2014 -Simplicity of Heart

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‘One moment your life is a stone in you, and the next, a star.’– Rainer Maria Rilke

As I look back on the year 2013 I see a year filled with opportunity, uncertainty, pain, hard lessons, confusion, misunderstanding, feeling misunderstood and towards the end- being totally blindsided by love.

In the economy of God, a wounded heart coupled with pain and confusion can be swiftly transformed into a heart learning to embrace and enjoy love again. God is simply good to us. He never has an ‘off’ day, never misunderstands our hearts but knows the deep motivations and desires that drive us.

Simplicity is something I plan to focus on this year. I refuse to complicate following Jesus anymore. It is either true that if we believe in our hearts and confess with our mouths that Jesus is Lord then we are saved… or it isn’t. It is either true that the work of God is to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ… or it isn’t. God’s written word and the assurance of His Spirit remind me continually that this is indeed true.

If this is truth, then I want to live according to the simplicity of this Gospel. To not create complexities where there are none, to avoid putting up unnecessary barriers and hoops to jump through for those who would seek to know the living God.

‘But alas for you, you scribes and Pharisees, play actors that you are! You lock the doors of the kingdom of heaven in men’s faces; you will not go in yourselves neither will you allow those at the door to go inside…’– (Matthew 23 v 13)

I believe God loves simplicity, after all, He chooses to reveal His greatest mysteries to the simple over the ones who consider themselves wise (Matthew 11 v 25-26).

My goal this year is to keep my life simple, without unfounded restriction or limitation, without falsehood or show. I desire to love God and others with a simplicity that puts others at ease, makes them feel valued and seen. Cooking meals, showing hospitality, remembering birthdays, remembering to send cards…

Making that phone call to see how friends are, preferring to listen rather than rushing to speak my mind. Honouring God through creativity, building relationships, spending time with the one I love just because…

As God’s eyes roam to and fro about the Earth I don’t want to be found judging others by my own religious standards, or declaring my own criteria for those who are pleasing to God and those who are not. God forbid.

To take a lesson from light; we don’t need to fight the darkness we just shine the light and darkness flees.

I want to be found simply enjoying Jesus; admiring and imitating Him and not anyone else.

I want to be found using the gifts He has given me; doing what I can to spread the fragrance of life which leads to life and extending His kingdom.

I want to be found reading His word and believing it.

Living simply is not a matter of disengaging our brains. It is not a matter of limiting our knowledge or settling into mediocrity. It is a conscious focusing of our minds on what really matters in the grand scheme of life, on what really matters to God.

Living simply for me means not bowing to the expectations of others, resisting the need to please people and checking out my heart with God on a regular basis. We can check our hearts with God without fear as He understands us completely and created us just how He wanted us- He is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love.

You give life, You are love
You bring light to the darkness
You give hope, You restore
Every heart that is broken
Great are You, Lord

It’s Your breath in our lungs
So we pour out our praise
We pour out our praise
It’s Your breath in our lungs
So we pour out our praise to You only

All the earth will shout Your praise
Our hearts will cry, these bones will sing
Great are You, Lord

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2qUOHjnDIFs

Stumbling into the Light

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I celebrate those moments in my walk with Christ when it all seems to fall into place. When I have vision and passion, and where my focus is firmly on Him. At these times I can sense destiny in the air, His word seems to speak directly to my heart and a lifestyle of worship is the norm. It feels safe to be in this place, safe and good. In those moments there is clarity in my life.

But those other moments, in between the experiences of clarity… feel like I am stumbling around in the dark, weighed down with a shattered heart, deep disappointment and far off dreams.

The stumbling feels unsafe, dangerous. I feel guilty before God for my emotional state, as though by acknowledging the wounds in my life I am somehow betraying the goodness of God.

The thing is, in the midst of it all, way way down in my heart, I know God is faithful. I know He is good. It’s just that my human experience in this season briefly eclipsed the light of His purpose and plan for a time.

So what do we do when we are stumbling? How do we regain hope when it has been dashed against the rocks? We continue. Continue stumbling down the path of righteousness. As Eugene Peterson so aptly phrased; it’s a long obedience in the same direction.

We sit before God and weep. We read the word and meditate on truth, even as our minds are racing with thought after thought of loss and pain. We sing to God songs of praise, believing in our hearts that its authenticity is in our choosing to do so in spite of the sadness we feel.

This is truly a sacrifice of praise.

This is where my journey has led me recently. I have wrestled with hurt, guilt and sadness. I have revisited old wounds and fought off bitterness and anger. I have arrived at a place of process in God. He is more than able to handle our process;

‘For He knows how we are formed, He remembers that we are dust.’– Psalm 103 v 14

Even so, these 3 remain… faith, hope and love. I learned in this season that without hope, faith and love fall flat. Without hope, faith is a burden and a struggle to maintain. Hope brings joy to our journey of faith and ignites love within us.

Hope is springing back slowly but surely. It always does given enough time.

So don’t quit. Don’t look back in anger. A season of clarity is coming once again; though the vision tarries it will surely come.

Stumbling into the light is better than losing the light altogether. It’s definitely humbling, but I know which route I need to take.

“I will have nothing to do with a God who cares only occasionally. I need a God who is with us always, everywhere, in the deepest depths as well as the highest heights. It is when things go wrong, when good things do not happen, when our prayers seem to have been lost, that God is most present. We do not need the sheltering wings when things go smoothly. We are closest to God in the darkness, stumbling along blindly.”
― Madeleine L’Engle

It’s Not Over

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“Listen to the mustn’ts, child. Listen to the don’ts. Listen to the shouldn’ts, the impossibles, the won’ts. Listen to the never haves, then listen close to me… Anything can happen, child. Anything can be.”
― Shel Silverstein

Listen to God. Listen to the hope hidden in every passage of scripture, breathed in to the inspiration of His word. It’s not over until it’s over.

Until then, there is always hope.

Hope deferred makes the heart sick, our Father wants to heal our hearts. The hope that is placed within us from Him will be fulfilled. We can be sure of Him if there ever was anything or anyone to be sure of.

‘He heals the broken hearted and binds up their wounds. He determines the number of stars and calls them each by name. Great is our Lord and mighty in power; His understanding has no limit.’- Psalm 147 v 3- 5

Our God understands the hopes beneath the surface of our lives, the hopes we harbour when all seems lost. He is astutely aware of the hope that won’t relent in the face of lost family members, sons, daughters, husbands and wives.

Hope is no longer hope when it is realised.

‘But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have?’- Romans 8 v 24

Hope is not a destination but the beginning and middle part of this journey called faith. Hope transforms itself when it is fulfilled, when the promise is established.

Hope is defined as ‘to cherish a desire with anticipation’, and ‘to desire with expectation of obtainment’. We can see here that hope by definition is something to be cherished not wrestled with. It is the prerequisite to desire realised, if we honour hope itself, we may find our journey towards fulfilment is much swifter…

I am hoping for many things in my life right now, some significantly big things, some less so, but all are important to me. I am learning slowly to embrace hope, to see it as something ‘hopeful’ in and of itself and not a burden.

The greatness of hope is it leads us back to Jesus. He is the only one who can fulfil our hope in this life and the next.

And that, I believe, can only be a good thing.

My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly trust in Jesus’ Name.

 

What Did We Expect?

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“Alice had got so much into the way of expecting nothing but out-of-the-way things to happen, that it seemed quite dull and stupid for life to go on in the common way.”
― Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking-Glass

Let’s pause for a moment and ask ourselves this question- What are we expecting God to do in our lives? Right now? Tomorrow? Are we expecting something wonderful to happen or are we not expecting anything much at all?

Expectation is a loaded word.  It has baggage, lots of it. We carry baggage from previously unmet expectations and baggage from the weight of holding onto new ones.

Expectation is closely interwoven with faith. If we have faith for or in something or someone, then we are expecting a desired outcome or a response of some kind.

I believe God is calling us to raise our expectations, for us to understand that He can handle the weight of them and is ready (and able) to surpass them all. He has declared in His word that no eye has seen and no ear has heard, no human mind has conceived the things He has prepared for those who love Him, but His Spirit has revealed them to us (1 Corinthians 2 v 9-10). This declaration draws us in, encourages us to expect more from God than the status quo (whatever that is).

Expectation prepares us, we behave differently when we are expecting. If we know we have guests coming to stay with us then we prepare ourselves and our house to receive them. So with our God, it would go well with us to prepare our hearts and minds in expectation of His movement in and through our lives.

The world would often seek to dampen our expectation and hope in God, for it neither sees Him nor knows Him. But we are of a different spirit. We eagerly await His kingdom to fully come; we look for His will being done in the earth.

I want to be known by God as one who casts not away my confidence or expectation in Him, for I know it will be richly rewarded (Hebrews 10 v 35).

Expect God to do something wonderful. Expect Him to bring light into darkness, the oil of joy for mourning, a garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness.

Expect Him to give beauty for ashes.

‘I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death’– Philippians 1 v 20

 

Monday Prayers

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Father God,

We thank You for those You have called.

 As Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Pastors and Teachers.

To equip Your people for works of service.

So that the body of Christ may be built up.

May we reach unity in the faith.

United in the knowledge of the Son of God.

Bring us to a place of maturity.

Where together we attain to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

Let us no longer be infants.

Blown here and there by every wind of teaching and philosophy of man.

Instead, may we speak Your truth.

In love.

Growing up into Christ, our head.

From which the whole body.

Joined and held together in Him.

Would grow and be built upon love.

With each and every one of us doing our part.

In Your great work.

In the name of Jesus (Messiah), Amen.

Ephesians 4 v 11-16

How to Avoid Spiritual Obesity

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“Some people see the glass half full. Others see it half empty.
I see a glass that’s twice as big as it needs to be.”
― George Carlin

I wonder what we would look like if we could see our spiritual bodies, our spiritual form- our true state. Would we be pleased with the image? Shocked? Indifferent?

I believe many of us would look fit to bursting, obese even, overfilled and overstuffed with the things God has invested in us that have nowhere to go.

Bulging with the amount of revelation, insight, teaching and discipleship we have received. Full to the brim with prophetic words spoken over our lives and the personal encouragement God has provided in relation to our destinies.

But what do we do with all of that?

Unfortunately, many of us do nothing. Nothing flows out; the fruit is nowhere to be seen.

The well has been stopped up.

We are afraid to pursue the call of God, afraid to use our gifts.  We are too distracted to pour into the lives of others, or waiting for everything to be perfect before we give our lives away to the cause of His kingdom. Sometimes we just want to receive more from God, not realising there isn’t room for more as we have already reached saturation point.

This is not to be hard on those of us who genuinely struggle to know how to utilise what we have been given. It’s a wake-up call to those of us who do, but don’t.

When we do nothing with the investment of God in our lives we create old wineskins for ourselves. The great cycle of spiritual frustration begins as we ask for more from God but seem to receive little. New wine must be poured into new wineskins.

‘Neither do people pour new wine into old wineskins. If they do, the skins will burst; the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved.’- Matthew 9 v 17

God is good, kind and gracious. He desires to pour newness into our lives and preserve our lives at the same time. The preservation is His job, not ours.

It is reminiscent of a parent telling their child to let their food digest before scoffing down pudding, or to look after the toys they already have before getting any new ones.

God is our Father and He takes His fatherhood seriously. He wants only the best for His children; His heart is literally overflowing with goodness toward us.

When we pour out what God has poured in, give away what God has given, and invest in others what God has invested in us- we stay spiritually healthy and leave room for more.

‘…if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday. The Lord will guide you always; He will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.’ –Isaiah 58 v 10-11

Inspired by…Those Who Start Small

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‘Who dares despise the day of small things…’

– Zechariah 4 v 10

There is a challenge in this to start, to begin, to do something with what we have.

Significant and widely impacting ministries or outreaches usually begin with a rough idea, limited resources, a wing and a prayer. Somebody had to be vulnerable and step out in faith. Not knowing what the response of others would be. Not knowing if the whole idea would fall flat on its face.

It can be terrifying not to know.

But that’s the thing I think God loves. I can imagine Him sitting up there on His throne, surrounded by glory, watching with glints of excitement in His eyes.

“He/She is going for it. Yes! Go for it! I am with You!” I can hear Him saying.

We would do well to remember, without faith it is impossible to please God. Not unlikely or hard- impossible.

God is pleased with our small beginnings, our day of small things. Pleased when we move past our pride and concern about what others think, because of the kingdom agenda on our hearts. When we are moved with compassion, nothing will stop us from doing all we can to get the Good News out.

So, what about…

That large worldwide prayer movement we admire? Started with 3 people meeting in their homes to pray and seek God.

That inner city outreach we are awed by? Started with one person who stopped and really noticed those living on the streets.

That worship movement where salvation, healings and miracles are breaking out? Started with a few friends meeting to bask in the presence of God, to worship and see what happened. They believed God- that He inhabits the praises of His people.

That powerful residential ministry where hundreds of broken, abused and addicted people find hope and restoration? Started with one person opening up their home to one person who desperately needed it.

‘The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them. Those who have will be given more, and they will have an abundance. As for those who do not have, even what they have will be taken from them…’– Matthew 13 v 11

We have a responsibility to use what we have. To whom much is given much is required.

We must sow our seeds, the ideas and desires in our hearts; use the resources we have now.

“Thus out of small beginnings greater things have been produced by His hand that made all things of nothing, and gives being to all things that are; and, as one small candle may light a thousand, so the light here kindled hath shone unto many…”
― William Bradford

Need more inspiration?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sh-pQRLDE6c

 

 What do you have brewing inside of you?