My Choice to Put God First

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Pam Mitchell, contributor for today’s blog post

Before I launch into the main subject of my first blog I wish to express my love and gratitude to my Father God for His constant faithfulness over these many years and how He has showered me with His grace time and time again when I was undeserving. God’s Grace certainly has been ‘unmerited favour ‘ in my life! He has been my constancy throughout my life and seen me through to today. If left to myself I probably would have strayed from Him over the years. He has fulfilled the scripture that Paul wrote “I am confident that He who began a good work in me WILL carry it through to completion until the day of Christ.” I continue to trust in this Word when I fail Him. It is all about Jesus and His keeping power.

As a younger woman I had all the natural desires to get married and have children. Throughout my early years as a nurse and midwife, I lived on an emotional rollercoaster as I witnessed one friend after another getting married; and I, going home to my loneliness and unmet desire with no prospects of finding anyone myself.

Satan had a heyday with me many times bringing me to low self-esteem and self worth.  I found that I was comparing myself with others, i.e., “Am I not attractive enough?” Looking back I realize it was short sighted of me, but my feelings were real and raw at the time.  But, as the years went by and my walk with God matured, He brought me to the place where I was able to yield those desires to Him and be content in whatever state He had chosen for me- one day at a time.

There were times that I wanted to take matters into my own hands! I was tempted to overlook scripture and look outside of my gospel faith for a husband. Through God’s mercy, I realized that I would not find happiness that way. My choice was to put God first and trust Him to supply all my needs in Christ.

I think this was my first biggest test of yielding in obedience to going God’s way rather than my own!

After all my struggles with this, I can honestly say that my desire was to live for Jesus first and foremost.  I was at peace about my single state (or being an unclaimed jewel!) One verse in Isaiah that I love and took to heart was in chapter 54 v 5 “For your Maker is your husband.” (NIV)

Unexpectedly, He granted the desire of my heart and gave me a husband. Not only that but in spite of being past the age of childbearing myself, He gave me my first grandchild three weeks after being married at the age of 54!  As one of my doctor colleagues told me, “Only a midwife could manage that one!”

I would like to encourage all single readers who also have the desire for a life partner and it is yet to happen- Put God first and seek His divine will for your life. The road is not always easy, but you can trust in our Lord God. You cannot lose out this way with or without a husband!

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Stepping Out

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Natalie Ovens, contributor for today’s blog post

“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. 14 But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it. “ Matthew 7:13-14

Do you guys ever wish that you shared your faith more often? Do you hope for more opportunities, but find yourself talking more about the weather than Jesus? That’s where I find myself so often! What holds me back?  It’s the unwritten rule – don’t talk about money, religion or politics, socially it just isn’t done.

But I see the importance of sharing Jesus with those around me. I long to be more proactive and intentional, but it isn’t always a reality in my life.

At the same time, I need to remind myself that the enemy loves to attack me over not “stepping out” more and sharing my hope in Jesus. The passage for this month’s study is really challenging and must be taken seriously but we must not lose heart! Let’s encourage one another in this and realize it is a process as we grow deeper with Jesus.

Recently, I missed an opportunity while on holiday.  I overheard a conversation where a man commented to his partner “wow, look at those rocks over there, they look as if they have been made, like by an artist or something.”  I knew the Holy Spirit was giving me this ‘opportunity’ to tell the man he was spot on, but to join in the conversation made me feel uncomfortable.

As I reflect back on this, it raises some unsettling questions and thoughts about sharing Jesus with others:

Do I care more about my short term comfort than my friend’s long term gain? Am I being wise and sensitive in this situation? Is this the most appropriate time to share? Am I praying for opportunities to be a listening ear, comfort, encouragement, and to talk about God in general?

If my life is all about living for Jesus, then my words must be too, otherwise I’m just holding back, possibly stifling God (quenching the Spirit). I must not play things too safe, but step out and take risks for God.

It’s encouraging to me that I am not alone as I look to be counter cultural, I always have God with me, and I also have my church family around me. I learn best from seeing others faith in action and so many of you guys are inspiring in the different ways that you step out.

The narrow way sometimes feels more like a tightrope than a stroll. But the gospel is full of hope and life! He will give us everything we need to share about Him as we grow as Christians!

Fixing our thoughts on God’s truth

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Hannah Spruijt, contributor for today’s blog

Fear slithered up and down my spine and coiled in the pit of my stomach. I was acutely aware of my hammering heartbeat and fought the urge to breathe faster to try and stop myself hyperventilating. “This is ridiculous! Why do I think I’m dying? I’m only trying to sleep. God, why are you letting this happen to me??”

Teenage-me was having yet another panic attack. Between the ages of 17 and 21, I had countless broken nights as I tried in my own strength to fight the downward spiral of negative thoughts and fear. I could not fathom why they started and I certainly could not stop them happening myself. I felt so utterly helpless and angry at God. My focus was definitely on myself.

After a couple of years of living under a black cloud of anxiety, I tried seeing counsellors and doctors. I wanted help but nothing was working. After one particularly unhelpful session with a counsellor, I suddenly knew that God was on my case. I realised it was only He who could give me the tools to fight the attacks and overcome them.

I had wise counsel from dear people and realised I had a choice to make. I could continue to focus on myself and my problems, or do what God frequently tells us to in the Bible; fix our eyes on Him and trust Him. I found Isaiah 26 v 3 particularly helpful;

“You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, whose thoughts are fixed on you” (NLT).

What a challenge! I could not expect God’s perfect peace to dwell in my heart whilst my thoughts were firmly fixed upon myself! I turned to a favourite Scripture, Philippians 4 v 6-8, to enable me to begin to change by applying it to my situation:

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, (in every panic attack) by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving present your requests to God (talk to God, thank Him for all He has done and what He will do, and then ask Him for His help through the attack).”

And the promised result of doing this?

“And the peace of God which transcends all understanding will guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus” (v7).

I definitely wanted that peace! In order to fight back in the middle of an attack, I made the choice to do as Phil 4 v 8 said, and think on things that were pure, lovely, noble, excellent and praiseworthy. So I wrote out my favourite inspiring Bible verses on cue cards and kept them by my bed, in order to read them aloud to myself when I felt the fear beginning. Through obedience to God’s Word, and with His enabling truth in my mind, my anxiety began to be conquered in Jesus’ name!

We have a choice to give in to fear, or listen to the Word of God and obey it. Our hearts and minds will only be guarded by the peace of Christ, if we choose to trust Him! I still have to make that choice, sometimes every minute, when I feel anxiety creeping in and I slip into selfish thoughts. If this is an area of weakness for you, will you commit to obey His truth?

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Sharon Durant, contributor for today’s blog

“Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul. Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.” – 1 Peter 2:11-12

Warning: I am about to write a blog post about shoes. Worse than that, I am about to write a blog post about buying shoes. Worst of all, I am about to write a blog post about buying shoes, for women to read.

I very rarely buy shoes. Last time I bought shoes, I bubbled up to a best buddy and showed off my new shoes, only to have her laugh in my face. They were exactly the same as the old shoes. And the pair before that. I had found a style I loved, they were comfy, practical, no-nonsense trainers, and I bought them again, and again. Why would I want to change shoes?

This September, I found myself buying shoes. I am training as a teacher this year, so I need trainee teacher shoes. Shoes that give power, shoes that speak of professionalism, shoes that will clip-clop down the corridor with purpose and determination. Not trainers.

I stood in the shop in terror. I wanted to catch the bus in 10 minutes, but there were so many shoes to choose from. Professional shoes, sensible shoes, girl-power boots, fussy shoes, look-I’m-super-tall shoes. The shoes I am wearing are going to tell everyone something about me, or how I am seen, or how I want to be seen. No wonder some people set aside whole days for shopping. I felt my inexperience in shoes. I was breaking out in a sweat.

Traumatised, the following Sunday I was speaking to a Christian friend about my shoe shopping experience, and I realised I am not alone. In fact she had faced the same dilemma (except where I chose grown-up kitten heels, she chose on-my-feet-all-day flats). Wanting to send some sort of message about myself, I was relying on my shoes.

But as I chatted with my friend, I wondered. Are people seriously going to get a strong message about me from my footwear? Really? Surely whatever comes out of my mouth, or whatever I demonstrate in my behaviour, is more telling? As a Christian, living in this world as if I’m a foreigner doesn’t mean having foreign shoes. I’m agonising about what people may think of my shoe-choice; shouldn’t I be thinking far more about my lifestyle choice?

One of the verses we had at our wedding was 1 Peter 2:11-12, reminding us that God’s way of life is foreign in this world. He might not give me a clear pointer about my shoes, but he has definitely given me clear pointers in kindness, selflessness, love, hope and faith. We’re not supposed to be fitting in. We’re foreigners here. We don’t belong, and that’s a hard thing to bear.

Walk with me this trainee teacher year. Walk in my new heels. Help me walk like a foreigner. Pull me up when my way of life becomes far too familiar with this world. And if you see me stranded in a shoe shop, remind me that people care more about my life choices than my shoe choices!