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.

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.

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.

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.

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!

Overwhelmed by Circumstances

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some of us go can produce all sorts of side effects like not sleeping properly or even not eating regularly or being withdrawn from people.

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

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

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

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!

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

Puzzled

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

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

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

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