At the start of a New Year we often find ourselves evaluating our priorities and assessing our progress over the past year. Many people have health and fitness goals, however, focusing on things like nutrition is only part of what it means to be healthy, and being spiritually fit, healthy and nourished is fundamental to true success in life.
This post is geared towards fellow believers in The LORD who want to deepen and strengthen their relationship with God and to live a life led by Him. It is also for anyone who is interested in knowing more about God, anyone who is interested in reading The Word of God, but unsure as to where to start.
Over the past few years I have done various ‘plans’ using an online resource called ‘YouVersion’. This provides written as well as audio and visual Bible reading resources, and if you log in and create an account you can see that there is a wide range of resources that include reading Scripture by books in the Bible, by life topics, and many categories so that you will surely find something that will help you with where you are at in life whatever your age, life stage, or situation.
Last year, however, I tried something new, and this was a Bible reading plan via YouVersion that I did with other people in my church. The resource is set up so that you have the option of doing plans individually or with other people. Up until last year I had only ever gone through these plans individually. However, the plan involved reading a chapter of the Bible a day, and at the end of the year this resulted in reading through the whole New Testament. Weekends were ‘reflection’ days so there were no readings for these, which also allowed time to play ‘catch up’. I didn’t always manage to do the readings on a day to day basis with this plan, although I would be ‘feeding’ myself with Scripture on a daily basis in other ways. This meant that I spent lengthier periods ‘catching up’ but I am pleased and blessed to say that I did finish the year long plan and it was a really positive experience.
One of the highlights for me was that at the end of each reading people could comment and reflect upon and discuss with each other what we had all just read. It provided a wonderful new way of learning and gaining insights from other people as well, which I wouldn’t otherwise have when reading on my own, and I think it is important to have a balance of both personal and devotional reading, and group study. I have to say, I only knew a few of the people doing the study to talk to, and most of the others I still don’t know, which gave a sense of being more connected with a wider group of believers that I may not otherwise have had the chance to have any interaction with.
This year another group study has started which I have also joined in with, covering both the Old and New Testaments, and which will take two years (or one, depending on the reading plan and pace you decide to go at). I am excited about this because it feels like a journey together, of daily mutual encouragement and insight, and most of all growing closer to God and His ways.
I also am looking forward to studying more personal topics to me on an individual basis through this resource, as well as through other avenues of Bible study for me this year.
Of course, as with everything it is important to be discerning, and to prayerfully consider which plans to do, especially if any seem to be led more by a person or theme, than by the Pure Word of God. On the whole, however, I do recommend this online resource to be a good way to nourish our souls and spiritual growth in a manageable way, and which helps us to see our ‘progress’ as we journey through the Bible this year.
So, here is the link if you would like to take a look, and praying for all my Christian brothers and sisters that we will all have a fruitful year, in which God Is greatly glorified in our lives, by His Spirit, and for those who are ‘testing the waters’ that you will respond to His call of Pure Love to You to be part of His family and His kingdom.
God bless, and behold the ‘new things’ He Is doing in your life this year! Shalom. <>< x
Life is filled with wonder. With every sunrise we have a new day to live, new things to discover, new questions to ask and to be curious about, new challenges and unknowns. With every sunset we have the chance to enjoy the fulfilment of another day lived, whether with joy or sadness, and to reflect upon what we have learned and experienced.
We all look up from time to time from the everyday things of our lives. We remind ourselves that we are a small part of something far greater than us, far beyond our understanding and comprehension. Perhaps we don’t spend enough time reflecting and contemplating the miracle of our existence in this vast universe, for surely everyone who stands in solitude and stares up at a star filled night sky, or waits in silence upon a mountain top, feeling the raw beauty and power of nature and of design, feels humbled by the exquisiteness of the ‘something more’ that we have been gifted to be a part of.
I think if we would all but take the time to inhabit such moments more often, then we would live as people and amongst people of humbled hearts and inquiring minds. We would remember that we are not the centre of all things, but we are important as small as we are and have a part to play in this wondrous symphony of life conducted from far higher than any perspective we could hope to have in this fragile life. Perhaps we would notice more the harmony of the diverse aspects of nature working together in one accord, and we would take those lessons to heart in the way we perceive life and our fellow human beings and how we treat each other – each unique but with an important reason and part to play in the grander scheme of things. We all need to ‘look up’, and perhaps we need to make time to do this more often in lives that are otherwise overly busy, hurried and caught up in the mud and mire at our feet.
I like to think of the deeper aspects of life regularly. I believe in, know and love God – The One True and Living God, and as a follower of Christ, Loved Perfectly by Him, I anticipate the gifts of this season when Truth is more freely proclaimed about Who He Is and why He came to us. To honour and think upon the uncreated One Who has Been since before time was, in Whom everything exists and lives and moves and has its being, in Whom all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are found.
No matter where we are on life’s journey, we need to make time to think, to consider our faith, our relationship to our thoughts about our very existence and what that means for who we are and how we live. We need to look up, and not just look but listen. Be still, ponder Truth, and let our faith be strengthened.
There are points in our lives that ‘define’ us. That statement in itself is loaded, and one that can be debated. But in the simplest of senses, certain things in our lives change the way we see things, the world and ourselves.
Such points can happen negatively in trauma where one’s sense of identity is shattered, our minds feel like they’ve become fragmented or fractured, we become ‘stuck’ in a place of pain and fear, and we live the trauma and torment over and over again for years until we finally process it and are able to move forwards having gleaned a new narrative and a new meaning from it.
They can happen also in rescue, where once we were broken, helpless, feeling unwanted or unloved, and alone, prisoners to our own overwhelming and unmanageable experiences, we come in contact with a rescuer, someone who can help, who can revive, nurture, heal and restore. We are no longer alone, fighting ourselves over whether to try to go on living through the pain or to give up, we have others fighting in our corner, and they can help us through. (The ultimate Rescuer Who can perfectly help us is the Saviour, Jesus Christ, but people can help us in smaller ways on our journey too).
In recovery we meet change points when we move from the mental state of a victim to that of a survivor, and then a fighter, an overcomer, a warrior.
And in restoration we meet these moments when we discover a new narrative, a new identity and new hope.
God tells us that He can give us a “Hope and a future”, and Scripture is filled with the realities of brokenness and the greater realities of God’s transforming love and power to bring rescue, healing, recovery, a hope and a future, ‘beauty for ashes’, ‘the oil of joy’ to replace mourning, and ‘garments of Praise’ in place of a ‘spirit of heaviness’.
The pages of Scripture tell of the realities that many followers of Christ have lived through. Read people’s testimonies, listen to what they have to say and you will find this translation from darkness into Light, from old to new, from fear to courage, from despair to hope, from abandonment and loneliness to the rescued knowing that they have been saved by Grace, adopted by Christ into the family of God and are now Beloved, washed clean by the atoning sacrificial blood of the Lamb of God (Jesus Christ) and have a new heart and a new spirit.
This kind of a hope and a future goes far beyond recovery processes, self-help journeys, 12 step programmes or positive thinking. Why? Because when we are born again, spirit filled, our very nature changes spiritually – the power of God Is within us, and we are ‘new creatures’ / new creations as the Bible tells us.
The healing journey can often be painful and take a long time, although for some people by the Grace of God it happens instantaneously such as people who have been in a moment by the power of Christ been set free from drug addictions for example. The ordinary Christians around you will have some extraordinary stories to tell of our incredible God.
It can seem like it is getting worse before it gets better, but that is because God deals with the deep rooted things within us, the brokenness, the sin, the old, which needs to be taken out just as the new needs to grow and flourish. It is because He Is transforming us perfectly, and this is a work He will bring to completion in His time.
On this road, there are change points too. A point where we cross over in our healing and restoration journey to a place of standing in our True Identity in Christ. That doesn’t mean to say that the damage has been fully healed, the battles all fought (although at the Cross they are overcome, victory is in Christ), but we no longer view our recovery, our challenges, our lives from a place of defeat, but of victory.
That is one of the most remarkable change points of our lives. And although we may stumble and struggle, we get up, renewed, our minds being transformed to know that if God Is for us, Who can be against us? He will give us everything we need, and that gives us a hope, a future in Him, in His love and eternal victory – and that, no matter the struggle, changes *everything*!
Life often presents us with seasons of unknown tomorrows. Sometimes we barely have the breath to be able to live in such a way as to think that there can even be a tomorrow, or we simply struggle on with our heads bowed because of the painful challenges we face. Sometimes we look around us and see other people in seasons of fulfilment and we wait, we pray, we feel disheartened, we hope and wonder if we will ever come to our own seasons of joy and blessing…of our heart’s desires.
Proverbs tells us that “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life”.
Do you know that feeling? The one that is somehow always just under the surface, but you try to wish it away, or to wish your unfulfilled dreams away? Well then you’re not alone. I am sure every human being at some point in their lives has felt this, and some of us go through longer and more protracted periods of waiting, anticipating, hoping, grieving, focusing on the here and now, wondering and beginning again. Hope deferred does make the heart sick, so should we go on hoping?
I suppose we need to ask ourselves at the deepest level, where we are putting our hope, and what are we putting our hope in?
What are you waiting for?
Throughout life’s seasons we wait for things. As a child, you may wait for a toy, for your birthday, to see your best friend, a parent you no longer live with, or you may wait for a holiday.
As a teenager, you may wait for your exam results, to know if you’ll ever fit in at school, for romance, to find out what on earth you are good and what you should do with your life.
As a young adult you may wait and work to pass your driving test, to get the grades you need to get into university, college, an apprenticeship, etc. You might wait for your parents to understand what you are all about. You might be waiting to figure that out yourself. Maybe you are waiting once more for exam results, to find out if you will graduate, for your first job, flat, home and for direction in your life.
Maybe you are single and waiting, looking and praying for a spouse. Maybe you are waiting for test results and for a breakthrough in your health. Maybe you are waiting to save up enough money to travel or to get out of the place you are in that you are longing to leave behind so that you can start afresh. Maybe you are waiting to find out who your birth family are and whether they might want to know you. Maybe you are waiting and trying and praying for a baby. Maybe you are waiting for someone who has left you to come back, for reconciliation with estranged friends or family, for that career break, the pay rise, the new job opportunity, the love of your life, the thing right now that your heart desires.
It can be hard can’t it?
What are you in control of?
At least when we have some sense of control over our lives, our futures, our destiny then we can get to work on making things happen.
You’re waiting for a career break, but you know what steps to take and what training courses to do, and it is within your means to do it, so your hope is now a goal and you are excited about achieving it, even though there is a lot of hard work to do.
You’re waiting for the holiday you’ve always wanted, but you know how to plan for it and make it happen.
You’re waiting to publish your first book but you’ve been writing for a while, so at least you can do something about it and figure out the details of how along the way.
But what of the things that we can’t control, or things that involve a bit more heartache through the process? Like trying for a baby, hoping to find a spouse, the love of your life, hoping to get married and settle down and have a family? What about waiting to know whether your diagnosis will be favourable? What of the things that are not so much in our hands?
Our hearts sometimes ache, and sometimes we become jaded by our current realities especially if contrasted with people around us whose longings have been and are being fulfilled, and we put it down to something being wrong with us, and we want to wish away our hopes and our dreams because at least then it won’t hurt if we don’t have them.
There is no simple response to explain away the depth and intricacies of the human heart. But if you are facing hope deferred right now, just know that you are not alone. That doesn’t necessarily make it easier for you in your situation, but hopefully it will bring at least a little comfort to know that people throughout the ages and even now experience the heartache that you are feeling and those feelings are valid.
As to where to put our hopes, most people spend most of their lives putting their hopes in things that are transient, fleeting, imperfect and will inevitably disappoint. We put our hopes in other people, in romantic love, in families, in success, in money, in positions of authority, in children, in travel, in achievements. These as wonderful as they can be will inevitably disappoint in some way or another. Even the most ‘picture perfect’ life will have its pain hidden beneath the surface. Because these imperfect things simply cannot fill up the human heart.
I have learned that the only true fulfilment and True Hope that will *never* disappoint (and I know that that is a bold claim) is to put my hope in the One True and Living God. Only in Christ Jesus can I know the deepest needs of my heart being healed and met, and only God can bring to pass the fulfilment of His plan for my life, and show me what I need to do that is ultimately for my best and for His Glory.
Without Him I was merely lost, in pain, and unfulfilled, feeling always ‘sick and tired of being sick and tired’, but now I have this liquid love within me, around me, and my hope is in the Perfect, the Eternal, in Pure Unfailing Love that cannot and will never disappoint.
Without Him, what hope is there? I wonder what your answer is in your life?
However, even for those of us who walk with Him, in this life there will still be disappointment, and He more than anyone knows what that feels like in this broken, fallen, sin stained world.
We are in the Presence of the Perfect, and yet our human hearts long for the temporal and temporary pleasures of this life. And you know what? That’s normal. And we don’t need to walk through those longings, hurts, feelings, disappointments or worries alone – we have, or can have Someone by our side always, Who will never leave us, fail us nor forsake us, and Who will constantly love us perfectly and carry us through.
And yes, sometimes God does make us wait. Sometimes for a very long time. And for some their dreams may not be fulfilled this side of eternity. But for some of us they will and we still have to go through the difficult but worthwhile heart lessons that are found in seasons of waiting. Waiting for a child, for marriage, for our calling, for healiing….but while we wait, even if we doubt whether what we hope for will come to pass or not, we wait for and with Someone Who Is Perfect, Who Is Trustworthy, Faithful, Perfectly Loving, Compassionate and Who will never let us down. We wait with Him and we hope in Him. We already have the Best thing Life can offer us in Jesus Christ. And He knows the desires of our hearts, and He will perfect that which concerns us, in His perfect way and time. Regardless of how things turn out – we have HIM. x
This morning, Monday 18th November 2019, I awoke to what feels like the first day of winter this year. I have been enjoying the beauty of the autumn season, and anticipating winter, and it seems to have arrived on my doorstep all of a sudden!
Last night I was blessed to watch a glorious sunset over the city, as the sky exploded into a golden orange, a sight I rarely see most days, and the buildings across the skyline stood as stark black silhouettes against the backdrop of colour.
At 5pm, I remarked to my parents as I spoke to them on the phone how suddenly the evening had fallen into black, almost as if a switch had been turned off, and it was night.
This morning I awoke to a beautiful sun rising in the east over the city, on the opposite side of my view from last night. I very rarely see such vibrant sunrises and sunsets, perhaps because of my location, when I’m at work, or the timings that I am able to look out the window, but the evening and the morning brought me a vibrant treat.
I could see the hills and mountains in the far distance. I got my camera, opened my window slightly and took a picture of the sunrise. The air was colder, icy, and so fresh and clean. Perhaps you think that is unusual for a city, but I live quite high up where the air may be clearer.
I shut the window, as much as the air was fresh, it was very cold, and as I looked down through the glass I noticed the first real frost of the season. Not snow, but a drizzling of soft white powder upon the tops of cars, and dustings of it upon the grass, the roads had iced a little too and all of a sudden the once beautifully arrayed with golden autumn leaved trees had turned to sparse twigged statues.
Winter had arrived! There would be snow on the tops of the mountains in the far distance. You could see the air from people’s breath. The tops of fir trees looked like Christmas trees.
As I walked to work, I noticed the sudden chill. In the breath of a morning, winter had arrived, so suddenly, not unexpected, but without any doubt that autumn had passed and a new season begun.
I couldn’t help but smile to myself as I walked to work. The pavement was patterned by icy leaves, embedded onto its surface. Such simple beauty, but ordinarily spectacular! The trees around me were also twig like and as I walked, leaves fluttered continuously to the ground, drizzling themselves upon the golden heap of leaves that had fallen before them. Now the roads and pavements were more beautiful and mesmerising than the trees themselves!
As I arrived in my office room at work, encased with tall glass windows on two sides, I stepped into an ice-box. But what a beautiful ice box to step into! Sun shone gently in as I pulled up the blinds and the glass greeted me with an enchanting lacy picture of snowflake patterns that glinted in the sunlight. The tall fir trees across the road are dusted with white, which will soon melt in the snow, but they reach up in praise to their Creator, and already sing of Christmas as they stand tall, deep dark green and authoritative against a gentle pale blue winter sky.
Sun shines through gaps in the trees lower down, a smaller, pretty, more delicate little tree, and its golden leaves flutter and fall continuously like glitter to the ground.
I pray for those for whom the crisp, fresh, cold air and these beautiful wintery scenes are not so much of a delight to them as a threat to their survival. Those for whom the cold is painful, and those who may not make it through the night. I hope you will pray for and reach out to them too, for together we can do far more than any of us can do alone.
This is a beautiful, sensitive yet stark season, filled with contrasts, filled with wonder. The leaves are falling all around us, creating beautiful piles of gold dust on the ground, and yet for some the mid-winter will be bleak, as frosty wind makes moan.
Winter heralds in a greater Light, a Warmth, Comfort and Joy – the Promise Hope and Peace of the Saviour, the Messiah Jesus Christ – the One Who came to the poor, the homeless, the cold, hungry, needy, downtrodden, hopeless and downcast. He came to the rich, the self sufficient, the spiritually blind and proud as well. He came for us all, to bring Forgiveness and New Life to any and all who will turn to Him, no matter who we are, where we are from or what we have or have not done. So no matter whether this winter is beautiful or bleak for you and yours, there is a certain Hope, for us all – if we would but humble our hearts and receive Him.
We all have a story. A story to live and a story to tell. And no matter who we are, we all have light and shade on our path. You have lived. You have experienced. You have done things. And you have had things happen to you. Good and bad. Light and dark.
For some blessed souls, their experience has been one with more light than darkness, more protection than distress or horror, more hope and joy than pain, despair, anguish and loss.
So, what will you do with what has happened to you, whether good or bad?
We all have a choice to make. A series of choices. A lifetime of choices.
What happened to you?
For some among us, that question will be poignant, it will resonate deep within, it will touch our soul. We have not lived on the surface of life. We have not been allowed to. We have been hurt, we have suffered, we have known the laceration of spirit and identity that we seek so desperately to be healed. Is this you? You are not alone.
If what has happened to you in life has been mostly good, then I rejoice with you, and encourage you that you can use that too. You can use your strength to help and comfort the weak and hurting. You can give the love that was lavished upon you to those whose wells are dry and empty, who have all but given up on life. You can use the good things that have happened to you too. Perhaps it is the easier path, but you are blessed in it.
What do you do next?
At some point in our lives we have to make a choice. No matter what has happened to us, we all have to make a choice. Life or death. In the physical real as well as in the spiritual realm. I know this road is strewn with complexities, with difficult issues and with choice seemingly taken away from some people at times. You only need to look at the news to see this. But we all have to make our own choice. Life or death. Light or darkness. To step into the light or to stay crippled in fear in the darkness.
As I often say, I write for anyone who will read, I write for believers and non-believers alike; in fact, one of my most interested readers is a friend who is an atheist. Nonetheless, I can only speak the Truth that Jesus Christ is the Light that has extinguished the darkness in my life. Once and for all. A new life, a new heart, a new spirit, a new hope, a new mind-set, a new future, a new Identity, a new kingdom, a new everything.
We all have to make a choice. And how we respond to Jesus Christ is the greatest and most eternally significant choice we will ever make.
What are the burdens that you carry? Shame. Guilt. Fear. Anger. Turmoil. Terror. Self-hatred. Loss. Grief. Pain. Oh the pain. Death? He has taken the sting out of Death. He can bring healing and peace, liquid love into all of our dark and broken and crushed places.
‘He heals the broken hearted and binds up their wounds’.
‘By His wounds, we are healed’.
He heals the broken hearted and crushed in spirit.
Don’t I know it? I certainly do. For some the healing comes in an instant. For others, like me, it is an unravelling, layer by layer, bit by bit, but the pain, it does ease, the chains, they do fall off, the heart that was defeated, crushed in despair, feeling completely hopeless, useless, weak, unwanted, unloved, despised, rejected…this heart…my heart….finds a home….a HOME, a dwelling place in Pure Perfect Selfless Love….in Him.
But what if you don’t believe?
Things have happened to you. You perhaps feel far from what I am saying. It’s where you are right now. Do I have a word for you?
What will your story be?
Things have happened to you. You have done things. You have lived, experienced, survived. So far.
What do you do when the pain is so great and you’re in a fog? What do you do with what has happened to you? I understand how deep these wounds, these lacerations, this anguish can go. I understand that the darkness in the world can feel like it has all but wrecked us. But it hasn’t.
You can choose.
Will your story be to be defined by what has happened to you? Will you be crushed by it? Will you merely survive it? Perhaps that’s all we can do at times. But we can still choose. Choose to believe in the impossible, in something better, in a purpose from the pain, and choose to use it. Even today.
What will you do with what has happened to you? Will you hope, and will you push through and endure the darkest seasons of recovery so that in time you will break through to the other side? Or will you accept the lie that this is all there is for you, you’re not one of the so called “lucky ones” in life? This isn’t all there is for you. Believe me, there is so much more good things than the bad we leave behind.
Will you endure the hardships, will you allow them to refine you and not merely define you? Will you dream so much farther than the depths and heights of your pain? Will you dream of helping one person some day with what you know, know deep in your soul…what you have survived….what you one day can conquer?
We can work with the surface, but only Pure Love can heal the depths. Can transform.
So, what is your answer?
What will you do with what has happened to you? Will you push through, will you ask for help, will you seek advice, support, counsel, will you do the really tough hard work that will help you to get better, at least better than you are now, and will you pass that on to someone someday, even today?
That’s my choice. I’ve been broken hearted and crushed in spirit. Heavy laden. Giving up inside. In a way that people don’t see on the outside. But healing is Real, it is possible, and even though the journey still can be tough, it is leading somewhere, and it has purpose.
But it’s a choice, our choice, to keep taking that next step. Will you?
There’s been a situation running through my mind for a little while, where I tried very gently and carefully to express concerns over something to a friend, without saying that they were wrong, but just hinting that in my experience it would be worth being discerning and prayerful.
No harm in that, right? Perhaps this has been in the back of my mind as I realise that people can at times take this as a personal affront, an insult, a criticism of their ability to discern, but it is a very Biblical practice to speak the Truth in Love.
I feel reassured because this evening some things came to my mind about the passage in Scripture where Jesus Christ reveals to His disciples that He must go to the Cross, to die as a sacrifice to enable us to have a way back to God through forgiveness. Now, if you look at this conversation between Jesus and Peter in Matthew 16, you might find that Jesus’ response to Peter, who after all is a concerned follower and friend, isn’t he? seems a bit harsh. Let’s take a look:
‘Ouch!’ Does that come across as harsh? Wasn’t Peter simply trying to protect Jesus from suffering? Why would Jesus give Peter such a harsh rebuke? Wouldn’t you be cut to the core if as a follower of Jesus he connected you with Satan? I can’t imagine how Peter would have felt.
If you don’t know much about the Messiah, then maybe this incident and rebuke seems a bit unkind. But the Truth of the matter, the situation that Jesus Christ could fully discern was that His purpose was to come to live and die as a sacrifice for our sins so that whoever believes in Him will not perish, but in Him have everlasting life, because Christ would be resurrected and have power to give us that forgiveness and new life. So in this situation, if Christ didn’t fulfil what He came to do, then there would be absolutely no hope for you, me, Peter or anyone else. We would all be condemned before a righteous Holy God, and Jesus knowing this came as God in Flesh to give us that way out – The Only Way.
So, you see, Peter really wasn’t doing anyone a favour.
I feel encouraged by this, because in the Christian life, there are believers of different levels of maturity, knowledge of Scripture, different walks with The Lord, and varying levels of insight and discernment. We all have blind spots, and we all need to rely on God’s Word, as His Spirit leads us into all Truth, and as we learn to know and to heed the Voice of our Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ, Who always leads us in paths of righteousness for His Name’s Sake.
We need each other too, as Scripture describes God’s people as His ‘Body’ all members of one living unit, with Christ at the Head. We can’t say we don’t need each other, as God speaks through us into each other’s lives regardless of age, stage or place in life.
Consider the apostle Paul and how he often wrote very critical letters to certain churches, while writing very encouraging letters to others. Paul loved them all in sincerity with the love of Christ, which is why he told them things straight, as they were…he didn’t try to ‘sugar coat’ his message to make things more palatable to his hearers, he didn’t try to avoid the issue in case they stopped liking him, he was steadfast in His relationship with Christ, and in Christ he was committed to speaking the Truth in Love, even if that came at great cost to him (and it did).
If you want to read one of Paul’s more encouraging letters to other believers, read ‘Philippians’. It is full of encouragement, love, hope, wisdom and a spiritual perspective. He is very pleased with how the Philippians are conducting themselves in Christ and their mutual love and faith brings much joy and encouragement.
In contrast, consider Paul’s words to the Galatians:
Think for a moment how you would feel if a friend, however much you respected them came to you and called you foolish and that you were erring from the truth. If we’re honest, we might be more than a little offended. We might let our pride rear its ugly head and think ‘who do they think they are? I know as much as they do, why do they think they’re right and I’m wrong?’ I’ve been on both sides of this as a younger Christian and as I’ve grown in faith, maturity, knowledge and application of Scripture. As a younger Christian I knew I was in way over my head, I was in a spiritual battle and I needed as much help as I could get. I respected those who were more mature in the faith, who had been ‘on the road’ as it were longer than I had, and I listened to them. At times, my pride reared its ugly head and I felt that they weren’t always right, but I was open to learning.
No matter how young or old we are, we should be open to learning, to listening, and as we are admonished in 1 Thessalonians 5v21 to ‘test all things and hold fast to what is good’.
It can be a really rewarding experience when we are able to do this together. I love it when genuine, close Christian friends can seek Truth together, can discuss issues and pray over them, seeking Truth as we seek God together, sharpening each other with the ‘sword of the Sprit which is the Word of God’. This is a very Scriptural practice and we should do it as often as possible and as prayerfully as possible. We should all be humble before God to know that He can speak to and through us whatever stage we are at. We should also be open to correction, and love the Truth so much that we can put our ‘egos’ aside to find it.
You might find, however, that not everyone sees things in this way. We may not agree with each other, but we can still discuss and prayerfully seek Truth together and test all things holding fast what is good. We may not arrive at the same understanding of scripture, but it is right to listen and to learn to seek to honour God.
Sometimes people depending on their personality as well as their maturity may take suggestions, corrections or instruction as a personal affront, a blow to their pride, and they may not realise that there is a place for mature, discerning and prayerful Christians who exercise themselves daily in seeking God’s wisdom in scripture, as a regular practice of their lives and one which bears ‘fruit’ of the Holy Spirit – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness and self-control – to actually speak into their lives.
This kind of response can lead one to harbour personal offences, hurts, and to even choose to break fellowship with other believers. I’ve been on this path for a while but I know that God has a lot to teach me, and I know I need to be humble and wise to listen and learn whether that is from ‘younger’ or ‘older’ people, or even the lessons I will inevitably learn from interacting with a world that does not even believe in Him. If I am humble and listen for the Voice of my Shepherd then I will learn more in any situation as He leads me on in Truth. However, I recognise that people who are ‘older’, wiser and more mature in the faith, perhaps those like Paul, who I can see living out the Truth, deserve attention and an attentive ear. I will still test all things and hold fast that which is good, because God Alone truly is my Teacher, however, He also has a place for the ‘Body’ to learn and grow together, as ‘iron sharpens iron’ so one person sharpens another.
The ‘takeaway’ from all of this is that if you are a more mature Christian, and are seeking to speak the Truth in Love, know and be reminded that this is a very Biblical practice and a very loving thing to do if done right and with the right motives. Who would want another brother or sister to walk into harm spiritually? There is a place for instruction, admonition, correction, but we should seek to do it gently, respectfully and with love, knowing that we may not necessarily be right.
However, the fact that some people are very easily offended, and their prides are pricked should not deter us from speaking Truth in Love because it is not all about them, just as it was not all about Peter. Jesus Christ knew and saw the bigger picture, and in light of that His Words were (and always will be) on point. It was for Peter’s own good that he was rebuked, as well as for the good of us all, because God Is Good and came to save us. But I have no doubt it wouldn’t have felt quite like that for Peter at the time.
You can only do what you are called to do, and leave the rest to God. Remain humble and keep seeking Truth. But know that the Truth will offend some people, even fellow believers, perhaps because they already know what they want to believe, or because misplaced pride has got the better of them. God calls us to walk in love and to speak the Truth in Love, so we need to be guided by Him and not the whims and fancies of those around us. If they choose not to listen then we can pray for them and for ourselves to be brought into all Truth. But be encouraged if you find yourself in such a situation, and look to the examples set before you in Scripture. Keep yourselves pure, in the love of God and exercise yourself daily in righteousness, being humble to learn and to know that you too may need instruction, reproof, correction and learn to receive that in humility and prayerfully.
If you are feeling a bit like Peter, then be encouraged. It is a wonderful thing to be told the Truth even if in the short term it cuts us to the quick. The Truth, the Word of God is like a double edged sword, dividing even to soul and spirit, joints and marrow. Inevitably that is going to hurt at times. However, be encouraged and reminded that it is the Truth that sets you free, so take heart, lay down your pride, never respond in anger or bitterness, and receive this wonderful Truth – it will change your life from the inside out. Isn’t that a gift to be well received? Think about the character of the one who shares the Truth with you, or seeks to do so – does their words line up with their conduct? Are they Christlike? If so maybe it is for your benefit that they say what they say. If not, well you are still free to test all things and hold fast that which is good.
Followers of Christ, in a world in which we can choose so many things, let us choose the most excellent way – the way of Love. To love The Lord our God with all our heart, and soul, and mind and strength, and to love our neighbour as we would want to be loved.
No one said that the most excellent way would be easy, in fact it is often a difficult path, but it is the Way most pleasing to our Creator God, Who Is Love – agape Love – sacrificial love.
It’s good to remind ourselves and each other that while we were enemies of God, dead in our sins He loved us and gave Himself for us. Our God Is at work within us now, enabling us to love.
We can’t do it on our own, but we can make the choice to ask God to enable us to love with the Love He has poured into our hearts by His Holy Spirit. We can think of how much love was shown to us at the Cross, how much we have been forgiven, and we can honour God by choosing the most excellent way – His Way, that of Love.
Let us examine ourselves. Let us encourage each other. Let us pray for each other to be the vessels of God’s love in this broken, hurting and often unloving world.
Has someone hurt and wronged us? Let us think of our King on the Cross, in Love taking the punishment for us, the very wrath of God that our sins deserved and instead giving us forgiveness, grace, acceptance, perfect love and new life. How can we not be humbled by His love and grace to us. How can we choose bitterness against someone He has Created, someone He loves just as much? As we think on this Truth, He will pour forth love for the one who has wronged us. Perhaps this journey will take time. Hurts caused especially in childhood can be deep and have a hold on us, I have walked through this and it is certainly not an easy path to take, but it is made possible at the Cross. Jesus Christ offers us His very life, and as we let Him in, He will change us from the inside out to be like Him, to love like Him, to think thoughts pleasing to God. Have hope, and trust Him with your hurts. He will replace fear with love for Perfect Love casts out all fear.
Is someone holding something against us? How should we respond? Should we justify bitterness in our own hearts? No. We should open our hearts and minds to the Love of God in Christ Jesus, and choose the most excellent way of forgiving and loving our neighbour. No one said this is easy, but He Is the One working in us, gently enabling us to hand things over to Him.
Are we tempted to justify a grudge against someone? We can choose that way, but really we should choose the most excellent way. Does God not love us when we are ‘difficult’? His love in us will help us to love and to go on choosing to love those in our lives who cause us difficulties.
Should we only choose love when someone shows love to us? Should we only choose to show kindness or give gifts to those who say thank you to us? In this world, perhaps that makes sense, but in God’s Kingdom, it doesn’t. How many things would we lack if God withheld the good gifts He gives us daily, momently that we habitually fail to thank Him for? Do we acknowledge and thank Him for our breath, our life, our health, our clothing, food, shelter, friendships, family, employment, skills, sight, abilities, our senses, our mental health, our good times, His comfort and Presence through the hard times, His Word and Truth, His protection in a dark world? I’m sure we all forget to thank Him for everything He does for us from time to time, but He goes on giving to us, He goes on showing kindness, He keeps on loving. We should do likewise where it is wise to do so.
Did a friend forget or choose to ignore you on your birthday? Do you choose to ‘retaliate’ with treating them the same, or do you choose to love them with Christ’s love? Choose the most excellent way, and be free from the bounds of the world’s way of thinking and living.
Did someone selfishly choose what pleases them and disregard what matters to you? You can choose to treat them likewise, or you can choose to bring the unfairness before your merciful and loving God and allow Him to lead you the best way, and ask Him to show you and enable you how to respond.
Isn’t there someone or some situation in your life right now, today, that is tempting you to choose an imperfect path, an unkind response, or even one that withholds love rather than specifically causes direct or obvious harm? The world tells us ‘don’t get mad, get even’. God calls us to Love. The world tells us to protect ourselves, while God’s protection frees us to rise above the shackles. We should seek His way, we should protect ourselves in Him from bad situations, relationships and company, but where we are safe to choose to reach out in love, we do not need to fear that we will be losing out – God gives grace and glory – no good thing will He withhold from those who walk uprightly.
Are you being taken for granted? Is your kindness being abused? Is someone leaving you out? Are groups shunning you from their company? Perhaps you cannot change the situation, or their response but you can find hope and strength, comfort and love in Your Loving Heavenly Father God, He will love you through it, and He will help your heart to grow strong to pulse with the beat of His Love, for Him and for others, knowing that you yourself are safely loved. We have a freedom the world cannot give us, and which the world cannot take away from us. Let us allow that love and freedom to shine so brilliantly in our lives, that those who wrong us will stand in awe of this most excellent way – the Way of Love – the Way of Christ Jesus. Be blessed. x