Sunday, 11 April 2021
Friday, 9 April 2021
A good friend and I have decided to follow through on the suggestion I made a little while ago about looking at the fruit of the spirit, one by one, over a period of time. Just to be different, we’ve decided to start back to front! So, starting this month, we’re considering self-control.
It’s certainly not an easy one for me. I’ve never been one for self-discipline despite many enthusiastic commitments and beginnings paved with good intentions. I’ve learnt over time, not to set my sights too high or expect too much from myself so that I don’t feel like a failure or disappointment. Yet surely that’s wrong and giving in to a lesser, more defeated life rather than one with evidence of victory. I’m writing this without any profound revelation containing the secret to success because I still continually struggle. At the moment it is more specifically to do with my physical health and fitness ... what I eat and how little I exercise massively impact my well-being, my ability to engage in certain activities that I’d like to and sadly does still affect my self image I’m ashamed to say.
Why can’t I take myself in hand and put some healthy controls and boundaries in place? I can, and I have done before, but I fail to persevere to effect a lasting change. It’s extremely annoying.
There are many other examples in our lives where we struggle to maintain boundaries and self-control. It could be our tempers; our keenness to gossip about and judge others or maybe a moral dilemma ... how about managing our screen and social media time, are we able to control it and put our phones down? I’ve faced many examples and miserably failed. There’s also the other side, not about trying to control what we shouldn’t do, but rather, putting in place and following through on good habits, like specific prayer time and reading the Bible, not just the odd ‘verse for the day’ on email (like I do). I realise that to overcome and to lessen the likelihood of caving in, I need God’s truth hidden in my heart and His armour to protect me. A strong wall which is able to withstand any enemy advancement ... no cracks or weak spots to enable demolition! I’m not strong enough on my own ... in fact I’m quite likely to almost help with my own defeat by widening the cracks through my own weakness.
A couple of months ago there was a piece written in the UCB word for today which I’ll share here as it’s helpful, especially in relation to maintaining our spiritual standing:
A Christian leader writes: ‘The Great Wall of China was erected in the third century BC as a defence against raids by nomadic peoples from the north. Throughout succeeding centuries, especially during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), the Great Wall was repaired and extended in length, finally stretching for forty-five-hundred miles.’ Centuries before it began, biblical cultures used walls to protect themselves, and to draw boundaries around themselves for the purposes of identifying the land which was theirs. To be effective, however, those walls had to be regularly maintained. The slightest breach could give the enemy a fateful advantage.
There is a valuable lesson here. As a Christian, there is one wall in your defence system that has to be maintained and protected at all times – the wall of self-control. The Bible says, ‘Whoever has no rule over his own spirit is like a city broken down, without walls’ (Proverbs 25v28). Your failure to maintain self-control is like opening the city gates and issuing an invitation to the enemy to attack you. J. Wilbur Chapman, one of history’s great preachers, formulated what he called ‘my rule for Christian living’. And it’s a rule you should endeavour to live by. He said, ‘The rule that governs my life is this: anything that dims my vision of Christ, or takes away my taste for Bible study, or cramps my prayer life, or makes Christian work difficult, is wrong for me, and I must, as a Christian, turn away from it.’
I need to step out of my immediate concerns and ready myself to take the next step ... one which is achievable, wholesome, beneficial, healthy, sustainable and God honouring. Then with His help and His truth at the forefront of my thinking, I can and will prevail. The battle may be rather constant, but the victory can be too. ‘The person who succeeds is not the one who holds back, fearing failure, nor the one who never fails, but rather the one who moves on despite failure’.
As children we used to listen to music from Agapeland, amongst which was the Music Machine. One of the songs was about self-control and the words went something like this:
I like this quote by Benjamin Franklin: “Educate your children to self-control, to the habit of holding passion and prejudice and evil tendencies subject to an upright and reasoning will, and you have done much to abolish misery from their future and crimes from society.”
At the end of the day, if God in His word says that we should exercise self-control and that it is actually a fruit of the Spirit (His Spirit) then it must be jolly important and as such, we should take note and start working away at it. It requires attention and commitment, and should then become evidence of the life of Christ in me ... which is what fruit is ... external evidence of what I truly am on the inside.
Harumph! Let’s do this!
I’m just going to add a song here which isn’t specifically relating to self-control but the words are so moving and uplifting too ... I find them such an encouragement because throughout my on-going struggle with some aspects of self-control, I know that in my weakness His strength is made perfect and that when I overcome, it is not I, but Christ in me! He has already defeated my sins / failures, so if I can cling onto that and to His power in me, then I can truly experience the freedom and victory He so desperately wants me to have.
Yet not I, but through Christ in me ~ Selah:
Tuesday, 6 April 2021
Ephesians 3v20 says: “now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us”.
Isn’t that such an amazing verse? But if you’re anything like me, you’d automatically process the verse in terms of materialistic application. If I ask for x then I could get x plus more! That may well be true as God is not limited in His benevolence toward us ... He is a good Father, waiting to bless us and provide for us. Remember those verses that talk about an earthy father .... if his child were to ask for some bread, would he give him a stone? ... if we know how to give good gifts to our children, how much more will our Heavenly Father give us (Luke 11v9-13).
Whilst making tea, I just started to reflect on it all and wanted to personally challenge myself. I know for example, that I would like to use my home for the Lord and maybe do a work for Him, from it. If therefore, God provides that home, even above and beyond what I had asked and hoped for ... it is my responsibility to not only remember and be daily thankful, but to follow and live out the desires that fed my request. It belongs to the Lord and must be used for His work and glory.
Remember also the verse in Job (1v21): “the Lord gave and the Lord has taken away, blessed be the name of the Lord”. What if the Lord took away what had been given? Would I bless His name or blame Him? If I saw what He had given me as His and not mine, for His work and not for my pleasure, then if He were to take it, I should be accepting and acknowledge His hand in it ... that there would be a reason, maybe beyond what I can understand, but my trust in Him should never waver.
I’m going to repeat that to myself ... my trust in God’s provision for my life must not be based on current circumstances, whether more than comfortable, or struggling financially, ... my trust is in a person, not in external evidence of physical blessing. My circumstances must not dictate my faith. Surely my faith can grow despite my circumstances, whatever they are. God is above all and never changes, therefore He can be trusted implicitly ... nothing will surprise Him and because I know He cares about the detail of my life (and yours), wherever we find ourselves, He is there with us.
But going back to the verse at the start, I know that what I should be asking and thinking, is not primarily about materialistic concerns, but rather about spiritual ones. Wouldn’t it be better for my requests to be focused on spiritual gifts rather than physical ones? Where are my priorities based and what comes to the forefront of my thinking? Is it ‘the ideal home’ first and then ‘so I can use it for you Lord’ ... or is it ‘I want to live for you wherever I am’ first, and then the request for a home secondary to that, willing to leave the details to God?
I confess that mine often get muddled together just because most of the time my mind is a bit like scrambled eggs anyway! So I do in fact pray for wisdom, discretion, courage, for a heart like Gods, right words and fairness, strength, insight, patience, a willingness and great faith to share God's love with others. I pray for calmness and rest so that I am sustained throughout each day. These are spiritual desires and good things to pray for. What I need, is the application of them into my daily life and petitions for tangible, physical things.
The more I live and think about it, the more I am convinced that it is our hearts and motives which direct and dictate blessing in every form. God wants our hearts and minds first. It’s priority and perspective ... get them right and focused on God, His word, His truth, His desires as to how we should live, His view of sin and the world, His care about creation, His love for everyone (yes everyone) ... and then everything else will fall into place. In fact we’ll be so preoccupied with enjoying the spiritual blessings and gifts, that the practical, physical concerns we had about our personal circumstances, won’t really be a bother to us at all ... certainly not stressful or overwhelming in the same way.
Just remember that if you pray for status, fame, wealth and you get it ... thank God and use those gifts wisely for Him. If He takes them away, still thank Him and praise Him. He loves you and cares for you above all else and no matter what our circumstance in life, that will never change.
What God wants is for us to commune with Him. It's relational not transactional. The outpouring of blessing and provision upon us from God, is a natural consequence to our relationship and communion with Him.
We need never worry about our basic needs ... we are worth more than the sparrows and God has great care for them (Matt 10v31). He clothes the lilies of the field in beauty (Luke 12v27) and we can claim the promise in Philippians 4v19 which says "my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus".
Get to know God, trust Him and the rest will follow ... above and beyond what you may ask or think! God is good. 😊
Monday, 5 April 2021
I'll keep this short (and I promise tomorrow's midweek thought will be a shorter one!).
I just have a feeling that I need to shout out some hope! For goodness sake ... we've just celebrated Easter and if that doesn't make us want to sing for joy and shout out with excitement then I don't know what will. What an amazing and uplifting time ... to recall the greatest victory throughout the timeline of history. There is no-one else who has ever or who will ever conquer death, but what's amazing is that we get to share in this stupendous victory ... death has no claim on me, it is merely a passage from one life to the next! We can spend so much time trying to elongate our lives and stay youthful, and yet I have everlasting life so what on earth am I thinking ... death is just the transition onto the other side of victory ... with Christ!
Black typed out words just don't do it. He's alive and we have new life because of it. It's a new day and we have the greatest Hope of all. Isn't HOPE just the best word?
Rejoice in hope (Romans 12v12) and may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope (Romans 15v13).
So turn this up loud and listen just to feel a little upbeat and full of the joy that new life, a new day and the hope which is in Christ Jesus can bring. What a triumph!
A New Day ~ Danny Gokey:
And here’s another great song by Stuart Townend ~ See What A Morning!
Saturday, 3 April 2021
The grave could not contain Him; guards at the tomb could not prevent Him; death was shrugged off with the grave clothes; an official sentence given by mere human dictators was turned upside down ... “oh death where is your sting; oh grave where is your victory?” (1 Cor 15v55)
The Lord of Glory was triumphant over death ... the only one who could be ... so that we may live forever! What kind of love is this?
With the words of the song writer Alfred Ackley, let us say:
Let us live in light of the resurrection ... our Saviour is one who conquered death! The power within us through His Spirit is greater than any fear or oppressor. We are living on the victory side and are more than conquerors through Him who loved us and gave Himself for us.
Wishing you all a happy Easter 2021.
Thursday, 1 April 2021
Some of you may recall this chorus that I remember from Sunday school days. I don’t really know why it came into my head, but as I sang it to myself I was struck by the wonderful words:
Such simple yet profound truths and promises. I often don’t feel enough happiness and joy ... my focus is wrong. Isn’t my salvation worth being happy about? Absolutely yes! And when the teardrops start? I can still have that deep seated joy because I have Jesus in my heart! No matter how my heart ‘feels’, the truth is that Jesus is still present, He still cares, I’m still saved and I’m on a trip with the ultimate destination being heaven.
What’s not to be happy about!
As we contemplate the events that took place those many years ago in Jerusalem, let us be struck by the magnitude of what Christ suffered for us. He willingly gave Himself for those who had lived before, the people around Him at the time and all of us since then. It’s easy enough to say that He suffered false accusation and that He was despised, but I want to put myself into the sentence ... I have falsely accused Him; I have reviled and despised Him; I have turned my back on Him ... the King of Glory, my Creator ... who do I think I am ... how dare I ... and yet despite the Lord knowing that I would do all these things, He still chose to die so that I could be saved. The love that He had and has for me is so vast that He would have done anything to rescue me from my own destruction, and He did.
Sin cannot enter heaven, my destiny was sealed and doomed unless a suitable substitute could vouch for me and take my place. No human could be found, we’re all born with sin ... humankind, destined for our own self destruction, through our own choices. It would have made sense to leave us to our own devices, having chosen to ignore God. That’s not how the heart of God works. His love is not like our love. To know that the only perfect substitute was His son Jesus and that being of one mind, Jesus was willing to fulfill the greatest rescue mission ever, God sent Him into the world ... to redeem us.
It truly is the best story ever told; the greatest love story; action story; tragedy; mystery and thriller all in one. The most amazing part ... it’s all true and it includes you. It may be over 2000 years old but it’s as relevant now as it ever has been and ever will be ... why? Because it applies to every soul born, therefore it is timeless ... it is of vital importance to each individual as we all have the responsibility to make a response to this story. We can chose to believe or reject it.
Please believe, for your souls sake.
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