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.

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!

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.

Greatness

How we humans aspire to greatness so easily – if not outwardly, there is an inward thrust to experience some sort of greatness or recognition. Well known people have often had greatness thrust on them and when they are famous sometimes they can become out of balance and think they are above the law and their families or exempt from taxes or have the need to live in luxury.

Jesus was and is a King and yet he didn’t show His title off. He could have arrived on planet Earth as a superstar from space or He could have become a despot ruler or He could have shown off His power and might ostentatiously. Instead, He did the opposite.
He was born, in a manger where animals feed, to ordinary people after his mother had had an amazing experience via an angel when the Holy Spirit came upon her to start off the life of a baby that God planned for her to carry. Jesus waited a long time to show the world who He really was and then had a daily plan of action that was shown to him on a daily basis from His Heavenly Father.
Jesus promoted the poor, the weak, the folk that society couldn’t be bothered with, like the blind, the deaf and the leper. He had time for children and even spoke of them as being examples of how to come to God. His talks to those who wanted to listen to him were so unexpected, e.g. the Sermon on the Mount that speaks of being happy when one mourns for then one would receive comfort; those who show mercy being happy as they will receive mercy; those who are persecuted being happy for they shall have their reward in Heaven; those who are peacemakers being happy for they will be called sons of God; those who are poor in spirit being happy for they will gain the kingdom of God; those who are meek being happy for they shall inherit the earth; and those who are pure in heart being happy as they shall see God.

His life was all mapped out and His final destination on the Earth carefully timed and really very awful. Jesus, the only Son of God, was to die a cruel death which He did not in any way deserve. He had lived an exemplary life, loving His Father and loving the people God put before and with Him. His greatness was seen in His everyday life so why did He have to die?

Children can be quite puzzled about the day we consider Jesus died on. It’s called Good Friday but as we look at the events of that day, it was far from good, looking at it from a human perspective. Jesus was made to look guilty of crimes and the crowds gathered in Jerusalem on that day were incited by jealous priests who themselves thought they were great and doing the right thing. Deceived, we humans called for Jesus death and in the process Jesus didn’t protest His innocence but behaved like a lamb ready to be slaughtered. Isaiah 53 mentions this.

So why Good Friday? This was the day, chosen by God, when Jesus would be punished for the sins of every person ever born on planet Earth. Instead of us being punished for the things we do wrong, Jesus took it all and forgave the human race in the process, individually granting their and our reprieve. His greatness can be seen by him humbling himself to let this happen to him. He had agonised beforehand in the Garden of Gethsemane about the process He would have to endure but He wanted to do God’s will above all else so He willingly allowed Himself to be put on a rough Roman cross and to die a dreadful death. If we didn’t know that Easter Day was soon to follow Good Friday, then all would have been lost but Great is one of Jesus’ many names as the first Easter Day has shown us – not with eggs and rabbits but with Power and Might the world has never seen before or since! Let’s encourage our children to explore the real meaning of Easter this year and see the Greatness of God in it all.

What’s grey? Who’s Gray?

This, you may say, is a mysterious title to start the New Year of 2017 off! I was on a walk yesterday and started to think about this colour grey and my family connections.

Here is England, we get quite a few grey days with little sun but really one only has to go up in a plane to discover that the sun is always shining above the clouds. Maybe we British people are coloured by the greyness of our environment and forget to realise that the sun is always here. Maybe this accounts for the general dullness and pessimism of the average British person. We reflect what we are in!

However, the Son of God is just like the sunshine. He may seem distant but is close at hand and seeing that he made colours (hence the rainbow, but with no greyness in it!) and made our eyes to see colour, we can be sure that He is and wants to be more involved in all the grey areas of our lives.

Donkeys are grey, yet they’re good at carrying baggage; elephants are grey and have those unique trunks; squirrels are grey and are good at collecting nuts; and our homes can have grey roofs which protect us from the rain. Greyness can indicate drabness but when one sees the purpose of the grey things, they can become brighter in our thinking. So, we have a purpose even if our lives appear or feel grey. We each have a unique part to play in the greyness of our world so that we can see the world in technicolour and see each individual as a valuable diamond glinting in the sun.

My mother’s side of the family bear the name ‘Gray’. I have several cousins who bear this name and their offspring, too. Some live in Suffolk (England) and some live in France but their name is carried with them. So, our names, although appearing ordinary or ‘grey’ have a huge significance. God’s name is like a diamond with its many faceted sides – that’s why our project is called ‘Diamond Books’ so that we can show off the various characteristics of the God who made us and called us each by name.

The Bible says that all families are known to God so each surname is important. More importantly with God as our Father we can inherit his DNA. The apostle Paul writes “…I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named.” (Ephesians 3:15). It’s simple to come to our Father and recognise that we are His children as we come in obeisance and repentance knowing that Father God can do immeasurably more than we could ever ask or think (see Ephesians 3:20-21). With God as our Father, no child need be bereft as they and we call on Him to fulfil every need of ours. Good fathers do their utmost to help their children – but our heavenly Father can do even beyond the natural.

It’s Time – for What?

Just as we hustle and bustle to get our last minute shopping done before Christmas, have you ever thought my time might be up! I eagerly have all sorts of ideas of how to have Christmas and bless the people I love but sometimes I literally run out of time. Sometimes, of course, something unforeseen happens to one of the family and we are so shocked.

I remember the night before my wedding, I was busy sewing up some trousers that my dear husband to be, Mike (sadly not with us now) had requested of me to do for him some days before. Had I made time for doing this well before that evening when I really did need to get my beauty sleep? Of course no! Time was running out so I just had to stay up and do this even with friends arriving and staying in my flat. Trivial maybe but we each have time.

We hear each Christmas, at Advent and beyond, that Jesus came into our world over two thousand years ago but he is also returning at some point in history. As time goes on, we can forget about this important occasion that is coming up.

However, time is running out for us humans to get our lives in order before our Maker. It all depends on the choices we make concerning Jesus as to where our ultimate destiny will be. The babe of Bethlehem might seem a lovely story but it has huge significance in that Father God sent Jesus to the Earth on a rescue mission to deal once and for all with the sin problem that each of us humans face. Because God is holy, He can’t handle a speck of sin in His presence so it has to go and the only way this can be eradicated is to simply come to Jesus (who died on a cross, taking upon himself the sins of the whole world) in repentance and receive His forgiveness. Then we are right with God – not because of who we are or what we have done or even us trying to be religious. God loves each one of us so incredibly much.

Let’s not allow the rush of Christmas to divert us from the real meaning of Jesus’ first coming to serve as a reminder of His second coming – we don’t know when. Lets’ explain to our children this truth so that the fear of God can come upon us all as we worship and adore the baby who is the King. What a Saviour!

Jesus – The Word?

What words – each packed with meaning!

Why is it that Jesus is so prominent at Christmas? If he was just a man, then why make such a fuss of him? People come and go. If a good prophet, why do the dates of history start as Anno Domini  (AD) from his birth? If God, why would he bother with the world that He created especially as we people have messed it up?

The early Christians used a fish sign for recognition so that the family of God could be sure of each other in the perilous days that followed Jesus’ death and resurrection. On the fish were engraved several Greek letters that mean Jesus, Christ, God Son and Saviour. These words say it all regarding Jesus as he was either a mad man or who He actually claimed to be and if so, He requests a response from each of us. If He is the Christ (the promised Messiah meaning ‘anointed’) and God’s only Son and a Saviour how does He communicate what we need to know and do?

The answer to this is found in the Bible which is known as the revealed Word of God. God inspired many men to write down what He wanted mankind to know and as scrolls and manuscripts were studied from long ago and after much prayer from men and women who were wanting God’s words to reach every human heart, the Bible, as we know it, became translatable and is now available in hundreds if not thousands of languages (for tribes, nations and various people groups). God used words to create the world and as Jesus came to our planet He used Jesus’ words to create new life in people who wanted and want this.

So, the Bible is not just a word for mankind but The Word as the power of the Bible’s words were made available to us in human form when Jesus visited our planet for just 33 years. Jesus was actually with His Father God and the Holy Spirit when the world was formed. God spoke and light came; God spoke and sky came; God spoke and land came; God spoke and sea came; God spoke and plants shot up; God spoke and the sun, moon and stars were made; God spoke and the sea creatures were made; God spoke and birds were made; God spoke and animals were made; God spoke and people were made. So, when Jesus came to planet Earth, He came with The creative words of life, counteracting all that had gone before with the mess up that took place in the Garden of Eden.

John 1:1-4 succinctly puts it “Before the world was created, the Word already existed; he was with God, and he was the same as God. From the very beginning the Word was with God. Through him God made all things, not one thing in all creation was made without him. The Word was the source of life and this life brought light to mankind.” (Good News version of the Bible).

Jesus – The Word sums up God perfectly. Let’s ensure that our children know about him and how He can continue to show His creativity in changing lives from within and healing our broken hearts, bodies and lives. He came to give us life abundantly and if we let Him, he can do just that today!

 

 

Grace at Easter

Yes we do have so much to thank God for at this Easter time and yes we can continue to give thanks for our food on a daily basis but there is more to the grace of Easter. Grace can mean undeserved favour and of course we humans have been given this by God.

I have been amazed reading the accounts of the Easter story in the Bible how poised and so in control was Jesus at all times it seems. When accused with all manner of things, while being slapped and spat at, he remained silent. On the cross itself, he was thinking of other people, e.g. his mother who he put into the care of his best friend, John; and even offering forgiveness to a criminal hanging on a similar cross beside his.

I find when I’m accused of something, I want to defend myself and I certainly want to tell someone about how unjustly I have been treated, yet the grace of God that existed really when Jesus was born (or even before that when he was in the womb of a simple young girl, Mary who God saw willing to be a huge part of his human plan) is so huge and life changing.

We so often want to judge others and make them seem less than us yet Jesus gave us the example of always stepping lower and in humility serving and giving and walking away sometimes to avoid negativity.

To think that God spared his only Son for over 33 years – what a huge risk and yet what a wonderful gift to all mankind.

I was singing ‘Ride on, ride on in Majesty’ last Palm Sunday and realised that the Father on His sapphire throne was looking out for Jesus to return to him during this time that we call ‘Holy Week’ – that week before his Son was crucified.. He had been separated from him for such a long time (in human terms) and was looking forward to Him coming back to him where He is now.

Our children can enter into the grace at Easter by us getting alongside any child we know and telling them what Easter is all about. Don’t let the Easter eggs be a distraction, even though they have the hidden meaning of having new life that symbolises the new life to be found when we trust Jesus. Let these little ones know that God loves them and has a wonderful plan for their lives that they can find and live in and experience the grace of God for a lifetime.

Christmas Time

Somehow, the time around Christmas is very special although sometimes fraught. I think that being out of routine and seeing so many of friends and family over such a short period can have a good effect although it can be an exhausting experience especially for all us introverts!

The time between Christmas and New Year that we are now experiencing seems to be an elongated time, when  there is time to reflect and slow down – but what do most of do? We rush around frantically to see what bargains are in the shops or/and we eat masses of left-overs from the Christmas meal,  We try to pack in such a lot in a short time that again we are left drained. So how best can we use this time? I’m the first to admit that I easily fritter the time away rather than actively listening to the God who is with me who has so much to say to each of us.

“We can make our plans but God has the final word.” (Proverbs 16:1) So says the writer of the book of Proverbs. We can get our new or adapted diaries out and put in the various appointments already listed in our old diaries (for transfer) and plan ahead, but what does God want each of us to be doing? I am near a wonderful retreat house, The Sisters of Jesus Way in West Kirby on the Wirral that I visit from time to time.  Here, I can slow down, listen more and let God infiltrate my thoughts.

This Christmas time could be spent being more actively listening than doing or planning.  I sense that God wants us all to learn to slow down and abide ( I love this word!) in Him so that what comes out of our lives is His initiation. What He does through our lives is the only thing that counts in the end. Our human efforts are not what is required.

With the sunshine out today (where I live anyway) one can appreciate the amazing wonders of His creation. Time ambling in this can be most useful and beneficial to one’s mood and emotions let alone one’s physical frame. Children so love to be outdoors.  There, they can appreciate God’s unhurried world, where order and stress are at a minimum. As they enjoy ‘The ‘Creation Series’ of Diamond Books time can almost stand still as they see what God did in those early days of creation.

Even when creation does get out of order with, for example, sudden lengthy outpourings of rain, man like His Maker can put things back into order as we are called upon to help our neighbour very literally.  Then, time spent helping is most worthwhile and beneficial.

May this Christmas time prove an investment for the future as we learn to stop awhile and encourage our children to do likewise – if only for a very little time – it’s a start!

How Do I Get Help?

Where does my help come from? What is it like? How does it feel?

Over Christmas, I have needed help. Old patterns of living emerged and then moods at times spiralled out of control. What did I do? I cried out to God. On one occasion immediately the phone rang and a friend called that hadn’t been in touch for years and after over an hour chatting my mood had changed. That was God’s answer for that situation.

Then, another time, I was overwhelmed with various circumstances and emailed a friend who within a short time had some strategic advice based on the Bible and also other practical suggestions that she has practised when in a fix. This proved to be another answer to another problem.

God’s word can provide a huge anchor in our stress times. By putting Scripture to memory and meditating on verses enables God to help us recall what we need to know and hear at a given time. We do our homework as it were and he gives us the credit when we need it. Psalm 121 is a classic example of a Scripture that reminds us of where our help comes from.

For small children, the word of God can seem irrelevant yet put in bite sized pieces with loads of illustrations, it can be very relevant, life changing and rewarding. Seeds of God’s word planted early into a child’s life can reap so much in a child’s behaviour and attitudes as they grow. So, again I would recommend ‘The Creation Series’ again – books based on the Bible that can provide help and an anchor to our children in these troubled times. They each have a memory verse in them to help children hide God’s word in their very impressionable hearts.

I have felt so comforted and at peace when once I’ve stopped crying in my times of need and considered what God had to say to me.  Then, God can become an even greater reality than before. We can build on our experiences with God and realise that he is a faithful God who is ever at hand to help us in our times of need.

Sometimes, we try to pretend that we are OK when the truth is that we are hiding our emotions from others and even ourselves and trying to hoodwink God. When we are real with God, others and ourselves, then true honesty can be experienced and God can step in more easily it seems.

The best prayer that any of us can pray is ‘Help’ and God always comes to the rescue. So to old and young, let’s not forget that our heavenly Father sees all and sees our struggles and he is ever ready to help us in any and every place and situation.

God’s arms are big enough to embrace us all, individually and together! Happy 2015 realising that God is big enough to help us all whatever scrapes we find ourselves in!