Changes

Have you ever stopped to think about how much our lives revolve around change?  It is always there.

While we welcome some alteration into our lives, we often tend to focus our minds on those that aren’t welcome, and this is when it takes over our lives, our train of thought burns bad emotions and intentions deep inside, and ultimately turn us away from God.  When we allow that to happen, we fail ourselves; we fail God.

When we find ourselves in times like these, we can take comfort in the knowledge that God and our Lord Jesus Christ are always walking beside us, Jesus is interceding on our behalf, and the Holy Spirit is there to guide us.  We can turn to God, to Jesus, surrender to the guidance of the Holy Spirit, because They are the constant in our lives that does not change.

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.
Hebrews 13:8

In among all the change in our life, Jesus is always there, the rock that is our anchor, our cornerstone, the foundation of all foundations.

16 So this is what the Sovereign Lord says:
“See, I lay a stone in Zion, a tested stone,
    a precious cornerstone for a sure foundation;
the one who relies on it
    will never be stricken with panic.

Isaiah 28:16

Change happens; it does not always come from God, a lot of it is human-made, as a result of our greed, our desires, our attempt to apply our will over situations, our inability to follow Gods will; what we do in times like this can lead to disagreements, animosity, theft, hostility, and war.

There’s plenty to be said in the bible about change, it is full of change, starting at the very beginning with creation, variations in covenant with God, changes in nations, changes in people, initiated by the Holy Spirit (tongues of fire [Acts 2-3]), by Jesus (so many changes in hearts, minds and body), by God (far too many to contemplate or even begin to describe).  The point is that we should not fear change, we can embrace it even when we do not like it because we can be the light that turns bad to good.

The one thing that never changes is that God loves us all, and He made the most significant demonstration of that love by sacrificing His Son, Jesus Christ, for our salvation; for we do not have to sacrifice anymore, as Jesus took upon himself all the sins of humanity and paid the price, our price, on our behalf, for all of our sins, for the sins of our predecessors, and the sins of our descendants.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.
And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.
Philippians 4:6-8

Life is full of new beginnings, fresh days with which we can become closer to Jesus, I thank the Lord our God for each new day, for each opportunity to start again, for new beginnings, for His eternal love, comfort and guidance through times of trouble.

Holy Jesus, ev’ry day,
keep us in the narrow way;
and when earthly things are past,
bring our ransomed souls at last
where they need no star to guide,
where no clouds thy glory hide.

May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us all.
2 Corinthians 13:14

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What you lookin’ at?

Do you walk with your eyes open or your eyes closed?

Do you walk looking at your feet or with your eyes on your destination?

Today, October 31st, millions of people will be dancing to a tune played by the flute of evil, and I bet the majority of them don’t realise it, some probably don’t care if they do not see hope in their lives and want to live to the full in the here and now – there is no comparison to life in the Kingdom of the Lord our God, but they are blind to this; they walk with their eyes closed to it.  They do not set their sight on their destination; they are too distracted. They are distracted by merchandise, by parties, by friends and family, by everything that is subtly put in their path to distract them from where they should be looking; the Idols used to turn our gaze away from God.  It’s so easy to fall into step, dance the same dance, it is a seductive tune, and it’s easy to do that which we should not do (Romans 7:15-20).  We must resist using the strength we gain through Jesus’ example (Matthew 4:1-11).

One of the most challenging things to do is not to judge others (ref. my failure in the previous paragraph!) – my mind is continuously thinking about planks, reminding me of this, and I sometimes step right into mine, like stepping on a rake and planting my face squarely into the front of the board.  I sometimes feel I should have a collection of planks by my side so I can gift them to people, sign their name on them as say “here’s your plank”.

Try to be forgiving for those who are not aware of what they are doing tonight; they lack strength in the Lord our God to resist the silver tongue that Jesus so skilfully countered.  Instead, pray for them, as Jesus taught us to pray for our enemies as well as our friends (Matthew 5:43-48).

Churches hold light parties to encourage the young, and the old, to turn their eyes away from all of the distractions, to turn their eyes back to God. We remember one of their pit stops along the way to their ultimate destination, which is their judgement day before the Lord our God.  We all have it approaching, and there is no avoiding it; judgement is coming.  They will shuffle around looking at their feet wishing they’d not done this, not done that. Is it too late? It is never too late! He sees through us to the very core of our being, and we will be judged not on our deeds, but our hearts, our love, of Jesus, of our fellow humankind, of all creation.

Judging Others

“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. “Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.

Matthew 7:1-6 New International Version (NIV)

Be still for the presence of the Lord

I’ve had a lot on my mind recently, but one thing that is prominent at the moment is the number of people suffering from one illness or another, or struggling to cope with other circumstances.  In all of this, my mind keeps coming back to one song that I mentioned at prayer last week – Be Still For The Presence Of The Lord.

It first occurred to me while caring for our border collie (who had a stroke), she is awake at night (a lot) and barking.  Sometimes all she requires is someone to be beside her, to have her paw upon your arm and her chin resting on your hand as she drifts off to sleep with you sat in the most uncomfortable of positions and unable to move.  Parents can associate the image with caring for a sick child, where sometimes all that is required to allow the sick to have moments of peace is a comforting voice, and a gentle hand stroking your hair lulling you to sleep and respite from fits of coughing.  It occurred to me that as we journey through life, so too does God, alongside us, Jesus is there for us to talk to, to intercede on our behalf, and the Holy Spirit is there to guide us and protect us.  When we are having our moments of illness, anxiety, worry, panic, strife and insecurity, He is right there alongside us ready to give support and comfort – as a loving parent to us all; as any loving parent would for their children, as I have been doing for our dog, as you also do for those you love and care for, for your family and your friends.

I thank God that even though we may not always be aware of how much encouragement and support He provides us, that He is there alongside each of us, sharing our journey, is an act of beautiful love and I am thankful for that.  We should strive to reflect His love for us in all our interactions, with all our family, our friends, our colleagues, essentially everyone we meet; reflect our inner good Samaritan.  Sometimes all we need to do is be a presence for others, so be still for the presence of the Lord, He is beside you, and be still as a presence for others, be still your emotions, be still your heart, be still your breath, exude peace, be still, simply be.

Psalm 46:8-11 New International Version – UK (NIVUK)

Come and see what the Lord has done,
    the desolations he has brought on the earth.
He makes wars cease
    to the ends of the earth.
He breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
    he burns the shields[a] with fire.
10 He says, ‘Be still, and know that I am God;
    I will be exalted among the nations,
    I will be exalted in the earth.’
11 The Lord Almighty is with us;
    the God of Jacob is our fortress.

The First and the Last Vine

This is the first vine.

One day a seed was planted in good soil, and a great vine grew tall and strong upon the earth. It grew stronger with each year and bore healthy fruit.

One day, some men were passing and saw the vine and said to themselves “we like this vine, we will take a cutting from it and replant this vine in our own land” and so they took a cutting off the branches of the vine and replanted it in their own lands. The cutting grew roots and started to grow into a strong vine but it was not as great as the vine they had seen; its fruit was not as plentiful, however they were pleased with what they had grown and were happy for the new vine to remain. They kept the fruit and the seeds of this new vine to themselves.

It is not the first vine.

On yet another day, someone else was passing this new vine and decided to take some of the seeds, and yet another took a cutting, and so new vines grew strong in other land, but they were not as strong even though the fruit was good. Some did not keep the seed for themselves and shared it with others, but the vines that grew from the seed were not strong and had weak roots. So this continued with people taking cuttings from the first vine or growing vines from cuttings or from seed not of the first vine.

These are not the first vine.

Some people decided they would not take cuttings or plant seeds, but were jealous of the vines other people had planted, so they made their own from materials such as stone, brick, gold or silver. They tried to build larger than the first vine but were not able to match the growth of the vine which was tall and had many branches.

These are not vines.

As time progressed, some vines withered and died because they did not have the same strength as the first vine, and the vines made from other materials weathered away; Yet other vines died through the effort of men. Men had became competitive, glorifying their vines saying “my vine is better than yours, it’s fruit is sweeter, is more abundant and does not rot before it is consumed.”

The first vine was forgotten.

Eventually all the men started to argue more about whose vine was greater, war and famine ensued and the first vines growth started to suffer as man attempted to cast shadows over all the vines to spite their neighbours. Many vines withered and died, the fruit of the first vine did not appear.

Time passed.

Eventually someone walked by the first vine and noticed it was strong with deep roots and many branches, but was without fruit. They wondered what the fruit of the vine would be like. So they decided to nurture the vine and each season they would fertilise the soil around it, prune the dead wood and encourage new growth. All of their efforts were rewarded with time, and the vine bore fruit again. They shared the fruit with others who left their vines to wither to dust so they might benefit from the first vine. Everyone rejoiced in how lucky they were to have such a vine.

It is the true vine.
This is the last vine.

Trust in God

This week I went to the dentist and it occurred to me when I was going that we place a certain amount of trust in those who care for us whenever we visit, we become vulnerable, but we often only place that trust in them when we are there.

Whereas, as Children of God, we place our trust in the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost every minute and every second of every day; so too must we become vulnerable to open ourselves up for His place in our lives. The trust we place in Him is far greater than any trust we place in individuals and I know I have fallen short of that at times.

I often need to remind myself that it is I, and not God, that is the source of any fear and doubt when I lack trust and that I must do my best to repay His trust in me because His trust never falters.  It will never vanish off the face of this earth and it is an eternal trust we receive, a parental trust and something so far greater than anything anyone could possibly return.  But return it we do, whenever and wherever we can, in prayer, in honesty, in who we are, for it is in and through Jesus that we find our salvation, by being like him, by learning from him, in seeing Him in ourselves and in each other, in loving God our Father and in loving our neighbour as we do ourselves.

Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, ‘My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.’
Matthew 26:39 NIV

This weekend we will hear and read about the events that took place in and around Jerusalem so many years ago.  Jesus placed all of his trust in his Father, in our Father.  Even when he prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, when Jesus was at his most vulnerable his trust in his Father remained steadfast, and his resolve to complete the most glorious gift we can ever receive remained strong, and he completed it through faith, through trust, and through love.

God bless you all this Easter.