Browsing Writings

Garbage Gift-wrapped

 

“You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you” (Matthew 5:4 MSG) 

It looks like there’s only one thing for it, doesn’t it? You got to lay down everything that’s dear to you before His throne. Let go of what you’re clutching onto like your life depends on it. Let’s face it; it doesn’t amount to much anyway. Sounds obvious but I’m going to go ahead and say it anyway; our lives depend on God, not garbage. That’s the height of all insults, hanging onto stuff instead of holding onto our Saviour. 

Here’s what you’ve got to go and do; empty yourself of earth’s rubbish, because that’s all it is, the spoil you thought it was, spoils your life. The moment you lay it down something amazing happens right before your eyes. You see it for what it really is. Everything you thought was sparkling and glittering turns to waste; it withers away there and then. It was never glam; it was garbage gift-wrapped. 

Question: what are your prized possessions? Are they of real worth? 

I can’t say I’ve mastered this one myself. I’ve a tendency to try and fill my life with whatever ‘jewels’ and ‘gems’ I can get my hands on. I’m a bit of a magpie so if I see something I want it’s as good as mine because I’m out to own it! It could be a relationship, a role, or absolutely anything that makes me let go of God and grab it. Thankfully things were about to take a u-turn as God knew something pretty drastic had to happen. So one day He opened my eyes and showed me that it was just junk. It was just second-hand scrap compared to what Jesus had in store for me. Same goes for you! 

We’ve got to get it in our heads that we can’t replace Jesus with junk. On one hand we’ve got a priceless treasure and on the other we’ve got worthless waste. There’s absolutely no comparison in this ‘competition’. We spend all our strength trying to squeeze stuff into a God-shaped hole in our hearts when the solution to this snag is that God fits squarely. 

Question: is there anything in your life that’s competing with Christ? 

You have to be empty for Jesus to fill you. I have to be honest; it’s far easier said than done. You have to let go of the hordes of treasure you’re building up for yourself here on earth so that Jesus can fill you to overflowing. You see, Jesus can’t pour riches into hands already full. He can’t fill your life until you’re clinging onto nothing but Him. 

God challenged me on this years ago. He asked me to lay everything before Him and leave it. And I did, because I realised that I had to open up my hands so that God could open up my heart. There was no point holding something back because God couldn’t have stepped in and stripped all the second-hand scrap from my life if I put up a fight. Don’t let your garbage get in the way of your God. Open up your hands and open up your heart. Here’s the thing, everything that you’re holding onto is holding you back. 

Point to ponder?
What are you hanging onto like your life depends on it? Will you not give it up? Give it up to God and He will hand over His hoards of happiness.

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The Father’s Love

 

“…it’s time you appreciated God’s deep love” (Psalm 107:43 MSG) 

The Father’s love. Breath-taking. Let’s take a tour of the Bible, the greatest love letter that was ever written, and pinpoint moments in time where God has whispered those three little words over and over again. Let them find a home in your heart. By the end of it your head will be spinning just thinking about His limitless love! 

Before you read my ramblings try and describe the Father’s Love. If I was you I’d turn to the Gospels to start off with… 

To begin with God’s love is life-long.  “…his love lasts” (Psalm 106:1 MSG) and “His love never runs out” (Psalm 107:1 MSG). You can never ever reach the bottom of God’s barrelful of blessings, never! He keeps on pouring out His love day in and day out to fill you to the brim. You are probably thinking His love is bound to dry up sooner or later, think again. His love is unfailing, unshakable, never-ending. Not only that, His love is lush.  God speaks words of love through Hosea 14:4 (MSG) – “I will love them lavishly”. You are dearly beloved. Isn’t it a comforting thought that God not only holds you in His hands but in His heart?  Try and get your head around that one! 

The Father’s love is not only marvelous, it’s miraculous. When you think God couldn’t possibly top that, take a look at this- the greatest love story of them all.  “For God so greatly loved and dearly prized the world that He [even] gave up His only begotten (unique) Son, so that whoever believes in (trusts in, clings to, relies on) Him shall not perish (come to destruction, be lost) but have eternal (everlasting) life” (John 3:16 Amplified). 

Just you sit back and soak it in. He’s the deliverer of darkness and the destroyer of death. He went to hell and back for you… for you! Just look at it, “Some of you were locked in a dark cell, cruelly confined behind bars… A hard sentence, and your hearts so heavy, and not a soul in sight to help. Then you called out to God in your desperate condition; he got you out in the nick of time. He led you out of your dark, dark cell, broke open the jail and led you out. So thank God for his marvelous love, for his miracle mercy to the children he loves” (Psalm 107:10, 12-15 MSG). Don’t you forget it; the greatest love story that was ever written was written in the blood of Christ on Calvary. He shed His blood to save your soul. The greatest gift of love that God has ever given us was wrapped in a manger, and nailed to a tree.  Now that’s Love! 

Thank Him for it… 

Think upon these things:
The greatest gift of love was never found in a stocking, but in a stable. Jesus was a God-send sent to save us from our sins! Praise God!

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Don’t Confuse Santa Claus with your Saviour

 

“…when you assume the posture of prayer, remember that it’s not all asking” (Mark 11:22 MSG)

Prayer has got to be one of the greatest gifts God has ever given us. We can have a God-chat about absolutely anything, anytime, anywhere. Yet we abuse this gift. We treat it like nothing more than a wish-list and expect delivery the very day we send our requests to Heaven. “God gimme this” and “God gimme that” is all we ever think about. 

Well you’ve got something coming, here’s the latest newscast- God is not a genie. Get it out of your head. And here’s another thing. Don’t you dare boss God about. We take orders from Him, not the other way around. Stating the obvious. God isn’t a mystic-magician either. He doesn’t wave a magic wand and make all your wishes come true, even if you do say the magic word it won’t make much difference. That’s not what prayer is about. It isn’t about God sending you the Mr or Mrs Right, the pretty pony you have always wanted or letting you be the leading role in the school play. 

One day when one of my best friends, Laura Gordon, was a kid she hadn’t quite got her head around what was the point of prayer. She didn’t ask God to feed the starving kids in Africa, or bring world peace, or even that He would help her with her sums or be with granny when she was in hospital. She dared to ask God for a mermaid costume. Yep, you heard me right, a fish-frock. She even had the cheek to tell Him where to leave it. No brownie points for guessing what happened. Nothing. God didn’t grant her wish. I hate to nit-pick on Gordo though, I have to say she’s come on a long way since those dopey days, she doesn’t pray for frivolous things anymore. 

Keep this in mind, “God will hear our prayers when we ask for what pleases Him” (1 John 5:14 CEV); we have to ask in accordance with His will. There’s no point in praying with the purpose to please yourself. You’re wasting your time, let alone God’s time listening to you chatter on about a load of codswallop. God doesn’t deliver presents; He packs and parcels promises. That’s more than enough to get us by. Don’t confuse Santa Claus with your Saviour. Big mistake. God doesn’t wear a big red suit, but He does wear a smile when you ask for what pleases Him. Never forget it. 

Bible-bones:

“We’re able to stretch our hands out and receive what we asked for because we’re doing what He said, doing what pleases Him” (1 John 3:21 MSG). Pray with the purpose to please your Heavenly Father. Say sorry for using and abusing the gift of prayer…

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Fake Pharisees

 

“You’re like manicured grave plots, grass clipped and the flowers bright, but six feet down it’s all rotting bones and worm-eaten flesh. People look at you and think you’re saints, but beneath the skin you’re total frauds” (Matthew 23:27-28 MSG) 

Beware! There are modern-day hypocrites living among us. Chances are you have met one or two in your time. They build their own platforms and blow their own trumpets. They are godless rather than godly. If anyone doesn’t quite make their mark they are tossed aside and trampled underfoot. If you ever meet one I suggest you make an about-turn and scarper.  But why is it that they are so hard to spot? Why is it that they are so hard to figure out? 

They have a few tricks up their sleeves for sure; they disguise their blemishes by sticking on fake smiles and speaking sweet words. When your back is turned they will spill your secrets like a sewer. These phoneys paraded around, teaching whatever takes their fancy and looking down their noses at everyone and anyone who isn’t as blue-blooded as they are. They make it out that they are in a purity-pageant but they are really in a criminal-carnival. 

Having said all that, I feel a sense of conviction. Maybe, just maybe, I need to hear this message more than anyone else? I can be horribly hypocritical at times, it’s as if I’ve disowned the Way and trekked along my own track. I would go as far as saying that Jesus would be down-right ashamed of me and my actions. Something God has brought to my attention in recent days is that if I’m ashamed of the Gospel I’m a shame to the Gospel. Pretty hard-hitting? 

So if I hang my head and can’t even look someone in the eye and tell them I love Jesus, I’m a phoney and a fake. I can go for days on end without even so much as speaking His name, let alone bringing Him into the conversation. I really truly meant it when I say I’m madly and deeply in love with Jesus, so how can I not share Him from sunrise to sunset with anyone and everyone who crosses my path? I just don’t make much sense at times. 

Wrapping it up, there’s only one way to figure out a counterfeit Christian, watch their every move. Their walk fouls their faith. They talk the talk but stagger and stumble rather than walking the walk, “They talk a good line, but they don’t live it. They don’t take it into their hearts and live it out in their behaviour. It’s all spit-and-polish veneer.” (Matthew 23:3 MSG). I’m serious when I say this, there’s a world of difference between being religious and being righteous.  Which one are you? 

Question: are you religious? Or righteous? 

Watch out, fake Pharisees are never too far away. These sinister saints can drag you down and pollute your faith if you aren’t too careful. I would take a good long look in the Mirror though, and see if a fake Pharisee is staring back at you. You never know; they could be closer than you think. 

Bible-bones: 

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, pretenders (hypocrites)! For you clean the outside of the cup and of the plate, but within they are full of extortion (prey, spoil, plunder) and grasping self-indulgence. You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and of the plate, so that the outside may be clean also” (Matthew 23:25-26 Amplified). Say sorry for your sins, and be specific!

Read through Matthew 23:1-39 and reflect. How do you see yourself? Open your eyes! 

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Seek out to Serve

 

“I do not ask You to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world” (John 17:15-16 NASB)

Question: you would think that with God on our side there is nothing stopping us from taking over the world for Jesus, or is there? Carefully consider this question. 

Here’s my slant on it, if you are having a down-day there are the easiest things to put you back on track. Think of Christian music. It makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside, driving away the blues. Nothing beats a sing-song eh? Hang on a tick, it’s like we don’t have to listen to what the world listens to anymore, because its tunes are tasteless and tacky, right? We can just drown out the drone. It doesn’t just stop at music. You don’t have to go too far to find Christian key rings, DVDs, fridge magnets, place mats and even socks! It’s as if we have created a self-sufficient world. Yikes. 

The sad thing is the world can’t compete with the Christian culture we have created. We don’t even need to rub shoulders with the world anymore; you can hide out in a Christian corner all day. There’s Christian schools, book-shops, cafes, and youth groups. We are cornering ourselves off. 

Turn with me to Luke 19, it tells a tale of Zaccheus, a midget of a man, who God-fearing folks steered well clear off because he was a greedy-guts and a money-grabbing tax-collector. The story goes like so, Jesus was passing through the city of Jericho when masses flooded and flocked to see Him. Seeing that Zaccheus was lacking in height, to say the least, he ran on ahead of the crowd and scrambled up a sycamore tree. Now here’s where the pious people were shaken to their senses, Jesus made time for the man they shunned and scorned. 

Luke 19:5 (NKJV) puts it this way. When Jesus was walking by He looked up and saw Zacchaeus sitting in the treetops and said to him, “Zacchaeus, make haste and come down, for today I must stay at your house.” I’m sure they didn’t see that one coming. With that they grumbled “He has gone to be a guest with a man who is a sinner” ” (Luke 19:7 NKJV). We’ve all been there and done that. Admit it. We’ve been slagging when we have absolutely no right to. There’s only one person on this planet who has a right to judge, and that’s Jesus. And guess what, He doesn’t frown down upon them. He looks them straight in the eye and whispers those three little words. I hope He’s taught you a lesson today. 

Recently I’ve woken up and realised that Jesus had a pretty good point when He said “the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10 NKJV). Seek out to serve, that’s what we’re called to do. Seek and serve. If you missed that one there it is again in the book of Mark, “those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance” (Mark 2:17 NKJV). Let’s face it; they need us, because they need Jesus. 

So here’s what we’ve learned today. We’re so equipped to go and conquer the world for Jesus, but there’s one thing stopping us. We’re trapped in a bubble. We can’t get out, and the world can’t get in. Luke 9:3 (MSG) sums it up in a nutshell, “Don’t load yourselves up with equipment. Keep it simple; you are the equipment.” 

Point to ponder?
Are you seeking out ways in which to serve?  Stop serving yourself, get out there- GO! Remember the Great Commission; turn to it- Matthew 28:19-20.

Prayer: 

Burst this bubble! Jesus I want to be free to follow You into my mission field… 

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God’s Plan Prevails

 

“Don’t look for shortcuts to God… The way to life- to God!- is vigorous and requires total attention” Matthew 7:13-14 MSG) 

There is no point putting up a fight. God always wins. Always. If you kick up a fuss and ‘do a Jonah’ you had better make an about turn… and pronto! God is on your tail! There is no running from what God has in store for you. Check out the book of Jonah.  Before you read another word open your Bible to Jonah 1 and read it from start to finish, study it in-depth. 

Once you’ve read it you’ll realise that it talks about Jonah dashing off in the opposite direction from God, trying his hardest to run “as far from God as he could get” (Jonah 1:2 MSG). Here’s what happened, God told Jonah to get up and go, to lead the city of Ninevah to repentance, but Jonah dug in his heels in protest. Sounds unbelievable but here’s what happened next, “Jonah rose up to flee… from the presence of the Lord” (Jonah 1:3 NASB). Now we both know that that’s quite the impossibility. You can never, no never, take flight from the Father. 

Needless to say God had a trick up His sleeve. “God sent a huge storm” (Jonah 1:4 MSG) to bring Jonah back to where he belonged. God will grab your attention; you will be sitting up and paying attention in no time! There’s only one thing for it, only one way to get yourself out of this pickle… total surrender.  I can’t emphasise this enough, this is the turning point! 

The moment you surrender the storm in your soul stops “He stilled the storm to a whisper; the waves of the sea were hushed” (Psalm 107:29 NIV). As soon as Jonah sacrificed his self-seeking soul the wild and rowdy sea stilled.  You may be thinking that surrender is about giving up and giving in, but it isn’t.  It’s about giving yourself over to God. 

Never forget that “a man’s heart plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.” (Proverbs 16:9 NKJV). As soon as you’re off the road He has laid before you He sets off after you because He knows the best route Home, you haven’t found a short-cut. You can’t out-smart God, it’s just another detour. “I will guide you along the best pathway for your life” (Psalm 32:8 NLT), God knows what He’s doing, trust Him. Let God bring His plan to pass. Don’t pass on His plan. 

Bible-bones:
“Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it” ” (Isaiah 30:21 NIV). Prick up your ears and listen out for the Lord; He won’t leave you stranded.

Prayer: 

Father I want Your will, I really do- help me to trust Your judgements… 

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The Counterfeit Christ Uncovered

 

“He said to them, But who do you [yourselves] say that I am?” (Matthew 16:15 Amplified)

There’s a manmade myth that has somehow snuck its way into Sunday school. When I was a kid I always imagined Jesus with beautiful blue eyes, spotless skin and not a hair out of place. When I coloured in my cartoon-Christ I always dressed Jesus in a blue beauty pageant sash and a flowing white gown. How wrong could I have been? That’s not my Jesus. That’s the complete opposite of who Jesus is and what He stands for.

From the pasty portraits in my picture books I got the notion that Jesus was a bit of a mama’s boy, a big softy who wouldn’t say anything too snappy or sharp in case He offended us in any way. Not so, that’s most definitively not my Jesus! Yes, my Jesus can be soft-spoken and gentle at times but He can be fiery and fierce when He wants to.

Before He opened my eyes to who He really was I always thought that Jesus was a happy-go-lucky sort of guy, with His head high in the sky. There’s a major problem with picturing Jesus as a bit of a hippie, skipping merrily through a meadow singing sweet songs to sheep and making daisy chains. He only lives in our imagination. Now I’m not saying that Jesus never existed, He’s real alright! I’m just saying that we’ve created a counterfeit Christ. My Jesus is not a jester or a joker.

If Jesus walked the earth today I think He would be least likely to be found floating about with His head in the clouds. I think He would be out and about saving and satisfying souls! He would be casting out demons, raising the dead, preaching to the poor and standing up to the school bullies. That’s my Jesus!

Just take a look at this; this is what it all comes down to. Let’s face up to the fact. In Matthew 16 Jesus was walking and talking with His disciples and He threw a question out there, “who do people say the Son of Man is?” (Matthew 16:13 Amplified). John the Baptist, Elijah, Jeremiah or one of the prophets were what the people believed Him to be. Then it got interesting, Jesus turned round to Simon Peter and threw this one in his face, “who do you say that I am?” (Matthew 16:15 NIV). Forget what everyone else thinks of Him, what about you? Peter confessed Christ, here’s what he proclaimed, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16 NIV). Could you say the same? 

Point to ponder?
What about you? Who do you say that Jesus is?  This has got to be the most important answer that you’ll ever give. Take the time to reflect on Matthew 16:13-20 before you make up your own mind.

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‘The Hall of Nobodies’

 

“Quick, God, I need your helping hand!” (Psalm 12:1 MSG) 

Something struck me when I was reading Hebrews 11 a while ago, a pretty awesome chapter if you ask me. Did you know that ‘the hall of fame’ is actually just a bunch of nobodies? They weren’t anything special. Being serious now. They weren’t ‘high and mighty’.  Before you go any further read the chapter from start to finish, see if you can spot any ‘nobodies’? 

‘The hall of nobodies’ is crammed full of men and women who twigged on to something special, they knew it was impossible to get through life on their own. They knew they needed a helping hand so they gave themselves up to God. If you do your best God is sure to do the rest! This bunch of misfits came to realise that with God was on their side nothing was impossible. They simply trusted that if God could do all things He could use them. 

I know for sure that if God put me in charge of picking His army I would have steered well clear of the ‘heroes’ and ‘heroines’ of faith that He hand-picked. After all, Peter was a just a fisherman. David was just a shepherd boy. Mary was just a teenage mother. And Rahab was a prostitute, no way near worthy of a place in God’s palace by our standards. You may just be a school kid or student, but what does that have to do with it? Don’t let it stop you. God isn’t an ageist so why should you be? God makes it crystal clear, “don’t let anyone put you down because you’re young.” (1 Timothy 4:12 MSG). Including yourself! God has big plans for you; He handpicked you with a purpose. Don’t let anything get in the way of you serving God. 

People used to look down their noses at me because they thought I couldn’t possibly know a thing about this God-life, because after all I was only a kid wasn’t I? Wrong! That’s a lie straight from the devil’s lips; don’t believe it for a single second. God can use any one, from an oldest to the very youngest, if only they wake up and realise it. Go on give it a shot, join the God-squad! One day you may have your picture in the ‘hall of nobodies’ in Heaven, you never know!

Bible-bones:
“Let no one despise your youth, but be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity” (1 Timothy 4:12 NKJV).

Prayer: 

Father, I’m Yours.  Have Your way in me!  I give You my all, it may not be much but it’s all I have to offer.  Use me for Your glory… 

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A God-hug

 

“The minute I said, “I’m slipping, I’m falling,” Your love, God, took hold and held me fast. When I was upset and beside myself, You calmed me down and cheered me up” (Psalm 94:16 MSG) 

God knows you inside out. He knows when you’re having a bad day and need cheering up. One day I was having a lousy day, things just weren’t going my way. I was feeling like a river run dry. I knew exactly were David was coming from when he said “my soul longs for You, as a parched land” (Psalm 143:6 NASB). So God decided to do something about it and send a little aid. I was doing my devotions and suddenly God popped a tune in my head to take my mind off everything-that-had-gone-wrong and focus on everything-that-He-had-done-right. 

Question: are you thirsty for more?  Have a read at Psalm 63… 

It goes like this, “Saviour of my soul, Jesus you make me whole. Fountain in a thirsty land, all goodness flows from Your hand. Your loving-kindness is better than life, and in the presence of Your wings I will rejoice, I will rejoice.” It simply sums up who God is, doesn’t it? Thank God that He is our Fountain whenever we run dry and need revived, “My soul thirsts for You; my flesh longs for You in a dry and thirsty land where there is no water” (Psalm 63:1 NKJV). 

Thank God that He quenches our thirst, He satisfies our souls. Thank God He knows just what we need and when we need it. Thank God that His “lovingkindness is better than life” (Psalm 63:3 NKJV). Thank God that He upholds you when you feel that you are going to buckle under the pressure. Thank Him for “God-aid” that He sends by prayer-mail (air-mail). Sing it out; “in the shadow of Your wing I will rejoice” (Psalm 63:7 NKJV).  Sing it out; we’ve got something to shout about! 

Question: what are you thankful for? Make a long list… 

Think upon these things:
When you’re feeling as dry as a dessert, spiritually speaking, Jesus can saturate your soul with His goodness. Soak it in and sponge it up!

Prayer: 

Father when I feel like everything is falling apart may I cling on to You… 

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Heavy Heart

 

“Open up before God, keep nothing back” (Psalm 37:5 MSG) 

Question: do you ever have a heavy heart? Ask yourself! Do you ever feel weighed down by your worries? 

There are countless days in my calendar where I feel like I am being teased by troubles and crushed by concerns. I’m a born worrier. I worry about anything and everything, half of which isn’t even any of my business to be worrying about! 

What I have to remind myself again and again is that God is only a prayer away; I can go to my Heavenly Father whenever I have fragile feelings or a hurt heart. 1 John 3:20 (MSG) gets right to the heart of the matter, “God is greater than our worried hearts”. He is bigger-than. He is a Heart-Healer. The words unfixable and impossible aren’t found in His dictionary. 

Question: here’s another “toughy.” Are you a prayer worrier or a prayer warrior? Take some time on this one.  Be honest and open up… 

I’m ashamed to say that I go through trust-battles with God all the time. When I should really let God fight for me I am out there on my own swinging my sword and getting nowhere. Philippians 4:6-7 (MSG) has some rather helpful advice, “Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the centre of your life.” When faced with problems pray away! 

When I am disheartened God reminds me that He wants my all, worries are part of the parcel! Our motto should be to “Live carefree before God; He is most careful with you” (1 Peter 5:7 MSG). Hand over your heart and He will hand over His happiness. 

Think upon these things:
Quick, grab a pen and paper and scribble down all your fears and phobias. Write down absolutely everything that’s bugging your brain, no matter how small it may seem. Done it? Now, bring them before God’s Throne and leave your luggage there! Rip up your worries and throw them in the bin, because at the end of the day your worries are just a waste of time! Live life light; lay down your load at the foot of the cross.

Prayer: 

Heavenly Father held me to hold nothing back from You as I come before the Throne of Grace… 

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