Mountains

It can be a challenge to put a positive spin on those awful moments in life. Our difficulties are as diverse as our personalities, and what seems trivial to you might be huge to someone else. I’ve recently bought a Bible for my Kindle, and I was reading Zechariah 4:6-7. “I am the LORD All-Powerful. So don’t depend on your own power or strength, but on My Spirit. Zerubbabel, that mountain in front of you will be levelled to the ground. Then you will bring out the temple’s most important stone and shout, ‘God has been very kind.’”

We could take that message as being for the man named Zerubbabel or for us today. In our own strength, we tend to dwell on our problems. God’s telling us here that if we depend not on ourselves but on Him, one day those problems will be no more and we’ll be able to boast of God’s kindness to us. Some people are like King David – confident they’ll see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living; others look forward to the fulfilment of that promise in heaven. Either way, it’s good to have a God who keeps His promises.

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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?

God’s Got It

I had a bit of a change this morning. I could have visited another church, but just wanted to be somewhere familiar. I really love being able to watch church-services online on Livestream and put one on today, in expectation that God would speak to me. I knew there was an American called Tommy Tenney preaching and I’d heard good things about him before (he prayed for the founder of Victory Church Cwmbran before the Welsh Outpouring), so I knew he was used mightily by God.

He talked about Joshua: In his opinion, the most uninhibited man in the Bible. The first time they tried to conquer Jericho, twelve spies gave the Israelites a report on the land, but their fear had been greater than their faith. Their fear disabled them from living out their original purpose, so God had to wait until the next generation; that first generation died in the wilderness. The only two left were the spies who hadn’t been afraid – Joshua, and Caleb.

Forty years then after spying out Jericho and measuring its walls, Joshua’s approaching it again, knowing full well how big the problem is. Then he meets someone with a drawn sword and says: “Are you for us or for our enemies?” If we saw a policeman or a security guard carrying a gun, it might reassure us to know we had some protection, but if a man’s gun was held out ready to shoot, how many of us would go over and ask: “Whose side are you on?”

Then of course, he applied this whole situation to our lives. Who or what intimidates us? Instead of being intimidated by a problem, shouldn’t we look up to our God? “Any battle the devil can convince you not to fight,” he said, “he wins by default.” It was just what I needed to hear.

Don’t you think it’s awesome that wherever you are, God can and will speak into your situation if you ask Him to? That’s what we Christians mean when we say Jesus is our best Friend. It’s not just some fluffy statement; it’s a reality. Jesus treats us as His friends. If you saw one of your friends in some difficulty and wanting your advice, you’d give it to them, wouldn’t you?

Your situation may seem small to someone else, or even in your own eyes, but know that God’s got it covered.

Springboard Friends

You know the ones:  They speak and it launches you into something new and wonderful.  I’m thinking today about one of those friends in my life.  I’ve known her a long time – nearly twenty years, actually.  I met her when I was at school and it was her job to support me.  It proves even the appointment of staff can be prophetic, because she certainly has over the years – not only at school (helping to put my work into Braille), but personally as well.

 

Carol was the one who asked me one day as we walked into the gym:  “When you have problems, have you thought of praying about it?”  (I hadn’t, and didn’t think it was for me at the time.)

 

She was the one who phoned not long after I had left school to invite me to a Marilyn Baker concert, where I first heard this song.

 

She was the one I met at an event in 2000.  A new Christian, but our time together was so short, I didn’t have a chance to tell her, so I wrote her a letter.  I remember one sentence read:  “Although I don’t go to church, Christianity is now a huge part of my life.”  Carol could have kept the letter to encourage her in her own walk with God, but she did so much more than that.  Within days of me writing it, she was on the phone, inviting me to the house group she went along to on Wednesday nights, which got me into church.

 

Carol baptised me along-with my pastor.

 

She inspired one of my songs when I had just come home after a hard time, and she talked to me about a plant needing to be in the right soil.  She’s prayed me through difficult seasons and celebrated the good ones.

 

And Carol inspired something else, which I’ll be forever grateful for.  As we ate lunch one day in 2005, she told me about a conference she’d just been to – with Compassion.  My parents had sponsored with another organisation when I was growing up, so I was very interested in what she had to say.  The idea of getting letters to me personally from my child really impressed me.  Carol had told me the website-address, so I went and looked.  My first Filipino girl was Jennylyn and I’ve been sponsoring children ever since.

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Compassion have asked their bloggers to write this month about who (or what) first inspired us to sponsor a child.  If you sponsor, where did you get your inspiration?  If you don’t, will you consider investing in the life of a child?  I can’t promise that every child will open up to their sponsor and write screeds in their letters, but never doubt that what you put into somebody’s life can make a big difference.

“I Need Some Help Here!” Book-Review: Don’t Judge a Book by its Cover

What I expected and what I got from this book were two different things.  The title “I Need Some Help Here!” makes me think of Michelle Pfeifer or Julia Roberts playing a harassed mum, up to her eyeballs in dirty nappies; yoghurt spattered on the wall; a pre-schooler with only one shoe …  I  expected lots of funny stories of little ones and their mishaps, and tips on how to cope with them; what I got was a very serious twelve chapters on how best to bring up children.  There were several stories, but more emotional than practical, and none that really made me laugh.  The first chapter was particularly hard-going.  To grab people’s attention, it should have started in chapter three.

 

This book could benefit new Christians, Sunday churchgoers, struggling parents or those who want to support them.  Its main themes being prayer and God’s sufficiency, there are prayers for children and their parents.  You will find useful advice in here (the chapter on mental illness especially), but Kathi’s packed a lot in to some of the chapters, so definitely not a light read to pick up and put down.  Changing the format to a month-long devotional might improve it somewhat, but I wouldn’t be falling over myself to buy this for a new mum.

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.

Build Your City

“Do good things for the city where I sent you as captives.  Pray to the Lord for the city where you are living, because if good things happen in the city, good things will happen to you also” (Jeremiah 29:7).

Today’s Daily Post asks what do we like most, and least, about the place where we live?  What’s its biggest problem and how would we tackle it?

As well as my parents and some of my closest friends being nearby, one of the best things about the place where I live is its beauty.  We have a range of hills here, the highest of which has an easy tarmac path from a car-park right to the top, and I absolutely love being on those hills in the sunshine.  The only drawback is the number of dogs likely to be running loose up there.

Our biggest problem?  Well, I hear that in the area where I go to church, one in three households live in poverty.  I personally help to tackle this by involvement with my local food bank, but as a church, with those people right on our doorstep, I’m sure we could do a whole lot more.  Obstacles like lack of transport or unemployment aren’t so easy to solve, but if we can’t get paid work, we can find other ways to make use of our time.

What’s the biggest problem in your neighbourhood?  Maybe you could play a part in tackling it.  When God’s people went as prisoners to Babylon, God used someone called Jeremiah to encourage them to pray for the land where they lived, and to do good in it.  It’s wise for us to get involved in the place where we are.  Otherwise, we’ll only have ourselves to blame if things go downhill.  As a Christian, being ‘Set apart’ isn’t necessarily about distance; it’s about living life with a purpose different from that of the world around us.  Giving a percentage of our money to God instead of keeping it all for ourselves is being set apart.

Do you know one other thing I like about this place?  Just like Jeremiah said to the Israelites in Babylon, it’s temporary.  We won’t always have to live in this troubled world.  In our hearts we can look forward to our heavenly home, where our Father will love us and keep us safe forever.

Someone who Prays

How has your Sunday been?  I went to church and we had a time of prayer:  Someone’s grandchild was very sick; someone’s mum was sick; someone’s wife had been into hospital for an operation.  Afterwards, as we carried on with the singing, I got to thinking:  What if you don’t have people around you to pray for your family?  Even as a churchgoer, you might not be able to ask people to pray publicly for your particular problems.  Maybe you haven’t been there long and don’t know the people well enough; maybe the problems are too painful; maybe they’re confidential – whatever it is, you don’t feel part of a church-family who prays for you.

Well, into my mind came Romans 8:34:  “Christ Jesus who died – more than that, who was raised to life – is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.”  Interceding means He’s pleading for us – so yes, we do have someone praying for us:  Jesus Himself.

Why don’t you think of that next time you’re feeling excluded?  Jesus is at God’s right hand, praying to the Father – for you.

5-Minute Friday: Song

I’m linking up with Lisa-Jo today for one of her 5-minute Friday posts.  Fancy joining in?  She just gives you a prompt and you write for 5 minutes.  Simple.  Then you can link your post up to her blog and read others.

 

Well, this week’s prompt is ‘Song’.

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“We don’t know what to do, but our eyes are fixed on You.”  Somebody talked about that just the other day as I sat watching from my lounge, and this morning it came back into my head.  Because when we don’t know what to do, that’s the best thing we can do is turn up the music and let songs of praise flood the house.  Fix our eyes on Jesus.

 

“Don’t tell God about your problem; tell your problem about your God” – another quote I heard the other day, and isn’t that true – that the more we focus on our problems the more unattractive we become?

 

So I’m asking for joy.  Asking for songs of joy, from the One who rejoices over me with singing.