SUPERFOODS

imageI live in a family of wonderful ‘techi’ people!!!! I constantly stand in awe… Needless to say for some reason I’m the untechi (is that a word??) one but I choose to believe I have other unique gifts!!!

I’m better, I hasten to add, much, much better than I used to be but I can still amaze my dearest husband at the things the computer does when I’m using it. I’ve lost count of the number of times he has said “I’ve never seen it do that before!! What did you do???” To which I truthfully reply, “I thought I just did what you said to do…..!!!!!” Enough said…

But I have discovered how to use my computer to store ideas and verses from the Bible. Previously I would have written these on various scraps of paper and then stored them away. But, a bit like a squirrel with amnesia – I could rarely find them when I needed them!!

A few months ago I decided to start keeping a note of any verse in the Bible that contained a promise and it’s been such an encouragement and blessing. It has given me so much fuel for praise and worship as I have used the words to thank my Father for who He is and all He has provided.

And I’ve been built up when I have personalised the words and taken them as ‘superfoods’ for my wobbly, hungry heart.

For example take Isaiah 41 v10 and v13 from The Message – when I hear Father say it to me as I read it aloud to myself sounds something like this…

Don’t panic Mildred…I’m with you – right now I’M here.
There’s no need to fear because
I’M   YOUR   GOD
I’ll give you strength. I’ll help you. I’ll hold you steady. Keep a firm grip on you.
Because I, your God, have a firm grip on you Mildred, and I’m not letting go
I’m telling you ‘Don’t panic’. I’m right here to help you.

This is just one example of the verses that I have stored away and read frequently, especially first thing in the morning.

You can take this and put your name in when you read it to yourself (preferably out loud) and then you can use the words to thank and worship God for every promise in it. Allow the words to feed you and become part of you, because they all belong to you!

2 Corinthians 7 v1 says ‘these great promises are ours’ and Father God will never break His word.

Maybe you already do this and have experienced the rich blessings Father has stored up for His children, and that’s so wonderful and so exciting! Because… you are then fuelled up to share, bless and encourage others you will meet today!!

Ask Father to show you who He has already arranged for you to meet.

You have the exact ‘superfood’ they need.

May God bless you and keep you today, may He make His face shine on you today, may He lift up the light of His countenance on you, and give you His peace today.

Aftershock

imageI was off on holiday last week and was blessed by some really beautiful blue sky days. Standing face upwards, with the first warm rays of spring on your face, it’s easy to be in awe at the majesty of God and His creation.

The week before last we gathered for our normal monthly staff breakfast – a time to eat together and share stories of what Jesus is doing in our community. We were privileged to be joined by Father Raymond McCullagh, one of the Chaplains of Coleraine University. He shared some of his own story and his personal reflections.

One person who has made a real and lasting impact on him and his ministry is John Varnier. John is the founder of l’Arche and co-founder of Faith and Light, communities with and for people with disabilities.

As well as many other things, I am someone who is fascinated by physics and the deep mysteries of the universe in which we live. I watched a programme on the BBC this week called “Aftershock: The Hunt For Gravitational Waves.” I recognise physics is not a universally held passion and so I won’t bore you with too much detail. Essentially it told the story of a group of incredibly dedicated scientists’ on a twenty year mission to find the elusive evidence for Alan Gath’s Theory of Inflation.

The Theory of Inflation attempts to say what happened in the first trillionth, trillionth, trillionth of a second of the universe. Gravity normally acts attractively (it’s what stops us floating off into space) however Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity and modern Quantum theory allows for certain circumstances in which gravity acts as a repulsive force (propels things away from each other). One of the “proofs” of this Theory of Inflation would be the detection of what is called “B-mode” polarization in the cosmic microwave background. It’s not really important what this is – my point in using it as an example is how much work and resources have gone into studying one moment in time and space so small it’s impossible to imagine it.

I was sitting eating my breakfast on Thursday past, not thinking anything much in particular (as we men can do), when I noticed a John Varnier book staring out at me from our bookshelf. As I opened I realised it was actually a signed copy, that Karen must have received at some point.

Having heard about John recently I was intrigued. I read the introduction and then the first chapter. I came to the passage below and was stopped in my tracks.

Then, at one moment in time and space, ​The word became flesh and dwelt among us. ​John 1:34

Here is the heart, the centre, the beginning and the end of the gospel:
the heart, the centre, the beginning and the end of history.
God, the eternal God, creator of the heavens and the earth,
Became like us, a vulnerable, mortal human being.
He became as a baby needing a mother,
conceived in her flesh
nourished at her breast
needing her love and the love and presence of Joseph
in order to grow and develop as a human being.
He “dwelt amongst us,”
Which can be translated “put up his tent amongst us.”
He became a pilgrim and a brother,
Walking through the desert with us.
He became part of history
Revealing to us a way to God
And to universal peace.

At one moment in time and space – one small, unknown, untraceable, indescribable moment in time.

Jesus became flesh and dwelt among us. The AFTERSHOCK of this moment rippled through eternity. Everything changed. Nothing can be the same.

John’s book is called “Drawn into the Mystery of Jesus through the Gospel of John.” Whether you are someone with a PHD in theoretical physics or just someone who enjoys the warmth of the spring sun on your face – it’s easy to see mystery in creation.

As I tried (slightly unsuccessfully) to watch the solar eclipse on Friday morning I felt a renewed and refreshed wonder at the glory of God and His creation.

Take a moment just now – look around, look up and in the midst of your day, stand in awe and wonder at the creative splendour of God. Thank him for his redeeming work of Grace in the person of Jesus.

You can check out my website http://www.500wordblog.com for more posts.

Who? Me, God?

imageTime and time again God uses the smallest, the weakest, the most afraid, the broken, the downcast, the least.

Joseph, Moses, David, Gideon, Ruth, the list of Bible characters is almost endless.

Yet time and time again we disqualify ourselves from being of any use to God.

He is mighty and powerful – why would he use us?!

Because that’s what He does.

He takes our weakness, our soft underbelly, our self conscious inadequacies so He can add all that He has.

He is stronger and greater, He is full of knowledge and understanding. We don’t need to be proficient and full of our own importance.

We just need Him.

Recently God has been showing me that He wants to use me. NOW.
Not when I feel stronger or more confident or less wounded. NOW.
He wants to take what I have and add it to who He is. NOW.

We may have heard many times that ‘God wants our availability not our ability’ yet so many times we make ourselves unavailable because of our weaknesses.

When you think that you are too weak or you have messed up, remember who He is and what He has for you. As we often sing from Romans 8 v 31, ‘If our God is for us who can stand against us’.

How many times do we feel prompted to start a new venture, pray for someone, or do something out of the ordinary? And how many times do we feel we aren’t ready or good enough, or don’t have the resources?

God is big enough, God does have what is needed. We just need to step out and join with Him in faith.

So maybe the smallest, the weakest, the most afraid, the broken, the downcast, the least might be YOU, or might be your partner, your children, neighbours or friends.

Maybe it’s time to encourage someone. Someone you know who wants to follow God and His plans for their life but is struggling with fears, doubts and failures.

Encourage them that He is all they need and in Him we can do all things.

Roots

imageRoots. I don’t always notice them or think about them. Until I nearly tripped over some tree roots when I was walking in the Riverside Park! I had to look where I was going and choose my footsteps carefully, because the roots had disrupted the path.

This got me thinking about what roots actually are and what they do. Cue some dictionary definitions (forgive me, I’m a nerd!). First, the obvious one.

The part of a plant which attaches it to the ground or to a support.

No surprises there! But the next definitions spoke to me about God and our relationship with Him!

The part of a thing attaching it to a greater or more fundamental whole.

The persistent underground part.

If God is our “greater or more fundamental whole”, then what are the roots attaching us to Him? What is “the persistent underground part”?!

For me, the roots are His love, salvation, presence, our identity in Him. The persistent underground part? Obedience.

Not blind obedience without thinking.
Not obedience trying to win love and acceptance.
But obedience coming from love and acceptance.

We know our secure identity as our God’s treasured possession. The apple of his eye. Adopted child of the King of Kings.

We obey from a place of freedom and free choice.
As we feel God’s nudge to do something, we are free to ignore it.
It’s too hard.
I can’t do that.
That would wreck everything!

But, what if we choose to obey anyway?

For starters, we know that we are pleasing God!

“Listen! Obedience is better than sacrifice…” ( 1 Sam 15:22 NLT)

As we obey, there’s no guarantee that it will be easy. Sometimes it’s just the opposite! But our roots take us deeper into God, no matter what our circumstances are.

“Just as the roots of trees take firmer hold when they are contending with the wind, so faith takes a firmer hold when it struggles with adverse appearances.” (Robert Murray McCheyne)

As the roots of trees go deeper and take firmer hold, they can spread out and start to disrupt the area around them. The path in the forest is no longer flat and easy to walk on. The roots have shifted the ground, right through to the surface of the path. The way we used to walk just doesn’t work anymore.

And, as we obey God, that can disrupt every area of our life.

But, is it worth it? Undoubtedly!

Recently Martin Smith led worship at Causeway Coast Vineyard and we sang these words:

I’m coming back to the start
Where You found me
I’m coming back to your heart
Now I surrender
Take me
This is all I can bring

I’m coming back to the start
Our God is freedom
And here we feel Your heart
Your heartbeat for us
Take me
This is all I can bring

You’ll never stop loving us
No matter how far we run
You’ll never give up on us
All of heaven shouts: let the future begin

We can run, like Jonah, but He’ll never stop loving us!
Or we can go back to the start, to our first love. Our God is freedom. He is for us.
And if we surrender to Him, the adventure begins!

I feel alive, I come alive
I am alive on God’s great dance floor!

‘Have you ever READ the Bible?’ by Sam Forson

imageI struggle to read from my Bible. There’s something slightly shameful in admitting that…as someone who has been a Christian for years…but it’s something that I’ve had trouble with for a while now.

I know I’m not alone as I’ve talked to a lot of people who struggle in the same way. The language, the style of writing and also the context of much of the Bible is something that jars with other books you’ll pick up from the shelf these days.

Don’t get me wrong, I love learning more about God; my faith; the things IN the Bible from other peoples’ commentaries and studies…but actually reading the Bible itself? Hardly ever.

Last month our church started a new small group term. We have a variety of groups that people can choose from including courses. It was one of these courses that caught my eye. Reading the entire New Testament in one 8 week small group term! Even though I’ve struggled to actually read it before, I decided I was up for the challenge. It’s one of the best things I’ve done in a while.

The Bible that we’re reading from is called ‘The Books of the Bible’ and is laid out by a company called Biblica (not trying to sell for them, just sharing what we’re doing!). They’ve produced a version of the NIV Bible that has a few things different to a regular Bible:

– To start with all of the verse and chapter numbers are gone.
– The text is all put into a single column on each page instead of 2 – more like a normal book.
– There are no study notes.
– They’ve rearranged the Books in a way that makes them easier to read. All of the Books written by certain authors are together, like Luke & Acts; all of John’s books including Revelation and all Paul’s letters are in the chronological order as they were written to the churches instead of a normal Bible which has the letters from longest to shortest.
– Finally it has introductions to the book you’re about to read to set the context.

Have you ever read the Bible as if it was a book? Like the way you read a novel or an autobiography? I definitely hadn’t…and yet it makes so much sense to! What other book do you just open to the middle, read a paragraph and then close it again, expecting to get everything that the author intended from that one paragraph?

There’s something so different and refreshing about reading Luke as if you’re reading a researcher’s notes as he travels; reading Paul’s letters AS letters…it’s completely changed my perspective on many parts of the Bible and also opened my eyes to the context of a lot of verses that people quite often just throw around as sentences on their own!

For the first time I’m actually understanding parts of the gospel that had previously made no sense to me. I’m seeing the bigger picture and understanding the true context of what I’m reading. And I’m actually loving it!

And so I challenge you to try just reading the Bible.

Maybe you open your Bible all the time, but have you ever read it as a book…not as something you’re studying and trying to overthink?

Or maybe you’re more like me – maybe you skim over Bible verses because they bore you and you’d rather read what someone else has to say because they’ve taken the time to research the context.

I’m not demeaning studying the Bible at all, there’s a time and a place for that and of course there’s a lot of wisdom to be learned from single verses, but maybe, to start with, just read it.

Read it as it was written. Read it as it was intended to be read. I guarantee that you’ll be surprised what you learn and maybe even enjoy it!