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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.

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!

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!

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!

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!

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!

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.