Grief

Today a close friend of mine is at her dad’s funeral, so if you’d like to pray for her as you read, that would be brilliant.

I thought I’d write something on grief, even though I feel quite unqualified to. I haven’t grieved the loss of a parent or sibling, but my uncle’s death at 57 from cancer affected me deeply. We’re told in Psalm 34:18 that God is close to the broken-hearted, and He did feel particularly close at that time. A Bible-verse that jumped out at me was Romans 8:28: “In everything God works for the good of those who love Him.” When I trained to volunteer on the chaplaincy team at my local hospital, we were told not to quote this to a grieving person. I must be odd then, but I found it a real comfort that because God loved me, He would bring some good out of my family’s tragedy.

So, my positive message to anyone who’s grieving? You’re not without a Comforter. When Jesus knew His death was imminent, He tried to prepare His friends by promising them another Helper, who would be with them forever – the Holy Spirit (John 14:16-17). God is three persons rolled into one: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. He wants to be close to you and put His Spirit in you, so you’ll have someone there to give you the exact comfort you need in your situation.

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31 Jesus-Benefits: Companionship

“I am with you always” (Matthew 28:20).

Day 6 of Write31Days and as a single person who lives by myself, I’m particularly grateful for:

His presence – for having Jesus to do life with.

There are times when I’m down or perhaps having a bad night’s sleep, and I just want to snuggle with someone. Although Jesus doesn’t give me a physical hug, He’s there to comfort me. He’s there as I wash the dishes, watch a YouTube video, read a book or talk to a friend on the phone.

And when life’s difficulties loom large, it’s good to know I can access God’s throne-room through prayer and He’ll sustain me. Jesus has these words for the one who puts their faith in Him and enters the kingdom of God:

“The person who enters through Me will be saved and will be able to come in and go out and find pasture” (John 10:9).

5-Minute Friday: Whisper

My thanks to Kate Motaung for this week’s Five Minute Friday prompt: Whisper.
* * *
My first thought when I hear the word ‘Whisper’ is of Elijah in 1 Kings 19. God wasn’t in the earthquake, the wind or the fire, but He came to Elijah in a gentle whisper – a still-small voice. Some say it could be translated as ‘The sound of silence’.

Have you had any of those whisper-moments with God? Sometimes His voice says things you don’t want to hear. I remember when my uncle was dying – how badly I wanted God to heal him and people to listen to his testimony and believe; God whispered that this wasn’t going to be a time of harvest, but a time of growth.

His whispers can give you comfort too. I remember sitting on my bed, wondering who would look after me when I was old and unable to do the things I do now; the children I write to in the Philippines are so far away … God whispered that even to my old age and grey hairs, He would sustain me, and a song came out of that:
Keep me safe in Your will, dear One;
I know Your power will sustain me to the end:
When there’s fear that could come in,
I remember the hope and the future that You have for me.

I know it’s safe to trust in You;
I know You will never disappoint:
I know You loved me enough to send Your Son;
You will not leave me alone –
You’ll sustain me as I grow old.

Let’s do This Together: “What Your Heart Needs for the Hard Days” (Book-Review)

It’s a real honour to review one of Holley Gerth’s books. If you’ve read here for a while, you’ll know she’s a favourite writer of mine. “What Your Heart Needs for the Hard Days” is a 52-part devotional based on the Psalms. I love the Bible, and I love when someone who’s had her share of emotional pain opens it up and finds comfort in it. With 3 Psalms per chapter, you could make it a daily devotional to finish in just less than 2 months, or read 3 Psalms per week and let it take you through the year.

In each chapter, Holley picks out a small portion from those 3 Psalms to explore in more depth. Reading “God Calls You His Own”, I imagine God delighting in me as a parent delights in a new-born baby. You may be better reading a hard copy of this than the Kindle version because after Holley’s thoughts, there are prayers, with space for you to personalise them and to journal what you’re hearing from God. Possibly my favourite of Holley’s books, I’d recommend this to anyone who’d like to see God as more than a distant grandfather-figure. It shows He understands your sorrows and wants to be part of your life. As Holley says, “What if instead of ‘Get it together’, God’s whispering ‘Let’s do this together’?”

Don’t get too Comfortable

“You lie on beds adorned with ivory and lounge on your couches.  You dine on choice lambs and fattened calves.  You strum away on your harps like David and improvise on musical instruments.  You drink wine by the bowlful and use the finest lotions, but you do not grieve over the ruin of Joseph” (Amos 6:4-6).

 

This chapter reminds us that life is not for our comfort; life is to live for God’s glory.  God doesn’t condemn Israel for eating meat or using lotions, but for living a life of excess, without even enough compassion to shed tears when fellow-countrymen come to ruin.

 

Is this so far-removed from us?  Maybe it’s easy to treat a home like a castle – to come into our four walls, to eat our food, snooze on our sofas and not to grieve … not to act … not to plead the cause of others.  Can you think of a situation in your country lately that you’ve actually wept for?

The Thing About Curses

“Like a fluttering sparrow or a darting swallow, an undeserved curse does not come to rest” (Proverbs 26:2).

 

I wanted to share this verse today because when I’ve heard in the past about people being cursed I’ve felt some fear, but I think this does something to dispel that.  The New Century Version is the Bible I read most, and this verse in the NCV makes it even clearer.  “Curses will not harm someone who is innocent; they are like sparrows or swallows that fly around and never land.”

 

The thing about curses is, they needn’t rest on us.  When we put our trust in Jesus, God looks at us through Him, and it’s as if He’s looking through rose-tinted glasses.  Because of Jesus, our guilt is gone.  God sees us as innocent/blameless, and that’s what gives us authority over our enemy, the devil.  In this authority that Jesus has passed on to us, there’s power available to break every curse.

 

There are some times (and this is one of them) when I feel that what Jesus has done for us is too high and too wonderful for me to fully comprehend it, and all I can say is thank You.

From the One Who’s Been There

There’s such a lot in Philippians 3!  I wrote down a couple of things I could have shared with you all, but this one resonated the most:

 

“I want to know Christ and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in His sufferings, becoming like Him in His death” – Philippians 3:10.  I wonder if that verse will ever stop being a challenge!  Oh, I want to know Christ, but what about this sharing in His sufferings, becoming like Him in His death?  Let’s think about Jesus’ death for a minute and the horrors He went through.  I don’t just mean the physical horrors – the beatings; having His hands forced behind His back and nailed to a cross …  There were mental anguishes too.  He took 3 close friends with Him into Gethsemane – His soul overwhelmed with sorrow.  He wanted Peter, James and John to pray with Him, but they fell asleep.  They didn’t understand the immensity of what their Lord was about to face; Jesus understood the full scale of it.  Do you have friends like that – friends you’re really close to, and you want their prayer-support in the important parts of your life, but they give up instead of praying along-with you?  That can be really painful, and then of course there was Judas betraying Jesus.

 

I wrote a song a few years ago about Jesus’ death and the sufferings He went through:

“You were despised; rejected by men,

“So when I face hostility, why should I complain?

 

“Left all alone in Your darkest hour,

“So when I have no company, why should I complain?”

 

The truth is, whether we want to or not, as Christians, we will share in Christ’s sufferings, but we can have the assurance that whatever we go through, He’s already been there.  He knows exactly how we feel.

 

Are you going through a difficult situation at the moment?  You don’t have to go into details, but if you leave a comment, I’d love to pray with you.  Thank you for reading, and please take comfort from the One who’s been there.

Who is the Holy Spirit?

Before I was a Christian, I hadn’t heard much about the Holy Spirit. At the church I went to as a child, we stood there and said He “proceeds from the Father and the Son”, and “With the Father and the Son He is worshipped and glorified”. It gave me the impression He was a bit of an aside, not Someone crucial to the Christian faith.

After becoming a Christian, when I wanted to attend a church, we had a leaflet put through our door by the Christadelphians. They were organising a Bible exhibition. We’d never heard of them, but we assumed they were some form of Christians, so my mum and I went along. We stood in front of the glass cabinets, she read me some of the information about what was on display, and we stayed for the talk afterwards. I was impressed with their passion. For example, the man speaking said he once gave someone a Bible and told them: “If you can find a contradiction, I’ll burn it”, and we gave him a round of applause.

I came home, phoned a friend and excitedly told her where I’d been. I said: “They don’t believe in the devil, and they don’t believe in the Holy Spirit”.

Alarm-bells must have started to ring in her head. “Ah. That’s where they go wrong, see.”

“But why?”

“Well, they just … do.” It was fairly late; she probably didn’t want to get into an argument, but I think I was ready to learn about the Holy Spirit. If you are too, hopefully this post will be helpful.

The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Jesus Christ, so He could only be passed on to us when Jesus had finished His life on earth, and gone back to heaven to be with the Father. “It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you” (John 16:7). “I will not leave you as orphans” (John 14:18). The Holy Spirit is our Comforter – the whole reason why the disciples didn’t sink into complete despair after Jesus left them; they had His promise He would send His Spirit.

He’s also our Helper. I wrote yesterday about keeping our relationship with Jesus fresh (remembering His part in our lives, instead of letting that become a thing of the past). The Holy Spirit helps us to do that. He reminds us of everything Jesus has said to us (John 14:26).

And one more: He’s our Empowerer. He gives us power to live our Christian lives. Jesus told His disciples to wait until they were clothed with power from on high before they spread His message to Jerusalem, the places surrounding it, and then to the ends of the earth (Luke 24:49; Acts 1:8). The more influence the Holy Spirit has in our lives, the more effective we’ll become as Christians. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23). If you want to know whether you’re maturing as a Christian, look to see whether there’s evidence of this fruit growing in your life. If you’re someone who used to get irritated with people, do you see yourself becoming more loving, more patient? If you’re someone who would get frustrated and fly off the handle, are you finding that happens less frequently? Hope I can say yes to that one!

God’s Holy Spirit has given us everything we need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3). There are plenty of gifts of the Holy Spirit – wisdom, knowledge, faith, healing, prophecy etc (1 Corinthians 12:7-11). I would really encourage you to find out about these, and if you’ve got a question, please ask in the comments. I just wanted to give you a taste of the Holy Spirit – how important He is, and what He can do for us.

Any thoughts?