Enmity

From the very beginning of His life, people were at odds with Jesus. “At this they exclaimed, ‘Now we know that You are demon-possessed! Abraham died and so did the prophets, yet You say that whoever obeys Your word will never taste death. Are You greater than our father Abraham? He died, and so did the prophets. Who do You think You are?’

“Jesus replied, ‘If I glorify Myself, My glory means nothing. My Father, whom you claim as your God, is the One who glorifies Me. Though you do not know Him, I know Him. If I said I did not, I would be a liar like you, but I do know Him and obey His word. Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing My day; he saw it and was glad.’

“‘You are not yet fifty years old,’ they said to Him, ‘and You have seen Abraham!’

“‘Very truly I tell you,’ Jesus answered, ‘before Abraham was born, I am!’ At this, they picked up stones to stone Him, but Jesus hid Himself, slipping away from the temple grounds” (John 8:52-59). This passage highlights the types of persecution Jesus endured.

First, He was falsely accused.

Read the rest at Worship Unlimited Ministries.

Women and the Love-Languages: Acts of Service

The Biblical story of Ruth is quite well-known. Ruth met her husband because her in-laws left their homeland in a time of famine, and moved to her home country of Moab. All the men of the house subsequently died and Ruth’s mother-in-law, Naomi, decided to return home. Not only did Ruth go with her, she devoted herself to caring for her. Naomi had left God’s land and moved to Moab. She came back drained and miserable, feeling that God was against her, so Ruth took the initiative and went to gather grain (Ruth 2:1-12). She found herself in a field belonging to one of Naomi’s relatives, whose name was Boaz, and he said to Ruth: “I know about all the help you have given your mother-in-law after your husband died. You left your father and mother and your own country to come to a nation where you did not know anyone. May the Lord reward you for all you have done. May your wages be paid in full by the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come for shelter”. Ruth’s decision to prioritise God and serve Naomi affected her whole life. Ultimately it secured her place in the family of Jesus Christ, as the great grandmother of King David.

My friend Tasha follows her example. She’s a hero. Obviously in these times things have changed, but for a couple of years, she’s come here for two hours every week and done whatever I asked her to do. If I wanted to try out a new gadget, she read the instructions. If I needed help with a new recipe, we cooked together. If I chose to walk on the hills, or somewhere that would be difficult with my cane, she was my guide. It’s been a lot of fun, and I’m a happier person because of her.

Who can you serve today? You might have to find different ways of serving at a time like this, but maybe you’ll be someone’s hero.

Temptation

Over the last few weeks, we’ve considered what Jesus gave up. Now let’s look at some of the things He suffered. Though He lived a blameless life, He did experience temptation. “Jesus fasted for forty days and nights. After this, He was very hungry. The devil came to Jesus to tempt Him, saying, ’If you are the Son of God, tell these rocks to become bread.’

“Jesus answered, ’It is written in the Scriptures, “A person lives not on bread alone, but by everything God says.”’

“Then the devil led Jesus to the holy city of Jerusalem and put Him on a high place of the Temple. The devil said, ’If you are the Son of God, jump down, because it is written in the Scriptures: “He has put His angels in charge of you. They will catch you in their hands so that you will not hit your foot on a rock.”’

“Jesus answered him, ’It also says in the Scriptures, “Do not test the Lord your God”’” (Matthew 4:2-7).

The key thing for us to remember is Jesus’ promise that no student is above his teacher (Matthew 10:24). If Jesus had to overcome temptation, so will we, and it’s not enough just to know our Bibles.

Read the rest at Worship Unlimited Ministries.

Women and the Love-Languages: Physical Touch

She may be unnamed in the Bible, but one woman knew the importance of touch better than anyone. She had a terrible health-problem and had been bleeding for twelve years. Mark is the gospel-writer who goes into most detail about her situation (Mark 5:24-34). Having suffered under several doctors, she was getting worse rather than better. When she heard about Jesus, she came up behind Him in the crowd. Ignoring the risk of humiliation and the fear that could have plagued her, she reached out to touch Jesus because she thought: “If I can just touch His clothes, I will be healed”.

In this woman’s case, touch brought her physical healing, but it can also heal the emotions. I think of my friend Carol. At times when I can’t articulate how I’m feeling, a hug from Carol seems to spread not only her love, but God’s peace and love too. Not everyone is comfortable with physical touch and not every culture welcomes it, but for me, it goes very deep. When given by a friend or family-member, it reassures me I’m accepted and loved.

Self

So much has been written about this, but while we’re on the subject of what Jesus gave up, I must include the most important gift: Himself. “Then Jesus went with His followers to a place called Gethsemane. He said to them, ‘Sit here while I go over there and pray.’ He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee with Him, and He began to be very sad and troubled. He said to them, ’My heart is full of sorrow, to the point of death. Stay here and watch with Me.’ After walking a little farther away from them, Jesus fell to the ground and prayed, ’My Father, if it is possible, do not give Me this cup of suffering. But do what You want, not what I want.’ Then Jesus went back to His followers and found them asleep. He said to Peter, ’You men could not stay awake with Me for one hour? Stay awake and pray for strength against temptation. The spirit wants to do what is right, but the body is weak.’ Then Jesus went away a second time and prayed, ’My Father, if it is not possible for this painful thing to be taken from Me, and if I must do it, I pray that what You want will be done’” (Matthew 26:36-42).

Have you ever been frightened, and tried to take charge of a situation to make it go your way? Jesus lived His entire life knowing He couldn’t seize control. He did nothing on His own, but only what He saw the Father doing (John 5:19). Nowhere is this more evident than in the garden at Gethsemane.

Read the rest at Worship Unlimited Ministries.

Women and the Love-Languages: Quality Time

Let’s take ourselves back to the early church. Jesus has died and risen; the Holy Spirit has empowered His followers to start talking about the difference He’s made in their lives, and people are hearing them. A Jew called Apollos learnt about Jesus and eagerly spoke about Him, but the only baptism he knew was that of John the Baptist – Jesus’ forerunner. John’s teaching had prepared him for Christ’s coming, but he hadn’t been baptised (immersed) into Christ, so Priscilla and her husband Aquila “took him to their home and helped him better understand the way of God” (Acts 18:26). This resulted in Apollos travelling to southern Greece and being a great help to believers there.

If you’re ministering as part of a couple, Priscilla and Aquila could be your example. They certainly remind me of some friends of mine, Kate and Neil, who spent quality time with me and helped me better understand the way of God. They’re such special people. They seem to be on the go virtually from the moment they wake up till their heads touch the pillows and wherever they are, they brighten up their community. Could you be that supportive presence to someone else, investing in them to meet their need and help them grow?

Almightiness

In these weeks of Lent, the church thinks of Jesus’ life, given for us. He didn’t cling to equality with God, and nor did He cling to His almightiness. “Coming to His home town, He began teaching the people in their synagogue, and they were amazed. ‘Where did this man get this wisdom and these miraculous powers?’ they asked. ‘Isn’t this the carpenter’s son? Isn’t His mother’s name Mary, and aren’t His brothers James, Joseph, Simon and Judas? Aren’t all His sisters with us? Where then did this man get all these things?’ And they took offence at Him.

“But Jesus said to them, ‘A prophet is not without honour except in his own town and in his own home.’ And He did not do many miracles there because of their lack of faith” (Matthew 13:54-58).

I’ve been blind from birth and I’ve had hearing-aids in the last couple of years. Disability can make you feel restricted – that you can’t live the life you’d choose to otherwise. I wrote a song once where I said to Jesus: “Whatever I go through, You’ve already been there”, and reading these verses, I realise Jesus was restricted.

Read the rest at Worship Unlimited Ministries.

Women and the Love-Languages: Words of Affirmation

Have you read “The Five Love-Languages” by Gary Chapman? It would probably be in my top five favourite books because of the impact it’s had on me. Today, on International Women’s Day, I want to start a series on some women in the Bible (and some of the women in my life) who’ve shown these five different facets of love.

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David was chosen to be king over Israel long before he actually reigned. His predecessor (King Saul) had disobeyed God and been rejected by Him, so there was an in-between stage. Saul was still alive and therefore still king, but David was avidly following God, knowing he would be next. It’s during this time that we meet Nabal and his wife Abigail. David appeals to Nabal’s generosity, since his men have never harmed or stolen from any of Nabal’s shepherds, but Nabal doesn’t recognise David as an important man. Out of all his wealth, he gives him nothing. When Abigail hears about this, she hastens to right the wrong (1 Samuel 25:18-35). She brings the gift her husband failed to give, and speaks words of blessing over David. “The Lord will certainly let your family have many kings, because you fight His battles. As long as you live, may you do nothing bad. Someone might chase you to kill you, but the Lord your God will keep you alive. He will throw away your enemies’ lives as He would throw a stone from a sling. The Lord will keep all His promises of good things for you. He will make you leader over Israel.” David heeds those words and thanks to her dedication, many lives are spared.

My friend Alex speaks encouraging words over my life. For example, if I think I’m not writing enough songs, she’ll say: “Maybe God wants you to use what you’ve got.” Her timely words lift my spirit. Can you lift someone’s spirit with your life-affirming words today?

Equality with God

Today is the first Tuesday in Lent – a season where the church spends forty days (or more, if you count Sundays) reflecting on all that Jesus went through for us. Much like Advent prepares us to celebrate Christmas, Lent takes us towards Easter when we remember Jesus’ death on a cross and God raising Him from the dead. Some people use this time to abstain from something, in order to identify with Jesus’ disciplined lifestyle.

Can you think of anything Jesus gave up that sticks out to you? The first on my list is equality with God.

Read the rest at Worship Unlimited Ministries and if you like the website, give my friend Alex some support. Every Wednesday, her Internet radio-show (broadcast on several stations) has over twenty regular listeners. She compiles the playlist; prays for those who send in prayer-requests; speaks words to comfort and inspire … Doesn’t that sound a bit like leading a church meeting? For three hours every week, she’s in front of an international audience, and anyone is welcome. Amazing really, so why not encourage her?