Growing for God’s Splendor!

“And on the banks, on both sides of the river, there will grow all kinds of trees for food. Their leaves will not wither, nor their fruit fail, but they will bear fresh fruit every month, because the water for them flows from the sanctuary.  Their fruit will be for food, and their leaves for healing.”  Ezekiel 47:12

christyIt is an awesome thing when you realise that God is fully committed to us – and that he is willing to allow others to see our faults and mistakes, knowing that as he transforms us it will bring Him glory. It may also bring salvation to others. He changes us to show his splendour in our lives, to grow the character of his beloved Son in us. Why would we ever doubt his committment to this renovation project?
“For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” (Ephesians 2:10, NLT)
Such encouraging words are also found in this recent song by Christy and Nathan Nockels, reminding us of God’s work in us, which is for His glory, not ours:

‘For Your Splendor’

I’m so concerned with what I look like from the outside;
Will I blossom into what You hope I’ll be.
Yet You’re so patient just to help me see
The blooms come from a deeper seed that You planted in me.

Sometimes it’s hard to grow when everybody’s watching,
To have your heart pruned by the one who knows best
And though I’m bare and cold, I know my season’s coming
And I’ll spring up in Your endless faithfulness.

With my roots deep in You
I’ll grow the branch that bears the fruit
And though I’m small, I’ll still be standing in the storm,
‘Cause I am planted by the river
By Your streams of living water
And I’ll grow up strong and beautiful, all for Your splendor, Lord.

So with my arms stretched out, I’m swaying to Your heartbeat.
I’m growing with the sound of Your voice calling.
You’re bringing out the beauty that You have put in me.
For Your joy and for Your glory falling.

© 2012 sixsteps Music / worshiptogether.com Songs / Sweater Weather Music (ASCAP) (Admin. at EMICMGPublishing.com)
 
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Thinking about Psalm 73: What did Asaph find in the Sanctuary?

asaphMany thanks to guest preacher Andrew Bain who invited us last Sunday (Mother’s Day) to consider our attitude to the prosperity of the ungodly in the world. In Psalm 73 Asaph expresses at length his bitter envy of ungodly prosperous people and he cries out to the Lord at this extreme injustice. Then midway through the Psalm he takes the time to visit God’s sanctuary (probably the temple, to pray and read God’s word). There he realises how seriously skewed was this envy and this cry of injustice!  “I finally understood the destiny of the wicked” (v17). “I realised that my heart was bitter….I was foolish and ignorant” (v21-22).   In the sanctuary Asaph gains renewed confidence in the goodness of God, and realises that it is the ungodly, not himself, who are on the “slippery slope” to ruin.

What a strange coincidence (God-incidence!) that this Psalm was explored on Mother’s Day, a day when some of the “unfair” aspects of motherhood are supposedly remedied, with gifts and much  attention and thanks being showered on mothers. The world has been shouting at us for some time that motherhood is unfair, that our biology has put women at a disadvantage in a society where prosperity and material gain is the ultimate good (and god!). When we compare our opportunites with those of most men in the developed world, it can seem unfair that women must put their career and their bank balance on hold in order to bear children (in considerable agony). . . and then stay home with them, doing daily repetitive tasks which, though extremely valuable, are deigned unimportant in the eyes of the world. Even the alternative seems unfair: we put the children in day care, head back to work and then, exhausted, enjoy very little of our life as we juggle a thousand demands on our time and attention. We may even get to the point of envying non-Christian women, who sleep in on Sundays and don’t have to add church commitments, bible reading and prayer to their already full diaries! How unfair is it that women often must battle loneliness when at home with little ones, and again at the other end of life, lonely, widowed and apparently forgotten? How unfair is it that some women who want children have been deprived the opportunity, while the ungodly despise and dispose of their unborn children in great numbers?

So what do we do when these bitter thoughts creep in, settle down and discourage us? Like Asaph we need to turn to God. As Christians, we are the temple of the Holy Spirit, He lives in us, yet we must take the time to “tune in” to God’s voice. The “sanctuary” is a place we must go to daily, as we turn away from the voices and attitudes of the world, and tune into God’s voice in His word and through prayer. Paul challenges us in the book of Romans: “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind” (Rom 12:2). As we tune into God’s voice, in His word, the Spirit helps us understand and see things from a right perspective. God reminds us that the world we live in does not hold correct opinions about heavenly realities, who is King, who is in charge, what is right and wrong, and the ultimate purpose of mankind! God reminds us of the riches we have in Christ, which far surpass anything we could aspire to own or achieve in this “unfair” world. Let’s turn to God and restore our confidence in his goodness. He sent His own son, Jesus, to face extreme injustice, nailed to a cross for the sins of those who were his enemies (us!) and because of this we can draw close to God. Yet I still belong to You; You hold my right hand.  You guide me with your counsel, leading me to a glorious destiny. Whom have I in heaven but You? I desire you more than anything on earth. My health may fail, and my spirit may grow weak, but God remains the strength of my heart; He is mine forever. (Psalm 73)

The Power of Thinking

thinkThis may sound like a really obvious thing to say, but when you tell others that you have been thinking about them, something good happens. If I were Oprah W, and had my own talk show, I may tell you that when someone thinks positive thoughts about someone else then it causes a cosmic set of ripples to flow out from you which can cross continents and oceans and contributes good karma to the universe . . or some such. But what I am actually proposing is much more practical and real. Let me explain.

While attempting to jog around the lake today (more of a jog/walk) the thought came to me that I should pray for my children, and specifically for their future spouses (if that is something that will be part of their future). I know many people who have made this a regular practice since their children were small, and I think we did it better many years ago; haven’t really discussed or prayed for them in this way for a while. So I did.

And the outcome? Well there weren’t 3 Christian Prince Charmings lined up at the door with application forms when I got home, but when I mentioned these thoughts and prayers to my eldest girl (15) I know by her response that she felt loved, knowing I cared about her future. No doubt this interaction, these shared thoughts, will lead to more careful thinking on her behalf as well. (Not that she needs to make a choice right now!)

Another example is a young mum who comes to our playgroup at church. She normally is difficult to engage in conversation, but by mentioning a simple thought to her, many new conversations have opened up about quite personal things. (You are probably wondering what ‘thought’ I shared with her? I simply shared that she really reminded me of the lead female character in the Hunger Games film. She checked her out and reported back to me the next week).

We all have so many thoughts about many different people throughout the course of a day. . . some of these are admittedly not always very edifying thoughts! But next time you are thinking, turns those ‘random’ thoughts to prayer, then see what happens if you share them with that very person (and let me know the outcome)!

Welcoming a little child

So, the blog has been sitting here unused since an enthusiastic outburst at the New Year. Oh well. Am reflecting at the moment on the need for more compassion in the world, as I prepare for Compassion Sunday at church this week. This is basically a big promotion for Compassion Australia, which attempts to gain many more sponsors for children across the globe – in fact to reach the 100,000 mark of those Australians sponsoring children in 26 developing countries! Globally there are 1.3 million sponsor children through Compassion International…..yet this hardly seems enough. We have so much unnecessary stuff in our homes and lives, unused resources which could and should be more evenly distributed around the globe. If they were my children dying of preventable disease wouldn’t I lift a finger to help? If they were drinking dirty water or going without food, wouldn’t I be quick to do something? We need to put faces on the statistics of children (and people generally) living in poverty, and not just consume and spend more because everyone around us is doing it!

The definition of compassion is “a feeling of deep sympathy and sorrow for another who is stricken by misfortune, accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate the suffering.” And Jesus said “. . . whoever welcomes a little child like this in my name welcomes me.” Matthew 18:5. When we sign up to sponsor a child we are welcoming them into our lives, to share with us our resources, our family and our faith in the One true God. We are welcoming more of Christ into our lives!

So, I had been thinking as I prepare for Compassion Sunday: Do I really need to work so hard on this slideshow, on making it attractive and making things clear for potential sponsors. Why can’t they just see the need and sign up? (I think in frustration and with tired eyes and the beginnings of a head cold!). But with all the above in mind, yes they do need encouragement to sponsor a child – whatever might incite one more person to sign up for a sponsor child is worth it! Isn’t it?! How awesome that a little bit of our income can make a really big difference in the life of a child, a family, a community! We may not ever know the full extent of the impact child sponsorship has, but God knows, and it is He who works through Christians and local churches in these countries to bring the gospel to the hearts of these children.

We have had the privilege of sponsoring two Compassion children (since about 1996): a boy Santiago in Ecuador, and then our current sponsor child, a girl named Stacy, in El Salvador. Blessings to you both!