Journey Through Holy Week: Amazement

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Sometimes I read things in the bible that seem just plain weird. Like they don’t make any sense at all.

That happened to me last night. I was reading about how, the day after Jesus rode into Jerusalem, he walked back into town. On the way he started to feel hungry, and saw a fig tree. The only problem was that the fig tree was all fur coat and no knickers. (Or in this case all leaf and no fruit.) Jesus then rebuked the tree, saying it would never bear fruit again. The tree then shrivelled up and died.

This was not the part that didn’t make sense to me though. It was in the next line, which reads: The disciples were amazed.

Now, the disciples had been following Jesus for a long time. They had seen him heal the blind and lame, feed thousands with couple of fish and a few loaves of bread. They had even seen him raise the dead! But when they saw him make a tree shrivel up they were amazed.

In comparison to raising the dead, making a tree shrivel up doesn’t seem  that impressive. If I were one of the disciples I would have been asking Jesus for a better miracle!

Actually I think I do that in my own life as well.

I think that we all do. We can look at the things that God has done in our life in the past, and get angry and wonder why he isn’t blessing us like that anymore.

When actually he is still blessing us. We have just lost the wonder of it. Like an old married couple who no longer have anything to say to each other, we have let the spark in our relationship with God grow dim.

Or maybe you see what God is doing in somebody else’s life and get jealous, and question why God isn’t working in your life in the exact same way.

When he is blessing you just as much, just in a different way to your friends.

This week lets not lose the amazement of what Jesus has done in our lives.

 

 

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When Hope Feels Lost

 

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Do you ever feel like your life is just a mess. Like there are pieces of you spread all over the place. Like a smashed vase, there’s spilt water and shattered ceramic and shredded flowers. And you just don’t know where to begin to put it back together again. Let alone how to get into a place where you would be proud to show it off, or  give it as a gift.

You try to super glue it back together, but the cracks are still there, and the water pours back out. You try and gather back up the water and pour it into another container, but it’s impossible to pick back up, and the flowers are still a mess.

Trapped by broken relationships, or guilt from past you are stuck. In a place where you can’t move forward and you definitely can’t go back.

You know there is no way of sorting out this mess on your own. There is no hope of getting back what you once had, there is no chance left. It feels like you are too far gone.

When our lives are a mess, when it feels like there is no hope left and we have gone too far; even then God is still devising ways to bring us back to him.

Maybe he needed to push you over the edge so you would fall into his arms.

It doesn’t matter how broken you are; how far from him you have run, or what you have done. He’s running towards you as well. This is not the end of the story, it is just the end of a chapter.

Turn the page, run to him, and he will restore you.

Like water spilled on the ground, which cannot be recovered, so we must die. But that is not what God desires; rather, he devises ways so that a banished person does not remain banished from him. (2 Samuel 14:14)

 

 

 

The Truth about You

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I can remember one evening when I was about thirteen years old: playing about with some make-up when no one else was watching. I was surprised when I looked in the mirror and realised that the face that was looking back at me was actually quite beautiful! I was so used to seeing something ordinary: too thick hair; a genetic disposition to blackheads and spots (thanks dad!) and glasses long before they were considered trendy; that I was shocked and embarrassed to actually think of myself as pretty. I so felt guilty that I quickly washed off all the make up before anyone could see me.

I guess that I didn’t believe I could hold onto that identity of being pretty, that even when  it seemed it might apply to me I was quick to rip it off again.

I was so used to my slightly geeky identity, that I simply couldn’t take hold of a new one.

Christ has given us all new identities. The problem is sometimes we hold on so tightly to our old ones, that we can’t take hold of the new ones.

One of the new identities Christ has given us is BEAUTIFUL: We are the apple of his eye, we are his perfect bride (and who would dare call a bride ugly!) and we are more precious than the most beautiful jewels. This is true whether it feels it or not. And I know that especially for women it will more often feel like not. But the great thing about what God says about us is that it IS true, no matter how it feels. No matter how hard it feels we can let go of our striving for beauty and worth and we can hold on to our true identity as a beautiful child of God.

Another of the identities that we can struggle to hold onto is that we are CHOSEN: God has chosen us. I know this can be hard to take hold of, if you were always the last one picked in PE, or someone who struggles to attract anyones attention. Christ chose you, not because he had to, but because he wanted to.

Christ has also given us the identity of LOVED: have you ever noticed how a shy woman can become confident when she knows she is loved? Or how an awkward child can transform when they know you care about them? Christ has loved you so much that he died for you. You can hold onto the label of loved, you can take this one and staple it onto your forehead or tattoo it onto your arm; because Christ has told you that you are loved.

The final label that I want to focus on is that you are FREE. The opposite of freedom is fear. And so many of us are still living in fear. Even though we have been set free. We have been set free. There is no captive, in their right mind, who would choose to return to their chains, once they have been set free. Christ has set you free, don’t tie yourself back up in those chains again.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come:[a] The old has gone, the new is here! (1 Corinthians 5:17)

 

 

A Secret Garden Devotional

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A couple of months ago I recently re-watched my favourite films from childhood: The Secret Garden. What wasn’t to love: children who are wiser than their parents; secret cousins hidden away; and, of course, the Yorkshire accents!

But deeper than that, the story of orphan Mary, sent to live with an unaffectionate uncle, is one that we can all relate to. Her longing to belong, and have a place to call her own resonates, no matter what your age.

There are so many things that I could take out of this story, but it’s her invalid cousin, Colin, that have chosen to focus on. (Forgetting the slightly creepy scene where he tells Mary he wants to marry her!)

Colin had always been told that he was an invalid. He spent his whole life believing that he was unwell. Unable to leave his room or have contact with other people for fear of spores. His legs have become so weak that the can barely walk, and looks pale and sickly. As if he were really unwell. Until Mary comes along, and sees through the lies that he has been told, literally pushing him out of his comfort zone and into the daylight.

Before she came along he was barely living. He had believed the lies he had been told all his life, living in the dark, barely seeing the sunlight. But when she come into his life, she broke the power of those lies, by telling him the truth.

Maybe there’s some lie you believe about yourself. Maybe you believe that you can’t achieve anything, or that you are useless. The only thing that can break through those lies is the truth.

When you shine the light on those lies, you begin to realise that they had no power in the first place.

This might be hard at first. In a sick kind of way, you, like Colin, may have become used to this half-life. Maybe these lies have been attached to you for so long that flesh has grown around them, and they have to be ripped out.

Facing up to the lies, and accepting the truth can be a painful process. And, like Colin learning to walk, it may take time. But when you have been set free you will experience more life than you could have ever imagined possible.

1To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. 32Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8: 31-32)

Unsettled Down

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In my early twenties my aim in life was to settle down: get a good job; a nice house and become financially secure. I had spent so many years moving house from town to town, that I just wanted to stay in one place for a while, find a home and become rooted. I wanted a decent job so that I could afford to buy nice clothes and have a nice life. I wanted to look like I was successful.

For me the last year has been an incredibly difficult one. I now have none of those things, and at times I have felt like an utter failure.

I had forgoten that these things are not our measure of success.

I had forgotten that in Christ I am rooted; that he is my home; and that when I bank on him, I will always be financially secure.

God has pushed me out of my comfort zone; to the point where the only thing I can lean on is him.

We need to remember that a life following Jesus is not going to be a settled one. Bad things will happen, and some times we will go through years of trials; at times our lives might feel unsettled, but in him we will never be insecure or unstable.

Sometimes, although we’re not facing trials, God may still be pushing us beyond our boundaries.

There are so many things I said I would never do, that God has literally laughed at, because his plans for me are so much different and so much bigger. I always said I would never work with teenagers, or in the church of England: I have done both. I said I would never live up North, and once again, I find myself there. And finally, I always said I would never start a blog!

When you put your trust in God, he will push you further than you could have imagined. But he will also love you more than you could have dreamed; hold you tighter than you could have hoped; and lead you on a bigger adventure than you could have reached alone.

 

 

 

Girls do Brave too

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Sometimes I’m not sure if I want to be brave. Brave is scary. When you’re brave, you don’t know what’s going to happen next, and brave isn’t exactly girly, is it?

I mean aren’t all girls supposed to want to be rescued by prince charming. How are we ever going to have that fairytale ending if we just go ahead and rescue ourselves?

And we do need rescuing. Even if we don’t want to admit it, we are all damsels in distress. We all can’t do this life on our own. Even the men!

But none of us need to sit around eating cupcakes and drinking tea, waiting  for that perfect rescue, that fairy-tale ending. Not because it’s never going to happen, but because it already has.

We have already been rescued.

We can stop living as damsels in distress, and start living as the brave, because brave isn’t just for boys.

Brave sounds scary. Brave sounds messy. But brave sounds like an adventure.

When you know that you have already been rescued, when you know who is on your side, you can do things you never dreamed of. You can climb mountains and travel continents. You can pray bold prayers, stand up for the vulnerable and be honest right where you are. You can speak to your neighbours, give to the poor and share your faith. You can can crush an army and you can scale a wall.

Sometimes you just stumble across things at the right time. That happened while I was writing this post. I found this blog in which the author lists four reasons why we don’t need to be afraid:

God goes ahead of you. We can be brave.

God will be with you. We can be brave.

God will not fail you. We can be brave.

God will not leave you. We can be brave.

These promises are for everyone.  No one needs to be afraid. We can all be brave. We don’t find that bravery within in ourselves, but through God, the one who is with us, who fights for us and who loves us.

Brave isn’t just for boys. Girls do brave too.

In your strength I can crush an army; with my God I can scale any wall. (Psalm 18:29) NLT

 

 

 

Sounds of Freedom Week 2

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This week I am sharing some of my testimony as part of the Sounds of Freedom series.If you would like to be involved in sharing some of how one of your favourite worship songs has impacted your faith then please get in touch.

Sometimes I wake up in a cold sweat remembering some stupid thing I said, about five years ago, to someone I don’t even know anymore,

It’s like I’m right there again, and the guilt washes over me anew.

I’ve got regrets of friendships I didn’t put more effort into and exams I didn’t try hard enough at.

I’ve got some bigger regrets as well. Like, when I was a teenager I was determined to work as a missionary in New York. I thought about applying to work with a ministry over and over, but in the end Idid’t because I was just too scared.

It’s easy for me to think that if I had tried harder, if I had been braver, then my life would be in completely different. Sometimes I feel like I have missed my chance. Because I didn’t listen to God’s voice that one time, he won’t ever want to use me again.

That’s not true.

God’s grace is so much bigger than that. It’s bigger than our circumstances, bigger than our past mistakes. His Grace is huge, and it covers everything.

Matthew West’s song sums it up perfectly: “Grace wins every time.”

The mistakes we made in our past may impact our future, but they don’t define them. Jonah was swallowed by a whale, not devoured by one. And God still wants to use us. No matter how much we messed up in the past.

He wants to use you if you’ve made the biggest mistakes imaginable . He wants to use you if everyone thinks you’re the perfect little Christian girl, but deep down you know that you’re not. God’s grace covers it all.

Throughout the bible we see God use imperfect, messed up people, time and time again. Moses was a murderer and yet God used him to lead his people out of the promised land. David was an adulterer,and still he was called a man after God’s own heart.

God’s grace covered their sins and it can cover yours as well.

 

 

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This weeks Sounds of Freedom was written by Alice, she loves works as a teaching assistant and love Christ, chocolate and crochet.