Choosing joy in the midst of adversity

“Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5: 16-18

There are times in every person’s life when being joyful, praying and being thankful for our circumstances may not come naturally. Times when the hurt is heavy, the sickness crippling, the family falling apart or the finances in the red. These are spiritual sink or swim moments. Often the easier choice to make is to sink, falling away from the truths the bible teaches, trying to make sense of the situation in the natural, drowning in a sea of grief feeling and feeling isolated, vulnerable and alone. However, it doesn’t have to be this way.

Life for us has actually been pretty difficult in a few different ways lately. We’re a young (ish!) couple, trying to lead a church in the direction God wants it to go, doing what we can to reach the community we serve as well as balancing that with supporting our existing congregation pastorally, bringing up a fiesty toddler, being squeezed financially and attempting to grow our family.

It’s the ‘attempting to grow our family’ part which is the catalyst for writing this post today. Earlier in the week Ste and I went for an 8 week pregnancy scan after getting a positive result on our final round of IVF a few weeks ago. We were expecting to see one or two perfect little heartbeats but this wasn’t to be. Both embryos had implanted but our twins hadn’t developed properly and we were told to prepare for miscarriage. At that moment our hearts shattered. All the hopes and dreams of giving Phoebe a sibling, all the prayers we, and so many others, had invested in these two little lives, all the faith we had had that God would breathe life into these babies gone, in an instant. We haven’t felt heartbreak like it before, and we certainly hadn’t anticipated that the grief we feel would be so intense.

There were lots of tears that day, some as a result of overwhelming sadness, some borne out of sheer frustration, and some being of downright anger with God for allowing this to happen after all the years of infertility we’d gone through to get to that point, and on top of everything else we have to deal with at the moment.

I woke up the next day knowing I had a choice to make. I could sink, allowing the grief to over take me, wallowing in my own self pitty and risking becoming bitter about the whole situation, or I could swim. There was no contest.

We know God loves us. We know His will for our lives is better than our own. We know that being a Christian does not mean a life free from heartache and difficulties, but we also know we are not going through this alone. God will not give us more than we can handle, and he will give us what we need to get through this and come out stronger. We fixed our eyes on Jesus once more, and began thanking him for all the wonderful people and things he has blessed us with. Slowly our joy is being restored.

I began to remind myself that good can still come out of this horrendously sad situation. This could be the springboard we needed to launch us into a deeper relationship with our Saviour. How can that be anything but good?! We pray that God is glorified through this, that others will know that they don’t have to go through their heartbreak alone. You too can have the incredible and immeasurable peace of God. If one life is transformed by God as a result of this situation then our temporal earthly loss has been worth it. Be blessed friends, and know that whatever your circumstance you can choose joy, you can choose to be thankful, you can pray, and God will sustain you, carry you and bring you out of this stronger than you went in.

Tough questions: Is our eternal destiny already decided?

Sometimes there are aspects of the Christian faith which we struggle to comprehend or accept. The temptation is to skim over them and assume that they can’t really be teaching what they appear to be plainly stating.

However, 2 Timothy 3:16 tells us that all scripture is God-breathed and useful for our teaching, reproof, correcting and training, so we cannot ignore sections of the Bible simply because they challenge our perceptions.

In the latest sermon series at Full Life Church we confront some aspects of scripture which can be difficult to understand and yet are, in many ways, fundamental to our faith. We will encounter some tough questions but we will also strive to find true, biblically based answers. This week we look at whether our eternal destiny is already decided.  Click here to listen.

Tough questions… What is faith?

Sometimes scripture can take us off guard. A passage can surprise us or even shock us and challenge our perceptions of what the Bible teaches.

Sometimes there are aspects of the Christian faith which we struggle to comprehend or accept. The temptation is to skim over them and assume that they can’t really be teaching what they appear to be plainly stating.

However, 2 Timothy 3:16 tells us that all scripture is God-breathed and useful for our teaching, reproof, correcting and training, so we cannot ignore sections of the Bible simply because they challenge our perceptions.

In the latest sermon series at Full Life Church we confront some aspects of scripture which can be difficult to understand and yet are, in many ways, fundamental to our faith. We will encounter some tough questions but we will also strive to find true, biblically based answers. This week we ask what faith is. Click here to have a listen.

Your favourite posts of 2013.

I posted my first blog article in February 2013, and have had just under 7500 hits to date.  I just wanted to say a big thank you to all my readers, for the kind comments, encouraging words and inspiration you give me; and I thought I’d take a moment to look back at some of the more popular posts from 2013. Click the links below and Enjoy! 

Cinnamon and Frankincense Winter Balm

Judged for being a Stay at Home Mum

Being the Bible

Cinnamon Swirl Scones

Pearly Gates

Wow Factor Chocolate Slab

Happy New Year to you all!

Hoping for good things in 2014.

Well, the dregs of the turkey are safely tucked away in the deep freeze, the central heating has taken its toll on the tree, and the last cracker has been pulled. This can only mean one thing… Christmas has passed and a new year is dawning.

I always find myself feeling rather sentimental in the week between Christmas and New Year. It’s a proverbial nomads land; reflecting on times gone by whilst eagerly anticipating what the upcoming new season may bring.

Generally around this time of year I’m even more thankful to God for His unwavering provision and opportunity in all areas of our life, yet hungry for more of Him, and more opportunities to serve and grow our ministry, being Kingdom builders rather than pew sitters.

One of my Christmas gifts from Ste is a new study bible. My old one was getting a bit battered and I was really touched that he’d thought to buy me a new one without me having to drop any ‘subtle’ hints (ladies, I’m sure you can relate…). Anyway, I was thinking about the word ‘hope’, and how it gets banded around a lot at this time of year. It made me think about how the meaning of the word seems to have changed over the years. Nowadays it’s a word we tend to use out of desperation, when we don’t know what else to say, when we’re trying to give an empathic word of encouragement to a friend, or sadly, even when we think the desired outcome is unlikely. In biblical times however this was not the case. Hope packed a punch. To hope was to be certain of, to be convinced, to have an  unwaveringly confident expectation.

Isaiah 40:31 was the ‘Verse of the Day’ on my bible app today. “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”. This is my prayer for you this year. That you will have a confident expectation and unwavering believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, who came to earth for one reason; to give you, and me, and all our other brothers and sisters here on earth a way to our heavenly father, through a divine relationship with him. By grace we have been saved.

I’m hoping for a fantastic 2014, are you?

Itches that need scratching

“In the end, we only regret the chances we didn’t take”

I don’t know who said that (I literally just saw it on Pinterest), but I love the truth it speaks. Sadly too many people approach their twilight years wishing they’d done more to make their dreams and ambitions a reality. I’ve seen it time and time again, friends, and even family members, wishing they’d persued ventures and not been hindered by their own insecurities or other people’s negativity. I really don’t want to end up in that boat.

I have itches that need scratching. I have dreams and goals that I’m literally chomping at the bit to launch. It’s frustrating! 

Thankfully, I was brought up in an environment that embraced and encouraged risk taking and boundary pushing. I’m quietly confident in my own abilities (not because I’m pompous or proud, but because I know my standing and inheritance as a child of the Lord, and trust his provision whole heartedly), and I’m not easily swayed by others negativity (if anything it drives me). I’m acutely aware that no one else is going to make my dreams happen for me, and although it’s not quite the right time yet, I should prayerfully be getting things in place, so that when the time is right I’m ready to go.

It’s important to remember that God gives us dreams and ambitions. It is not selfish to have goals, more often than not those goals will be intertwined with the gifts and abilities God has blessed you with. On the contrary, it could be argued that if we don’t pursue our dreams we’re not honouring God by using the abilities and gifts he has given to us. I’m not one of those Christians who will sit and wait for God to put things into my lap. I don’t believe it works like that. If you want to walk on water you have to get out of the boat. The onus is on us to step out in faith believing that God will either open or shut each door we push.

I guess I’d just like to encourage you to prayerfully scratch that itch!

Living Generously.

gen·er·os·i·ty

noun \ˌje-nə-ˈrä-sə-tē, -ˈräs-tē\

: the quality of being kind, understanding, and not selfish : the quality of being generous; especially : willingness to give money and other valuable things to others.

If there’s one thing in this world which gets my goat more than almost anything else it’s miserly, bitter, selfishness. Attitudes that demonstrate narrow mindedness, lack of consideration for the rest of humankind, an ignorance that clouds our ability to see what someone else may need at that point in time, and more so a lack of faith, be that in other people or of course in God.

Unfortunately the society in which we live isn’t particularly conducive to generous living. We’re bombarded with information about how we can get x, y and z by doing a, b and c, and how by having x, y, and z we’re suddenly transformed into more valid and successful individuals, but where does this cycle actually end, when are we actually fulfilled by this material stuff, and the sense of accomplishment it promises to bring? I’ll tell you…never. 

In my experience, the happiest, most fulfilled people are not those that have the most, rather those that give the most, and give the best of whatever it is they’re giving. I’m not primarily talking about money here. When was the last time you dropped a meal off for a sick friend, called in on an elderly neighbour for a brew and a chat, offered to help a friend decorate, do the garden, pick their child up from school so they could indulge in some ‘me time’, bought a homeless person a hot meal or whatever else it may be? Generous living is about recognising a need without being asked and acting on that need to make someone else’s life a little easier, without expecting anything in return . It’s giving of ourselves for the greater good of someone else. It’s showing unconditional love for those around you, something that sadly largely opposes societies expectations in this day and age.

As you’ve probably realised by now this is a biblical principle. Matthew 6:19 instructs us not to store up treasures on earth. As my parents (and incidentally the most generous, in all senses of the word, people I know) often tell me, “you can’t take it with you”. In verse 21 it goes on to say, “wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be”. It’s simple really, to discover what your ‘treasure’ is you just need to examine what you want. Unfortunately, many of us want material and monetary things which we ‘can’t take with us’, when really our hearts desires should be to live generously, giving of ourselves and demonstrating the same love and consideration to those around us, that Jesus showed us.

I don’t know about you, but I’m working on storing my treasures in heaven.

Beauty in all things.

20130608-083900 AM.jpg

As I was sitting outside this morning enjoying a steaming coffee in the balmy English summer sun, Phoebe ran over cradling something in her hands. Her face lit up as she presented her precious finds and exclaimed, “Mummy, I bought you fower!”, delicately placing a few carefully selected pretty little purple flowers in my hand. What struck me was that out of all the flowers in the garden she had chosen the weeds to pick. Had I been weeding I probably wouldn’t have looked twice at the flowers and sent them to an early grave inside the brown bin. This got me thinking; there is beauty in everything, we just have to open our eyes and look for it. In this shallow society we so often take things and people at face value without stopping to look properly, find and appreciate their best qualities. We often forget that we are all miracles, created by God in His image. There’s nothing more beautiful than that. Be blessed. Go about your business today with fresh eyes, appreciative eyes and eyes that endeavour to find the beauty in each person, situation or weed.

A smooth sea never made a skillful sailor.

Image.

This morning, knowing that I’ve got a hospital appointment that I’m dreading tomorrow, my cousin Ed sent me this quote with the verse Romans 5:3-6, “We can rejoice too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment.  For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love. When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners”.

I needed reminding of that today and wondered if you did too?

The faith is in the asking.

You’re in a restaurant and ask the waitress for a glass of water. You pull up into a garage and ask the mechanic to change a tyre. You go into a shop and ask the assistant if they have that beautiful top in the window in your size. You look pleadingly at your toddler and ask her to help tidy the ridiculous amount of toys she has pulled out of the toy box and left strewn around the house. In every question we ask, regardless of who we’re asking and what the question is, there is always an element of faith required. If we didn’t have the slightest bit of faith that we would get a response to our question we wouldn’t bother asking. I have been thinking about this a lot lately in relation to a specific scripture; James 5:14-15.

Over the last couple of months our fellowship has been sick. Really sick. I can’t think of one family who haven’t been ill, and I’m not just talking about a little sniffle here and there. I’m talking about prolonged and recurring sickness, slipped discs and heart issues to name but a few. Painful and ongoing trials that are wearing people out physically and emotionally. There have been too many instances of sickness for this to be coincidence. This is something far greater and far more exciting. This is a spiritual attack. Exciting? Yes, exciting. As a fellowship we sense we are in the midst of a new season of growth and blessing, from welcoming new members into our congregation to the real possibility of finally having a building we can minister from on a 24/7 basis rather than just a Sunday morning. Full Life Church are a threat to the powers and principalities in the spiritual realm and the battle is rife. Boy, are we feeling it at the moment, but it means we are heading in the right direction and God is working through us for the development and growth of His kingdom here on earth. As a congregation we are very aware that this is more than just physical and that although the victory is already ours, we must keep our eyes fixed on the Lord.

As we continue to pray earnestly, believing that healing is already ours through the crucifixion of Jesus on the cross, I started to think about anointing the sick with oil and what the bible says about it in James 5:14-15. James writes,

“Are any of you sick? You should call for the elders of the church to come and pray over you, anointing you with oil in the name of the Lord. Such a prayer offered in faith will heal the sick, and the Lord will make you well. And if you have committed any sins, you will be forgiven.”

In biblical times oil was commonly used as a healing agent (Luke 10:34). However today, the oil itself is merely a symbolic reminder of God’s healing power. In the application of the oil and accompanying prayer, we make an outward confession that we are believing and trusting in God for healing.

I felt that we, as the pastors of the church, should go and offer to anoint our suffering church family members. After all it is biblical and as the leaders it is our responsibility to do all we can to evoke healing and restoration to the suffering in our congregation right? WRONG! Re-read the passage. It says, “You should call for the elders”.

The FAITH is in the ASKING!

The faith is in YOU asking.

By YOU contacting your church elders and asking them to come and anoint you with oil YOU are demonstrating to God that YOU believe that He can, will and already has, healed you. By His stripes you ARE healed.

Wherever you are reading this in the world and whichever fellowship you are a part of the message is still the same. Have faith, believe it, receive it, and call your elders!