Wholly Surrendered

Here during Holy Week in the Christian calendar, we are aware that the central figure of our faith, Jesus Christ, was not only Holy and pure himself but was also wholly surrendered to doing the mission that Father God had appointed for him to do. How do we compare?

Recently, I have had various challenges regarding a relationship that I believe God wanted to change. I struggled with my own ideas and considered the clear standards that God puts before us as Christians. Having done all I could to make things right before God and before this person, I still was lacking as I was unable it seems (in my utter weakness) to renew my mind sufficiently to think God’s thoughts and not dwell on things that were not appropriate.
On Sunday, while listening to Premier Radio, the song ‘When I Survey the Wondrous Cross’ was sung and the line ‘all the vain things that charm me most I sacrifice them to His blood’ just hit me! Then I went to church and we sung ‘At the Name of Jesus’ and the line ‘Crown Him as your Captain in temptation’s hour’ leapt out. Then we sung ‘When I Survey the Wondrous Cross’. Somehow, I sensed God getting through to me. This song again came up on ‘Songs of Praise’ (on BBC! TV) but the crucial verse was missed out! So, I simply surrendered to God’s way of doing things and meditated on one of King David’s songs “My heart is fixed, trusting in the Lord” (Psalm 112:7) while going off to sleep that night. Since then, the hold of this temptation has gone and I seem to have breakthrough with this particular challenge.

Jesus was wholly surrendered to doing His Father’s will which was to die a painful death on a rugged wooden cross so that He could be punished for all the sins of people in the whole world that have ever lived including my catalogue of sins past, present and future. He didn’t want to go through the ordeal and cried in the Garden of Gethsemane ‘Not my will but yours be done’ while addressing His Father in desperate prayer after he sweat great drops of blood in utter anguish.

Because of what Jesus did over two thousand years ago (in not only dying willingly but actually rising from the dead) then we are free to ask and receive Jesus into our lives so that the Holy Spirit coming in us provides the power to overcome human obstacles and challenges and can give us victory when tempted. Our children need to know that they have this wonderful personal resource of the Holy Spirit who can guide them into all truth and give them practical answers to their dilemmas at school or home or wherever they might be. They don’t ever have to be alone. This is the wonder of the wholly Surrendered Saviour, the answer to our struggles as humans.

The darkest day of history was actually the first Good Friday. The wholly surrendered Jesus became the Saviour of the whole world.

Overwhelmed by Circumstances

Sometimes we can get overwhelmed by circumstances or situations or just with life in general. The pace that some of us go can produce all sorts of side effects like not sleeping properly or even not eating regularly or being withdrawn from people.

I was thinking about Job’s wife (from the Bible) who isn’t mentioned much but when she is referred to, she comes over as rather negative especially with her husband who had lost his livelihood and his health. They both lost all of their many children which must have been crushing and devastating for them. We are told that Job had prayed for each of his children each day so to have them removed in such a sudden way must have been very overwhelming. While Job was coming to terms with the turn of events, she must have been going through a lot of emotions even being angry with God (which is perfectly acceptable – but not if it lingers and turns into bitterness).

I am reminded of the verse that says in Psalm 61:2 of the Amplified Bible, “From the end of the earth will I cry to You, when my heart is overwhelmed and fainting; lead me to the rock that is higher than I [yes, a rock that is too high for me].” It’s not an easy thing to do in the midst of trials and difficulties when one can make no sense of what might be happening. Why does a young mum have to die so early? Why does a child have to have a debilitating disease? Why did a job come to an end? Questions, questions, questions that often can’t be answered and yet can leave us overwhelmed.

Tears are a wonderful remedy to feelings of being overwhelmed. Somehow the dam can burst and all the heartaches can be exposed and even healed so that restoration can begin. May our children not be ashamed to cry especially when they get older and feel overwhelmed with their circumstances or even results of tests or exams. God, being the loving heavenly Father that He is, can comfort and sustain and hold us and our children so that His love permeates our whole beings. Let go and let God comes to mind – easier said than done of course – but a key to unlocking our numbness when overwhelming feelings try to get the better of us. ‘Call to Jesus’.

Being Busy

I think that this is what most of the human race is good at and we women even more so. I find myself multi-tasking sometimes up to 10 jobs at a time which can make one gain a headache! However, it is my opinion that being busy can cover up all sorts of things like insecurity, wanting to please people and feeling needed to mention a few.

Once, we get hold of Jesus’ recommendation to abide in Him (see John 15) – to dwell in Him and rest in Him then, he can do His work in us. We can learn to cease from our own works and learn to do his will which doesn’t have to be that frantic or rushed. One doesn’t see Jesus racing around even though His mission was to save the world! Sometimes, Jesus even delayed helping and even when there were crises at hand. When Lazarus died and his two sister petitioned Jesus to come to them, he purposely delayed coming to them as He was so intimately connected with His Father God that He knew He had to wait for a greater happening to occur and glory going to God as Lazarus was raised from the dead.

Again, I mention my favourite Psalm 37 that speaks about resting in the Lord and waiting patiently for Him and then He will give the desires of our heart. Only God knows what’s deep within each of us, and yet if we remain connected closely to our Maker, then He can direct us if we are prepared to be still and listen. Of course, at times, we can still hear God’s voice even on the go but these impulsive thoughts can sometimes lead us to seeking God quietly for confirmation especially when we have big decisions we have to make.

Somehow, this generation of children seem to be more on the go mentally than the previous one, with all the technology around them filling their waking hours. I was hearing about a Mum who abstained from any social media and phone use at all with her young daughter for a day. They found that they could actually do lots more creative things both on their own and together. At first, it was a huge wrench, especially for the young girl but she came into balance. Moments of stillness and just stopping the usual routines can help us feel more alive and able to take life more steadily at a more even pace with time to spare to even talk to people. Our children need to learn this – which is one reason we have provided ‘The Creation Series‘ (Set A of Diamond Books) so that a young child can snuggle up close to an adult and read about God’s order in His world which includes resting for one day of the week. If God needed to rest and cease from busyness, so do we!

Puzzled

Computers and I don’t get on as most of my friends will vouch. These last few weeks and months have been those that have seen my computer perform very badly! Sending and copying emails was a problem, thus affecting my communication especially with the Diamond Books team that I am involved with. So, I liaised with my IT people and a plan was made. We would move the many thousands of emails that had built up in my work inbox (since 2014) and transfer them onto my offline folder then delete the stuff in my inbox of my Diamond Books email account. Problem solved, we thought. So we did this, only to find that the deleted emails in my inbox popped back into view after about 10 minutes of doing this. So, we did this again only to find that the same thing happened. Puzzled seems a very mild word to use for this scenario!

‘Puzzled’ is not a Biblical word in the New King James version of the Bible but it is something we all experience sometime or another. The word ‘perplexed’ is mentioned a few times in the Bible and helps us to see how others were puzzled and yet were able to overcome. The classic example is Joseph (husband of Mary who was the mother of Jesus). His fiancee was pregnant and he knew the baby she was expecting was not his; he made plans to break up the engagement; then an angel spoke to him in a dream encouraging him to go ahead and marry Mary. So what was he to do? Use his common sense and carry out his plans or go with this angel’s suggestion, swallow his pride and do what God wanted of him? As we know, Joseph made the choice of marrying Mary and became the earthly step-father of Jesus.

Some women who were followers of Jesus were in a quandary when they went to visit the tomb where Jesus (having died) had been placed. They were very perplexed and puzzled to find that Jesus’ body was not in the tomb, the huge stone across the entrance of the tomb having been rolled across somehow revealing that no-one was in there. The Contemporary English Bible states “they did not know what to do”. How we can echo those words for so many situations that we face! Being a Christian is such a great privilege – as we have the Holy Spirit dwelling within us, guiding us and giving us all the wisdom we will ever need.

Children need this assurance that when they face a difficult problem, even impossible, then there is One who can come alongside and help them through the “mazes” of life. When puzzled it gives God an opportunity to step into their world and provide the answer. Simply asking Jesus to help, sends heaven’s answers coming!

Fact or Fiction

Just recently, we had a family problem that nobody could understand. A wedding was called off, relatives had come from Australia and there was deadlock between some members of the family. While others of us looked on, it was easy to gossip about the whole situation and even surmise what we thought was going on. However, we, the ones observing things, had no idea about the true facts of the matter and as one member of the family stated ‘it is none of our business and we must not interfere’. Our job was to pray and let God bring reconciliation and release the facts. In the meantime, we needed to keep our prone-to-tattling tongues still and wait for all to be revealed!

Jesus said “You will know the truth and the truth will set you free” (see John 8). The truth of a matter reveals the facts so that everyone can ‘sing off the same hymn sheet’ and misunderstandings can be avoided. Facts can’t be disputed but sometimes it is difficult to discern what is fact and what is fiction.

Luke, a doctor, wrote the gospel book of Luke and the book of Acts. He was a very detailed and intelligent character who didn’t actually meet Jesus but interviewed those who knew him to gain eye witness accounts of what did happen. Luke carefully explained that his aim was to write an orderly account of the facts about Jesus from the time of his birth until he was taken into Heaven so that the reader would know the certainty of the things that had already been instructed to them (Luke 1:1-4). The book of Acts was a continuation of his gospel that showed the facts from the time when Jesus was taken up into heaven right through to the formation of the early church with its commitment to spread the good news about Jesus everywhere!

It’s easy for children to be swayed by ideas and feelings without looking at the facts of a situation or even to ascertain what is fact or fiction in what they read. Because the Bible is authentic and is known to be true, they can trust the words that are in it. That is why every Diamond Book is like a diamond coming out of Heaven with nuggets of truth inside and many facets on the outside, showing children the facts about what God is like and how he loves everyone and has a plan for each person. Let’s not deny children the ‘facts of life’ that provide for them the journey of life that is full of peace, joy, contentment and purpose with security as found in the Bible itself.

Rest

I was going to write a blog on ‘trust’ and then I read Hebrews 4 that is about the rest of God and realised afresh that trusting is just like resting. As Christians, we believe that the finished work of Christ happened when Jesus died and He exclaimed while hanging on a cross, ‘It is finished’, meaning that the work He came to do was accomplished. Jesus came to rescue mankind from the ravages of a sin-filled life that we all have until God wipes our slate clean. When Jesus died and rose from the dead, the power of God was extended to us who simply believe and trust what God has done and said. His death, signified in his blood, has bought us freedom to live and move and have our being, simply trusting God our Maker and Creator. So, in essence the work is done in freeing us up, but we have to live it out. That’s the hard bit but only God can bring us into balance.

Recently, when I got overwhelmed with so many plates I seemed to be juggling concerning family issues, work issues and personal stuff, I had a “Eureka moment” when I realised that God had paid the price even for my muddles. Being my Heavenly Father, as well as my Saviour, he won’t allow anything to come to me unless He gives permission for it. So, if we consider the guy ‘Job’ who God allowed to suffer and gave permission for satan to test, then we see how Job struggled but kept trusting who God was and is. He rested in knowing that His Redeemer lived even though he wrestled with what his friends told him. God gave him back what he had lost and more and gave him a very long life also.

God can be trusted. When all was done in the creation of our world, then God himself rested. We, too, can rest in God, even “abide” as John’s gospel states (John 15:1) in the finished work of Him setting us free. We just need to pursue what He asks of us on a daily basis.

Children are able to go to bed really early and get a huge portion of sleep that enables them to grow in stature as well as in their emotional and spiritual development. We are so like children needing regular rest but in fact we can choose a lifestyle of rest, trusting God and simply doing what he asks of us. Then the pressure is off – all we’re about is His work, taking hold of His yoke, learning to be gentle and humble and casting our burdens back to Him who knows us so well.

One day

Taking one day at a time is fine in theory but putting it into practice is a different scenario. I think it takes faith to live this way without projecting into the future or mulling over what has gone before.

Since looking after my Mum at home and juggling a business and dealing with the losses that make the present day difficult, I realise that I need God in my life more and more. I’ve been meditating on Isaiah 12:2, part of which says “See, God has come to save me.” It’s present tense and shows how personally God takes an interest in me and indeed each of us. A week ago, I felt like a caged bird whose cage was filling with water and then God sent a friend to listen and pray with me which made all the difference.

I am finding that when the stresses increase, so do the temptations to eat more, watch TV more or simply not to be disciplined about the times I go to bed. A day can depend on the amount of sleep I get but then even if I haven’t had my quota, then I can learn to lean and depend on God and abide in Him, the one who can practically save me from moving away from what He has planned for this day.

One day in history changed the whole course of human civilisation. Jesus not only died (we remember this on Good Friday each year) but the unique day came 3 days after this when he was raised from the dead. This means that Jesus is alive and can make the huge differences in our lives if we let Him. Jesus came so that our lives could be washed, cleansed and forgiven. The sin that so easily besets us can be obliterated and God says He puts it in the depths of the sea, never to be recalled by Him again. One day, we are each going to stand before our Maker when there is a reckoning for us all but because of what Jesus did on the first Good Friday and the first Resurrection Day, then because we have accessed His forgiveness, we can confidently stand before God as Jesus stands for us and with us. Knowing that Jesus’ blood has covered our sins, Almighty God who can’t have any sin or unholiness in His presence, allows us to enter heaven because Jesus’ blood covers our sins. If Jesus had just died and not come alive again then we would have had nobody to vouch for us before Almighty God, the One Jesus called Father. How amazing is this!

So, in the light of eternity, my struggles in any given day on earth, are so small, yet are working in me a way to grow and develop into God’s likeness as the Holy Spirit does the work within us. Children need to know that God loves us as we are, not because we are good, as none of us are this. As we accept His love, then we can relax more. Often, it is forgiving ourselves that is the hardest thing to do but then God has made provision for this, also, as we seek to keep short accounts with him and allow him to forgive throughout each day so we can go to sleep in peace.

Weeping

Friday saw me clutching a box of tissues as my Mum and I went into a room to celebrate my late brother’s life. He called it a ‘Cheerful Farewell’ which he had organised and planned. He had made a professional video of himself talking and sharing his favourite musical highlights and so he had the final word. I couldn’t stop the tears and the weeping has continued. One only has to mention that Friday and I start again!

I’m aware that the Bible has many words of comfort regarding how we feel especially when life seems harrowing and upsetting. “Weeping may endure for a night but joy comes in the morning” (Psalm 30:5) comes to mind. It’s wonderful to think that our Creator God gave us the facility to cry to release the tensions within us and keep us hopefully healthy especially emotionally in doing so. The British upper lip attitude doesn’t hold water here!

It’s good that children can cry or else we wouldn’t know that something might be wrong, especially babies and toddlers who can hardly express themselves in any other way. How we as adults need that empathy to feel with them when they hurt physically or in any other way. Again our Creator God has given most of us the ability to feel pain so that we are alerted to something wrong.

May the words of our mouths and the actions we do be loving and kind to those going through the weeping seasons of their lives. It’s so easy to ignore someone who is upset when an arm round, a hug or a kind word can make all the difference.

In the Bible it says that God holds our tears in a bottle! David (before he became the King of Israel) said, “You number my wanderings; put my tears into Your bottle; are they not in Your book.” (Psalm 56:8) As a younger Christian, I received a lot of comfort from the words ‘He knows’ as my heart would often break with circumstances in my life but God has proved Himself faithful in picking me up and carrying me – like in the poem about the footprints in the sand – only one set of prints could be seen at times and that was because the Father was holding the child in His big arms!

May God’s love reach our children so that they can realise how much they are loved and know for themselves the nearness of God in practical and definite ways. That’s one of the reasons why Diamond Books came into being!

Trust in the Lord with all your heart

Trust is a word we use a lot really, but its meaning is challenging. In order to trust someone, we need to know them and then put our entire confidence in them. This is what God wants of us humans as we were made to interact with God, find out what He is like and then learn to trust Him. Because God is perfect, we have a fantastic role model that we can copy but in fact it is only by trusting Him that we find that He does the necessary work in us to make us what we really are supposed to be. Our copying isn’t enough!

I am going through a big challenge at present and am having to learn to trust God more. Recently, I went for a long bike ride along the Wirral Way (a cycle track that borders the coast of this beautiful Wirral peninsula) and on coming back I saw what I thought was a mount for a picture to go in and it looked new. So, I picked it up from the road and on turning it over I found that it was an ‘L’ plate off a car and what I thought was the frame part of the mount was actually magnetic strips to attach to a car. I then thought about this and realised afresh that I am a disciple of Jesus and this has the meaning of ‘learner’. So I stuck this ‘L’ plate on my dishwasher door on coming home that day to help me to remember that I am a learner in trusting God. I have so much to learn in this.

When the way ahead looks clear and smooth going, it is easy to trust God. The world looks good and everything seems OK – especially in the British sunshine! However, it is at the times that we struggle and have all our plans go differently from what we expected that we need to trust God more. King Solomon wrote “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not to your own understanding..” (Proverbs 3:5). How I need to remember this!

As we grow in faith as adults and realise that we can trust God for everything and anything especially for our specific needs and the needs of others, then our children can grasp hold of this faith and simply make requests of God knowing that He will answer. We trust the chair we are about to sit on; we trust that the bus will arrive at the bus stop; we trust that if we put a key in the ignition of a car that it will start – yet many of us find it hard to trust the God who has given us a brief in His word, the Bible, that he is for us and not against us and that he works everything together for good to those who love Him (see Romans 8:28). As we study the character of God shown in the Bible, then we discover the many-faceted sides of God and His huge love for mankind.

As “Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17) may we drench our minds and hearts in His written word, the Bible, and so teach our children the wisdom in simply trusting God for everything that they are ever going to need or know. Diamond Books helps facilitate this so that our children can learn to love God’s word while getting to know the Author of it.

My ‘Daddy’

Yesterday was a very special day for me as it would have been my dad’s 94th birthday. He sadly died in 1980 but he leaves memories that cannot be taken away from me. My dad struggled being a father but he did the best he could and I do so appreciate the humour he gave to me which I wrote about in a poem when he died.

With the brokenness of our society, many children (and adults) may not even know who their dad is. Some have such fractious and limited experiences of a father that they grow up lop-sided and don’t know what it means to relate and have a father around.

I became very excited when I discovered that God is my ‘Daddy’ in every sense of the word. In Romans 8 of the Bible, the writer (Paul the apostle) talks about God being called ‘Abba’ the root meaning of which being ‘Daddy’. Abba, Father, is a colloquial term for Father God which makes God so intimate and near and indeed real. Closely related to this is God being a Shepherd to us – indeed Jesus was called the Good Shepherd who laid down his life for the sheep (us humans being likened to these animals who easily just follow each other around).

A good daddy looks after his children, providing for them, teaching them, disciplining them when necessary (and in the right way) and helping them through the struggles of life. He also plays with them, gives them treats, listens to them and loves them to bits in a whole host of ways. ‘Daddy’ God supersedes all earthly dads as His love is pure and so knowing of each of His children. He is super good and wants only good things for His children (anyone who believes in Jesus and trusts Him) so we can simply talk to our ‘ Daddy’ about anything and He will sort out the issues and dilemmas we face.

Children loved Jesus when He walked the earth and He certainly loved them even shooing his disciples away when they tried to stop the children coming to Him. Jesus was the human (though wholly God as well) form of Daddy God so we could see and appreciate who Daddy is today. Children in our societies may need to hear this truth magnified to them so that they can know the security and love of their heavenly Daddy. In Book 1 of ‘The Creation Series’ there is a picture of some children sitting on their father’s knee which shows graphically what a father can do. Our heavenly ‘Daddy’ is like that and wants us and each of our children to climb onto His lap and snuggle into His love. That’s what Jesus made possible – the connection between earth and heaven – the way became open for each of us to relate to ‘Daddy’ God who for so long (seen in the Old Testament of the Bible)  seemed distant and harsh.

I loved my daddy but I love my ‘Daddy’ more. Nothing can separate me from His love! (Read the whole of Romans, chapter 8 to find out more!).