O’God, You Are My God

Anything in our lives can become our God. An object, a person, a pastime, a campaign, even a ministry, all have the potential to consume the affections of our hearts.
The Bible says…”Hope deferred makes the heart sick”. When the affections of our hearts are captured by anything other than God, our hope is in that thing and in that, our hope is deferred and our hearts get sick.
This is very different from enjoyment. ‘All good things come from God’ and ‘Our Heavenly Father knows how to give his children good gifts’. All that I am given, I am given to enjoy…and enjoy I shall. But, I must remain on guard about what consumes the affections of my heart and what I place my hope in!
Today, I ask the Lord as the psalmist did…

“God, search me and know my heart. Try me and know my thoughts, and show me if there be any grievous way in me.”
And then, I rely on HIM, to…

“Lead me in the way everlasting”
We are told that “we cannot serve two masters” because naturally, “we will hate the one and love the other.” This tells us something important – of course on earth, I can work for two masters quite happily, but here God is not talking about the practical, He is talking about the HEART, and God’s call, His first commandment to us, is to love Him, our Lord God, “with all our heart, soul, mind and strength”. Whilst we can ‘love’ and enjoy in an earthly sense, the things of this earth, when it comes to our hearts, we are called to love with all consuming affection, one thing and one thing only…
Him!
May we be able to say today, and may it be wondrously true, of all of us who know Him, that…
“O’God…you ARE my God!”
X x x

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How’s Your Wise-o-meter?

After talking to a friend and advising them to be wise and avoid a certain situation, instead of placing themselves in unnecessary harms way, it got me to thinking about the words from Matthew 10…

“Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.”

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Being wise is very different from paranoia. The latter is fear based and irrational, the former is faith induced, based upon a knowledge of the reality of who we are, where we currently reside and who our enemy is.

The minute we were adopted and redeemed by Christ, we became aliens to this world (John 17:16) and in that, everything changes for us. I sometimes refer to the Kingdom of God as being upside down and back to front – We are called to forgive when hurt; bless when hated and give out of lack, not abundance. What we once regarded as innocent, may not be now?! What we once thought was acceptable, may not be now?! And, what we once considered wise, definitely may not be now?!!

So, we are called to be…”wise as serpents”. Why serpents? Here’s what I found…

“The prudence of the serpent is specially apparent in the quickness of its perception of danger and the rapidity with which it escapes from it”

“The serpent is a very sharp sighted, cunning creature, and uses various arts and stratagems for its own preservation, and especially of its head; and is so far, to be imitated by the followers of Christ….to not expose themselves to UNNECESSARY dangers: and to avoid all snares and TRAPS that are laid for them.”

God was instructing the disciples….

“…to avoid all things which gave advantage to their enemies”

“…to conduct themselves with common sense in avoiding UNNECESSARY danger!”

My question to you and myself tonight is…
How’s our wise-o-meter? How rapidly do we sense danger and unnecessary traps? As a disciple, do we consciously avoid situations that could give advantage to our Enemy?

Good news is, if God calls us to be something, then He supplies us with the means to live it. His word says in James…

“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to ALL without reproach, and it will be given to him.”

May we be encouraged to take advantage of this wonderful promise and constantly ask for more!

God bless x x

Accompanying Jesus

“Soon afterward, Jesus went on through towns and villages, preaching and bringing the good news (the Gospel) of the Kingdom of God.  And the twelve apostles were with Him.  And also some women who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases: Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had been expelled; And Joanna, the wife of Chuza, Herod’s household manager; and Susanna; and many others, who ministered to and provided for Him and them out of their property and personal belongings”.  Luke 7:1-3

I encourage you to meditate on these few questions for a moment using the women written about here as an example…

– Do I minister to Him?  What a question that is!!  Do I start my day ministering to my King, enquiring of HIS needs for this day?  Or, do I only enquire Him of my own?!
– Do I come before Him and ask “What do YOU need of me this day Lord; How can I assist YOU?”
– When did I last put my own comfort before His needs?  When did I cross the road to avoid a person, not open the front door, not answer the phone, stay in bed, not help someone, not provide for someone etc etc…?

– Are my property and belongings open to being used?

– Am I providing for Jesus with the sacrificial surrender of my life/my body, to be used as and when HE chooses?

– Do I consider that it is Jesus himself who shares the Gospel through me?  I don’t have to strive to deliver a ‘good speech’ to someone, I only have to deliver myself up to be used by Him, resting in the knowledge that it is Him that binds up the broken hearted and opens the prisons of all those who are bound.

What are His needs?  Well, St Theresa of Avila says this…
“Christ has no body now on earth but ours, no hands but ours, no feet but ours. Ours are the feet with which He is to go about doing good”

Within the truth of God’s self-sufficiency, we, as His children and representatives, have been chosen to carry and manifest His presence to the people of this world.  The ministry of Jesus, when He was walking this earth, is the very same thing He is doing now.  In the time when the verses above were lived out, the women accompanying Him ministered to Him and the apostles in a very practical way – food, money, shelter, washing etc.  We could wrongly believe that Jesus doesn’t have practical needs today.  He does.  He needs us to be available….to give of ourselves, our lives and our hearts, to such a degree that our first thought in the morning will be “How can I minister to YOU today Lord?  How can I accompany YOU today as You seek to touch the lives of those You love?”

This has really challenged me, encouraged me and stirred me up and I have once again been brought back to the simple truth….
My life is not about my own needs.  And neither is it about everyone else’s.  My life is about HIS needs first and foremost!  In accompanying Jesus and ministering to Him, myself and everyone else’s needs are taken care of.  Yes, God’s Word says that I should ask, that I should make my specific requests known and of course I need to look to God as my provider and love my neighbour and take care of the poor, the lost and the oppressed..but…if I were to really listen to what I pray about, even in my prayers for ministering to others, would they be more about me and my needs, than His???

God Bless x

‘Applying The Word’ – Romans 12:1&2

In our community group we are launching into a new season where God is leading us into making His two commandments, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, your mind and all your strength” and “Love your neighbour as yourself“, a greater reality in our lives and not just words that we speak.  These scriptures are the foundation of our group.  The fuel that He has given us, to propel us towards lives actually living out these commands, is Romans 12:1&2.

Every fire needs three things: Fuel, Heat and Oxygen.

In our case, Romans 12 is our fuel, the Holy Spirit is our heat and Love is our oxygen. Without these three components, this fire that we desire, will not burn.  Without these, we won’t even set off a spark!  To love God needs God.  To love my neighbour as myself needs God.  It cannot be done in our own strength.  All we can do is make the choice…to present ourselves.

Firstly, Paul says “therefore“.  I love the “therefores” of the Bible. Whenever I see a therefore it gives me a clear instruction to read what has come before.  In this case Paul adds to this “in view of God’s mercies”. (Amplified: all God’s mercies!”).  For us to even have a chance at wanting to make the decisions that are necessary in the following verses, we have to first stop and meditate on God’s mercies in our individual lives.
How we have received the mercies of God seems to be a controversial subject within Christianity, predestination or not predestination and all that. (I’ll leave that for another day!!).  As I told the group though, we are not going to get distracted by endlessly debating that topic, what we can all say as believers in Christ, is that we have all received of His mercy.  We have all received His grace over our lives and have been made righteous by the blood of Christ and Christ alone.  So, therefore, in view of all the mercies of God…….

Present yourselves as a living sacrifice‘.  This is not a command, but is rather a call.  It is Paul urging us, in view of all God’s mercies, to take it this far, to make this kind of sacrifice.  The Amplified Bible says, ‘make a decisive dedication‘.  This is a move from obedience because ‘God said so‘ into voluntary obedience, a voluntary sacrifice. This is a totally different thing. It is a decision God is placing in our hands.  Are we willing, as the message Bible says, to take our everyday life and place it before God as an offering? We often quote to each other that God wants voluntary lovers and not robots, well, this call through Paul, is that quote coming to life!

As a group, the first thing we have been challenged to do, is simply to think on just that.  To look at ‘Are we willing?’  As we journey through the fuel of our fire, empowered by the Spirit and motivated by love, we will be challenged in our thinking, our ways, our speech, our motives, our everything, our lives.  Are we really willing for that to happen?  Are we willing to move towards, in ever increasing amounts, whatever that may look like to each individual?  To move from singing about surrender to actually being truly surrendered?  May God lead us to that place, is my cry as group leader.  There is nothing I can do but to pray for us all, depending on God to work and will in us for His good pleasure.

There is just a little something else to add here about voluntary sacrifice.  There is a purpose to it.  Errrrr…of course, I hear you cry!  But for those who may not be as knowledgeable (yet!) as you Bible scholars out there, turn to 2 Tim 2:20 & 21 with me.  It says here that there are vessels for honorable use and vessels for dishonorable use, as in, there are some plates and utensils in your kitchen that you keep for special occasions and some you use everyday.  Well, it’s the same principle in God’s kingdom regarding us.  God says here though, that ‘if anyone cleanses himself‘, he will be useful to the Master, set apart for every good work.  In choosing to lay our lives before God, we are choosing to cleanse ourselves, via the Romans fueled fire, and in doing it, it shall lead us to be set apart, useful to God and ready for Him to work through us in a world that so desperately needs His love.

This is your spiritual worship“.  Our worship to God is not just a song session on a Sunday morning or at the beginning of a group meeting to get us ‘in the mood!’ Our worshiping God is something that involves lifting Him up, exalting His name, in every single thing that we do, with every breath that we take, with all that we are.  It was never meant to be a compartmentalized thing.  The Bible never promotes that concept.  It says in the Word, “Let everything that has breath praise the Lord” and “In everything you do, do it as unto the Lord”.  Song worship is great, necessary, an absolute joy and is utterly commanded of and encouraged by God.  Sing, sing, sing to your hearts content, all day long…I do!  Just don’t let in the lie that ‘you’ve done your quota for the day‘.  Your quota is your life!
Also…take a look at John 4:24, it says that those who worship God (that’s me and you), must worship Him in spirit and in truth. I’ll get to the truth part in a moment, but for now, see that Paul is saying here, this becoming spiritual sacrifices, is our spiritual worship.  In living out the call to present ourselves as living sacrifices, we are fulfilling the spiritual aspect of our worship to God.

We then move into what seems to me, the more practical section of these verses. The amplified version of John 4 describes truth as ‘reality‘.  I have heard many times over my few Christian years that people will ‘get it‘ or ‘live it out’ once they have had the revelation.  A common spiritually sounding statement is (said with appropriate wistful look and glazy eyes) ‘they just need to get a revelation of God’s love and then they’ll be transformed‘.
Whilst it is true indeed that revelation leads to transformation and God desires that we would know the height, the length and the depth of His love etc, we cannot separate the spiritual from the reality.
Our knowledge of God is an experiential one.  Revelation doesn’t just come via His voice in our head or our heart, revelation of Him comes through experiencing Him as He unfolds His truth in our daily lives.
One of the main things God showed me in my time seeking His heart on this scripture is that, the revelation and the practical go absolutely hand in hand!  I had been asking God, as you do with the human way of thinking, whether there was a ‘structure’ to living out these verses.  If we chose to sacrifice, would that lead us to conform less?  Did we first have to seek hard after the revelation before we would even be in the place to not want to conform?  Is it a domino effect?
The answer was a clear no!  There is no set system with our transformation in God.  Revelation leads to a practical outworking; practical outworking (even when taken logically, obediently and in blind faith), leads to revelation.  The spirit and the reality are intricately entwined in a Holy Spirit tapestry that only He has the pattern for, and each area cannot be isolated or neglected.
As Christ is revealed to us, the desire to lay down more, increases; the desire to conform less, increases; the hunger to be transformed, increases.  And, so it is in reverse…  As we make choices to line up with love and not the world, we get increased wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of God.

Now, before we look at ‘conforming’ and ‘transforming’, we must lay a firm, firm foundation of what this is all about.

It is about LOVE!

We are not setting out on a journey to better ourselves…we can’t…only Christ betters us!  We are not going to be laying our lives before God so we can wrongly thing it will earn us more righteousness…it won’t…only Christ can clothe us in righteousness!  We are not going to be challenging ourselves to take a truthful look at our motives, behaviours and characters because we believe it will earn us a place with the Father.  It can’t…It’s impossible!  Grace is a free gift we can never earn.  For all those that have received of the sacrifice of Jesus, our place is secure by His work alone.  I will never be advocating or encouraging anyone, in trying to add to the finished work of the Cross by their own supposed ‘good’ works.

We are called to conform less, in response for what God has already done for us!…Period! It is a ‘reality’ response to our love for Him.  When we are saved, we are then led by the Spirit in us, to practically outwork that love by a desire to come in line with…love!  That is what not conforming to the world, but being transformed by the renewal of our mind is all about.  Love longing for love, and more of it, in increasing measure.  It is you being hidden in Christ and Him growing in you.  Christ’s character is love and it will always lead you towards love…for love!

It is imperative that we go into ‘conforming’ and ‘transforming’ knowing that the purpose of it is so that we can simply come out of line with what is not love and move towards that which is love!
Love brings life.  Absence of love (evil), brings only death!  We need to be hungering after love, for His sake, our sake and the sake of overflowing that on to every single person and environment we encounter.

Do not be conformed to this world‘.  Conformed means to be in accordance/agreement/harmony with..a standard, practice or attitude.  Therefore, simply, we are being instructed by Paul to not live lives that are in agreement or in harmony with this world – it’s standards, practices or attitudes.  As a group we will be looking into what those are and challenging ourselves to not be conformed with them.  And as the weeks progress, I will endeavor to share that with you here.

But be transformed by the renewal of your mind“.   A few verses down in Romans 12, the heading reads ‘Marks of a true Christian‘.  There are many many instructions, commands and examples within the Word of God for our protection and our training into godliness.  These instructions/commands…to flee sin; to abstain from the passions of the flesh etc are there precisely for the purpose of aiding the renewal of our minds.  They must not be overlooked because of our own arrogance, ignorance or apathy, or, because we fear condemnation in seeing that we so often fall short of them.

Complacency kills passion!  You want passion and fire for God?  Then pursue righteousness!  You want to know God’s love?  Then choose to become in accordance and acquainted with love and, you will soon know love!

The instructions/commands must be viewed through the perspective that it is a love choice, there is no condemnation and that we shall be depending on the Holy Spirit to empower us to live them out.

And finally… “So that…“.  Just as there is a purpose to voluntary sacrifice, there is an overall purpose to taking hold of, and living out, these two power packed verses in Romans.  I love how the Amplified puts it… “so that you may prove [for yourselves] what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God, even the thing which is good and acceptable and perfect [in His sight for you]“.

First thing which I love love LOVE about this and I feel greatly excited about for the group, is that, God has promised them (you, me, everyone), that they will be able to prove…for themselves…what is the will of God!!!  As someone with a total heart to make disciples of nations, it just doesn’t get any better than that!!!  Seriously, it is the joy of my heart that a person would come to know the will of God for themselves.  We cannot live off someone else’s faith!  Yes, there is a modelling that does, and indeed needs to take place, Paul said imitate me, as I imitate Christ, but please dear God, I desire that a person have their own walk with their very own God.

Next thing is, the whole purpose of God leading us on this journey…so that…we may know the will of God.  Knowing the will of God is not using God as some kind of fortune telling machine to merely let you know what is going to happen in your future all the time. Of course we operate in the prophetic and of course some prophecy is about the future will of God but I would hate that we would limit ‘knowing the will of God’ to that.  Prophecy is about speaking the word of God NOW!  I want to know the will of God in my everyday, present life!
And I believe that is what this is about.   To know His heart, His character, His ways in all that I do, in all that I say and in all I even believe about Him and His love for me and my neighbour…that is knowing the will of God, which is good and acceptable and perfect.

So…how this all happens and plays out in the weeks and months ahead is up to the Holy Spirit!  As leader of this group, I’m on a need to know basis, week by week.  That’s nerve racking most of the time but deep down I’m very glad of it.  I would hate to think I had all the answers.  I’d hate to put God in a box and say we’re gonna do this, this and this.  “Many are the plans of a man’s mind, but it is the Lord’s purposes that prevail“.  I can think I know what we’re doing and then He leads me anew.  It is totally Him orchestrating it all.  It is my job to listen real closely and follow where He leads.

I look forward to sharing more ‘Applying The Word‘ posts with you, as the journey towards us loving the Lord our God, with all our hearts, all our minds and all our strength, and loving our neighbours as ourselves, becomes a greater reality in our lives.

God Bless
Sharon x

Inside/Outside

When the towns unloved first started to knock at the house, despite never shutting up about God everywhere else, I never seemed to talk about God with them and felt a failure. But God said to me… “NO!  They’ve been loved with an agenda all their lives, I want you to love them without an agenda.  Just love them and leave the rest to me!”  So those simple cups of coffee, a hot meal and lengthy chats have always been given freely and unconditionally.

God also told me, at that time, that loving the lost was not a one way thing… “you need them as much as they need you, in fact…you need them more!!”  As Christians, in our immaturity or arrogance, we often think, the lost only need us, when the truth is, we need the lost.  The reality is, that with no opportunity to love, I would not grow in love!

The other evening, as I pondered love, trust and my relationships in loving the lost, I got the words pop in my mind… “The same principle applies!” I felt God saying to me, all that I have learnt in loving those outside the church, applies to loving those inside the church too! God wants us to love our brothers and sisters without an agenda and understand also, that without relationship together, we wouldn’t grow. Relationship is developed as we endure with one another, bear with one another and are built up by one another.

Think about what it takes for you to have relationship with someone.  What did it take for you to come to love that person?  How do you know that a person loves you?  People often say… “Because we’ve been through alot together; They’re always there for me; I can rely on them; When I’m in need, I can count on them.” A relationship is built upon those things and also upon the building blocks of unconditional love, encouragement, kindness and patience.

In loving those outside the Church, in the smallest of ways, I do all those things.  And no less is required of me towards my brothers and sisters in Christ.
God’s agenda towards a person whether lost or not is always love.  His agenda is always long suffering, is always patience.  Without God’s agenda, we are just a noisy gong or a clanging symbol.

There was a day when I thought I had it all sorted.  I had a fast, dramatic conversion, a total life transformation….God renewed my mind fast!  He downloaded me with wisdom and revelation of who He was in a very short space of time.  In my first year of returning to my Maker, and still bedridden from sickness, I consumed his Word for up to eighteen hours a day, memorising up to one hundred scriptures a month, just because I loved it.  I was privy to alot of truth.
Paul talks of the thorn in his flesh, the messenger he received from Satan.  We quote that scripture often, but what we don’t quote along with it, is why he had received that messenger…it was to keep him from becoming conceited, because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations he had been given.  I was conceited.  Truth without love made me hard.  Truth without love made it hard for me to be loved or to truly love in the way God loves.  Truth without love meant relationship was near on impossible.  God, through His mercy upon me, showed me that I could indeed understand all the mysteries of God, have all knowledge of God and even have all faith, but without love, HIS kinda love, I would be nothing.

So…the same principle applies! The way I endeavour to love the lost is the same way I must endeavour to love the saved.  We are not only called to love the lost, we are called to love everyone!! So whilst I may pat myself on the back for loving those outside the church, God says, I can actually give away all I have and even provide food for the poor, but I will still be nothing without God’s love in me and…God’s love is no respecter of persons! He does not love the lost more than he loves me or you and in precisely the same way I am called to have relationship with those outside the church, I am called to have it with those within the church.  In fact, I believe it matters more!

A good friend of mine once gave a sermon on marriage and divorce and in it he said that God had shown him, it was his righteousness at home that counted the most, not his righteousness before men.  It was how he treated his wife, his children, his family that really showed what kind of a man he was before God.  In the same way, that is true of us individually and it is true of us corporately.  So much damage has been done by the body of Christ because of us not loving each other in the way Jesus commanded us to do.

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another,  just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13

It is not the knowledge of God which saves souls, it is the love of God, manifested through Christ crucified, outpoured through us via our hands and feet towards humanity that saves!  1 John tells us that no-one has ever seen God but when we love one another, God’s love is made manifest through us.  It really is that simple…people will come to know God as we love one another.  Let us not miss this, it is everything.  Without it we will indeed be blind, pitiable and poor whilst foolishly thinking ourselves rich and prosperous.

Love is a choice, a decision, a commitment.  It has to be, because to truly love is hard…it flies in the face of all that is evil and conquers all darkness. We cannot love without God’s grace upon us and His strength at work in us.

Our relationships on earth should grow, develop and mature parallel to our relationship with Christ.  We cannot separate one from the other.  Jesus said… “Love each other as I have loved you”.  The relationships around us should mirror the love we have received from Christ.  Will we be perfect?  I think not, but, we must press on to forgive as we have been forgiven; to extend mercy as we have received mercy and to love as we have been loved.
As God is patient with me, so I too, must endeavour to be patient with others.  As God bears with me, so I too, must bear with others.  As He encourages me daily, long suffers with me yearly, so I too, must do that with others.  As I give away that which I have received, I will naturally produce the fruit of healthy, Godly relationships in my life.

In turn, relationship reaps a harvest of righteousness in itself.  Relationship rooted in Christ and founded on God’s love, changes, encourages and motivates a person towards God’s higher calling.

So how does relationship happen?  Well…I believe as in all things, Christ is our model.  “Greater love has no-one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.”  I believe God is asking us at this time to go deeper…
Are you ready to lay down your life for your friends?  And he’s not talking about you going and starting some ministry somewhere.  He’s saying…Right now, here, are you willing to lay down your life?  Are you willing to love ALL of those around you – the lost and the saved, in the way that He loved you?  Are you willing to lay down your fears and enter into relationship with each other the way He entered into relationship with you?
God places relationship above anything we could ever do for him.  Our ministries must never come at the expense of relationship within the body of Christ.  Are you willing to do all it takes, to relationship with each other in this life (that He gave you!), according to His blueprint for church…to eat together, fellowship together, pray together, devote ourselves to the Word, carry one another, and encourage one another?  Are you willing to let go of the excuses that prevent you from doing just that?

John 13…again!

This was a new commandment.  The newness is in the fact that this was a command for the disciples themselves, the ones closest to him.  Jesus had relationship with them and was urging them, as they moved forward together, to remember to love each other as He had loved them.  Jesus did life with his disciples. He ate with them, bore with them, encouraged them and then told them, as He’s telling us now, to do the same thing He did.  Knowing through that, and only that, would the world come to know we are truly His disciples!

Amen!!…and God Bless x