SELF-WILL…

A while ago, as I was praying, I asked God to ‘restore to me again the joy of His salvation’ and then my prayer came to an abrupt halt as I realised that I didn’t think I had ever experienced the ‘joy’ of His salvation so how could I ask Him to restore something which I had never had or felt?

When I received Christ as my Lord and Saviour there was a quietness and peacefulness inside me which lasted for about an hour.  I don’t recall feeling any joy.

My relationship with Jesus has always been overshadowed with my own needs, feelings and wants.

My relationship with Christ has been totally overshadowed by my immense feelings of unworthiness.

I know without a shadow of doubt that I have received salvation but realised that I had never fully opened up my heart to Christ to receive His joy.  Psalm 16:11 says “You have made known to me the path of life; You will fill me with joy in your Presence”.

“You will find all true theology summed up in these two short sentences:  Salvation is all of the grace of God.  Damnation is all of the will of man”.  Charles Spurgeon

If we do not fully submit our will to Christ we will never fully experience the ‘joy’ of our salvation.

Godly joy has got nothing to do with being happy.  Godly joy is one of the fruits of the Spirit and does not rely on our circumstances. Being happy depends largely on what is happening to us whereas a Godly joy can be experienced even during times of great affliction.

Augustus William Hare summed it up perfectly when he stated:

“I bid you conquer in your warfare against your four great enemies, the world, the devil, the flesh, and above all, that obstinate and perverse self-will, unaided by which the other three would be comparatively powerless”.

If we can conquer our self-will, the influences of the world around us, and Satan – our own desires will have relatively little control over us.

“There’s only one effectively redemptive sacrifice, the sacrifice of self-will to make room for the knowledge of God”  Aldous Huxley

We need to develop and practice discipline and self-control in our lives. We need to get to know God more intimately through the reading of His word and through prayer on a daily/hourly basis.

Lord, our prayer is that you would help us to submit our will to your will.
That you would place in us the desire to know you more deeply, more fully, and more realistically.
Grant us the assurance that we can do this in your name.

Reading Psalm 51

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WASTED MINUTES

 

Have you ever sat and reflected on how many minutes and hours of a day you waste feeling that you will never reach your full potential – your book will never be published, your public and preaching ministry will never be expanded, God will never use you?

Wasted minutes feeling guilty (past and present guilt), feeling angry (with yourself, with others),  feeling depressed, frustrated, hopeless and worthless.

Feeling that you don’t really feature on God’s radar or the radar of those around you?

If any of the above feelings pertain to you then, for the next week/month/year, however long it takes, set aside 30 minutes a day and read and reflect on the following passage:

‘Yet, the Lord longs to be gracious to you; He rises to show you compassion.  For the Lord is a God of justice.  Blessed are all who wait for Him!

O people of Zion, who live in Jerusalem, you will weep no more.  How gracious He will be when you cry for help!  As soon as He hears, He will answer you.”  (Isaiah 30:18,19)

Reflect for a moment on the word YET – it means nevertheless; still; in spite of that…

“YET, nevertheless; still; in spite of all that you may feel – the Lord longs to be gracious to you; He rises to show you compassion”.

He longs, He desires, He wants to be merciful to you.

He rises to show you pity, to help you through your pain and doubts and fears.

Take 30 minutes of your day and read and re-read those words.  “you will weep no more. How gracious He will be when you cry for help!  As soon as He hears, He will answer you”

We are often so wrapped up in our own self-pity, problems and fears that we cannot/do not hear what God is saying to us.

Lord, I bring before you all that I feel. I thank you that you will deal with me with compassion and grace and that you will answer me because it is written in your Word. Grant me Lord daily the patience to sit quietly before you, in meditation and mindfulness and allow me to be quiet long enough to hear you and to give you time to reveal Yourself to me.

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LIVING IN A BLUR

“The instrument through which you see God is your whole self.  And if a man’s self is not kept clean and bright, his glimpse of God will be blurred”.  C.S. Lewis

Often my relationship with God and how I see Him is blurred because the struggles of life rob me of my joy in living.

Life is sapped out of me. I find myself coming home at the end of a day, driving into the driveway, switching the car off and not having the courage or the energy to get out the car and enter the house.

The thought of the sheer monotony of having to cook supper, the drudgery of washing dishes, life itself, overwhelms me and with every fibre of my being I want to push my foot down on the accelerator and just keep driving.

It is in those times when we are tired of loving a God who feels so distant, tired of struggling with an illness or depression or addiction, tired of living, that we need to make a concentrated effort to remember that love and faith are not feelings, they are acts of our will. We need to make the effort to allow God’s light to shine into our lives.

The One who took the world’s pain and suffering upon Himself didn’t do so that we would live a blurred life. He died an agonising death in order that we could live lives of clarity, faithfulness and joy knowing that the best is yet to come.

And as I sit in my car and reflect on these things, my foot slowly lifts off the accelerator, and I remember again that my joy does not depend on any external circumstances, or on my feelings and emotions.

“God, alone, is my joy and my delight” (Psalm 43:4).
He came “to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair”.  (Isaiah 61:3)

Gracious Lord, grant to each one of us your joy. Fill us with your Holy Spirit so that during our times of depression, doubts and anguish we will know your peace, grant us courage to live boldly and to see you clearly.  

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EDIT YOUR LIFE

Edit your life frequently and ruthlessly. It’s your masterpiece after all.
–Nathan W. Morris

Life is like a book. It has many different chapters, and one bad chapter doesn’t mean that it’s the end! There are still many blank pages that you can write on.

We are given only one life to live. Why not make that life a masterpiece through frequent editing and reevaluating? Below is my personalised version of how the Oxford Dictionary defines edit.

EDIT

To prepare your life for publication by checking and improving the accuracy and clarity of how you are living.
To be in charge of your life
To prepare your life by rearranging, selecting, or rejecting previous ways of living
To modify your life by, for example, deleting, inserting, or moving certain aspects of your life, or by copying the behaviour of people you admire
To remove incorrect or unwanted behaviour or matter from your life

“…put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner
of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and be renewed
in the spirit of your minds, and put on the new self, created after
the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.”
Ephesians 4:22-24 ESV

Edit your life frequently!

Mother Theresa once said, “I am a little pencil in the hand of a writing God who is sending a love letter to the world.”

Every night before going to sleep, take a journal and a pen and edit that day in the light of God’s Word. And every morning on waking, take a few minutes to remind yourself that you are a love letter from God to the world. Think about what you want to write, and during the day, stop and do a few edits to what you have ‘written’ so far in the letter.

Always remember, you are a precious child of God, and you can call on Him at any time – day or night – to ask for His help in editing your letter.

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HOW FIRM IS YOUR MARRIAGE FOUNDATION?

It never ceases to amaze me just how fickle my feelings are in my marriage!

One moment I can look at my husband and think “we have such a good relationship, I can’t imagine ever fighting with him again,” and then, not even an hour later, I am furious at him because of something he said or did and I am trying very hard to remember those feelings of love and contentment I had been experiencing earlier on in the day.

The following quote by Mignon McLaughlin sums this up perfectly:

“A successful marriage requires falling in love many times, always with the same person”.

To have a successful marriage, we cannot rely on our feelings! I often feel that marriage can be likened to a hill made of solid rock covered with vegetation at the mercy of the weather. The husband and wife are the vegetation covering the hill, the hill is God and the weather is our feelings. Deuteronomy 32:4 says: “He is the Rock; His works are perfect”. God ordained marriage, therefore He wants to be the Rock that sustains it.

The hill and vegetation on a hill are subjected to all kinds of weather conditions. Sometimes it is bathed in sunshine and shadows, the weather is calm and peaceful and at other times the weather can be cold and stormy. For days, it can be covered by dark clouds, storms may rage, little trees are uprooted and debris is strewn everywhere.

The hill, however, does not move. No matter how much the surface of the hill changes, no matter how dark and stormy it becomes, no matter whether the sun shines or not, the rock under the surface stays firm.

No matter what happens in the marriage, good or bad, if the marriage is centered on God, it can weather any storm or calamity.
We need the times of good weather in our marriages – times of gentle rain showers, times of sunshine, times to grow and nurture the marriage. We also need the times when it is stormy – when trees are uprooted and debris is strewn everywhere. When calm returns, and we are resting once again on God, the Rock, and we survey the debris strewn around us we often find that the debris and uprooted trees are the things that we did not need or that hindered our marriages. Things like selfishness, self-pity, anger, resentment, misunderstandings – God often uses the storms to uproot these things in our marriages.

Romans 5:3-5 states “…we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us”.

God uses the times of calamity and suffering in our marriages, and in our individual lives, to grow us and produce strength of character in order that we can have hope and our hope is in God.

When we cry before God for our marriages, He promises us in 2 Kings 20:5 “I have heard your prayer and seen your tears; I will heal you”. He will heal your marriage.

Often the healing in our marriages only comes after we have cried.
We have the reassurance that no matter how long the storm rages, the sun will shine upon our marriages once again and we can rest in the knowledge that God is our Rock and our Redeemer.

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HOW HOSPITABLE IS YOUR MARRIAGE?

 

“Hospitality means primarily the creation of free space where the stranger can enter and become a friend instead of an enemy. Hospitality is not to change people, but to offer them space where change can take place.”  – Henri J.M Nouwen

Do you create space for your spouse to be able to grow?  Do you treat your spouse as a friend or have they turned into your enemy as the years have gone by?  Do you bring out the best in your spouse or do you criticize and belittle them?

1 Peter 4:8-10 says “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.  Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling”.

Is your love for your spouse deep enough to cover over the ‘sins’ you feel they have committed against you? Do you offer your spouse hospitality without grumbling?

Marriage is built on hospitality.  You need to make room for your spouse.
You need to make space in the cupboard so they can hang their clothes in half of it.
You need to make space in your bed for them.
You need to make space in your heart for them.
You need to make space in your life for them.
Do you offer your spouse hospitality within the confines of your marriage?

“There is no hospitality like understanding” – Vanna Bonta

Does your spouse feel understood by you or are there constant misunderstandings in your marriage?

“Hospitality exists when you believe the other person is on your side” – Danny Meyer

Does your spouse believe that you are on their side?  That you believe in them?

“Hospitality is the practice of God’s welcome by reaching across differences to participate in God’s actions bringing justice and healing to our world in crisis.” – Letty M. Russell

Do you offer your spouse healing and justice when their world is in a crisis?

“When God’s people are in need, be ready to help them.  Always be eager to practice hospitality” – Roman 12:13

When your spouse is in need do you reach out your hand to help them?  Do you make yourself available to them?

“The beauty of listening is that, those who are listened to start feeling accepted, start taking their words more seriously and discovering their own true selves. Listening is a form of spiritual hospitality…” – Henri J.M Nouwen

Do you allow your spouse to talk and do you listen in such a way that they feel heard?

Are you so hospitable towards your spouse that they have the freedom to be vulnerable with you?

And then the big question is, are you hospitable towards yourself? Do you offer yourself all the things we have mentioned above? Do you love yourself? Have you taken to heart the following commandment found in Mark 12:31 “Love your neighbor as yourself”?

In our marriages we need to learn to be hospitable to ourselves and our spouses.

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COMBATING DEPRESSION

A wise person once told me to go and read Lamentations 3:17-26 whenever depression or sadness or hopelessness or despair overcame me.

I thought they were joking because the writer of Lamentations, Jeremiah, is known as the ‘weeping prophet’ and Lamentations itself is basically a funeral song, known as the book of tears.

The book is filled with sadness, regret and disappointment similar to how I feel at times.

Lamentations is a very depressing book, thank God it only has five chapters!

Depression can be genetic or the result of some great trauma or because we are weighed down by the poverty and injustice we see worldwide.
It can also be caused from not being in right standing with God or due to unconfessed or hidden sins.

Often my depression is caused by the fact that God does not answer my prayers.  I feel called to do things for Him and yet all doors remain closed and I begin to doubt my ministry, I begin to resent the feelings of desperation that often arise because my heart longs to follow God, I long to serve Him in a mighty way and be recognised as His beloved child and I have this secret fear that life is passing me by and I will never achieve my heart’s desires.

And it is then that I confess my lack of faith to my God, my God who promised in Jeremiah that He knows the plans He has for me, plans to prosper me and not to harm me, plans to give me hope and a future.

And that hope is found in Lamentations 22-24:

 “Because of the Lord’s great love, we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, ‘the Lord is my portion; therefor I will wait for Him’”.

Lord please help us to remember that you are Jehovah Jireh, the Lord who provides.  That as we confess our sins and seek you with all our hearts you will provide for our ministry. That as we start to praise you, despite our depression, you will grant us your peace and your joy.  And we cling to the knowledge that you are the One who will provide comfort when we fail or sadness and depression overwhelms us.

“Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope” Lamentations 3:21

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