function.

Through God’s word and the guidance of the Holy Spirit we learn that our need of spiritual nurturing and feeding is essential for our spiritual growth just as eating healthy food is essential to meet our physical needs. Jesus is interested in us as a complete package, he makes provision for both our physical wellbeing and our spiritual wellbeing we need to offer him both aspects of our lives.  We are not to keep anything from Him if we want to flourish and grow into his likeness.

It is vital for our spiritual health to hunger for God’s word daily, without it our faith will wither and die.

Imagine what would happen if we transferred these desires, these determinations, these pursuits of satisfaction from food to Jesus and his word.

Imagine the wonders we would uncover, the guidance we would receive, words that would, heal us, sustain us and change us.

The very transforming power of Almighty God……just imagine!

 

The battle within

In the last blog, over a month ago, I said we would look at ‘spiritual battle’ little did I know that was where I was heading.

Over the last 5 months I’ve had to deal with a minor illness that has had a significant impact on my life from day to day activities including aspects of housework, looking after the family to having to take time off work at crucial moments which resulted in missing out on significant events.

One of the biggest decisions I had to make was to defer my place in the Great North Run in September for which I’ve been training for a year. During this time, I’ve felt frustrated and annoyed that the entire year had seemed a waste of time and that I had let my sponsors down.

I was even tempted not to blog anymore and doubted that I had anything significant to say to anyone seeing as I was a failure and hadn’t lost that much weight anyway.

However, during this time, I have gained tremendous empathy with those who struggle with chronic illnesses that have no earthly solution or treatment available to them.  The limitation of this human body has an enormous impact on people’s lives and the choices they are able to make.  It is not an excuse for self-pity or a means of not engaging with everyday life it is an obstacle that needs adapting to.

Over these last 6 weeks I have been reminded of some teaching I was following about Job and how he dealt with the difficulties of life. His servants were murdered, his sheep slaughtered, his children died in a storm he had lost everything.  His friends blamed him, tormented him with verbal abuse and basically said he must have deserved it if God let it happen.  He then went on to experience horrendous ailments and suffering we could only imagine, his wife had enough of seeing all this suffering and encouraged him to give up and die then he would find relief.

However, Job didn’t give up, Job continued to trust, it wasn’t a blind trust it was a measured trust, it was an honest trust.  He questioned God during his trials, he gave an honest human response at times but he never cursed God.

It was during this time of suffering that Job came face to face with the truth that God has complete autonomy on his creation.  Job learnt that all things whether good or bad are overseen by God. Job chose to trust God despite his circumstances because he knew God had the right to choose because God was the Creator.

We find this a difficult concept to understand, our pride won’t allow us to accept that God has the final say about each of our lives, our pride fights against this truth.  It is easier to reject God than to accept he could be responsible for everything that happens to us.

Opposites attract

We are obsessed with opposites, it’s one of the first things we teach our children;

Hot/Cold, Black/White, Right/Left, Right/Wrong

These concepts seem to build within us a sense of justice, a sense of fairness.  Only one view can be right, both aspects can’t be true at the same time.

This is a human mentality, it is the source of many wars and battles. Your wrong because I’m right! This mentality limits what we are and what we can achieve, it limits our relationships with one another and it limits our relationship with God.

God doesn’t work in absolutes because he is absolute.

God himself is the source of what is right and what is wrong.  God is the Creator of all we have, all we know and all we will ever know.  Even in our determination to live independently of God, we are ultimately limited by the boundaries He sets.

Jesus tells us in the bible that ‘I am the way and the truth and the life, no-one comes to the Father except through me’ John 14:6.

Creation’s source of truth is God himself therefore everything that comes from him is truth, truth is part of who he is, it is his character and he can-not be changed.  God doesn’t compromise or change his mind because he is the source of truth.

This is a scary prospect for many of us because we view God through the lens of suspicion, we agree with the devil and assume God’s out to get us.  We look at the troubles in the world and conclude that if bad things happen then God must be bad.  This is because we are convinced by the ‘law of cause and effect’.

‘If I do this then that will happen’. ‘If I make good choices then good things will happen to me’.  ‘If I choose to eat healthy foods then I will always be healthy’. ‘If I make bad choices then bad things will happen to me’.

However, the reality we see around us screams at us that there is something wrong in our thinking. There are many people who do bad things but good things still come their way.  There are many innocent people around the world who are hurt or die through natural disasters or by the hand of another human being.

Our human effort for justice screams – unfair! I demand my right to absolutes good or bad, right or wrong.

However the truth is God does the choosing.

This came to a head for me in a small but significant way.  For the past year I have been training for a half marathon and have been eating much healthier, keeping hydrated and eating my greens.  However, I ended up in A & E being told I was dehydrated despite drinking 4 litres of water most days.  It turned out I had a kidney stone which was the product of my new found healthy eating.  The stone was made from the additional protein I had been eating which had oxidised with the additional spinach I was eating.  I was furious I had never suffered from kidney stones ever, even during the time I had abused my body but the time I was making good choices it caused 5 months of suffering.

I spent 6 weeks questioning God how could this happen, I threw in the towel I’d had enough of healthy eating it hadn’t got me anywhere!  I screamed this is so unfair. However, this isn’t where God left me he taught me an important lesson of trust.

In the book of Romans Chapter 8 verse 28 God turns the concept of cause and effect on its head ‘And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose’.

The bible tells us that ‘all things’ will be used by God for his good purposes the lives of those who love God and belong to his family.  God’s purposes are always good, his plans are for our benefit but not all things that happen will appear to be good in fact God uses painful circumstances for our benefit or for the benefit of others.

The source of evil is the devil and it is the devil alone that tempts us away from the goodness of God.  It is the devil’s plan to stop everyone from joining God’s family. However, God’s plans are not thwarted by the devil’s determination to destroy all that God creates because God can use whatever the devil does for the good of God’s creation.  The devil can do nothing to stop the goodness of God. God will protect and provide for his family.

The greatest place this truth was witnessed is the death of Christ himself.

God is good

God works things together for good because he is the source of goodness.  He is good therefore all things that he does is for the purpose of goodness.

However, this isn’t the human condition, every day I do something right and I do something wrong there is never a day where I’m completely good or completely bad.  We have an expectation of one another that we must always be good, we have an expectation that our standard is the standard everyone should follow, unfortunately each of us has a differing standard.

When I married my husband 26 years ago we had very different upbringings and we had hugely differing ideas of what was right and what was wrong.  His standard was children always used a knife and fork under every circumstance.  However, our daughter had problems with food and needed a gentler approach, she needed the grace to be able to explore foods using her hands as well as her mouth.  On the other hand I demanded that our holiday routine must follow my standards which always resulted in a stressful and upsetting start to every holiday.

It even impacted on how we celebrated Christmas and numerous other areas of life which led to disagreements and falling out on many occasion.

When we turn to the bible and have a willingness to learn from it we find that God works beyond our human understanding of right and wrong.  God works beyond our demands to pin him down to make one statement or another.  God works beyond our demands that he sides with us and reject those who disagree with us.  God works beyond our demands to work within the laws we create.

That’s because He is God and we’re not!

If we could make demands of God and make Him fit into our understanding then He wouldn’t be God.

It’s a mystery

God’s ways are not our ways.  For some reason, we’re shocked by this, for some reason we are appalled that God is beyond our understanding. ‘If only we can understand all things then we would have no need of God’, this reasoning is evident throughout history.

Proverbs 3:5 tells us to ‘Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding’.

This is the key to unravel all the mysteries, to all the things we don’t understand. It doesn’t mean we will understand all there is to understand but we will have the realisation that all things don’t depend on us, all things don’t need our wisdom, all things don’t require our insight.

When we trust God and his understanding, when we realise that God is God and we’re not then we can rest in him.  This is the place of liberty where we put our faith in Our Father God who provides, protects and has the power to transform us all through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

There are absolutes and they are all found in the very character of God;

Holy, Good, Just, Love, Perfect, Truth….

How God works these absolutes into his creation we can never fathom, all we need to do is be grateful and be willing to follow his plans and purposes for our lives, the very lives that he created, the very lives that he planned before our concept of time, the very lives that he works together for his good, the very lives that are intertwined way beyond our ability to understand.

The mystery of my illness has been revealed to me today.  God used this time to not only teach me that I wasn’t completely trusting Him but I wasn’t listening.  I wasn’t making time to ask Him what He wanted me to do, how He wanted me to live.  That his purposes for my life are far more valuable than trying to lose weight or trying to be healthy.  Even though these are good things to want for my life they are not his best for me, his best for me is to be close to him, listening and learning.

When I took the time to listen to my Father God he showed me that more important than wanting to lose weight there are heart attitudes that need changing.  Today I learnt that I need his kindness to share with others, I need his kindness to mould my thinking and change my behaviour.  This lesson was so more valuable than a thinner body and will last for all eternity.  However, this doesn’t mean I shouldn’t live a healthier lifestyle, it doesn’t mean I shouldn’t train for the half marathon it just means I have a lot to learn along the way. It does mean I need to listen to an Almighty God who knows me better than I know myself. And I am really looking forward to getting back into training for both the half marathon and for life.

Biblical contradictions

Many people accuse the bible of contradicting itself and there seems many to find.  Over the years I have grown to love finding the seemingly obvious contradictions of God saying two different things as being true, these are the places in the bible that I have learnt the most. Our human mindset says two differing ideas can’t work together, it always must be one or the other.

The one I love pointing people to is Matthew 6 in the Lord’s prayer Jesus teaches his disciples to pray ‘Give us today our daily bread’ but in Chapter 7 we are told not to worry about what we should eat or wear.

Why does God on one hand tell us to pray for our needs but on the other not to worry about these things.  It appears to be a contradiction.

In our absolute mindset, we demand these things cannot work together but beautifully and majestically God brings the request of the follower and the provision of the provider into the same place to work together for good.

My focus had been on being healthy for the half marathon so that I could run faster, I was focusing on the mechanics of this rather than trusting God to teach me about where my heart attitude was.  Having a heart to learn has helped me understand that I have a fear of failure and that my concept of all or nothing is wrong because that doesn’t take into account real life and changing circumstances.  The revelation of these two lessons has helped me change my focus from self and have a closer dependency on a God who loves me and wants the very best for me.  I need to remember that;

In our search for rescue,

In our search for relief,

In our search for a Saviour,

We shouldn’t trust in our own understanding but have a willingness to open our minds and hearts to Our Heavenly Father and open His Word in anticipation of all that he wants to teach us, all that he wants to share with us.

Let us put our trust in an absolute God rather than an absolute mindset.

%d bloggers like this: