Thursday, 18 December 2014

The struggle and the rescue

I'm in a prison. The bars hold me in tightly. Each year the walls get thicker... each moment the bars gets stronger. I scream, "God hear me!" but my voice is lost in the raging storm around me. The World is screaming at me, calling for my attention, pulling me this way and that, hurling abuse at me, and laughing at my despair. I stumble blindly around in my cell crying out to God to find me. All I can hear is the voice of the World... it drowns out and deafens me from hearing His voice. It tells me He doesn't exist, or even if He does that He has forgotten me. It tells me that He laughs at my disaster and watches on whilst I slowly go insane. It tells me that I have gotten myself into this mess and God will never get me out. It tells me that I am too far gone to be saved. It tells me that I cannot hear God, because He isn't talking....

But still... I will get on my knees. I will choose to hope. Though I am deafened to His voice, and blinded to His presence... yet I will believe. I will choose to ignore everything raging around me and know that in the storm and in the calm He is God. I may not understand... but that does not change who He is. I cannot hear Him, but that does not mean He is not speaking. I cannot see or feel Him, but that does not mean He hasn't been with me through it all. Hope begins to grow inside of me. Though everything is falling apart around me, yet in Him I have my confidence. He will keep me safe. In Him I have a refuge even though I see or hear Him not.

I get up with renewed strength. The storm is still raging and screaming abuse, but I am becoming deafened to its screams. As I lean upon my Lord, His voice begins to break through not just piercing my ears, but my heart. I feel hope, I know that in whatever situation.... I have my refuge. I stand before the bars which have held me captive for so long. I place my hands on them. They crumble like dust in my hands. I stand in wonder.... after it all the bars were never strong.. the walls were never thick. They were but dust all along...
I look up... the sky is clearing, the storm is over... I HAVE FOUND MY REFUGE....

Sunday, 15 December 2013

Psalm 107: The relentless and fearsome love of God!

I was reading some Psalm 107 today in my devotional time and it has completely blown me away. It shows us an incredible example of the fearsome and awesome love of God. The Psalm starts off by praising God for his unfailing love towards his people and sets the scene  "Let the redeemed of the Lord tell their story-- those he redeemed from the hand of the foe, those he gathered from the lands from east and west, from north and south."

It goes on to tell us the story of God's people- some of them wandered away from God, others sat in darkness, others become involved in wickedness or were rebellious against God.

But that is not the end of the story. No, not by a long shot. God in his incredible sovereignty, pursues his own. Our Lord shows His love in the deepest and most incredible way possible. He breaks down our pride and rips apart our self-sufficiency. And then in that moment, when we realise our mistake and cry out to God, He's right there. Even when He has every right to desert us forever... He never will. Yes, in that agonising moment when we realise just how empty we are and how desperately we need saving, we realise that we already had a Saviour, he's been there all along.

Truly NO ONE can resist or escape the love of God! I find such hope and reassurance in His unfailing love and commitment to His chosen ones.

The Psalm ends with a sobering command: Let the one who is wise heed these things and ponder the loving deeds of the Lord.
Read psalm 107 today. And think about God's love- the kind of love that changes and transforms a soul. No one can experience that love and be unchanged. Praise God for his amazing and relentless love for his children!

Monday, 16 September 2013

My weakness = His strength

I'm slowly coming to the realisation that the broken and weak me is far more ready to be molded and made useful by the Master than the 'all-together' me will ever be. It's a hard lesson to learn for this die-hard perfectionist. So often I avoid God in the moment of my weakness, without realising that those moments are where victory comes from. My utter weakness provides an opportunity for His strength to shine through without my pride getting in the way. Because when pride is properly kicked to the curb and I am at an absolute end of my tether, anything good, useful, or worthwhile that I do is clearly God and not me. Oh my foolish heart, when you want to run away and hide, when sin overwhelms and Satan condemns, run to the Rock of Ages.

I just looked up today
And realized how far away I am from where You are
You gave me life worth dying for
But between the altar and the door
I bought the lies that promised more
And here I go again

Lord, I know I let You down
But somehow, I will make You proud
I'll turn this sinking ship around
And make it back to You

But all my deeds and my good name
Are just dirty rags that tear and strain
To cover all my guilty stains
That You already washed away

All You've ever wanted, all You've ever wanted
All You've ever wanted was my heart
Freedom's arms are open, my chains have all been broken
Relentless love has called me from the start
And all You wanted was my heart

I was chasing healing when I'd been made well
I was fighting battles when You conquered hell
Living free but from a prison cell
Lord, I lay it down today

So I'll stop living off of how I feel
And start standing on Your truth revealed
Jesus is my strength, my shield
And He will never fail me

No more chains, I've been set free
No more fighting battles You've won for me
Now in Christ, I stand complete

-Casting Crowns

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

What counts the most:

I gave up long ago writing New Year's resolutions, but the last few years I've chosen a Bible verse instead to pray about and use as a goal throughout the year. For 2013 I chose a well-known passage from Philippians 3.

"But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death,  and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.

I chose this verse because I really wanted to focus on knowing Christ in a personal and real way. In the past, I've been so frustrated with how my preoccupation with self has interfered with my ability to seek, trust, and serve God. My prayer was that knowing Christ would transform the way I view life, the goals that I pursue and the dreams and plans for the future. That I would no longer be a prisoner to self, but that I would be free to see the world with God's eyes with his heart of love and compassion.

Well, God certainly has answered my prayers, but not in the way I thought He would. This year has been a hard journey so far. So many of the dreams, hopes, and plans that I had at the beginning of the year have fallen to pieces. People I loved and trusted have let me down. Sickness and  hard times have struck our family in different ways. I've often felt alone, scared, and completely not in control of the current situation.  

I  am beginning to realise that a 'happy' life is not found through being loved, accepted or successful. Rather a life of purpose is found through forsaking my dreams, self esteem and the rights that I think I have. But being the stubborn human being that I am, I hold on very tightly to the things I love in my little world. So God in his mercy strips it away until I am bare. By bringing me low, he gives me the key to reaching the heights. "For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it." Mark 8:35

Keith Green hit it on the spot in his song "Trials turn to gold" when he says,

"He's brought me low so I could know
the way to reach the heights. 
Forsake my dreams, my self esteem and give up all my rights. 
With each one that I lay down
a jewels placed in my crown
cause his love and the things above
is all we'll ever need."

Trials have their way of helping you see what really has lasting value and meaning in your life. I don't want to get to the end and see that I wasted my life pursuing temporary pleasures and joys that had no eternal value. So many of the things that I pursue are not bad in themselves; for example, getting the best grades, trying to please other people, or being mindful of my diet and weight. The problem lies when temporary things in this life distract me from using my time and energy to give to the things that have lasting value! 

So something to think about: Look at your life. What counts the most to you? Where does your energy and passion lie? Is it temporary or does it have eternal value?

Thursday, 22 August 2013

Outside my own little World

I'm going through the book of Mark at the moment with the intent on studying the life of Christ. I decided to do this after reading an impacting verse in 1 John 2:6 which says, "whoever claims to live in Him must walk as Jesus did." I felt very convicted. Am I seeking in my thoughts, work, relaxation, relationships etc to live as Jesus did? Do I have that kind of mindset?

This morning I read Mark. Jesus is speaking in the synagogue but then stops to drive out an evil spirit. Later  on in the chapter we are told Jesus heals the sick and is filled with compassion for a leper desperate to be healed of his disease.

To live like Jesus did on earth is to feel what He felt and see the World from His eyes. Jesus was not focused on Himself. He was outward focused. He saw all the broken hearts, the sinful lives, the sickness, the suffering. He saw and felt it all. And he was filled with compassion and love for the broken and abused. He did not turn a deaf ear or a blind eye. He didn't use up his time on trivial matters whilst the real needy and broken where left untouched. He spend every waking moment preaching the good news of the gospel AND spreading love, touching lives, healing and restoring broken people.

What about us? Are we content living and working in our safe little world? Are we content to be involved in trivial temporary affairs? Do we turn away from the homeless, the sick, the rejected, the criminals, the outcasts? Do we pretend abortion, human trafficking, refugees, child abuse, and other tragedies of our day don't exist? Do our hearts break for the injustices all around us? Do we seek to go where others have not spreading love, forgiveness and mercy to those who need it most? Do we even bother reaching out to those who are around us or are we too busy in our own temporary affairs?

I feel incredibly convicted to break out of my safe little comforting World. Why am I content to avoid sin, do the acceptable Christian things, be involved in church activities, and think that's all that is required of me?? Why am I content at the end of a day where I've avoided blatant sin, done the right thing and worked hard to sit and waste my life away watching television? Where is the passion for the lost? Where is the kingdom mindset? Where is the attitude that every moment of my life is a precious opportunity to impact others for Christ??? When did my heart become so hardened to a dying lost World around me?

So what can I do? A good start for me would be to turn off the television. I want to seek God and ask forgiveness for my lack of compassion and kingdom focus. I want to pray for a soft and passionate heart that is ready and willing to help those around me. And i want to start looking for more opportunities in everything I do to impact others. Knowing that time is precious. I can never get back the wasted hours of yesterday, but I can use my time today to make a difference.

A word of caution. This post is not meant to condemn or discourage. Not all of us are going to be out on the street corners preaching the gospel passionately or called to be missionaries in foreign lands. But we all have unlimited opportunities to reach people that God has placed directly in our path for that specific purpose.

Thursday, 6 June 2013

This is love...

I read a Piper quote this morning in my devotional time which really got me thinking about love.

"All of creation and all the work of redemption, including the work of Christ as our suffering, dying and rising Redeemer, and all of history hang on these two great purposes: that humans love God with all their heart, and that from the overflow of that love, we love each other." -read Matt 22:36-40 and Matt 7:!2

This is a sobering thought. I love God and am so grateful for His goodness and mercy to me, but I still find it difficult to show that love to those around me.  Yet in 1st John it says, "Anyone who does not love remains in death: (3:14b) and "if we say we love God yet hate a brother or sister, we are liars." (4:20)

But how do we love others? 1 John puts it simply, "This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for one another (3:16). Love requires a complete dying to self- it is a death of my rights, needs, and wants.

What does this love look like in action? I think true love desires and seeks the other person's ultimate good. Now, I know that true joy, peace, and life is only gained through Christ. So my love for others should stem from my willingness and passion (regardless of my needs, wants, or rights) to do what it takes to see my brother or sister find their ultimate satisfaction in Christ.

How sadly I fail in this area. So often my own selfish agenda is behind my 'love' or acts of service. How often do I truly desire and encourage others to find their satisfaction in Christ? My love is not like this. It is so often superficial, selfish, and weak.

I know I am powerless to show this kind of love on my own. However, it says in 1 John, "This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins... if we love one another God lives in us and His love is made complete in us... so we know and rely on the love God has for us." (4:10-12, 16). The answer is that God loved us before we loved Him. Once I get to know my Lord and find my joy and satisfaction in Him, that joy naturally overflows in my actions and love toward others. So my greatest weapon to fight against sin, and my greatest source of strength to love as Christ loved, is to get to know the Master. No one can sit at His feet and learn from Him and go away without a transformed heart. I find unbelievable encouragement that my greatest asset in my fight to love others, is simple rest in God.

I will finish off with another wonderful Piper quote.

"Jesus is calling for a change of heart that looks to Jesus and His reward rather than what this world can give. The intimate knowledge and tender, sovereign care of our omnipotent, all wise, heavenly father frees us for the radical kind of risks and loses that true love demands."

Friday, 18 January 2013

God: the master planner

"Wonderful, beautiful is what you see
When you look at me
You're turning the tattered fabric of my life into
A perfect tapestry"

I am in awe of God's amazing sovereignty in my life. He is my master planner. I look back through the last few years of my life and whilst I was in it... there was a lot of chaos, pain, and struggle as I went through the difficult process of growing up. But now I can look back and see His hand in everything. How he has shaped and formed me into the person that I am. How he has been faithful all along. It reminds of the above lyrics. Through the tattered messed up moments, God has and still is weaving a beautiful beautiful picture...  and what is it of? Simply his mercy and grace to an undeserving sinner.

I am excited about the future. I know there is going to be sorrow along the way. I know I will mess up time and time again the blessings that God has given me. I know there will be things I regret. But what amazing incomprehensible joy as a Christian that at the end of my life, I can look back through the chaos, the pain, the regrets and say... because of Christ in me... everything makes sense. His grace and mercy has made something beautiful out of the chaos.

And one day soon when He calls me home, I will stand before Him overflowing with joy, knowing that because of Christ in me, I can face that judgment seat unafraid. Why?? Because it was all finished at the cross. His glory, amazing grace and mercy shine more brightly through all my weakness and failure.

We need to remember and be encouraged by this amazing truth: There is always reason for the Christian to rejoice, despite the sin, suffering, and battles that we daily face. Sometimes the battle wages hard and fierce, but the victory is already won :) Through Christ the end result is already determined. So rejoice today fellow believers!!