Posts

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.

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’.

Being Busy

I think that this is what most of the human race is good at and we women even more so. I find myself multi-tasking sometimes up to 10 jobs at a time which can make one gain a headache! However, it is my opinion that being busy can cover up all sorts of things like insecurity, wanting to please people and feeling needed to mention a few.

Once, we get hold of Jesus’ recommendation to abide in Him (see John 15) – to dwell in Him and rest in Him then, he can do His work in us. We can learn to cease from our own works and learn to do his will which doesn’t have to be that frantic or rushed. One doesn’t see Jesus racing around even though His mission was to save the world! Sometimes, Jesus even delayed helping and even when there were crises at hand. When Lazarus died and his two sister petitioned Jesus to come to them, he purposely delayed coming to them as He was so intimately connected with His Father God that He knew He had to wait for a greater happening to occur and glory going to God as Lazarus was raised from the dead.

Again, I mention my favourite Psalm 37 that speaks about resting in the Lord and waiting patiently for Him and then He will give the desires of our heart. Only God knows what’s deep within each of us, and yet if we remain connected closely to our Maker, then He can direct us if we are prepared to be still and listen. Of course, at times, we can still hear God’s voice even on the go but these impulsive thoughts can sometimes lead us to seeking God quietly for confirmation especially when we have big decisions we have to make.

Somehow, this generation of children seem to be more on the go mentally than the previous one, with all the technology around them filling their waking hours. I was hearing about a Mum who abstained from any social media and phone use at all with her young daughter for a day. They found that they could actually do lots more creative things both on their own and together. At first, it was a huge wrench, especially for the young girl but she came into balance. Moments of stillness and just stopping the usual routines can help us feel more alive and able to take life more steadily at a more even pace with time to spare to even talk to people. Our children need to learn this – which is one reason we have provided ‘The Creation Series‘ (Set A of Diamond Books) so that a young child can snuggle up close to an adult and read about God’s order in His world which includes resting for one day of the week. If God needed to rest and cease from busyness, so do we!

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!

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!

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.

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!