Tuesday, January 30, 2024

Patience and Petulance




Petulance is a word that is little-used these days.  One definition says it is 'the quality of being childishly sulky or bad tempered'.  I find it interesting that it says the 'quality of....'.  I usually associate quality with that which is good but I guess we  also speak of poor quality goods.

I was reading a story in the Bible which many people think is just a myth, but Jesus didn't refer to it as a myth when he used it as an illustration of his death in Matthew 12:40. Yes, I'm talking about Jonah.  He was a man who God wanted to use to warn a large city of impending doom so they could repent and be spared destruction. You would kind of think that would be an awesome mission but Jonah didn't want any of it.  Instead he bought a ticket on a ship that was going in the opposite direction!

Jonah's act of disobedience almost cost the loss of the ship and many lives on board during the great storm that rose up.  The ship's captain and the sailors were frantically crying out to their gods and they pleaded with Jonah to pray to his God. Instead, Jonah said, "I'm the cause of this storm, just throw me overboard!" Did he think by doing this he was going to escape his mission? No, God wasn't giving up on him yet!

During an incredible 3 days and nights in the belly of a large fish Jonah came to his senses and repented of his disobedience.  On God's command the fish vomited Jonah out onto a beach and he went on to Ninevah to give them God's message. Did he have to go through such turmoil? I don't think so, but I think God was working on this fellow's character as the rest of the story shows.

You would think Jonah would be happy that people actually listened and believed that his message was from God, that they repented and cried to God for forgiveness.....think again.  Jonah watched and waited to see what God would do and when God relented from destroying Ninevah, Jonah was angry and petulant.  He actually said to God, "I know that you are a gracious and merciful God, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness.  One who relents from doing harm. Therefore take my life now, it is better for me to die than to live." Jonah 4:2-3.  Jonah showed himself to be childishly sulky and utterly selfish in not being able to rejoice in God's mercy on Ninevah. Maybe God was showing him some areas in his life that needed changing.  We all have those, and God knows how to put us in positions that test us to grow us.

There are many lessons we can take from this story and please, look for what God wants to say to you about it.  I want to highlight what Jonah knew about God, and that is, his patience and long-suffering, his mercy and kindness.  As 2 Peter 3:9-10 tell us 'The Lord isn’t really being slow about his promise, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent. But the day of the Lord will come as unexpectedly as a thief. Then the heavens will pass away with a terrible noise, and the very elements themselves will disappear in fire, and the earth and everything on it will be found to deserve judgment.'

I feel like I am beating the same drum, but even as I was writing, I didn't know how this article was going to finish until I prayed about what I was to take out of this for myself.  I believe it is this, that God, in his love and mercy, is continuing to call people to repentance and faith in Jesus Christ so that they do not perish when his judgement finally comes on our world.  He's calling us to wake up and walk with him, to speak up, and to love people enough to lead them to the Great Lover of their souls.....Jesus Christ, the son of God who takes away the sins of the world.  

PRAYER; Lord God, help me to be a lighthouse for you, looking for the lost, warning of danger, guiding to safety and leading them to your light.  Amen

Saturday, December 30, 2023

What Will Lighten Your Darkness?

 


As we stand on the cusp of 2024, do thoughts and questions assail your mind about what this brand new year will look like?  The year past has certainly brought with it many disasters, deaths and distractions, both natural and man-made. Do you worry about many things - finances, family, the future?  Perhaps you wonder even if there is a future for this troubled world.

Although 2023 has been an increasingly difficult year in some aspects, and we certainly don't know how the next year will shape up, I am thankful for the hope, the picture of what the future holds, and the security that my wonderfully wise and loving God gives me day by day as I read His Word. I am thankful that I received His gift of faith in Jesus Christ so many years ago.  He is the One who gives me hope.

The Bible is, contrary to the assertions of some 'modern thinkers', the inspired word of God.  The more I read it and compare it with the historical evidence of the many prophecies fulfilled (and there are hundreds), I am inspired. The more I study it and discuss it with other believers, the more I am encouraged.  The more I take its words at 'face value' and not try to overthink it, the more I am challenged. The more I choose to believe it and obey it as best I can, the more peace and joy I have in my everyday life.  It is surely, in my humble opinion, the Manufacturer's Handbook, and we neglect it to our detriment.

This is a Book that will definitely lighten your darkness if you choose to walk through it with God's Holy Spirit guiding you.  It says that a person cannot understand it without having the Spirit of God in them.  You can be very religious, you can do more good works than your Christian friend, but unless you choose to have faith in God's wonderful gift of Jesus Christ who came to save us from our sinful selves, the Bible will not make sense to you, and you will have no hope of eternal life.  

Today as I prayed I felt the Spirit say, "Read My Word, Love My Word, Live My Word." This will certainly be what I will take into whatever the new year will bring, because "His Word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path." Psalm 119:105.  

"How is that?” you may ask.  Because it tells me that He is faithful, true and protective of me, that I can rely on Him and His wisdom in the most difficult of situations.  It tells me that His love and protection will never leave me no matter what happens.  It tells me what the future of this world looks like and what comes next.  Because of that I am not afraid.  I believe what this Book says.

If you want to walk in lightness of spirit, and be filled with hope in 2024, then choose to walk closely with Jesus Christ for He is the Light of the World, and not in the wisdom of you own thoughts.  Read His Word, Love His Word, Live His Word.

PRAYER:  May the Spirit of God keep your heart and mind in peace as you choose to live His way. May God's joy be yours as you believe in Him and trust your future to His care.  God bless you with peace and faith in the year to come. Amen


Thursday, November 30, 2023

No Offence!

 


Have you ever heard someone make a comment and then quickly qualify it with "No offence meant....! The qualification itself would probably give you pause for thought....."Should I be offended?"....or....."Too late, I am offended!" If it was the latter, it would probably be left unsaid.  I recently thought of two examples of women in the Bible who found themselves in a position of choosing whether to take offence, or not.

Hannah was one of two women married to Elkanah in the days when polygamy was allowed (1 Samuel 1). Elkanah's other wife, Peninnah, had given him children but Hannah remained childless.  Every year when they made their family visit to the temple at Shiloh, Peninnah would taunt Hannah about her childlessness and make her so upset that she couldn't eat.  After the sacrificial meal, a distressed Hannah left and went to the temple to pray.  

She poured out her heart to God in silent prayer with much weeping.  Eli the priest heard her crying, saw her lips moving and thought her to be drunk.  He spoke to her telling her to put her wine away and move on!  Hannah would have had cause to be offended; she could have left in a huff, but instead she answered respectfully.  “No, my lord, I am a woman of sorrowful spirit. I have drunk neither wine nor intoxicating drink, but have poured out my soul before the LORD Do not consider your maidservant a wicked woman,  for out of the abundance of my complaint and grief I have spoken until now.” (Vs 15,16) Eli, the priest then pronounced a blessing upon her that God would answer her prayer.  Soon after Hannah conceived and bore a son, Samuel.  

The other Bible woman who came to mind is nameless.  We do know that she came from Tyre, was not a Jew, and that she had a demon-possessed daughter.  Having heard all the healing that Jesus had been doing she came to Him and fell at his feet asking for a miracle for her daughter whom she'd left sick at home.  As if to test her Jesus said, ""First I should feed the children—my own family, the Jews.  It isn't right to take food from the children and throw it to the dogs." (Mark 7:27) Jesus was referring to the fact that his ministry was primarily to the Jewish people.  This woman, instead of feeling insulted, pressed in and said, "That's true, Lord, but even the dogs under the table are allowed to eat the scraps from the children's plates." Jesus commended her for her good answer and sent her home saying that her prayer had been answered.  Returning home she found her daughter well.

For these two women there was blessing to be found in not taking offence.  Each one knew where to take her need - to God.  Both received answers to their heartache prayers because they didn't walk away offended.   

Proverbs 19:11 says "Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is (their) glory to overlook an offense."  Even if we have cause to be offended, it is to our credit if we don't.  It also makes for peace.

Prayer:  Father God, thank you for the wisdom of your word and for the practical examples for living a peace-filled life that we can read in your word, the Bible.  Help me to choose to forgive, rather than to take offence.  Amen






Tuesday, October 31, 2023

Conversation

 


If you know how many times you have had to 'bite your tongue' as my mother used to say, you will agree with the apostle James who wrote, "And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity (James 3:6) and "..the tongue no-one can tame, it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison" (James 3:8).

I've had a few occasions recently to think about a Bible verse which says, Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouth, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. (Ephesians 4:29 NIV).  This is quite a challenge, but wait, there's more!  Jesus said  "A good person out of the good treasure of the heart brings forth good things: and an evil person out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things." Matthew 12:35, and "out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks" Luke 6:45. He then went on to give this serious challenge, "I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak." That's a very sobering thought!   

The Bible has a lot to say about the tongue, particularly in James 1:26 there is this very strong word, "If you claim to be religious but don’t control your tongue, you are fooling yourself, and your religion is worthless."   Later it likens the tongue to a small flame that can set a whole forest on fire. James then goes on to say in 3:6, "We all stumble in many ways. Anyone who is never at fault in what they say is perfect, able to keep their whole body in check."  Phew!  We know that there was only one perfect person, Jesus Christ.  Does that let me off the hook?  No! But it does mean we should try to do better, without 'falling into a hole' when we fail......which we will. 

So what is 'unwholesome talk'?  Some translations say 'foul language', but I think it means much more than that.  It's words that criticise or put people down, even people we don't know but see on TV or read gossip about.  It's words that are not kind, words of anger and frustration.  You can make your own list.  Ephesians 4:29 says our words should aim to be helpful and encouraging, that they may benefit those who listen.  That's a really good thing to aim for. 

It's too easy to get caught up in conversations that don't fit into those parameters, and so easy to  speak careless, unnecessary words. It is so easy to be misunderstood and our words misinterpreted, even if we have the best of intentions.  What a different world it would be if we all thought about our words a little more, and the effect that they might have on others.  Some use the guideline "is it good, is it necessary, is it kind?"  The psalmist prayed this useful prayer, "Set a guard over my mouth, LORD; keep watch over the door of my lips." Psalm 141:3

Prayer:  Lord you know my weakness, you know my moods, my opinions, my sins.  Forgive me, I pray and help me to cooperate with your Holy Spirit to let my conversation be acceptable to you. Help me not to cause others to stumble.  Amen



Monday, September 25, 2023

Still On The Potter's Wheel

                                                                        Photo: Brad Wood

Life is full of surprises.......my friend Brad, who made this beautiful pot, only  recently discovered the joy of moulding clay into useful vessels and works of art.  He has been so busy 'at the wheel' I cheekily asked him if it had become an obsession.  He then shared with me how he had discovered this wonderful gift, but that's his story to tell.

I was reminded of a song from many years ago that was based on some Bible verses from Isaiah 64:8....... And yet, O LORD, you are our Father.  We are the clay, and you are the potter. We all are formed by your hand.  Then of another similar passage.....But the jar he was making did not turn out as he had hoped, so he crushed it into a lump of clay again and started over. Jeremiah 18:4 NLT.

Why was I thinking about the potter's wheel?  Stuff happens!  I have learned over the years that, for a follower of Jesus Christ, it usually happens for a purpose, and often it's for the purpose of making us more like Him.  It's called sanctification.  When 'stuff happened' for me recently it made me realise that I am still on the Potter's wheel.  I needed a bit more moulding and shaping, a bit more growing and learning! It's not comfortable, but it's worth it if we allow ourselves to be shaped by the Master Potter.

I often say that we should wear a T shirt which reads "Be patient with me, God isn't finished with me yet". It's so true, we are all a work in progress and to remember that should enable us to be patient with ourselves and with others.

The good news is that we don't have to remain a 'wonky pot'!  If we give God permission to reshape us, we can become something beautiful, something good......the words of a Bill Gaither song come to mind......
         Something beautiful, something good
        All my confusion, He understood.
        All I had to offer Him was brokenness and strife
        But He made something beautiful of my life.

Don't despair if you keep falling or failing.  Allow the Potter to remould you and make you into something for His pleasure and glory. Be warned though, it's a lifelong process until we move to glory.

Prayer:  Father God, help me to allow you to make me like you.  Amen
















Thursday, June 22, 2023

The Pace of Life

 


One of the huge pressures of life in today's world is "so much to do, so little time".  Each of us is given 24 hours and how we use it is largely up to us.  Sometimes it doesn't feel like we are in control though, as there are so many things we 'ought', or need to do.

When I was a young mum..... about a hundred years ago....... I had posted behind the toilet door a pretty poster with the words of a poem that I have since found out, (in the days of Google), were written by one Wilfred Arlon Peterson.  Here are the first few lines.

Slow me down, Lord
Ease the pounding of my heart by the quieting of my mind.
Give me, amid the confusion of the day, the calmness of the everlasting hills.
Break the tensions of my nerves and muscles with the soothing music of the singing streams
that live in my memory.  Help me to know the magical restoring power of sleep.
Teach me the art of taking minute vacations - of slowing down to look at a flower,
to chat with a friend, 
to pat a dog, 
to read a few lines from a good book.......

I was blessed to be a full-time mum while my children were growing up, but I obviously still felt the pressure of time.  Though it must have been quite unlike the pressures today, my heart was crying out for the Lord to slow me down.  It is only now, all those years later, that I am learning (or yielding) to trust God in this.  You will often hear people who have retired say, "I don't know how I found time to work."  Retirement can also be busy and demanding, depending on how much we put into our calendar, or allow others to do so.

Something I have long struggled with is a feeling of guilt about needing to do this or that, to attend this meeting or that, or help this one or that.  I have always enjoyed offering hospitality to people but it often became a nightmare for poor Col as I became stressed about 'getting everything done right'.  Oh dear!  But that is what happens, isn't it?  The people around us pay a price for the pressure we put upon ourselves.

In very recent years I have begun to love, love, love The Message version of Matthew 11:28-30, and maybe it will grab you too.  Jesus says....
"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."

If you feel it's impossible to 'come to Jesus and get away with him', can I encourage you to ask God how to do that.  Allow him to somehow rearrange your programme so that you can learn the unforced rhythms of grace from him.  In his 3 short years of ministry, Jesus always seemed to be surrounded by the demands of people but he never seemed in a hurry.  He 'stopped for the one' as Heidi Baker says.  He also often went aside, alone, to talk to his Father in heaven.

All these years later I am still growing and learning, it never stops, but the peace I am finding in trying to walk with Jesus in these unforced rhythms of grace is something I long for you to find too.  The place where we find peace and joy, strength and patience and all those wonderful fruits of the Spirit, that hopefully bring joy and glory to God.

Prayer:  Jesus, help me to come away with you, leave my burdens with you, to ask your wisdom and your help for each day.  Help me to walk in your unforced rhythms of grace.  Amen
















Saturday, June 10, 2023

Why Suffering?

                                                 Photo by Barry Doig
 

Many of us struggle to make sense of suffering, our own or others. But it takes such varied and complex forms that it has to be left to God. Often though we feel the need to try to find reasons but, as in the case of Job, there seems to be none.  His self-righteous friends thought that it MUST be that he had sinned against God, but  God put them right about that – in the end! 

Be assured that, in my musings today, I will not be trying to put your struggles to rest forever, for that is not possible.  Over the centuries many others have already tried to understand the reasons for suffering, with varying results.  These are just observations that came out of my Bible reading this morning. The story went like this……

 

Hezekiah became king at age 25 and he reigned in Judah for 29 years from about 715 BC.  Unlike his father, King Ahaz who had “encouraged the people to sin, and had been utterly unfaithful to the Lord” (2 Chronicles 28:19), Hezekiah had restored worship and faithfully followed the Lord. In spite of this 14 years into his reign Hezekiah became sick, and the prophet Isaiah came with a message from God that this sickness would cause him to die.

 

I could say that Hezekiah ‘didn’t take this lying down’, but he did, for he was laying on his sickbed.  The Bible says that he turned his face to the wall and started talking to God. Remember, O LORD, how I have always been faithful to you and have served you single-mindedly, always doing what pleases you.” Then he broke down and wept bitterly. (2 Kings 20:1-11).  In a nutshell, God heard his prayer instantly, because it says that before Isaiah had left the middle court, God gave him a message for Hezekiah - that he would live another 15 years. 

 

The account of this in 2 Kings stops there, but when Isaiah the prophet wrote about it, he included a prayer that Hezekiah wrote after his healing.  It’s worth a read Isaiah 38:9-20In verse 17 Hezekiah seems to have reached his own conclusion about his suffering.  He says, Indeed it was for my own peace that I had great bitterness; but you have lovingly delivered my soul from the pit of corruption….” I wonder if he had started to move away from God and in His kindness God stopped him in his tracks and turned his eyes back to his Maker?  Hezekiah seemed to think so.

 

For Christians who suffer I would dare to say that it is never wasted when we faithfully follow God. Some of the most beautiful poems and hymns have been written as a result of continued trust in the face of suffering.  Joni Eareckson Tada is one of my heroes of faith.  She became a quadriplegic as a result of a diving accident when she was only 18.  She just wanted to die, but she found a reason to live and to glorify God in her life.  Today in her 70s she continues to have an amazing ministry which blesses many.  Check this link out. https://www.epm.org/blog/2022/Sep/12/joni-eareckson-tada-resolve

 

Are you suffering in some way today?  Have you turned to God to make sense of it?  If you do that, I pray that he will help you to see his great love and purpose in the midst of it, and enable you to go on and allow him to use it for good.  Romans 8:28 assures believers of this…..”For we know that all things work together for good for those who love God, for those who are called according to his purpose.”  The ways that God can use suffering for good are too many to number!

 

Prayer: Heavenly Father, in my struggles and suffering help me to trust that you are using them for your greater purposes. Please be glorified in my life so that I may honour your name.  Amen