Mary: Blessed Among Women (Part Two)

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Mary, mother of Jesus, instantly, humbly and joyfully submitted to God’s will without doubt or question.  She could hardly have had a more godly response to the announcement of Jesus’ birth.  Mary’s response to the angel’s unexpected news revealed  her true character.  It demonstrated that she was a young woman of mature faith and one who was a worshipper of the true God.

In the second part of this blog on Mary, I’m going to focus on her song that is often called ‘The Magnificat’, the first word in the Latin translation of this passage.  Mary’s song has often been used as the basis for choral music and hymns.  Like Hannah , the mother of Samuel (1 Samuel 2:1-10), Mary glorified God in song for what he was going to do for the world through her.  In both songs, God is pictured as a champion of the poor, the oppressed, and the despised.

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Mary understood that Christ’s birth fulfilled God’s promise to Abraham to be merciful to God’s people forever (Genesis 22:16-18).  She was not surprised when her special son announced that he was the Messiah.  She had known Jesus’ mission before his birth.

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To put the song in context, after receiving this news from the angel, Mary filled with joy and bubbling over with praise, went to visit Elizabeth.  There is nothing in God’s word to suggest that Mary was fleeing the shame of her premature pregnancy.  Perhaps Elizabeth was a kindred spirit with whom Mary could share her heart.  The angel had informed Mary about Elizabeth’s pregnancy.  We might assume then, that it completely natural for her to visit a close relative who was both a strong believer and also expecting her first son by a miraculous birth, also announced by an angel (Luke 1: 13-19).  Both women had been blessed by God in a supernatural way.  I can imagine the excitement as these two women gathered together to share their news and rejoice together in God’s goodness to them both! Oh, to be a fly on the wall!

Apparently the Holy Spirit told Elizabeth that Mary’s child was the Messiah because Elizabeth called Mary “the mother of my Lord” as she greeted her.  I’m sure that during Mary’s journey to Elizabeth she must have been wondering if the events of the last few days were real.  Elizabeth’s greeting must have strengthened her faith as she confirmed what the angel had told her.  Mary’s pregnancy may have seemed impossible, but her wise relative believe in the Lord’s faithfulness and rejoiced with Mary in her blessed condition.

41 When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. 42 In a loud voice she exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! 43 But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44 As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. 45 Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!” 

Luke 1: 41 – 45

Mary responds to this prophetic message with one of her own.  ‘Magnificat’  is Latin for the first word of Mary’s outpouring of praise. Her song expresses unspeakable joy and it reminds me of the Psalms.  It is a song filled with hope of the Messiah to come.  Mary’s song not only echoes two of Hannah’s prayers but also shows a knowledge of the law, psalms and the prophets.

I believe that we can learn a lot from the example of Mary.  God is the only one that she magnified.  She praises the glory and majesty of God whilst acknowledging her own lowliness.  She took no credit for anything good on her self.  When Mary said “From now on all generations will call me blessed” (Luke 1:48) she was not being proud but rather recognising and accepting the gift that God had given her. She praised the Lord for his attributes, naming some of the chief ones specifically, including His power,  his mercy, and his holiness.  She confesses God as the one who has done great things for her.  Her song is all about God’s greatness.  Mary worshipped God from her heart.  She was in awe of God’s grace towards her.  She seems overwhelmed that God would do this for her.  It was customary in Jewish prayers to recite God’s past faithfulness to His people.  Mary followed that convention in her song in an abbreviated form.  This can be seen in how she recalls how God had helped Israel, in fulfillment of all His promises. How amazing it must have felt that her child would be a living fulfillment of God’s promises. No wonder her heart overflowed with such praise!!

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  • Mary was willing to be available to God
  • She knew and applied Old Testament scriptures and this poured out in her worship of God
  • She gave God all the praise and glory  for all that He had done for her and acknowledged her own lowliness as a humble servant
  • At the risk of going off on a slight tangent, thinking about Mary being young in age but yet spiritually mature in her relationship  with God got me thinking about:
    • Where are we on the path of our journey with God?  Are we still taking baby steps or are we growing in maturity in our relationship with God?  To a certain extent our age is irrelevant in this regard.  Are we getting a good diet of God’s word in our day to day lives?  Are we committing scripture to memory so that we are equipped to deal with life, especially the challenges!  God’s word is a lamp to our feet and a light to our path.  We can also use it to build others up and to encourage.
    • How do we as a church, the body of Christ, respond to our young people?  Do we just see them as immature Christians?  This might not be the case.  Do we see them as having something to offer or teach the church?  Are we encouraging them to be fully involved in the body of Christ or do we still separate them from church life much of the time? Let’s be passionate about developing positive relationships with our youth and encouraging them to play an active role in the body.There is a difference between being young in age and young in faith.  Look at Mary’s example …… she may have been young in age but she demonstrated spiritually maturity and look at how God used her!
  • Like Mary, let’s remember God for all that He is, for his goodness to us and his grace poured out through Jesus’ death on the cross.  Let’s be people who pour out our hearts in worship for all that God has done, is doing and will do in the future!
  • Let’s be willing and available to be used by God and let’s remember where our good gifts come from and use them for His glory!

God bless,

Ali x

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Woman, who art thou? Mary: Blessed Among Women (Part One)

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Welcome to the sixth blog in my series called “Woman, who art thou?” which explores key women in the Bible and how their examples are relevant to us today.  In this blog, I’m going to be exploring the life of Mary, the mother of Jesus, and in particular, her visit from the Angel Gabriel and her response.  I write with a little reticence but only because I want to make sure that I do her justice, being that she is the mother of our  Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. The blog will be in three parts.  The second blog will focus more on the Magnificat – Mary’s response of worship.  The third blog will focus on Mary’s relationship with her son.

So, who was Mary?  Mary was a first century  BC Galilean Jewish woman of Nazareth. She was young – probably a teenager, poor and female.  It was quite normal for girls of that culture to be promised in marriage while they were still as young as thirteen years of age.  Marriages were ordinarily arranged by the bridegroom or his parents through the girl’s father.  To be honest, she had all the characteristics that, to the people of her day, would make her unusable by God for any major task.  But yet God chose Mary for one of the most important acts of obedience He has ever demanded of anyone.  Centuries earlier, God had promised David that David’s kingdom would last forever (2 Samuel 7:16).  This promise was fulfilled in the coming of Jesus, a direct descendent of David, whose kingdom will never end.

Motherhood is a privilege, a painful one, but a privilege nonetheless.  Mary, at a young age, had the unique privilege of being mother to our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.  This is why she is seen as being blessed among women. She had found favour with God.  Mary herself, in the ‘Magnificat’, testified that all generations would regard her as profoundly blessed by God.

“….for he has been mindful of the humble servant.  From now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me – holy is His name”

Luke 1: 48-49

Was she being proud? No, she was recognizing and accepting the gift God had given her. Mary was showing complete humility and glorifying God in song for what God was going to do for the world through her.

Until the visitation of the Angel Gabriel, Mary’s life was quite ordinary.  She had recently become engaged to a carpenter, Joseph, and was anticipating married life.  She had no clue that her life was about to change in such a dramatic way.  This was not the first time that the angel had appeared. Gabriel had visited Zechariah, as well as Mary and even the prophet Daniel, some 500 years earlier.  Each time, he brought important messages from God.

I would imagine that, once Mary had got over the shock of being in the presence of an angel (if that is even possible!), when Gabriel greeted her she might have been puzzled as to what was coming next (Luke 1:29).  What did this heavenly being want with her?! Maybe she felt like she had won the grand prize in a contest that she had not even entered.  It’s no wonder she was puzzled and frightened.  What came next was the news that almost every women in Israel hoped to hear – that her child would be the Messiah.  God’s promised Saviour and the fulfillment of scripture.  God’s announcement of a child to be born, throughout scripture, was met with various responses:

  • Abraham’s wife laughed (Genesis 18:9-15)
  • Zechariah doubted (Luke 1:18)
  • By contrast, Mary submitted, she believed the angels words and agreed to bare the child, even under humanly impossible circumstances.
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Mind Blowing!!

What really stands out to me about Mary is that she does not doubt what the angel tells her, not even for a second!  She does not refuse to believe it or laugh it off as an impossible task.  Rather she asked how pregnancy would be possible because she was still a virgin.  Gabriel told her that her baby would be God’s son.

“You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus.  He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High.  The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his Kingdom will never end.”  Luke 1: 31-33

“…The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.  So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God” Luke 1: 35

His blessing on Mary, the honour of being the mother of the Messiah, would cause her much pain and come at a high cost to her personally: with her story about being made pregnant by the Holy Spirit, she risked being considered crazy; her peers would ridicule her; her fiance would come close to leaving her; her son would be rejected and murdered. But through her son would come the world’s only hope, and this is why Mary has been praised by countless generations as the young girl who ‘found favour with God’.  Mary’s submission was part of God’s plan to bring about our salvation. I’m quite in awe of her willing obedience to God, something I can only aspire to!

“I am the Lord’s servant….May it be to me as you have said” (Luke 1:38)

When Mary said that, she didn’t know about the tremendous opportunity she would have.  She only knew that God was asking her to serve him, and she willingly obeyed.

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  • Mary may have been young in age but I have a feeling  that she is mature in her faith and relationship with God.  Initially, when the angel appeared to her, she may have been afraid BUT she listens to what he has to say from God and accepts it
  • At no point does Mary doubt that what the angel has told her will come to pass – “May it be to me as you have said” (Luke 1: 38).  If anything she is curious as to HOW it will happen but she does not doubt that it WILL happen
  • Mary willingly submits to the will of God and is obedient despite the potential risks to her personally, socially, culturally etc.  She doesn’t ask “Why me?” or say “I cannot do this!”.  She basically says “Okay God, let it be, let’s do this!”
  • Mary, being young, poor and a woman, may have appeared insignificant to others in society but she definitely was not insignificant to God.  God chose her for a task that would require an extreme amount of obedience.  Don’t ever feel that your ability, experience, or education makes you an unlikely candidate for God’s service.  Mary’s story shows us that this isn’t the case where God is concerned.
  • Don’t limit God’s choices.  He can use you if you trust Him!
  • If sorrow or sadness weighs you down and dims your hope, think of Mary and wait patiently for God to finish working out His plan.
  • “May it be to me as you have said” (Luke 1: 38) – When Mary said this, she didn’t really know about the tremendous opportunity she would have.  She only knew that God was asking her to serve Him and she willingly obeyed.  Don’t wait to see the bottom line before offering your life to God.  Let’s offer ourselves willingly, even when the outcome seems disastrous.  God has a plan for our lives and knows the bigger picture – we just have to trust in Him 🙂  I’m sure God waits to hear a similar response from us.
  • God’s best servants  are often ordinary people who make themselves available to him
  • God’s plans involve extraordinary events in ordinary people’s lives
  • A person’s character is revealed by his or her response to the unexpected

Be blessed!

Ali x

Mindset (Part One)

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What sort of ‘mindset’ do you have?

‘Mindset’ is a simple idea discovered by world-renowned psychologist Carol Dweck in decades of research on achievement and success.  There is the ‘fixed’ mindset and the ‘growth’ mindset.  The illustration below expresses the essential ideas of both mindsets:

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In a ‘fixed’ mindset, people believe their basic qualities, like their intelligence or talent, are simply fixed traits.  They spend their time documenting their intelligence or talent instead of developing them.  They also believe that talent alone creates success – without effort.  Can this be right??  Whereas, in a ‘growth’ mindset, people believe that their most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work – brains and talent are just the starting point.  This view creates a love of learning and a resilience that is essential for great accomplishment.  Virtually all great people have had these qualities. Such a mindset can create motivation and productivity in the worlds of business, education, and sports.  It enhances relationships.

I’m not a psychologist but I can see how having a growth mindset would lead to success, however you might define ‘success’ of course.  Looking back over my life so far, I would probably say that I generally have a growth mindset but I have probably, at various stages, dipped in and out of the fixed mindset too.  I’m not convinced that the two mindsets can be mutually exclusive.  I think that sometimes we have to experience a fixed mindset in order attain living in the growth mindset.  It’s an essential part of the journey, perhaps,  in our personal growth? People cannot always be neatly fitted into a box.  We are all unique and whilst we share many things in common as human beings, we are all also so very different even down to our unique finger prints.

What sort of ‘mindset’ we should develop as followers of Christ?

I’ve had to consider this question myself in recent weeks after facing a challenging few months on the job front and in having a sense of direction as to where God is leading me at the moment.  There have been days when I have felt very much as though I am sinking into a fixed mindset (feeling like giving up, like a failure, why should I bother?) and then days when I feel very much entrenched in a growth mindset (this will take time and hard work, keep trying and don’t give up).  The issue has been more that I haven’t remained in one or the other for very long but more switched between the two on almost a daily basis! (Much to the frustration of my husband, Dan, I’m sure!) Which is not good for anyone!  But of course, If I admit defeat and give up, where will that get me?  Therefore, I have to agree to keep going.

I guess the question is, how do we adopt the right mindset to keep going when we feel like we are failing or getting nowhere?  How can we accept where we are and be positive enough to keep going?  How can faith in Jesus Christ help us with our mindset?  How can God’s word help us? So, in today’s blog I am going to explore what the Bible has to say about our mindset – our way of thinking and our opinions. I think that I would distinguish between two key thoughts regarding our mindset.  Firstly, we need to focus our thoughts on God, his son Jesus Christ and His Word. Secondly, we need to have a mindset like that of Christ rather like the ‘W.W.J.D’ idea.  For this reason I have decided to split this blog into two parts to explore them adequately.

Fixing our thoughts on God, Jesus Christ and His Word

“Why are you downcast, O my soul?  Why so disturbed within me?  Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Saviour and my God?” Psalm 42:5

Depression is one of the most common mental/emotional illnesses.  One antidote for depression is to meditate on the record of God’s goodness to his people.  It can take our minds off of the present situation and give hope that it will improve.  When we read God’s word we see how he delivered his people from all kinds of awful situations.  Surely God will do it for us too?  It can focus our thoughts on God’s ability to help us rather than on our inability to help ourselves.  When we feel depressed, we can take advantage of this Psalm’s anti-depressant.  We can read the Bible’s accounts of God’s goodness, and meditate on them.

“There is surely a future hope for you,
    and your hope will not be cut off.” Proverbs 23:18

“For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? 25 But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.

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. 27 And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.”  Romans 8:24-27

Paul presents the idea that salvation is past, present and future.  It is past because we were saved the moment we believed in Jesus Christ as saviour; our new life (eternal life) begins at that moment.  It is present because we are being saved; this is the process of sanctification.  But at the same time, we have not fully received all the benefits and blessings of salvation that will be ours when Christ’s new kingdom is completely established.  That’s our future salvation.  While we can be confident of our salvation, we still look ahead with hope and trust toward that complete change of body and personality that lies beyond this life, when we will be like Christ.  As believers, we are not left to our own devices to cope with our problems.  Even when we don’t know the right words to pray, the Holy Spirit prays with us and for us, and God answers.  Trust that he will always do what is best.

“Find rest, O my soul, in God alone, my hope comes from him.  He alone is my rock and my salvation, he is my fortress, I will not be shaken”.  Psalm 62:5

I love that David was honest with God!  He poured out his heart, his true feelings, to God, and then reaffirmed his faith.  Prayer can release our tensions in times of emotional stress.  Trusting God to be our rock, our salvation and our fortress can change our entire outlook on life.  No longer do we need to be held captive by resentment towards others when they hurt us.  When we are resting in God’s strength, nothing can shake us!

“May those who fear you rejoice when they see me, for I have put my hope in your word”.  Psalm 119:74

God’s word makes us wise – wiser than our enemies and wiser than any teachers who ignore it.  True wisdom goes beyond amassing knowledge, it is applying the knowledge in a life-changing way.  Wisdom comes from allowing what God teaches us to guide us.  The Bible is a light in our darkness, showing us the way ahead so we won’t stumble as we walk.  It helps us to see a way clear and steer us on the right path.  It reminds us of God’s promises to us.  It reminds us of who we are in Christ, sons and daughters of the most high God!  When we feel battered by life and feel like we are nothing, with self-esteem that is in the gutter, God reminds us how special we are, that He loves us with an ever-lasting love and that we have purpose for us to fulfill.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord,” plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future”.  Jeremiah 29:11

“but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.  They will soar on wings like eagles, they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint”.  Isaiah 40:31

Hoping in the Lord is expecting that his promises of strength will help us to rise above life’s distractions and difficulties.  Do we believe God loves and wants the best for us?  Can we relax, confident that his purposes are right?  Are we convinced that he has the power to control all of life – and our lives as well?  Though our faith may be struggling or weak, accept his provisions and care for us.

“How priceless is your unfailing love, O God! People take refuge in the shadow of your wings.  They feast on the abundance of your house; you give them drink from your river of delights.  For with you is the fountain of life; in your light we see light”.  Psalm 36: 7-9

Quite often, speaking from my own experiences only, when we do not have our mind fixed on God, we can easily feel defeated and battered by some of the situations we face in life.  My life in recent months has been challenging but I know that there are others around me who I know are going through far worse.  When I have felt defeated, I am reminded of the suffering and struggles of others, and I make a conscious effort to count my blessings, to focus on the good things in my life: a wonderful loving husband who is my best friend ever, three beautiful children who make me laugh on a daily basis, a roof over my head, clothes on my back and food in the cupboard, some wonderful friends and family.  However, sometimes finding the good in bad situations can be hard can’t it?

Victorious

God’s word coaches us in how to live victoriously. Victory comes from renewing our relationship with God. In Samuel 4:5-8 it says:

“When the ark of the Lord’s covenant came into the camp, all Israel raised such a great shout that the ground shook. Hearing the uproar, the Philistines asked, “What’s all this shouting in the Hebrew camp?”

When they learned that the ark of the Lord had come into the camp, the Philistines were afraid. “A god hascome into the camp,” they said. “Oh no! Nothing like this has happened before. We’re doomed! Who will deliver us from the hand of these mighty gods? They are the gods who struck the Egyptians with all kinds of plagues in the wilderness. Be strong, Philistines! Be men, or you will be subject to the Hebrews, as they have been to you. Be men, and fight!”

The Philistines were afraid were afraid because they remembered stories about God’s intervention for Israel when they left Egypt.  But Israel had turned away from God and was clinging to only a form of godliness, a symbol of former victories.  People (and churches) can often try to live on the memories of God’s blessings.  The Israelites wrongly assumed that because God had given them victory in the past, he would do it again, even though they had strayed far from him. Today, as in Bible times, spiritual victories come through a continually renewed relationship with God. We don’t need to live off the past.  We need to keep our relationship with God new and fresh.

The one who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work. No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in them; they cannot go on sinning, because they have been born of God”. 

1 John 3:8-9

We all have areas in our lives where temptation can be strong and some habits are hard to conquer.  These weaknesses give the devil a foothold, so we need to deal with our areas of vulnerability.  If we are struggling with a particular sin, however, I do not think these verses are aimed at us, even if for the time we seem to keep on sinning.  John is not talking about people whose victories are still incomplete; he is talking about people who make a practice of sinning and look for ways to justify it.  Here are three steps necessary to find victory over prevailing sin:

  1.  Seek the power of the Holy Spirit and God’s word;
  2. Stay away from tempting situations;
  3. Seek the help of the body of Christ – be open to their willingness to hold you accountable and to pray for you.

“No one who is born to God will continue to sin” means that true believers do not make a practice of sinning, nor do they become indifferent to God’s moral law.  All believers still sin but they are working to gain victory over sin.  “God’s seed remains in them” means that true believers do not make a practice of sinning because God’s new life has been born into them.

“Then Asa called to the Lord his God and said, “Lord, there is no one like you to help the powerless against the mighty. Help us, Lord our God, for we rely on you, and in your name we have come against this vast army. Lord, you are our God; do not let mere mortals prevail against you.” 2 Chronicles 14:11

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you[a] free from the law of sin and death. ”  Romans 8: 1-2

We cannot win the victory on our own or in our own strength.  If we are facing battles we feel we can’t win, don’t give up.  In the face of hordes of enemy soldiers, Asa prayed for God’s help, recognising his powerlessness against such a mighty army.  The secret of victory is first to admit the futility of unaided human effort and then to trust God to save.  His power works best through those who recognise their limitations (2 Corinthians 12:9).  It is those who think they can do it all on their own who are in the greatest danger.

“9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.”  2 Corinthians 12:9

God has won victory over Satan. In Psalm 68:18, God is pictured as a conqueror marching to the gates and taking tributes from the fallen city.  Paul uses that picture to teach that Christ, in his crucifixion and resurrection, was victorious over Satan.  When Christ ascended to heaven, he gave gifts to the church, some of which Paul discusses in 4:11-13.

“This is why it says: “When he is ascended on high, he took many captives and gave gifts to his people.” Ephesians 4:8

“And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson and Jephthah, about David and Samuel and the prophets, 33 who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions,34 quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword;whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies. 35 Women received back their dead, raised to life again. There were others who were tortured, refusing to be released so that they might gain an even better resurrection”.  Hebrews 11:32-35

Hebrews 11 summarises the lives of other great men and women of faith.  Some experienced outstanding victories, even over the threat of death.  Others, however, were severely mistreated, tortured and even killed.  Having a steadfast faith in God does not guarantee a happy, carefree life.  For many of us, it can mean the opposite in fact.  Our faith almost guarantees us some form of abuse from the world.  While we are on earth, we may never see the purpose for our suffering.  But we can know that God will keep his promise to us.  Do we believe this?  I’ll be honest, during those times where my mindset has not been, has been negative and defeated, I have sometimes doubted whether God will keep his promise to me.  That says more about me being weak in my human nature than it does about God. Many think that pain is the exception in the Christian life.  When we suffer, we say “Why me?”.  We feel as though God has deserted us, or we accuse him of not being as dependable as we thought.  In reality, we live in an evil world filled with suffering, even for believers.  But God is still in control.  He allows some Christians to become martyrs for the faith, he allows others to survive the persecution.  Rather than asking “Why me?” it is much more helpful to ask “Why not me?”.

Let’s be honest about this…. our faith and the values of the world are on a collision course, if we expect pain and suffering to come then we will not be shocked when it happens.  But we can also find some comfort in knowing that Jesus also suffered.  Jesus understands our fears, our weaknesses, our disappointments.  He promised to never leave us, and he intercedes on our behalf.  In times of pain, suffering and persecution we should rest confidently in Christ.  Victory, therefore, comes through faith in Jesus Christ.

“For surely it is not angels he helps, but Abraham’s descendants. 17 For this reason he had to be made like them,[a] fully human in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people.18 Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted”.  Hebrews 2:16-18

4″Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven,[a] Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. 16 Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need”.  Hebrews 4:14-16

“Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”  Matthew 28:18-20

“…but because Jesus lives forever, he has a permanent priesthood.25 Therefore he is able to save completely[a] those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.”  Hebrews 7: 24, 25

“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.”  Isaiah 43:2

Part One – Final Thoughts

 “Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.” Revelation 2:7

Two trees had been in the Garden of Eden – the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  Eating from the tree of life brought eternal life with God; eating from the tree of knowledge brought a realization of good and evil.  When Adam and Eve ate from the tree of knowledge, they disobeyed God’s command.  So they were excluded from Eden and barred from eating from the tree of life.  Eventually. evil will be destroyed and believers will be brought into a restored paradise.  In the new earth, everyone will eat from the tree of life and will live forever.  Hope for the future!

God bless for reading and following!

Ali @ Humble Mumblings xx

Christian Advocacy Explored

Looking back over my short life so far, I have realised that, I have always been interested in helping people and I have always had a keen interest in justice.  It was evident in my choice of subjects at college and university.  I’d studied course in Welfare & Society alongside my A Levels (which had included Social & Economic History).  I’d learned all about the Welfare State and the systems established to help people in society who struggle for one reason or another.  I discovered that it bothered me when injustices happened and people suffered.  At university I had read a degree in Social Science majoring in Social Policy (with the view to train as a Social Worker after that) and I was very interested in how social policies had an effect on people in society either for better or worse.  I used to love the debates with the Sociology students and felt frustrated that they seemed more concerned with theory than practice.  Yet I came to learn that theory influences policy which in turn has an impact on practice.  I’d worked in the care sector also – as a care assistant in my student years working with the elderly and then later on as a PA in a residential care home seeing the management side of things.

Even now, even though I find myself in career limbo yet again (which is another rather long and complicated story in which I am having to just trust God!), I still want to help people.  As I’ve grown older I feel more confident, more able to speak up for myself and more able to speak up on behalf of others too.  I guess this is where the idea of ‘advocacy’ comes into play right??.  ‘Christian Advocacy’ are two words that have been on my heart recently and so I thought what better way to begin explore their relevance to me than to blog about them.  Thinking about this has really challenged me!

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Origins of the word ‘Advocacy’:  

Late Middle English, via Old French medieval Latin Advocatia, from Advocare, ‘summon, call to one’s aid’.

6a0105371be822970b0134866b6ee2970c-300wiWhat does advocacy have to do with Christianity?

At www.Baptiststoday.org Steven Reeves who is a member of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship and has the role of associate coordinator for advocacy and partnerships, in an interview defined ‘advocacy’ as “speaking out on behalf of another, to take their concerns as your own and use your voice to help change that problem or situation.  While this can certainly be accomplished by seeking a change in public policy at the local, state or federal level, it can also be done on an individual basis through non-policy means”.  

 He continues to say that he thinks it is also important for an advocate to help the individual or group find and effectively use their voice.  We should not assume we always have the right answer for what others need.  It’s about empowering them to advocate for themselves as well.  I think there is a lot of wisdom in this idea.  It reminds me of what is often said about effective approaches to missionary or charity work….. “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day.  Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” Why?  Because you have empowered him to be independent and support himself (and others).  The same  is true of advocacy.  It is not just about supporting or helping those that need a voice but also about empowering them to speak up for themselves.  Empowerment is about a person becoming stronger and more confident, especially in controlling one’s rights and/or claiming one’s rights.

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As Christians, we cannot deny that there is a biblical call to care for our neighbours, particularly the poor, the oppressed and the marginalised. Now, yes, i know what you’re probably thinking….” but I’m just me, one person, how can I really make a difference?” Am I right? When we think of all the people that need a voice or need help and support, it is easy to feel overwhelmed.  And we may only be thinking of our town or country at this moment.  Let alone thinking on a global scale.  But …. we have to start somewhere.

Mahatma Ghandi said “Be the change you want to see in the world.”

(Okay so it’s not a Christian quote, but it’s a good one!)

God calls us to fight for justice and to advocate for the poor.  Here are some scriptures that might inspire you:

“Follow justice and justice alone, so that you may live and possess the land the Lord your God is giving you.” Deuteronomy 16:20

“He saves the needy from the sword in their mouth; he saves them from the clutches of the powerful.  So the poor have hope, and injustice shuts its mouth.” Job 5:15-16

“Blessed is he who has regard for the weak; the Lord delivers him in times of trouble.” Psalm 41:1

“And the heavens proclaim his righteousness, for he is a God of justice.” Psalm 50:6

Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute.  Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.” Proverbs 31:8-9

“Learn to do right; seek justice.  Defend the oppressed.  Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow.” Isaiah 1:17

“This is what the Lord says:”Maintain justice and do what is right, for my salvation is close at hand and my righteousness will soon be revealed.” Isaiah 56:1

“This is what the Lord says:”Do what is just and right.  Rescue from the hand of his oppressor the one who has been robbed.  Do no wrong or violence to the alien, the fatherless or the widow, and do not shed innocent blood in this place.” Jeremiah 22:3

“But let justice roll on like a river, righteous like a never-failing stream!” Amos 5:24 (this reminds me of a Graham Kendrick song!)

“This is what the Lord Almighty said: ‘Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another.” Zechariah 7:9

“The King will reply, ‘Truly i tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” Matthew 25:40

Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” Galatians 6:2

“If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person?  Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.” 1 John 3:17

“Our desire is not that others might be relieved while you are hard pressed, but that there might be equality.  At the present time your plenty will supply what they need, so that in turn their plenty will supply what you need.  The goal is equality, as it is written:”The one who gathered much did not have too much, and the one who gathered little did not have too little.” 2 Corinthians 8:13-15

“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this:  to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” James 1:27

I’d like to think that we cannot read a single one of these verses without feeling challenged about how we respond to those in need.  I know I certainly was! This is God’s word – our instruction manual showing us how to live life God’s way and how we should treat others.  These scriptures set out our responsibilities.  Just as Adam and Eve were made stewards of God’s creation (and so we too are stewards today), in the same way we also have a duty to be advocates.  We are God’s ambassadors, if you like, and for that reason we have a duty to be advocates for Him.  Loving people, like God does.

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Link to more info on Pearl S. Buck

What Would Jesus Do?

There are many famous people throughout history who we might refer to as good ‘advocates’.  People who have spoken on behalf of others, people who have fought for justice for others, people who have served the poor and helpless. People like Mother Theresa, Martin Luther King Jr to name a few.   Jesus though, is the ultimate example of an advocate, an advocate for sinners, for us all In 1 John 2:1, John writes, “If any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous”.  Dr Adrian Rogers, from Love Worth Finding Ministries, firstly talked about how Jesus is our advocate in heaven to represent us before the Father.  We belong to Christ, He bought us at a price with His blood on the Christ.  Secondly, the Holy Spirit might also be called an advocate within the Christian to represent Jesus to us.   At www.desiringgod.org  John Piper  says that since Jesus’ work on the cross is not just for me or you, don’t hog it.  Share itLove the same way you have been loved.

Matthew 20:28 says, “…The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.”  Jesus is the ultimate example of a man who desired to serve others.  He did tasks that were generally left to the servants, like washing feet……John 13:5 describes an event where Jesus served His disciples: “After that, He poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around Him.”

Jesus went about healing all kinds of sickness and disease including leprosy, blindness, lameness, deafness and even those possessed by demons.  He fed the hungry (Matthew 14: 13 – 21) in a literally physical sense but also spiritually through His teaching and parables.  He showed us how we should live.

Jesus was not afraid to speak out against injustice.  He spoke out against the hypocrisy of the Pharisees (Matthew 23) and how they crushed people with their unbearable religious demands and yet they did nothing to ease the people’s burdens.

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We have to rediscover the biblical command for justice and identify how to ‘do justice’ in today’s world says Ame Fuhbruck in Relevant Magazine.  She says that Jesus clearly identified that the good news he announced had implications, not only for the individual sinner to the saved, but the vulnerable to be rescued from their oppression. She goes on to say that the commentary for Luke  4:18 in the ESV Bible Study Bible notes say, “Jesus’ ministry included…forgiving sins and the ethical teachings that promote social justice”, and poses the following challenging questions below:

  • Is that a message that is only about personal piety?
  • Can a follower of Jesus be uncommitted to promoting justice in the world?
  • Can authentic discipleship be reduced to having a morning devotional and avoiding illicit media?

The answer to all those questions is a resounding, “No!”

Micah 6:8 says “He has told you, O man, what is good; And what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?.”

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The parable of The Sheep And The Goats in Matthew 25:31-46 makes it clear that being a disciple of Christ is not just about being good and following the rules.  The way we treat the oppressed shows something of how we treat Jesus.  How we treat the oppressed indicates whether we are true believers or not.  We cannot be pious like the Pharisees and obsessed with religious observance.  Being a disciple means learning to love people like God does.  Ame Fulbruck says “We can no longer hold up models of making disciples that focus on personal righteousness yet ignore the social dimension of righteousness – justice”.

The consequences are eternal.

Outreach magazine shared an article online called “10 Christian Social Justice Goals For 2017”

We don’t all need to become world missionaries in order to be advocates or work for justice for others, although that is important too.  If you’d like to do more then maybe think about what you can do in your local area to love people the way Jesus did, to be advocates and to work for justice. I know I am! Maybe some voluntary work, serving in a soup kitchen, training as an advocate, petitioning against injustices and so on.

The challenge is now!

 

Does My Bum Look Big In This?

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“Does my bum look big in this?”

A Christian Perspective On Body Image

I really appreciate it when someone from Facebook or WordPress likes or comments on my blogs.  It really encourages me and I hope that what I share encourages others, even if in just a small way. Writing has enabled me to express myself and my faith, to talk openly about how God has had an impact in my life.  I hope that I have shared some of God’s goodness too as I believe it is important to testify to what God has done for us! I would certainly say that there is an element of catharsis found in writing.  It’s a bit like therapy, writing helps me to organise and make sense of my thoughts. In today’s blog, I would like to explore the whole issue of ‘body image’.  I would refer just to the women reading my blog but I am sure that men are not immune from issues concerning body image.

Having struggled with my own body image on and off over the years I got to thinking about how perhaps I should view my body as a Christian. After a bit of digging on Google, I quickly discovered that ‘body image’ is not really an issue that seems to be talked about much in churches and is rarely the topic of the Sunday sermon or preach.  In all my years as a Christian, I have certainly never listened to any sermons on ‘body image’.  Have you??

In 2016,  leading magazines like Cosmopolitan and several newspapers were reporting on how the body confidence of British women was at an all time low, it had reached a ‘critical level’.  This news was based on findings from the Dove Global Beauty And Confidence Report.  More than 10,500 female participants from 13 different countries were questioned as part of this research.  It found that women in the UK have one of the lowest self-esteem scores in the world, with just 20% saying they liked the way they looked. Coming in at last place was Japan, where just 8% of women said they were happy with their appearance.  At the other end of the scale, South Africa came out as the least body conscious, with more than 64% of women saying they have high-body esteem. Globally, 85% of the women quizzed and 79% of girls said there had been a time when they had opted out of social activities because they felt bad about their looks.  9 out of 10 women and 7 out of 10 girls also admitted they had stopped themselves from eating and put their health at risk in some way in a bid to achieve body ‘perfection’.

I have to confess to being really shocked and saddened by these statistics. Are you??

Having a further look at the Dove website revealed more statistics from research carried out on self-esteem and body confidence:

4% of women around the world consider themselves beautiful

Only 11% of girls globally are comfortable describing themselves as ‘beautiful’

72% of girls feel tremendous pressure to be beautiful

Source: http://www.dove.com

Within the context of these statistics, I guess my opinions about my own body image are not that different then from the majority of the female population, certainly in the UK anyway.  I’ve probably had issues with body confidence on and off since I was a young adult.  I don’t remember anything prior to that.  Over the years I have put weight on, lost some, put some back on, lost it ….. you know the drill.  ‘Yo-Yo’ dieting you might call it. Even at my slimmest for years, back in 2014, I was still very critical of my body.  I wonder whether I will ever be truly happy with it even if I was really slim!

Recently I have had to remove most of my clothes from my wardrobe because I simply cannot squeeze into them any longer.  It was soul-destroying opening the wardrobe every day and seeing all the clothes that just do not fit any more.  You’d think that this would be motivation enough to get me back on track, eating healthily, exercising and losing weight but as yet it just has not happened.  Anyway, this was a hard reality to face and it was easy to slip into a phase of self-hatred and self-pity.  I knew that really this was self-indulgent behaviour and I got to thinking about how I should deal with this issue as a woman of faith because I’m sure God doesn’t want me beating myself over the head because I’ve put on some weight or that I should hate myself until I’ve lost weight again. That’s not how God works. I know that nothing can separate me from God’s love. God does not judge a person according to their size, weight or physical appearance.

“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.” Romans 8:39 NIV

What follows below are my thoughts on some of the things that God’s word says about body image and my interpretation of it……

 

'Do you think her dress makes me look fat?'
The struggle is real! Why do we compare ourselves to others so much?

Psalm 139:14 says “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well”. NIV

We are God’s creation.  The Psalmist declares that His works are wonderful.  That’s us, not just the beautiful world that God has made.  God’s character goes into the creation of every person.  When we feel worthless or even begin to hate ourselves, remember that God’s Holy Spirit is ready and willing to work within us…..so that we can say with confidence “I know that full well”!  We should have as much respect for ourselves as our Maker has for us.

Many of us may struggle with the way we look.  I know I do ….. quite often! If we only understood that God made us the way we are we might think that other’s expectations and our own aren’t that important in the grand scheme of things.  The way that God sees us is the most important thing of all because God doesn’t look at the outward appearance the way that we or others tend to do.  Many people judge us from outward appearance and not by what is inside.  What is inside is what really counts in God’s eyes and in God’s eyes it’s the only thing that is important.

The outward man or woman is not of eternal importance…. it is what is inside as Jesus once said “it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but what comes out of the mouth; this defiles a person” Matthew 15:11. We should, therefore, keep our focus on what really defiles a person and it’s not what’s outside that does it but what comes out of the person’s mouth for that reveals what’s in our hearts.

‘But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him.  The Lord does not look at the things people look at.  People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart”.

1 Samuel 16:7 NIV

Saul was tall and handsome; he was an impressive-looking man.  Samuel may have been trying to look for someone who looked like Saul to be Israel’s next king, but God warned him against judging by appearance alone.  When people judge by outward appearance, they may overlook quality individuals who lack the particular physical qualities society currently admires.  Appearance doesn’t reveal what people are really like or what their true value is.  Thankfully, God judges by faith and character, not appearances.  Also, because only God can see on the inside, only He can accurately judge people.  Most people spend hours each week maintaining their outward appearance, they should do even more to develop their inner character perhaps.  While everyone can see your face, only you and God know what your heart really looks like.   I believe that we need to try to get away from seeing ourselves in the way the world see us or judging ourselves by the world’s standards but instead focus our efforts on being the person God has called us to be.

“If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first.  If you belonged to the world, it would love you as it’s own.  As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world.  That is why the world hates you”

John 15:19 NIV

‘He said to them, “You are the ones who justify yourselves in the eyes of others, but God knows your hearts.  What people value highly is detestable in God’s eyes”.

Luke 16:15 NIV

“Do not love the world or anything in the world.  If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them”.

1 John 2:15 NIV

The Life Application Study Bible (NIV) says this about 1 John 2:15:

“Some people think that worldliness is limited to external behaviour – the people we associate with, the places we go, the activities we enjoy.  Worldliness is also internal because it begins in the heart and is characterized by three attitudes:

  1. the cravings of sinful man – preoccupation with gratifying physical desires;
  2. the lust of the eyes – craving and accumulating things, bowing to the god’s of materialism; and 
  3. boasting of what he has and does – obsession with one’s status or importance.  When the Serpent tempted Eve (Genesis 3:6), he tempted her in these areas.  Also when the devil tempted Jesus in the desert (Matthew 4:1-11), these were his three areas of attack.

By contrast, God values selfcontrol, a spirit of generosity. and a commitment to humble service.  It is possible to give the impression of avoiding worldly pleasures while still harbouring worldly attitudes in one’s heart.  It is also possible, like Jesus, to love sinners and spend time with them while maintaining a commitment to the value’s of God’s kingdom.  What values are the most important to you?  Do your actions reflect the world’s values or God’s values?”

So…… we are in the world but we belong to God and so have been called to live according to the values of His kingdom. This, for me, is actually incredibly liberating.  The idea that we do not have to conform to the pressures of focusing on our outward appearance, being preoccupied with how we appear to others physically or visually (as in point 1) or craving to have a body like someone else’s, bowing to the god’s of vanity or envy (as in point 2 perhaps). Instead we can be free from these and focus on God’s values – do a bit of open heart surgery! (Not literally but in a metaphorical/spiritual sense!)

1 Peter 3:3 – 4 says “Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewellery or fine clothes.  Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight”.   Peter instructs Christian wives to develop inner beauty rather than being overly concerned about their outward appearance.  Their husbands will be won over by their love.  This does not mean that Christian women should be dowdy and frumpy; it is good to take care of oneself and look one’s best.  But far more important is the developing of an inner spirit of godliness.  Live your Christian life quietly and consistently in your home, and your family will see Christ in you.  I think this could be applied in the workplace too.  True beauty begins inside.

We need to take a Proverbs 31:30 approach: “Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised”.  The woman being described in Proverbs 31 is strong and dignified and this is the result of her reverence for God.  In our society where physical appearance counts for so much, it may surprise you to realise that her appearance is never mentioned.  Her attractiveness comes entirely from her character.

So my prayer would be:

  • that God’s Holy Spirit would help us to see ourselves in the way that God see us….that we would be able to see ourselves as ‘fearfully and wonderfully made’ and that we can say wholeheartedly “I know that full well!” In terms of the process of God’s creation – He saved the best until last!
  •  that we would have the strength to live our lives according to the values of God’s kingdom and not fall into the trap of feeling as though we have to conform to the world’s perception of beauty
  • that we would be motivated to devote more time to develop the type of inner beauty described in God’s word and allow that inner beauty to shine through so that people might see Christ in us.  Amen.

There are so many more strands to this topic that could be discussed….maybe in another blog post at some point! Be blessed. Ali x

Remember:

Just for fun …. watch this video…a Bible verse for every situation 😉

Please click the link above to watch! 🙂

Don’t Lose Your Head, Lift It Up Instead

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Do you ever let an issue play on your mind?  Do you waste your time and your energy thinking it over and over…….and then over and over again? Do you ever find it hard to let things go?  You want to let it go, of course you do, but for some reason that nagging thought or issue will just not shift  no matter how hard you try to forget about it?  It’s stuck in your head like chewing gum on your shoe!

I’ve experienced this very recently.   I don’t really need to share the intimate details of the situation but needless to say the whole situation had left me feeling frustrated, angry and as though an injustice had been done.

Apart from this isolated incident, life is good.  I’ve married my best friend this year, back in April (Yes, I know….yawn…..I’ve mentioned this a trillion times in previous blogs….old news!) and in the last week or so I have found out, after a rigorous assessment process in London a few weeks back, that I have been accepted to train as a Probation Service Officer, working with offenders.  This is a new chapter for me, a change in career direction and an exciting opportunity.   I am extremely thankful for this new opportunity and very grateful to my family and friends (you know who you are) for helping me to believe that I could do it to start with.  Without the encouragement of one certain friend I may not have even finished filling in the application form!

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I digress…..so…. yes… life is good….so I had no real reason to be on a downer but this situation that I was dealing with really took hold of my mind and had stolen my joy at a time when I really should have been feeling VERY JOYFUL INDEED! Four years of staring at the blank canvas that was my career were over! Hallelujah! Praise God for a door that opened! However, because of this issue I  was like a cooking pot ready to boil over.

Generally, I am a happy-go-lucky kind of a girl but I just couldn’t keep my cool! To a certain extent, I could argue my case and give you all-sorts of reasons as to why my feelings were justified (I may even have been in the right). However, regardless of this,  I felt like my joy had been stolen and I didn’t like that at all.  I did not want to feel the way I was feeling.  It did not sit well with me one little bit.

Over the course of a few days I felt that God was telling me that I shouldn’t be wasting my time and energy focusing on this issue because it was not producing anything good. The days went by and still I was in the same mental mess.  I had prayed about the situation.  I had talked it over with Dan, my husband.  Nothing was really changing and it was increasing my frustration and anger.

Then on the Sunday morning, Dan was driving us to church and still I sat in the car festering, thoughts whizzing round in my head.  I wanted to worship my awesome God, I had so much to be thankful for…….but how could I? I just was not in the right frame of mind. Perhaps you’ve experienced that before too?  In my own experience I find it hard to worship God when my mind and my heart are not right with God. I’m not the sort of person to just ‘go through the motions’. Then God answered my question with a song:

“Lift up your head(s) to the coming King, Bow before Him and adore Him sing, To His majesty, let your praises be, pure and holy giving glory to the King of Kings….”

There was my answer!  To shift my thinking, I needed to lift my head!   I needed to look up  and take my gaze off of the situation that was troubling me. I needed to thank God for His goodness and blessings regardless.  I needed to come clean before God and ask for His forgiveness.  I needed to lift my head up (and my hands), sing praises and worship Him who is most worthy of praise!  Once I did that things began to change.  Dan and I came home from church and prayed asking God to flood the ‘situation’ with His amazing love and peace.  The feelings of anger and frustration began to disperse and the thoughts were no longer squatting in my head. They had been evicted! I can genuinely say that I have not focused on that issue in the same way since! 🙂 Thank you God!

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I think Snoopy has the right idea, don’t you?? 🙂

When we lift our heads up we take the focus away from ourselves and the issue that we face and we set our eyes upon God – after all, it’s not about us but rather all about God.  I don’t believe we can blame every issue we face on the Devil! We, in our human nature, are more than capable of sabotaging ourselves!  I’ve done it on numerous occasions but thankfully God is with me and helps to sort out the mess I get myself in! I believe we need a heart of repentance, one that is willing to bow before God in adoration and give Him the glory that He deserves.

“It’s all about You, Jesus..And all this is for You…For Your glory and Your fame….It’s not about me…As if you should do things my way….You alone are God and I surrender to Your ways….” Jesus, Lover Of My Soul (It’s all about you) by Kari Jobe

“I’m coming back to the heart of worship…And it’s all about You…It’s all about you, Jesus….I’m sorry, Lord, for the thing I’ve made it…When it’s all about you….It’s all about You, Jesus” The Heart Of Worship by Michael W Smith

When we lift our heads up we can surrender the issue to God and allow His Holy Spirit to help us and strengthen us. Nothing is impossible for God!

“Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you” 1 Peter 5:7 NIV

“Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen” Ephesians 3:20 NIV

“And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Counselor to be with you forever – the Spirit of truth.  The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him or knows him, But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.”  John 14:16 NIV

The Holy Spirit is a gift from God. A gift given so that God would be with and within his followers after Christ returned to heaven. The “power” that believers receive from the Holy Spirit includes courage, boldness, confidence, insight, ability, and authority.  If you believe in Jesus Christ, you can experience the power of the Holy Spirit in your life.  We need the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives to fulfil the important work that God has chosen for us to do.  We need God’s timing and power to be truly effective.

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Or Prince of course!
Now I know the quote above is probably secular in its intention.  I believe, however, that there is some wisdom in it to an extent.

1 Peter 2:9-10 says “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.  Once you were not a people, but now you are a people of God; once you have not received mercy, but now you have received mercy”

In Old Testament times, people did not approach God directly.  The priest acted as intermediary between God and sinful human beings.  With Christ’s victory on the cross, that pattern changed!  Now we can come directly into God’s presence without fear, and we are given the responsibility of bringing others to him (see 2 Corinthians 5:18-21).  When we are united with Christ as members of his body, we join in his priestly work of reconciling God and man.  We belong to God, we have been adopted into His family, we are sons and daughters of the most high God.  I believe we need to accept that wholeheartedly and live our lives in the assurance, power and authority that comes with being a son or daughter in Christ!

So when we face the “issues”, we can tackle them head on  – with courage, confidence, boldness, insight, ability, authority and power that we receive through the Holy Spirit – God’s gift to us! Don’t allow your head to drop in despair and your crown to fall off – lift up your head to the King of Kings, don’t lose it! Straighten that crown and remember which royal family you belong to! Amen x

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Keeper Of My Heart

I mentioned in a previous blog that God often speaks to me through music.  Songs can randomly pop into my head and not go away until I’ve taken notice of them.  Sometimes I believe they appear to remind of something important about God, a promise or a truth. Sometimes I believe God has something more specific to say.  There have been a few occasions where Dan and I have been talking about something important and a song has spoken into that issue.

Towards the end of last week I had a song whizzing around in my head.  To start with it was literally the first few lines of the chorus, “I life my eyes, I lift my eyes up, Maker of the heavens….”. It was one of those occasions where you find yourself singing it but you cannot, for the life of you, remember the rest of the song or who wrote it.  I couldn’t rest then until I found out what song the lyrics came from and who wrote it!

Thank goodness for Google! How did we cope before that?! After a bit of digging around on the internet, I found the song ‘Keeper of My Heart’ by Kari Jobe.  It’s on the ‘Majestic’ album released in 2013.


‘Keeper Of My Heart’ by Kari Jobe ❤

I looked at the lyrics of the song and discovered that the song is based on Psalm 121. Other parts of the song I believe link nicely to Psalm 139.

From the beginning of our existence, before we even took our first breath God knew us and loved us.  He knew us intimately, “our inner most being”.  God  had a plan for our lives before we were born.  Our lives were designed to have purpose, they are not pointless and they are not a mistake! Our wonderful creative God planned for you, yes YOU, to be here (and ME!).  What creativity!  “He has approached even the small details with excellence” (Psalm 139:14 MSG) . God was involved right from the beginning.  He has an eye for detail! He doesn’t make a mistake! We are all so different and unique even down to our individual fingerprints – no one on this earth is just like you or me! Wow! Thank you God!

Sometimes we don’t let people get to know us completely because we are afraid they will discover something about us that they won’t like.  But God knows everything about us, even down to the number of hairs on our heads, and he still loves us and accepts us.  God is with us through every situation, in every trial – protecting, loving, guiding.  He knows and loves us completely.

Psalm 139:13-16 (The Voice) says:

For You shaped me, inside and out.
    You knitted me together in my mother’s womb long before I took my first breath.
14 I will offer You my grateful heart, for I am Your unique creation, filled with wonder and awe.
    You have approached even the smallest details with excellence;
    Your works are wonderful;
I carry this knowledge deep within my soul.
15     You see all things; nothing about me was hidden from You
As I took shape in secret,
    carefully crafted in the heart of the earth before I was born from its womb.
16 You see all things;
    You saw me growing, changing in my mother’s womb;
Every detail of my life was already written in Your book;
    You established the length of my life before I ever tasted the sweetness of it. (MSG)

God is omnipresent – he is present everywhere.  So we can never be lost to his Holy Spirit.  This is great news right?  If we know and love God, we can never be far away from God’s comforting presence, no matter what we do or where we go. He is with us in the depths – in our trials and most desperate of times when it feels like we are lost and alone – He is with us!

“Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?  If I go up to the heavens you are there; if I make my bed in the depths you are there.” (Psalm 139:7-8) NIV

Psalm 121 gives assurance and hope in God’s protection day and night.  He not only made the hills but heaven and earth as well.  We should never trust a lesser power than God himself.  But not only is he omnipotent, he also watches over us.  Nothing diverts him or deters him – “He who watches over you will not slumber nor sleep”.  We are safe.  We never outgrow our need for God’s untiring watch over our lives.

“The LORD watches over you— the LORD is your shade at your right hand.  The sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night. The Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.”

‭‭Psalm‬ ‭121:5-8 ‭NIV‬‬

“I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall.  I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me.  Yet this I call to mind and therefore have hope:  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; therefore I will wait for him.” 

Lamentations 3: 19-24 (NIV)

God never gives up on us! God will willingly help when we ask him.  God’s steadfast love and mercy are greater than any sin, and he promises forgiveness.  Trusting in God’s faithfulness day by day makes us confident in his great promises for the future.  God is our portion – not like ‘portions’ on earth that can be empty and perishable but instead an all-sufficient and durable portion.  We can depend on God.  Our hope is in Him.

I’ll be completely honest with you – these are lessons that I am still learning on a daily basis.  I’ve been a woman of faith for a long time and I have to constantly remember that God is enough for me.  All we need is in Him.  we can depend on Him.  We do not need to go it alone.  God created us for a purpose.  His almighty hand is on our lives.  He is our source of strength.  He loves us and is always with us!

Be encouraged….. 🙂

  • You are meant to be here you are not a mistake – God has a purpose for your life- God got creative when he made you and had an eye for detail!
  • God is with you all the time offering protection, love and guidance
  • God’s mercy is limitless
  • He is all we need – our portion

Psalm-139

Bless you x