Galatians 5:22-23 (WEBBE): 22But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, 23gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law.
John 3:16 (WEBBE): 16For God so loved the world, that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have eternal life.
Long before you were born, God already gave His Son’s life for you. God has always loved you, and nothing you do could change that. Long before you said your first word, Jesus had already said that it is finished. And nothing that you have done since, good or bad, can possibly compare with what Jesus had accomplished.
GOD. LOVES. YOU.
But whether you choose to love God, and walk in relationship with Him, is up to you!
I love travelling. When you are away from home on holiday, there is so much to see and experience. Every day is a new adventure, and the day is a huge success if you experience even just one new thing. Even if it is something small like a single purple flower bravely growing in the scorching sand.
For the past three weeks I didn’t post anything here because we were on the road. Our journey took us to stunning Namaqualand wild flowers, gorgeous beaches and a great whale watching spot. The road trip was everything we could have hoped for, and I was really feeling blessed.
But eventually it had to come to an end.
Adventure was replaced with routine. Wonder was replaced with work. And after only a few days, it feels like the holiday was ages ago.
Then this morning I realised again that all of life is a journey, walking with God every step of the way.
Proverbs 3:6 (WEBBE): 6In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.
The scripture says to acknowledge God in all of our ways, not just some of the time. And if we live in relationship with God, there is always something new to discover about God’s great love for us.
Everyday living can be our biggest adventure!
What God knows about me is more important than what others think about me.
– Surgeo Bell (from Goodreads)
Paul’s companion Timothy was a young man when he came to the faith. We know this, because Paul wrote a word of encouragement to him about it.
1 Timothy 4:12-14 (WEBBE): 12Let no man despise your youth; but be an example to those who believe, in word, in your way of life, in love, in spirit, in faith, and in purity. 13Until I come, pay attention to reading, to exhortation, and to teaching. 14Don’t neglect the gift that is in you, which was given to you by prophecy, with the laying on of the hands of the elders.
God knew Timothy, and He knew what He had in store for him. It didn’t matter that people might think him too young to be a spiritual leader. Because Timothy walked in a close relationship with God, he could live out God’s love for people despite what they might expect of him since he was so young.
Don’t let human expectations stand between you and God’s plan for your life!
Have you even been tormented by worry? I am talking about the kind of thoughts that keep you awake all night, tossing and turning, playing out all the horrible scenarios that can possibly happen over and over in your mind? It is not something that you can simply turn off though, right? Well, that is partially true. You can’t do it on your own, but with God’s help you most certainly can break that cycle!
First we have to find out what the source of these thoughts are.
2 Timothy 1:7 (WEBBE): 7For God didn’t give us a spirit of fear, but of power, love, and self-control.
Fear is not from God. God is love, not fear.
You might be wondering how this lines up with God warning people through prophetic messages about impending danger. The answer is simple – if it is God warning you about something, He will certainly also show you the way out. The warning is intended for you to be able to do something about it, not to make you despair.
If these worried thoughts were of our own making, then surely we could just decide not to think them anymore. Consider this simple scenario. “Maybe we should paint this wall blue. Lets imagine how it would look… Ugh no, that won’t work at all! Wait, how about yellow?” It is not like I would loose nights of sleep about rejecting blue.
So if these worries are not from God, and they are not of our own devising, then there is but one other source. These are the kinds of thoughts that are out to “kill, steal and destroy”, wouldn’t you agree? These thoughts are from the devil and his minions. I am not saying that somebody that worries is possessed, far from it. But the devil takes any chance he can get to torment the children of God.
Now that we have pinpointed the source of these destructive thoughts and know who the enemy is, the battle is half won already.
So how do we fight back?
2 Corinthians 10:3-6 (WEBBE): 3For though we walk in the flesh, we don’t wage war according to the flesh; 4for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but mighty before God to the throwing down of strongholds, 5throwing down imaginations and every high thing that is exalted against the knowledge of God and bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ, 6and being in readiness to avenge all disobedience when your obedience is made full.
Ephesians 6:10-18 (WEBBE): 10Finally, be strong in the Lord, and in the strength of his might. 11Put on the whole armour of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 12For our wrestling is not against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world’s rulers of the darkness of this age, and against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. 13Therefore put on the whole armour of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. 14Stand therefore, having the utility belt of truth buckled around your waist, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15and having fitted your feet with the preparation of the Good News of peace, 16above all, taking up the shield of faith, with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the evil one. 17And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; 18with all prayer and requests, praying at all times in the Spirit, and being watchful to this end in all perseverance and requests for all the saints:
That all sounds awesome – spiritual weapons and armour for a spiritual fight. We are on the right track. But what on earth does this mean in practice? Who do we actually need to do?
What did Jesus do when the devil tried to tempt Him?
Luke 4:4 (WEBBE): 4Jesus answered him, saying, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God.’”
And what was Jesus’ advice about moving mountains?
Mark 11:22-23 (WEBBE): 22Jesus answered them, “Have faith in God. 23For most certainly I tell you, whoever may tell this mountain, ‘Be taken up and cast into the sea,’ and doesn’t doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says is happening; he shall have whatever he says.
So here is what you do when you are tormented next time. Say to the devil, with faith and conviction: “It is written: ‘For God didn’t give us a spirit of fear, but of power, love, and self-control.’ So devil you are not welcome here! In Jesus’ Name, LEAVE!”
When the tormentor leaves, you will experience God’s amazing peace.
And if he dares to try and sneak back in, chase him away again!
King Solomon of Israel was a very wise man. When he became king of Israel after his father David, God asked him in a dream what he wanted. Here is Solomon’s reply:
1 Kings 3:9 (WEBBE): 9Give your servant therefore an understanding heart to judge your people, that I may discern between good and evil; for who is able to judge this great people of yours?
Here is God giving Solomon a blank cheque, and he chooses wisdom out of all the things in the world!
1 Kings 3:10-12 (WEBBE): 10This request pleased the Lord, that Solomon had asked this thing. 11God said to him, “Because you have asked this thing, and have not asked for yourself long life, nor have you asked for riches for yourself, nor have you asked for the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself understanding to discern justice; 12behold, I have done according to your word. Behold, I have given you a wise and understanding heart; so that there has been no one like you before you, and after you none will arise like you.
So we have seen that King Solomon was the wisest man in history. If there was ever any human that could rely on his own wisdom, it was King Solomon. And yet, read his words in Proverbs 3:
Proverbs 3:5-6 (WEBBE):
5Trust in the LORD with all your heart,
and don’t lean on your own understanding.
6In all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make your paths straight.
If we walk with the Lord instead of trying to follow our own (limited) wisdom, we will get exactly to where God wants us to be!
If every person in the world spent at least as much time on their inner beauty as they do their physical, outward beauty, how different would the world be? I am not saying that it is wrong to have physical beauty, or to spend time on it. The point is that we should also spend time on our inner beauty, on the things that enrich our souls. That inner beauty takes just as much effort, and is far more valuable!
1 Timothy 4:7b-8 (WEBBE): Exercise yourself towards godliness. 8For bodily exercise has some value, but godliness has value in all things, having the promise of the life which is now, and of that which is to come.
1 Peter 3:3-4 (WEBBE): 3Let your beauty be not just the outward adorning of braiding the hair, and of wearing jewels of gold, or of putting on fine clothing; 4but in the hidden person of the heart, in the incorruptible adornment of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God.
Would you leave the house in the morning without making sure that you look presentable? No? Then we should do the same with out inner beauty. Spend at least a few minutes with God in the morning, and you will be far better prepared for your day!
Matthew 11:28-30 (WEBBE): 28“Come to me, all you who labour and are heavily burdened, and I will give you rest. 29Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart; and you will find rest for your souls. 30For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
Jesus spoke these words to people that were used to having a large number of rules to follow. The religious leaders had added more and more specific rules over the years, until it really became a burden to follow all of them. But Jesus was changing all of that.
Being a follower of Jesus means finding rest for your soul. There is no need to worry whether you perform all the right rituals or live according to all of the rules or donate the right amount of money to the right cause. The price has been paid in full by Jesus himself, so that we can be restored to a perfect relationship with Him through faith alone. None of our works could possibly improve on what Jesus did!
Ephesians 2:8-9 (WEBBE): 8for by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9not of works, that no one would boast.
But then how do we then understand James’ words?
James 2:17 (WEBBE): 17Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead in itself.
Lets consider an everyday example. Suppose you eat for the first time at a new restaurant, and you discover there the most amazing thing that you have ever tasted. The perfect combination of textures and flavours and presentation. Would you want to share the news with everybody you know, so that they can experience this too? Would it move you to action?
Living in a relationship with Jesus is way better than any dish that an earthly chef could come up with. When your heart and mind is filled with His presence, it is a natural result that it moves you to action. We should do good works because we are already saved.
Whether we do good works won’t make a difference to our own salvation, but it might very well make all the difference in somebody else’s life!
I have a to-do list that is about a mile long. No, it actually has mile markers, so it is even longer than that… There are lots of small chores that I have to get done today. Some other things that I have been putting off, that I have to get around to. A few huge projects that will take months that I should start with soon. And then there are the things that I would actually like to do, that I haven’t had time for in too long.
Does that sound familiar?
Where can we possibly find peace in all of that frantic activity?
Psalm 46:1 (WEBBE): 1God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.
Whether our trouble is some big, scary event or simply an overload of daily activities, God is our refuge! We can find peace in the loving arms of our Father God. Rest assured that He loves you just as much whether your house is sparkling from top to bottom, or looks like a tornado hit it. He loves you just as much whether that big project at work is a huge success or a complete failure.
So how do we actually, practically do this? The story of Mary and Martha in Luke 10:38-42 comes to mind. Martha was running around doing all kinds of things, while Mary was sitting at the feet of Jesus, listening to what He was saying. The way to experience God’s peace is to stop, for even just a moment, to listen to His voice. To experience His loving presence. Whether it is taking a moment to appreciate the God-created beauty of a flower, or listening to a song, or simply being quiet, we need to decide to make the time. The world won’t understand – it will complain just as loudly as Martha. But trust me, it is worthwhile doing!
A few weeks ago, I came across a short reading plan entitled “Practicing the Presense of God” (read it here). It is based on the book The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence, first published in 1693. No, that is not a typo – it was really first published in the 17th century. Brother Lawrence joined a monastery, where he worked in the kitchen. And in his daily life he learned to constantly live in the experience of God’s presence.
Isaiah 26:3 (AKJV): 3You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on you: because he trusts in you.
I really enjoyed the reading plan, and I would absolutely recommend reading it. But I will admit that my daily life really didn’t change much at all. The thing with practising the presence of God is, well, you need to actually practise it… And the world shouts so loudly for attention all the time, making it really hard to ignore.
(Side note: When we don’t experience God’s presence, it does NOT mean that He has left – He is always with us. It is us who forget that He is right here…)
But more recently, something has shifted in my life. After writing the post “What do you read?” two weeks ago, this question really stuck in my mind:
Now every time I read social media (and I can tell you I do a lot more than I previously realised), I am reminded that I could be reading God’s Word instead. And then when I do read the Bible, I find that I don’t want to stop reading after a few verses. I want to keep reading to see what I will learn next!
2 Timothy 3:16-17 (WEBBE): 16Every Scripture is God-breathed and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for instruction in righteousness, 17that each person who belongs to God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.
Right now you are probably thinking “Good for her! But so what?” Well, I want to encourage you to find something that you do regularly that you could use as a reminder to spend a little time in God’s presence. Maybe pray to God on your morning run instead of worrying about the day ahead. Or thank God for every cup of coffee during the day, and then find three more things to thank Him for while you are at it.
Start by doing that one thing where you can fit God into your day most easily. Your relationship with God will grow, and that will spill over into the rest of your day!
My dear child,
I will love you no matter what.
When the world says that you are a failure, I say that you are a child of the Living God and you are loved.
When the world says that your priorities are wrong, I say that you are in the world but not of the world – you are part of an eternal Kingdom.
When the world demands more and more of your time, I will wait patiently for you to return to me.
When the world tells you that you should be afraid, I will be your safe haven in the storm.
You are my child. You are a new creation. And I will love you no matter what!