Rediscovering the Bible in book format!!

imageSometimes your Bible just happens to open at the right page, the right chapter, the right verse, the right story, the right words, the right place at the right time …

I must admit it hasn’t happened to me very often lately because I was using the Bible app on my iPad. It’s so handy but to be honest I found I was reading the Holy Book a bit like I read Facebook, just scanning quickly down the page and not really taking anything in 😦

So I’ve decided to go retro and explore the book format again!

And yesterday it just happened to open at Zephaniah 3. (I know this was a coHIMcidence because that’s one of those hard to find books of the Bible!!). Verse 17 was highlighted …

The Lord your God is with you,
He is mighty to save.
He will take great delight in you,
He will quiet you with His love,
He will rejoice over you with singing
.

I’ve always loved that last line. It makes me feel that I’m covered by a canopy of joy, His joy. It’s all around me, filling me, shielding me, shaping me.

But yesterday I ‘noticed’ the other lines.

The Lord your God is with you
Father, thank you that you are always with me. No matter what I am going through, you are there, beside me and you promise never to leave me or forsake me.

He is mighty to save
The word mighty means ‘having, characterised by or showing superior power or strength’. Father, I thank you that your mighty power to save is much greater than and far superior to the power of my problems. The Message translation reads “Your GOD is present among you, a strong Warrior there to save you.” (Zephaniah 3:17 MSG) Thank you whatever battles or struggles I am facing, you are my ‘strong Warrior‘ fighting on my behalf, rescuing me and releasing me – you are “a mighty Saviour” (NLT).

He will take great delight in you
Father, thank you that you not only fight for me but you delight in me. Whether I’m at work or at rest; whether I’m with others or alone; whether I feel overjoyed or overwhelmed … YOU take GREAT delight in ME!!!

HE WILL QUIET YOU WITH HIS LOVE
This line stood out. The verb quiet means ‘to make tranquil, peaceful; to allay (doubts, fears)’. The NLT translation reads ‘with His love He will calm ALL your fears’. Not just some, but ALL, big and small!!

Father thank you for your great LOVE.

Thank you that your LOVE calms me, strengthens me, fills me, completes me, makes me alive!!

Thank you that your LOVE is perfect, steadfast, faithful, unending, unfailing, unconditional and without measure.

Thank you that your LOVE conquers ALL and knows NO bounds.

T H A N K   Y O U.

PS yesterday evening I just happened to notice this beautiful illustration of the same verse by the very creative Karen Hamilton. You can find Karen on Facebook at The Designerie.

THE RIGHT PATH

imageGive me two busy days and I sometimes find it hard to rise on the third day.

Last Wednesday was one of those days and the fatigue wasn’t helped by the ‘SAD’ fact it was grey, cold and windy 😦 in the middle of June!!

I could feel the lure of old familiar routes – frustration of being in that place yet again and fear that things won’t change; self-imposed guilt and self-pity about under-achievement; comparison to others and worry about what they think; discouragement; despair ….

Can you picture this map too?

So many dark paths like this loom in our minds, luring us to come on down. And each path of destruction soon leads to another. They twist with our emotions and shape around our struggles and lead us into dead ends.

But there IS another path.

One that you choose not with your head but with your heart.

One that is not all about ME but all about HIM.

One that is not mapped out by our circumstances or feelings but is signposted by His goodness and His love.

I wish I could say I always choose this path. I wish I automatically made the right choice every time. But that’s the thing about making choices you have to keep choosing which ones you make.

Last Wednesday I had choices to make.

My journal entry reads
Father God, A busy day and a poor night’s sleep = T I R E D 😦
It’s really tempting to feel discouraged and frustrated
B U T

YOU ARE GOOD
YOU ARE ALWAYS GOOD

HOW I FEEL DOESN’T CHANGE WHO YOU ARE
YOU ARE THE SAME YESTERDAY, TODAY, TOMORROW, FOREVER (Hebrews 13:8)

HOW I FEEL DOESN’T CHANGE WHO I AM
I AM YOUR BELOVED AND YOU ARE MINE (Song of Solomon 6:3)

I AM NOT A SLAVE TO THE LIES OF THE ENEMY
I AM A CHILD OF GOD (Galatians 3:26)

I AM FREE INDEED (John 8:36)”

It is always the Father’s Day and we can each celebrate “You’re a good, good Father and I’m loved by you.”

This amazing truth is our firm foundation, our right path.

It leads us up the mountain and out of the valley.

FLOWER POWER!

imageIt’s that time of year … my baskets and tubs have been planted and are now watched closely to gauge growth and many blooms are hopefully anticipated.

My favourite flowers are not the ones planted and tended carefully by human hand. I love the wild flowers I come across on forest walks, standing tall to find the sun or standing out among nettles and displaying beauty in the darkest places. There are at least a dozen different varieties growing in my local forest that bring wonderful colour to the greyest day. Here are some I collected earlier.

Last week we spent a lovely few days in Donegal and again I saw how these wild flowers grow in the most unlikely of places – a crack in the stones of a harbour wall, amongst the rocks on the cliffs by the beach and even in the sand in the dunes.

“You crown the year with a bountiful harvest;
even the hard pathways overflow with abundance.
The grasslands of the wilderness become a lush pasture,
and the hillsides blossom with joy.” (Psalms 65:11-12 NLT)

I clung to these verses in the darkest days of chronic fatigue. I would remind myself that no matter how hard the present pathway seemed, His word promised “even the hard pathways overflow with abundance”.

Maybe you find yourself on a hard pathway at the moment. Life feels dark and barren, caught between a rock and a hard place. I pray these words would help you too and that hard pathway would overflow with an abundance of His comfort, peace, hope, grace and strength. No matter what mountains you’re facing, I pray you He would reveal how even “the hillsides blossom with joy”.

Jesus spoke to his disciples about wild flowers in Luke 12 …
“Consider how the wild flowers grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendour was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you—you of little faith! (Luke 12:27-28 NIV)

The Message translation reads “Walk into the fields and look at the wildflowers. They don’t fuss with their appearance—but have you ever seen colour and design quite like it? The ten best-dressed men and women in the country look shabby alongside them. If God gives such attention to the wildflowers, most of them never even seen, don’t you think he’ll attend to you, take pride in you, do his best for you? (Luke 12:25-28 MSG)

Jesus was warning the disciples against worry. “What I’m trying to do here is get you to relax, not be so preoccupied with getting so you can respond to God’s giving. People who don’t know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works. Steep yourself in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met. Don’t be afraid of missing out. You’re my dearest friends! The Father wants to give you the very kingdom itself. (Luke 12:29-32 MSG)

He didn’t want them to be preoccupied or fuss over things and He doesn’t want that for you either.

So “look at the wildflowers” and remember
“If God gives such attention to the wildflowers, most of them never even seen, don’t you think he’ll attend to YOU, take pride in YOU, do his best for YOU? … YOU’RE my dearest friends! The Father wants to give YOU the very kingdom itself.”

“Steep yourself in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met.”

TRUST – what does it mean to trust God? By EMILY BROWN

imageI have decided to base this writing on trust as this is my word for the year. I felt God gave it to me at the start of this year and oh how applicable it has been!

My first realisation this year has been that I have not fully known what it means to trust God. I was surprised by this realisation – having been brought up in a Christian family and having had a very close relationship with God since very young. I would hear people around me say to others going through hard times: ‘trust in God’ ‘He knows what he’s doing’ ‘He is in control’ and I probably even said this to people on numerous occasions.

Perhaps like so many of you I would have said I did trust God – that is, until things started to happen in my life that were tough. It started after the birth of my first son. It was an incredibly traumatic experience and potentially life threatening. It was certainly life altering. Not just in the sense that you have a new baby, but my whole world was rocked. Everything I believed in and everything I held dear, my relationship with God and who I thought he was, was suddenly in doubt.

I then found out in January that I have a problem with my heart – not serious, but it affects my energy levels, which has the knock on effect of altering so many other things in life. I have not doubted God this time round – but I have questioned what it means to trust him in all of this.

I realised that I thought trusting God meant that nothing too bad would ever happen to me – nothing too scary, nothing too horrible, nothing that felt too overwhelming – because he’s God, right? He loves me, he’s in control, he’s good, he’s sovereign, right? So surely he wouldn’t want me to have difficulty? and if bad did happen, I would trust, and that would mean he’d take it away, right? Because I’m trusting him it will go……

It was a surprise to me that I believed I would always be protected in this world from very bad things. I had heard people saying being a christian doesn’t protect us from bad things…..yet above this I had heard ‘God is good’, ‘God is healer,’ ‘God will be your shield, your protection, your shelter, your deliverer, your refuge’ ‘God is sovereign, in control’. I believe these are true, yet I wonder if they are not ‘alone’ statements? I wonder if in our churches, when people are struggling around us, we use these truths too much in isolation, too easily – they only capture part of the truth and I wonder if focussing on these truths alone produces a ‘surface’ trust in God which we only realise once our comfort is tested. Just a thought I am still mulling over….. I wonder if these truths need to be seen in the context of trust – because without this trust in God, these phrases can feel so meaningless from my experience.

As I began to feel as though I couldn’t trust God anymore, I began to explore what it actually means, practically, to trust God – not just to say it – as I was at a point where I couldn’t say it or mean it…….

One of the first realisations I had was that Trust = Love. It is impossible to trust someone you think doesn’t love you. You need to know God loves you to trust him. When bad things happen and you are aware of the sovereignty of God, it can be difficult to not feel like God is partly responsible for the pain you are currently going through and this in turn can make us feel less loved by God than we used to.

There may be a way to see these 2 things together (sovereignty and difficult times) but at the moment of hard times I wonder if it is easier just to focus on God and his love and almost forget about his sovereignty in relation to the difficult situation. This may sound wrong and again it is just an idea at the moment, but until I trust God and know his love for me I will struggle with his sovereignty.

Part of separating the 2 characteristics of God (in my mind) helps me to understand more of God as our shelter and refuge, it’s like a picture of you in a battle – a bloody, sword slashing, gut wrenching battle with you in the centre and the enemy all around…….but just outside the circle of enemies is God who we can run to at any point for a cuddle, comfort, security, love, rest….I believe God is also with us in the very centre, but when it does not feel like this, don’t worry – remember he is also outside of the fight for you to run to. We mustn’t forget to sometimes come out of the battle, either physically or in our minds to have a security cuddle with our Father God. Words of Jenn Johnson’s song are amazing in this…

The wind and waves surround me
And I’m tossed, Feel like I’m drowning
I am tired, I am weak
I need You here with me
‘Cause I can feel the rising tide
But I don’t have the strength to fight
I feel clouded and confused
I need You here with me

Chorus:
In the chaos of the storm
I have drifted far; far away
But I call out Your name
‘Cause You are just a breath
A breath away

Then through the shadows
Your light appears
I’ve known You’re with me
But now it is clear
I can feel You
Jesus All around

Like sun on my skin
Warm to the touch
Here You surround me
I am held by love
I can feel You
Jesus all around

Now hope is rushing through my veins
With everything You’ve rearranged

I am peaceful; I am brave
When You’re here with me

All my questions find their answers here
When You come You change the atmosphere
I am focused; I am clear
When You’re here with me

Tied in with this is the second realisation – trust comes as you remember his character. Psalm 9v10 – ‘Those who know your name will trust in you’. For me, this was looking back over the years at my relationship with God and all the great times we’d had hanging out and chatting – remembering again who I knew him to be – as I remembered this I saw again who he was – SO good and someone who loves me beyond my comprehension. Remember those times when you’ve been with God and known who he is – you can rely on them. You may be tempted to believe they were all a lie – but they weren’t. Reading the bible helps masses with this too!

Thirdly, trusting God is choosing to move towards him (This is from David Macgregor’s latest talk). Choose to spend a little time going to God for refuge and rest from the storm – choose to let him show you who he truly is. You don’t need to completely know someone before you walk towards them – but if you choose to walk towards them you get to see what they look like a little better – then if you choose to share a few words you get to know them just that little bit better again…………….

Whatever your pain right now, whatever your storm I would encourage you to keep talking to God – this can be the toughest thing when you feel unloved by God and like he is against you – but tell him this and ask people around you for prayer even if in your heart you are disagreeing with that they say. That’s ok! Be real with God – but try and keep your heart open to him, even though everything within you wants to shut down from the pain and disappointment you feel God is responsible for….. keep telling him this…….

But finally, something my granny showed me recently sums up what I believe trust in God looks like:

Lord, help me to remember that nothing will happen that you and I can’t handle together

T R U S T

imageI went to EM15 with a deep desire for answers and direction about certain situations.

As I knelt in worship during the Saturday morning session, I felt Him whisper ‘you came looking for answers instead of looking for Jesus’.

I want specific answers. I want clear directions. I want writing on the wall. I want neon signs. I want a personal telegram!!

John Ortberg writes “If you want to walk on water, you’ve got to get out of the boat“. Maybe it’s where I live, but I want a gigantic causeway of stones to rise up out of the water so I know there will be somewhere firm to put my feet before I put a foot out of the boat.

I’ve been looking in the wrong place. I’ve been seeing things from the wrong perspective.

I need to keep looking to the One who is calling me out of the boat.

I need to look for Jesus.

The way ahead is not my safe place.
He alone is my refuge, my place of safety; he is my God, and I trust him. (Psalms 91:2 NLT)

The way ahead is not my hope.
My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness;
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly lean on Jesus’ name.
….
On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand.
….
When all around my soul gives way,
He then is all my hope and stay.
By Edward Mote (1797-1874)

The way ahead is not my security.
It is God who arms me with strength and keeps my way secure. (Psalm 18:32 NIV)

For me this looks like …
… not stressing about where I’m supposed to ‘work’ at the minute, but asking ‘Where are you working, Father?’ and being a partner in that.

… not striving to get more, but being open to His opportunities to give away what I already have.

… not living life ‘on hold’, but living life in His hold.

… not questioning the season I am in, but trusting that whatever it looks like God is in it with me.

What does it look like for you?

Pete Greig says “We can’t change our circumstances, but we can change our relationship with those circumstances“.

I know I’m not the only one learning to T R U S T beyond the circumstances.

Trust looks different for each of us in our different circumstances so I’ve asked a few friends to share their experiences of learning to trust God over the next few weeks.

When we share our stories, we encourage each other. I pray that their stories of T R U S T will encourage you too.

But blessed are those who trust in the LORD and have made the LORD their hope and confidence. They are like trees planted along a riverbank, with roots that reach deep into the water. Such trees are not bothered by the heat or worried by long months of drought. Their leaves stay green, and they never stop producing fruit. (Jeremiah 17:7-8 NLT)