Fact or Fiction

Just recently, we had a family problem that nobody could understand. A wedding was called off, relatives had come from Australia and there was deadlock between some members of the family. While others of us looked on, it was easy to gossip about the whole situation and even surmise what we thought was going on. However, we, the ones observing things, had no idea about the true facts of the matter and as one member of the family stated ‘it is none of our business and we must not interfere’. Our job was to pray and let God bring reconciliation and release the facts. In the meantime, we needed to keep our prone-to-tattling tongues still and wait for all to be revealed!

Jesus said “You will know the truth and the truth will set you free” (see John 8). The truth of a matter reveals the facts so that everyone can ‘sing off the same hymn sheet’ and misunderstandings can be avoided. Facts can’t be disputed but sometimes it is difficult to discern what is fact and what is fiction.

Luke, a doctor, wrote the gospel book of Luke and the book of Acts. He was a very detailed and intelligent character who didn’t actually meet Jesus but interviewed those who knew him to gain eye witness accounts of what did happen. Luke carefully explained that his aim was to write an orderly account of the facts about Jesus from the time of his birth until he was taken into Heaven so that the reader would know the certainty of the things that had already been instructed to them (Luke 1:1-4). The book of Acts was a continuation of his gospel that showed the facts from the time when Jesus was taken up into heaven right through to the formation of the early church with its commitment to spread the good news about Jesus everywhere!

It’s easy for children to be swayed by ideas and feelings without looking at the facts of a situation or even to ascertain what is fact or fiction in what they read. Because the Bible is authentic and is known to be true, they can trust the words that are in it. That is why every Diamond Book is like a diamond coming out of Heaven with nuggets of truth inside and many facets on the outside, showing children the facts about what God is like and how he loves everyone and has a plan for each person. Let’s not deny children the ‘facts of life’ that provide for them the journey of life that is full of peace, joy, contentment and purpose with security as found in the Bible itself.

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.

Worried Children

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

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

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

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

Changes and the one who doesn’t change

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

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

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

Power of Words

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

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

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

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

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 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.

Brokenness

Brokenness

With all the happenings in life, we humans do get broken, whether emotionally, spiritually and even physically quite literally. These confirm to us that we are weak mortals that need help from One who is stronger. So, what does God provide? – a Saviour, Jesus Christ who is also our Rescuer from the plights and consequences of our wrong choices but not only that, He provides a person in the Holy Spirit to live within us who actually enables us to stand up and keep standing up when we fall.

In the Bible, it says that God does not despise our brokenness. “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit. A broken and a contrite heart – these, O God, You will not despise.” (Psalm 51:17 – written by King David after he committed adultery and killed the husband of his lover and was so so sorry to God). In fact, brokenness can be a blessing to us as we have to learn to lean on our Maker who knows how we tick in our uniqueness so that by God’s power and grace we don’t make the same blunder again. Then, we can hand the problems and difficulties we face over to God and trust Him to show us the solutions.

I seem to break very easily. I haven’t had the misfortune to have a nervous breakdown. I do tend to cry a lot which is a release from the stress that brokenness can cause. However, with this, can come self pity which I have to guard against. Just recently, I’ve had a set of circumstances that have made me very vulnerable and I’ve regressed into old patterns and habits that I thought had been overcome. God tests our character as well as chastening us as He is an exemplary Father. Joseph (in the book of Genesis in the Bible) had to be refined in this way. Whenever we fall or break, I have found that God is always at hand to pick us up and carry us when we can’t go on, as that poem about the seashore and one set of footprints reminds us.

Our children may not show so clearly when they are broken but with all the separation of parents from their children with all the temporary relationships in families in the UK becoming the norm, many children are like this, hiding hurt and many insecurities. With all the recent talk about mental health issues in children, I believe many of these come from brokenness in their lives and if the Answer is not given them then they become unbalanced and can feel very unloved and uncertain about the relationships around them which really need to be strong when growing up.

As we anchor our children into the word of God (the Bible) then they can know wholeness so that even when brokenness assails them, they can run to the One who can help them.

Certainty in an uncertain world

We all live with uncertainty whether in a country or in our jobs or in our private lives. However, there is one certainty that doesn’t change and that is God. The Bible states that God never changes (see Malachi 3:6) and Jesus Christ himself is spoken of as being the same yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13:8). There is a certainty around God and indeed His purposes and plans that are all for the good of mankind, making lives complete and whole. We used to sing a song that says:

‘Yesterday, today, forever Jesus is the same
All may change but Jesus never,
Glory to His name.’

With glory meaning beauty and power, this little song shows the magnificence and greatness of the name of Jesus, which is so powerful in itself and makes every demon shudder.

The One who made the whole universe has everything in order and in its place. It’s we humans, who were instructed to caretake His world, that have messed it up with our disorder, chaos and wrong choices that create uncertainty.
More than ever before it seems that our children need that security and certainty of a loving creator God in whose image we each are made. No wonder we are creative beings and desire to love others even if we get it wrong and fall short of pure love. With the uncertainty of governments and changing laws, society has little to offer in the way of certainty but the laws of love that God has given actually provide the opposite.

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind,” said Jesus, “…and love your neighbour as you love yourself.” (Matthew 22:37-39) which he mentioned several times as being a summing up of all the commandments of God (generated in the Old Testament that he was referring to). With these commands in mind, we can have the certainty of knowing what our priorities can be and if we choose these then our lives can be lived in peace. As Christians, we can’t fulfil these commands without the Holy Spirit working in us to work out His life in us. Our children need to know that being a Christian is not about being “goody two shoes”, although being good is part of what a Christian produces (the fruit of love – see Galatians 5:22) but it’s about asking God to forgive us and come into our lives to make all the difference to how we feel, what we know and what we do. God is in control of our world and as we connect with Him we can have deep security as an anchor that many children today lack in their lives.

The word of God, the Bible, is so key to helping children overcome the uncertainties of life as they and we meditate and take in the wonderful words of God. The best book to read is certainly the Bible which is why all the Diamond Books are based on it!

A Father whose love is constant

I had a wonderful human father who had a very bad start in life that actually didn’t help him as a person as he travelled through life. So when I came along, he had no idea as to how to relate to me and kept me at a distance even as a baby.

However, as time went by, I looked up to him with his great sense of humour and endeavoured to relate to him as best I could. I loved him to bits but sadly he died young, when he was 57 years old, and by then our relationship had changed and he was more distant.

We each have an exceptional Heavenly Father who waits in the wings of our lives for each of us to acknowledge him and then he comes into our lives with all the love and power and grace that we will ever need in this life and beyond. He doesn’t change in the way that He relates to us and His love is constant and deep and wide and beyond any human love.

I was reading one of Derek Prince’s proclamation cards this morning and it was all about our Heavenly Father. The Bible tells us a lot about Him and how we can relate to Him as a child of God. This is such a privilege but is open to anyone. In the Old Testament in Deuteronomy 32:6b, the writer penned, “You, Lord, are my Father, You have made me and formed me.” How staggering is this that God takes an individual interest in even taking the trouble to make and form each of us and all so uniquely! Later, in the New Testamant, in 2 Corinthians 6:18, the Scriptures tell us “Lord, You have said, ‘I will be a Father to you and you shall be My child'”, quoting the same words that appear in the Old Testament four times. Jesus himself had something to say about His Father (who is ours, too) and encouraging us at the same time: “You do not need to be afraid, for it has pleased my Father to give you the kingdom, and no one can snatch you out of my Father’s hand.” (Luke 12:32).

We are eternally secure, knowing Jesus who shows us the Father. It’s like we are being held by Jesus who Himself is in the big hands of Father God. Jesus knew His Father well. He had always been beside Him in heaven until the time came for Jesus to come to earth to do the amazing work He came for, culminating with His death and resurrection that has brought hope beyond measure to the entire world. Jesus spent much time with His Father while down here on Earth. Father God was able to strengthen Jesus especially at those very difficult times of his life when the devil tempted him at the beginning of his earthly ministry trying to short circuit the plan of the cross; when Jesus agonised in the Garden of Gethsemane while contemplating his fate of death by crucifixion; and throughout his life when he didn’t know what to do, Father God gave Him the guidance he needed.

Children today, more than ever it seems, need to know that they have a Father who is for them and close to them. With so many children living apart from their earthly fathers (especially here in the UK) and what with the increase of wars around the world making thousands of children into orphans/fatherless, children need to have their Heavenly Father as the Anchor for their lives. Father God is strong, mighty, faithful, kind, gentle, loving, good and near. It is our desire that through the simple presentation of these truths in the ‘Diamond Books’ project, we can help children to connect to their Heavenly Father through knowing Jesus for themselves.

May we each know the Father who is compassionate so that His love can spread all over the world.