Sunday 24 September 2017

The Shunammite Woman

Sometimes God expects that bit extra from us for us to really engage with the problem and to go the whole journey to its fulfilment

Source: Jesus Loves You Today Ministry
I was in a prayer meeting recently when one of the group read out the story of the Shunammite woman in 2 Kings 4, which is a story that has always touched me deeply every time I read it.  It is the honesty of both the woman and of Elisha and the miracles God performs because of that. The story is simple; a well-off woman invites Elisha the prophet of God to her house for a meal, from then on, whenever Elisha visits she invites him to eat with her and her husband. Recognising Elisha as a Holy man she then encourages her Husband to build a room for Elisha to stay in whenever he visits. Elisha is so grateful that he wants to repay her hospitality to him and offers to put in a good word with the King, but the woman says its ok because her family take care of her. In desperation, Elisha asks his servant Gehazi what he can do for her, who points out that she doesn’t have a child and her husband is on older man. ‘Brilliant’ thinks Elisha and he tells the woman that this time next year she will cradle a child in her arms. Instead of being really pleased, the woman was distressed; 2 Kings 4:16 ‘About this time next year, ‘Elisha said, ‘you will hold a son in your arms’. ‘No, my lord!’ she objected. ‘Please, man of God, don't mislead your servant!’

Sometimes things mean so much to me that I am reluctant to pray about them in case the prayer is not answered. I remember when I heard that a good friend of mine was dying and not expected to last the night. I was afraid to pray because I knew that if God did not answer it would challenge me too much about continuing my walk with God. Eventually, I prayed and through that obedience God led me into one of the most amazing faith journeys of my life. Praise God my friend lived and was healed, but the lessons of faith and obedience in prayer God taught me through that time were amazing.

Anyway, back to the story. As prophesied, the Shunammite woman had a child and he grew into a boy, but one day he took ill with a head pain while out with his Father. He was taken home to his mother and he died later that day in her arms. I just can`t even imagine her pain or what I would have done it I had been her. She must have felt a sense of un-fulfilment of a broken promise, emptiness and despair.  I`m not sure what I would have done in my anger and grief, however the woman went and laid the child on the bed in the room that they had made for Elisha and afterwards she set off with a servant for Mount Carmel, the place where the prophet was staying.  As she approached, Elisha saw her coming and sent his servant Gehazi out to meet her and to ask if everything was alright to which she replied that everything was fine. I`ve always thought how strange, even rude, it was for her not to share with Gehazi what the problem was however, this time whilst reading this it challenged me that in life; how often do I share with others what my problems are rather than going straight to the Lord? Many times, in the past, when I have been struggling with something, I’ve often wished that someone would ring me so I could talk over my problem. Even though it`s good for us to talk to others, and the Lord provides family or good friends for us to talk to, it`s imperative that we talk to the Lord first! Meanwhile back at the story….  the Shunammite woman falls at Elisha`s feet and catches hold of them, (what an act of submission and desperation) and utters the most heart rending words that must have cut Elisha to the heart; 2 Kings 4:28 ‘Did I ask you for a son, my lord?’ she said. ‘Didn't I tell you, 'Don't raise my hopes'?

Source: Join Our Journey
I can only imagine the sense of paralysing shock that would have run through Elisha (especially as the Lord had hidden from him the reason for the woman`s distress). Something he had prophesied and seen fulfilled but now it was dashed and broken. What a challenge of faith this must have been for him. Why would God allow this, what did it all mean and how could he answer the woman and what should he do? These are all questions we too often have in the face of receiving devastating news.  However, Elisha was a man of God and to God he looked. He dispatched Gehazi to run ahead with instructions to place his staff on the boy. This was an act of faith, a declaration that he expected God to answer and restore the child. Gehazi hurried ahead holding the staff without speaking to anyone. What must have been going through his mind? what was his expectation? He had seen God move through the hand of the prophet before, but would he this time? When he arrived, he placed the staff on the child and nothing happened. What a battle of doubt he must have had on the journey back to Elisha, to tell him nothing had happened. Did he question himself? or had he not done something, right? He had obeyed Elisha’s instructions so why had nothing happened? After all this internal turmoil it was now his job to break the news that the boy was still dead.

Meanwhile back at Mount Carmel the Shunammite women was explaining to Elisha that she was not going home unless he accompanied her. Was she holding him to account for the promise of a son he had made, that now lay in tatters or was it that her trust was in Elisha and his God alone, and that she was going to settle for nothing less than his direct engagement with her needs? Who knows but Elisha honoured her request and set off with her. How often are we tempted to respond to a need with a token gesture rather than engaging directly? Sometimes God expects that bit extra from us for us to really engage with the problem and to go the whole journey to its fulfilment. I can only imagine Elisha’s battle of faith and the thoughts going through his mind, asking himself (and God), ‘why did this happen’ and ‘God I obeyed you and promised this woman a child and all seemed good and now her grief is greater than before’. ‘Before the Shunammite women just longed for a child but now the unfairness of having a child and losing it, Lord how can I face her, how can I face this situation, what is your purpose in all this, did I hear wrong from you, did I act from my own wish to do something for this woman, did I step out of your will?’  All of these questions may have gone through Elisha’s mind and I’m sure similar questions will have gone through our minds at times of unfulfilled promises. Finally, to be faced with Gehazi telling him that he had done what he had asked, but the boy was still dead, must have compounded Elisha’s thoughts.

When they arrived at the house Elisha went into the room alone, and there lay the dead boy, lying on Elisha`s own bed. Then Elisha did what he had done so many times before, he turned to God and prayed to Him, alone in the room just himself the dead boy and God; 2 Kings 4:33 ‘He went in, shut the door on the two of them and prayed to the LORD’. Elisha did a mighty battle of faith, he obeyed a direction from the Lord, to lie on the boy, eyes to eyes, mouth to mouth and hand to hand. There was a glimmer of hope, a warmth in the child but no life. Elisha got up and walked across the room then returned and stretched out on the boy again. Sometimes the Lord tells us to do some strange things and asks us to obey and sometimes we need to be persistent in our obedience. In this case, once was not enough to get the job done, once only started the warming process, it took Elisha`s continued persistence in obeying what the Lord had said to raise the boy to life. Then the boy sneezed.  Wow, the joy of Elisha to be able to restore the child to the mother knowing that God had truly fulfilled his promise, must have been overwhelming.

Now some would say; why did all this have to happen, why put these people through this trauma? I don’t know the answers to these questions except that sometimes it is only when we go through trying times that the real lessons of faith and dependence on God are learned. Did I want to go through weeks of praying for my friend, trusting God that she would live and recover? No certainly not. It was a very hard and scary time, but also a time I would  not trade, as it took my faith, trust and learning to walk in obedience to God voice to a place it had not been before and would not have gone to had it not been for the situation we were facing.

This story from 2 Kings 4 has always blessed and challenged me as I hope it has blessed and challenged you today. At some time in our lives we will stand in the place of the characters in this story and the focus of the story will change depending upon which character we are relating to most at that time. However, the truth of the story remains that God cares for our needs and sometimes our wants and will provide for them even though we are often tested in this. Also, sometimes God asks us to step out and declare His Word and travel the journey of faith until fulfilment comes, even though that journey may not always be straightforward.

Author: Jan Pearson

May God bless and enrich your life

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Sunday 17 September 2017

Seeing with new eyes

We all journey towards salvation differently but our paths all connect at the cross. At some point in our journey our eyes have to be opened to see Jesus and for Him to show us our salvation through His eyes.

Source: Nicki Edwards -
I was recently in hospital listening to Louis Giglio’s talk ‘Crushed by Grace’. This had a big impact upon me and I have been pondering it ever since – these thoughts come from those ponderings;

When our two boys were young we were in the habit of taking them to a local safari park maybe two or three times a year. The park was the usual mix of ‘drive through animals’, traditional zoo and fairground. Along with other families when we had seen enough animals we would migrate to the fairground rides. Our youngest son was only about three at the time and he was not able to go on any but the smallest rides however at six plus, our oldest son Tim was trying to branch out and be more adventurous. Towards the end of the day my wife took our youngest son back to the car and I took Tim to have a go on the carousel. Now I had never been on one of these rides myself and did not really appreciate the size of the machine and the motion involved – that is until the carousel started to move. I had stood there whilst Tim had climbed onto the ride and indicated an empty horse to him. He jumped on and the machinery started up. It was at this point that I realised the dangers - how fast the carousel was going to go, how big the horses were, that they were rising and falling quite a way – and that Tim had climbed on a horse with no pole to hold onto. My heart was in my mouth and as I started to panic the ride seemed to accelerate faster and faster and I was certain that Tim would be thrown off. In my distress I visualised how this would end with Tim badly hurt or worse. The trouble was that in my panic I simply could not see him. Although I searched for him I could not see him anywhere on the ride. After what seemed to be a thousand years the carousel slowed down and stopped. I still couldn’t see Tim anywhere. Then there he was – looking a bit shaken but OK. He came up to me and said ‘Dad it was a bit silly to put me on a horse with no pole – there wasn’t anything to hold onto’!

Source: From the Inside Out
Why share this story? Well it’s about seeing things in a new light. I had seen carousels before but not really appreciated their size and power or the dangers for a small boy. I had seen Tim all his life but could not see him on the ride because of my panic. In his talk, Louis speaks of his testimony – a young man walking a Christian path but really only focussed on the outside church youth activities and social aspects. He testifies that one day in a meeting that everything changed and Jesus gave him new eyes to see what salvation really was. He describes that he saw the Garden of Gethsemane through Jesus’ eyes – here was the place where Jesus signed off on a deal whereby He would be crushed and we would be free. This is an immense thing – Jesus the Eternal Word of God without whom nothing was made that was made; John 1:3 ‘All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made’, the one by whom all things are held together; Colossians 1:16-17 ‘For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together’. He came to us and at the turning point of all history in the garden of Gethsemane and prayed; Luke 22:42 ‘Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done’. No wonder He asked the disciples to pray with Him – what a weight on His shoulders, sweating drops of blood as He agonised there. With the words ‘not My will but Yours be done’. He accepted the cross and its implications and signed off with the Father to carry out His part in the plan.

All of us make our way to the cross differently, rather like the animals making their way to the ark. Some slithered, some crawled, some ran, some trotted, some flew but there was only one door. We all journey towards salvation differently but our paths all connect at the cross. At some point in our journey our eyes have to be opened to see Jesus and for Him to show us our salvation through His eyes. Back at the carousel my eyes had to be opened to see the potential dangers unapparent to me until that time, and also to see that Tim was indeed safe – salvation was secure. In spiritual terms this is what people have called ‘revelation’ – a personal revelation of Jesus and His opening our eyes to what He has done for us (you and me). To see what He has saved us from and to see that He was ‘crushed’ for us, and through His death and resurrection, paid our debt and thereby setting us free. To some this revelation seems to come quickly at the point of their initial decision to follow Jesus but for others it takes a longer time. From my own observation, reading and listening to others it can often take more time for people who are from Christian homes, analytical thinkers, introverts and academics. (I can tick several of these boxes)! This is why the bible urges us in Jeremiah 29:13 to seek him for ourselves; ‘You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart’ and in Hebrews 11:6 ‘anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him’.

Without this revelation (seeing things through God’s eyes) there seems to be a temptation for some to start to modify their belief in God to suit themselves – without the revelation of what danger God has saved us from we can be tempted to doubt that there is a Hell or a real being called Satan who means us harm. Without the revelation of who Jesus is and what He has done we can be tempted to develop a whole series of theories and ideas about who God is and start to recreate Him in ‘our image’. If we go this way there is a chance that we end up knowing a lot about God but not actually know the Lord Himself.

Listen to the words in the ‘Housefires’ song at the end of this article; ‘I’ve heard a thousand stories of what they think you’re like (You’re a good, good Father)’ the conclusion is; ‘but You know just what we need before we say a word’. This is the comfort; He is a ‘good, good Father’ who knows just what we need. The seeking that God asks for is not a penance from a vindictive father, not a purgatory of frustration but rather it is for our sakes from a loving Father. It is so that we might divest ourselves of layers of ‘stuff’ that hinders us and find God meeting us for a deeper walk and the transformation of knowing Him; John 17:3 ‘Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent’. In John 14:23 Jesus says; ‘Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them’. We need to find Jesus for ourselves we need to see Him with ‘new eyes’.

Author: Chris Pearson

May God bless and enrich your life

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Sunday 10 September 2017

Equipping ourselves for the life to which we have been called

If we want to effect change in our own lives as well as in the lives of others we must equip ourselves for the life to which we have been called. God desires a relationship with us. Whilst we could just learn bible scriptures, it is far more effective when they slip into our hearts and we actually live them out.

Source: PInterest
As I sit down to write this blog I cannot begin to count the blessings God has poured down on me. Does this mean that my sea has been like a mill pond with no crashing waves to unsettle, disturb or distract me?  Absolutely not. In fact, some days the only unchanging thing has been God’s love for me. His love is not dependant on how small and insignificant I feel, how much better I could have resolved an issue, how I missed the prompting of the Holy Spirit due to my busyness and chose to pretend I didn't hear. God’s love is constant always and in all situations in my life.

The real key for me is to be determined every day to do my very best for Him, not because I should but because I desire to. Anybody who knows me well will know that I run full pelt at everything and find myself exhausted. However just under a year ago as I was getting out of bed I felt my nose was dripping and when I put my hand up I realised it was a nose bleed. I had never had one before and I couldn't get it to stop. Eventually it slowed down but then an hour later it started again and poured of blood for approximately an hour. I really don't like the sight of blood, that is either mine, or anyone else's so all I could do was pray it would stop and ask God to grant me His peace. Psalm 29:11 ‘The LORD gives strength to his people; the LORD blesses his people with peace’. In fact, I got to the point of wondering just how many pints of blood you could lose before you dropped down dead! For the next week, the nose bleeds continued. We went to the doctors who sent me to the Accident & Emergency Department of our local hospital.  As they had no spare beds they couldn't admit me but eventually cauterised the nose bleed on the ward (a minor procedure to seal the bleeding blood vessel by cauterising (burning) it)

Source: St. Paul's Lutheran Church
I was told that because my blood pressure was 198/100 they didn't know how I hadn't passed out. However, during this time when I was told to take it easy, God quite clearly told me to slow down and that what I could not get done today I could do tomorrow!! Quite a revelation to me! I suddenly remembered after thirty-five years of being a Christian that we can sometimes be too busy. It may be God’s work but it’s not always His will!! Romans 12:2 ‘Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will’. The part that really struck me about this scripture is where we can be transformed by the renewing of our minds. Praise God.

In the middle of my morning prayers, quiet time or bible study, if the phone rang I would have previously answered it, which I realised was stealing God’s time. Now I determine not to answer calls until I have finished my quiet time unless I feel prompted by the Holy Spirit to do so. Something as small as this can make or break the start of our day.  If we want to effect change in our own lives as well as in the lives of others we must equip ourselves for the life to which we have been called. God desires a relationship with us. Whilst we could just learn bible scriptures, it is far more effective when they slip into our hearts and we actually live them out.  James 1:22 ‘But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves’ (KJV).

My parting words are these, do not live on past regrets and failures which will cripple us as Christians, but allow God to show you just how great and real He is by simply asking for his forgiveness and just see what you and God can do together.

Every blessing to you.

Author:Lyn Hunt

May God bless and enrich your life

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Sunday 3 September 2017

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you

When I became a Christian I never imagined it would be as difficult and as challenging as it has been, but then neither did I realise the fierce battle I'd just entered. That said, it's been and continues to be the most amazing adventure I could ever have hoped to be on

Source: YouTube
Do you ever find yourself in the valleys or on the mountain tops of life? Do you ever feel that your life is sometimes like an out of control whirlwind or on a roundabout that's going so fast that you can't get off, and then at other times that life is so great that you don't want it to stop? Well it seems to me that for almost everyone, that's life! Just recently we as a family have been going through some very testing and very difficult times, and for me personally there's been moments when I've felt alone and have found it very difficult to hold things together. It's like I've been on one of those roundabouts and just wanted to get off, what you might call a 'down in the valley' experience, (deep down). During these low moments, I was reminded of a song that we used to sing some years ago, in my last church called 'Find me in the River', the words of which I found to be poignant and powerful. The first verse starts off with 'Find me in the river, find me on my knees, I've walked against the water now I'm waiting if you please’. Sometimes life is just like that, it's as though you're walking against the waters and you're constantly fighting the current, however Jesus never promised us that life would be easy and He knows full well the pressures of life and is able to get us through them.

The second part of the first verse says, 'We've longed to see the roses, but never felt the thorns, and bought our pretty crowns, but never paid the price.' It seems to me our problem is that sometimes we take our eyes off Jesus and try to do things our own way, and when things inevitably go wrong we expect God to fix them. We really do need to wake up sometimes and ask ourselves if we've ever felt the thorns or paid the price? All we seem to want is the nice smelling roses and the pretty crowns. When we read the account of Jesus’s suffering and pain, before He was crucified, in Matthew 27:27-31, it is clear to see Jesus felt real pain and suffering and paid the price, for you and for me once and for all; ‘Then the governor’s soldiers took Jesus into the Praetorium and gathered the whole company of soldiers around him. They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, and then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on his head. They put a staff in his right hand. Then they knelt in front of him and mocked him. ‘Hail, king of the Jews!’ they said. They spit on him, and took the staff and struck him on the head again and again. After they had mocked him, they took off the robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him away to crucify him’. Praise Jesus.

Source: Christian Chat
The chorus continues 'Find me in the river find me there, find me on my knees with my soul laid bare, even though You're gone and I'm cracked and dry, find me in the river I'm waiting here’. Are we prepared to be still and wait on the Lord even when we're in the river fighting the current, feeling cracked and dry and at our wits end, are we prepared to cry out to the Lord and then wait instead of just constantly talking at Him? Matthew 6:33 ‘But seek first his kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well' and Psalm 46:10 ‘He says, Be still, and know that I am God’. The second part of the second verse says; 'We didn't count on suffering, we didn't count on pain, but if the blessings in the valley, then in the river I will wait’. I've often found the greatest growth in my Christian walk is when I've had to go through some of the toughest or most difficult times in my life, it is at these times that I have received some of the greatest blessings. Although I would not have chosen to go through these times I've ended up strengthened and built up in my faith because of them. When I became a Christian I never imagined it would be as difficult and as challenging as it has been, but then neither did I realise the fierce battle I'd just entered. That said, it's been and continues to be the most amazing adventure I could ever have hoped to be on. Yes, I didn't count on the suffering and yes, I didn't count on the pain, but I wouldn't change it for anything, because there's nothing quite like walking the journey in a relationship with Jesus my Saviour and King. Also, when I've felt, as I have many times, like throwing in the towel, He's been there holding my hand, lifting me up and giving me the strength and courage to carry on. Amen.

So even though as I write this I'm currently in one of those valley moments, walking against the water and finding it hard at times to stand or even go on, I know with absolute assurance that Jesus is with me, and even when I don't feel He's with me, I know that if I stand in the river and wait, He'll find me there. Isaiah 4:9-10 ‘I have chosen you and have not rejected you. So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with My righteous right hand’ and Isaiah 43:2-3 ‘When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Saviour’.  For me it's like Paul said in Philippians 3:12-14, 'I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: forgetting what is behind and straining towards what is ahead, I press on towards the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenwards in Christ Jesus'. Amen.

My prayer is that when you find yourself in the river, deep in the valley, walking against the waters of life, feeling cracked and dry, that you will find both a blessing and the Lord there, and even if you feel alone, you won't be because Jesus will be standing right next to you; Hebrews 13:5 Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you’.

Be blessed.

Author: Kevin Hunt
May God bless and enrich your life  

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