31 Jesus-Benefits: A Positive Change

“For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things He planned for us long ago” (Ephesians 2:10).

Day 21 and time to focus on one of the ways my faith has affected me:

I’ve become more outward-looking.

Previously I had been happy to absorb myself in the music I listened to, TV or writing for pleasure, but the first thing I wanted to do as a Christian was to help other people. That’s played out in several different ways, but one that comes to mind is the children I sponsor through Compassion. Compassion works in Asia, Africa, Central and South America. At school I had no interest in geography whatsoever. It was one of my worst subjects and I dropped it as soon as I could. Had I been a Compassion-sponsor back then, things might have been different. Now I love to read about Compassion Bloggers travelling to far-off places, or I find myself wondering: “What’s the weather like in India?” or “What’s the capital of Ecuador?” (it’s Quito, by the way). I can only thank God for this positive change in me.

“But the fruit of the Spirit is … kindness” (Galatians 5:22).

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As we’ve talked about Compassion in this post, there’s a book I’d like to give away to one of my readers. The author is Compassion’s former president, Wess Stafford (if you’ve read his autobiography you’ll love him). This book is “Just a Minute”, and it’s about the impact our words can have when we spend just a minute with a child. If you want to leave a comment, to do with children or impacting those around you, I’ll announce a winner on October 31st. Don’t forget there’s also the Dayspring.com $500 giveaway if you want to enter that one.

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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.”

31 Days of Song: “Slow Fade”

A week ago, I was brunching in a café with my friend, and we were saying how sin creeps in little by little.  I had already written my post for that day, but I knew the perfect song to go with our conversation.

 

I absolutely love this interview.  I’ve added it to my favourites and just listened again, and had to listen all the way through it was so good.  In it Mark Hall, lead vocalist from Casting Crowns, talks about how he started off as (and still is) a youth pastor at his church, and their songs started out not as songs but as Bible-studies and products of the one-on-ones they had with teenagers.  The rest of the band are all youth-workers, small group leaders etc.  When asked about getting into the music business and doing what they did on a bigger scale, they said as long as they could stay in their church, they would do it.  Talk about getting your priorities right!

 

There’s a kids’ song to the tune of “If You’re Happy and You Know It” that starts:  Be careful little eyes what you see.  Well, Casting Crowns have taken that song and made a grown-up version, which gives the very message my friend and I talked about last week – that sin can start with something small and escalate.  I love the line:

“It’s the second glance that ties your hand, as darkness pulls the strings.”

5-Minute Friday: Worship

It’s 5-minute Friday time again, where we write for 5 minutes without worrying whether it’s just right, and this week Lisa-Jo’s picked a prompt that’s close to my heart:  Worship.  I enjoyed writing this, and if you want to join in, you can too.  You can either write a post (like me), or share in the comments over on Lisa-Jo’s blog.

 

So, worship:

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Worship; worth-ship.  Expressing what God is worth, but how?  Is He worth much if He’s just put in a box to bring out every morning when you read your Bible?  Could the fact that you read your Bible before the day starts be a heart-cry to the Lord:  “You come before everything else.  I want to put You first”?

So what’s your expression?  Maybe it’s singing.  Maybe it’s dancing, and maybe even respected people in the church have told you you’re a showoff, but usually the ones who think you’re a showoff only think it because they feel too self-conscious to do the same thing themselves.

So tell Him what He’s worth.  Tell Him in the songs and the dances; in the money that goes out of your bank account; in the love that spreads from you to others, and to Him.  Tell Him what He’s worth – yes, give Him your worship.

Yesterday

I did something yesterday that I do just a few times a year; I went on a train-journey, and I want to thank God for the way He provided for me.  Although enjoyable it was looking to be a bit of a challenging day, so I said to Him:  “Please could I have a Scripture for the day, or more than one?”  And what unread messages do I open before I go?  This one with a tonne of Bible-verses in, and this reminder about grace.  They really helped.

 

If you remember my post about the 2 questions I asked God, you’ll know why fear bothers me, and yet it’s been a weakness of mine.  My big struggle has been a phobia of dogs.  On the train about halfway through my outward journey, a dog barked.  It was a few seats in front of me; I didn’t know exactly where, and I didn’t know whether the owner would let it walk around the train a bit.  I stiffened a little, but then I decided to get out the Bible-verse I had carried in my handbag for a month or so – the one that says I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.  I kept it in my hand for a while, and again this really helped – just to have a tangible reminder.  When I felt my body tense up, I told myself:  “I can do ALL things, even being on a train with dogs, through Christ who gives me strength.”  Eventually I put the card away and sat there quite normally, which was a miracle and I don’t say that lightly.

 

I got to where I needed to be and was all for doing what I could while I was there to do it, but once we’d done the most important things, my friend said:  “I just want to chat to you for a bit.”  Then God answered my morning’s prayer again and I thought of Martha and Mary.  Just sitting with one another is important too.

 

On the way back, when a train had stopped at the platform and no member of staff came to help me onto it, a lovely lady heading for the same train said:  “You’re welcome to get on with me.”  And when we had to wait for police to remove someone from the train, even though thanks to recent events in Boston my first thought was terrorism, I had complete peace that it was going to be ok.  We soon found it was just someone trying to get out of paying for his ticket.

 

So, don’t tell me God doesn’t care, because I probably won’t believe you.

My Thoughts on Whitney

Uncannily, last night and early this morning, I had a Whitney Houston song I hadn’t heard for ages in my head. Then I find out on Facebook this morning that she’s passed away at the age of 48. As I read about her life, what a sad story it was. She starts singing in church in her teens; goes into the pop industry; black people treat her as a traitor because she reaches white audiences; abusive marriage; use of drugs … and then the powerful voice she once had isn’t there anymore. She can’t hit the notes she used to hit effortlessly. Some of her audience walked out of her last concerts, unimpressed. And one of the saddest parts? She had a daughter, Bobbi Kristina, in 1993 – a daughter who would now be 18/19 – a daughter who’s lost her mum and will never be able to relate to her as an adult. It needn’t have happened.

This teenaged girl started singing in the church, started doing what she was made to do – using her powerful voice to bring glory to God, but I think things went downhill long before her use of drugs. Her very first hit single is all about adultery. And the song I had in my head?
“We believe that children are our future;
“Treat them well and let them lead the way;
“Show them all the beauty they possess inside” – a harmless song you might think, and of course I would advocate having a positive attitude towards children, but it goes on:
“Learning to love yourself is the greatest love of all”. Really? Didn’t Jesus say first to love God with all your heart, and secondly to love others as you love yourself? This is why my taste in music has changed. As I’ve got to know God, I’ve wanted more and more to listen to words that reflect His priorities.

If Whitney had kept using her voice to glorify the Lord, she would have sung powerful songs, and wouldn’t have had to go through the heartache she did. She could have fostered the belief that children were important, and been with her children into adulthood – talking to them and watching them fulfil their dreams. Maybe she could have been a youth-worker or something similar.

Sometimes people look at God and think He’s a killjoy. If I’m honest, I probably have too in the past, and yet living without Him, can we be truly happy? God is a Father who wants the best for us. I believe if He restricts us, it’s for our good, and because He wants to teach us more about Himself.

Father, Your kingdom come, because under Your rule, we’re really free.