Thursday, 29 January 2015

Suffering, refining, glorifying

"I want to know Christ-yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings." (Philippians 3:10)
Jennie Allen: "So what if the greatest thing you have to give to the world could be hidden in your darkest moments? What if your scars point to a greater story?


Our lives are a breath, and if we are here for just a minute, I'd like my one little breath to feel more like a mighty gust of wind. And that takes surrender. It takes perseverance and not wasting my minutes away on Facebook or on complaining. The apostles ...were happy, because God had considered them worthy to suffer for the sake of Jesus." (Acts 5:41).

Hear me. Even though it may seem counterintuitive, it is an honor to suffer. It is a privilege. And we are not to waste it. God wrote suffering into our stories and wants to redeem it for his glory. If we stop shaking our fists at him, we could possibly sit down and see we are running from a life in flames toward a great purpose-one that could never exist without the flames.

Joseph was a brat with a vision. And God was preparing him for that purpose. Joseph would save and lead nations, but first he had to learn who this story was about.

When Joseph first had a vision, he thought that vision was for his own glory. When that vision finally came true and his brothers were bowing before him, Joseph said these words:
"You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives" (Genesis 50:20).

The suffering I may endure is not for me. It is for God's purpose. That may be to refine me, to make me more like Jesus but it is NOT about me. It is about GOD.

Readings from Release, Revive, Repair, Rebuild today are from 2 Corinthians 5:17 - we are - I am - a new creation in Christ.

And again: Isaiah 40:31
"But those who trust the Lord
will find new strength.
They will be strong like eagles
soaring upward on wings;
they will walk and run
without getting tired."

As I study these words, I find myself again drawn to Psalm 103: "The Lord is merciful!
He is kind and patient, and his love never fails."

I love Matthew Henry's commentary: "Where God had begun the work of grace, he will perfect it. He will help those who, in humble dependence on him, help themselves. As the day, so shall the strength be. In the strength of Divine grace their souls shall ascend above the world. They shall run the way of God's commandments cheerfully. Let us watch against unbelief, pride, and self-confidence. If we go forth in our own strength, we shall faint, and utterly fall; but having our hearts and our hopes in heaven, we shall be carried above all difficulties, and be enabled to lay hold of the prize of our high calling in Christ Jesus."

As ever: just keep on going. As the old chorus goes:
"Do not worry over what to eat,
what to wear or put on your feet.
Trust and pray, go do your best today,
then leave it in the hands of the Lord.
Leave it in the hands of the Lord.

Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Refining, restoration, revival

Here we go again. The same Bible passages within 24 hours. Joseph this time.

First, from Max Lucado via Devotionals Daily: the story of Joseph. A story of restoration.
"Initially, Joseph chose not to face his past... He kept family secrets a secret. Untouched and untreated. Joseph was content to leave his past in the past.

But God was not.

Restoration matters to God. The healing of the heart involves the healing of the past. So God shakes things up.
And Max Lucado talks about Joseph's initial reaction to his brothers. Anger. Put in prison. What was going on?
"I think he was trying to get his bearings. This was the toughest challenge of his life. The famine, by comparison, was easy. Mrs. Potiphar he could resist. Pharaoh’s assignments he could manage. But this mixture of hurt and hate that surged when he saw his flesh and blood? Joseph didn’t know what to do.

Maybe you don’t either.

Your family failed you. Your early years were hard ones. The people who should have cared for you didn’t. But, like Joseph, you made the best of it. You’ve made a life for yourself. Even started your own family. You are happy to leave Canaan in the rearview mirror. But God isn’t.

He gives us more than we request by going deeper than we ask. He wants not only your whole heart; he wants your heart whole.

Why? Hurt people hurt people. Think about it. Why do you fly off the handle? Why do you avoid conflict? Why do you seek to please everyone? Might your tendencies have something to do with an unhealed hurt in your heart? God wants to help you for your sake."

God Will Carry You Through by Max Lucado, copyright Thomas Nelson.
And think: "Maybe God is disrupting the comfortable distance for a great purpose... "

Maybe it is time for restoration.

And a thought from Jennie Allen,  adapted from Restless, reflecting on Joseph's suffering: "With suffering comes a morbid but helpful perspective that life is moving fast and earth is not our home. I used to live afraid my life wasn't going to work out just right. The more I surrender to suffering and joy and whatever God has for me, the more my fear becomes that I won't spend my life well. I can run farther and longer than I could before. I am not despairing; faith is growing."

I'm studying two Bible plans, through the You Version, at the moment: Discover God's Dream for You by Jennie Allen at the same time as Release, Repair, Revive, Rebuild by Brian Houston.

And this is fascinating - a similar theme: he says "To give us a measure of revival in our bondage."
Here in Ezra 9, we see how the measure of revival God's people have received is within the context of their bondage. But this revival has liberated them and given them a purpose. When God gives us a measure of revival, His measure is not in terms of limits or just enough to survive. God's measure is always more than we need and carries with it the means to fulfil our life's calling and purpose.
Charles Spurgeon said, "Revive means to live again, to receive again a life which has almost expired; to rekindle into a flame the vital spark which was nearly extinguished."

When God brings revival into our life, we receive a kind of awakening, a revitalisation. Things that were left for dead suddenly come to life. Like rain on a desert, what was once barren and lifeless begins to overflow with life and promise. In your everyday life, your coming and going, expect revival. It's God's divine touch in your personal world. Revival will lift you above your circumstances, open your heart and fill it with purpose.

What needs to be REVIVED in your life? What is it that is dead and dying, or perhaps held in bondage? Jesus came to breathe LIFE into dry bones, to declare RISE UP to dead things. Maybe it is your passion for the House of God. Perhaps it is love for your husband or your wife. Maybe your hunger and thirst for the Word of God needs REVIVING today. Speak these verses over your life and watch as dead things come to life."

How do we do this? With PATIENCE:
"But those who trust the Lord
will find new strength.
They will be strong like eagles
soaring upward on wings;
they will walk and run
without getting tired" 
Isaiah 40:31

Keep on being brave! It will bring you great rewards. Learn to be patient, so you will please God and be given what he has promised. As the Scriptures say, “God is coming soon! It won't be very long. The people God accepts will live because of their faith. But he isn't pleased with anyone who turns back.” We are not like those people who turn back and get destroyed. We will keep on having faith until we are saved. Hebrews 10:35 - 38

And then 'Verse of the Day': "live in a way that is worthy of the people God has chosen to be his own. Always be humble and gentle. Patiently put up with each other and love each other. Try your best to let God's Spirit keep your hearts united. Do this by living at peace." Ephesians 4:1-3 CEV

If we followed the latter advice, we wouldn't need restoration of broken relationships and revival would be much more likely to happen in our lives.

All this in one day. Phew.


Fascinating post from Andy Stanley on relationships.

"If God created and gave us the capacity for satisfying relationships, it’s reasonable to assume God knows a thing or two about how to prepare for and operate one. Ever purchase something from a big box retailer and open the box to find a card that reads something along these lines? If this product is defective or a piece is missing, do not return to the place of purchase. Instead, contact us at 1-800-ITS-YOURFAULT. The reason the manufacturer would prefer you call them first is because they are the manufacturer. They know more than the retailer about their product. Way more. They also know operator error is more likely to blame than a manufacturing defect. So they would prefer that you call before you return.

Relationally speaking, when a relationship isn’t working properly, it’s tempting to go stand in the return line rather than check with the manufacturer. That’s unfortunate. It explains why relational history has a way of repeating itself.

Tuesday, 27 January 2015


Another You Version plan from Brian Houston: Release, Revive, Repair.

Jesus said - Luke 4:18, Isaiah 61:1 - that the spirit of the Lord had come upon HIM to preach the good news, proclaim freedom and give sight to the blind, freeing the prisoners.

We are all ignorant, trapped, blind and imprisoned in some way. In our thoughts, our emotions, our physicality to varying degrees.

And so he offers help: “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”

Yes, but how? Paul has the answer:
"I can anticipate the response that is coming: “I know that all God’s commands are spiritual, but I’m not. Isn’t this also your experience?” Yes. I’m full of myself—after all, I’ve spent a long time in sin’s prison. What I don’t understand about myself is that I decide one way, but then I act another, doing things I absolutely despise. So if I can’t be trusted to figure out what is best for myself and then do it, it becomes obvious that God’s command is necessary.

But I need something more! For if I know the law but still can’t keep it, and if the power of sin within me keeps sabotaging my best intentions, I obviously need help! I realize that I don’t have what it takes. I can will it, but I can’t do it. I decide to do good, but I don’t really do it; I decide not to do bad, but then I do it anyway. My decisions, such as they are, don’t result in actions. Something has gone wrong deep within me and gets the better of me every time.

It happens so regularly that it’s predictable. The moment I decide to do good, sin is there to trip me up. I truly delight in God’s commands, but it’s pretty obvious that not all of me joins in that delight. Parts of me covertly rebel, and just when I least expect it, they take charge.

I’ve tried everything and nothing helps. I’m at the end of my rope. Is there no one who can do anything for me? Isn’t that the real question?

The answer, thank God, is that Jesus Christ can and does. He acted to set things right in this life of contradictions where I want to serve God with all my heart and mind, but am pulled by the influence of sin to do something totally different.

The Solution Is Life on God’s Terms

With the arrival of Jesus, the Messiah, that fateful dilemma is resolved. Those who enter into Christ’s being-here-for-us no longer have to live under a continuous, low-lying black cloud. A new power is in operation. The Spirit of life in Christ, like a strong wind, has magnificently cleared the air, freeing you from a fated lifetime of brutal tyranny at the hands of sin and death.

God went for the jugular when he sent his own Son. He didn’t deal with the problem as something remote and unimportant. In his Son, Jesus, he personally took on the human condition, entered the disordered mess of struggling humanity in order to set it right once and for all. The law code, weakened as it always was by fractured human nature, could never have done that.

The law always ended up being used as a Band-Aid on sin instead of a deep healing of it. And now what the law code asked for but we couldn’t deliver is accomplished as we, instead of redoubling our own efforts, simply embrace what the Spirit is doing in us.

Brian Houston: ""For we were slaves." Ezra 9:9
Many people who have already walked through the door of freedom in Christ are still slaves to something or someone....The word 'release' implies momentum and action. It carries the idea of liberation, spaciousness, generosity, forgiveness, mercy and grace. Release is about emancipation - set free from whatever has restricted us. When I think about release, I see prison doors swung wide open with overjoyed people running onto a wide-open field....

It's time to break free from bondages in circumstances, relationships, finance, addictions or health. It's time for deliverance into an overcoming life. Don't settle for brokenness - Jesus came to heal the broken, to release us from everything that weighs us down.
God has not forsaken you. He has not forgotten you nor has He given up on you. Do whatever it takes to walk in the freedom that Jesus won for you.

His love never fails

This is the fourth day running I have been encountering this phrase.
His love never fails.

The song 'One Thing Remains' popped into my head during a theology talk on Saturday; we sang it on Sunday morning; I highlighted it in my notes yesterday, still pondering this truth; and then it popped up in Psalm 103: "The Lord is merciful! He is kind and patient, and his love never fails."
Your love never fails, never gives up
Never runs out on me

Higher than the mountains that I face
Stronger than the power of the grave
Constant in the trial and the change
One thing remains

On and on and on and on it goes
It overwhelms and satisfies my soul
And I never, ever, have to be afraid
One thing remains

Your love never fails, never gives up
Never runs out on me

In death, in life
I'm confident and covered by the power of Your great love
My debt is paid
There's nothing that can separate my heart from Your great love

God's love never fails.

1 Chronicles 16:34
Praise the Lord because he is good to us, and his love never fails.

Psalm 103:8
The Lord is merciful! He is kind and patient, and his love never fails.

Psalm 106:1
We will celebrate and praise you, Lord! You are good to us, and your love never fails.

Psalm 107:1
 (Psalms 107-150) ] [ The Lord Is Good to His People ] Shout praises to the Lord! He is good to us, and his love never fails.

And then there is Psalm 136:
Praise the Lord! He is good.
    God’s love never fails.
Praise the God of all gods.
    God’s love never fails.
Praise the Lord of lords.
    God’s love never fails.

Only God works great miracles.
    God’s love never fails.
With wisdom he made the sky.
    God’s love never fails.
The Lord stretched the earth
over the ocean.
    God’s love never fails.
He made the bright lights
in the sky.
    God’s love never fails.
He lets the sun rule each day.
    God’s love never fails.
He lets the moon and the stars
rule each night.
    God’s love never fails.
10 God struck down the first-born
in every Egyptian family.
    God’s love never fails.
11 He rescued Israel from Egypt.
    God’s love never fails.
12 God used his great strength
and his powerful arm.
    God’s love never fails.
13 He split the Red Sea apart.
    God’s love never fails.
14 The Lord brought Israel safely
through the sea.
    God’s love never fails.
15 He destroyed the Egyptian king
and his army there.
    God’s love never fails.
16 The Lord led his people
through the desert.
    God’s love never fails.
17 Our God defeated mighty kings.
    God’s love never fails.
18 And he killed famous kings.
    God’s love never fails.
19 One of them was Sihon,
king of the Amorites.
    God’s love never fails.
20 Another was King Og of Bashan.
    God’s love never fails.
21 God took away their land.
    God’s love never fails.
22 He gave their land to Israel,
the people who serve him.
    God’s love never fails.
23 God saw the trouble we were in.
    God’s love never fails.
24 He rescued us from our enemies.
    God’s love never fails.
25 He gives food to all who live.
    God’s love never fails.
26 Praise God in heaven!
    God’s love never fails.

Jeremiah 33:11  And when people come to my temple to offer sacrifices to thank me, you will hear them say: “We praise you, Lord All-Powerful! You are good to us, and your love never fails.” The land will once again be productive.

Thursday, 22 January 2015


A remedy for confusion:

If you are guided by the Spirit, you won't obey your selfish desires. The Spirit and your desires are enemies of each other. They are always fighting each other and keeping you from doing what you feel you should.  Or, as The Message puts it: Live freely, animated and motivated by God’s Spirit. Then you won’t feed the compulsions of selfishness. For there is a root of sinful self-interest in us that is at odds with a free spirit, just as the free spirit is incompatible with selfishness. These two ways of life are antithetical, so that you cannot live at times one way and at times another way according to how you feel on any given day. Why don’t you choose to be led by the Spirit and so escape the erratic compulsions of a law-dominated existence?
Galatians 5:16-17

Clutter causes confusion. We've just done a major tidy up - but not de-clutter - of the house, and it feels good. I realise that much of my mental confusion and indecision (over, it must be said, a VERY LARGE DECISION) isn't helped by clutter around me.

Cheri Gregory knows about clutter. One useful thing she has written stands out: that de-cluttering is not easy for HSPs - Highly Sensitive People.
Well, that is a relief, in a bizarre way. Because HSPs tend to:
    be overwhelmed by strong sensory input. (i.e. visual, auditory, etc.)

    be bothered by intense stimuli, like loud noises or chaotic scenes.

    feel more deeply.

    be more emotionally reactive.

    take longer to make decisions.

    become more upset if she makes a "bad" or "wrong" decision

    take criticism more personally and experience its effects more strongly
    BUT I CAN 'choose to be led by the Spirit'.

    The Spirit who pares life down to what is essential. Important. Necessary.
    The Spirit who, when I listen, and follow His promptings, leads me in an uncluttered life.

    A daily, hourly challenge.