How Special is Israel

Reading the words to “O Come, O Come, Immanuel” today has brought home how special the nation of Israel is to God. It’s really sad that there seems to be such a hatred of Israel in the world. Let’s consider some parts of the carol:

“O come, Thou rod of Jesse, free
Thine own from Satan’s tyranny
.” Who was Jesse? The father of King David; which reminds me that first and foremost, Israel was a family. God changed Abram’s name to Abraham, and made him a promise that his descendants would take possession of the land. Abraham’s grandson Jacob’s name was later changed to Israel, which is how the nation began. Israel had twelve sons. Each of them has a story, but for the sake of this post, one was Levi and another Judah. From Levi’s family came the famous Moses. As the carol says later:

“O come, o come, Thou LORD of might
Who, to Thy tribes on Sinai’s heights
In ancient times didst give the Law
In cloud, and majesty and awe
.” After Moses led the Israelites out of their slavery in Egypt, God gave him the Ten Commandments on Mount Sinai.

Israel’s story continued. They eventually wanted to be like the nations around them and have a king. God was their King and warned them against this. But they got their way, even if it did mean trouble in the long run. King Saul came first, then King David (from the family of Judah), and then David’s son – Solomon. In Solomon’s time, the big split happened. Israel and Judah became separate – Israel the northern and Judah the southern kingdom. With the reigns of all their future kings, they gradually drifted further and further from God, until He sent them away from their land and into exile. While they did eventually return, there was no king after that. Instead, Israel waited for her Messiah:

“O come, o come, Immanuel
And rescue captive Israel,
Who mourns in lonely exile here,
Until the Son of God appears:
Rejoice, rejoice! Immanuel
” – and I like to change the last bit of the chorus; not Immanuel shall, but Immanuel has come to thee, o Israel. Jesus has come as Israel’s Messiah; the problem is that many of the Jews don’t recognise Him, but He is all those things mentioned in the carol: The Son of God; a rod from Jesse’s family; the Lord of might; the Key of David; Immanuel (God with us).

Israel’s so special to God that He sent His Son to be their Messiah, and that’s what we celebrate at Christmas.

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November News

I like Emily Freeman’s idea of highlighting things we’ve discovered during the month, so these are some of mine for November.

Song: I’ve always loved “Joseph’s Song” by Michael Card, but haven’t found a similar one from Mary’s point-of-view that grabbed me emotionally … until this year. On a Christmas radio-station, I heard Francesca Battistelli’s “You’re Here”, and the words are lovely. If I took part in a musical nativity, I’d love to sing that.

Books: I’ve been getting into Song of Solomon lately – a book in the Bible about King Solomon’s marriage to a peasant woman, which makes me think of the church – the bride of King Jesus. Two books about the song have really helped my understanding of it. I heard about Dee Brestin’s “He Calls you Beautiful” in a Bible Gateway Email and knew straightaway I wanted to read it. It looks at the bride and takes her love in stages: The euphoric first-love; the wedding; the honeymoon … It’s excellent and well worth the money. In the book, Dee talks about James Hudson-Taylor – a man I had heard of at church, who founded a missionary organisation in China in the 1800s. She said Hudson-Taylor had only written one book – and yes, it’s a book on the Song of Solomon. “Intimacy with Jesus” is only short, with six sections and a study guide at the back, but it’s very good. I’ve read a section per day.

Podcast: This month one of my favourite authors, Annie Downs, interviewed Mark Lee – the guitarist from Third Day. You might remember I reviewed his book here awhile back. From reading the book I was impressed with his personality, and he came across just as well talking to Annie. This could also come under ‘Books’ because they discussed several. I’ve never read anything by Madeleine L’Engle, but their conversation made me want to read some of her memoirs, particularly the Genesis Trilogy, where she intersperses her own life-experiences with stories from the book of Genesis.

Films: You get Internet radio-stations now that play Christmas music all year round. I wish there was a TV-channel that did the same with Christmas movies, because I love them. I know; they’re very predictable. As someone said on Facebook, you get a love twist, some sort of misunderstanding and a happy ending, but they make me smile. My favourite of the modern films is still “The Twelve Trees of Christmas”, which from the title doesn’t sound at all like the kind of film I would enjoy, but it’s amazing. “Christmas in the City” is another sweet one I like to watch.

Quote: In my previous post, I mentioned a friend’s dad. Sadly, he had another setback with his health and is no longer on this earth. Jeff’s special and will be very much-missed. I’m glad for him that he’s with Jesus. I don’t understand why he had to go so soon, but a tweet from Lysa TerKeurst this last week has stuck with me. It said this: “We don’t have to have all the answers; we just have to stay connected to the One who does.”

As Advent and Christmas approach, let’s keep making that connection with Jesus, whose birth we’re remembering; who came into the world to show us what love looked like, and to give us hope of a future with Him.

Tips on Being Grateful

An author who really encourages me, Holley Gerth, wrote a blog-post about preparing our hearts for Thanksgiving. I know this time of year leads up to Thanksgiving in America and it’s not really celebrated here in the UK, but gratitude is important to me as a Christian, so I guess her advice could be applicable all year round. I thought I’d write down her questions with my answers:

1. Who in your life are you thankful for? Think of one person.
Colin came immediately to mind, which won’t be any surprise to those who know me!

2. What is a memory that brings you joy? Look back and see God’s goodness in it.
There were 3 memories I thought of straightaway: The afternoon I spent with Colin’s sister and brother-in-law (they flew over from Spain and I was honoured that rather than spend time exclusively with his family, Colin invited me over to meet them), when I met Damon Hill (I can see how good God was in that I had the money to buy the tickets, and Mum drove us; getting there by train would have been tricky and would have meant paying for an overnight stay), and the time I met Brian May (I wasn’t a Christian then, but God shines out through the kindness of Brian and of my mum, who arranged it as an 18th-birthday present).

3. How have you seen God answer your prayers this year?
God’s put me back in-touch with a friend after several years. I’ve missed her and I’m happy we’ve reconnected. I’ve also prayed for another friend’s dad whose health hasn’t been good, and it’s great to hear his kidneys are functioning and his blood-results are normalising.

4. When do you feel joy? Pay extra attention to one happy little moment in your day.
I feel the most joy on Fridays when lunching at a local café, or when talking over the phone with friends I can’t see face-to-face. It’s a Friday as I write, and today I’m due to do both.

5. Where can you see God’s hand in your life? Consider one way He is taking care of you.
I’m so thankful that with the changeover in benefits, I haven’t ended up worse-off, but better-off! I feel like Paul, who said to the church at Philippi: “I know what it is to have plenty” (Philippians 4:12).

6. Why did Jesus come for us? Revisit His extraordinary love.
Jesus came because every one of us falls short of God’s awesome glory. Without Jesus choosing to take our imperfections on Himself, we wouldn’t be able to enjoy closeness with God, and I couldn’t have just answered all those questions.

7. Give thanks for all of the above.

God’s Perfect Plan will blow your mind!

500I want to show you that you were born into one of the most incredible seasons in global history. I also want to show you how to release the blessing God has for you in this remarkable era. Hold on to your hat….. this may blow your mind a little!

Numbers are incredibly important in the Bible.

Three is the number of resurrection. Seven The number of perfection or completion. Forty is a powerful number of transition in the Bible.  God does a lot of stuff in 40’s!

The Number 500

Did you know the number 500 is important too? And most importantly, the number 500 affects you today, if you live within a few decades of 2017.

Throughout known biblical history, approximately every 500 years some radical change takes place between God and how He interacts with mankind. Let me take you back 8 groups of 500 to show you that…

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More from James Stuart Bell: “Life-Changing Miracles” Book-Review

I’m grateful to Bethany House for giving me a review copy of this book – another offering from James Stuart Bell. His compilations of stories are always encouraging. I particularly liked this one because it isn’t a constant stream of health-problems and God coming in at the eleventh hour to heal people. Instead there are a great variety of modern-day miracles, from God directing a lifeguard to Him supernaturally stopping the rain.

“Life-Changing Miracles” is a book full of different people and their experiences with God. On the whole, I’d recommend it.

The Bible – Chapter and Verse

I was reading a devotional today about how Ezra was someone who determined to study God’s Law, to obey it, and to teach it (Ezra 7:10). Are you the same? And do chapter and verse-numbers help or hinder your study? I knew they weren’t part of the Bible until later on, so for instance, I’ve often wondered why John 7 has a verse 53. Why isn’t it the beginning of chapter 8? There’s a post on Bible Gateway I want to share with you, about where chapter and verse-numbers came from. It tells you how to go onto Bible Gateway, take them out and see how it affects your reading. If you try this, I’d be interested to know how you get on.

A Story of Two Cultures: “All Saints” Book-Review

When people have asked me: “What’s the book about?” I’ve said: “It’s about a struggling church who helped refugees from Burma”, except now that I’ve read it, I realise I got it completely upside-down. Imagine your church is on the point of closing, you’ve prayed for pews to be full and that you might have an impact in the community, and suddenly a group of refugees double the size of your congregation come looking for a church to call home. This is a story of two cultures coming together. There are some of the issues you might expect, and some adjustments that surprised me. So many times, God’s hand in the situation is obvious – His keen interest in everything, down to the smallest detail.

I think you’ll appreciate “All Saints” if you care about social justice and communities working together. You don’t have to be a Christian to enjoy it. In fact, a man who’d made no commitment to Christ read a news-article about them and was so impressed, he turned their story into a film while this book was being written. I wish it was in cinemas here in the UK. It sounds like it would be very inspiring.

Reviewing “Hurt Road”, by the Guitarist from Third Day

Apparently Third Day have 13 albums. I’ve really only heard a few of their songs, but I love the lead singer’s voice and that’s why I signed up to review “Hurt Road” by their guitarist, Mark Lee. In the book, he talks about the Behind the Music series he would watch, to see the stories behind various rock bands, and that’s what this book is – the story behind Mark Lee and how he got to where he is now.

“Hurt Road” is the best book I’ve read in months. It really gripped me. The chapters are short and it’s very personal. I loved the parts about his family, his faith, and the founding of Third Day. I feel very privileged to have already read it because I just looked on Amazon, and it’s not released here in the UK until September 5th.

Books It’s Taking me Ages to Finish

Since about May or June, my Goodreads total has been stuck at 22 books, because there are some I’m in the middle of that just won’t go away!

“Meeting God at Every Turn”

I liked the sound of this and it’s not available on Kindle, so when I found I could borrow it in Braille, I was excited. A famous Christian author (Catherine Marshall) writing about lessons she learnt in life, including the loss of her husband and how she coped – I looked forward to it, but such a disappointment. Really heavy-going. You’d expect it to be a bit old-fashioned with her being a wife in the 1930s, but when she wrote each chapter, she should have imagined having somebody with her who could only stay five minutes!

“She Reads Truth”

Every chapter I’ve read of this has been good, but I’ve only read three so far. It’s not the sort of book where you wonder what’s coming next, and perhaps they could have made it that way. As it’s the stories of two women, starting when they were small and ordering the chapters chronologically might have helped.

“No Compromise”

I’m rereading the life-story of songwriter Keith Green along-with my American friends, but the chapters are lengthy. Voiceover on my phone reads my Kindle books at a fair speed, and I still have to set aside over an hour to get through a whole one. It’s a good book though, and there are things about it I don’t remember from first time around.

“Daily Reflections on the Names of God: A Devotional”

I really like this and would recommend it to any Christian, however long they’ve followed Jesus. The names are in English and Hebrew, with the author taking three days to focus on each one – how it relates to God, ourselves, and others. I wanted to do a name per day, so I’d get through it in four months as opposed to a year, but that really hasn’t worked. I try to follow the Deeper Waters Bible-reading plan too and it’s hard to keep up with both, so this has been put to one side.

* * *

I really hoped to finish these before moving on to anything else, but on Sunday I started yet another book. Any advice on how I can plough through them all?

Sharing the Adventure: My First-Ever Traveleyes Holiday

In short, Traveleyes take blind people on holiday, and those who can see pay less because they’re the ones who guide us around. A recent radio-programme featuring one of their trips was inspirational. I had been too nervous to attempt a holiday with them in the past, but this year, I booked onto my first one: Guernsey, Sark and Herm.

The information pack came 4 weeks prior to the trip with timings of ferries, fellow-travellers’ names, etc. For months I had envisaged returning to England and going home the same day, but the ferry wasn’t due in until 21:10, making it impossible to travel back by train. I struggled at that late stage to find somewhere to stay; nearly everywhere was full, except for one place, and that was all I needed.

Day 1 got off to a good start. The trains were on-time and I arrived at our hotel in Bournemouth, where the group met. Our tour manager (Liz) explained how it all worked. We each had a ‘Room partner’ to show us our hotel-rooms (everyone needs to know where to find the kettle and how to work the shower), and they’d also take us to breakfast/dinner. These stayed the same throughout the holiday, so I’m pleased to say I got on well with mine. During the day, we were always guided by a different person, allowing us to get to know everybody in the group (one guide commented that we had gelled really quickly).

There were 17 of us altogether – a lovely, varied group; the tour manager, 8 sighted, and 8 VIs (I’m not used to being called a VI, but I didn’t mind it, and it saved having to differentiate between blind and partially-sighted). Some were professionals; some unemployed; some retired … Considering the holidays are expensive if you’re visually-impaired, I assumed most would be in paid work and wondered if they’d look down on me because I wasn’t. I also wondered if I’d be competent enough. We were told in one of our first Emails the sighted guides were just that – guides; they weren’t there to be carers, cut up food, etc. I live on my own and manage fairly well, but some things are more difficult in unfamiliar surroundings. I hoped I’d get the help I needed … and everyone was very helpful. They’d pour for us when the big pots of tea/coffee came at breakfast, offer to debone a fish, or anything we needed. They even volunteered to pick the red chilies out of the curry that was making my eyes water, but I recovered from the initial shock and enjoyed it!

One tip we were given at the beginning was to say how we liked to be guided. I soon learnt how important this was! At the bottom of a flight of steep stairs, my guide told me: “Just follow the stairs up,” so instead of asking her to go in front, I did as she said – and ploughed straight into the edge of the metal door at the top! That gave me quite a headache, but after a good night’s sleep, I had recovered enough to join in the rest of the holiday.

This is one of those times I wish I could add photos/audio to my blog. I’m sorry you don’t get to see me paddle in the sea at Herm, or hear the firing of the gun at Castle Cornet. I wish I could introduce you to the one who never failed to make us laugh, the lady in her 90s who negotiated steps and steep hills or climbed up into a carriage without complaining, the oldest visually-impaired female cricketer … and those are just a few. I hadn’t expected to be so inspired by the people I met, or to have such a great time.

If you’re reading this and you’re sighted, Traveleyes go all over the world and are always grateful for more sighted guides. If you’re reading this as a VI, I’d really recommend one of their holidays. And if you’re reading with birthday or Christmas in mind, gift vouchers are available! Traveleyes’ slogan is ‘Share the adventure’, and I hope there’ll be plenty more.