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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.

A Successful Life

With the death of Barbara Ford recently and all that she did and advocated, we can see an outwardly successful life. She influenced many people and had a very full life with her family and ideas. She was an admirable lady and will be greatly missed.

We can all be successful as God has given each of us abilities, talents and gifts that can be used for the good of mankind. If we connect to our Maker on a daily basis then we can be guided to use these for the greatest good. Our inner life and our connection to Jesus is vital so that the Holy Spirit can work powerfully through our lives – if we let Him.

Jesus advocated that doing the will of God was more important than anything else. Our flesh, sin and choices can stop us from doing this in our individual lives but I believe that there is no greater fulfilling place to be, other than being in the centre of God’s purpose for our human journeys. We can be satisfied, sufficient, at peace and joyful in knowing we are doing what we were created to do while on this planet and thus contributing to the whole of humanity really – like a cog in a wheel, we affect so many lives just by being here on the Earth.

Because we are all unique but equally of value and all loved the same by Jesus, we don’t have to compete with one another but rest back in knowing who we are and finding God’s purpose for our lives. As we seek to know what this is, God is faithful to show us the way as He is the Way.

We can all be a part of God’s family, the church, which in the Bible is likened to a body that has many parts which function differently. When one part hurts, the whole body feels it. Love is central to this body as Jesus is likened to being the Head of this body and all that flows from Jesus is love in its varying forms.

So, we can teach our children to not only give their lives to Jesus for Him to use as He will but they can also actively seek His will and purpose for their lives which will always be good. Then they can be successful even if their earthly work may not be appreciated or even noticed (like some parts of the body are hidden from view). There is One in Heaven who sees all and when the crowns are given out to wear to bow before King Jesus in person one day, He will say ‘Well done, good and faithful servant’ and that will be worth hearing and be real success.

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’.

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!

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!