The day my husband gave another girl a Valentines…

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I have mixed feelings about Valentine’s Day.  On the one hand we certainly don’t need a designated day to tell our nearest and dearest we love them, but at the same time it reminds us to pause, take stock and be thankful for all the love in our lives in whatever way, shape or form it may take.

Pb and I came downstairs this morning to this little array of treats, lovingly laid out for us:

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Two cards, two bunches of roses and two lovely little boxes containing two very pretty little necklaces. I was moved.  Not only had DH very thoughtfully bought me gifts he knew I’d love, he also bought our three year old presents as well.  This was much more than just material gifts though.  We want our daughter growing up knowing what it feels like to be cherished by a man.  We want her to see how she deserves to be treated by her spouse. We want her to learn that although marriage isn’t always a bed of roses, with the right person, kind hearts, a bucket load of forgiveness and an unwavering commitment, it can be a beautiful thing.  We don’t want her to settle for anything less. As her parents it’s our responsibility to demonstrate this for her. Her expectations of men will be created largely by how she sees her daddy treat me, and of course by how her daddy treats her. That is a big responsibility on DH’s shoulders.

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Today is tinged with sadness for us too, as it’s the day our twins would have been due to make their entrance into this world, but as I watched my husband lovingly fasten the necklace up for our daughter, I reminded myself that we are blessed. We are loved. We are cherished. We have each other. We have God.  Happy Valentine’s Day.

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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.

How do we know if we are really saved?

Sometimes scripture can take us off guard. A passage can surprise us, even shock us and
challenge our perceptions of what the Bible teaches. Matthew 7:21-23 is one of those passages, and the temptation is to skim over it and assume that it can’t really be teaching what it appears 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 this sermon Ste (my husband) confronts this difficult passage
and the question that inevitably stems from it…How do we know if we are really saved?

Click here to be challenged and encouraged by the amazing truths the Bible gives us.

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!

Which army are you fighting for?

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It will come as no surprise to you that we don’t celebrate Halloween at home or in our church. Whatever its historical roots, these days there is no denying that it has evolved into a celebration of all things dark and evil, and I for one do not buy into the “oh, it’s just harmless fun” mentality.

The Word clearly states in Ephesians 6:12 that, “we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen (spiritual) world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.”

Whether intentional or not, when we buy into the Halloween ‘celebrations’ we’re buying into something much greater, far more powerful and darker than just costumes, scary faced pumpkins and trick or treating.  However melodramatic it sounds, there’s no getting away from the biblical truth that there is a constant battle in the spiritual realm between good and evil, between God and the devil, and by buying into Halloween you’re stating, inadvertently or not, which army you’re fighting for.  That should make you think. You can’t be on both teams, you can’t pledge your allegiance to both rulers, you can’t fight for both sides.

There is enough darkness in this world already. As Christians we’re called to be salt and light, to add the God flavour in this otherwise tasteless world, and to shine light, goodness and the love of Jesus in dark places. Which army will you be fighting for this Halloween?

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.