The gracious God who satisfies

“God is the highest good of the reasonable creature, and the enjoyment of him is the only happiness with which our souls can be satisfied. To go to heaven fully to enjoy God, is infinitely better than the most pleasant accommodations here. Fathers and mothers, husbands, wives, children, or the company of earthly friends, are but shadows. But the enjoyment of God is the substance. These are but scattered beams, but God is the sun. These are but streams, but God is the fountain. These are but drops, but God is the ocean. Therefore it becomes us to spend this life only as a journey towards heaven, as it becomes us to make the seeking of our highest end and proper good, the whole work of our lives, to which we should subordinate all other concerns of life. Why should we labor for, or set our hearts on anything else, but that which is our proper end, and true happiness?”
(Edwards, “Christian Pilgrim,” in The works of Jonathan Edwards)

Blessings (through raindrops!)

Blessings laura sThis is a song by Laura Story, author of the very popular song Indescribable, a song made famous by Chris Tomlin. (Apparently she wrote the song with the help of Tomlin’s bass player.)  I love the way she challenges us to remember that even circumstances we don’t consider “blessings” may actually be just that! My favourite line comes at the end of each chorus: “What if the trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise?” You can listen to the song by following the link at the end. Blessings!

“We pray for blessings, We pray for peace,
Comfort for family, protection while we sleep
We pray for healing, for prosperity,
We pray for Your mighty hand to ease our suffering
All the while, You hear each spoken need,
Yet love us way too much to give us lesser things
‘Cause what if Your blessings come through raindrops,
What if Your healing comes through tears,
What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You’re near
What if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise?

We pray for wisdom, Your voice to hear,
And we cry in anger when we cannot feel You near
We doubt Your goodness, we doubt Your love,
As if every promise from Your Word is not enough
All the while, You hear each desperate plea
And long that we’d have faith to believe
When friends betray us, When darkness seems to win
We know the pain reminds this heart
That this is not, this is not our home
‘Cause what if Your blessings come through raindrops
What if Your healing comes through tears and
What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You’re near
What if my greatest disappointments
Or the aching(s) of this life
Is the revealing of a greater thirst this world can’t satisfy
And what if trials of this life,
The rain, the storms, the hardest nights
Are Your mercies in disguise.”


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Lessons from the tissue box                                                                               How to Suffer Well
runny-noseSuffering Well book cover

 

We bear the creativity of a loving Creator

The only reason we can be creative people, who can make unique and beautiful designs in art, craft and music, is because we bear the image of an infinitely and extravagantly creative God. And when we observe how passionate some people get about their crafty creations, we are reminded of the Father’s passion for us, His new creations! Here are some thoughts I shared at a women’s Craft Day a little while ago:

Why do we treasure the things that we make? To other people it seems we place inordinate value on our creations, whether they be for ourselves or others. But we know all the thought and creative energy we have put into them. We have an intimate knowledge of their design and have blisters and sore eyes from the hours of careful manual work. We value them so much more highly than mass produced, shop bought items (just as we might value our child’s homemade card and craft so much more). Our finished creations take pride of place in our homes and on our bodies!  (One friend shared today how when she found a precious quilt she made someone scrunched up in the bottom of their cupboard; she quickly retrieved the object and decided to give it the love and care it deserves herself!) While others may admire the skill, the beauty and the design, it is their creator who holds them most highly valued. Since we know our creations so well, we also know their flaws, and are willing to work to improve them. We even treasure the broken, unfinished and seemingly useless creations, hoarding them away for the day when we will get around to finishing them.

The relationship between Creator and created is very unique, and how wonderful it is to remind ourselves that we are God’s treasured creation! He made us, He intimately knows our design, our flaws, our unfinished bits and He knows what He wants us to be when we are finished. God values us as His greatest treasure. Here are some of the phrases from God’s word which He uses to describe us. We are: His offspring, His prized possession, His handiwork, craftsmanship, masterpiece, the pinnacle of His creation and He rejoices over us with singing! This is the HOPE we have as Christians: that we are not biological accidents, but rather we are unique creations of a loving Creator. He knows us by name and by voice and fingerprint, and He has planned our days.

Rejoice! We are God’s treasure! He showed us this by sending his Son Jesus to save us from the punishment our rebellion deserved. “For God so loved the world that He sent His only son that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have everlasting life.” John 3:16
Here are two final points to ponder, which I believe you will find to be true as you follow your Creator:
1. We will be most satisfied in life when we treasure the One who treasures us most (Our Creator God!)
2. And He’s not finished making us yet! He is faithfully shaping us to be more and more like His son.

As the Message version of the Bible says in 2 Corinthians 3:18 our lives will be “. . . gradually becoming brighter and more beautiful as God enters our lives and we become like Him.”

Romans 8:28-30 (ESV)
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.

The godly and gracious choice to sleep.

Sometimes one of the godliest things you can do in the entire universe is go to bed and get some sleep!
I came across this intriguing comment in the middle of a talk on ‘Doubt’, by Don Carson. He spoke of how sometimes our doubts come because we are just too tired! We doubt ourselves, we doubt our God and His love for us, we doubt His ability to use us in His plan and work things together for good.
When you become tired enough you become skeptical, cynical and finally doubting. . . If you’re the kind of person who needs 8 hours sleep a night in order to be pleasant, then you owe it to Almighty God, not to mention all your fellow Christians and a lost world . . . to GET those 8 hours every night. . . You don’t have the right to go through life cynical, snarky and rude (DA Carson).
Well said! Perhaps we don’t hear this message, or take heed of it, nearly often enough.
Why is it so difficult to set that bedtime boundary and stick to it? The world offers us so many enticing, but empty and temporal things, which keep us awake. Sometimes it is our worries that keep us wide-eyed. Songwriter Wayne Watson suggests it is his “gods” which won’t let him sleep: “I toss and turn at night, I’ve got places to go, got battles to fight, And my gods won’t let me sleep…tonight”.

But the living God grants sleep to those He loves (Psalm 127:2). Now I’m not suggesting that if you are an insomniac or poor sleeper then it indicates God doesn’t love you! But it is important to recognise sleep is a gracious gift from God, on offer from our Maker to renergise and repair our bodies. And it is our responsibility to receive it. I heard recently that for good health, setting an alarm for the time to GO to bed is more important than a wakeup call! Sounds like a good idea. I might also take out the light circuit in the meter box, to help everyone in our household make the godly choice. . . Zzzzzzzzzz!

Singing in Babylon

There was this thread in the weave of Psalm Nineteen. I pulled on it.

This is what happened.

David, King of Judah, wrote Psalm Nineteen.

He wrote about the way creation clearly and constantly reveals the glory of God.

He wrote about the way the sun reaches into every part of the world with its light and warmth.

He wrote about the Law of the LORD, the Word of God, that the sun is like; the way it revives our lives and brings us wisdom and joy and light for living (not only light to see our way but it puts a sparkle in our eye as well); the way it adds taste to our lives (a rare taste – as rare as truly sweet things were in David’s world); the way it is ‘sure’ and ‘true’, reliable and certain and lasts forever.

Whenever he thought about God’s Word…

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Mark 3:16 – The Twelve are chosen!

the-bible-jesus-and-disciplesWelcome to my second post in the Three Sixteens series. In chapter 3 of Mark’s Gospel, verse 16 lands at the moment where Jesus has chosen those who will eventually be his apostles, his special representatives charged with the task of calling people to repentence and faith. Now I would call that a significant moment!

Mark 3:13-19: “Afterward Jesus went up on a mountain and called out the ones he wanted to go with him. And they came to him. Then he appointed twelve of them and called them his apostles. . . These are the twelve he chose: Simon (whom he named Peter), James and John (the sons of Zebedee, but Jesus nicknamed them “Sons of Thunder”), Andrew, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James (son of Alphaeus), Thaddaeus, Simon (the zealot), Judas Iscariot (who later betrayed him).”

These disciples are taught directly by Christ in plain language (not parables). They accompany him in his ministry travels for three years (equivalent to a university degree!) and are given the authority to cast out demons and preach salvation in His name. I can’t help thinking how ill-equipped for the task they probably felt! These young men were plucked from the normality of their lives, their homes, their work, their possessions . . . to face scorn and hardship. They followed the Man who had no home, so that many people might have an eternal home with him! These men gained an intimate knowledge of the One through whom all things were made, the Creator of the Universe, but at the same time they were often confused by his teachings and rebuked by him for their lack of faith.
These young men would become eyewitnesses to Jesus’ resurrection, preachers of his gospel, and in turn they would share his sufferings. Indeed most were martyred during the early church era for the sake of the glorious gospel message: salvation in Jesus name. Really you could say they were martyred for us, that we might believe and become his disciples. Their deaths are such a powerful testimony to the truth of Jesus and the reality of salvation in Him.

Two millenia later, how do we show that we too are disciples of Christ?
John 13:35 (NLT)
“Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.”

Creation Calls . . . are you listening?

Check out this great video accompaniment to a song by Brian Doerksen, “Creation Calls”. In light of creation he asks “How can they say there is no God”? What do you say? The GRACE of creation! God did not have to create such a beautiful place for us to enjoy, but he couldn’t help himself I suppose. Thanks God!

Emily’s Grace Notes

Emily's Grace Notes

Creative interpretation of sevennotesofgrace by Emily, aged 13.5yrs! Thanks Em – combines two favourite things: Scrabble and music.

Trusting school friends with your past and present.

Just signed up to a facebook group on a whim: my highschool cohort from grade 10-12 (1986-1988). There’s about 70 members, but the grade had around 200 students. And it is a strange kind of feeling reconnecting with people that you once knew pretty well for about a decade of your school life (20+ years ago), and no longer do at all! So why is it strange, and why do we do it? (and more to the point, why would we turn up for that even scarier situation, the face to face school reunion?)
I think part of it is about showing off, at least those aspects of yourself you think are worth showing off, that you are proud of (family, achievements, makeovers!). But part of it is also to be significant, to be recognised and remembered, and thought well of. We want people to see that we have changed and grown up. People may remember me as the musical geek (yes that’s how we were considered I think) who spent her every moment in the music room and in rehearsals. (Yes, we were allowed in the music rooms, unsupervised, during every break time and before school).
But there is that larger nagging question in the back of my mind: can I really trust these people, whom I no longer know, with the current information about who I am, who I have become after so many years of change and growing up. These barely recognisable faces, who like me have experienced the ravages of time, knew me at the height of my adolescent arrogance! Though I want to re-write that impression, I wonder if I can really trust them with it? And do they even care? All those highschool insecurities bubble to the surface, and tempt me to leave the group!
Yet I suppose all of us are in the same boat, aren’t we, not really knowing who each person turned out to be, where their life has taken them since highschool, and whether or not they can be trusted.
I hope I can be trusted! And I hope that I will show grace and kindness to anyone who chooses to reconnect with me.

Three sixteens . . . let’s make a start with Matthew 3:16

baptismHas anyone ever noticed how many New Testament books have really significant verses land right at the place which has become chapter 3 verse 16 (just like the most famous, John 3:16). This is a curious coincidence which I intend to explore a little. Matthew 3:16 says:

“And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him,and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him”.

This is immediately followed by the voice of God acknowledging that Jesus is his beloved son, with whom he is well pleased.

This Spirit, descending on Jesus, comes at the public commencement and validation of his ministry. He will baptise others with the Holy Spirit and with fire, clear out the threshing floor, and gather in the wheat. This Spirit is not some warm fuzzy feeling, but a person of the trinity who brings down the Truth about Jesus and his mission, and it will divide people! It does the same today.
It will also save people. The Spirit is not characterised by timidity and fear, but “love, power and self-discipline” or “sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7). God has put his Spirit into our hearts, by which we cry Abba, Father. We have received the spirit of sonship and are now heirs with Christ!  The Spirit is the deposit: “Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.” (2 Cor 1:21-22).

Such awesome truths are wrapped up in this, the first of the “three sixteens” – 26 to go!