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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.

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!

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!

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.

Rest

I was going to write a blog on ‘trust’ and then I read Hebrews 4 that is about the rest of God and realised afresh that trusting is just like resting. As Christians, we believe that the finished work of Christ happened when Jesus died and He exclaimed while hanging on a cross, ‘It is finished’, meaning that the work He came to do was accomplished. Jesus came to rescue mankind from the ravages of a sin-filled life that we all have until God wipes our slate clean. When Jesus died and rose from the dead, the power of God was extended to us who simply believe and trust what God has done and said. His death, signified in his blood, has bought us freedom to live and move and have our being, simply trusting God our Maker and Creator. So, in essence the work is done in freeing us up, but we have to live it out. That’s the hard bit but only God can bring us into balance.

Recently, when I got overwhelmed with so many plates I seemed to be juggling concerning family issues, work issues and personal stuff, I had a “Eureka moment” when I realised that God had paid the price even for my muddles. Being my Heavenly Father, as well as my Saviour, he won’t allow anything to come to me unless He gives permission for it. So, if we consider the guy ‘Job’ who God allowed to suffer and gave permission for satan to test, then we see how Job struggled but kept trusting who God was and is. He rested in knowing that His Redeemer lived even though he wrestled with what his friends told him. God gave him back what he had lost and more and gave him a very long life also.

God can be trusted. When all was done in the creation of our world, then God himself rested. We, too, can rest in God, even “abide” as John’s gospel states (John 15:1) in the finished work of Him setting us free. We just need to pursue what He asks of us on a daily basis.

Children are able to go to bed really early and get a huge portion of sleep that enables them to grow in stature as well as in their emotional and spiritual development. We are so like children needing regular rest but in fact we can choose a lifestyle of rest, trusting God and simply doing what he asks of us. Then the pressure is off – all we’re about is His work, taking hold of His yoke, learning to be gentle and humble and casting our burdens back to Him who knows us so well.

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.

One day

Taking one day at a time is fine in theory but putting it into practice is a different scenario. I think it takes faith to live this way without projecting into the future or mulling over what has gone before.

Since looking after my Mum at home and juggling a business and dealing with the losses that make the present day difficult, I realise that I need God in my life more and more. I’ve been meditating on Isaiah 12:2, part of which says “See, God has come to save me.” It’s present tense and shows how personally God takes an interest in me and indeed each of us. A week ago, I felt like a caged bird whose cage was filling with water and then God sent a friend to listen and pray with me which made all the difference.

I am finding that when the stresses increase, so do the temptations to eat more, watch TV more or simply not to be disciplined about the times I go to bed. A day can depend on the amount of sleep I get but then even if I haven’t had my quota, then I can learn to lean and depend on God and abide in Him, the one who can practically save me from moving away from what He has planned for this day.

One day in history changed the whole course of human civilisation. Jesus not only died (we remember this on Good Friday each year) but the unique day came 3 days after this when he was raised from the dead. This means that Jesus is alive and can make the huge differences in our lives if we let Him. Jesus came so that our lives could be washed, cleansed and forgiven. The sin that so easily besets us can be obliterated and God says He puts it in the depths of the sea, never to be recalled by Him again. One day, we are each going to stand before our Maker when there is a reckoning for us all but because of what Jesus did on the first Good Friday and the first Resurrection Day, then because we have accessed His forgiveness, we can confidently stand before God as Jesus stands for us and with us. Knowing that Jesus’ blood has covered our sins, Almighty God who can’t have any sin or unholiness in His presence, allows us to enter heaven because Jesus’ blood covers our sins. If Jesus had just died and not come alive again then we would have had nobody to vouch for us before Almighty God, the One Jesus called Father. How amazing is this!

So, in the light of eternity, my struggles in any given day on earth, are so small, yet are working in me a way to grow and develop into God’s likeness as the Holy Spirit does the work within us. Children need to know that God loves us as we are, not because we are good, as none of us are this. As we accept His love, then we can relax more. Often, it is forgiving ourselves that is the hardest thing to do but then God has made provision for this, also, as we seek to keep short accounts with him and allow him to forgive throughout each day so we can go to sleep in peace.