Heaven’s Continuous Song

This weekend saw one of the twice-yearly gatherings of those in the wider leadership of our church, sharing food, fellowship, worship and learning, renewing our collective vision and our individual and corporate commitment to serve the part of the Body which we call home.

Even before the first strum of his guitar, the worship leader could sense – and drew our attention to – the tangible presence of God that was evident in the building.

We had come expectant – and God got there ahead of us!

The teaching, the prayer and the commitment that came out of that weekend meant that we entered church on Sunday with our faith levels high and doubt turned down.

Again, God was there ahead of us.

The corporate worship at the beginning of the service just exploded. It was indescribable.

One of the songs that we sung was “Praises (Be Lifted High)” by Bethel – which we had also sung the day before.  On both days whilst we were singing it was one of those miraculous times where there were more voices than the number of people present, as we were privileged to hear the sound of the angels joining in.  This morning it was the same.  The strength of the singing rose, the clarity of the words increased, the whole tenor and tone of the voices changed.

We moved on to “King of My Heart” (by John Mark McMillan) and it continued.

It was truly breathtaking.

As my spirit soared in response, I heard the Holy Spirit speak to me, explaining why it was happening.

When we lose ourselves fully, utterly, in abandonment, beyond our “understanding”, letting our spirit move freely in unison with His, we will always, always feel the most alive, the most free, the most US that we will ever feel.

Because we are His. We are made in the image of God.  We are His creation.  Our very DNA is imprinted with who He is.  Good. Worthy. Holy. Unchanging. Deserving of our praise. Always.

Nothing will ever make you feel as whole or as complete like that moment of true worship, being so much more than a song but an attitude, an expression, a declaration.

Furthermore, in that moment of worship not only are we in true union with our Creator, but we also join with the heavenly hosts.

Revelation teaches us that the angels worship Him day and night.  They were created for that purpose. Day and night they are lifting His Name higher than any other name.  Day and night they are declaring Who He Is.

When we are do the same, we join in with heaven’s continuous song.  If you truly listen with your spiritual “ears” you will hear your voice join in with those of the heavenly hosts.

During Saturday’s teaching, Neil Young (from Causeway Coast Vineyard, Coleraine) had taught us how understanding our IDENTITY leads into understanding our AUTHORITY which in turn brings CLARITY.  Today we moved into a deeper revelation of His Identity that led our hearts and spirits to respond in delight, as we moved into a fuller revelation of our own identity – as children of the living God.

I am so excited and so expectant to see how that revelation moves the church, moves me, into a greater understanding of our authority, and I am sure I cannot even begin to imagine where that will lead us in terms of clarity of purpose and calling.

There was a Word that I received for someone else during Saturday which, whilst it wasn’t given for me, has certainly blessed me and challenged me:

The walls of Jericho came down with the blowing of trumpets and the raising of voices – IN UNISON.  When we are united in purpose, in word and in deed, then strongholds will come down.

That is what God is asking of us, and it is going to be an exhilarating – if bumpy – journey as we pursue that.

Relax… You are in safe Hands

A child grows in the womb, wrapped, enclosed, touched and held on all sides in that snug place. At the moment of birth – wow is it any wonder they cry! Torn from that place and thrust into space – like free falling almost – a sudden sense of nothingness all around, released, uncovered..

After prods and touches, random movements, the baby feels itself tightly wrapped again as it is swaddled and then – marvelous moment! The baby is placed into arms that encircle it, and there is the voice, the heartbeat, that it has known from the very first moment of conciseness, held, safe, secure…

“I am humbled and quieted in your presence.Psalm 131 verse 2

Like a contented child that rests on its mother’s lap,

I’m your resting child, and my soul is content in you.”

( Psalm 131: 2 The Passion Translation)

When  the day is long, the circumstances tough, the pain great, the fear overwhelming, read that Scripture, ponder the image, and let it speak to your soul.

“So then, my soul, why would you be depressed?
Why would you sink into despair?
Just keep hoping and waiting on God, your Savior.
For no matter what, I will still sing with praise,
For living before his face is my saving grace!”

(Psalm 42:5 The Passion Translation)

Renew your mind, rob the enemy of his plan to harm you, and CHOSE to focus on the goodness of God, and rest in the knowledge that you are in safe Hands.

“The eternal God is your refuge,
and underneath you are the everlasting arms”

(Deut 33: 27 MEV)

Hope Does Not Disappoint

“Even in times of trouble we have a joyful confidence, knowing that our pressures will develop in us patient endurance. And patient endurance will refine our character, and proven character leads us back to hope. And this hope is not a disappointing fantasy, because we can now experience the endless love of God cascading into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who lives in us!” (Romans 5:3-5 TPT)

“Not only so, but we also boast in tribulation, knowing that tribulation produces patience, patience produces character, and character produces hope. And hope does not disappoint, because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” (Romans 5:3-5 MEV)

And….. Breathe…

I’m sitting here. Again. Finally. In my spot. Quiet. Alone before God.

I’m cold. I’m tired. I didn’t sleep longer than an hour at a time last time. I am battling the symptoms of a headcold and a week long sinus related headache.  The beautiful view is not here to soothe me: it’s raining. Did I mention it is cold?

But I don’t care. I’m here.

It has been a struggle lately. I’m just being honest. With a kind of horror I have seen the inevitable vicious circle develop where I am too busy to get out for my daily quiet time, too stressed, always too tired to get up early, too easy to make excuses, but thereby getting spiritually and mentally weaker without that space – which in turn leads to more stress and tiredness.

If the batteries in a child’s toy are running low, and the toy getting slower and slower, it is of no use to you that they are rechargable batteries if you don’t take them out and charge them up! It has been like that. A gradual inevitable slowing down until finally, here today, I’m plugged back in.

I don’t know how I am going to get back to a daily visit here but I know I have to try.

So what has all this got to do with the Scripture above? A Scripture that I actually put down as a draft post just days before it all went south, just before (it seemed) life, the universe and everything conspired against me? (Perhaps I should have recognised it for the warning it maybe was!)

This weekend, and coming week, we are blessed at our church to be hosting Pete Lyne who is part of the story of our church, a faithful friend to the eldership, a guide and inspiration to the body here, and a faithful servant of the Lord for fifty plus years. Yesterday evening at our “Kingdom Come” service, we all pressed in to seek God’s Word over our lives, with Peter prophesying over every individual, and with others in the church gifted, or learning to hear from God through prophecy, also ministering.

I was blessed by two Words. The first reminded me of two things God had previously told me over twenty years ago. He said that my experiences have built up an armour, built strength, spiritual protection. That instead of hardening my heart, my trials and tribulations had soften my heart each time, and that state of being soft hearted towards God and people, whilst secure in my “armour”, was meant to be. His plan, or rather His outcome (as He doesn’t bring the trials, just works things out to His glory and our good).

It reminded me of a Word from a dear friend when I was a teenager, and a standard bearer for the Royal British Legion. He said that I was called to be a standard bearer for God. The standard always marked the place of the King in battle and was the rallying point for the troops – and a target for the enemy. He drew me the most beautiful picture of myself, in full armour, on horseback and carrying the standard of Christ.

The Word I received last night also noted that I chose to put myself in difficult positions “for God” and that this was to continue. In fact the person said there were going to be new, tougher situations!

After sharing the Word with me, the person then prayed for me (I definitely needed it after that!) and one of their main prayer points was that God would make and protect a place for me, somewhere I could come in peace and safety, somewhere to withdraw and be with Him.

So here I am. I can take a hint! This place is special, sacred, set apart, God planned, needed. Without making it in to a religious action that obsesses over times and timing, I see I MUST withdraw regularly to this place.

Having been reminded (just before it all got too much) that I am gifted with discernment, words of knowledge, prophecy and mercy, and gifted so because I am called into a specific position of spiritual warfare, and now having God remind me, encourage me (and frankly shake me!), I know I need to make this place a priority in order to work out my calling faithfully.

Back to the Scripture therefore.  C H Spurgeon once wrote “Blessed be any wind that blows us into the port of our Saviour’s love!” I agree! As I sit here and can just make out the ships sheltering, moored, off the coast as they brace for the forecast gales, as I meditate on all God has spoken to me in the past 24 hours, I can only chose to rejoice in past and coming tribulations, with “joyful confidence” knowing that this Hope does not disappoint.

NB: It occurs to me that I should differentiate between the sort of trials and tribulations that are to do with suffering for Christ (ridicule, opposition, persecution etc) and what we tend to think of as trials ie having a bad day/hard time.  Scripture of course refers to the former as the sort that we are to “rejoice” in and NOT the latter.  I have chosen to take strength from this particular Scripture for BOTH kinds, as these past 6 weeks or so have been full of both and I have also been aware that some of the latter kind have actually been rather overtly from the hand of the enemy and not just the standard, every day, “living in a fallen world” kind of troubles.  For an excellent teaching on this point, I encourage you to read Roarke’s post over on The Father’s Heart.

Becalmed

It has been a while. I know.

Sorry.

The reality is – and I promised a while ago that I was going to risk being honest here – that sometimes life isn’t easy.  Sometimes it can all feel a bit much.

The past month has been a little bit like that.

I’ve gone weeks without my daily quiet time, sitting here on the sea front, and I became increasingly aware how vital it had become, as the days got busier, the challenges bigger, and my strength diminished.

Last week I got just one brief moment and snatched half an hour in my usual spot.  Ironically – and not coincidentally – that day was one in the middle of several days of thick, 24 hour fog so my beautiful, soothing view was obscured.  In addition, I didn’t have internet access to write (yet another temporary hitch that made writing this blog impossible in the usual way) so I recorded a voice memo on my phone instead.

This is the transcription:

“It might seem obvious sitting here with the mist around to talk about believing in things that you can’t see, but just because it is obvious it doesn’t mean it isn’t something we need to think about.  The last few weeks I’ve struggled to see the beauty in the situation around me; I’ve struggled to see where I’m heading and like a ship when the mist comes down, that left me with a couple of options.

I could chose can rely on the navigation aid that I have and fix my path according to the things that I know are true, the things that others have told me are true.  As a Christian that “navigation aid” is the Word of God.

However the truth is sometimes you can become fearful, or lose your way, become insecure or just plain tired and at those moments, the safest thing to do is just to drop anchor and stay where you are.  You know that the mist will past, and you know that when it does, when the fog lifts, you know that you will be able to see clearly.

I think at first, as things began to build up around me and “the way” became obscured, I was relying on the Scriptures and things I knew, standing on the Word and knowing that whatever happened those things were true.  Knowing that just because I didn’t feel them, just because I couldn’t see them, didn’t mean that they weren’t true.  I just kept confessing to myself,  and over myself, the promises that God had previously given me, the promises that His Word show me, and relying on those as my “navigation aids”.

Last week however, when my husband was away in Denmark on mission, I got to the point where even that was too much.  All I felt I could do was drop anchor and just stand firm where I was –  rooted still in the Scriptures but just standing still, not trying to seek Him particularly, not trying to learn, not trying to look around just really head down, rooted to the spot (securely rooted and knowing I was secure) but just staying still, waiting for it to pass.

Through God’s Grace there was no storm during that time.  Everything was just flat, like today.  The sea in front of me now is an absolute mill pond.  There are no ripples, the tide is coming in and yet you can’t see any evidence of the waves at all, not because of the mist but because the surface of the sea is still. There is no wind today and it is just a smooth expanse of water broken occasionally by the rocks which are disappearing  as the tide is coming in.

All is still.  There are ships out here at anchor and they are just waiting.

Even as we wait, even in the short time I’ve been here, the sun is burning strongly and the mist is clearing over the land.  I can see the blue sky from where I am, right above me, and out towards the sea I can start to make out some of the ships as their light is reflecting the sunlight.

Like those ships, I hope that this week and over the past few weeks, even once I’d dropped anchor, I was still able to be reflecting God’s light.  I hope that as I served through the week I was still in the right place, reflecting His Glory to those that I was working with, and those that I was serving.

I know that there is going to come a day when this mist is going to clear for me, that I’m going to see the path that God has laid out for me, and in the meantime I’m just sitting here, waiting.  I’m going to wait upon the Lord and I’m going to continue to seek Him. His word promises that if I seek Him with all my heart, I will find Him (Jeremiah 29:13).

So that is where I am this week, anchored down, becalmed, waiting for the mist to clear.

Guest Post from The Father’s Heart

Today’s Daily Devotional from Roarke over at The Father’s Heart is simply stunning, and I wanted to share it with you here. Read and be blessed.

In the neighborhood there was an immoral woman of the streets, known to all to be a prostitute. When she heard about Jesus being in Simon’s house, she took an exquisite flask made from alabaster, filled it with the most expensive perfume, went right into the home of the Jewish religious leader, and knelt at the feet of Jesus in front of all the guests. Broken and weeping, she covered his feet with the tears that fell from her face. She kept crying and drying his feet with her long hair. Over and over she kissed Jesus’ feet. Then she opened her flask and anointed his feet with her costly perfume as an act of worship. Luke 7:37-38

Over the last few days we have been looking at this incident from the viewpoint of Simon, the Pharisee and Jesus’ host for the evening. Today I would like to look at it from the viewpoint of the prostitute.

We are going to touch on a theme or an idea that we have touched on several times before. Namely, going all in. Let’s just look at what is happening here, it is amazing. The Holy Spirit was at this event. When ever I read the Bible I ask Him to show me what it was like. Ask Him to help me ‘run a movie’ in my mind so I can watch what happened, so I can see it unfold in real time.

Just as a by the by, this is my number one tip for reading the Bible! Imagine you were there. Watch the events. Get involved. The Holy Spirit will guide you through it all because, as I say, He was already there. In effect you are simply asking Him to remember in your mind what happened. So on to the events…

For Jesus the night was pretty much like any other night. He had been invited round to a meal by Simon, one of the local leaders. The food would be good. The company hard and any message He had the opportunity to share picked upon and picked apart. But He was going, but tonight might just throw up a surprise. They often did.

Simon was besides himself with excitement. Tonight he was in the biggest of big leagues. Jesus was coming to his place and that meant that all the head honchos were coming. There would be more important people in his front room than there would be anywhere else tonight. It had to be just right. Now, why is the table not set? Where is that wretched servant?…

The lowest of the low. She knew it and this is what she keeps telling herself as she gets ready for another night of serving everyone else with nothing for herself. She had dreams. Once. Not anymore. She laughs bitterly, “My only dream is to make it through the night without incident” she mutters to herself as she combs her hair, applies her perfume and gets ready to lose a little bit more of herself and her future.

She can’t remember where it all went wrong, she just knows it has. Little things at first, just snowballing into bigger things. Choices that she had made, choices that others had made on her behalf. Well, on their behalf. They just affected her, negatively. Lower and lower she had gone, until this was all that was left. And it wasn’t much.

It is as she is going out her front door that she meets her friend coming home. “Where have you been?” she asks. “You look worn out”
“Oh, Master Simon has that man Jesus coming to his house tonight” replies her friend. “It’s manic in there. He’s doing his nut! Everything has to be perfect. They’re all going to be there tonight. He’s like a dog with two tails. I’m going to bed!” her friend says as she disappears round the corner.

“Jesus” whispers the prostitute under her breath. She has heard the name, she knows the stories. “Jesus” she whispers again as she heads back inside.

An hour or so later, the evening is in full swing. Simon like the cat who got all the cream is sitting at the head of the table. Next to him, in fact all round the table recline the great and the good. “What a night” he thinks to himself in smug satisfaction. “What can possibly go wrong?”

Suddenly there is a slight commotion outside and appearing in the doorway is a young prostitute. This could be rather embarrassing. Most of the men in the room have met her, if you know what I mean. “Why is she here? Why tonight? Why my house?”

She doesn’t cause a scene. She just lowers her eyes and makes her way towards where Jesus is sitting. People are sitting forward a little now. How is this going to play out? She knows what she must do, she has heard the stories. This is it.

As she stands before Him, the power that radiates from Him convicts her. The love and compassion that He moves in overwhelms her and in that moment she knows. She knows. It isn’t hopeless. She isn’t done for. She has a future, she has a purpose. She is not an object to be lusted, she is a child of God to be loved.

She simply crumples to the floor. Her tears of sadness, pity, and grief giving way to tears of joy, hope and gratitude. She washes Jesus’ feet, wiping the dust from the soles of His feet. She dries them with her hair, and yet, the tears keep flowing so she keeps rubbing. Eventually when all her past hurt has flowed out of her, dropping onto Jesus through her tears, she stops.

He doesn’t stop her. He waits. He allows every tear of remorse, regret and repentance to fall upon Him. He waits. Time stands still. It is her and Him. A divine exchange. All her sorrow, all her despair, all of her hurt, washing over Him. He is perfectly still. His love, His power radiating out of Him into every fibre of her bruised being.

What did Isaiah promise? A bruised reed He will not break. When she is finished she takes her jar of expensive perfume, the tool of her trade and she anoints His feet. She has nothing to give Him. This is all she has. Rather than use it to further weaken herself and her future she chooses to pour it out on His feet.

And He takes it. He lets her minister to Him. He patiently waits whilst she finishes her act of service. Then He looks at her. He holds her gaze. Oh, to be looked at by those piercing eyes. He holds her in His gaze. Love, looking at her. Loving entering her. A look that she can never forget. As she closes her eyes at night she knows that she will always see that life changing look.

He smiles at her, gently, commandingly, “Your faith in Me has given you life” He tells her. “Now you may leave and walk in the ways of peace.”

I don’t think that I need to bring this story forward do I? I don’t need to bring it into your life and situation. You know what to do. Go ‘all in’ today. Spend some time sitting at the Master’s feet. Give Him your all and He will give you His all. A divine exchange. May God richly bless you.
Roarke

Taking Hold of the Blessings

My view today is different from usual.

image

Instead of the expanse and vastness of God’s ocean, I am surrounded by trees in the midst of woodland. Instead of watching ships at sea, I’m watching waterfowl in the pond near our chalet (a goose has just wandered up to my feet, accepting to have its photo taken but hissing when I moved).  Squirrels instead of cyclists race by. Instead of the crash of the waves, I have a cacophony of bird song and calls, even the sound of deer, and in the background the overhead planes from a nearby RAF base.

All very different but still very much a blessing.  These few days’ holiday were an unexpected gift to our family from someone and we are enriched by their generosity.

The holiday is a blessing – but we have had to take action to receive it, to get the best from it, and to accommodate it.

There is a spiritual parallel here that does not escape me.

Our accommodation here is paid for – but we had to pay to get here.  We couldn’t enjoy this holiday without going to where it had been provided. Often, like Elijah, our provision and blessing is provided by God, but we have to listen to Him and obey Him and MOVE in order to receive it.

Once here, we could just enjoy the beautiful surroundings and the free indoor pool however the facility has more to offer – if we are to pay for it ourselves.  Again, sometimes the blessings God provides for us can be multiplied by us putting effort in, not counting the cost. He can provide a harvest but we have to work to collect it.

With three of the four children and one of the adults in our family being wired uniquely (within the autistic spectrum) there are challenges involved in being in a new place, new building, new bed, new routine, different sounds, different experiences. It would be true to say the first evening and night have been tough! But we all know and recognise that if we push through the “different”, if we ride out the tough emotions, get a handle on the “newness”, then there will be great benefits.

Recieving all God has for us isn’t always easy.  The blessings of Abraham are ours now through Christ’s sacrifice but we need to press in and take hold of them.  Despite the challenges, despite the doubts, pushing through the obstacles, stretching our faith, until we step into the fullness of those blessings.

Today, wherever you are, don’t just stop to “count your blessings” but look to make sure you aren’t missing some, hidden because you are looking in the wrong place or need to move, failing to grasp what you need to do, to sacrifice, to make the most of what is at hand, or maybe failing to experience blessings because all you see are the challenges between you and them.

“Oh, how great is Your goodness,
which You have laid up for those who fear You,
which You have done for those
seeking refuge in You before people!”

(Psalm 31: 19 MEV)

Make Your Requests Known to God

Waves are very complex.  Sitting every day by the sea watching the tides, and the waves as they crash against the seashore, one quickly gets fascinated by them and I’ve become quite a geek about the science of waves. This morning however their complexity resonated with me in the context of a discussion we had last night in our church community group.

Our church has small groups that meet during the week, mainly for the purposes of giving people a chance to connect at a real, “doing life” level with others in the body – something hard to do in a large church, or only once a week on a Sunday.  At the moment we are working through an excellent study on prayer from 24-7 Prayer and Alpha.

One of the things we were talking about was unanswered (or apparently unanswered) prayers.  We agreed often it appears we haven’t had an answer because we haven’t actually brought the real issue to God or not prayed specifically, so His “answer” doesn’t actually scratch the itch.

It is similar to when, in a relationship, one of the couple will ask something of the other (for example the woman asks the man to help with dinner) but when that request is fulfilled (he comes out into the kitchen and starts getting the plates out) the person is unhappy.  Probably in this example because what the woman REALLY meant was “can you do the dinner as I am feeling tired and it would be a great way for you to show how much you love me for doing this for me”.  She didn’t actually say what she meant however because she thinks “he ought to know what I really mean”.

It might sound extreme but we do this with God!  Our group discussed those type of prayers last night, acknowledging that most of us at some time or another have had the attitude “why do we need to ask God when, because He is God, He already knows what we need?!”

There is an even more complex aspect to unanswered prayer though.

“We know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28 MEV)

Have you ever stopped to think about our prayers from God’s perspective?

I have four children so, along with my husband, that means we are a family of six.  When we want to do something as a family it can get quite complicated and as the kids have grown and developed their personalities it has become even harder to find something we can all enjoy.  As a parent, planning things to please them all is hard!

I remember from my own childhood, family holidays (with just four of us) was all about accepting that we had to do things we didn’t particularly enjoy for the sake of each other. On a week long holiday one day we would visit a stately home (for Mum), one day a military museum (brother), one day a nature reserve (Dad) and one day something with a miniature railway (for me!)  plus a day on the beach and a day in the town. It isn’t that we didn’t enjoy the other days but we each had a special thing we wanted to do.

With our family now there are only a few things that please us all – eating out (I’m a chef so food is a “thing” in our family!), playing dominoes or having a NERF battle in the back garden (don’t ask….!)

What’s the point I’m making here? If I struggle as a Mum of four to work all things out, how much more complex is it when God is doing that for all of us?

His promises are true and He is the same today, yesterday and forever so when He promises to work things out, to bless us, promises His plans are only to prosper us – He means it.  Then I come before Him and ask for something.

Maybe what I’m asking for just won’t work out.  Maybe to answer “yes” to that prayer would mean breaking His promises to prosper me.  If I persist (ask and keeping on asking) and seek Him earnestly, to give me my “yes” now means a huge amount of work in order to still make sure the best comes to me – that this will work to my good.

Don’t forget too that we have free will. We are God’s hands and feet.  So in order to “work all things out” means restricting Himself to moving through those of us open to His guidance, His Spirit, whispering and nudging us to direct our actions so that they have the desired consequence that make the necessary changes that mean… He can answer someone else’s prayer whilst still making sure it is “to the good” for both the original asker and all of those involved in delivering that answer!

I don’t know that I’ve explained this very well but I hope you can grasp the essence of what I mean enough that you can stop and ponder this. Allow the complexity, the trillions of permutations, to blow your mind. How God balances it all in His Omnipresence keeping it all in line with all His promises…

Can you sense just a tiny fraction of how BIG that is?! That is even before you add in to the mix the influence of the ruler of this world (the devil) and take into account all the natural consequences of the fall (disease, decay in the natural world and the disasters it causes etc), sin that abounds in all mankind driving us contrary to God’s plans and purposes…

Does your answered prayer sudden suddenly seem less about God not answering you, not caring, and more about BECAUSE He cares and wants to give you the desires of you heart?

Be amazed today at how big, how great, how awesome, how loving and how trustworthy your God is.

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything, by prayer and supplication with gratitude, make your requests known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will protect your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7 MEV)

Not By Sight

Today is a rainy day.  I parked up in my usual spot and checked the app to see what ships were out there. This morning there are apparently 5 ships out there close to the shore and, if it was a clear day, another 7 visible to me. However this is my view:

Nothing to see

The wind is blowing from the south east which means the rain is driving against the right hand window which I usually have open when I am parked here, so I can hear the sound of the waves and see clearly without the slight tint of the car window. That isn’t possible today in this weather!

There is an obvious parallel with our daily walk as Christians. Sometimes the direction we are looking in is the direction of the storm. More so than that, using the “ship finder” app to see what vessels are out there – and trusting in its accuracy even when my sight can’t provide its own evidence – sounds like a certain oft-quoted Scripture:

“For we walk by faith, not by sight.” (2 Corinthians 5:7 MEV)

When the conditions around us – circumstances, other people, the news, our health, our jobs – aren’t favourable to “clear sight” then we must, MUST trust in the accuracy of Scripture for our guidance.

His Word is our compass, our “sat nav”.  The Holy Spirit is our guide, and our comfort amidst the storm, His presence a reassurance that we will come through as long as we stay close.

Three of my children are on the autistic spectrum and they don’t do very well in crowds. In particular, when they were young if we needed to go somewhere crowded I was mindful of how this would make them feel. “Stay close” I’d tell them “keep hold of my hand, or hold on to my coat, don’t let go”. Sometimes they would close their eyes to make it bearable, clinging tightly to me and trusting not only that I wouldn’t let them go but that I wouldn’t let them walk into any obstacles or get hurt.

[There’s that childlike faith again]

How much more so is our Father in Heaven like that (Matthew 7:11)?  When I am overwhelmed, when it is too hard for me to see clearly, I just need to close my eyes and put my hand into His Hand.  Listen only for the sound of His voice telling me the way to go.  Rely on the comfort of His nearness, the assurance of His presence, to quieten all that is within me.

Rest.

Trust.

Peace.

When the fear has subsided and the way is clear again, I can open my eyes again and rejoice that He has brought me safely through the trouble.

See how the rain has eased?  How the visibility is clearing?  The ships whose presence I had to take on faith now visible?

After the rain

In a world where we rely on electronic devices and pieces of software to tell us about the weather, where we are, and how to get where we are going, it is distressing to see how little trust we sometimes put in the inspired Word of God.

Holy Spirit, help me today and always to use God’s Word as the only true compass in my life, the only true oracle, and for it to be the first (and never the last) place I turn for comfort.

The Evidence of Things Unseen

Today I arrived at my spot and parked up so I had the usual vista before me.  However, today the sky is grey, the wind is gusting, the tide is out and the visibility is poor.

But this is still a beautiful place to be.

I sit and watch the pattern of the waves breaking on the rocks, see them emerge as the tide goes out, watch the gulls settling into rock pools, seeking out trapped crabs for breakfast.

The windows of the car may be shut so I can’t hear the sea as clearly as usual but instead I have a symphony of wind whistling and howling around the side of the car, and a gentle rocking in my seat as the car is buffeted.

There are plenty of ships anchored to investigate too.  The usual dog walkers, children being dragged to school (and therefore my morning prayer of thankfulness that my kids are homeschooled!).

I spot little breaks in the grey cloud, snatches of blue sky, the promise of what’s there behind the gloom.

God doesn’t have to spell it out for me this morning! I can see the encouragement before me.

God is present all the time. His beauty, His power, His grace, His truth. Regardless of the time or season, regardless of the “weather” in my life – whether I am being buffeted by circumstances around me, finding it difficult to see clearly, caught on unexposed “rocks” of sin, feeling cold and bereft…. He is there, in all things He can work them to my good if only I will let Him.

Through free will I have the authority over my life – through His grace I can submit that authority to Him. Giving Him permission to guide, to teach, to show. He can reveal the “food” that will nourish me in the “rock pools” in my life, those sinful blocks I stumble on, but through which process I can grow and deepen my understanding of Him and His grace if only I will listen.

He can protect me from the effects of the wind, be my refuge, my strong tower –  Jesus is my “covert” (Isaiah 32:2). I shall still hear the storms of life as they howl by but I shall stand firm, unmoved, safe and warm in the security of His promises to me (Psalm 91 has been such a refuge for me over the years).

Though all around me may seem grey I can trust in His Word, know that the “blue skies” of the glories of heaven are still there even if obscured by the clouds of this world. If I base my mood, my happiness, my security on the “weather” in my life then I will be no better than the unsaved around me who moan and complain about the weather all the time (too hot, too cold, too windy, too dry..). No, may I be one who trusts in the glory of God, His truth and His promises, and bears all things for “faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1 MEV).

I read this Psalm this morning and it became my glorious declaration – may it be yours too:

Psalm 46

1 God is our refuge and strength,
a well-proven help in trouble.
2 Therefore we will not fear, though the earth be removed,
and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea;
3 though its waters roar and foam,
though the mountains shake with its swelling. Selah
4 There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy dwelling place of the Most High.
5 God is in the midst of her; she will not be moved;
God will help her in the early dawn.
6 The nations roared; the kingdoms were moved;
He uttered His voice; the earth melted.
7 The Lord of Hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah
8 Come, see the works of the Lord,
who makes desolations in the earth.
9 He makes wars cease to the end of the earth;
He breaks the bow and cuts off the spear;
He burns the chariot in the fire.
10 Be still and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth.
11 The Lord of Hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah

Faith and Works

So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.” James 2:17 MEV

As a believer in the Gospel of Grace, having lived a life that means I *know* that nothing *I* can do will save me, a life that has shown me day in and day out that I need a Saviour, I have never had any trouble understanding that works without faith is of no use.  But the understanding of “faith without works” is harder.

James outlines in this passage just how faith without works is dead – just praying a blessing over the hungry and the naked doesn’t feed or cloth them – however I think that whilst many of us would confidently assert that we don’t do that (we are actively involved in any social outreach program at church, give to charity etc) I still don’t think we grasp the depths of this warning.

An analogy came to me this morning during my quiet times (which on a Sunday take place at home as I don’t have the luxury of time to spend at my sea side spot – not unless I’m willing to get up very early!).

Man digs a well but he doesn’t fill it.  It is filled from the top down, as it were, by the rain.  Without that intervention which he can do nothing to bring about, it would just remain a hole in the ground. Dangerous instead of provisional.

Works without faith.

You build your church programs, you have all your procedures, have all your rituals, it all seems very industrious for the Kingdom.  But your well is dry.  Nothing about what you are doing is nurturing you, offering you abundance.

If the man doesn’t dig the well, then when the rain comes it soaks but soon dries up. He has no means to store it. No means to draw from it in times of drought.

Faith without works.

All the floodgates of heaven could open in your time with God today but if you haven’t invested, haven’t put in any work (Bible study, submitting to the discipleship process by learning from brothers and sisters in Christ, working on your heart, standing firm in the battle for your mind) then all that blessing has no where to go.  It will slip through your fingers.

Moving in to a new house, with an unkempt garden, you can spend hours and hours weeding, taming, clearing, leveling, digging, sieving, planting and sowing. But if it doesn’t rain, and the sun doesn’t shine too – those processes totally outside yourself and your control – then you will be left with a bare patch of earth where sooner or later the weeds will grow again.

Works without faith.

All the Bible study in the world, listening to every podcast, following every “megachurch” on Twitter, “liking” every Facebook page for every Christian celebrity, attending every church service and activity…. without the infilling of the Holy Spirit, without relationship with Him… is just activity. Just busy-ness.  Sooner or later the weeds of the devil, the cares of the world, will take over your tended plot.

If I do no work on my garden, never weed, never prune, never tend, then sooner or later it just becomes a wild patch. Filled with seeds from whatever plants, weeds or nearby trees that happen upon it.  The rain and the sun will come but it won’t help the precious plants that I planted as they will get choked by the weeds, by the “thorns” that grow.

Faith without works.

It is no good singing praise in my car every day on the way to work, no good having this faith, without putting any work in to it. I need to read the Word daily.  I need to be transformed by the renewing of my mind.  I need to take captive every thought.  I need to be open to the examining of the Holy Spirit who only convicts of righteousness.  I need to set a guard upon my lips.  I need to be aware of this great cloud of witnesses before me and set on to run the race before me.  I need to be conscious of the armour of God that I have and work to keep it in good order.

Otherwise the slings and arrows, the fiery darts of the enemy, will penetrate.  The weeds of his lies will choke out the Truth in my heart and my mind.  The cares of the world will choke out any abundance that I walk in.  I will take my mind off of Jesus and instead see only the mess – the weeds – in my life.

Holy Spirit, help me to daily be aware of the necessary balance between faith and works.  May I never work for my own righteousness, never focus only on the things that I do or feel I *should* be doing.  May I never think carelessly of the security of Your Grace Lord but strive to work to deepen my understanding of Your Truths, stand firmer in Your strength, taking effort to share that Grace with all around me in every situation, seeking always to go deeper and further, never cheapening that Grace by casual disregard of how You call me to live.