Sunday 30 August 2015

Learning to forgive as we have been forgiven

I think the word forgiveness can be used quite loosely and not always fully appreciated by the person who says; ‘I forgive them’. I think we have perhaps forgotten, or in some cases have never been aware of how to totally forgive.

I recently listened to a series of sermons at MCF Life Church about Forgiveness. It wasn’t immediately obvious that these talks were about forgiveness as they were aimed more at preparing us for the strong message that was to come in the final talk. Building up to this final message we were made aware of something that is crippling the church and severely holding us back as Christians. In that final message I seemed to zone everything out (which can be hard to do when trying to keep a 4 year old entertained!) and it was as though God was giving me a very clear reminder of what forgiveness actually is.

I think the word forgiveness can be used quite loosely and not always fully appreciated by the person who says; ‘I forgive them’. I think we have perhaps forgotten, or in some cases have never been aware of how to totally forgive. There is a very clear example that God has given to demonstrate to us how to forgive. He tells us to forgive as we have been forgiven. It’s right there in the Lords prayer! This was a eureka moment for myself. It’s like someone had opened my eyes and I suddenly knew where I was going wrong.

There have been many occasions where I have had to forgive people for one reason or another. I’m no different to anyone else here although there has been the odd occasion where the hurt that has taken place has gone pretty deep and I’ve dragged that hurt around with me in a little suitcase rather than leaving it at the cross. I already knew that as a Christian it is only right that I have a forgiving heart. Now it may sound a bit silly but even though I knew I had to forgive I didn’t really know how to go about doing this properly or how I should even feel afterwards. 

About a year ago I underwent a course of Christian counselling as a few things were getting the better of me and that suitcase of personal baggage was getting pretty heavy by now! We talked about various different things and forgiveness was regularly brought up and I was encouraged to forgive various different people as we sorted through the suitcase. This felt good, however, it just stopped there. I was left feeling a bit confused. Had I really forgiven all those people? I said I had...but had I? I still didn’t feel overly great towards them.

It was only when I heard this final message that I realised I had a bit of unfinished business. There is a bit more to it than just saying you forgive them. God has called us to forgive as we have been forgiven. It is only when I was reminded that Jesus died on the cross for our sins that I really began to understand. That God forgives our sins and then chooses not to remember them. He doesn’t bring them up again later and throw it in our face or go telling others about it. Our sins are forgiven and forgotten. God then chooses to bless us. When we ask for forgiveness of our sins we are forgiven, they are forgotten, we are blessed and we are then at peace with God. 

This is where the challenge begins. So when somebody wrongs us we have to forgive. That means to hold no grudge or bitterness towards that person. We are to keep it to ourselves and not to blab their wrong doings to anyone and everyone. Then for the hardest part, we need to ask God to bless them. Only then can we feel a real peace about it. This may need to be done on a daily basis to keep that peace as sometimes it is harder to forgive for the things that hurt deep down. 

Author: Samantha Tarplin 

May God bless and enrich your life

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Sunday 23 August 2015

How God’s love saved my life

For anyone who may be going through the valley of darkness at this moment in time I pray my testimony will encourage you to remain strong in God and know that He is your rod and staff always (Psalm23).

My testimony is to Glorify God and my intention is not to speak unkindly of my parents. With God’s love I have learned to love my parents and by God’s amazing Grace I have forgiven them just as God has forgiven me. Please do not be distracted by the pain I experienced as a young child. My testimony shows how God can turn all things for good (Romans 8:28) Amen. This is a real life experience where God has done exactly that. God intended to use my pain to help others. For anyone who may be going through the valley of darkness at this moment in time I pray my testimony will encourage you to remain strong in God and know that He is your rod and staff always (Psalm23).

I was the fifth child born in a family of seven.  My father was not a well man he suffered from alcoholism. My mother was a co-dependent who self harmed many times. We lived in a 2 bed terraced house that was rat infested, we would hear the rats inside the walls and chewing on the floorboards. The house was such squalor that I don’t have the words to describe it, only my brothers and sisters know the truth of the horror of our childhood home.  We would often go hungry for several days. Sometimes we would be taken out of our beds in the early hours of the morning to walk the streets because my mom was so scared that my dad was going to harm someone due to his excessive alcohol consumption. There where times when we were in such a rush we did not even have time to put our socks or a coat on. On one occasion I remember being outside in about two inches of snow and I was so cold I thought I was going to die. We would have to stay outside until my dad fell asleep and my mom felt it was safe for us to go back inside. We would go to school the next day tired and unkempt as you can imagine I never had any friends. School was painful but home was even worse.

In the most painful times I would cry out to God with all my heart. When I was 11 years old my dad spent some time in prison and my younger sister was removed by social services.  Through all of this I never stopped praying. When I visited my dad in prison a miracle happened because when it was time to leave I felt really sad for him and I could not understand why because I believed I hated him and he deserved to rot in prison. I was too young to understand that it was God’s love and compassion for my dad working through me by the power of the Holy Spirit. I later found out that my dad was orphaned at four years of age and had suffered horrendous abuse as a small child himself.  I am not saying that it was ok for my dad to have abused his children because he was abused himself but knowing his history helped me and my siblings come to terms with some of the pain. By God’s amazing Grace and love every single one of my brothers and sisters were present for the last few weeks of my dad’s physical life on earth. I was very Blessed to be able to give the final speech at the service to celebrate my dad’s life and for me it was an honour and a privilege and with the help of dad’s sibling’s and my husband I was blessed to receive amazing healing through the process.  

The greatest gift I ever received in life was from my dad because he gave me a Christian upbringing. As confusing and crazy as this may sound my dad did fear God and as a family we attended Church every Sunday and confession every Saturday.  

I left school at 16 like all my brothers and sisters with very few qualifications. I sat one exam and that was religious studies. I started full time work on my 16th birthday. At 16 I could not drive a car so I brought a moped, after work I could go to my sisters to check she was caring for my nephew properly, then I would go to my mom’s house to feed my younger brother and sister and then to my dad’s to check that he got home from the pub safely. 

Three months into my new job God sent an angel into my life who was going to help heal ALL the pain from my past, this angel three years later became my husband and the father of our two amazing children. I am not putting him on a pedestal because that is not fair to anyone but he is a lovely person by God’s Grace, Amen.  I had just passed my twentieth birthday when I gave birth to our beautiful daughter and she was just the most amazing being I had ever seen and I cried out to God with everything I had and begged him to help me not harm this little life in anyway. I believed I was ‘damaged goods’ and I would only end up hurting my beautiful daughter and my lovely husband. I heard God’s audible voice right there in the hospital bed, he said “you will be fine Tina and I will be with you every single step of the way.”

God Blessed me through the love of my husband, children and amazing siblings, their love gave me the confidence to start night school, I gained the education needed to start university and three years later I qualified as a Children’s Nurse and then went on to complete an honours degree in Public Health. EVERY SINGLE SECOND of every day was a struggle, a constant battle with the devil who kept telling me I was not good enough BUT MY GOD, MY LORD AND MY SAVIOUR told me I am more than a conqueror, that I am the head and NOT the tail, He said He is with me ALWAYS, He loves me with an everlasting love, He knows every single hair on my head and He loves me just the way I am, He said I am beautiful and wonderfully made AMEN. 

Without God in my life I have no doubt that I would have been a drunk and an abusive wife and mother but to God’s Glory I am very Blessed to have been married 29 years to a husband I love and to have an amazing daughter and son. I have also been blessed with the most wonderful siblings who would do anything for me. With hindsight I believe that God was preparing me through the pain of my childhood to do my current job with real passion. I am very blessed to help vulnerable families who have alcohol and drug problems. I don’t judge them, I help them and most importantly God has blessed me to be a voice for the children who are suffering. God told me and he is telling everyone reading this article that he has a plan and purpose for our lives; Jeremiah 29:11 ‘For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future’.

I am not perfect by any means and neither is my husband, we are both sinners saved by Grace and although every day is still a struggle we go out with God’s full armour on (Ephesians 6). By God’s Grace we are advocates for the heavenly Kingdom on earth and we are ambassadors for Jesus Christ our Lord and Saviour.

Through writing my own testimony God has spoken clearly to me on two levels:

1. Not to judge but to love even the most difficult people   because there I go but for God’s Grace and as Peter says in 1 Peter 4:8 'love covers a multitude of Sins…'Amen

2. Be careful what I sow because I will leave a legacy and God asks me 'Tina what legacy will you leave?'

Author: Christina O’Neill 

May God bless and enrich your life

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Sunday 16 August 2015

The Healing power of God through Prayer!

If you or someone you know seems to be in an intolerable situation and you don't know what to do remember that prayer is powerful and indeed can change circumstances and situations if we just remain faithful and trust in His amazing grace.

I remember as clearly as yesterday (it was almost four years ago) a conversation I had with a woman who came into the charity shop I ran. When she came through the doorway I noticed that she looked really upset and downcast.  I stopped what I was doing and asked if she was Okay.  In answer to my query she began sobbing uncontrollably so I went out to make her a cup of tea giving her the opportunity to compose herself enough to be able to share the problem with me. Basically her daughter (aged 31) had been given the news that her cancer had spread and there was nothing else they could do medically for her. They also suggested that the wedding she was going to be having in April should be brought forward to December as it was unlikely she would live until April. Unfortunately her first marriage had broken down and her ex-husband was unwilling to allow their eight year old daughter to be adopted by her husband to be. This meant that this poor woman was not only about to lose her beloved daughter but effectively her grand-daughter as well. 

As I looked at the pain on this woman's face, as her world seemed to be crashing in around her I was filled with such compassion that I couldn't stop the tears from falling down my own face.  I asked if I could pray for her daughter and the family situation to which she gave an emphatic “Yes please” so in the middle of the shop I did so.  At the end of the prayer I told her that God was capable of healing EVERY sickness and disease however I didn't know what God's plan for her life was so I would commit to pray every day for her and petition God on her behalf until I heard positive news, which I did in faith.  A few months later the woman came in to tell me that some of the tumors had completely disappeared and the remaining one had shrunk to the size of a pea. She showed me the wedding photographs and her daughter looked absolutely beautiful.  This window of opportunity reiterated to me the importance of being available, staying faithful, being ready to give a word in season, and sometimes the need to pray without ceasing until we see a breakthrough.  If you or someone you know seems to be in an intolerable situation and you don't know what to do remember that prayer is powerful and indeed can change circumstances and situations if we just remain faithful and trust in His amazing grace. In John 15: 7-8 Jesus said 'if you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father's glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.' To God be the Glory for ever and ever. Amen

Author: Lyn Hunt 

May God bless and enrich your life

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Sunday 9 August 2015

Boasting in Weakness

The world wants to be served.  It does not want to serve. Therefore, they reject the true message of Jesus.  Jesus set the standard and the example for our walk with Him.

Some years ago, I listened to a tape from Dr. Moses Caesar. Dr. Moses Caesar came to Auburn Baptist Church to give a 'Communication of Truth' message about who Jesus really is and what the life of a Christian must be.  It was a very revealing message about how God views the life of a Christian. After that message, I gleaned some thoughts I would like to share. 

There are a lot of preachers who are professional orators; who are preaching religion for the purpose of selling religion for the sake of self-gain and the collection plate.  (These are my thoughts, not Dr. Caesar’s)  One of the methods used to sell religion is through the theory that God is obligated to serve each person by fulfilling his desires.  In essence, you were put here on earth so that God could serve you.  The driving force of this thought process goes like this: Whatever your desires are, if you have enough faith, God will fulfill your desires because He is obligated to do so.  Basically, they are saying that God is an instrument in their hands and if they have enough faith and if they believe in their own desires, God must do what they are ordering Him to do through a belief system and a faith system.  What a delusion and illusion of the real truth.  Read 2 Corinthians 11 and 12. Starting in chapter 11:16, Paul goes through the scenario of his life. He records all the times he was beaten to near death. He was stoned and he was whipped with a cat of nine tails forty-nine times.  He was shipwrecked three times.  His life story is one of a lot of cruel punishment.  His punishment was for taking his stand to believe and defend Jesus Christ. 

Everything that Jesus preached about was to serve others and to be selfless.  The world wants to be served.  It does not want to serve. Therefore, they reject the true message of Jesus.  Jesus set the standard and the example for our walk with Him. His example was to give and forgive as pointed out several times in my book ‘Something to Consider’.  Paul came to know the real persona and the real passion of Jesus and that was to serve by giving and forgiving.  Paul went on to deliver that passionate message of and about Jesus even though it was at the expense of his own body.

Later in 2 Corinthians 12: 7-10 ‘Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.’ Take note:  Paul said, 'I am only strong in my weaknesses.' That is not the message the world has to offer. The world teaches strength in power. This power can be an instrument for control. This control then can be used to serve self rather than to serve others.

Notice in these verses, Paul was referring to boasting.  In the verses prior to these verses, Paul was going through a dissertation on 'what is worth boasting about and what is not worth boasting about.' He is pointing out the difference between a self-serving boasting and a God-serving boasting. He culminates this subject of boasting.  Look at the verses in 2 Corinthians 12 starting with verse 7. Notice after reading these verses, Paul talks of three times he pleaded with the Lord to take away from him the thorn in his flesh.  But Paul came to realize the thorn was actually put there by God, Himself, to keep him humbled.  After Paul realized that God placed the thorn in his flesh, this thorn in his flesh was really a blessing.  He rejoiced in the thorn and he boasted in the thorn.  He realized that the thorn kept him weak and God can only use people in their weakness rather than in their strength.  Paul rejoiced with the thorn.  He rejoiced because he knew that if he understood the purpose of the thorn and with that purpose comes the afflictions of the thorn and the agony, pain, and adversity that comes with the thorn, then this thorn would have great value in the eyes of the Lord. Paul knew that life is not perfect.  Paul knew what this world has to offer can be cruel and full of hardships and pain.  But, if you use those thorns to glorify the Lord, the thorns will have value in God’s eternal plan.

There seems to be so many people over obsessed about whether they feel good or feel bad. Unfortunately, that is true of most Christians. Their perspective is short term.  Their life efforts are committed to self. They use all this world has to offer to gratify self.  Many of them are deceived in believing that God blesses people for their own vain comforts.  They want to believe that the more faith they have the more God blesses them.  There is absolutely nothing further from the truth than that.  God does not give things to us to glorify our flesh.  If He gives us anything at all, it is to make us a living example of His Grace. It is my observation that most people with a lot of possessions and wealth become self absorbed and self proclaimed prophets of their worthiness before God. Analyze what Paul has said in these verses, 'let us not boast in our strength, but boast only in our weakness.' God does not use man in his strength, lest he boast about his strength. God only uses man in his weakness.

There is a great lesson to be learned from the example of Paul’s life and from what Paul has observed about his Christian walk.  It is interesting to note that Paul wrote this letter to the Corinthians in the latter part of his ministry when he had an opportunity to experience all that could happen to him and he had gone through a high level of maturity and fully understood the heart and the passion of the Lord Jesus Christ.  This letter is a passion letter from God to His people, using Paul as the example.

Dr. Moses Caesar pointed out that Paul had discovered the secret of the Lord’s perspective of all things.  The Lord’s perspective is from an eternal point of view and we too often look at everything from a temporary point of view.  Our sufferings are only temporary and if we serve the Lord through those sufferings, then the pain is only a temporary pain.  Our mission here on earth is to endure the small pains, the small disappointments in life from the perspective that all these go together to serve an eternal purpose.  We should be glad and honored to be part of God’s eternal purpose, especially if it involves pain and suffering.  The bigger question is NOT 'why do I have these thorns?', but the big question is 'why have You (God) trusted me with these thorns to glorify you?'

Author: David Leatherman

May God bless and enrich your life

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Sunday 2 August 2015

Is apathy preventing God from fulfilling His purpose in your life? – Part 2

It is important to remember to give God glory and praise when things are going well, because in doing this my spirit is always lifted as I remember how blessed I am

In our previous article we defined apathy as ‘a lack of interest in or concern for things that others find moving or exciting’ or absence or suppression of passion, emotion, or excitement’ and considered how sad it is when these characteristics are displayed in our relationship with our Father in heaven. There is no doubt that life is busy and some would argue that their lives are hectic and chaotic. It is in these circumstances that it is easy to lose the focus and direction of our spiritual journey as our minds start to prioritise other things.  We really need to become aware of when this is happening as this leads to apathy which can then open the door for sin to enter; Genesis 4:7-8 ‘If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it’.

If we can identify when we are starting to become apathetic, we can then close the door in the face of sin before we allow it to manifest itself in our lives.  The Word of God tells us that we can do this by staying close to our Father; James 4:7 ‘Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you’. The battle against sin is a constant one so we must ensure that we do not drop our guard and open the door to sin by becoming apathetic.  Below are some practical things that I try to do to ensure that I am covered with the full armor of God in Ephesians 6:10-18.

Thanking God for the good things in my life – It is easy for me to reach out to God when I need something, when I suffer hardship or when my life is not going to plan because I know that He will hear, comfort me and give me direction. It is however equally important to remember to give God glory and praise when things are going well, because in doing this my spirit is always lifted as I remember how blessed I am. Within my prayers each day I always thank God for everything in my life; my family, my home, my job, my finances, my health and many other things and I pray that God uses these things (and me) to His glory and that His will is done in my life. It would be wrong and disrespectful to only come to God when I am in need and fail to thank him or be grateful for the many wonderful things he continually does in my life, this would be apathy. Psalm 100: 4-5 ‘Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations.

Leading my life as a positive example to others – Jesus Is the ultimate role model for our lives as He was the only person who walked this earth who was completely sinless. If I profess to follow Jesus then I too must aspire to lead my life in the same way.  In the World we live in, this may seem to be an impossible task, however in Christ I have everything I need; 2 Peter 1:3 ‘His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness’. I too must be a role model and I am conscious that my life/behaviour etc. will determine how people see Christ in me. Unlike Jesus I often mess up and I am sure I will continue to do so, however I continually pray for forgiveness in the blood of Jesus and to be renewed as a clean vessel of the Heavenly Kingdom each and every day; 1 John 1:9-10 ‘If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us’. Our Pastor recently preached on forgiveness where we were told to ensure that we kept short accounts with God. By continually asking for God’s forgiveness in the Blood of Jesus we will maintain a close relationship with Him which will help us to lead our lives in the right way and to help us not to become apathetic.

Reading the Word of God – It really is a blessing to read the Word of God and to not do this on a daily basis would be a real missed opportunity for God to influence every part of my life.  When I get to Heaven I am sure that I will not be judged on how many times I have read the Bible or how well I know the Word of God, I do not read the Bible because I feel obliged to do so, but because it is a real privilege and enables my relationship with my Father to continually develop. The Bible is not just a book of words, it is much more than that.  When I read the Word of God I receive blessings, advice and guidance, comfort, confirmation, understanding and so much more.  On occasions I also receive a ‘good telling off’, which is what a good Father also gives to those He loves.  It is exciting to hear what God has to say to me each day and by reading His Word I am continually reminded of His love for me. What else do I need to help me from becoming apathetic?

To summarise and to help deal with apathy; James 4:8 ‘Come near to God and he will come near to you’.

Author: Gary O’Neill 

May God bless and enrich your life

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