Miracles in the West

In an age of skeptics and unbelief, we can so easily put down as irrelevant the supernatural happenings that occur often unexpectedly. Jesus Christ was One who made miracles more common place – yet even reading about these in the Bible can even make us think that these were just for that day and age in which Jesus graced our world.

I have recently viewed a DVD of the miracles that are happening in Africa today. The dead are being raised to life in Jesus’ Name and deaf ears and blind eyes are able to hear and see – just like in Jesus’s day. Cancers also are disappearing. Maybe here in the West, we don’t get so desperate for God to intervene. Many in some parts of Africa have very little materially and yet spiritually they can be rich in faith and receive much from God’s generous hand. We don’t need to limit God and his capacity to do miracles today – of all kinds.

Children need to know that God can do anything and the impossible! As faith is required and “faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God” (See Romans 10:17) we have developed our reading project on the Bible so that as children master reading skills they can also grow their spiritual antennae and capacity. When a crisis occurs, we, as adults can panic or work out how to overcome a situation by logic or simply bring our need to the Father of all, shown to us in Jesus. The name of Jesus is all powerful and by using His name miracles can literally happen today. Children with their simple faith can actually bring about miracles as simply believing is all that is required. Children here in the west are literally being denied their inheritance so the Diamond Books project redresses this lack and gives children not only a spiritual foundation but also foundations in learning to read.

Megatrips

I think I may have invented a word as I can’t find it in my dictionary but of course it could be in a more modern one or waiting to be assessed as a new word. Anyway, as I was praying, this word came to me as being the title of this blog so am pursuing what I think it means!

With air travel enabling one to have breakfast in one country, lunch in another and dinner in yet another, our world feels smaller and we are closer to people in other lands more than ever before. However, in the context of the past when there was no air travel, trains, coaches or even trips by car, it was the use of animals and carts and plain walking that made travel from A to B possible.

In his day, Jesus did some megatrips on foot. He travelled from one end of Israel to the other end, many times it seems, and criss crossed the land as led by his Father God. He must have travelled hundreds, if not thousands of miles in this way. He didn’t seem to complain but was sensible to take breaks, like when he went in a boat across the Sea of Galilee with his friends (disciples) and went to sleep. He may well have had cat naps like this in his busy itinerary when crowds pressed around him to see him and get a touch from him.

With our marathons and physical feats that we aim at these days that demand so much discipline for training, it was a wonder Jesus made it from place to place. He had that inner strength, power and poise to even deal with the unexpected happenings. This came from spending time with His Father who showed him the pattern and plan for each day so that he didn’t overdo it. He did just what was needed.

We’re (including our children) in danger of burning out when we set our targets for exercise and fitness and if we don’t gain the wisdom from spending time with God, we won’t know the plan for our lives which is vital for real health and balance. May we encourage our children to not only aim high within the gifting and interests they have (which are God given) but also help them to spend that quality and quantity time knowing what their megatrip is for a particular day and walk in it so that they don’t grow weary so easily. “Come to me,” said Jesus “…and I will give you rest” (see the full verses in Matthew 11:28-30) ceasing from one’s own megatrips but living for His.

“…The Lord is the everlasting God; he created all the world. He never grows tired or weary. No one understands his thoughts. He strengthens those who are weak and tired. Even those who are young grow weak; young people can fall exhausted. But those who trust in the Lord for help will find their strength renewed. They will rise on wings like eagles; they will run and not get weary; they will walk and not grow weak.” (Isaiah 40:28-31 – Good News Bible) – even on megatrips!

Snow

I had a little ‘Snoopy’ badge that said ‘Think snow’- don’t know where it’s gone now – it might show up when I do more decluttering!

This morning, we have snow coming down in flakes and settling on flat surfaces including our garage roof. I was like a little child excited with seeing these ice globules coming out of space. I have to say, I love the snow and if it makes me more childlike then I am right in line with what Jesus advocated (see Matthew 18:3). I’m still convinced that one of Jesus’ favourite words is ‘come’ and he gave this invitation to children as well as to adults (see Matthew 19:14 and Matthew 11:28).

Snow is mentioned in the Bible 24 times sometimes referring to the work that Jesus did in dying on the cross and coming to life again. Through this act of obedience to his Father, he was able to make us humans as white as snow, having forgiven all our sins when he died. The wonderful thing about snowflakes is that they disappear and the same flakes don’t reappear in creation at all. It’s just like our sins – once removed by Jesus, they do not reappear before Him again. We may well sin similarly again although hopefully not intentionally but the same blood of Jesus covers our sins from His sight so that one day we can stand before God pure and clean. King David wrote about this in Psalm 51.”Wash me and I will be whiter than snow” he penned as he cried to God.
The Bible also makes another analogy of our sins being removed as far as the east is from the west (see Psalm 103:12).

So when it snows or children see snow, we can remind them of what God says. They can be clean and pure before God just like us adults can be and they don’t have to earn it either! Jesus did the work for all of us!

Sheer Joy

The Christmas story says it all – particularly the shepherds encounter with the angels. An angel of the Lord, we are told in Luke 2, said to the trembling shepherds,”Behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Saviour who is Christ the Lord.” (NKJV Bible) Then the lone angel was accompanied by many more. The shepherds went to find out and were amazed and marvelled at those things that had been told them.

The wise men tried to find out about where young Jesus was as they came into Jerusalem. King Herod had to call the religious leaders to find out what all this was about as The King of the Jews was being sought and he knew nothing about Him. It was when the star that had already led these wise men from the East appeared again and led them to Bethleham that “they rejoiced with exceedingly great joy” (Matthew 2:10 – NKJV)).

There was sheer joy at Jesus birth and indeed also when he rose from the dead after dying on a cross. The disciples hardly understood what was happening. It was some women who had been to the tomb who first realised the enormity of what had happened and they “went quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to bring His disciples word.” (Matthew 28:8 – NKJV) During his time on the earth in between these two events, Jesus expressed sheer joy especially when he was talking with His Father God. It seems that when people encountered Jesus in his earthly life, there was joy and now His intention is to pass on this joy to us his followers (John 17:13).

We can experience that joy unspeakable that the apostle Paul spoke about and our children can capture the sheer joy in knowing Jesus for themselves. There’s absolutely nothing to compare with knowing Jesus and letting His joy rub off on us. Then, there’s the added bonus that the ‘Joy of the Lord’ can indeed be our strength as Nehemiah proclaimed to his people long ago (Nehemiah 8:10).

May our joy and that of our children be infectious to all we meet in 2018!

Stress

Stress

We all get it, try to deal with it and even try to avoid it but stress is an inevitable part of life that can actually help us to keep in check and balance.

When tired, we can get things out of perspective and begin to feel things that are not true. We can be overwhelmed by circumstances and feel alone but the truth is that we are not alone especially as Christians. God has made provision for our loneliness in that when Jesus returned to Heaven, he gave the Holy Spirit to every believer to live in them so that they would have a residing friend forever.

How do we live free from this stress which is a 21st century phenomena which is experienced more and more it seems by the average human being? I have a friend who is very stable and a mature Christian and she advocates resting in God, abiding if you like. In John 15 of the Message Bible, Jesus himself says: “Live in me. Make your home in me just as I do in you. In the same way that a branch can’t bear grapes by itself but only by being joined to the vine, you can’t bear fruit unless you are joined to me.” It is a fact that unless we do abide in God, we cannot produce the qualities of life that God intends or even do anything. We can attempt to do things in our own strength but the results are futile. God wants us healthy and well and has given us foods and rhythms in our lives to keep us that way (eg regular sleep patterns) and ways to exercise our bodies and minds (by meditating on God’s word) but it is only as we rest in Him that He does what is needed in and through us.

One of my favourite verses in Scripture is “Rest in the Lord and wait patiently for Him” (in Psalm 37:7) or as The Message Bible puts it “Quiet down before God, be prayerful before him…”By meditating on these words in itself can produce peace and calm. God is in control even when all around us doesn’t appear so.
Children need order and rest in the midst of their many activities. As God ordered creation, then he wants to order our lives also. It’s not surprising that the content of God’s order in creation in Set A of Diamond Books, ‘The Creation Series’ appeals to autistic children it seems, I think for this very reason.
Let’s nestle close to our God in these days as the storms rage around us. We can be safe in the eye of the storm!

The Grace of God in Creation

I love the name ‘Grace’ which is a constant reminder of what is all around us! Grace means God’s undeserved favour and just looking at creation makes us think of the enormity of what God did in creating our world.

God, being God, could have made a world without men and women but then who would look after the birds, animals, plants, fish etc? He could have fed his creation and looked after and sustained them well but God had a plan that involved responsibility and accountability. He wanted us to become co-workers with him in caretaking His Earth.

We could have been made like robots, doing God’s bidding without any choice but it was God’s grace that gave us free will to choose to go God’s way or our own. It was a huge risk for God who wanted and wants to love everybody that He has made. He wanted people to love Him for who He is not because they had to. In the book of Acts, in the New Testament of the Bible, it says that in Jesus we have our being – “we live and move and have our being in Him.” (Acts 17:28) or as the New Century Version of the Bible puts it “We live in him. We walk in him. We are in him…”

Jesus is the pinnacle of what we humans are to be. We can seek to copy Him but this requires a change of heart that only God can bring about. Jesus talked to Nicodemus about being born again (see John 3) and even the smallest of children can grasp what’s needed to become a simple child of God, a Christian, which offsets the choice that the very first people, Adam and Eve, made which took them away from God’s grace. Still, however, God reached out in sending Jesus to our earth so that the grace of God could be extended to each of us, child and adult alike.

No wonder John Newton wrote the famous song ‘Amazing Grace’. Words cannot pen in detail what God has done for us in Jesus and in preparing an eternal home for each of his children.

The Unexpected

Life seems to throw up so many uncertainties and when the unexpected occurs, I tend to react rather than respond. Somehow, the routines of life can be comforting and give a false sense of security but when the unexpected occurs, I can wobble! However, when I focus on what is solid and secure, then I can stand which is all God requires of me. The problems and difficulties that the unexpected often brings can then in the long term become a blessing instead.
Even today, my Mum unexpectedly had an incident that made us believe that she had had a mini stroke. The CT scan showed no damage to the brain and as her symptoms disappeared quickly, we’re beginning to see another picture. My mum’s eyesight had become very poor for several days so now that she is staying in hospital (hopefully for only a very short while) this can be examined and even rectified. God moves in the most mysterious ways even through the unexpected and God can be trusted to sort out all the issues that come up.

Some children live on eggshells in an environment that is full of the unexpected especially in war torn countries such as Syria and the Central African Republic. How children need shielding from the trauma of such situations. However, again, God has a plan and He somehow uses these circumstances to bring unexpected good things to happen such as children being able to receive counselling to keep their mental health intact. The love and care of Christians around them can form a network of security for such children.

The word of God, the Bible, is the most solid and secure book there is that can minister to child and adult alike at any given time, guiding and encouraging, strengthening and holding us mortal humans. That’s why I have a slogan on my car that says “The best book to read is the Bible” that comes from an old chorus song that some of us oldies will remember! That’s why the Diamond Books project is based on the Bible so that child and adult alike can simply read of the truths that come from God’s heart so that hopefully their hunger to read the Bible itself can grow.
The most unexpected happening ever of course was when God sent Jesus to live among us humans, living the perfect life. Then, Jesus unexpectedly died in our place taking on Himself the sin of the whole world so that each person can choose to individually recognise what God did, be forgiven and live the life that God always destined for them. To think that God became a man – it’s just like one of us becoming an ant in order to communicate with the ants!

Let’s embrace the unexpected and trust God in and through these times so that we can prove that God works everything for good to those who love God and are called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28). As we do, in God’s strength and grace, then our children will copy us and follow our example so that even when the unexpected crushes us, children will be able to see that there is a “Rock” in life who will never let us down, even if the unexpected throws us temporarily.

Election – news we don’t get!

There has been so much talk going on with the election in the UK coming up imminently. Yet there is an election that is on the go all the time not for people to represent a nation but for individuals to represent God on the Earth.

God has made a way for every person on the planet, whether young or old, white, yellow, brown or black to be elected to become a child of God. Jesus has made a wonderful way for the human race as individuals to so trust Him that we can know that we are chosen of God to be all that He intended us to be. Jesus says “I am the way, the truth and the life, no-one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6) and he also said “You did not choose me. I chose you and sent you out to produce fruit, the kind of fruit that will last. Then my Father will give you whatever you ask for in my name.” (John 15:16 Contemporary English Version of Bible). We can choose but God elects each one of us even if some don’t take up their positions which is sad.

God has so much to give us individuals, completing out lives by filling up the God shaped hole within each of us, and setting us on a unique course of life using the skills he gives us and actually living like Jesus did. The fruit of His life i.e. His great love – shown in patience, joy, peace, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, self-control and humility – can be ours, if we connect with Him by simply praying a prayer of repentance and asking Him to steer our life from then on. Children can do this simple act of trusting God through the ups and downs of life but we adults need to give them the lead.

Paul, the apostle, who himself had a literal Damascus Road experience where Jesus showed Himself to him {who before hated the Christians around him) encouraged other believers (after he had become one himself!) to make their election sure. Peter, the disciple who blundered his way through situations and even denied that he knew Jesus (but who later wept about this and did a round about turn to follow Jesus again) wrote in one of his letters (2Peter) “So then, my brothers, try even harder to make God’s call and his choice of you a permanent experience; if you do so, you will never abandon your faith” (1:10 – Good News Bible). In some other translations Peter writes about making one’s call and election sure and being immersed in God’s word for us (the Bible) is essential for growth and assurance. That’s why we, at Diamond Books, emphasise the importance of encouraging children to not only know about God and His love but also to endeavour to learn God’s words by heart so that they can be a source of help as the years go by. With so much fear and anxiety being experienced by children in our day, these words can be such an anchor for them both now and later.

What a Wonderful World!

What a wonderful world we live in – the sheer beauty all around us and the variety of colour, fauna, types of animals, birds and sea creatures, the heavenly lights, let alone the unique individual humans that strut the planet and have gone before us. I love Louis Armstrong’s song, ‘What a Wonderful World’ – one of my favourites but sadly we are destroying so easily the beautiful habitats that God made for us to enjoy.

Our children can enjoy the big outdoors whether it is at the seaside or in the country or looking at it from a plane or at home in their native environment. The little things of creation often excite them like ladybirds or a beetle or a tiny flower stuck in a wall, a special looking stone and we, as adults, do well to emulate their simplicity and enthusiasm for life in all its fulness and abundance.

God has promised that the seasons and days and nights will be preserved in His pattern and God’s order will continue as He asks of us to simply caretake His world (see the early chapters of Genesis in the Bible). The even greater wonder is that God broke into history by sending Jesus to our planet – our only hope for things to be righted providing forgiveness for our sinfulness; healing for our sicknesses; and giving us the freedom to change as He works in our lives as we invite Him to.

‘God’s World’ happens to be the title of one of our books for reading to 3-4 year olds in ‘The Creation Series’. It sets the scene for little ones to see how ordered God is and shows so beautifully the many things He has made. Believe it or not, the crown of His creation is the human race and He delights in loving each one of us in the best ways possible. How He loves each child conceived and how He looks forward to their birth just like earthly parents do although of course some babies don’t get a chance to be born as sometimes the selfishness of adults can make it inconvenient to birth a child.

God’s world seems unpredictable because of the impulses of leaders and groups of people who decide to do things their own way rather than following the blueprint that God has set out in the Bible. The latter really is the most amazing book in the whole world telling of real heroes and heroines (the greatest of all being ‘Jesus’!) showing how human nature doesn’t change through the centuries and giving the answers to life as it was intended to be lived. Let’s get reading more of the Bible so that we can connect with the Creator who alone can get His world to work better for our children and grandchildren as we adults make those right choices.

The Light that Shines in the Darkness

When it gets dark, we need a light. When we feel that life is dark, we need a light. When we are unsure as to what decision to make, we need light on the matter. Lighthouses beam out a bright light to warn of danger.Lights in various forms are important, but really there is one light that is essential for us human beings. This light is supernatural. This light never goes out. This light can give power and energy.

The light that is unique and shines in dark places is The Light that is Christ. Many kings and important and famous people have sought this light and have sometimes viewed it as obsolete, irrelevant and useless but in my experience and in the lives of countless Christians through the ages, The Light – Jesus Christ has proven a true light that gives light to the whole world. If we would just turn to Him for his help in any matter, He comes to our aid. He loves us to be dependent on Him just as we depend on natural light that wakes us up each morning.

We have devoted a whole book on ‘The Light‘ to introduce 4-5 year olds to Jesus, the light of the world, so that they can be aware of Him in their simple uncluttered lives. One 4 year old recently, a grandson of one of our church members, was seen to be talking about forgiveness to his grandmother after learning about it at ‘Messy Church’. What God can forgive our sins except One who became like one of us to give us light and understanding as to who God is, showing us His very nature of love, care and protection? When we know that God is for us and not against us, then we can have a confidence – a deep peace within – that we are loved and valued and all things do work out for good when we trust Him. How our youngsters need to know this in great measure with all that is spinning around them to lure them into lesser things of little consequence.

In John’s gospel and chapter 8, Jesus himself stated “I am the light of the world.” (verse 12) – not a flicker of a light but big enough to embrace everyone in the whole world. John the Baptist recognised this as he prepared for Jesus’ ministry to begin. John writes “In him [Jesus] there was life, and that life was the light of all the people. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overpowered it.” (John 1:4-5 New Century Version of the Bible). How our children need to know this especially when they encounter difficult circumstances and don’t know who to turn to for help. Jesus is The Light that can show them the way, even the small steps they need to move forward in their development.

May the warm light of God’s presence in our lives embrace us all and the little people we are called to look after and/or minister to. In His light, we see light and children can appreciate this too!