Sunday 24 June 2018

‘If Only’

Some of our ‘if onlys’ are immediately apparent with immediate impact, others grind away for years before the fruit of actions, thoughts, feelings and attitudes becomes apparent.

Source: Zazzle
Twenty-five years ago, my dad had to jump from a roof because a ladder gave way. Five years ago, following a lot of pain he had to have his ankle surgically rebuilt because of that injury. I guess he could have said if only that hadn't happened it wouldn't have been necessary to go through all of this hassle and discomfort’. On a few occasions, I was angrier and more frustrated with my children than I should have been and to my shame these occasions are remembered well. I may well say If only I had used more self-control then these times would not be amongst their more significant memories now’. I have a friend who when he was young tossed a garden fork over his shoulder and the thing embedded itself deeply in the back of his leg. I guess he may have looked back over the next few weeks of painful recovery and said, if only I had been a little more careful’. When I was a boy I bought some matches with my cousin and we started a small fire in a hedgerow. In no time on a hot summers day it spread to the surrounding scrub and there was quite a blaze. This puts me in mind of the scripture in James 3:5 ‘Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark’. 'If only we hadn’t done that we wouldn’t have put a lot of people to worry and trouble'.

If only’, what powerful words. ‘If only I hadn't done this, said that, or thought the other’, ‘if only my attitude had been different’. Some of our ‘if onlys’ are immediately apparent with immediate impact, others grind away for years before the fruit of actions, thoughts, feelings and attitudes becomes apparent. Either way the effect on us and others can be bigger than we could ever imagine - maybe even catastrophic. Sometimes this is what others have done to us and sometimes it can be what we have done to others, or more than we would like to admit, done to ourselves. The realisation can leave a sick feeling in our stomachs and our minds going over ‘if only…’.

The Lord of course knows all about ‘if onlys’, some of which are impossible to avoid; Matthew 26:39 ‘Father if it be possible let this cup pass from me - nevertheless not my will but Yours be done’. The prayer of Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane. ‘If only this didn't have to be this way’. Jesus was in effect praying. In the story of the rich man and Lazarus in Hell the rich man is saying if only I had lived my life differently and not ended up here, if only Moses could go and warn my brothers’ (Luke 16:19-31). The children of Israel who ended up forty years in the wilderness for their lack of faith; ‘if only we had believed Yahweh when He told us to take the land’ (Numbers 13 and 14 and 14:33)! Paul speaking to the crew and passengers of the ship before it was shipwrecked in Acts 27:21men, if only you had listened to what the Lord told me and I told you, you would not have suffered this danger and loss’. The scenarios are numerous and serve as warnings and examples to encourage and challenge us to obey and exercise our faith in walking with the Lord. Although some ‘if onlys’ are necessary, inevitable, and sometimes for our learning and growth, others are not – we bring them upon ourselves. Even here though, the bible has guidance to help us know what to do. Before we go there let me explain why I was drawn to choose ‘if only’ topic for a blog.

Source: Facebook
In one of our early morning prayer meetings thoughts about our ‘if onlys’ came persistently to me and so I shared about it. The Lord seemed to highlight two types of ‘if only’ at the time. The first was the ten virgins type of ‘if only’. ‘If only’ we had been ready with oil in our lamps and had oil to spare (Matthew 25:1-13). God has been speaking to us for more than two years about being ready for what He will do ‘shortly’. He has been saying through different people and scriptures that He will move by His Spirit but that the move will be accompanied by difficulties for Christians which will cause many to lose their faith and fall away. In Jesus' parable ‘being ready’ meant having oil and oil to spare. In other words, building up our spiritual resources to have enough and some to spare when it counts. The warning from the Lord was to say, ’do not be in a situation where you are saying 'if only' on this occasion, this one will count and this time it will really matter’. Individuals, communities and nations will be shaken and men's hearts will fail them for fear but those with oil and to spare will put their trust in the Lord.

The second ‘if only’ was not to get caught out by not putting right what we know to do, or being found in a place of disobedience when the Lord starts to move. Hasten to put right what is wrong and be obedient in the matters where we have been resisting the Lord's will. We do not know when the Lord will hold us to account and the scripture tells us in 1 Corinthians 11:31 ‘But if we were more discerning with regard to ourselves, we would not come under such judgment’. The Lord warns us; ‘Don't be saying ‘if only’ on the day of the Lord's visitation’ - we may miss out or we may be tried by fire and found wanting; 1 Corinthians 3:13 ‘their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work’.

As I have said before, the Bible has some guidance to help us with the regret associated with ‘if onlys’. Here are some examples: Avoid them in the first place - how often did Adam and Eve have occasion to ponder 'if only' about partaking of the forbidden thing? (Genesis 3). Was their heartfelt cry ‘if only we hadn't done what we were told not to do’. Let’s not knowingly flirt with disaster by putting ourselves in temptation’s way. Proverbs 6:27 challenges us; ‘Can a man scoop fire into his lap without his clothes being burned’. Yet so many of us have experienced the consequences of flirting with things from which God had delivered us or our tendency to repeat known weaknesses – ‘if only I hadn't I wouldn't be feeling like this again’.  Remember Esau in Hebrews 12:16-17, who for one bowl of soup gave away his birth-right … and later found no place of repentance although he sought it fervently with tears’.

If onlys’ often have two parts; one towards God and one towards ourselves or others. We often need to put both right. We need to forgive ourselves or others for offences; ‘forgive those who have trespassed against us’ and restore where and what is necessary.  We remember Zacchaeus in Luke 19:8 ‘……..if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount’. Forgiveness and restoration for ourselves and others comes in many forms from financial settlement to emotional healing and sometimes it can be costly and painful. In Psalm 51:10 David said, ‘Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me’. David’s Godward response was prayer and repentance, the same response given by Jonah ‘out of the depths I cried unto the Lord... I will pay what I have vowed...’ (Jonah 2:2 and 9). In that prayer, meeting the Lord challenged me about something that has niggled me for years. This was something that I contributed to at the time which I thought was a Godly act. Later I realised that it was an arrogant act filled with pride that brought some practical disadvantage to another person. I often regretted this deeply and thought that I should do something about it but never acted. What I thought in the meeting was ‘when I come before the Lord face to face is this un-dealt issue the thing that I really want on my mind’? Let’s hasten to put right what we know the Lord has an issue with and let us listen to what He has to say more carefully so that our ‘if onlys’ are less.

Author: Chris Pearson

May God bless and enrich your life

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Sunday 17 June 2018

In my Weakness God’s Strength is made Perfect

….my love of the Bible has never been greater. I am not arty at all but when I read the bible (in my more mature years) I find enlightenment, excitement, vibrancy, and contentment.

Source: PInterest
When I realised my blog deadline was approaching I was really keen to do a love song/poem to God. This is very similar to a Psalm except not so well written and not necessarily inspired by God, therefore the power that ensues is lost because the words would be mine and might tickle the readers ears but would not change their life forever. These thoughts turned my mind back to my teenage years where I was an avid reader. Some of the reason for this was that it was my way of escaping or hiding from areas in my life that I preferred not to think about or ponder on. This pattern continued into my early years of marriage when the librarian said I spent nearly as much time in the library as they did. The only criteria I had was that I would only read books that I couldn't put down until I had finished them. At this point I enrolled in a Nursery Nurse course where I had to study many subjects, one of which was psychology. Whilst I found the subject quite interesting a lot of it seemed ‘weird’, ‘biased’ and much of it I just didn't accept or agree with. Unfortunately, my dislike and unacceptance of the text grew to the point that with gritted teeth I only read the text in order to pass the course and my love of books and literary things came to an abrupt end. For the next few years the only book I read was the Bible and looking back sometimes I read it under duress and much like the set homework it was a means to an end.

Unfortunately, my love of books has never returned.  However, my love of the Bible has never been greater. I am not arty at all but when I read the bible (in my more mature years) I find enlightenment, excitement, vibrancy, and contentment. My encouragement to you today is that if your Bible is gathering dust through lack of use, shake it off and reimmerse yourself in the best-selling book in the World. You will not be disappointed. Philippians 1:9-11 tells us; ‘And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment, that you may approve the things that are excellent, that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ, being filled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God’. In today's complex, complicated and dysfunctional World we need to know the Word of God deep within our hearts so that we will not be ashamed on the day of judgement. As a church some of us read three chapters of the Bible each day and this is such a blessing that we are all reading the same scriptures at the same time. Maybe today is the time for you to make a commitment to dedicate time in God’s Word and His Presence?

Source: Divine Walls
Just like me, perhaps your love of someone or something has been eroded by the cares and worries of this world. Maybe you have been backed into a corner where you feel you have been made to do something against your will which has made you put up a wall or a defence mechanism which is very hard to overcome. It may even be that you feel angry towards God for all the hurts and wounds that have been inflicted upon you, and struggle to come to terms with the twists and turns in your life. Be assured of one thing there is absolutely nothing that God cannot help you overcome if you just give Him the chance. Philippians 1:6 ‘Being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus’.

I have been a Christian for 37 years and there have been many situations where I don't know what I would have done if I hadn't had the help and guidance of the Holy Spirit and known that I was a beloved Child of God. Even now as I write this blog I am facing something which the World would consider devastating news. I however see it as an opportunity to live out my faith with courage and boldness clinging on to my Saviour and Lord who is my Rock and Redeemer and indeed the perfecter of my faith. I have no strength of my own but know that in my weakness God’s strength is made perfect. I may not know what my future holds but I know without a single doubt who holds my future. As I write this blog, the scripture we have been given over and over again in our church is 2 Chronicles 7:14 ‘If my people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land’. May we all be obedient and turn to God’s Word.

Every blessing.

Author: Lyn Hunt

May God bless and enrich your life
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Sunday 10 June 2018

Does the church really understand what love is?

We are never always going to agree with each other, we are never always going to see eye to eye, we may from time to time fall out with each other. But if our love for each other is greater that our own opinion or need to be right, then we have a chance

Source: PInterest
John 13:34-35 ‘A new command I give you: love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another’. Have you ever wondered what Jesus meant by this and is this love evident within the church for fellow believers? Also, is it possible for us as mere humans to love each other the way Christ loves us? Let’s start by considering Jesus’s love:

Firstly, we see in Romans 5:8 that Jesus’s love is unconditional; ‘But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us’. It is not necessary for us to become perfect or to reach a certain grade before He forgives us, we don’t have to do amazing or kind deeds. No! it was while we were still steeped in our sin that Christ died for us.

Secondly, in Romans 8:38-39 we see that Jesus’s love is powerful and inseparable; ‘For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord’. Once we’ve received God’s love then nothing can separate us from it, even when we continue to get things wrong He still loves us. He may show this by disciplining us at times but as we turn to Him He embraces us with His love.

Source: Abide In Gods Word
Thirdly, in 2 Corinthians 5:21 we see that Jesus’s love is sacrificial; ‘God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God’. Isn’t this amazing, that even though we were lost in sin and deserving of death, we are the righteousness of God because Jesus became our sin and defeated it through His blood on the cross.

Fourthly, in John 13:12 we see Jesus’s love is to serve; ‘When He had finished washing their feet, He put on his clothes and returned to His place. ‘Do you understand what I have done for you?’ he asked them’.

Now let’s think about the church; Do we see this love within the body of Christ? For instance, what causes church splits, arguments, angry outbursts and egotistical desires such as a need to lord it over our brothers and sisters or to get the best job in the church (whatever we consider that may be) and then there is unforgiveness, selfishness and insincerity. It certainly isn’t the love of God. People who act this way live in the flesh not the Spirit. In fact, in 2 Timothy 3:1-5 Paul describes such people perfectly; ‘But mark this: there will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God – having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people’. Does this look familiar? Unfortunately, we do see these things within the church, but if we want to see change and see the Love that Jesus commanded us to have for one another in the body of Christ, then we need to do something about it. In 2 Chronicles 7:14 we are told; ‘If My people, who are called by My Name, will humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land’. So how about it, are you ready to do this?

Finally, is it possible for we mere humans to love each other the way Christ loves us? Well the simple answer to that is Yes, it is! We have the Holy Spirit within us, so we have the Love of Christ within us too. John 4:7-11 tells us; ‘Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent His one and only Son into the world that we might live through Him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another’, and 1 John 4:20-21 ‘Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen.  And He has given us this command: anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister’.

We are never always going to agree with each other, we are never always going to see eye to eye, we may from time to time fall out with each other. But if our love for each other is greater that our own opinion or need to be right, then we have a chance. I think we need to ponder on what Jesus said to His disciples in John 13:12 and ask ourselves the same question. ‘Do you understand what I have done for you?’ He then went on to say in John 13:13-17 ‘You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord’, and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them’. I believe this has nothing to do with washing each other’s feet but has everything to do with a servant heart and a heart that loves as Jesus loves. Brothers and sisters in Christ; ‘Do we really understand what He’s done for us’?

May God bless you and fill your heart with His unconditional, inseparable, sacrificial, servant love.

Author: Kevin Hunt 

May God bless and enrich your life

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Sunday 3 June 2018

Praying from the heart is the key to answered prayer

Our confidence in prayer is not based on our ability to speak, but on God's ability to hear and understand and God always knows what we are trying to say, through the Holy Spirit.

Source: Real as the Streets
Jeremiah 29:13 ‘You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart’. If our prayers are not being answered, then we should examine our relationship with the Lord. God isn't moved by our eloquence or the multiplicity of our words, He is moved by a heart that spills the burdens of the day across the altar, exposing every pain to the Power of God, who can. ‘Can what’ you may ask? A God who can do what we have the faith to believe Him for. If we regard iniquity in our heart the Lord will not hear us (Psalm 66:18 - KJV) and anything that adversely affects our relationship with God also affects our prayers. Friendship gives us favour, but intimacy gives us access. In John 15:7 Jesus said; ‘If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you’.

It is through God's Word that we can know, believe and agree in faith with God's will. Without His Word our prayers have no foundation, they are based merely on our opinions, desires and feelings, rather than on the living and enduring Word of God. 1 Peter 1:23 ‘For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God’, however, all the Power of God is at the disposal of true prayer. God wants to use His Power in the World, however for Him to do so, we must understand how to appropriate His words. If we are not experiencing God’s power in our lives, then maybe we should be asking ourselves; ‘how strong is our faith’? Without faith it is impossible to please God, for He who comes to God, must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him. Hebrews 11:6 ‘And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him’.

When we pray we need to put our heart and soul into it. Paul speaks of labouring in prayer; Colossians 4:12 ‘Epaphras, who is one of you and a servant of Christ Jesus, sends greetings. He is always wrestling in prayer for you, that you may stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured’. Our confidence in prayer is not based on our ability to speak, but on God's ability to hear and understand and God always knows what we are trying to say, through the Holy Spirit; Romans 8:26 ‘In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans’. In John 17:1-5 Jesus shows us that He had a perfect relationship with His Father; ‘After Jesus said this, he looked toward heaven and prayed: ‘Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you. For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him. Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. I have brought you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do. And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began’.

Source: Customoko
We can either learn to pray or we can become good at worrying, however, what we give to God He handles; 1 Peter 5:7Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you’, what we keep, we handle. Spiritually when everything is going out and nothing is coming in, we will collapse under the weight of it all if we continue to try to handle things ourselves. Maybe this is where you are today?  If so, prayer is the answer, as it restores what life depletes. When we pray, we are saying ‘Lord, I believe You are more than able to deal with this and I trust You to do it’. When we pray that way, our heart is in God's hands, any illness, or surgery you are facing are in God's hands, our children and finances are in God's hands. God is ready to intervene on our behalf, all we need to do is pray from our heart, commit our way to the Lord, trust also in Him and He shall bring it to pass; Psalm 37:5 ‘Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him and he will do this’. We must understand that God Himself is speaking in the Word when we pray, because the Word is who He is; John 1:1 ‘In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God’. Therefore, God's Presence becomes a part of our prayers, when we speak His Word in faith. We need to understand the power behind prayer is God's Word, the name of Jesus and the Holy Spirit.

Colossians 3:15-17 ‘Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.  And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him’.

The Heart of Prayer is asking God to intervene in the World to fulfil His eternal purpose for mankind. We should pray to God on the basis of His Word and experience the revelation of 'Who He is', 'What His will is' and 'What He has promised'.  Prayer is an earthly license for heavenly interference.

Be blessed.

Author: Herbert Jean

May God bless and enrich your life

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