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!

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!

A Helping Hand

How we each need this … especially at Christmas time when it seems that the world is buzzing with busyness.

My 92 year old mother is in hospital mainly with mobility issues and when she tries to walk, she is in need of assistance on either side of her. We each need a helping hand in whatever we do but God’s Almighty “Helping Hand” is invaluable. When visiting Mum yesterday, I needed a helping hand to manage emotionally what I saw happening to Mum beyond the walking situation. As I took a break and went to the hospital chapel nearby, I sensed God’s “Helping Hand” encouraging me to trust Him and cast my care on Him and to let Him take and carry the burden of concern upon Him – quite literally. Then last night, I was disturbed in my sleep by an unwelcome, unnecessary phone call, so as I sought to get back to sleep I tried to keep dwelling on “Don’t be anxious about anything, instead, pray about everything..” (Philippians 4:6). The following morning, a trusted friend phoned me and another sent a text picture with a Scripture on it that were like helping hands.

God loves to help us more than we realise. So often our pride gets in the way or we forget to call upon Him – the one who is available to us 24/7.

I’m reminded about the little Jewish maid who worked for Naaman, a Syrian general who had leprosy. She was able to help him by pointing him to Elisha, a prophet of God, who God used to speak a word to Naaman that enabled him to be healed of the leprosy (see 2 Kings 5).

Jesus went about doing good and gave a helping hand in many situations, e.g. when the disciples were in a storm, he helped by speaking a word of peace to the wind and waves; raising his friend Lazarus from the dead when his sisters thought that help was too late.

Our children need to know that God is at hand to help them. Just by calling on His name, JESUS, help can come to them. That’s why ‘The Jesus Series‘ – 16 books for 4-5 year olds to read themselves – is being published (hopefully ready in Spring 2018). It has been written so that today’s children can know the availability of God to them. He is a practical God in every way and can give children wisdom to steer them through difficult situations. “…We can receive mercy and grace to help us when we need it.” (Hebrews 4:16 – New Century version) wrote the writer of the book of Hebrews. The psalmist, David, also penned about this help from God – “God is our protection and our strength.” he wrote. “He always helps in times of trouble.” (Psalm 46:1 NCV) and he could also write, “My help comes from the Lord who made heaven and earth.” (Psalm 121).

Let’s be ready to give a helping hand to those we meet this Christmas. God himself gave a huge helping hand to mankind in sending Jesus to our earth. As we learn to trust Jesus let’s become His Helping Hand to everyone around us.

Goody Two Shoes

‘Goody Two-Shoes’ is the name given to a poor orphan – Margery Meanwell. She was so poor as to possess only one shoe and was delighted when given a pair of shoes by a rich gentleman. Then she kept repeating that she had ‘two shoes’. Sometimes, this title is given to Christians who do the right thing. However, the truth is that none of us are good and God himself exclaimed early in history that there was none that did good which is when he regretted that he had made man on the Earth at all. The flood followed but God in his mercy had a plan to preserve the human race by saving 8 people together with pairs of the various animals, birds and creatures that ever existed.

When we aim to impress others with acts of kindness or goodness, then our life can become religious, which is not what God has intended for the human race. If we’re honest, we struggle with even wanting to do good at times let alone doing kind and costly actions that God so often requires of us. The Christian life is all about dying to what ‘I’ want and doing the works that God wants… doing them in His strength and energy not in our human strength which can look and sometimes feel appealing. So how can we avoid being religious? I suggest 3 ways:-
1 Become born again as Jesus explained in John’s Gospel, chapter 3 – then transformations from the inside out of a person can take place
2 Spend time with God every day, reading the Bible and praying and fellowshipping with God’s people (not always in a church setting).
2 Listen to God’s still small voice that can be accessed at any time because the Holy Spirit dwells in each Christian … and learn to obey that voice.

Then, if anyone even implies that we are good or are acting like ‘Goody Two Shoes’ (who really has been misrepresented) we can assert quite emphatically that only God is good and whatever goodness or kindness may flow out of our lives, is totally from Him.

Our children need to know this in a simple form also as they can’t be expected to be good without the Holy Spirit working in them – even when they are born again. We each slip up but God is our restorer as we say sorry in a given situation. To have too high an expectation of our children can make them perform what is not real in their experience just to please us adults. As we point children to the Saviour of the world, then they and us can relax and let God produce the real McCoy. Diamond Books aim to nourish children’s hearts with truth and vitality and love as well as develop their reading ability.

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.

Overcoming Challenges!

I don’t know about you but I find challenges in life difficult to manoeuvre especially the unexpected ones but even these can send me reeling. Just recently, my dear brother, Mark, died and even though the lung cancer was eating his body, I didn’t expect him to go quite so quickly even without saying goodbye. He lived in Sydney with his growing family and so even conversations were limited and impossible towards the end of his life. So now that he is gone, there is the challenge to keep trusting God who gave and has taken away. Job (in the Bible) suffered many tragedies and losses but he was able to say ‘Blessed be the Name of the Lord.” (Job 1:21) We can either get bitter or better and rely on God for strength and new joy as we face more challenges in life.

The challenges of daily living can present hardships particularly for the elderly or disabled who have to steer clear of literal physical obstacles to keep upright or the harrassed mum who has a screaming baby to respond to. The challenges presented by people we see on our TV screens that are going through so many unexpected happenings such as the people in Freetown, Sierra Leone, with that awful mud slide that has taken away so many lives. We can’t understand why things happen the way they do but we can still trust the Answer to our problems that life presents.

What would be a challenge for one person may not be a challenge for another because we are made so differently from one another, each being unique on this planet. How the love of God needs to spread from one to another to enable the challenges to be overcome and manageable in the process.

Children have challenges that they often do not express. The challenge of starting school; moving into a different class, moving schools; adapting to Mum and Dad living apart; feeling hungry; feeling vulnerable; feeling unsafe; being bullied. How we adults need the sensitivity of the Holy Spirit to discern these challenges and give advice, help and support where and when needed. Children can have an anchor for their lives just like we adults can, being rooted and grounded in the truths of God that bring so much security. Through each challenge God proves that He is unchanging and is the same yesterday, today and forever (see Hebrews 13:8). No wonder the writer of Deuteronomy advocates teaching children the commandments of God diligently and telling them when they are at home, when they are away, when they are resting and when they are working (see Deuteronomy 6:7) even going so far as tying these commandments on their wrists and foreheads so that they would never forget. The law of commands is summed up by Jesus who said “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your mind, with all your soul and with all your atrength and love your neighbour as you love yourself” (See Matthew 22:37). As we and our children focus on God’s great love for us, then the challenges can be part of daily living and need not always take us by surprise. We and they can turn the challenges into prayer so that God can intervene more easily into situations.

May the words that children read be a help in the challenges they face, so that they can be overcomers and grow into maturity as they step over one hurdle after another.

Forgiveness – a very practical tool in life

How we blow it as humans – all of us not just some! We constantly think of ourselves and selfishness is like our middle (if not our first) name in the actions we perform with the motives we have. Forgiveness can be a nebulous subject as it is so very subjective, however, the results and consequences of our selfish actions not mixed with forgiveness can be very detrimental.

The only way I know to be at peace with God, others and myself is to learn about forgiveness. Jesus Christ has given us a literally perfect example of forgiveness when, as he was dying, he said, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34) referring to the people who condemned him to death and those who actually put the nails into his wrists and feet but ultimately the whole human race – you and I (even though not yet born when this travesty of justice took place).

Stephen, the first Christian martyr had the same spirit of forgiveness when he was being stoned to death when he said with a loud voice, “Lord, do not charge them with this sin” (Acts 7:60) referring to those throwing the stones/rocks at him.

I wonder how we would manage having our lives taken from us in an unjust way. Jesus and Stephen were both innocent men who were simply going about doing good and speaking out about the great things of God but because others didn’t agree with them, they took things into their own hands. So with us, we do exactly the same. Instead of bringing matters to God for vengeance to be His, we try to put things right in a way that is often not appropriate or even unjust.

From an early age, our children need to realise that we live in an unjust world and things will be done and said to them that are not fair or right. How we need to prepare our children for the hard world we live in. Christian schools and Christian Home Education provide the right starting places and platforms to gird up our children to be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might through the day to day skirmishes they experience as children. They can learn the difference between guilt and forgiveness and can come to the loving God who hears and sees them and can banish all fears and worries from them as they
learn to trust their Maker. Their characters can then become strong so that they are quick to get their lives right before God when they do slip up and the selfishness of their lives can be dealt with by God as they learn to give and be generous not just with money but with their attitudes and words as well as in the way they live.

Forgiveness is a very practical tool in life and Jesus is the expert at doing it for us as we come to Him. May our children quickly learn this so that they can become mature and influential members of society that can ooze with confidence because they know One who will never let them down even with the things that they so easily find difficult and mess up in. There is hope that when a child is taught the right way to live that they will not depart from it for long as Jesus is around to draw each prodigal back with all the forgiveness needed.

Heat

Heat

How we British people love the sunshine and the heat of the sun! Just to have a few days of real summer is a treat for us especially in the light of many past summers when we haven’t seen much sun and in past summers it has even been cold. The sun beaming down always reminds me of God’s love pouring out on us, on each of us humans – no-one is exempt.

When the heat is on, we say that we are pressured or squeezed into a corner. It is at these times that making decisions can be disastrous and certainly not wise. The opposite is true, also. When everything seems to be going right and the world seems a good place and everything around seems alright, we can easily be presumptuous and do things without careful thought. I know I’m in danger of doing the latter.

God encourages us: “Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall. No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man(or woman)but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.” (1 Corinthians 10:13) When the heat is on us, God is nearby to help us and provide the way through.

Sometimes, children can be unwise in the heat especially if they don’t have suncream on or don’t have a hat/cap on or don’t have protective clothes on that shield their upper arms and bodies from the sun’s intense heat (especially at this time in the UK). They need protection just like we adults do but they need to be taught the ways of being safe outside in the sunshine even remembering to drink more than usual. Children can be so vulnerable to sun stroke and damage to their skin can affect them even in the distant future.

May the “sun not scorch you by day or the moon by night” (Psalm 91) as we each learn God’s ways in our lives and learn to rest in His love for us that leads us into green pastures of good things. It might be good to play in the sunny green pastures but we need to look out for each other to prevent permanent damage – so with our relationship with God, we need to look out for each other so that if any of us are in danger, we can help each other out and provide the protection that each of us needs. Ultimately it is Jesus Christ who provides the protection we need throughout life – he’s dealt with the sin that so easily besets us and provides a means of healing us within and without but we each need to put on that protective armour mentioned in Ephesians 6 as we still have a roaring lion of an enemy who tries to trap us, yet we are winners keeping close to Jesus, our Saviour and Mighty God, who provides the right heat at the right time to keep us in balance.So, for our children!

Weakness

We often think that weakness is a bad thing that can lead to mistakes or a failure of some kind. However, weakness, if recognised, can be a means of strength. The apostle Paul, as recorded in the Bible, said that when he was weak then he was strong, meaning that because he was linked up to Jesus Christ and the power of His Holy Spirit, he could access supernatural strength which is far stronger than the seeming strongest looking man/woman. One and God is a majority in any situation!

It’s so easy to judge people and I offend in this way many times. We don’t know the true motives of anyone. What comes out of a life might appear quite the opposite to what they are really like deep inside. God has a way of undergirding an individual with His character and ways which while still in the process of development can outwardly appear selfish or greedy etc.

The media has a lot to say about people’s behaviour and it can destroy or build up whoever it chooses. Human beings are so finite and so prone to blowing it that it is a wonder that anyone can gain high acclaim. What matters most is our life before God who sees all, hears all and can discern the deep intents of the heart.

Acknowledging one’s weakness is half way to gaining strength as this requires humility, a fruit of love. When we love someone, we are kind and faithful to them and when we hurt them, we can struggle with our apology but it is the only way forward. Then our relationship can be restored and our links with them become even stronger. So with God. As we acknowledge our sin (a word not used much these days – but in God’s vocabulary) to Him, then God forgives our sin and heals our often broken hearts. Then He comes into our lives and makes them new and as we lean on Him and not lean on our own understanding He exchanges our weakness for His strength.

Children who suffer with a mental condition or struggle with an illness that maybe difficult to manage, need to know how much Jesus loves them and wants to come alongside them to be the strength and help they need. As we adults become like needy children then we, too, can know God moving in us and dealing with our weaknesses and supplying all that we need. What a wonderful God we have, accessible to each and every one of us at any time and in any place.