Encouragement in the If Onlys…

If only…. then….

Ah Friends, those if onlys! If only this had or hadn’t happened then things would so different.

Sadly this world isn’t perfect, it’s full of the effects of sin and that makes life hard, very hard at times!

Martha and Mary knew this, their brother Lazarus was ill, they’d sent for their Friend, their Jesus, the miracle worker but He didn’t come straight away and now their brother is dead.

When Jesus finally comes after waiting two more days first dear Martha meets Him saying…

‘Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died….’

And then that previously busy, over burdened Martha has the faith to add…

‘But I know, that even now, whatsoever thou wilt ask of God, God will give it thee.’

Martha then calls Mary and she goes to Jesus and says…

‘Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died.’

Ah Friends, these women had learnt a sweet lesson. They’d learnt to pour out their hearts before God, to give Him their if onlys. They’d learnt to turn to Him for comfort and help.

How does Jesus respond? Does He reprove them for their if onlys?

No, He goes with them to the grave and He weeps with them!!

Friend have you an if only? If so then give it to the Lord just as these dear women did.

‘Trust in him at all times; ye people, pour out your heart before him: God is a refuge for us. Selah.’

Give it all to Jesus, give Him your if only, ‘Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.’

He knows, He sees, He understands, He cares and He’s with you in the fire!

Give it all to Jesus Friend…

‘And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.’

God may not remove those hard things but He WILL give you the grace to go through them, leaning upon your Beloved Jesus!

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John 11:1-44, Ps 62:8, Phil 4:6-7.

Glorifying God in the mundane…

Have you ever wondered how you can glorify God in the mundane of day to day life?

How about starting with this…

1 ‘Give thanks unto the Lord;

2 Call upon his name:

3 Make known his deeds among the people.

4 Sing unto him,

5 Sing psalms unto him:

6 Talk ye of all his wondrous works.

7 Glory ye in his holy name:

8 Let the heart of them rejoice that seek the Lord.

9 Seek the Lord, and his strength:

10 Seek his face evermore.

11 Remember his marvellous works that he hath done…’

Why?

Because ‘He is the Lord our God:’

This is how psalm 105 begins before continuing with a long list of all God’s goodness to the children of Israel in the wilderness.

Photo by Anna Kerley

Friends, glorifying God isn’t a to do list but each of these things draws our hearts away from the distractions of the world and up to God!

It’s as though God through these verses is saying to each believer, this is how you can glorify me.

Feeling discontent? Thank God for all the many things and people He’s already blessed you with.

In trouble? Ask God to help you…

‘call upon me in the day of trouble: I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify me.’

Wondering if God will appear?

Tell others about all God has already done for you and see if it doesn’t help you trust Him for the future too!

Feeling down?

Sing praises to God for He is always worthy and sing until those praises are coming from your heart, He will cheer you up.

Wondering how you can share about God?

Talk about all his wonderful works in your life. Don’t boast of your own achievements but rather glorify God for all He has helped you to do and in all has done for you.

Seeking God? Do it with a joyful heart for ‘The Lord is good unto them that wait for him, to the soul that seeketh him.’

Feeling weak, wondering how to continue?

‘Seek the Lord, and his strength:’ His grace is sufficient and His strength made perfect in your weakness!

Friends, by God’s grace let’s live our days remembering all ‘his marvellous works that he hath done…’ Because ‘…He is the Lord OUR God:’

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Ps 105:1-7, 50:15, Lam 3:25,

Peace, Be Still…

Jesus ‘went into a ship with his disciples: and he said unto them, Let us go over unto the other side of the lake. And they launched forth.’

You’ve probably read this many times but look again, we don’t read of any hesitation by the disciples, Jesus commanded, they simply obeyed!

Yes, they were His disciples, He was their teacher and that was what they were expected to do but Friends each Believer is a follower of Jesus too and obedience is expected of us also, following Jesus is what we’re supposed to do, it means going where our leader leads, walking in His footsteps.

Photo by Rebekah Suckling

‘And there arose a great storm of wind, and the waves beat into the ship, so that it was now full.’

Here they are, being obedient, following Jesus and a storm came!

Friends, we’re not promised it’ll be easy following Jesus but we are promised that He’ll be with us.

But Jesus was asleep and they had to wake Him.

We see here that Jesus didn’t just step in and calm the storm, they had to go to Him!

In their fear they ask Him…

‘Master, carest thou not that we perish?’

After all the love He’d shown them they say don’t you care?!

But Jesus just calmly gets up…

‘and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, Peace, be still. And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.’

Then He gently rebukes them for their lack of faith.

‘Why are ye so fearful? how is it that ye have no faith?’

After all they’d seen Him do, after all His love they’d felt, after all they’d seen of His power and goodness, why were they fearful?

Because just like us Friends they were weak and sinful and sometimes they too looked at the waves rather than the One who controls them!

Where are your eyes fixed Friend, ‘why are ye so fearful? how is it that ye have no faith?’ Jesus is in the boat with you, the storm cannot harm you.

We don’t know the strength of the Anchor until we’ve tested it in a storm and it’s in the storms that we learn to ‘be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might.’

So Friend, follow where Jesus leads, fix your eyes upon Him, He’s with you even in the storm ‘for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.’

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Luke 8:22, Mark 4:37, 40, Eph 6:10, Heb 13:5.

God is sufficient…

As many of you know I have multiple chronic illnesses which leave me with very little energy and getting back into the swing of things after the Christmas break felt really daunting this year!

Photo by Abigail Lockey

But God is so good and faithful because when I opened my Bible randomly first thing this morning I saw this…

‘Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God;’ and it was so encouraging!

Friends, maybe like me you’ve started the week feeling very aware of how inadequate you are but as Paul said, no, we’re not sufficient in ourselves and we never will be BUT…’our sufficiency is of God’!!

The Corinthians example was not just a pen and paper letter of commendation but living, active proof of how God had worked in them through Paul’s ministry.

Photo by Abigail Lockey

My first thought when I read that context was ‘so is this verse just for ministers?’ but friends, whatever we do, if we do it for the glory of God, through Jesus Christ, is ministry!

Yes, even putting the laundry away (the job I always put off 🙈) getting a wriggling toddler dressed, picking up dirty clothes from floor – again, or doing the same mundane tasks at work, all seemingly unnoticed and unappreciated.

So Friend as you start the first week of a new year remember that it’s only in our weakness that we get to prove the power of Christ!

‘And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness…’

Photo by Abigail Lockey

Can we continue with Paul?…

‘Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.’

I’ll leave you with this beautiful promise…

‘Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I WILL strengthen thee; yea, I WILL help thee; yea, I WILL uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.’

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2 Cor 3:5, 12:9,10, Is 41:10

What If…

It’s so easy at the moment to get bogged down with the what ifs and the whys!

Many of us are wondering how restricted our holidays and celebrations will be this year and what we’re going to do about it, some may be wondering what the future holds, others think persecution isn’t far off, some that a new world order will be imposed on us. There are so many conspiracy theories and talk about the end of the world being near but Friends although being informed and knowing different view points isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it is when it takes our eyes off Jesus and our focus off our God who is in ultimate control!

Photo by Abi

‘There are many devices [plans]in a man’s heart; nevertheless the counsel [purpose] of the LORD, that shall stand.’

Friends, whatever the future may hold, hard as it may be, it won’t be able to drag us down if we keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, trusting that whatever God may allow He works together for the good of His children!!

‘And we KNOW that ALL things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to [his] purpose.’

‘Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the LORD thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest.’

Photo by Abi

When God promised Joshua this He said ‘only be thou strong and very courageous,’ to walk in God’s ways and to meditate on His word day and night so that God might prosper his way.

It’s the same for each of God’s children, if we live each day seeking to follow Jesus, walking in God’s will He WILL prosper our way.

BUT that won’t necessarily be earthly blessing, (although we are surrounded by them) but if we’re truly seeking God in everything He’ll give us the wisdom to walk in all His ways and spiritual prosperity because we’re trusting in His presence and promises!!

The world’s prosperity is stuff, ‘things that will fade in a moment away’ but the Believer’s prosperity is in walking Jesus and having a close walk with Him!

So Friend, keep seeking, keep leaning, keep abiding, keep feasting upon God’s word, keep communing with God in prayer, keep your eyes fixed on Jesus and God will be with you whatever the future may hold!

Photo courtesy of @erstephenson2020

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Prov 19:21, Rom 8:28, Josh 1:9.

Sacrifice…

‘If so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious…’

Have you Friend? Have you tasted a little of His love to you?

Have you come to Jesus in all your weakness and need and found in Him a Saviour?

‘To whom coming, as unto a living stone, disallowed indeed of men, but chosen of God, and precious…’

If so then…

‘Ye also, as lively [living] stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.’

Photo by Makayla

The old system of sacrificing animals was finished when Jesus died on the cross becoming to one perfect sacrifice for sin and yet here we see that there are these spiritual sacrifices to be offered but what are they?

‘I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.’

First of all, if we’ve been born again we’ve been bought with a price and we no longer belong to ourselves…

‘What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?

For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.’

Photo by Makayla

So we see that our lives are no longer ours for us to live to please ourselves but to glorify God and that will mean sacrifice, it may mean giving up things that we love if God shows us do not please Him.

It may not be something wrong in itself and may be very different for one person than another depending on what it is in our lives that pulls us away from God and distracts us from living our lives for Him and for His glory.

Maybe social media is a distraction to you or a love of shopping, maybe you have an unhealthy relationship with food, looking to that for comfort rather than turning to God?

Maybe you don’t think there is anything that pulls you away from God in your life, if so I’d just encourage you to ask God to open your eyes in case there is and you’re missing it.

Maybe this all sounds very depressing, why should we want to follow a God who makes us give up things we enjoy?

Because Friends when we sacrifice those distraction for Jesus sake we gain the joy of a closer walk with God which far exceeds any earthly pleasure!!

Photo by Makayla

So what other sacrifices do we see mentioned?

‘Oh that men would praise the LORD for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men!

And let them sacrifice the sacrifices of thanksgiving, and declare his works with rejoicing.’

Initially praise and thanksgiving don’t sound like sacrifices but what if God asks you to praise Him in those hard times, to praise Him as you watch someone you love fade away, to thank Him as you sit by the bed of someone you love that is dying?

It’s a sacrifice then Friends but it’s a sacrifice that as God helps you to offer it, will bring that peace that passes all understanding. I’ve been there and I’ve proved the peace and joy it brings.

Friend, is there something in your life you need to be pausing and thanking God for?

Paul in his letter to the Hebrews also tells us to…

‘offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name…’

But he adds this…

‘But to do good and to communicate forget not: for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.’

Here we see doing good and communicating or sharing what we have is added to praise and thanksgiving.

Photo by Makayla

Friends, everything we have is not truly ours, it’s all been given to us by God and we have so much compared to so many, are we willing to sacrifice and share with open hands and hearts?

Then there’s this…

‘And to love him [God] with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the soul, and with all the strength, and to love his neighbour as himself, is more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.’

Is love a sacrifice? Well firstly this Greek word ‘agapao’ translated here as love is a verb, this love isn’t a feeling it’s a doing!

Do all our actions show a whole hearted love, yes first to God but secondly to those around us, to everyone around us! To those that are unkind or who we would naturally avoid?

Are we willing to make this sacrifice of wholehearted love for everyone for the sake of Jesus who gave up everything for us?

Again friends, it’s the path of peace! Is there some way we can show a little of the love of Christ in us today to those around us that we wouldn’t naturally love?

Friends, do we love the One who sacrificed His life for us, enough to make sacrifices for Him?

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1 Peter 2:3-5, Rom 12:1, 1 Cor 6:19-20, Ps 107:21-22, Heb 13:15-16, Mark 12:33,

Life is a battleground!

Life is a battleground!

Friends, for the true Believers there will many battles to fight.

There will be the temptations of the enemy, the distractions of the world, the trials, the storms of life, hear hard things in our lives, hard things in our country, hard things in the world and in it all the enemy has one aim and desire…

to get our eyes fixed on anything but Jesus!

Friends, these battles are for our souls and they are fierce and hard.

There will be times when everything seems to be going wrong and the enemy feels to be gaining so much ground ‘For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.’

But what do these trials do for us?

Do they make us pray more, read our Bible more, trust more, make us more dependent upon God?

Then Friends, if these trials bring us to our knees they’ll serve only to fix our eyes on Jesus and make us a stronger soldier of the cross.

If these enemy attacks make us pick up the sword of the Spirit, God’s word, and fight, then praise God!

If they make us walk a little firmer in the gospel of peace then praise God!

If they make us polish up our breastplate of Christ righteousness rather than trusting in our own then praise God!

If they make us hold a little tighter to that shield of faith then praise God!

Then Friends, what the enemy intended for evil, God, just as he did with Joseph, will work it all together for our good and His glory!

‘Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might.’

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Eph 6:10-18.

Negative thinking…

It’s so easy to get into negative talking or thinking about others especially at the moment with so many different opinions flying around, I found myself spiralling into it yesterday but Friends this is all part of the battle!!

How quickly we forget that there’s constantly an unseen war being fought, battles far more fierce and way more important than any physical battle that’s ever been fought on this Earth: because Friends, this battle is for souls, it’s for your soul and mine!!

Paul tells us that ‘though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh:’

No battle compares to the battle over your soul!

Paul then goes on to tell us about our weapons…

(For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;)’

Friends if we’re true believers our weapons are mighty and not just mighty but mighty through God!!

And not just mighty through God but mighty to the pulling down of those strong holds, those fortresses of the enemy!!

In Christ we have everything we need to fight these battles and WIN!!

Because Jesus is, ‘unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God.’

What are those weapons then?

We have the sword of the spirit, God’s word and we have prayer!! And for our defence we have that heavenly armour (Eph 6:10-18)

And what are we to be doing with these? We’re to be ‘Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;’

Friends, let’s be those that take those arrows of temptation that the enemy fired at us, those judgemental thoughts, those irritations etc: take them captive hold them up to the light of truth in God’s word and fire them up to Him in prayer because that’s where they lose their power to harm us!

Friends, we’re not just accountable for our actions or words but for our thoughts too…

‘So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God.

Let us not therefore judge one another any more: but judge this rather, that no man put a stumblingblock or an occasion to fall in his brother’s way….

….Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another.’

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2 Cor 10:3–5, 1 Cor 1:24, Rom 14:12,13,19.

Although… yet I will rejoice!

‘Rejoice evermore!’

A simple commands, just two words but there are times in our lives when rejoicing feels impossible so why would God tell us to rejoice for evermore?

Because my Friend, although this is impossible in our own strength it is possible through Christ.

So does this mean we have to pretend to be happy when things are hard or to try rejoice when we lose someone we love? No!!

This rejoicing is a rejoicing that can happen alongside grief, it’s a joy that we can feel even as tears run like rivers down our cheeks!

Paul phrased it slightly differently here…

‘Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice.’

Friends, our joy isn’t dependent on our circumstances, it’s in God. Circumstances change, but God never changes!!

Rejoice in that God knows, that God sees, that God hears, that God understands, that God has all your hard in His capable loving hands.

Some of you already know this but the Lord taught me this beautiful lesson through a little blackbird during one of the hardest years of my life.

I got up early one morning, while it was still dark, feeling exhausted both mentally and physically and with a very heavy heart due to circumstances but out in the garden a little blackbird sang beautifully!

Friends, that little bird sang because he knew morning was coming!

Then a few weeks later, still in the middle of this hard time, one evening as it was geting dark and raining hard and that little bird sang again!

Time after time through those long hard weeks I would hear or see a blackbird just when I most needed that reminder to rejoice.

Friends, that blackbird sang when it was dark, it sang in the rain and God taught me a beautiful lesson, He showed me that the joy of the Lord is indeed my strength, He showed me that even when you fear losing someone you love dearly there is joy to be found in Him. He showed me that praise brings perspective and joy brings peace!!

There is always joy to be found in the Lord, seek it until you find it!!!

Praise Him in the hard for He is worthy!

‘Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labour of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls:

Yet I WILL rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation.

The LORD God is my strength, and he will make my feet like hinds’ feet, and he will make me to walk upon mine high places.’

‘This is the day which the LORD hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.’

1 Thess 5:16, Phil 4:4, Ps 118:24, Hab 3:17-19.

Fear not…

When I woke up this morning these well known words came into my mind…

‘Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.’

Here believers are told not to fear and why, what precious promises to hold onto when those doubts and fears come!!

Friends, fear fights against God’s love!

Fear opposes faith!!

Fear tells us that God’s love, mercy and power are not big enough!!!

We’re to fight fear with all our might, fighting it with faith and truth, picking up ‘the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God: Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints;’

This instruction to ‘fear not’ is followed by five reasons we shouldn’t fear.

1: Because God IS with us…

“lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.”

2: Because He is OUR God…

“For this God is our God for ever and EVER: he will be our guide even unto death.”

3: Because He WILL strengthen us…

“Hast thou not known? hast thou not heard, That the everlasting God, the Lord, The Creator of the ends of the earth,Fainteth not, neither is weary?

There is no searching of his understanding. He giveth power to the faint; And to them that have no might he increaseth strength.

Even the youths shall faint and be weary, And the young men shall utterly fall:

But they that wait upon the Lord SHALL renew their strength; They SHALL mount up with wings as eagles;

They SHALL run, and not be weary; And they SHALL walk, and not faint.”

4: Because He WILL help us…

“God is our refuge and strength, a VERY present help in trouble.”

“My grace IS sufficient for thee: for my strength IS made perfect in weakness.”

5: And because He WILL uphold us with the right hand of His righteousness.’

“The LORD upholdeth ALL that fall, and raiseth up ALL those that be bowed down.”

Believer, THIS 👆🏻 is who our God if and these are His promise to you!!

Fear not, “the LORD, he it is that doth go before thee; he WILL be with thee, he will NOT fail thee, neither forsake thee: fear not, neither be dismayed.

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Is 41:10, Eph 6:17,18, Matt 28:20, Ps 48:14, Is 40:29-31, Ps 46:1, 2 Cor 12:9, Ps 145:14, Deut 31:8.