RESTORATION OR RESENTMENT?

Hannah Spruijt, contributor of today's post

Hannah Spruijt, contributor of today’s post

“I need to apologise. I’ve got resentment building in my heart that you can’t see and I want to dig it out. I’m sorry.” Goodness!! Did I just say those words?!? I was speaking to my husband, who wasn’t understanding me (again – probably my fault for not being clear, again!) and I could feel the resentment growing.

My usual response in this situation would be to go silent; giving the cold-shoulder whilst chewing over petty grievances and wallowing in ‘he doesn’t understand me’ self-pity. Isn’t this often the easy option when we don’t want to confront the sin in our own hearts?

I can put my hand up and say that this was the first time I’d EVER managed to conquer that inner battle with God’s help, and admit to it, whilst struggling against my ‘flesh’ that wanted to nurse my self-pity.

In the past few weeks our life group has been studying the book of James together. This portion struck me;

“But the wisdom of heaven is first of all pure. It is also peace-loving, gentle at all times, willing to yield to others. It is full of mercy and good deeds. It shows no partiality and is always sincere. And those who are peace-makers will plant seeds of peace and reap a harvest of goodness”.

James 3 v 17-18 (NLT)

I had set myself the challenge to root out sin in my own life following prompting from the Holy Spirit in my heart. Oh friends! How much easier it is to say we will do something than actually putting it into practise!! We need to start with ourselves and CHOOSE to deal with our own sin. I realised the resentment in my heart at that moment needed dealing with. With God’s enabling, I could identify it and seek forgiveness. What is so amazing is the blessing that came from that obedience! An 2f405c7677377af46951aacf9ca36903immediately restored relationship and peace that flooded my heart! As the Scripture in James says, I was blessed with a harvest of goodness in that situation. Practise makes perfect; I am having to work on dealing with my unseen thoughts and my impure heart every day, but with God’s help I hope I can obey His will.

God delights in giving us wisdom when we ask (James 1 v 5) and I have found that as I daily (or in the moment) ask Him for grace, He gives it! The discipline is in the asking, especially when our sinful nature is so self-centred. Are we willing to root out the sin in our own hearts? Especially when it comes to our relationships with those we love; are we showing Jesus to those around us by how we love each other? (John 13 v 35) When we talk with our parents, give advice to our children, chat things through with a friend or husband or close colleague – how are we examining our own heart and motives to make them obedient to Christ? When we seek the wisdom God gives, and put it into action, we will reap a harvest of goodness in our own lives and in our relationships with those around us.download

Christ promises to be with us every step of our journey as we seek to walk wisdom’s path. As a child of God, I would much rather be blessed with His restoration then carrying the burden of resentment. Wouldn’t you? Let’s encourage each other to obey God and model the wisdom of the Gospel.

 

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INESCAPABLE CHOICE

Anne Holmes, contributor for today's blog

Anne Holmes, contributor for today’s blog

You know girls, since we started our bible study this year with  Inescapable Choices, I find myself reflecting on my own inescapable choice.  Simply put, I could choose to stay with what the world offered me, the broad way, which leads to emptiness and nothing; OR choose the narrow way, to surrender my life to Jesus, which leads to the joy of knowing Him and eternal life.  We are faced with making choices and decisions of all shapes and sizes on a daily basis, which affect the trajectory of our character and souls.  I am realizing this more each day.  But the ‘inescapable choice’ rushed in on me with a gut wrenching force for which I was not entirely prepared.

Journey with me to being a mum in my 20’s.   I breezed through life making choices and decisions based on what made me feel good.  I admit not all of the choices I made were good ones.  I was happy, I had a good, hardworking husband and 2 beautiful daughters, a lovely home, a car, a job, life was good…or was it?  I couldn’t shake the feeling of discontentment and emptiness. Was this all there was to life? Was I just 000b2384165b8934005b2840c776cd95ungrateful? I had more than many, yet I couldn’t shake the empty feeling inside.

THEN – my world was turned upside down.  At just 8 weeks old our daughter became very ill.  I had lost a baby prior to having her and was filled with fear that I may lose her also. I felt as if God was punishing me.  As the ambulance whisked us to our nearest hospital; a deep fear took root in my heart. I bargained with God, crying “please don’t let my baby die, in return I will start going to church”.  The diagnosis came after two days of tests and watching over our lifeless baby.  Our daughter had a reflux kidney, which had caused a severe infection.  We had to make a choice about her treatment, choosing   the route of antibiotics with surgery when she reached the age of 5.  Subsequent tests revealed that one kidney had become smaller and was scarred.   Surgery was imminent.

bargaining-chalkboardTo keep my part of the bargain, I started going to church.  I had many unanswered questions and I wanted to know that God was real and for Him to prove his love for me.  I just couldn’t grasp that I was worthy of his love.  The fact that God, the Creator of the universe and all that is in it, could possibly love me was beyond my comprehension.   Yet the bible tells me He does because He sent Jesus to pay the price for my sinfulness.  John 3:16 tells us that “God so loved the world, that he gave his only son that whoever believes in him shall not die but have eternal life. “

images (1) I was overwhelmed and my heart was filled with thankfulness and joy when we learned that the shrunken kidney had grown to a normal size.  Through this crisis, I made the choice to fully surrender my life to God: the inescapable choice.  I can now see that it is God who fills my void and not ‘things’.  I am so thankful that God used this crisis to bring me to Him and help me see that He loves me. He loves you too; so much that God in Jesus came to rescue us from ourselves. We no longer have to settle for counterfeit, temporary “void-fillers.” Have you made your choice? If so, let us encourage each other on this narrow path. Let’s remind each other that it is the great deceiver who messes with us into thinking God doesn’t love us. If your choice has been the broad path, even by default, I hope and pray the eyes of your heart will be opened.

 

 

 

 

 

THINGS ARE NOT ALWAYS AS THEY SEEM

Natalie Ovens, contributor for today's post

Natalie Ovens, contributor for today’s post

‘For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God’. 1 Corinthians 1:18 

The other evening I was recounting something from my day to Dan, and without any response or acknowledgement that he had heard what I was saying, he picked up his phone to look at sport results! I challenged him about it, and it turns out he was able to recap what I had been talking about very well. I was surprised. He had been listening, he just didn’t show it. Things are not always as they seem!

I have found this to be true in my Christian journey with God.  I have been reflecting recently on the passage in 1 Corinthians 1: 18-25 that talks about the problem of being a smart fool instead of fearing God. There are times when I can get a bit skeptical about my faith, and doubt creeps in when I start looking to trust in my own wisdom. I have friends who are of other religions. I am sometimes aware that they seem to be trying to win me over to their faith through their words or actions. This got me thinking that they appear to really believe in their god, and they are not that much different from me. Even my friends of no faith, sort of do have their own faith, because they are convinced they have come to the correct conclusion about life. But only one of us must be right. The other week I got thinking over all the similarities of the various faiths and scriptureontrustinggodI started to doubt. “Who of us is right?” But God is always on my case, He doesn’t leave me to figure it all out myself. I have questions, but God reminds me of His reality. Recently, I was telling Him my worries and doubts.  The next day I had some crazy answers to a different prayer (not to do with my doubts, actually it was to do with making a tight schedule work!) The way God worked things out was so beyond what I could have even asked or imagined, His answering my prayer proved His realness. The result: all my questions about other faiths evaporated.

living wisely in a foolish worldThe wisdom of the world can be rather deceptive, it seems to say that we need to have all the answers before we can trust God. But I have concluded that as I am a finite person, and God is infinite, it means that I am never going to be able to get my head around Him and have all my questions sorted in a neat and tidy box. True wisdom is accepting that He is God and I am not, and choosing to put my trust in Him. For me this plays into all the common questions about suffering in the world, different religions, and the validity of the Bible, etc (all subjects that I have struggled with in the past). It’s not that asking questions is a bad thing, but it can start to become dangerous. It always comes down to the question of do I trust God or not?

Trusting-God_tI can think that I am the one with all the answers. I can come up with things that I think ‘catch God out’, but things are not always as they seem. Can you relate?  God is a lot bigger than us and we need to trust Him. Just because we don’t understand everything, it doesn’t mean that we need to throw everything else out the window!

 

 

 

TRUSTING GOD AND HIS HIGHER WAYS

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Pam Mitchell, contributor for today’s post

Do you recognize what you are good at and accept these things as a gift from God to be used by Him? At the same time are you ever tempted to think that perhaps your gifting can supersede the plans of God and do a better job for Him and even save Him the trouble?  I am guilty of this at times!  I am a good planner and organizer by the grace of God and I have been known to mentally bring something to Him in prayer and then start planning how He could bring it to pass! The trouble with this thinking is that nearly always God has another way to deal with my prayer request!! I then begin to realize that He can manage on His own without my intervention or interference!

On reading 2Kings ch5 v 1-26, which tells the story of Naaman and his leprosy I have these thoughts:

Naaman’s flesh was horrible to look at and prevented him from mixing with society. This disease would most likely be a progressive thing gradually destroying the flesh of his body. No cure was known. It was amazing how God worked through a captured slave girl from Israel. She had heard the good news about a prophet man called Elijah; she could easily have been bitter about her slave situation and even secretly delighted in her captor’s suffering and said nothing. But she spread the good news to Naaman. He believed her and made the journey to see the prophet. While travelling he must have been thinking of this great man of God and imagining how he would touch and heal Naaman or some dramatic demonstration of his power. Instead when the man of God heard of Naaman’s arrival he didn’t even show his face but instead sent him instructions to go and bathe seven times in the River Jordan. This was not what Naaman1333Naaman expected and he was enraged and would have walked away if it were not for his trusted servants who were able to calm him and persuade him to obey the man of God. Naaman was obedient. Not only was he healed but his skin was as a new born babe.

How often do we come to the Great Prophet with a request and not heed His instructions, thinking we know better?

Isaiah 53 v 7-8 tells us that “My ways are not your ways, neither are my thoughts your thoughts says the Lord” If we choose to follow His ways and obey then we have the promise in verse 12 of this chapter “You shall go out with joy and be led forth with peace”.

I am still learning this lesson and maybe one day I will get it right first time!

Jesus in the Garden prayed for the cup of suffering to be taken from Him, but then said “nevertheless not my will but Yours O Lord”. God’s way is always the best! We can trust Him in this. So let us learn to pray in Jesus’ Name and according to the will of God.

 

 

SOGGY SLIPPERS

Kathy Larkman

Kathy Larkman, contributor of today’s blog post

“Listen to advice and accept instruction, and in the end you will be wise.” Proverbs 19:20

We have a saying around our house taken from the 1960’s and 70’s sitcom, Dad’s Army. No, it is NOT “You stupid boy!” Actually, it is “Do you think that’s wise?” Many times Sergeant Wilson would ask this of Captain Mainwaring when the Captain was conjuring up some harebrained scheme. (American friends, check it out on You Tube.)  Although our household doesn’t really have any harebrained schemes, (well not that I can think of at the moment) I am often challenged by this question from my loved ones when I am not thinking ahead to the possible consequences of my actions: when I have a cup of caffeinated coffee at 9 pm; when I have a tall cool refreshment close to my computer in knocking over range; when I chalk paint in my “good clothes”; when I order a plant online without reading the small print, and receive a TREE; when I go dsc06227outside in the rain wearing my slippers; the list is endless! Not until I have to buy new slippers (because my old ones are soggy and worn before their time) do I face the music!

These instances certainly display my sense of the ridiculous at times! But, if I am completely honest, these seemingly trivial snapshots reveal my heart – my lazy, rebellious, self-indulgent heart.  Wisdom says, “Put on my crocs!” “Follow Ed’s advice!” “Say no to something which isn’t good for me,” but my sinful heart pulls me away.

In my daily life, if I am to grow in this process of making choices with a Gospel mindset, then I must make a conscious effort to choose the way of wisdom in my thinking which then translates into my actions. This only works if it comes from my heart!  I have to CHOOSE to follow the Lord, not just my salvation decision, but with my daily choices.  Wisdom and folly (foolishness) both want to control my life, and I have to make a daily choice which one will. And heeding wise advice is one way Christ speaks into my life the way of wisdom.

Have you ever been given wise advice that down deep you KNOW was the way to go, but your heart was pulling you away from God?  Girl, I have, and more times than I have fingers and toes.  And it isn’t just the times Eddie has warned me about my soggy slippers.  The consequences were much uglier, painful, and unnecessary had I clung to Christ instead of pulling away from wise counsel that God graciously laid before me.

Sisters, is there a situation in your life where you need wise counsel and instruction? Prayerfully seek them out. This is one of the ways God equips you to know the way of wisdom in your choices.
And then let us encourage and pray for one another for our hearts to stay soft and proverbs19.20teachable in order to actually go the way of wisdom when we are given wise advice and instruction.

And please, you have my permission to remind me to put on my crocs before I go outside!