Friday, 5 July 2013

Do we really know what we want?

The latest thing on starting your baby on solid foods seems to be, letting your baby choose (within reason) what they eat and how much of it. My problem is, my baby’s CHOICE seems to be to eat the high chair and leave the food...

Sometimes it seems to me, when left to our own devices, we don’t always know what it is we want. Or we want things that ultimately won’t make us happy.

Proverbs 1 talks about evil men who are so desperate to get what they want that they will steal and kill to get it. But actually the things they think will make them happy don’t sound so very far from that of the ordinary person:

We shall find all precious goods, we shall fill our houses with plunder,” (vs 13) they say.

Who among us can say we’ve never wanted some material object that we thought would make us happy?

And how often is it the thing we thought would make us happy turns out not to in the end? From the bowl of tagliatelle we ordered and and then wished we’d chosen the beef, to the woman we left our wife and children for and then regretted it, human beings often don't seem to know what they really want.

Back in Proverbs 1, we read the fate of the wicked men who sought happiness in stolen wealth.

Such are the ways of everyone who is greedy for unjust gain; it takes away the life of its possessors” (vs19).

They don't find the happiness they were looking for, in fact it causes their downfall.

What are you looking to to make you happy? Is it the love of a partner? Is it money? Maybe just a holiday? Do you ever sin to try and make yourself happy?

Pursuing happiness seems to be many people's reason to live, and yet life is about so much more than that. What is the point of a life spent in the pursuit of your own desires, when you could have spent your life helping others, making the world a better place, serving God?

A life spent putting God first and yourself and other people second, the bible says, can actually be the route to contentment. Not uninterrupted happiness, not a easy ride day-in-day-out, but a life of contentment.

As Paul wrote:
I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength. (Philippians 4:12-13)

After his conversion, Paul didn't waste his time chasing after his own happiness, looking for wealth or prestige. He found his happiness in God's plans and desires. When you seek God's plans for your life, above every other desire you have, the bible says that Jesus can give us peace and contentment in every circumstance. 

So, are you sure you know what it is you want?


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Friday, 21 June 2013

Spatial Awarness - Yep, my blog is back!

This week my husband, Chris, has been telling me off again for my lack of spatial awareness. Or as he calls it, ‘not watching what I’m doing’.

I don’t think this is very fair. I DO watch what I’m doing (for example, putting a bottle of wine on the window sill, which I did successfully yesterday). It’s just that I don’t always watch what I’m doing for long enough, (for example, nearly knocking off the glass that was also on the windowsill, as I walked away...).

Chris tried to teach me to play badminton years ago. He made one observation that significantly improved my play. He noticed that every time the crucial moment came and the shuttlecock was flying towards me, I would raise my racket and close my eyes! Now I don’t really understand me (or anyone else) having a morbid fear of being hit in the face with a shuttlecock, but that’s what I was doing. At the last minute, I would close my eyes. And when I made a concerted effort to keep my eyes on the shuttlecock right through to the moment I hit it, my play improved considerably.

How often is it, spiritually speaking, that we are taking our eyes off the prize too early? Maybe we start out doing something with God’s plans in mind, but very quickly we start focussing on our own concerns or ideas.

When you ask God to lead you, you have to see it through. Fight the urge to take back control from Him! Likewise, when you give your life to God - for HIS purposes - you have to fight the urge to start planning what YOU want instead!

Your life is about what God wants. Which is, in fact, what is best for you and those around you. Re-allign your focus and remember what Jesus said to Martha in Luke 10: 41:

You are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed.

 And by that He meant, you only need to keep your eyes on God.


Interested in more?
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Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Final blog before baby!

Well this is my last blog before I go on maternity leave! In all the business and the tiredness of the months ahead, I'm not sure how much I'll be 'getting done', but I do have one hope, and that is that during my time off I will get to spend some time with God.

I don't know what God is planning to do with Bures Baptist Church in the time that I'm away, but I do know that, whatever time of day or night it is, however tired or grouchy I am (or the baby), God will be there, and I can still speak with Him. And, when I get the chance, I intend to lift the church up to Him in prayer.

Because I know that, in some ways, my prayers of support for Bures might well turn out to be more important than my persistent beetling around working for it!

Here is a lovely video to inspire your own prayer life. Gotta love Bill Hybels.

God bless everyone, have a wonderful Christmas.

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Jesus. Family. Friends. Tinsel. The Muppets. Eggnog. Turkey and cranberry sauce... .

If Facebook is anything to go by, a lot of people seem to be getting into the Christmas spirit. My parents were always ones for leaving the decorating until the last minute and certainly not getting the tree until the final week before Christmas. I seem to have married a man with similar inclinations, but yesterday I realised I needed to do some wrapping, and it wasn't going to be possible without some fairy lights up and a Christmas film on.

So we have decorated. A bit. And started an advent candle. We also had the first advent carols in our service on Sunday, the toddler group Christmas party, and our Christmas special assembly this morning. So I am feeling a bit festive.

But at the same time, I am niggled by a few concerns. The fact is, even though it's a celebratory season, challenging or difficult situations are still all around us.

It may be obvious to say, but let's face it, challenging circumstances are more difficult to deal with when you're trying to celebrate! 'Surely I'm due a bit of a break,' we think, 'It's CHRISTMAS!'

The bible (somewhat annoyingly, you might think) tells us to 16 Rejoice always, 17 pray continually, [and] 18 give thanks in all circumstances (1 Thessalonians 5: 16-18). Not just when everything is super. Easier said than done, isn't it?

Sometimes instead of rejoicing because of our circumstances, we have to rejoice in spite of our circumstances. And to be honest, if you are doing this, I really respect you. It takes a lot of bravery to look a challenging time in the face and say 'I will still rejoice'.

If you feel you need the strength to say that right now, my theory is, you will have more success asking God for it, than trying to work up the strength yourself. God has no pleasure in your being rinsed out and overwhelmed, and He can give you a supernatural ability to cope with your circumstances if you ask Him too.

So ask Jesus to help you to celebrate in spite of challenges this Christmas. It is right to celebrate the Son of God, coming to Earth. It is right to celebrate the birth of the greatest Saviour the world has ever known. And it is right to recognise Jesus' love for us caused Him to come to be with us. 

Remember, there will always be something to worry about if we look for it, but there are always reasons to rejoice too. Jesus. Family. Friends. Tinsel. The Muppet's Christmas Carol. Eggnog. Turkey and cranberry sauce... 


Interested in more?
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Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Are we consuming too much 'filth'?

An interesting phenomenon in the news this week - after 9 years of being on the third biggest sitcom in America, the youngest regular actor on "Two and a Half Men" is renouncing it as 'filth' that people shouldn't watch.

This is a boy who has obviously found faith and decided that his day-job conflicts with his morals. Now perhaps it takes a bit more guts to renounce your day job on moral grounds if you haven't been earning $350,000 every episode, but nonetheless for a 19 year-old guy to make that kind of a stand is, I think, in some ways, admirable. 

Perhaps he ought to have spoken to his bosses before airing his views, but putting that aside, how many 19 year-olds do you know that are discerning about their media consumption in the interest of keeping their minds pure? In fact, how many people in general do you know who give it much thought?

Our media culture is so pervasive, it can be very difficult to censor ourselves, and for parents to try and keep tabs on what messages their children are taking in.

But everybody draws the line in different places and it is for us to settle prayerfully with our consciences and with the bible where that line should be. Some people will feel it is worthwhile putting up with a certain amount of language or content they don't agree with, if there are other merits to a programme/text. Other people simply won't watch/read anything where people are acting in a way they find immoral, and still more people probably very rarely find anything offensive enough to switch off or put down.

The thought has occurred to me several times recently. Why am I watching/reading this? How much am I condoning this behaviour? Is it compromising my values or am I successfully filtering out the bits I don't agree with?

These questions are tricky to answer, but I do have one good piece of advice on the subject. Instead of reacting against morally dubious content, perhaps we would have more success if we tried to be proactive and pursued more wholesome media to enjoy. Find a new favourite that you don't have any qualms about!

I've been listening to UCB radio more and more recently, and if nothing else, you know the messages you are feeding yourself aren't 'filth' (as Angus Jones might put it) when you have that on in the background!

I enjoyed the wholesomeness of Great British Bake-off (and cookery programmes in general, if you can avoid the temptation to gluttony) and it occurs to me that the presenters on Pointless are quite upbeat and pleasant too...

So do give it some thought and prayer. Can you choose and enjoy media with positive, wholesome messages rather than things which may be detracting from you spiritually? Afterall the bible does tell us: "Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things." Philippians 4: 8

And if you needed any more motivation, consider this difficult passage to the church-goers in Ephesus:
But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person—such a person is an idolater—has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient. Therefore do not be partners with them.
For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. LIVE AS CHILDREN OF THE LIGHT." Ephesians 5: 3-8


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Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Tips for Listening to God

Since I was talking on Sunday about Peter not discerning God's plan very easily and this morning we taught the Primary School about Samuel struggling to hear God's voice, it seems like perhaps it's a good time to dish out some advice on how to listen to God!

It's one of those things preachers often seem to be saying - 'Listen to God, anyone can hear from God'. And yet when it comes down to it, lots of Christians feel like they struggle and very rarely hear God speaking to them. So let's get practical. How to hear from God and be fairly certain you're not just making it up...

1) Set aside some time and find a quiet place with no distractions. A comfy chair and a cup of coffee may assist with this! Jesus frequently took himself off to pray in places where He could be quiet and alone.

2) Actually listen. It's okay to pray to God without listing your requests/concerns. A simple "God, please speak to me during this time I have set aside," will do. And wait patiently.

3) Give God opportunity to speak to you through something. Very often listening to God means picking up your bible and having a little read. Or you could have a flick through a book of devotions, or some other Christian literature, or watch/listen to a Christian speaker online, whatever means you like. Just pray that God will help you select the right thing and speak to you through it.

(In general choose authors/speakers etc that come recommended by mature Christians you trust).

4) Write it down. If you feel you've heard something from God, it is very easy to back away from it later and start to doubt yourself. Just because you've written it down, doesn't mean you don't have to test out what you've heard, it just means you won't be so inclined to brush it aside and forget it!

5) Test it out. The bible tells us to 'weigh up' the things we hear, because it can be very difficult to separate our own thoughts from Gods. Testing involves:

a) Praying about it repeatedly and asking to feel 'at peace' about it if you've heard correctly. If it still feels right over a long period of praying and considering, that's a good sign.

b) Checking it's consistent with the bible. If what you think God is saying seems to contradict the bible, you should have serious doubts about it.

c) Asking a mature Christian to discuss it with you and pray it over too. If you're unsure, getting a second (or third or fourth!) opinion from sensible, mature, loving Christians can be really helpful.

d) Looking out for other signs of confirmation. Did the preacher on Sunday bring up the same point? Did you hear the very same issue discussed on the radio just the other day? Were you reading a bible verse that said something similar yesterday? These may not be coincidences...

If this all seems like a bit of an effort, just remember, it does get easier. You do start to get more accustomed to hearing God's voice and separating it from your own. In fact, you'll probably start to find it extremely exciting living with more and more of God's guidance - I still find it exciting every time He speaks to me!

Give it a go, you may well be amazed at the results.


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Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Be Prepared?

This time of year seems to be a season of expectancy. And I don't just say that from the perspective of it being 7 weeks until our baby is due. Everybody seems to be starting to prepare and look forward to Christmas already, including myself. In years gone by it has seemed like a faux pas to start planning and preparing much in November, but this year, it just seems sensible. And not only that, it seems like 'everyone is doing it'.

I don't know if this is a rural thing or maybe it's just that I'm spending less time with people my own age. Is it just students and people in their 20s who are more prone to do everything last minute and, quite probably, in the middle of the night?

I was both alarmed and, I'll admit, quite impressed, to discover that my husband has already bought me all my Christmas presents. Slightly concerned that I only just managed to scrape him together a couple of birthday presents, and they were late...

But I will say this, I have been getting prepared for the baby. Buying, collating, washing, reading, practising breathing techniques, organising people to cover my absence. I keep hearing stories of babies that have arrived significantly early and getting the feeling that I have to be ready for the baby to turn up any second. At least we know for sure when Christmas will happen!

Chances are, of course, that I'll still be twiddling my thumbs over the bump in January, but I am trying to be ready in case.

And that, perhaps is the problem. In seasons of expectation, our reaction is to try and get 'ready'. But is anybody ever properly ready for their first child? I've read so much information in the last couple of months and still keep coming up with more and more questions. They are small things, practicalities mostly, and I expect it will all become clear as it happens, but the fact is, no matter how well prepared we are, we have to keep learning as we go along.

I talked a bit on Sunday about trusting God in our blind vulnerability. We can never know fully what God is up to and where His plans are taking us. There is always an element of the unknown when we work with God. At a ministers' meeting recently we mused over how God seems to often use the things we do unintentionally much more than He uses the things we do intentionally! Offhand comments have changed lives. Sermons that went awry have often made the biggest impact.

So perhaps we shouldn't set so much store in preparation. Yes, be responsible, prayerfully make preparations that are necessary, but don't put too much value on feeling 'ready'. God will lead the unfolding of events and sometimes, no amount of work will prepare you for what is to come. And that's okay. Because wherever it is He takes you, He won't abandon you when you get there!


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