Men of One Accord

 He became a baby,

born in a stable of Bethlehem,

born from a virgin,

wrapped in rags,

laid in a manger,

so we could love Him

Face to Face.

He was proclaimed by angels,

worshiped by shepherds,

designated with a star,

sought by eastern wise men,

hunted by Herod,

so we could love Him

Face to Face.

Driven into Egypt,

returns to Nazareth,

was strong in the Spirit,

and filled with wisdom,

Abba’s grace was upon Him,

He amazed the scholars,

worked with His hands,

 was only a son of a carpenter,

so we could love Him

Face to Face.

He was baptized in the Jordan,

heaven’s regal gates opened,

 like a dove as the Spirit descended,

Abba’s royal thunder exclaimed,

I AM well pleased!

This is My Son,

led into the wilderness,

hungry and thirsty

tested and tempted,

He sinned not,

so we could love Him

Face to Face.

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Giving Is … Offering Yourself

Thanks for joining me for this “It’s About Giving” series, and I want to say a big thank-you to Compassion Bloggers for the idea.  I’ve really enjoyed thinking what I associate with giving and what we can learn from the Bible about it; I hope you have too.  This will probably be the last blog I write for 2012, so thank you very much for reading this year.

We had communion at church today.  I wasn’t expecting to, and I love communion, so it was a nice surprise.  Jesus tells us to take communion in remembrance of Him, and this time of year, I’m remembering the beginning of His earthly life more than the end of it.  As the bread was passed around, “In the Bleak Mid-Winter” was played on the keyboard.  The verse that came to my mind, we missed out when we sang it later, but I’ll share it here:

Enough for Him, whom cherubim
Worship night and day,
A breast full of milk,
And a manger full of hay;
Enough for Him whom angels
Fall before,
The ox and ass and camel,
Which adore.

Angels adored Jesus that first Christmas; shepherds adored Him; wise men adored Him …  The writer of the carol obviously thinks, and I would agree, that even the animals adored Him.

I can’t say this thought is my own, but it’s from a sermon my friend preached a few years back.
Do you know that as well as gold to symbolise His kingship, frankincense to point to the fact He was God, and myrrh to signify His death, the wise men gave another very important gift?  Their worship.  “They entered the house and saw the child with His mother, Mary, and they bowed down and worshipped Him” (Matthew 2:11).  One of my favourite writers, Sharon Jaynes, says the sacrifice they made to go on their long journey to find Jesus was also a gift.

Giving is offering yourself.  So whether it’s the gift of a long journey or our adoration, let’s offer ourselves to Jesus in 2013 and beyond.  Are you with me?

Giving Is … Rescue

I’ve just started reading a 2-year devotional called God’s Story … for my Life.  I’m about 2 weeks into it at the moment and loving it.  I get an E-mail every day with a Bible-reading, then they give us something from that reading to think about.  If you’ve read the Bible awhile and some parts feel familiar, I’d really recommend this way of taking a fresh look.

We’re onto Genesis 13-14 at the moment, all about Abram (he wasn’t Abraham then), and his nephew Lot.  I’m sad to say that much of the time, Lot doesn’t get very favourable things written about him.  Because he was given a choice and took what appeared to be the best piece of land, he’s called greedy, and yet later in the Bible, Peter very clearly says he was an upright man, greatly troubled by the wickedness of those around him (2 Peter 2:7-9).

So as I read today’s verses, I focused not on Lot, but on Abram – his uncle:  When Abram heard that his nephew Lot had been captured, he mobilized the 318 trained men who had been born into his household.  Then he pursued Kedorlaomer’s army until he caught up with them at Dan. There he divided his men and attacked during the night.  Kedorlaomer’s army fled, but Abram chased them as far as Hobah, north of Damascus. Abram recovered all the goods that had been taken, and he brought back his nephew Lot with his possessions and all the women and other captives” (Genesis 14:14-16).

What impressed me was Abram’s willingness to rescue.  Even though his nephew had chosen the fertile land instead of leaving it for his uncle, Abram wasn’t bitter about that.  He didn’t think:  “Ah, well here he is, getting what was coming to him” – no, he went into the battle and rescued Lot.

Are we like that?  When we’re going through a dry season and not seeing any fruit from the way we live, when people aren’t looking at our lives and telling us they’d like to know this Jesus we follow, how ready are we to help those who appear to have everything materially, but their spirits aren’t alive?  Do we leave them to their own devices, or will we go into the battle and rescue them?  Prayer is a big part of that battle.  So is being ready to talk to them about Christ – not in a “Jesus is the answer, what’s the question” kind of way, but sensitively.  Respectfully.  Thoughtfully.  If you were faced with their situation, what would Jesus have to say about it, and how would that help you?

2012 – Year of New Beginnings

2012 has been a year of new things.  The first of them happened in March, when I started at a new church.  I’m so happy to be there, and I started singing as part of the worship-team in September.  I try to learn the songs beforehand, unless they pick new ones I haven’t managed to find.  🙂  On those days, I feel like others in the congregation would be more capable of standing at the mic than I am!  But it’s such fun and such a privilege to do it.

It was thanks to Sherry at church that I got involved with Open the Book – a national initiative, where teams of people go into primary school-assemblies and tell Bible-stories to the kids.  I did my first few assemblies last term and again, it really is great fun.  When you tell a story, hear the kids laugh and know you’re getting through to them, it’s an amazing feeling.

There’s a radio-programme that comes on UCB about lunchtime, and they’d sometimes play snippets from its presenter throughout the day.  I liked how he talked about life and brought God into the everyday, so I subscribed to his updates on Facebook.  In about July, he posted that a volunteer was having health-problems, and the organisation needed help typing these radio-programmes to go on their website.  I didn’t know what software they used or whether it would work with my speech programme, but I knew audiotyping was something I could do.  I wanted so much to help!  So I offered, and he said yes.  They send me an E-mail telling me what to type; I find the programmes on the Internet, copy them onto my computer, and off I go.  I really enjoy it.  As they’re in Australia and I’m in the UK, I thought all contact would be by E-mail.  I didn’t count on Joy, the lady who E-mails me, coming to the UK for her son’s wedding.  She visited me in September, bringing with her 3 of her friends.  I played a CD of one of my songs for them; Joy played the keyboard; we sang …  It was lovely, and something I never would have expected.

Another opportunity came through one of my favourite websites:  (In)Courage.  They were asking women to lead online groups of about 20, as a resource to help group-members in their walks with God.  I was accepted as an (In)Courager, and on 2 October, the Faith Without Borders group launched.  Over a couple of months, we studied “Unglued” by Lysa TerKeurst.  I enjoyed meeting Jess (my co-leader), our members, and others who led their online groups.  I hope to keep in-touch with some.  The only drawback to the (In)Courage group was that it was exclusively for women.  I’m thinking of setting up my own book-study group in 2013, which could be open to both men and women.  Watch this space!

And now, the best new opportunity of all:  Second to writing to my Compassion-kids, this is the job I take most pleasure in.  From August 2012, I’ve been secretary of my local Trussell Trust food bank.  I went to a meeting before the committee was formed, where children’s centres gave a presentation and I was surprised at the genuine need there was here.  We should be open for business in January, and when we had our last meeting of 2012, things really seemed to be coming together.  I’m very excited about it.

So that’s my news from 2012.  Thanks if you’ve sent me yours; I’ve loved reading it.  Are you looking forward to anything in 2013?

Profound

Status

“We gave bread to the poor, but we did not ask sufficiently why the poor had no bread” – Bishop Kallistos Ware.  I love this quote.  In 2013, let’s not just throw food or money at the problem of poverty; let’s play our part in stamping out the root cause.  Compassion do what they can to educate the children in their centres and get them into employment, to break the cycle of poverty.  Trussell Trust food banks give food for so long, but also talk to clients and try to help them not to become dependent on a food bank.  Those are just two of the organisations you could partner with.  Will you do your bit?

Giving Is … No Reluctance

I don’t like dried fruit much, but my exceptions are mince pies and Welsh cakes.  I recently came across some delicious mince pies!  I decided to buy 2 dozen – 12 for me and 12 for church.  Friends and I’ve shared these mince pies, to the point where I only have a quarter of mine left.  I contemplated only giving the church 1 packet.  They’d have donations from other people as well, wouldn’t they?  But as I thought that, suddenly the Bible-story of Ananias and Sapphira came to my mind:

 

“Ananias and his wife Sapphira also sold a piece of property.  But they agreed to cheat and keep some of the money for themselves.

 

“So when Ananias took the rest of the money to the apostles, Peter said, ‘Why has Satan made you keep back some of the money from the sale of the property?  Why have you lied to the Holy Spirit?’

 

“Three hours later Sapphira came in, but she did not know what had happened to her husband.  Peter asked her, ‘Tell me, did you sell the property for this amount?’

 

“’Yes,’ she answered, ‘that’s the amount.’

 

“Then Peter said, ‘Why did the two of you agree to test the Lord’s Spirit?  The men who buried Ananias are by the door, and they will carry you out!’  At once she fell at Peter’s feet and died” (Acts 5:1-3, 7-10).

 

They could have given God however much they wanted from the sale of that house.  Others had sold property specifically so the money could help those in need.  No doubt this looked impressive.  Maybe Ananias and Sapphira wanted the kudos that went with that kind of giving, but they were reluctant to part with it all, so they kept some back for themselves and lied about it, and died for their wilful deception.

 

Giving is no reluctance, and I knew I didn’t want to show any.  These mince pies are the best shop-bought mince pies I’ve ever tasted, and why shouldn’t my church have the best?

Giving Is … T I M E

Do you remember my post at the end of 2011?  I wrote about 4 of my favourite days, and most involved spending time with friends.  Friends are so important, aren’t they?  Maybe they’re thoughtful and encouraging; maybe they have a sense of humour and make you happy; maybe some inspire you to be courageous like never before.

 

I delivered a Christmas card once, to friends round the corner from where I lived.  I sat on the sofa; chatted to them, then I said:  “I’d better go.”

 

My friend said:  “Come in the kitchen and talk to me while I get tea.”

 

As she finished preparing tea, more visitors arrived.  When they left, I stood up to leave too.  Her husband said:  “Sarah, you’re stood up.  You can stay and have something to eat if you want.”  A card-delivery that could have taken 5 minutes took 6 hours!

 

Giving is time, and their unhurried hospitality really blessed me that Saturday 2 days before Christmas, but do you know Jesus is blessed in the same way when we spend time with Him?  Why else would He think Mary’s sitting at His feet was better than Martha’s slaving away in the kitchen (Luke 10:38-42)?  He was on His way to Jerusalem, where eventually all His friends would desert Him, and here was someone taking the time to sit at His feet.  He loved it, and He loves us.  Like our friends, Jesus has encouragement for us, and if there’s anyone who can really inspire courage in you, it’s Him.  Will you take a few minutes out of your days, particularly in this busy season, to spend time with the Friend whose birth we’re remembering?

Great Honour

Do you remember back in the summer, I wrote a couple of posts about “The Unquenchable Worshipper”?  If you like, you can read them here and here.  I said I might not blog about every chapter – well, I put it down for a while and have just gone back to it, so thought I’d write about chapter 6.

 

Matt talks about unstoppable worshippers, and some of his examples, I hadn’t heard before.  I’d like to read more about them, so I’m going to look in the notes to see what books they came out of, but here are 3 that impressed me.

 

1.  Rachel.  With the recent tragedy in Connecticut, this story touched me particularly.  It happened back in 1999, in a US high school, that 2 students went in with guns.  Knowing Rachel was a Christian, they shot her 3 times, then they asked whether she believed in God.  She said yes; they told her to ‘Go be with Him’; another shot was fired.  She put God’s honour before her own survival.  Would we do the same?

 

2.  Stephen:  He was the first Christian killed for his faith.  Before he died, he saw Jesus standing at the right hand of God (Acts 7:55).  Every other time we hear about Jesus at God’s right hand, He’s sitting, but this time, He’s standing.  Matt points us to Smith Wigglesworth’s explanation of this – that Jesus is on His feet cheering Stephen on, for honouring Him in his difficulty.

 

3.  Jesus Himself, when He shared that Passover meal with His disciples, just before His arrest.  Apparently several hymns are sung at a Jewish Passover, the last of which is Psalm 136.  So when the Bible tells us that after they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives (Mark 14:26), it’s very likely they were singing Psalm 136.  Knowing that Judas’ betrayal and His death on the cross were imminent, Jesus could still sing a Psalm all about giving thanks to God, who is good, and whose love endures forever.  Wow!

 

Makes you think, doesn’t it?