Twixmas – Getting That New Year Feeling

Whatever you want to call the time between Christmas and New Year: Christmas Limbo, Twixmas etc. It definitely gives time for reflection (along with all the food of course).

So my reflecting has been on New Year’s Resolutions…
Should we make them? Why should we make them? What’s the point of them? (especially when many of them last only a few weeks at best)

Christmas is all about Christ (it’s in the name…) so surely the rest of the year should also be all about Jesus. And that includes our New Year’s Resolutions.

Maybe the reason many of our New Year’s resolutions never seem to last very long is because we’re often doing them in our own strength and not God’s strength.

I’ve been challenged to pray and seek God’s guidance before making any resolutions for 2017. Let’s look first to God, and not to ourselves. Philippians 4v13 says “I can do all things through Him who gives me strength.” It’s in God’s strength that we do his will.

Adam and Eve are evidence that when we try to do things in our own strength we fail. In fact take a look at most of the Old Testament and you’ll see that that’s the case. It’s the reason the world was in need of a Saviour that first Christmas.

When our lives are founded on Jesus, our New Year resolutions won’t be based on being a ‘better’ version of ourselves. Because God has already made us the best through Jesus.

So this New Year’s don’t make resolutions you know you won’t be able to keep; make resolutions you will only be able to keep with God at your side, living and working in you every day. And remember there’s grace for when we rely on our own strength and not God’s.

Grace

Considering the title of this blog, I think it’s high time I posted about grace…!

Having had the opportunity to go surfing a few times over the past weeks, it’s struck me that the sea is pretty big! And I’ve often thought of God’s grace being a bit like an ocean: there’s sooo much of it, and it’s wider and deeper than we can ever imagine. And no matter how much grace we need, we can never empty the ocean.

When you’re surfing, the waves can be pretty powerful; we can’t underestimate the power of God’s grace poured out on us through Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. Grace is a game changer, a life changer – for it is by grace that you have been saved through faith (Ephesians 2v8).

A verse that’s been on my heart for several years now is 2 Corinthians 12v9:
“But he said to me ‘my grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses so that Christ’s power may rest on me.”

I think the reason it’s been on my heart is because God’s grace never gets old or boring; it’s new and fresh and exciting EVERY day. And it’s never ending. Grace is incredible, we’re totally undeserving of it but God pours it out on us anyway; it’s mind blowing stuff!

Sufficiency means God’s grace meets our every need. Whatever you’re struggling with right now – God’s grace is bigger. Whatever you’re enjoying right now – God’s grace is bigger. That person (or people) you’re annoyed/frustrated/angry with – God’s grace is bigger. If you’re not quite sure what the next step on your journey is – God’s grace is bigger.

And just when we thought there couldn’t possibly be more grace because the ocean is full, the heavens open and his grace rains down on us – “But he gives us more grace” (James 4v6). God ABUNDANTLY gives us his grace, every day, every hour, every minute, every second. Of EVERY day. Not just Sundays. Now that’s the kind of God I want to know and serve.

Grace reminds us that it’s NOT about us, it’s all about Jesus. He’s the one our lives should be pointing to, he’s the one who sets us free from sin and brings us into right relationship with our heavenly dad because of Jesus’ death and resurrection

Holiday Musings

No Fruit is Perfect

image

I’m on holiday (yay!) to Sardinia at the moment, and I’ve noticed how the fruit and veg they sell in the markets (as well as in the supermarkets) – as you can sort of see in the photo above – is far from the uniform ‘perfect’ fruit we seem to almost always find in our supermarkets here back in the UK. It also tastes so much fresher and generally better! (Maybe I’ve been converted to Italian food…)

Anyway, this got me thinking about the way God made each of us. He didn’t create us all the same, so that our churches would be filled with round-faced evangelists (tomatoes) or tall thin pastors (carrots) etc., etc. The list could go on, and hopefully you catch my drift… 1 Corinthians 12v19-20 comes to mind: “If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body.” But thankfully God made us all different! In our abilities, in our callings, in our giftings, and in our physical bodies too! So that His body, the church (as well as his beautiful bride), contains such diversity.

So I guess the main takeaway from this is: stop comparing yourself to others. And I’m speaking to myself as much as I am to anyone who might be reading this. God didn’t make you to be like Joe down the road, a little bit like your uni mate Emma, and not really like your colleague Andy. God made you to be YOU. We spend so much time comparing ourselves to other people (in and out of church), that somethings we forget that God made a completely unique [insert your name here].

“Yet you, Lord, are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand.” Isaiah‬ ‭64v8

Ask God to mold you more into the best version of yourself in Him, so you can do the things God intended for YOU and live at the best potential for [insert your name here]. Today, be the person God wants YOU to be.

“And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” Matthew‬ ‭10v30-31‬

God loves you and he cares very deeply for you! He’s knows you better than you know yourself (which just seems ridiculous, but good ridiculous!) You are so precious to God.

Italian chat up lines….
Let me tell you a story from my time on holiday here in Sardinia… I was waiting on the roadside with my family for a bus and a middle-aged Italian man pulls up in his car to speak to us. He didn’t seem to have anything in particular to say to us (as often seems to be the way in Italy), except to keep referring to me as pretty, and generally making me feel quite embarrassed! Now funny as this little story from my time in Italy might be, the whole concept of a man looking at me in that way, if I’m being honest, made me feel very uncomfortable. It comes round to the question of ownership. I am not an object, I was bought at a price. And that price was Jesus’ blood. I am God’s very own possession (Deuteronomy 14v2*).

Now the world might tell us (particularly women) that we should look beautiful, so that we will be desired. But actually I want to be more like Leah in Genesis 29, who had a beautiful heart that loved God (as can be seen in the names she gives to her sons), rather than a beautiful body like her sister Rachel (interesting considering my name…) I want to be like the woman of Proverbs 31: “Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.” (verse 30)

Takeaway: it all comes back to comparison. Don’t let the world tell you what you should look like, what you should wear, how you should talk, what you should watch or listen to. Rely on God’s Word for that – God jam-packed it full of awesome truths!

 

*I am aware that I have taken this verse slightly out of context but I still believe God calls us his ‘treasured possession’ – he wouldn’t have sent his one and only son to the cross to save us from our sin if we weren’t his treasured possession! (See also Psalm 18v19)

First One!

This is more of an personal accountability thing, rather than for sharing anything deep and profound! I’m going to commit to updating this blog at last once a month with things God has been teaching and challenging me on. I could write it in a journal, but it being a more public thing makes it more difficult to make excuses! (I’m sure we’ve all been there) And if I’m not updating this, pick me up on it! So here goes…

“Do not get drunk on wine… instead be filled with the spirit” – Ephesians 5v18

It’s not that I drink very much (at all!) but I’ve been challenged recently that actually being filled with the Holy Spirit is so much better than drinking. Being a Christian isn’t always easy or comfortable and it involves sacrifice, and I feel this is one of those sacrifices for the foreseeable season.

Identity. Sometimes I think we lose sight of this as Christians. We say on Sunday at Church that our identity is in Christ, but come Monday morning, we’re back to worrying about what our work colleagues will think if we say this or wear that; we’re drawn into the latest series instead of spending that time with our Father; we’re more concerned with (dare I say) who’s going to win Star Baker on the Great British Bake Off than our relationship with the One who created us and loves us more than words can say or actions can show; and we chase (or pretend not to chase) that guy or girl we like, thinking that they will somehow ‘complete’ us, instead of remembering that God made us complete in Him, or if you’re in a relationship, maybe you prioritise that over God; we’re so concerned with our social media identity instead of putting our roots down into Christ, so that none of these things things will sway us.

God’s will for us is also an innate part of our identity: for us to be in relationship with God. And then there’s also calling and purpose: how do these all fit in? I think I found it quite easy to put off seriously thinking about these because they just seemed so HUGE. But there’s actually so much freedom when we realise that our identity is fully in Christ, and as the freedom grows, so does the joy. As we free ourselves from worrying about what we’re doing with our lives, what our purpose to being on this earth is, and give it over to God, then God reveals more of his character to us: God didn;t design us to worry, he designed us to REJOICE in Him and all that he’s already achieved for us on the cross!

Speaking in tongues: this wasn’t something that I was really exposed to until I went to uni. And even then I found it a bit weird. I mean even when the Disciples first spoke in tongues in Acts, everyone thought they were drunk (but then Paul gave them a mind-blowing Gospel-centred sermon of why they needed Jesus and 3000 people got saved – pretty insane stuff!). So thinking about it now, maybe the Disciples speaking in tongues was the first sign that they had been filled with the Spirit, but then why isn’t that the case today? Is it that it’s not culturally acceptable: people don’t go around speaking languages that they didn’t spend years learning, but it’s okay to laugh or cry? Or maybe we’re just a bit too British. Paul talks in 1 Corinthians 14 about tongues and says he wants us all to speak in tongues but that he’d rather we prophesy.

To me speaking in tongues is an outworking of the deep covenant relationship with our Father: it’s between you and God. But prophesy is for the whole Church: when people have verses, pictures or words that are shared, I believe that’s prophecy – it’s God speaking through 1 person to a whole group of people. But coming back to tongues: if it’s between me and God and it’s a sign that I’m filled with the Spirit, then why doesn’t it come naturally? Well I was challenged that I hadn’t actually asked God to be able to speak in tongues (seems like a total no brainer now!) And lo and behold bingo: when you ask, God gives!

A friend on a Christian camp I went on last week shared this and I found it really powerful and challenging:

‘We stare down at our empty bowl, complaining to God, but don’t see the feast he has set before us.’

God has an amazing feast of GRACE, LOVE, MERCY, COMPASSION and FORGIVENESS. And I want to fill my bowl with these and not get caught up in the wordly perspective that God is distant, unloving and mean.

Thanks for reading 🙂