Why Paul Probably Wouldn’t Sing “Oceans”

“They also know I was there when Stephen, your witness, was killed. I stood there agreeing and holding the coats of those who were killing him!” (Acts 22:20).

I was singing on the worship-team at church this morning, and we sang the song “Oceans”. I looked at the words last night and felt uneasy about them, but I went along and sang some of them. I felt peace as we prayed before the meeting and that God wanted me there, but:
“In oceans deep my faith will stand;
“I’ll keep my eyes above the waves” – it seems a bit boastful and self-focused to me. I’d rather say that when I’m out of my depth, I’ll trust God to complete His work in me, and I’ll call on His name to keep my eyes above the waves (because I haven’t always done a very good job of it myself).

And then my pastor got ready to preach and someone read the verse above. I had never noticed before that Paul publicly confessed his part in Stephen’s death. My pastor went on to talk about how Jesus had utterly transformed him, and how Paul had completely changed his belief-system. It reminded me of Abby Johnson, the former director of an abortion clinic who’s now pro-life, swapping from one side of the fence to the other. The ridicule they must have had to endure from people who were once close friends.

I don’t think Paul would have sung a song like “Oceans”. There are lots of things I admire about Paul – his passion; his commitment; his willingness to confront wrongdoing, but I’m also impressed with how humble he is. He doesn’t hesitate to say: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the worst” (1 Timothy 1:15). He knows that of himself, he’s totally unworthy of anything God could give him. He’s absolutely missed the mark. He’s nothing, and yet God loves him completely.

And it’s the same with me. If I lived every day according to my old nature, I would be an angeraholic, and yet God called me to something better.

“God began doing a good work in you, and I am sure He will continue it until it is finished” (Philippians 1:6).

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Discovering Your Spouse and Yourself: “Romancing Your Better Half” Book-Review

“Romancing Your Better Half” is an odd title for this book; you would expect it to advocate putting your other half’s needs before your own, when in fact the recurring theme is: “You can’t love someone else until you love yourself.” If you’re anything like me, when you pick up this book, you might feel it starts slowly or that the author generalises too much: Men like this; women prefer that, but in some instances, this is helpful. I found it interesting to read (in chapter 7) about our different ways of dealing with conflict. Author Rick Johnson has been married for over thirty years, so at least you know he’s speaking from his experience of a lasting relationship that works.

As an unmarried woman, I wasn’t sure how much of this would apply to me. I think it could be extremely beneficial for courting or engaged couples as well as marrieds, but there’s also advice in there that could help anyone in their friendships or family-relationships with those of the opposite sex. At first, I didn’t expect to be recommending this book, but I think it is probably one I’ll go back and reread.

My One Word for 2015

Do you make new-year’s resolutions? The people at OneWord365 pick a single word to focus on throughout the year. This can feel like it’s me setting the agenda rather than God, but this year, I was reading a post on (in)Courage about the topic. The author wrote about her word, and it lodged itself in my heart. I hope she won’t mind me sharing it because I really feel it would be a good one for me this year.

And the word is?

SAVOUR.

The Bible says: “No matter how many promises God has made, they are yes in Christ” (2 Corinthians 1:20). I believe the Bible, so I struggle when I’ve prayed and haven’t seen some of the yeses. I find I can get frustrated and angry at God, instead of trusting in Him fully. I don’t say I always get angry, but sometimes I do, and I want to do more savouring. Whatever my circumstances, I want to keep finding good in the ordinary and appreciating what God’s given me. Here are some of the things I want to savour this year –

Scripture: I’ve decided to read the Bible from cover to cover this year. I did it once about 10 years ago and thought it was about time to do it again. I made a plan for the year, working out what to read when, and so far I’m managing it. If you’re interested in me sharing my Bible plan with you, leave a note in the comments.

Almighty God: This links with what I wrote in my last post about being grateful for the time I spend with God, and appreciating the things He does for me.

Volunteering: In 2014, I stopped working at an organisation I had volunteered with for a long time. I’m grateful for the years I had with them and want to savour the voluntary work I still do.

Others: I don’t enjoy being in large groups; I’m much more a one-to-one person, and moments spent with loved ones are very special. God so loved the world that He sent Jesus, so if I’ve got no time for people, what kind of a Christian am I? I want God to help me savour the time I spend with other people, and give the best of myself when I’m with them.

Unusual: I’ve discovered (this could be a good or a bad thing) that I thrive on a bit of excitement – some things to look forward to, and 2015 promises a few of those. I’ve booked my first holiday in 5 years. I’m looking forward to attending a friend’s wedding, and meeting Crystal and her family for the first time (my American friends who are stationed in the UK).

Reading: I can’t speak highly enough of Kindle for iPhone; I only wish I’d got my iPhone sooner. My aim is to read 20 books this year, but hopefully I’ll exceed that.

Scripture, Almighty God, Volunteering, Others, Unusual, Reading.

SAVOUR.

Are you new to the idea of one word to focus on for the year? What would yours be?

An Elizabeth Barrett Browning Quote

“I love you not only for what you are, but for what I am when I am with you.” What a beautiful quote.

As I thought about it, I challenged myself. Can I say that about God? “I love You not only for who You are, but for who I am when I’m with You?” If I love God and put Him first, I ought to be able to. The truth is that I often magnify my shortcomings when I’m with God in private, and when I’m with Him in a church-setting, the effort of having to mix with so many people at once is probably on my mind more than intimacy with God, but I decided this challenge would lead to a much happier life, so would you like to join me?

Let’s be filled with gratitude for the time we spend with God. Let’s smile when we hear Him speak into our hearts. Let’s want to bless Him and be always on the look-out for ways to praise Him. Let’s savour moments with Him and remember them for years to come, writing down important things He says and going back to reread them. Let’s truly say to God: “I love You not only for who You are, but for who I am when I am with You.”

A Story That’s Stuck

I’ve been having a chat with a friend on Facebook today that ended up being about tithing. It reminded me of a story I read years ago that’s always stayed with me. I couldn’t find it anywhere online, so thought I’d blog it. I hope I’m not breaking some copyright law! It came from “Daily Walk with God” by Herman W. Gockel, and it went something like this:

A man earned £10 a week. He gladly tithed his income, giving £1 a week to the church.

He advanced up the career-ladder, gaining several promotions, until one day he turned up at his pastor’s office. “What seems to be the problem?” his pastor asked.

“Well, you see, it’s my tithing. I can no longer afford it. I now earn £10,000 a week and frankly, it’s too much!”

After a pause, the pastor looked at him and said quietly: “We could always pray and ask God to reduce your income to £10 a week.”

Makes me want to thank God for the money in my bank.

Living Generously: “Go Into all the World” Book-Review

Happy new year to my lovely readers. Praying for God to bless you with His peace and joy in 2015. Last January I pointed you to a very good book, and this year I’m doing the same.

As soon as I heard there was a book coming out by a man who’d sponsored 50 kids, I was excited to read it. I’m in a group for Compassion-sponsors on Facebook, so I kept up-to-date with the book’s progress, and David very kindly sent me an advanced copy in exchange for a review on my blog.

As a Compassion-sponsor who already knows about their 3 main programmes – for mothers and babies, for children being sponsored and for students, I found the long and detailed explanation at the beginning slow-going. If you’re a long-time sponsor like me, you might want to flip the first 30 pages and get straight to David’s stories. Once you do, it’s difficult to put this book down.

One standout for me was that not all the stories are stereotypical. When I read about a house in Bolivia with running water, a cooker and a TV, I wondered whether it ever crossed David’s mind to stop his sponsorship, but when I consider there are only 2 stories like this out of more than 30 visits, I realise how important sponsorship is. I am impressed that he included these details instead of trying to paint an unrealistic picture.

David’s character shines through the pages of this book. You might imagine someone who sponsors 54 kids on a teacher’s salary, visits 31 of them in 12 countries and then writes about it to be arrogant or prideful, so I really enjoyed reading the section on ‘Divine economy’ where he makes a point of saying: “Everything I have and am comes from God.”

I had intended to highlight my favourite story, but I can’t choose just one. I’ve heard about the impact letters had on a translator in Colombia. I’ve admired the attitude of Olga’s mother, and I’ve loved the way David related to Katherine’s family – commanding such respect from them that both parents confided in him and then, when he had to finance his own volunteering, thoughtfully finding Katherine new sponsors who could be role-models for them.

If you love children, and if you love Compassion, I think you’ll find this book very precious. It could be especially beneficial to someone who doesn’t use the Internet and won’t have read many accounts of sponsor-visits before. I’ve certainly been inspired and am delighted to own a copy.