Habits

Habits can be hidden or obvious. The vices of habits are well known and we say that these habits need to be broken. However, as humans we are incapable of breaking the root causes of such habits. I believe that only the power of the Holy Spirit can deal with these and as we submit ourselves to God in Jesus Christ then freedom can come.

The other day I had a morning when the challenges increased even after praying for no interruptions or delays to the limited time I have to work on the project God has given me to do. The electricity was cut off – how we rely on our computers and extras that so many people in other countries don’t have at all. How we rely on the usual way of doing things – a habitual way of living. So, what did I do? I prayed a little bit and panicked a bit and then set to doing some practical stuff that I hadn’t intended to do including phoning for an emergency electrician.

Then a kind friend pointed me in the right direction when I realised that the big black fuse switch was actually off when all the others were on. I hadn’t even noticed this black switch! So now, I am on catch up and endeavouring to write this blog in a matter of minutes. We are such creatures of habit that when things go differently from usual, it throws us … well it throws me!

It’s easy for us to say and quote that “All things work together for good to those who love God and are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28) when things are going right but when the difficulties come, we can be ignorant of putting our trust in God at these times. So I am learning to do this even though it is so alien to do this. It is the truth however, just as praising God in all circumstances is alien to our minds and wills.

How we need to be flexible and taking things in our stride whatever a day may bring. Children are creatures of habit even more than adults. However, they do seem more adaptable.

As we develop good habits and allow God to break off the bad ones, then peace and contentment and order can take place in our lives. God ordered the creation of our world and then he had a rest – how we need to develop this habit in our busy lives so that we refresh and recharge to be ready and more useful in the Master’s service. Book 1 ‘God’s World’ of ‘The Creation Series’ (for reading to 3-4 year olds) illustrates this beautifully as our artist Sharon Renta has shown. May our children get into the habit of 6 days of work and one day of rest even within our families.

A Successful Life

With the death of Barbara Ford recently and all that she did and advocated, we can see an outwardly successful life. She influenced many people and had a very full life with her family and ideas. She was an admirable lady and will be greatly missed.

We can all be successful as God has given each of us abilities, talents and gifts that can be used for the good of mankind. If we connect to our Maker on a daily basis then we can be guided to use these for the greatest good. Our inner life and our connection to Jesus is vital so that the Holy Spirit can work powerfully through our lives – if we let Him.

Jesus advocated that doing the will of God was more important than anything else. Our flesh, sin and choices can stop us from doing this in our individual lives but I believe that there is no greater fulfilling place to be, other than being in the centre of God’s purpose for our human journeys. We can be satisfied, sufficient, at peace and joyful in knowing we are doing what we were created to do while on this planet and thus contributing to the whole of humanity really – like a cog in a wheel, we affect so many lives just by being here on the Earth.

Because we are all unique but equally of value and all loved the same by Jesus, we don’t have to compete with one another but rest back in knowing who we are and finding God’s purpose for our lives. As we seek to know what this is, God is faithful to show us the way as He is the Way.

We can all be a part of God’s family, the church, which in the Bible is likened to a body that has many parts which function differently. When one part hurts, the whole body feels it. Love is central to this body as Jesus is likened to being the Head of this body and all that flows from Jesus is love in its varying forms.

So, we can teach our children to not only give their lives to Jesus for Him to use as He will but they can also actively seek His will and purpose for their lives which will always be good. Then they can be successful even if their earthly work may not be appreciated or even noticed (like some parts of the body are hidden from view). There is One in Heaven who sees all and when the crowns are given out to wear to bow before King Jesus in person one day, He will say ‘Well done, good and faithful servant’ and that will be worth hearing and be real success.

Coping with the shocks of life

I’m reminded that those early disciples were so shocked when Jesus Christ visited them, coming through a door, after his resurrection. He told them that he would rise from the dead but somehow they had forgotten and they were so unsure of what to make of Jesus’ death. Simon Peter had even been so shocked at Jesus’ arrest that he cut off the ear of one of the soldiers (only for Jesus to reach out and heal it!) and then he denied that he ever knew Jesus while in the courtyard near to where Jesus was being tried. How Jesus loved Simon Peter and asked to see him after his resurrection. Jesus even cooked breakfast for Peter and his friends and talked to him heart to heart.

The shocks we have in life throw us in all directions and we find it hard to adjust to what was and what life has become. With the sudden loss of a friend, or a diagnosis of a serious illness or the break up of a marriage we can be left reeling until we can centre ourselves and focus on the One who isn’t shocked by the tragedies that happen on Earth. I find myself panicking in these crisis times when really we can safely trust our Maker and Friend to do what He infinitely knows is best. It’s at these times that we need that heart to heart with Jesus but so often we run away from doing this – it’s almost too much.

Long ago, Jonah must have been shocked when he found himself in the belly of a big fish and then 3 days later being spewed up onto a beach! All this happened because he wasn’t willing to do what God wanted him to do and he had to learn the hard way. Hosea was asked by God to marry a prostitute so that lessons could be drawn for the people of Israel to consider. What a shock this must have been for Hosea and the prostitute he married.

Life’s surprises can shock us into trusting God more or we can question what he allows. It’s easy to get angry and ask ‘why?’ but God has the bigger picture in mind. We see only the underneath of the tapestry that God is weaving in our lives but He sees what He is doing with each of us individually and collectively as His church (his representatives on Earth).

Children watch us adults as to how we respond or react to the shocks that come our way. To trust God really is the only wise way to go forward even if there are muddles and questions before we get to doing this. “As for God, His way is perfect,” (Psalm 1 :30) wrote King David who had his share of shocks. Let’s endeavour, as adults even if we are in pain and anguish, never to put a stumbling block in front of our children. They’ll see us make mistakes but we can ask forgiveness of God and of those we hurt which shows our young ones the intimate close relationship they can have with Father God through Jesus who can steer us through the shocks of life. Let’s ensure we use the Bible as our guide, as the Holy Spirit enlightens us, so that our children can emulate what we do.

Dignified

This is something that we sometimes wish to be but more often we see this trait in others’ lives and respect and honour them for it.

I’m reminded of King David – an eminent king – but he had the humility to dance before the Lord in the street with very few clothes on to praise and honour and love God with all of his being. He was actually being undignified despite his high position as king. Sometimes, religion can get in the way of spontaneous worship when we don’t consider our reputation or what others may think and just do what is right for a particular time or occasion. King David’s wife, Michal, laughed at David and as a result of her giving that haughty look, she remained childless during her life. Haughtiness is something that God seems to hate and it is mentioned as being so in the book of Proverbs in the Bible.

Jesus was humiliated hours before his death and he died a most undignified death stripped and on a cross, yet there was something about him that was truly dignified and magnifieent that one couldn’t help but admire. He remained silent in the face of his accusers and only spoke in response to truth that was bantered in front of him. He loved each person to the end and only died because he loved the human race enough to die in their place when us human sinners were deserving of death instead (as the wages of sin is death – see Romans 3:23).

Being dignified enables people to respect a person as they keep poised even in the face of much opposition. Nelson Mandela was like this in the South African prison he stayed in for many years. He didn’t lose his spirit of knowing what was right and of course was able to continue the anti-racist call by becoming the leader of South Africa after his release and was able to transform attitudes and ways.

How we parents need to learn to be dignified even in the most difficult of circumstances so that our children can learn what it is to be like Jesus. We can be mirrors for our children so that when they get things wrong (which we all do) then our children know that there is forgiveness with Jesus. Books 7 and 8 of Set A of Diamond Books help a child’s understanding of this. May these books bless all who read them!

The Winter Season

What an amazing season of the year this is – with it’s snow and ice, strong winds, rain, hail and even sunshine. Here in the UK, we are experiencing almost every season of the year in this current winter. Many of the plants are dead or dormant and even the birds and animals hide away from the elements. However, winter can be very productive in that preparation is being made under the earth for new growth and surprises to come in the Spring when plants appear almost out of nowhere. Pruning needs to take place ready for the new growth to appear.

As in the physical, so in the spiritual, we can go through a winter season of the soul when all seems or feels lifeless and the circumstances of our lives bring great challenges and even unfulfilled dreams. However, even in these, there is hope of a springtime for our souls as we allow God’s pruning knife to lop off dead things in our lives and good growth, too, and allows room for a greater yield of fruit in whatever form it takes.

Winter can feel very cold for our bodies and we can feel cold in our spirits towards God but he is never that way with us even though he allows things in our lives that we have to grapple with and don’t understand. These are the times to lean on Him just like a wayward raspberry cane needs support in being tied. The restriction is often for a greater purpose ahead that is unbeknown to us.”I will trust and not be afraid” – Isaiah 12:2 in the Bible comes to mind and Basiliea Schlink’s phrase ‘Father, I don’t understand you but I trust you.’

May our children know the benefits of winter. As they may experience their parents going through the winter of their soul at different times, may they learn with their parents the security of leaning on the everlasting arms that are ever open from God to comfort, restore, strengthen, provide and help even when it all seems to be silent and cold around.

The wonderful thing is that God promised to Noah that He would ensure that the seasons would always be, so that Spring always follows Winter, Summer follows Spring and Autumn follows Summer and Winter follows Autumn. God’s order shows itself magnificently and assures us that God is in control – even killing off the bad germs during the winter months!

The Reason Children Sing

Children are often such spontaneous beings and we adults can learn a lot from them. Jesus actually said that we are all to become like little children in the simplicity and simple faith they easily exhibit. Jesus also said that if people didn’t praise Him then the stones would cry out – quite literally!

God has made us humans to worship him. He has created a God-shaped hole within each of us that only He can fill. Children can so easily fill this hole in their lives by singing songs of worship to their Father God who protects and looks after them, even supplying angels to keep watch over them. Jesus spoke about a little child leading the way and children can be leaders and examples in giving praise to God as they love God and sing to him.

Some years ago, I was involved with Youth with a Mission’s ‘King’s Kids’ teams who were encouraged to worship God and then give performances to adults who were blessed by their vibrancy and originality. Each team was quite unique and received teaching that taught them to be bold and pray for the adults who attended the gatherings even asking and believing for God to heal all manner of illnesses. God so often answered their simple prayers straight away. Jesus said that there would be much joy in seeing God answer prayer and this joy so easily can turn into song.

Children are also responders, so when singing songs to God is suggested to them, they tackle the idea with great enthusiasm and sincerity. As they learn to worship God, it becomes the most natural thing for them to do and as they learn various songs one can hear them singing when just on their own while playing. Worshipping God, especially the singing that is involved with this, can become a way of life for them and the most natural thing for them to do. When they get to read about God in their Bibles and simple Bible stories, such as in Diamond Books, they can realise how much God loves them so that their singing can become love songs to their Creator and Redeemer.Let’s not stop children learning about God and coming to Him or put barriers in their way, for “of such” said Jesus, “is the Kingdom of Heaven.” Matthew 19:13-15

Worried Children

The news this week in the UK highlighted the plight of worried children in today’s busy, pressuring world that babies are born into. It made me think about the simple things that Jesus said about worry and anxiety and how our children as well as us adults can learn from the Master.

Jesus spoke often to his young disciples and he taught them well and encouraged them not to worry about everyday life, e.g. whether they had enough food or drink or enough clothes to wear. “Look at the birds….Look at the lilies of the field…” he said to them (see in Matthew 6: 25- end) – they don’t worry and God cares for them. “So” said Jesus, “don’t worry about these things saying , ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?…These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers…” (Matthew 6:31-32 – New Living Translation). As we, in the west, expect to have so much material things and the highest quality also, Jesus advocates the simple life of just looking to him for everything we need. Children have this simple faith built in them but I think it is we adults who clutter their lives with demands and material things that are not necessary.

Children today seem to have huge expectations upon them, like keeping up with their peers with the latest technology of phones/laptops, ipads etc.; dressing to impress; and being able to be popular on social media. Really, children today and all through the ages have had only one obligation and command from God that is simply to obey their parents, something not even considered very much or mentioned in child rearing discussions, let alone carried out.

A verse, given to me at my baptism, comes to mind and in the New Living Translation of the Bible it reads in Philippians 4:8-9:
“Don’t worry about anything; instead pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand…” That’s what we all need and God’s peace overrides our worries as we bring everything to God in prayer. We can encourage our children to do just that so that they can grow up more whole and balanced and confident in the God who can provide all that they will ever need.

Changes and the one who doesn’t change

“Through all the changing scenes of life…” comes to mind, but when I looked it up in my hymnbook it wasn’t there. If anyone out there who is reading this can supply the rest of the hymn, that would be a blessing! I know this hymn has some really good words but can I remember them?

I’m not very good when changes occur especially the ones that happen really quickly and take one unawares. I’ve been thinking about how children manage the huge changes around them not only in their physical development which is colossal but also in their day-to-day encounters. Starting school is a biggy for many children and then moving up a class each year presents yet more changes and sometimes anxieties. Because children have an open slate, as it were, and don’t have a history of what may happen in their lives, I think they are quite resilient. Many of them don’t show their fears or worries. Sometimes these come out in later in life and sometimes unpleasant experiences need counsel and prayer.

The only One who doesn’t change is Jesus – representing God on earth when he came to visit our planet and yet being alive today to help us just as much and more than he helped people on the earth when he came over two thousand years ago. In the book of Hebrews Chapter 13, it reads “Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today and forever.” Wow – what a statement! As children grasp this, they can be secure in knowing One who can help them through the changes that occur to them. Hence our focus in Diamond Books on the unchanging character of God.

Power of Words

I have been very conscious recently that there is great power associated with words. The most vital words for our lives are those found in the Bible and they offer us an insight into who God is and how we humans can connect with Him.

As I was preparing to do this blog, I looked up a website (http://blog.biblesforamerica.org/two-important-greek-words-in-the-bible-emlogosem-and-emrhemaem/) that explains, far better than I could do, two very important Greek words about the use of ‘word’ in the Bible. The word ‘logos’ refers to the constant written word of God and the word ‘rhema’ refers to the word Jesus spoke which gives spirit and life not only when Jesus was on earth but even today. The two words complement each other it seems.

Words that are spoken to us are very powerful especially if one’s love language is ‘affirmation’. One small word can make a huge difference to the way one feels or acts or goes about the day. The other evening, I was a bit upset and, as I relaxed, I sensed the Holy Spirit say to me very clearly ‘You matter, you are Mine’. The Holy Spirit speaks on behalf of Jesus into our hearts so that the Christian life is one great adventure, He leading and guiding us with His eye upon us. He knows what we think, He knows the way that we take and sometimes He has to direct us differently than what we expected. It’s good to know also that He works everything together for good to those who love Him and are called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28) The simple words that God brought to my attention are making a huge difference to my daily life (even though I still fall over and blow it). Positive words are such an encouragement and of course many are based on the written word of God. “I have loved you with an everlasting love” the prophet Jeremiah wrote (see Jeremiah 31:3) shows that we (I) matter and Jesus said, “You did not choose me; I chose you and appointed you to go and bear much fruit, the kind of fruit that endures…(see John 15:14). I am chosen of God and belong to Him. God is so interested in the individual! In Isaiah 43:! God is quoted as saying, “Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you. I have called you by name, you are Mine.”

May our children become adventurous in this life, getting to read and pray the words of the Bible so that when the Holy Spirit speaks to them in their hearts they are assured that these words come from God as they learn to discern their true source as being based on the inspired word of God that was written long ago by men who were agents to write God’s words.

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.