Saturday, August 25, 2012

Maybe today

I have had a couple of days of feeling quite down - frustrated and angry about things being "the same"... I have not like being confined to these 'four walls' because of our financial and car situation right now. I am longing for beauty and freedom - the ocean walks and sea breezes in early mornings and late evenings...

I guess I have been grieving the loss of what was and fighting against embracing what is.

The loss, I cannot alter but what is now...can I change it?

My husband spoke to me about hope and I felt that I had lost it. Hope: the idea that things can and will change; the promise or expectation that "maybe today" God will change my circumstances. Maybe today God will provide for our needs. Maybe today God will answer and my family will be saved. Maybe today...

I need to fight against the pessimism that says, "probably not today"... I want to trust God, believe him for answers to prayer. I want to live in hope - in expectation - in anticipation of what just might be... I am sick of living with a mindset that is almost resolved to believe and see the bad, the unchanging...

Just now, God is speaking, reminding me that he doesn't change but he does change things, circumstances, people. Isaiah 59.1 says, "Listen! The Lord's arm is not too weak to save you, nor is his ear too deaf to hear you call."

In Isaiah 43.19, God says, "I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it?..."

God does want to answer my prayers and he hears my cries... He also tells me that he wants to change me - in my circumstances - so that I can stand firm, have hope, find joy - no matter where I find myself.

So, I choose hope. I choose to trust God. I believe that maybe today...I will be different.

The power to choose

Sometimes I feel like I have no choices in certain situations when really I do, I just don't like the choices that are there.

Have you ever felt like you have been or are being dragged through life? I have.

There have been times when I haven't chosen things that were done to me and haven't chosen circumstances I have faced. However, God reminds me that there are still choices I can make in those situations. I can choose how I respond...

I think that I have felt that kind of choice - my choice of my response - was a 'cop out' - something to try and give me a little control in a situation that felt totally out of control and so not really a choice at all.

I write today and think a little differently.

Deuteronomy 30.20 says, "You can make this choice by loving the Lord your God, obeying him, and committing yourself firmly to him. This is the key to your life."

I may not like my choices at times but I can still choose... I can choose to keep my eyes on Jesus. I can choose to love or to forgive. I can choose to find joy and to serve.

It's easier to write those words than to live them out - I know this all too well. Even as I wrote them I heard myself say, "But it's not fair..."

Choosing these things when I cannot change a circumstance, at first seems a little weak (something I hate) but somewhere deep inside, God's Spirit whispers that it's in the choosing that strength is actually found.

I have to believe this. I want to choose to believe this and live from there.

My prayer today is, "God, please help me to respond and not react; to choose love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness and self-control, not self-pity or anger. Help me to forgive. I want to trust you."

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Lives that glow in the darkness (part 1)

Recently I reread Anne of Green Gables and today I watched the DVD as my baby slept and I baked cookies (seriously! I cannot believe this is my life! More on that another post, another day...).

I have loved the story but today, as I watched the DVD, I was struck by just how awful orphans were treated. They were taken as household slaves, not rescued from their orphanages or 'asylums' as they were called in order to give them a better life and loving home..

Orphans were treated so badly - distrusted and accused of all sorts of horrible things - as if it was their fault that they had no parents. They were treated with contempt, instead of compassion.

How did it get so screwed up? My heart is just broken for precious ones like these...

Today, orphans and others who have been abandoned - those who are most vulnerable - are often treated terribly. These are the ones who are most at risk of abuse - being trafficked for sex or other forms of slavery. It's an atrocity that occurs worldwide - sometimes even in our own 'backyards'.

This is not how it's meant to be. God has a special place in his heart and his family for these precious ones. Oh how his heart breaks when he sees the injustice and pain.

Psalm 68-5-6 says, "Father of orphans, champion of widows is God in his holy house. God makes homes for the homeless, leads prisoners to freedom..." (MSG)

God tells us to look after those who are without families, who are oppressed - to be a voice for those who cannot speak for themselves and to be his hands and feet in the world, showing love and bringing freedom (Proverbs 31.8-9).

James 1.27 tells us that anyone who "sets himself up as 'religious' by talking a good game is self-deceived. This kind of religion is hot air and only hot air. Real religion, the kind that passes muster before God the Father is this: reach out to the homeless and loveless in their plight..." (MSG)

In Isaiah 58.6-9 (MSG), God also tells us -
"This is the kind of fast-day I'm after:
to break the chains of injustice,
get rid of exploitation in the workplace,
free the oppressed,
cancel debts.
What I'm interested in seeing you do is:
sharing your food with the hungry,
inviting the homeless poor into your homes,
putting clothes on the shivering ill-clad,
being available to your own families.
Do this and the lights will turn on,
and your lives will turn around at once.
Your righteousness will pave your way.
The God of glory will secure your passage.
Then when you pray, God will answer.
You'll call out for help and I'll say, 'Here I am.'"

God says that the kind of sacrifice and worship he wants is the kind that shows his love to the world. We can fast, pray, do stuff in church for God and yet allow people around us to go hungry, to be oppressed. God says that he doesn't honour that kind of living.

In the following verses of that passage, God says this:
"If you get rid of unfair practices,
quit blaming victims,
quit gossiping about other people's sins,
If you are generous with the hungry
and start giving yourselves to the down and out,
Your lives will begin to glow in the darkness,
your shadowed lives will be bathed in sunlight.
I will always show you where to go.
I'll give you a full life in the emptiest of places -
firm muscles, strong bones.
You'll be like a well-watered garden,
a gurgling spring that never runs dry.
You'll use the old rubble of past lives to build anew,
rebuild the foundations from out of your past.
You'll be known as those who can fix anything,
restore old ruins, rebuild and renovate,
make the community livable again." (Isaiah 58.9-12 MSG)

Wow! Who wouldn't want to be a part of that?!

Sometimes we can feel overwhelmed with the injustices we see or hear about. Sometimes we can be uncertain about what God wants for us or how we can be the 'light in darkness' he asks us to be.

These passages give us clear insight into what God expects and asks but it also gives us promises he makes to those who live this way. God promises that our lives will shine. He promises to hear us when we call to him and he promises full lives.

If you want to impact the world around you - if you want to help make the community you live in new and full of life, then read these passages again. Look around you. Can you see hungry people you can feed? Do you know of people who are being exploited who need someone to speak on their behalf and help bring freedom? Do you need to stop gossiping?

We can all do something to bring light into the dark places of our world. What are you going to do today?

[We can do things on our own or with our Church communities. There are organisations, such as Watoto, The A21 Campaign, She Rescue Home, International Justice Mission that we can partner with also, as well as many, many others. Check them out and see if God may have you get involved.]

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

My unbreakable lifeline

I came across these verses today:
"God can't break his word. And because his word cannot change, the promise is likewise unchangeable.
We who have run for our very lives to God have every reason to grab the promised hope with both hands and never let go. It's an unbreakable spiritual lifeline, reaching past all appearances right to the very presence of God..." (Heb 6.17-20 MSG)
Also, "The former way of doing things, a system of commandments that never worked our the way it was supposed to, was set aside; the law brought nothing to maturity. Another way - Jesus! - a way that does work, that brings us right into the presence of God, is put in its place." (Heb 7.16-19 MSG)

Wow! For me, these words are so encouraging.

I love that God's word cannot change and so I can trust him. If God says he will do something - he will do it. God's promises can be trusted because he can be trusted.

I love that we have hope, because of all that Jesus did for us on the cross, that brings us right into God's presence and we cannot be wrenched out of it. That 'lifeline' to God is unbreakable.

This means that nothing we do or don't do, if we have taken God at his word and are in a relationship with him through Jesus, can tear us out of God's presence. We cannot work our way into God's presence and we cannot work our way out of it.


And yet, so many of us are confused or struggle with doubt. We have an enemy who loves for God's people to be paralysed by confusion, doubt or fear. Why don't we take God at his word? He cannot break it. It is unchangeable.

I have struggled with these things myself and yet today I am reminded again of truth. If God says it, it is so. That will not change. He can be trusted. He does not lie. His word is true.

No more listening to lies from the enemy. When tempted to give in to confusion, doubt or fear, I will look to Jesus. I will read and listen to God's word. I will set my heart on what is true and live from that.

I will hold on to my unbreakable lifeline that holds me steadfast in the presence of God.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

When God says 'No'...

My last post was on answering God's question to us about what we really want. I know that God has so much for us and there are things he wants us to ask him for so he can give it. 

However, what happens when God says "no"?

Sometimes when we pray, we feel that God is silent or taking too long when he doesn't answer immediately with a "yes". When God doesn't do what we ask, we think he's not listening.

Is thinking that God is taking his time or is just not listening somehow easier to come to terms with than accepting that God has said "no"?

I, and many others, have prayed for weeks for friends and their little baby. She was born with some serious health issues and needed surgery a few days after she was born. Her parents knew there were issues before she was born but thanked God for this precious life and trusted him with her. After praying and pleading with God to heal her, this precious baby died a couple of days ago in her mother's arms. God said "no"...

How do we deal with God saying "no" to us? It seems incredibly unfair. It hurts. It's confusing.

I prayed for my mum to be healed when she was diagnosed with cancer. 11 weeks later she died. God said "no".

I prayed that if I was to ever become pregnant that I would not miscarry. I became pregnant for the first time. My husband and I prayed that I would not lose the baby. I had a miscarriage and lost that baby. God said "no".

What do we do with all of this?

In the midst of anger, confusion, pain and tears, I still hear God whisper "I love you. Trust me."

In these times of "no", I remember that God is good and he is love. My circumstances and feelings - may shout something else but God IS good and he is LOVE. The Bible says so. Other experiences in my life show this to be true. The Cross shows me that this is true...

The Bible tells me that God is a loving Father. Loving someone means that there are times when "no" is the best answer to give, even if the person you're saying "no" to doesn't understand or you know that answer will hurt. God sees what I cannot. I cannot see how saying "no" to our prayers in these situations can be good for anyone right now but I can trust him.

Jesus asked God to take away his suffering before he was crucified and God said "no". The way to save, redeem, forgive and free mankind, was through the cross...

When tempted to say that God doesn't care, I remind myself of all that God has done before and of the truth of who he is. Even through my tears I look at Jesus. I remember the cross. I see love. I hold on to that and know that he holds on to me.

Monday, August 6, 2012

What do you want?

On another walk with my daughter, I began chatting with God about various things and then started to take some needs we have to him.

I was praying and asking God for help with a car situation - I was asking for the car to be able to be fixed and to be able to pay for the fixing.

"What do you really want, Renate?" 

As I prayed, I listened, and I heard God ask me again... "What do you really want?"

I thought I was telling him what I want - what I feel we need... As I thought about it though, I realised that if I was honest, I really wanted a different car - one that was reliable, not as old, had new tyres, more room for Adira and her pram - 4 doors!! I felt guilty though, asking for that.

There are many times when I think God wants us to ask him specifically for things or for people or circumstances. He wants us to be honest with him. God doesn't want us praying prayers we think he wants to hear or prayers we think others say we must. Don't get me wrong, I'm not talking about asking God for stuff for the sake of stuff but being honest about our needs and desires. You see, God already knows what we need before we ask (Matt 6.8) but he wants us to come to him and ask anyway. He loves us.

The Bible states that we "do not have what you want because you don't ask God for it" (James 4.2 NLT). Of course that same passage goes on to talk about motives, etc and we need to check our hearts regarding our desires, but God says to "ask... and you will receive" (John 16.24 NLT).

So, what do I want? If I could ask anything... If I replace obligation and burden with opportunity and desire...

I do want that reliable car.
I want my extended family to come to know Jesus.
I want to make a difference.
I want to lead on a great adventure.
I want to go on a great adventure.
I want to be brave and courageous and bold.
I want to teach, show, shape.
I want to be wanted, needed, acknowledged, appreciated.
I want to tangibly know, feel, experience God’s presence.
I want to remember.
I want to know and trust God more.
I want to point others to God.
I want to be a positive influence.
I want be a good wife, mother, daughter, sister, friend.

What do you want?

God cares about the answer. He doesn't want us praying prayers or living lives of obligation and burden. He has freedom for us. He is our loving heavenly Father who has good gifts to give his children (Matt 7.11).

Listen to God. Pray. Share your heart with him. You might be surprised at what happens next...

A way through the wilderness

Is 40v3-5 “Listen! It’s the voice of someone shouting, ‘clear the way through the wilderness for the Lord! Make a straight highway through the wasteland for our God! Fill in the valleys, and level the mountains and the hills. Straighten the curves, and smooth out the rough places. Then the glory of the Lord will be revealed and all people will see it, together. The Lord has spoken.”
v9 “Your God is coming!...”

What wilderness is there that God wants me to clear so there’s a ‘straight path’ for him in my life? If I'm honest, some of the wilderness is filled with lies, deception, fear, shame, excuses... I don’t want these things cluttering up my life anymore.

What about you? Are there things hindering God from working in your life? From speaking to you more clearly?

When rough places are made smooth – then God’s glory will be revealed and all people will see it.

When we rid our lives of sin, give God our hurts and fears, his glory is made manifest. When lives that were once cluttered with shame and doubt or with excuses are clear and free of these things, people notice. God moves. Changes are evident. There is joy where there once was sadness. There is love and freedom where there was hurt and bondage.

The wonderful thing is that God can help us clear that path through the wilderness in our lives and make a straight path for him to work. We don't have to do this on our own.

Take some time today - this week - to see what things are cluttering up your life, your heart, and hindering God from working and speaking more clearly in your life. Clear them out. Hand them over to Him.

Say it again...

Psalm 136 is just one example of God repeating something over and over again. Here's an example:
v1-2 "Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good,
His faithful love endures forever.
Give thanks to the God of gods,
His faithful love endures forever."
v 4-5 "Give thanks to him alone who does mighty miracles,
His faithful love endures forever.
Give thanks to him who made the heavens so skilfully,
His faithful love endures forever." (NLT)

Get the picture? Not only does this psalm get us to give thanks to God for who he is and what he's done ("give thanks" being another repeated phrase) but every second line in this Psalm is "His faithful love endures forever".

God speaks repetitively to us - not because we fail or are dumb or are slow learners (although perhaps we can feel that way) but because he love us.

How many times do I tell my daughter I love her? More than 10 times a day. Why? Because I love her so much I can't help but tell her. I want Adira to know I love her and to have that knowledge take root in her heart so she can live from that security. How much more does God love us and want that for his children?

I do know that I can sometimes be slow to really grasp what God is trying to show me or teach me and so I do need reminders. However, I really believe, because God is love, he repeats things because he wants us to be sure - to be able to really know and understand and live out of the reality of who he is and how he acts - how he loves us.

I don't tell my daughter I love her so many times a day because I think she doesn't understand or because she's dumb. I tell her because I love her so much and I cannot help but tell her! God loves us so much more than we can comprehend and wants us to know and live in the security that his love brings.

The next time you feel that God is saying something to you over and over - maybe through his word or others - thank God that he loves you so much he needs to - wants to - tell you again...

[What are some ways that God speaks to you 'again'? What are some of the things he says? I'd love to hear from you.]