Saturday, 8 March 2014

Intentionally focused...on ministry, hospitality and PUTTING OTHERS FIRST

Peter says (The Message, 1 Peter 4:1 - 2) "Since Jesus went through everything you’re going through and more, learn to think like him. Think of your sufferings* as a weaning from that old sinful habit of always expecting to get your own way. Then you’ll be able to live out your days free to pursue what God wants instead of being tyrannized by what you want."
*sufferings:
aka my struggles, difficulties, little problems, inconveniences...

So: "take nothing for granted. Stay wide-awake in prayer. Most of all, love each other as if your life depended on it. Love makes up for practically anything. Be quick to give a meal to the hungry, a bed to the homeless—cheerfully. Be generous with the different things God gave you, passing them around so all get in on it: if words, let it be God’s words; if help, let it be God’s hearty help. That way, God’s bright presence will be evident in everything through Jesus, and he’ll get all the credit..." (vv 7 - 11)

Baroness Cox wrote this week: "While we might like to think that generosity is largely about what gets given from our own hands, the truth is different. Generous people understand that giving is inseparably linked to receiving, that we can only begin to be used by God to meet another’s need because we have begun to allow Him to meet our own."
Romans 12:3 puts it like this: "it’s important that you not misinterpret yourselves as people who are bringing this goodness to God. No, God brings it all to you. The only accurate way to understand ourselves is by what God is and by what he does for us, not by what we are and what we do for him."

Proverbs 31 extols the virtues of the Good Woman.
"When she speaks she has something worthwhile to say, and she always says it kindly.
She keeps an eye on everyone in her household, and keeps them all busy and productive.
Her children respect and bless her; her husband joins in with words of praise:"
Hmm.  I ALWAYS feel incompetent and all the other in- and un- words which tell me that I don't measure up, can never measure up to this Impossibly Perfect Woman.
BUT.
I CAN do what I can with what I have. I might never, will not ever, achieve her perfection, but I can aspire to be more like her. Also, I am comforted when I think that, perhaps, this is also a picture of the church. Because, together, we CAN achieve all this and more.
"So since we find ourselves fashioned into all these excellently formed and marvelously functioning parts in Christ’s body, let’s just go ahead and be what we were made to be, without enviously or pridefully comparing ourselves with each other, or trying to be something we aren’t." (Romans 12:4 - 6)
Good Morning girls postedWe aren’t aiming for perfection here but rather a heart of serving and loving those who enter our homes. I’m sure it’s not an accident that hospitality and hospital come from the same Latin word meaning healing. When we open our homes and hearts to those who are hurting, God uses our act of service to begin healing hurting souls.

Who can you open your home to today? What about the single mom down the street who is needing adult conversations and for someone to look her in the eyes and ask, “How are you really doing?”, or what about the widow whose husband recently passed away from your church? Maybe it’s the co-worker who needs to hear that they matter to God...

You see I think as Christians we have bought into this big lie that satan is selling us. (and yes, I have purposely typed a lowercase “s”) We think God only wants us to do BIG things for Him. That only the BIG things count. Big things like becoming missionaries and moving overseas, adopting 100 children, selling all our belongings or going into full time Christian ministry. You know, the BIG things.

But what if He’s not telling many of us to do those things? What if that isn’t His plan for many of our lives? What if His plan is even better than that?

What if His plan is actually to multiply our reach by each of us individually becoming intentional and purposefully, using the homes He has already blessed us with to reach those people He has sent us… by opening our doors and hearts to them?

What if we are just called to help those who are lonely feel welcomed by offering a simple meal and an open seat at a well-worn kitchen table?

God is amazing like that, you know. When we reach out to bless others, to open our doors and place an extra plate at the table, many times we end up being the one who is blessed.

So what if? What if we dream together and think about the possibilities of change God can do in our homes as we embrace our call to be hospitable? What if we push aside the temptations of perfection, the unrealistic expectations and instead offer real homes, simple meals and loving hearts? How can God move through these simple acts of obedience?

And so: "Don’t burn out; keep yourselves fueled and aflame. Be alert servants of the Master, cheerfully expectant. Don’t quit in hard times; pray all the harder. Help needy Christians; be inventive in hospitality."

I've heard it said that hospitality is not about homes and hearty dining, food and feasting - though it can be. No, hospitality is about inviting others into your heart and blessing them with what you have. It is about adaptable attitudes, selfless serving and generous giving.

Is that really so hard to do? Take the first step - TODAY.

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Journey


It is quite some time since I joined in with Faith Jam Thursdays. Now, at the beginning of Lent, I am prompted to jump in again.
With the theme, today, of Journey.

Journey. The word
conjures excitement
and trepidation.

When I was younger
a journey was 
a wondrous thing
opening doors
of adventure

but

now I am older
a life journey
seems fraught
with fearsome
possibilities

life is full of 
the unknowns of
retirement and 
living other places
and health.

But with Jesus
the journey of life
can be, shall be
one of joy, deep satisfaction
and promise.

Dare I step out,
join in,
embrace 
with open heart
my Journey?


Saturday, 1 March 2014

Intentionally focused - on children

When I read about bringing children up biblically now, I mostly feel overwhelmed with guilt; the shouldhaves/oughtas/ifonlyI'dknown thoughts... even though my children have turned out to be wonderful, godly young people who live sold-out lives for Jesus.

But Moses said: This is the commandment, the rules and regulations, that God, your God, commanded me to teach you to live out in the land you’re about to cross into to possess. This is so that you’ll live in deep reverence before God lifelong, observing all his rules and regulations that I’m commanding you, you and your children and your grandchildren, living good long lives.

Listen obediently, Israel. Do what you’re told so that you’ll have a good life, a life of abundance and bounty, just as God promised, in a land abounding in milk and honey.

Attention, Israel!

God, our God! God the one and only!

Love God, your God, with your whole heart: love him with all that’s in you, love him with all you’ve got!

Write these commandments that I’ve given you today on your hearts. Get them inside of you and then get them inside your children. Talk about them wherever you are, sitting at home or walking in the street; talk about them from the time you get up in the morning to when you fall into bed at night. Tie them on your hands and foreheads as a reminder;


So we did. And so I try to do, with the children I teach and meet. We can be - and have - spiritual parents, learning from those who have gone before and passing on God's wisdom to those who come after:

Stories we heard from our fathers,
counsel we learned at our mother’s knee.
We’re not keeping this to ourselves,
we’re passing it along to the next generation—
God’s fame and fortune,
the marvelous things he has done...
Then commanded our parents
to teach it to their children
So the next generation would know,
and all the generations to come—
Know the truth and tell the stories
so their children can trust in God...

For children are God's best gift. (Psalm 127:3) Children teach us that "Whoever becomes simple and elemental again, like this child, will rank high in God’s kingdom. What’s more, when (we) receive the childlike on (Jesus's) account, it’s the same as receiving (him).

“But if (we) give them a hard time, bullying or taking advantage of their simple trust, (we'll) soon wish (we) hadn’t. (We'd) be better off dropped in the middle of the lake with a millstone around (our) neck. Doom to the world for giving these God-believing children a hard time! Hard times are inevitable, but (we) don’t have to make it worse—and it’s doomsday to (us) if (we) do.

We are to be like children: simply trusting God.

Now, as Lent approaches, I am encouraging our children to take part in 40Acts. To grow in generosity, with me, together.

Sunday, 23 February 2014

Hope

I loved this post from Lisa Burgess:

When we need hope, "the real source of help is that the Spirit of the Lord is among us.
It is God’s presence that matters most.
His presence is more powerful than any prayer I can lift. His presence is no daydream or illusion but a fact and  my reality. He is here; he is with us; he is present.
And there is my hope: in the power of his presence.
Seek the LORD and his strength; seek his presence continually!Psalm 105:4
You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.Psalm 16:11
Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.Romans 12:12

Friendship

Friends. We all need them.Ecclesiastes has the idea of friendship right: two ARE better than one... 
It’s better to have a partner than go it alone.
Share the work, share the wealth.
And if one falls down, the other helps,
But if there’s no one to help, tough!
By yourself you’re unprotected.

With a friend you can face the worst.
Can you round up a third?
A three-stranded rope isn’t easily snapped
.
Ecclesiastes 4:9 - 10. 12

How lovely, to have a friend looking out for you, working hard with you...

And Jesus says...he says, again and again...  that love gives and gives, even to the point of giving even life itself, embracing death for the One loved, the Friend...

Look at his words:
This is my command: Love one another the way I loved you. This is the very best way to love. Put your life on the line for your friends. You are my friends when you do the things I command you. John 15:10 - 14

Command. Such a strong word. It means to give an order : to tell someone to do something in a forceful and often official way; to have authority and control over a group of people, such as soldiers.

Loving one another is NOT OPTIONAL.

And so, when we think of friendship, this is how we do it:
Be even-tempered, content with second place,  quick to forgive an offense. Forgive as quickly and completely as the Master forgave you. And regardless of what else you put on, wear love. It’s your basic, all-purpose garment. Never be without it. Colossians 3:13 - 14

Watch the way you talk. Let nothing foul or dirty come out of your mouth. Say only what helps, each word a gift.
.
Make a clean break with all cutting, backbiting, profane talk. Be gentle with one another, sensitive. Forgive one another as quickly and thoroughly as God in Christ forgave you.

Ephesians 4:29. 31 -32

And how do we do this? A little verse slipped into the middle of the advice in Ephesians tells us:
Don’t grieve God. Don’t break his heart. His Holy Spirit, moving and breathing in you, is the most intimate part of your life, making you fit for himself. Don’t take such a gift for granted. Ephesians 4:30.
Just stay focused, then. Keep my eye on The Main Thing. Loving God, loving Jesus, loving His Spirit in me.

And what is love? When I love my family, my husband, my children, my friends, I find myself obsessed with their welfare, rejoicing over their gifts and talents, happy they are in my life.

So too I can be obsessed with the Spirit's 'welfare' in me, taking care not to hurt in any way; rejoicing over the many ways the Spirit works through a multitude of gifts and talents, happy to have the Spirit in me, in my life...Loving.

And so, as I consider how to better love my friends, I read:

Wounds from a friend can be trusted,but an enemy multiplies kisses. Proverbs 27:6
I can trust a friend, knowing that they have nothing but the best in mind for me.

Just as lotions and fragrance give sensual delight,
a sweet friendship refreshes the soul.

I can rejoice in the refreshment and recreation a friend gives me.

Don’t leave your friends or your parents’ friends
and run home to your family when things get rough;
Better a nearby friend than a distant family.
Proverbs 27:9 - 10
I can rely on a friend to be there for me.

You use steel to sharpen steel,and one friend sharpens another. Proverbs 27:17
I can be sure that a friend might spark against me at times in a clash like hard metal, but that this will be for my good.  A friend sharpens me up: makes me grow; spurs me on to become more fit for purpose.
Because a blunt knife is useless.

So when our friends annoy us, or unintentionally hurt us, how do we bear with them, build them up and keep on believing in them?
How deep is the friendship?
Is it worth fighting for?
What do we do?
1 Corinthians 15:33 says: Do not be misled: “Bad company corrupts good character.” We need to be sure that our friend IS truly a friend. If not, can we let go of the friendship?

Jen at Good Morning Girls notes:
"Not all friendships are beneficial. There are some people who will drag us down, bring out the worst in us, and tempt us to sin. (1 Cor. 15:33)

We need to surround ourselves with people who will make us better Christians, encourage us in our marriages, cheer us on in our parenting, and will speak the truth when we are wrong. Who will love us through it all.

“He who walks with wise men shall be wise; but a companion of fools shall be destroyed” (Pro 13:20).

We will not only be influenced by the company we keep, we will be known by it. This makes it important to seek out friendships with people who will lead us to walk with and become more like Jesus. And let me give you some good news. It is not common interests that solidifies a friendship, but a common Savior. The bond we have with Christ trumps differing personalities, styles, passions, and hobbies so that we are able to have strong, deep friendships with other sisters in Christ.

Not only do we need to seek out godly friends, we need to learn how to become this kind of friend ourselves. This is something many of us neglect. We want good friends, but do we want to be a good friend? Jesus calls us to this. Of course a good friend will point other to Jesus, but here are a few things necessary to being a good friend that leads others back to the gospel.


Being a good friend will mean:

1. Giving up our own preferences
There is no room for selfishness in friendships. We need to be willing to give up our own preferences for the good of another person. “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.” (Philippians 2:3, ESV) A good friend will seek to honor and bless those around them.

2. Speak truth kindly
“Faithful are the wounds of a friend” (Pro 27:6)

One of the responsibilities of a friend is to reprove when it is needed. But doing this well requires grace and wisdom. It is not our job to become busybodies, but it is our job to gently and kindly correct if we see our friend walk in a way that is dangerous or in conflict with God’s word.

This means we must also be friends who are willing to hear and accept the reproof of a friend. This shows great spiritual maturity. While it may hurt our feelings we need to remember that truth spoken in love will be used by God to bear fruit in our lives.

“Let a righteous man strike me — it is a kindness; let him rebuke me — it is oil on my head. My head will not refuse it!” (Psalm 141:5)

“Yes, rebuke a wise man, and he will love you” (Pro 9:8)

3. Be Wise
Bring a good friend demands wisdom. Without it it is easy to overlook sin and danger, or become overly critical. It’s not just reproving that we must care about, but how we reprove. Can we discern the needs of our friends? What will effectively encourage them in their Christian walk? All of this, and much more, requires wisdom.

It costs to be a good and godly friend. We see the ultimate friendship in Christ. He is wisdom personified. He spoke the truth, and is the truth. And his friendship toward us took him all the way to the grave, for our good. He did more than lay aside preferences, he laid down his life. “Greater love has no man than this: that a man lays down his life for his friend” (John 15:13). Are we willing to lay down our lives for the good of another?


But this cost is the very gold of life!
It is the only antidote for selfishness!
It is the way of Christlikeness!
JR. Miller"

Some more questions to think about from Good Morning Girls:
In this fast paced, technology-driven world, I wonder if the face-to-face, intentional “coming alongside” kind of friendships are becoming more and more of a lost art.


Are we replacing real-life relationships with online acquaintances? 

Are we hung up on the imperfections of others, or are we quick to encourage, forgive and love generously in our friendships? 

Even more, have we isolated ourselves to the point of hindering the gospel?

And some more questions, from an incourage post:

Do you have people in your life that help to give you an unobstructed view of yourself?
Do you have friends who challenge you, inspire you and broaden your view of eternal things?

Are you that kind of friend?

Monday, 17 February 2014

As I read of Eve's creation,
to be helper to her Adam
holding fast to him
to be as One together:
I know that
I too can be like her.

With the help of Jesus.

As I read of Eve's betrayal:
her pride and wilfulness, her
desire for wisdom, her
simple greed -
I know that
I too am her daughter.

Yet Jesus had saved me.

As I read of Paul's teaching
that a wife should defer
to her husband just as
the church defers
to the Christ
who loves us

I know I am helpless alone.

As I read of how I should
be respectful in my behaviour,
setting a good example
for younger women
so that others
may not disrespect the Word,

I want to do my best.

As I read of the Perfect Woman,
skilled I'm all matters of wifehood,
motherhood, skill
and business,
I am reminded
of my own inconsequence.

And so, I live only through Jesus.

Him alone.

Monday, 10 February 2014

The Mind

Some thoughts from Good Morning Girls study Intentionally Focused, week 3.

Romans 7:25 (Jesus) acted to set things right in this life of contradictions where I want to serve God with all my heart and mind, but am pulled by the influence of sin to do something totally different.
With the arrival of Jesus, the Messiah, that fateful dilemma is resolved. Those who enter into Christ’s being-here-for-us no longer have to live under a continuous, low-lying black cloud. A new power is in operation. The Spirit of life in Christ, like a strong wind, has magnificently cleared the air, freeing you from a fated lifetime of brutal tyranny at the hands of sin and death.
God went for the jugular when he sent his own Son. He didn’t deal with the problem as something remote and unimportant. In his Son, Jesus, he personally took on the human condition, entered the disordered mess of struggling humanity in order to set it right once and for all. The law code, weakened as it always was by fractured human nature, could never have done that.
The law always ended up being used as a Band-Aid on sin instead of a deep healing of it. And now what the law code asked for but we couldn’t deliver is accomplished as we, instead of redoubling our own efforts, simply embrace what the Spirit is doing in us.
Those who think they can do it on their own end up obsessed with measuring their own moral muscle but never get around to exercising it in real life. Those who trust God’s action in them find that God’s Spirit is in them—living and breathing God! Obsession with self in these matters is a dead end; attention to God leads us out into the open, into a spacious, free life. Focusing on the self is the opposite of focusing on God. Anyone completely absorbed in self ignores God, ends up thinking more about self than God. That person ignores who God is and what he is doing. And God isn’t pleased at being ignored.
There is now no condemnation:
the Spirit who gives life has set me free.
Those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires.
The mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace.

So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you. (Romans 12:1 – 2, The Message)
Offer your body as a living sacrifice
true and proper worship.
Do not conform to the pattern of this world
be transformed by the renewing of your mind.

So when ‘friends’ hurt me and reject me
and strangers ignore and insult me
enemies are vicious
and the world passes me by
and it hurts more and more
each time I experience
difficulty in, or breakdown of
a relationship.
Words and emotions struggle for healing
which seems such a long time in coming.

So I remember you, Jesus,
who suffered far worse
and I give you my pain and my suffering
rejoicing that You are the Potter.

From an ignorant, unformed lump of clay
you made me recognisable.
You made me into something
useful, then shapely, fit for purpose.
You let wet clay dry, hardening gently
yet there are still cracks.
You roughen up edges
so you can fill holes,
rubbing with sandpaper: first coarse,
then increasingly finer.
And I know that later comes searing heat:
not once, but twice, perhaps more,
before you pronounce me Finished.

So I thank you, Jesus,
who loves me too much to let me
stay unfinished.

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is TRUE, whatever is NOBLE, whatever is RIGHT, whatever is PURE, whatever is LOVELY, whatever is ADMIRABLE—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—THINK ABOUT SUCH THINGS (Philippians 4:8)
And now a personal but most urgent matter; I write in the gentle but firm spirit of Christ. I hear that I’m being painted as cringing and wishy-washy when I’m with you, but harsh and demanding when at a safe distance writing letters. Please don’t force me to take a hard line when I’m present with you. Don’t think that I’ll hesitate a single minute to stand up to those who say I’m an unprincipled opportunist. Then they’ll have to eat their words.
The world is unprincipled. It’s dog-eat-dog out there! The world doesn’t fight fair. But we don’t live or fight our battles that way—never have and never will. The tools of our trade aren’t for marketing or manipulation, but they are for demolishing that entire massively corrupt culture. We use our powerful God-tools for smashing warped philosophies, tearing down barriers erected against the truth of God, fitting every loose thought and emotion and impulse into the structure of life shaped by Christ. (2 Corinthians 10:1-5, The Message)

Take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.

So if you’re serious about living this new resurrection life with Christ, act like it. Pursue the things over which Christ presides. Don’t shuffle along, eyes to the ground, absorbed with the things right in front of you. Look up, and be alert to what is going on around Christ—that’s where the action is. See things from his perspective.
Your old life is dead. Your new life, which is your real life—even though invisible to spectators—is with Christ in God. He is your life. (Colossians 3:1 – 3, The Message)

Set my heart on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.
Set my mind on things above, not on earthly things.
For I have died, and my life is now hidden with Christ in God.




This I know...

I know there is more to life than the eating and drinking, the everyday living.
More than the friends and the family and the ‘whatever I fancy’.
More.

I know there is hunger for deeper reflection and ultimate connection.
For knowing and purpose and certain direction.
Soul.

I know that religion just means belief in something/Someone superhuman:
too big for me to understand, imagine or even remotely adequately explain.
Belief.

I know Jesus the man was a definite person who lived and died.
Roman history tells us so: religion does not mean imagination.
Jesus is real.

I believe Jesus when he said (and still says) there is more to come, better to come.
I believe him when he tells me how to live for a better life, a happier life.
Contentment.

So I try to live according to his words in the Book. I so often, often, fail to do so well.
Yet they are still the benchmark, the yardarm, the starting and the ending point.

The Word in The Words.

Sunday, 2 February 2014

There is always more...

A day after I jotted down a few reflections on Philippians 1 and 2, I reflected on how I pen a few words, scratching at the surface of meaning, and am satisfied. For a while. Because there is ALWAYS MORE.

And so it was today, as I looked again at Philippians 2 and found this:

What I’m getting at, friends, is that you should simply keep on doing what you’ve done from the beginning. When I was living among you, you lived in responsive obedience. Now that I’m separated from you, keep it up. Better yet, redouble your efforts. Be energetic in your life of salvation, reverent and sensitive before God. That energy is God’s energy, an energy deep within you, God himself willing and working at what will give him the most pleasure. (vv 12 - 13, The Message)

I need:
right actions
good attitude
an appreciation that it is God who works in me to make me willing and help me act the right way.

Do everything readily and cheerfully—no bickering, no second-guessing allowed! Go out into the world uncorrupted, a breath of fresh air in this squalid and polluted society. Provide people with a glimpse of good living and of the living God. Carry the light-giving Message into the night so I’ll have good cause to be proud of you on the day that Christ returns. You’ll be living proof that I didn’t go to all this work for nothing. (vv14 - 16, The Message)

And so I can
have the right attitude as I do everything cheerfully,
attaining a sense of living in a God-pleasing way
announcing to the world the truth which Christ preaches.

Even if I am executed here and now, I’ll rejoice in being an element in the offering of your faith that you make on Christ’s altar, a part of your rejoicing. But turnabout’s fair play—you must join me in my rejoicing. Whatever you do, don’t feel sorry for me. (vv17 - 18, The Message)

Because
we appreciate each other for our efforts to live as Jesus wants us to.

As Paul rejoices over the Philippians faith, let us, too, keep encouraging each other along The Way...



Thursday, 30 January 2014

In the quiet...

Jesus got on his own.
"As often as possible Jesus withdrew to out-of-the-way places for prayer." (Luke 5:16, The Message)
"While it was still night, way before dawn, he got up and went out to a secluded spot and prayed." Mark 1:35

He tells me who he is:

The GOOD shepherd, not the lazy one; the LIGHT to live by and see life clearly; the ROAD on which to walk on this journey; the BREAD, the most basic of foods which I need to satisfy my hunger. The VINE: organic, living, far-reaching, bursting with growth: living WATER, without which there IS no living.

I need him.
“I am the Vine, you are the branches. When you’re joined with me and I with you, the relation intimate and organic, the harvest is sure to be abundant. Separated, you can’t produce a thing."

And he reminds me:
"God means what he says. What he says goes. His powerful Word is sharp as a surgeon’s scalpel, cutting through everything, whether doubt or defense, laying us open to listen and obey. Nothing and no one is impervious to God’s Word. We can’t get away from it—no matter what."

And so I can say, as David does in Psalm 63:

"God—you’re my God!
I can’t get enough of you!
I’ve worked up such hunger and thirst for God,
traveling across dry and weary deserts
.
So here I am in the place of worship, eyes open,
drinking in your strength and glory.
In your generous love I am really living at last!
My lips brim praises like fountains.
I bless you every time I take a breath;
My arms wave like banners of praise to you.

I eat my fill of prime rib and gravy;
I smack my lips. It’s time to shout praises!
If I’m sleepless at midnight,
I spend the hours in grateful reflection.
Because you’ve always stood up for me,
I’m free to run and play.
I hold on to you for dear life,
and you hold me steady as a post."