A Birthday Connection

Today is my friends’ daughter’s birthday. They lived in my hometown, which they left before she was a year old. These were friends who’d really helped me grow as a Christian and get to know God more. It was very sad to see them go: The first of my close friends to have a girl and I wouldn’t get to see her grow up, so I prayed. “Father, please let me hear her say something, even one word, before she goes.” That prayer wasn’t going to change the world. It wasn’t for anyone’s benefit except mine, but you know, it happened. One day we were in the car and her dad was talking, and she said “Daddy”; not dada, but the proper word “Daddy”, as clear as if you or I had said it. I didn’t hear her talk again until the family came back to visit, much later.

I wrote this just to encourage you to pray. It might be the smallest, stupidest, most selfish prayer you can think of, but what does that matter? If we really have a God who loves and cares for us, He’s going to want to spend time with us – to hear what’s in our hearts; what makes us happy or sad.

I believe in a God who wanted a connection with us so much that He came to this earth as one of us. At Christmas, we’ll celebrate Jesus being born into the human race. At Easter, we’ll remember that He came for one reason: To live a blameless life and to die spotless, so He could represent us before God the Father. When we come to God through Jesus, God’s able to hear our prayers and connect with us, and that’s really special.

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Authority

There’s a theme running through this chapter. First, Jesus teaches His followers to petition the One in authority, making requests on the basis of God’s holiness; of wanting His will done and His kingdom to come, on earth as in heaven. So if you think something would be a certain way in heaven, E.G. your body would be free of pain, you can ask for that on earth as well. This chapter says clearly: “Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for” (Luke 11:9). I struggle with this, having found out last year that I’m losing my hearing. My hearing is really important to me as a blind person and people at church have prayed about it, but the situation hasn’t changed. Why not? I guess I have to keep on asking.

We move on to the source of Jesus’ authority. When He frees a mute, demon-possessed man, Jesus is accused of being in cohorts with Satan, but He explains the opposite is true. “Any kingdom divided by civil war is doomed. … You say I am empowered by Satan. But if Satan is divided and fighting against himself, how can his kingdom survive?” (Luke 11:17-18). The Source of Jesus’ authority is not Satan, as some of the crowd suggest, but God. Someone strong can be overpowered only if the other person is stronger.

Jesus expresses frustration that ‘This evil generation’ keep asking for a miraculous sign to prove His authority. It reminds me of where He said something similar: “Only an evil, adulterous generation would demand a miraculous sign” (Matthew 12:39). The reason people asked Jesus for proof was that their hearts were far from Him. They had plenty of proof in the words of the Old Testament and the presence of Jesus Himself. What about me when I’m doing the asking? Do I want a miracle because I’m evil and far from God in my heart, or am I asking in faith?

At the end of Luke 11, Jesus came into conflict with the religious leaders. He gave some good advice: Don’t be too concerned with the outside, but cleanse yourselves inside by giving gifts to the poor; give a tenth of your income – yes, but don’t ignore justice and love for God; don’t enslave others without lifting a finger to help them. Sadly they didn’t benefit much from His words because as He was leaving, they became hostile and wanted something to use against Him (Luke 11:53-54).

If Jesus is Lord of our lives, He’s our Master. He says as much: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me” (Matthew 28:18), so as people who are in Jesus, we can pray with that same authority, and be persistent in prayer. We can trust that Jesus is well able to defeat the evil one and his plans. We don’t have to ask God for any further proof to put our faith in Him. And when we see people in positions of authority acting questionably, we shouldn’t be afraid to confront them as Jesus did, even if it leads to hostility.

How are you with this teaching on authority?

Best Read in Small Doses: “Gifts from Heaven” Book-Review

I might have called this “God’s Answers to Prayer”, rather than “Gifts from Heaven”. I chose it because last year, I reviewed “Jesus Talked to me Today” (also by James Stuart Bell) and really enjoyed it. This is the same format, with numerous short stories of how God intervenes in people’s lives. I found the second half more inspiring than the first; “A Precise Prayer for Healing” and “Race to the Bottom” really stood out, but a good proportion of these stories were health-related and It can be demoralising to read so many accounts of health-problems.

I looked forward to my complementary copy from Bethany House, but I certainly wouldn’t recommend reading this from cover to cover. Probably his previous offering had more appeal because it was about children.

Our Father, my Shepherd: “21 Seconds to Change Your World” Book-Review

This was marketed as a book on the Lord’s prayer – how the 21 seconds it takes to say it can benefit us, so I was surprised to discover it included the 23rd Psalm as well. Part one gives an introduction to their authors, Jesus and David. Part two is the substance of the book, where Mark Rutland breaks down the prayer and the Psalm phrase by phrase, and part three lists some ways we can use them in our lives.

I would say this is a worthwhile read for pastors and those in positions of leadership within the church, as well as for Christians in general. One thing that slightly bothered me was the author’s encouraging non-Christians to use the Lord’s prayer. If he believes Jesus’ words in John’s gospel that the Way to the Father is through Him, I don’t know how he can expect those who don’t believe in Jesus to address God as ‘Father’ and be heard, but if you can look past that, “21 Seconds to Change Your World” tells us a lot about these passages of Scripture. I think I’ll be using them more in my prayer-life. I’m grateful to Bethany House for giving me a free copy to review.

More Dignity

If it’s true that you should write what you’re passionate about, then I’ll write about this quote someone shared on Facebook. “God designed my disability to make me not independent, but interdependent.” This seems to me just plain wrong.

Can you imagine Jesus Himself visiting someone who’s paralysed from the neck down? They ask why they’ve got their disability and He says: “Aha! Well! You see, it was to make you interdependent. Now you need this person to clean you up when you’ve been to the toilet; to hold a glass of water to your lips; to feed you … I designed it specially so you’d have a need for other people.” What a cruel, horrible thing to say. If that were true, I wouldn’t want anything to do with a God like that; I really wouldn’t.

Happily, I can’t find that callous God anywhere in the Bible. I’ll just use a few examples; I could be here a long time otherwise. First, in Mark 9, a father brings his son to Jesus, saying: “He has an evil spirit in him that stops him from talking” (V17). Jesus’ response? “He ordered the evil spirit, saying, ‘You spirit that makes people unable to hear or speak, I command you to come out of this boy and never enter him again’” (V25). Was it God who made the boy unable to speak? No! It was a spirit that Jesus made sure to cast out of him.

In John 9, Jesus’ disciples wonder why a man was born blind. He tells them: “This man was born blind so that God’s power could be shown in him” (V3). If anyone asked me why I was blind (which no one ever has), that would be my reason: So that God’s power can be shown in me. In the case of the man in John 9, Jesus healed him. I realise that doesn’t always happen this side of heaven, and it hasn’t yet happened to me, but Jesus did teach His disciples to pray to God: “Your kingdom come … on earth as it is in heaven”.

I’ve told someone before that I’m not independent; I’m God-dependent, but that’s as true for me as it is for anyone, whether they have what you might call a disability or not. If you believe Paul’s words that “In Him we live and move and have our being”, then you’ll agree that we couldn’t move one limb without God’s help; we wouldn’t even exist.

I don’t think God designed disabilities to force us to rely on others. I believe that in every area of our life, God wants us to acknowledge Him. I know it’s not healthy to completely cut ourselves off from others, but I don’t think doing what we can independently should be frowned upon; I think it should be encouraged. I wrote a post last year about some of the ways I could give as well as receive. Perhaps it seemed to some like I was boasting, but I genuinely wrote it with a grateful heart to God for the things I was able to do. What kind of a country would we be if people constantly relied on others, never making important decisions or learning to do anything for themselves? I’m glad the Britain I live in gives me more dignity than that.

Love Unchangeable

My Facebook newsfeed has really touched me tonight. I’ve read about someone who’s away from their spouse for Christmas (Christmas Eve is a night more than any other when you just want to be held), someone else in prayer for a family-member, and another in horrendous physical pain. Maybe ‘Happy Christmas’ isn’t quite the right thing to say this year.

My heart goes out to you, however you’re feeling today. Maybe you’re in prayer for a friend or family-member, whose circumstances are changing when you’d rather they didn’t. Maybe you’re grieving. Maybe the hope of ever seeing a change in your circumstances is slipping away. Wherever this Christmas finds you, there’s a God whose love for you never changes, who sent His Son into the world to be our Immanuel – God-with-us: God with us in our loneliness; God with us in our suffering. We can give all our worries to Him.

Circumstances may change, but Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13:8). He wants so much to be invited into the nitty-gritty of your life, and to give you the hope of a future with Him in heaven. Bonnie’s OneWordAdvent focus for this week is love, and there’s none greater than the love Jesus showed. Will you love Him back this Christmas?

31 Jesus-Benefits: No Worries!

“Do not worry about anything, but pray and ask God for everything you need, always giving thanks. And God’s peace, which is so great we cannot understand it, will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7).

Day 16 of Write31Days and here’s something very precious:

Peace.

You’ll see all sorts of books about dealing with anxiety or overcoming worry, but the formula’s right there: Pray about everything. If we’re worrying too much, we’re probably praying too little (I say ‘We’ because I’m telling myself as well as you). My friend Kate once told me the verses below about Jesus leading us into the path of peace and I’ve always remembered that.

“Because of God’s tender mercy, the morning light from heaven is about to break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, and to guide us to the path of peace” (Luke 1:78-79).

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And don’t forget the giveaway from Dayspring.com if you want to win $500 to shop there.

31 Jesus-Benefits: Surprise Gifts

Day 4 of Write31Days and what I love about God is that before you get to know Him, you couldn’t possibly imagine the things He might have for you to do.

He can give you giftings you wouldn’t have without Him.

I wanted to write songs before I was a Christian, but couldn’t. I even listened to a radio-series featuring people like Ray Davis from The Kinks. I hoped I might learn something, but it went over my head. Then, after becoming a Christian, I went to a song-writing workshop. Someone prayed for me at the end, and 3 days later I was in the shower and started singing a song I didn’t recognise: My first original song, “To do Your Will”, which you can listen to here.

“If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask Him!” (Matthew 7:11).

31 Jesus-Benefits: I can Stay Intact

“Forgive as the Lord forgave you” (Colossians 3:13).

Yesterday, we looked at God’s forgiveness. Today I want to expand that to:

The way He’s taught me to forgive others and myself.

If you’ve lived on this earth for any length of time, you will have been hurt or disappointed. Forgiving someone may not keep your relationship intact; they’ve got to receive the forgiveness for that to happen, but it’ll certainly keep you intact. It’ll deal with the anger and bitterness you feel. You may have those feelings more than once and have to keep offering the situation to God in prayer, but He’ll be so pleased every time you bring it to Him.

“If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins” (Matthew 6:14-15).

A Special Week

I hope everyone had a good weekend. This week is a special one for Kristen, who blogs at Chasing Blue Skies. She’s one of those bloggers/writers you read, and you think of them as your friend (even though you’ve never met). Do you know any writers like that?

Anyway, Kristen’s written a book! (She’s already written a 31-day devotional for military wives, but this is a full-length, 10-chapter book for absolutely anyone.) And if you’re in the US, the paperback version releases today. I’ve been on the launch team and had the privilege of reading “Girl Meets Change” before its official release, and I’ve really looked forward to sharing it with you.

It’s a book about adapting to change, and includes personal and Biblical examples of people who’ve had to do just that. Perhaps you’ll learn something new about a story you’re already familiar with; I know I learnt something about the story of Lazarus when I read chapter 3.

You can go to this page if you want to read more about the book before you purchase, and why not send Kristen a message of congratulations on its release? While it’ll be an exciting time, we obviously don’t all have the same taste in books, but wouldn’t it be great if she had more positive feedback than negative? Let’s pray for Kristen and her family especially this week as her hard work finally hits the shelves.