Darkness

It surprises me every year – the amount of Christians who involve themselves in Halloween, dressing their kids up in costumes etc. When Compassion had its own website for sponsors, I asked one of them why she did it. She wrote back with a link to an article by someone I’d never heard of, which I found sad because I was genuinely interested in her thoughts – not somebody else’s. I don’t want to let some article by someone somewhere justify my actions; only the Word of God. I’ll be honest and admit I was brought-up in a home where we did go out trick-or-treating our neighbours and grandparents, but I think this was probably done in ignorance. The only parts of the Bible we read as a family were the famous stories – Adam and Eve, Noah … We certainly didn’t study or consider it when living the rest of our lives.

As a Christian though, I became more interested in how God wanted me to live. The first year, I went to a Halloween party. I thought as long as I didn’t actually do anything evil, it would be all right. I didn’t know this verse: “Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them” (Ephesians 5:11). By going to a Halloween party, I was involving myself in that celebration, whereas God says have nothing to do with it.

Galatians 5:19-20: “The wrong things the sinful self does are clear: Committing sexual sin, being morally bad, doing all kinds of shameful things, worshiping false gods, taking part in witchcraft” … This is why I can’t understand people going round dressed as wizards and witches, as if God’s ok with that.

I would avoid a murder mystery night for the same reason. If we really are made to glorify God in whatever we do, then why have fun celebrating things that He (a holy God) can’t even look at? The idea of murder hadn’t entered anyone’s minds before Adam and Eve did wrong. Their son committed the first murder, and that wasn’t something to be celebrated. He had to leave God’s presence and live in the land of Nod – a Hebrew word that means ‘Wandering’ (Genesis 4:13-16). Can you imagine wandering aimlessly on the earth, knowing your home was with God but you squandered that by killing your brother?

“For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light” (Ephesians 5:8). What about a praise party? If we believe in Jesus, we’ve been freed from the power of darkness, so let’s do as Peter suggests: “Declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light” (1 Peter 2:9).

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Discouragement

PMS. Need I say more? I’ve been feeling quite down just now, and couldn’t seem to lift myself up/make myself happy, so I asked for God’s help.

Praise.

That was the word that stood out, because it’s not exclusive to women or a certain time of the month. Everyone has days where they’re discouraged and feeling lower than usual. One of my friends gave me a set of CDs from a seminar he took some years ago. He said that when he was down, he would start praising God. “Thank You for this table; thank You for this chair …” From past experience I can say it doesn’t make problems disappear, but it does make the burden of them lighter.

At the conference I told you about in Manchester, the worship-leader sang a Matt Redman song. She sang it with such sincerity, I genuinely thought she had written it, but when I asked her, she sent me the link. I just love the words. Can you sing along with it?
What am I gonna do with this life You gave me?
What can I do but live for Your praise
?

31 Jesus-Benefits: On God’s Team

“I have chosen you and have not rejected you” (Isaiah 41:9).

Day 27 and that verse above is one of my favourites. In my singleness and my unemployment, it helps to know that:

God’s chosen me.

I’ve got a part to play in the world God created. I was made to praise Him, and I can do that anytime.

“I provide water in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland, to give drink to My people, My chosen, the people I formed for Myself that they may proclaim My praise” (Isaiah 43:20-21).

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As a thank-you for being a reader who’s supported Write31Days, you could enter the Dayspring.com giveaway to win a $500 shopping spree on their website. It’s open till the end of the month.

31 Jesus-Benefits: Something for the Workers

“So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what He has promised” (Hebrews 10:35-36).

Yesterday in this series, we looked at Jesus – our ticket to heaven, but not only do we get to spend eternity with Jesus:

There’s a reward.

In your Christian service, what’s your motivation? Are you looking to gain respect or praise from those around you, maybe churchgoers or your family? If you are, they’re the ones from whom you’ll get your reward. On my album “Same Applies”, there’s a song about that:
“If you work to be seen by men,
You’ll have your reward in full;
But if you work in secret,
There is One who knows:
And He will reward you
For everything you do”.

God sees our hearts. Everything we do for Him is noticed, and on the day of judgment, we will be rewarded.

“For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due to us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad” (2 Corinthians 5:10).

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As a thank-you for being a reader who’s supported Write31Days, you could enter the Dayspring.com giveaway to win a $500 shopping spree on their website. It’s open till the end of the month.

This is my Last Day

Over the weekend, I’ve had so many things knocking on the door of my heart. At church yesterday, my pastor talked about Psalm 43 – how loss of hope and isolation were wrong roads to go down. I felt I was losing hope in certain areas of my life, E.G. I have a friend who’s mentally ill; another friend who’s battling, and oftentimes the opponent wins.

I saw a status on Facebook about someone’s 24-year-old husband who died suddenly. He’d just graduated, had a job at the Bible-college and his whole life in front of him. 24! Here I was at 34, feeling like I didn’t have much to offer, and I was alive. He was 24 with a wife, a job and prospects, and his life was abruptly taken from him. God seemed cruel.

In the afternoon, I listened to a podcast. The episode was called “Are you Broken”. In it Jarrod Cooper urged us to have seasons of brokenness, but not to make those seasons our identity – not to live in them our whole lives.

Whilst reading Dawn Camp’s “The Beauty of Grace” ready to review it later this week, I came across an entry about someone who’d had a chaotic time with a trip to an emergency room, a funeral, and Christmas. A jar of strawberry jam fell out of her fridge, and as she eyed the red stickiness and shards of glass, she was reminded of the dawn of redeeming grace – Jesus coming into the mess of our lives.

A friend had invited me to a Bible-study today. One of the questions asked us to think about writing a song: ‘This is my last day’. All these things I was processing from the weekend seemed suddenly to come together about half an hour before I left the house:
This is my last day, this is goodbye
To a time of brokenness;
Though I may feel weak, it’s not my identity –
I don’t want to live there.

I wanna wake up and say
That this is a good day;
I’m putting my hope there in the Lord:
I will trust Him to hide
Every piece of my life
In His redeeming grace
.

This is my last day, this is goodbye
To a time of selfishness;
There is injustice, and there is suffering,
But I will choose to see the best.

Chorus

Why must I go on mourning?
Why is my soul so downcast?
I will yet praise You, Lord.

Chorus

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.”

Children of God

Compassion’s asking this month that I write about what it means to be a child of God. Well, lately when I listen to music on my phone, I always seem drawn to this song (called “Children of God”). I love to hear Scripture sung, and this is straight out of Peter. I suppose it’s what being a child of God means to me:
“We are the children of God – LORD You have spoken.” Once we’ve believed in Jesus and become children of God, that’s who we are. God has welcomed us into His family and won’t let us go.
“We are the children of God – we are the chosen.” If like me you can remember the specific time you became a Christian, perhaps you think it was your choice, but Jesus clearly tells us it’s the other way round.
“Called out of the darkness and into the light, declaring Your majesty.” This line blows me away. Maybe sometimes you feel crushed and darkness doesn’t seem very far away, but if you keep bringing your problems to Jesus and trusting that He’ll help, you will overcome and then you can declare God’s power to those around you.
“A holy nation, we are the children of God.” I watched a DVD at church yesterday about someone who’d just had an encounter with God. She said: ‘The first thing I noticed was that God was holy and God was good. The second thing I noticed was that I was so not holy and not good’. I know what she’s saying, but the amazing thing is that when we follow Jesus, we’re being made holy. “Those He justified, He also glorified”, says Paul. God’s done this for us already and it’s being worked out as we live our lives on earth.

That’s what it means to me to be a child of God. What does it mean to you? If you’re a blogger, maybe you could join other Compassion bloggers and write about it this month. If you’re a sponsor, why not include it in a letter to your sponsored child?

Saying What you Love

Jill over at Compassion Family wrote a post this week about encouraging sponsored kids to praise and adore God – to tell Him what they like about Him.

 

She explained that she sometimes used Bible-verses to do this.  I’ll choose one of my favourites as an example:  “Both the one who makes people holy and those who are made holy are of the same family.  So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters” (Hebrews 2:11).  Jesus, I love You because You’re not ashamed to call me Your sister (that’s praise).

 

And a passage from Luke 6 that’s been on my heart this week:  “Give to everyone who asks you, and when someone takes something that is yours, don’t ask for it back. …  If you love only the people who love you, what praise should you get?  Even sinners love the people who love them. …  But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without hoping to get anything back.  Then you will have a great reward, and you will be children of the Most High God, because he is kind even to people who are ungrateful and full of sin.”  Father, I love You because You’re kind to ungrateful people.

 

But we don’t only have to praise using Bible-verses; it can be prompted by everyday life as well.  I’ve been counting calories to try to lose a bit of weight, and sometimes when I’ve reached my limit and really fancy chocolate or biscuits, it can be frustrating not to have those nice foods, but I can praise God for giving me enough to eat.  There are plenty of people in the world who don’t have that luxury.

 

Have you told God what you love about Him lately?

In the Middle of it All

“”Stone is heavy, and sand is weighty, but a complaining fool is worse than either” (Proverbs 27:3).  There’s definitely a place for bearing each other’s burdens; for talking over problems and getting things off our chests, but if we constantly complain, we’re not only a burden on the shoulders of those around us, we’re bad for ourselves too.

 

“A quarrelling wife is as bothersome as a continual dripping on a rainy day” (Proverbs 27:15), and if you’ve ever woken up in the middle of the night to a leaking roof and raindrops coming in, you’ll know how bothersome that is!  All you want is an end to the problem.  If you’re the quarreller, perhaps all you can see is the problem and you want an end to it too.

 

I don’t claim to have the answer in your situation, but there is a verse at the end of this chapter that might help.  “There will be plenty of goat’s milk to feed you and your family and to make your servant girls healthy” (Proverbs 27:27).  In other words, God’s plan is for us to have plenty to meet our needs – not our wants, but our needs.  Whether it’s a quarrel with your spouse you’re in the middle of, or another problem – big or small, why don’t you step back from it for a few minutes?  Try to think of ways God has met your needs – the clothes you’re wearing, the food on the table, etc.  We can overflow with thankfulness when we know that with God, we may not have everything we want, but we have enough.

 

Just because I’m writing this, please don’t think I have it all together.  There are days I get really fed up with the doors that seem to slam in my face.  At those times, hearing other people’s unanswered prayers can discourage me and prayer can even seem pointless, but when I stop to think about it, when I think how God’s answered some of my prayers – how He’s brought someone along just when I’ve needed help, or got my mum through the chemotherapy, I know it’s not pointless after all.

Steadfast and Firm

“A man is not established by wickedness, but the root of the righteous cannot be moved” (Proverbs 12:3).

 

Have you ever been walking through the woods and had to step over some tree roots sticking out of the ground?  If you’re someone who wants to follow Jesus, you’re like that; your roots can’t be moved or dug up.  It might not seem that way when you’ve made a mistake, or when you’re not as you’d like to be, but it’s certainly true in my experience.  When I’ve felt like giving up, God has shown me Himself.  God is love, and God is concerned with our welfare.  He’ll keep you strong; He won’t let you be tested beyond the point where you can remain steadfast and firm (1 Corinthians 10:13).  Surely we can praise Him for that?