Springboard Friends

You know the ones:  They speak and it launches you into something new and wonderful.  I’m thinking today about one of those friends in my life.  I’ve known her a long time – nearly twenty years, actually.  I met her when I was at school and it was her job to support me.  It proves even the appointment of staff can be prophetic, because she certainly has over the years – not only at school (helping to put my work into Braille), but personally as well.

 

Carol was the one who asked me one day as we walked into the gym:  “When you have problems, have you thought of praying about it?”  (I hadn’t, and didn’t think it was for me at the time.)

 

She was the one who phoned not long after I had left school to invite me to a Marilyn Baker concert, where I first heard this song.

 

She was the one I met at an event in 2000.  A new Christian, but our time together was so short, I didn’t have a chance to tell her, so I wrote her a letter.  I remember one sentence read:  “Although I don’t go to church, Christianity is now a huge part of my life.”  Carol could have kept the letter to encourage her in her own walk with God, but she did so much more than that.  Within days of me writing it, she was on the phone, inviting me to the house group she went along to on Wednesday nights, which got me into church.

 

Carol baptised me along-with my pastor.

 

She inspired one of my songs when I had just come home after a hard time, and she talked to me about a plant needing to be in the right soil.  She’s prayed me through difficult seasons and celebrated the good ones.

 

And Carol inspired something else, which I’ll be forever grateful for.  As we ate lunch one day in 2005, she told me about a conference she’d just been to – with Compassion.  My parents had sponsored with another organisation when I was growing up, so I was very interested in what she had to say.  The idea of getting letters to me personally from my child really impressed me.  Carol had told me the website-address, so I went and looked.  My first Filipino girl was Jennylyn and I’ve been sponsoring children ever since.

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Compassion have asked their bloggers to write this month about who (or what) first inspired us to sponsor a child.  If you sponsor, where did you get your inspiration?  If you don’t, will you consider investing in the life of a child?  I can’t promise that every child will open up to their sponsor and write screeds in their letters, but never doubt that what you put into somebody’s life can make a big difference.

One of Your Family

I was reading Mark 9:33-37 this morning and just love the picture it paints.  It says that after Jesus and His disciples settled in a house, He confronted the argument they were having earlier about who was the greatest.  Then Jesus put a little child among them, embraced the child, and told how welcoming a child also welcomed Him.

 

Now, when I thought before about Jesus calling a child and having this conversation, I imagined it outside somewhere, and the child being called out from a huge crowd … but Mark says they were in a house.  The child was probably one of the family they were staying with, whom Jesus brought in from the next room.  Sounds so ordinary and so homely to me.

 

Have you ever imagined Jesus as one of your family, taking your child in His arms and using them to get His message across?  That’s what Jesus wants to be:  Part of our everyday life, and He can use children to teach us things about Him that we might otherwise miss in all the busyness.

 

A friend once told me about when she took her little boy to the bakery.  As she chose her shopping, the boy said:  “Mummy?”  He waited and tried again.  “Mummy, God’s trying to talk to you.”

 

“Oh?  What’s He trying to say?”

 

“That He loves you.”

 

It brought a smile and a “Bless!” from the woman behind the counter, and I think a reminder to all of us to stay on the lookout for God’s love and care … even when we’re choosing cakes at the bakery.

Saying What you Love

Jill over at Compassion Family wrote a post this week about encouraging sponsored kids to praise and adore God – to tell Him what they like about Him.

 

She explained that she sometimes used Bible-verses to do this.  I’ll choose one of my favourites as an example:  “Both the one who makes people holy and those who are made holy are of the same family.  So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters” (Hebrews 2:11).  Jesus, I love You because You’re not ashamed to call me Your sister (that’s praise).

 

And a passage from Luke 6 that’s been on my heart this week:  “Give to everyone who asks you, and when someone takes something that is yours, don’t ask for it back. …  If you love only the people who love you, what praise should you get?  Even sinners love the people who love them. …  But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without hoping to get anything back.  Then you will have a great reward, and you will be children of the Most High God, because he is kind even to people who are ungrateful and full of sin.”  Father, I love You because You’re kind to ungrateful people.

 

But we don’t only have to praise using Bible-verses; it can be prompted by everyday life as well.  I’ve been counting calories to try to lose a bit of weight, and sometimes when I’ve reached my limit and really fancy chocolate or biscuits, it can be frustrating not to have those nice foods, but I can praise God for giving me enough to eat.  There are plenty of people in the world who don’t have that luxury.

 

Have you told God what you love about Him lately?

Good Foundation

I listened to the radio yesterday morning while I washed the dishes, and was really struck by something a lady said.  She and the DJ were discussing couples, and how it was good for them to have time to themselves instead of being joined at the hip.  She said if you have two concrete pillars holding the roof on a structure and those pillars are too close together, that roof will fall.  Similarly, if they’re too far apart, the roof will also fall because its foundation isn’t good.  But if they’re just the right distance apart, then that roof will stay up.

 

Although they were talking about couples, I think this speaks to all of us.  If I depend on my family or friends to be happy, if I give them first place in my heart and think too highly of them, my life will fall apart.  If I distance myself from family and friends, if I have no need of them and there’s a wide chasm between us, then my life will also fall apart.  But if I give them their rightful place in my heart – Jesus at the centre (whom I depend on for my joy) and them second, then my life will remain secure because my Foundation is good.

 

What are the foundations like in your life?  Have you considered doing what the children’s song says – building your life on the Lord Jesus Christ?

For Your Diary This Week

I’ve just come back from hearing Maryam Rostampour and Marziyeh Amirizadeh speak.  If you’ve read their book “Captive in Iran”, you’ll know those names.  They’re 2 Iranian women who were recently put in prison for living out their Christian faith.  I’m full of admiration for them, especially when I think that one had her 28th birthday in prison.  They’ve been through so much in less than 30 years of life.

 

If you haven’t read the book, I’d thoroughly recommend this tour, and even having read it, it was lovely to hear them in person.  Some of the stories may have been repeated, but it seemed to reemphasise to me the way God used this situation to reach out even to their enemies.  At the end, I felt like I was offering applause to God for the courage He’d given them; the love for their people; the joy at such a trying time.

 

That’s why I’m writing this – to give you the opportunity to hear them for yourselves.  Their UK-tour’s only a week long, so if you’re near Upton Vale Baptist Church, Torquay (tonight at 7:30), Rora House, Halford, Newton Abbot (Saturday 12th, 10 am to 4:30 pm, tickets £15 for the day), Emmanuel Centre, Westminster (Tuesday lunchtime), or St Mary’s Church, Loughton (Wednesday 16th at 7:30), try to contact them and see if you can get there.  I don’t think you’ll regret it.

“90 Minutes in Heaven” Book-Review: Life After Perfection

I had started to read someone else’s account of heaven before and was less than impressed.  I didn’t want a repeat of that experience, but knowing Don Piper was a pastor, I trusted his credibility and signed up to review “90 Minutes in Heaven”; I’m so glad I did.  Co-written with Cecil Murphey, this book is about a man whose accident left him clinically dead for an hour-and-a-half.  He returned to earth with a song on his lips and severe injuries to most of his body.  This book is about a man who’s trying to get his head around life after perfection.

 

The title is perhaps misleading.  If you’re expecting a whole book on heaven, you’ll be disappointed, though he does share some detail.  But if you’re someone like me, who hears about these supernatural experiences and wonders what effect they had, you’ll enjoy this.  A free study guide is available here for small-group discussions.  At the front of this 10th anniversary edition, Don updates readers on events since its first publication, telling of the many groups he’s spoken to and places he’s stayed.  Couple this with numerous examples of him using his pain to help others, and it’s not surprising that one of Don’s most-loved quotes about prayer is:  “Practical prayer is harder on the soles of our feet than the knees of our trousers.”  A remarkable man, yet he doesn’t take the applause.  Read one of my favourite chapters in the book to see why not, and be inspired.

“Atlas Girl” Book-Review: Travel and Family

This fast-moving book is much more than the travelogue I was expecting.  Yvonne hardly gets a mention in the synopsis, but the mother-daughter relationship is an important facet of Emily’s story.  If you struggle with flashbacks, the constant time-shifting (1998, 1981, 2002) could be a problem, but each chapter-title includes the month and year.

 

Perhaps along-with others who haven’t travelled extensively, I looked forward to getting a flavour of so many different countries, but I also loved the personal aspect – how Emily wrote so honestly about her marriage, how God showed His care for her again and again.  I was sent a free copy of “Atlas Girl” by Revell for reviewing purposes, but it’s a book I might well have bought, and I wouldn’t have been disappointed.

God is There

This last chapter of Amos is a reminder of God’s mercy and compassion, even though when you read the start, it might not seem like it.  ‘Israel will be Destroyed’?  “If they dig down as deep as the place of the dead, I will pull them up from there.  If they climb up into heaven, I will bring them down from there.”  Where’s the mercy and compassion in that?  Well, it reminds me of Psalm 139:8:  “If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.”

 

God is there.  He’s for us – not against us, and the end of Amos 9 talks not about total annihilation, but restoration.  He talks about bringing Israel back from captivity and planting them in their own land, never to be uprooted as they were before (Amos 9:14-15).

 

Perhaps your life feels a bit of a tangled mess.  Will you trust God to restore it?

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Thanks if you’ve read through the book of Amos with me.  I had hoped to finish it by the end of June; better late than never.  Are there any other challenges you’d like to see here on the blog?

The Shuddering Reality

God really hates the destruction of the poor.  Yet again, He talks about His people walking all over them, but this chapter’s different, in that God’s had enough.  “I will not overlook their sins anymore” (Amos 8:2).  It’s not just talk this time; He’s showing Israel there are consequences for their disobedience.  “The whole land will shake because of it”, and its people will mourn for their dead (Amos 8:8).

 

When God talks about the sun going down at noon and the earth being darkened, like a time of crying for the death of an only son (Amos 8:9-10), I can’t help but think of Jesus’ crucifixion day.  Yes, the shuddering reality is that our wrongdoing displeases God, but the marvellous truth is that Jesus took our punishment when He died on that cross – when the sky was darkened for three hours.

 

Here in Amos 8 though, God’s talking not only about a physical darkness, but a spiritual one.  “The Lord God says:  ‘The days are coming when I will cause a time of hunger in the land.  The people will not be hungry for bread or thirsty for water, but they will be hungry for words from the Lord.  They will wander from the Mediterranean Sea to the Dead Sea, from the north to the east.  They will search for the word of the Lord, but they won’t find it’” (Amos 8:11-12).  After this was written and before Jesus’ birth, there were apparently four hundred years when God didn’t speak through any prophet – the silent four hundred years, I’ve heard them called, and perhaps we’ll experience another time like that before Jesus returns.  So what to take away from this?  Well, I’m reminded of a phrase in Isaiah 55:6, which simply says:  “Seek the Lord while he may be found”.  If there’s something inside you that longs for God, reach out for Him with all your heart; I know you’ll find Him.

Persecution for his Faith

We see in this chapter an all-too-familiar thing:  Someone doesn’t like what Amos says about the king’s family being attacked, so he meets with the king and falsely accuses Amos of making evil plans (Amos 7:8-10).  Then he confronts Amos and tries to get him out of the picture. “Seer, go back right now to Judah.  Do your prophesying and earn your living there, but don’t prophesy anymore here at Bethel” (Amos 7:12-13).

 

How does Amos respond?  Is he intimidated?  We’re not told how he feels, but he responds by stating the call God’s placed on his life, and being faithful to it. “I do not make my living as a prophet, nor am I a member of a group of prophets.  I make my living as a shepherd, and I take care of sycamore trees.  But the Lord took me away from tending the flock and said to me, ‘Go, prophesy to my people Israel.’  So listen to the Lord’s word” (Amos 7:14-16).

 

Sadly, we see this persecution regularly all over the globe.  In fact, we’re even promised that anyone who wants to live as a Christian will be persecuted (2 Timothy 3:12).  It happens to people in North Korea, stuck in prison camps because they or a member of their family chose to be a Christian, and it happens on a smaller scale – people mocking or showing anger at the way someone lives their life.  How will you respond when it happens to you?

 

Jesus and Paul give us some helpful tips.  “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matthew 5:11-12).  “But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven.  He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous” (Matthew 5:44-45).  “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse” (Romans 12:14).

 

So, will you have confidence in God’s call on your life, and be faithful to it?