Shape Me

person making pot

Photo by Quino Al on Unsplash

 

We who have a calling,

A mission of which we’re sure,

May think that ensconced at home

Is more than we can endure

 

“What of my great mission?”

A world I’m supposed to change

To do it from behind closed doors

Feels unnaturally strange

 

But what is my purpose?

What am I meant to be?

Is serving God and others

More that just about me?

 

Lord use this time of seclusion

To mould me as you see fit

Let me think of the greater good

And help me in this time to do my bit

 

It’s not about grand gestures

Or the numbers that hear my voice

But those I can keep safe from home

To “love my neighbour” is my choice.

 

Heavenly Father, shape me to serve you.  Make me a vessel of encouragement, a servant through prayer.  Lord instill me wisdom, and humility.  Lord watch over and protect all your people. Amen.

Padre

 

“But now, LORD, you are our father. We are the clay, and you are our potter. All of us are the work of your hand (Isaiah 64:8).” [see Isaiah 29:16; Jeremiah 18:1-9; Romans 9:14-24 as well]

 

Standing for God

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image: Wiki

Brother Adrian Semerene from Cambridge brought us our message this week.  He challenged us to examine the situations we have been called to and to face them with a mind for making a stand for God.  He drew his message initially from Daniel chapter 1.  He began by reading the entire twenty-one verse passage, as it showed a wonderful overview of his theme.  In it we find Daniel and his three companions brought to Babylon as captives or slaves.  They are renamed, and educated in the literature and ways of the Chaldeans. 

Fair enough, they were forced to be in a certain place, and to accept things unfamiliar to Jews, but when it came to issues that mattered, like eating food forbidden in the Law of Moses, they chose to risk punishment rather than conform.   They made a stand for God.

The chief eunuch was concerned by this.  He wanted to uphold his king’s demands, and Daniel found a way.  He asked that they be given only vegetables for ten days, and then to assess whether the diet was harmful.  The result:  Daniel and his friends were found to actually be healthier than those who ate “from the king’s table.”  The experiment complete, they continued on with their “kosher” diet and in the end were found to be blessed by God, and exceeded the accomplishments of all of their contemporaries.  They stood for God, and he in turn stood for them.

This didn’t mean they had life easy, however.  Further stands for God by the four led to three being cast into a burning furnace, and Daniel himself into a lions’ den.  Again, they made a stand, and God preserved them.

Making a stand for God, involves an active decision to follow His commands.  When Jesus was asked about these commandments in Matthew’s account of the Good News, He said the matter was straight forward.   To love the Lord your God with all of your soul, heart, mind, and strength.

Brother Adrian noted that this all inclusive list applies to all of God’s people.  It is also not a pick and mix, but an expectation for all to follow all.  Some might find serving God with all their mind a blessing.  They might love to study the Word, etc.  But to others that might be an arduous task.  For others it might be opening yourself up emotionally (the heart) that provides either the blessing or the trial.

We need to be prepared to surrender whatever it takes, not just embrace the bits we like.  Daniel may or may not have been a contented Vegan, but he surrendered to God.

But for those of us who are wonderfully God-centred misanthropes, Jesus challenged us as well.  He said the second command spins off of the first.  “Love your neighbour as yourself.”  Not just the neighbours who love you.  Not just the agreeable ones.  But to love all of the children of God.  Now there is a stand to take.

Are you prepared to stand for God today?

Padre

 

 

In God’s Hands

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In August Dianne made one of her daily focuses Matthew 6: 27 “Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?”  She put the worry and concerns about her illness into God’s hands.  She was able to monitor and control her diet.  She could take her medicine and supplements, but she was wise enough to know that the number of days in her life were out of her control.  So, she concluded, why waste the time she had in worrying about it.  She cast the concerns on God, and made the most of her remaining time.

In reflecting upon this, I too am in a position to cast my cares on God.  I came across Keni Thomas’ song, In God’s Hands, which so closely mirrors my situation, that it spoke volumes to me.  Okay, in my life I have spent over forty years acknowledging God’s mastery, and that He has a plan for me.  But even with the measured trials of my life to date, none was to the magnitude of my “sad September song:” the passing of Dianne in that month.  But, it has put me all the more in the position of casting the balance of my life on Him.  It is indeed “in God’s hands now.”

Lyrics:

From the cradle to the crossroads
From the crossroads to the grave
Choices we are given and choices we have made
I have so many questions I’ve tried the best I can
I may never know the reasons but I know that there’s a plan

Chorus
It’s in God’s Hands now
He’s got all the answers
But He ain’t saying how
It’s in Gods’ hands now

When my endless summer ended in a sad September song
I looked up to heaven for the strength to carry on
To everything’s a season and in time it too shall pass
Pain is but a moment but His Love always lasts

Chorus

I’m standing at the crossroads, I know what I’ve got to do
Put the past behind me and give my heart to You.

I do not hold any rights to these lyrics as they are from:  Keni Thomas – In God S Hands Lyrics | MetroLyrics,  I therefore fully acknowledge the writer’s rights.  I do however so appreciate the writer’s ability to sum up the situation.

Padre

 

Weary But Renewed Each Day

Sunset, Dawn, Nature, Mountains, Landscape, Kaçkars

Dawn – Image by RÜŞTÜ BOZKUŞ from Pixabay 

 

Daily life can be hard.  Aging can make it harder, as can illness.  We scramble to make ends meet, and all to often we try to carry on on our own.  But this is a foolish approach.  My wife Dianne discovered that early in the final stages of her cancer.  She was not Super Girl or Wonder Woman, at least not in strength and endurance.  It was at that moment of revelation and realisation* that she turned to the scripture, 2 Corinthians 4: 16 “So we do not give up. Our physical body is becoming older and weaker, but our spirit inside us is made new every day.”

It was plain to her, and should be to us, that even when we are physically strained, our spirits are lifted by He who made us.  He provides us with a renewal each and every day, this is through not only a good night of contented sleep, but through enlivening our souls with His promises, and with fellowship with our brothers and sisters.  Through prayer, time with the Word, and in our contact with those who love us in unity we are renewed.

How obvious is that, when we reflect on Jesus’ own words!

Matthew 11:28-30 tells us,  “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Are we laying our burdens before God?  Or are we so ego driven that we forget the simple promise?  No man is an island it is said, but there is a Rock on which we can take refuge.

To do it alone I can but strive

But I grow more weary if in this way I strive

There is a promise to which I must hold

He will comfort give me, and lighten my load

 

We trust in our own strength

Just a bit too much

Our pride will betray us

If we cling to such

 

So let us lay our burdens down

And be renewed as we walk our way

His promises fulfilled

Day by day

 

Padre

*Dianne’s journal 9 June 2019

Listen, Pray, Then Speak

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Do we acknowledge our fears?  Do we carry them about as our own little “treasure?”  Surrendering to God, in principle is straight forward. But I personally find that there are always new levels of surrender that are required.   God is working on me one step at a time (I am probably too fearful or stubborn to deal with it any other way).

I have seen that I need to (and have in most areas) relinquished control.  I in my Christian walk have put off most of the “old self” yet when it comes to my health, and to my livelihood I have tried to keep some of that control.

God provides us with wise and and loving counsel, both from His word, but also from His people.  I, for one, will generally acknowledge the first, but often struggle with the second.  I was given the word today to listen. “Listen to what?” was something I then had to ask in prayer.   I was given Proverbs 15:28 ” The heart of the righteous weighs its answers.”   What was I being told?  Simply (okay, God is seldom too simple, but) rather than trying to work out alternatives when given counsel from those who care for me and “find my own way” (often based on the aforementioned fears), God is telling me to listen to counsel, seek His voice, pray to its application, then speak.

I all too often sought to justify my view without having first pondered (“weigh up”) what is being lovingly given to me.  This is a point of shame.

God has provided for me so abundantly over the trials of the past five or six years.  When I had a heart attack, I didn’t “fear” the response of people. I assumed in a worldly way that “of course they will understand I am poorly.” My turbulent life gives me overwhelming stress. I have discounted that stress. In so doing I have not shown respect to myself, or others who suffer stress or distress. Above all, in being dismissive of the reality of the impact of the stresses on my life, I have missed out on the peace God has to offer, as I have continued to “do it on my own strength.”  

But why do we do this?  The world is part of the answer.  “Weakness” and “surrender” are not buzz words.

When I first shared these thoughts, Pastor Vince replied with encouragement via the word.  He said, “Heb 13:5 Let your way of life be without the love of money, and be content with such things as you have, for He has said, “Not at all will I leave you, not at all will I forsake you, never!”  Heb 13:6 so that we may boldly say, “The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do to me.”

As I surrender a little more each day.  As I trust more and more.  Let me hold on to this, and I encourage each of you to also, “If God is for us, who can be against us? (Romans 8:31)”

Let go of fear.  Let go of self.  Listen, pray, then speak.  Don’t answer, and then rely on self.

Padre (and a true spiritual rambling)

Trust/Listen

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I have again been struggling with big questions about my own health, work, and the way forward.  I have tried too long to deal through my own strength. This has only led to more stress.

A couple of weeks ago, I was feeling the inadequacy of my own efforts.  I felt swamped by the burdens I was piling upon myself (more than just what the circumstances of my wife’s illness, and life and general were presenting).  In that despair  I was presented randomly with a passage on Facebook:  Jeremiah 29:11  “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future’.”  This was marvelous as it said He had a plan for me.  I found relief in that,  but I still held some of myself back.  I needed to trust Him, over me!

The result of holding back was another day of despair.  I had yet to fully surrender (an ongoing process, I am learning). I have spent this afternoon asking for guidance, and  seeking the same kind of peace I found back on the 18th.  

Then the message became clear.  No Facebook posting this time, but the “still small voice.”  It reminded me of the words of Isaiah 55:8-9: 

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

I did again find some measure of relief.  He is reminding me to let go, to open my eyes, my heart, and my spirit to His ways.

I do not as of yet have all the answers to the questions before me, nor in the path He wants me to follow, but I now have comfort that the answers are there.  Not for me to invent through my own cunning or effort, but rather they are their to discover if I only stop and listen to His Spirit.

Lord help me to think as you do, and trust in you.

Padre

Faith? Doubt? Obedience!

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I was discussing the topic of belief and doubt with some of my students. We were pondering whether belief and doubt are opposites, or are they a continuum. In our musings we looked at some artwork done by children, including one piece by an eleven-year-old which depicted a person jumping over a void as an act of faith, but they still had a balloon marked doubt attached to them.  Yes they were not standing on the edge with no trust in jumping at all, but they still hedged their bets with the balloon.

The balloon or parachute of doubt is common to us.  We strive to have faith, but fear and questions often beset us. Here is where obedience and trust comes in.  We need to move beyond our doubts, and even if we feel we need to reserve some control to ourselves, we need to let go in trust.

Noah did this. He may never have seen a flood before.  We never saw the waters above and below the earth loosed at once before.  But he was willing to put the doubt aside in deference to obedience. He built the ark, not as an act of control, but of submission.

I have had a lot to lay on God of late. Circumstances of life are such, that He has made it abundantly clear that I have no control.  This in a sense is a blessing as with the clear manifestation of my inability to control outcomes, it is easy now to lay it at his feet. Yes, I am still tempted to grasp at passing balloons, but it is clearer every day, that if such an aid crosses my path, He has placed it there.  The plan is not mine, but His.

Trust ultimately is a matter of surrender. When we are prepared to lay it all down for His glory, to move beyond “self,” then real faith begins.

Padre