Posted By Nan
I have never had God direct me to do this before. Today I am not to write a blog, instead today’s blog is a task for you and me. It is to read Psalm 91 and meditate on it.
Particular emphasis is to be given to verses 14 to 16.

“Because he loves me,” says the Lord, “I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name. He will call upon me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honour him. With long life will I satisfy him and show him my salvation.”

As you read the above verses, replace ‘he’ with your own name.
 
 
Posted By Nan
I have spent a lot of time over the past few months talking about the feeling of being cut adrift instead of feeling anchored in Jesus. Today God showed that to me and reminded me of the experience of the disciples in the time between Jesus’ crucifixion and His resurrection. Those disciples were terrified and felt they had been cast adrift. Yet they were surrounded by God’s protection that Jesus had asked to be placed over them.
That thought has been on my mind all day. When we go through our dark times we feel adrift. Feeling Jesus is there with us is so hard to do at those times. We know in our heads that the Bible says He is always with us. So our heads tell us we are not alone, but our hearts say something else!
Today I was reading a blog by Stephanie Bryant. She spoke about the need to feel peace when we are in the middle of those hard times in life such as being diagnosed with cancer, losing a job, falling out with someone special, or feeling taken for granted. At those times we feel cast adrift. We have lost our anchor.
Stephanie suggested at those times Jesus is actively seeking evil and battling it to protect us. Certainly, that is what Jesus had prayed for the disciples as he prayed those agonising hours in the garden of Gethsemane. I liked the idea that Jesus actively seeks out evil and defeats it. He doesn’t just wait for it to come to us, but seeks it out. I had never thought of it that way.
I don’t agree with her suggestion that Jesus feels He is not with us because He is elsewhere fighting evil, because I know that He is able to be with us and fight evil at the same time. Initially, I didn’t have an alternative suggestion to that one, so I prayed about it. What God showed me was that when we are anchored firmly in Him, we can stand in the one place and see Him clearly. We can feel His presence. But when we are cast adrift we float freely off the ground and we have no sense of connection to anything. We also can’t necessarily see Jesus or feel Him because we have no connection to anything.
I understand that very well. over the past few years God has been teaching me much about grounding myself and connecting with my spirit and His. I know that if we are not grounded we cannot connect to others or self. Today that learning has resulted in the understanding of the impact of being cast adrift and its impact on our connection with Jesus. I am amazed at how God patiently weaves His teachings into an extended period of time so we may understand Him and ourselves.
This brings me to Psalm 90 and its beautiful language. I have included it below. The first two verses are from The Message and the last two are from the NIV.
Before reading the verses, I have written my interpretation of them in light of what I have written above.
 
Father, it feels like you have been my home forever, long before the physical properties of all creation existed. And you will be my home long after the physical properties of creation cease to exist. Your power is greater than I can comprehend. I stand in awe of you and that is what you deserve. I cannot comprehend the power of your anger, but I ask for wisdom so that I may live my life according to your will.
 
Psalm 90:1-2, 11-12 “God, it seems you’ve been our home forever; long before the mountains were born. Long before you brought earth itself to birth, from “once upon a time” to “kingdom come” – you are God.” The Message
“Who knows the power of your anger? For your wrath is a great as the fear that is due you. Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” NIV
 
 
Posted By Nan
“But what I learned was that God wasn’t the one who needed my prayers. It was I who needed them more.” Avital Chizik-Goldschmidt

This morning I was reading the online news and came across an article by Avital Chizhik-Goldschmidt, a Jewish woman. There is a lot we can learn from Jewish prayer. It was Jewish prayer that established the pattern of prayer adopted by followers of Jesus.
In the article Avital spoke about how she used to pray regularly, but over the years the busyness of her life stopped her regular prayer times. When she came back to praying regularly she realised God doesn’t need our prayers. He knows that we need our prayers to Him more. For her prayer meant putting her phone and laptop and other devices away and devoting time to prayer. She noticed that the solitude of prayer allowed her mind to breathe, to honestly examine what she was thinking. It allowed her to align her thoughts with those of God. Prayer allowed her to stop and sit in God’s glory. It allowed her to examine how she was living her life.
The Jewish prayer book is called the siddur, which is from a Hebrew word seder. This means order. Avital saw the order of regular prayer as bringing her life out of chaos and into order. To pray regularly requires intention and that brings order.
The Jewish prayer that starts the prayer time translates as “My God, open my lips.” That is such a powerful way to pray. I wonder if we started our prayers with those words, whether we would find the words to pray came so much more freely. It is also a wonderful prayer to guide us throughout the day as we ask God to open our lips at the right time and speak the words He gives us.
 
As I read the article three Bible verses came to my mind. They give important messages about prayer, its benefits and requirements:

Psalm 5:3: “In the morning, LORD, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly”. NIV
Prayer is a time when we talk to God, knowing that He hears us and we wait, patiently and with the expectation of a response, for God to speak with us. In the presence of Almighty God we can examine our mind and thoughts so honestly. It is very hard to lie to ourselves and God when we are in His presence.

Romans 8:28: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” NIV
When we pray regularly, we are more aware of God’s goodness and incredible love for us. It is easier for us to know that God works for our good when we are regularly aligned with Him in prayer.

Matthew 23:14: “[Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you swallow up widows’ houses, and to cover it up you make long prayers; therefore you will receive the greater condemnation.]” Amplified
This verse is missing from the NIV and some other translations. But it is in the Amplified version and it is a very powerful verse. It is a reminder of what prayer is not. We should never pray to cover up our sin, or to justify our bad behaviour. If you can pray a long prayer to cover up your sin then you are not actually praying. You are just speaking words to yourself to fool yourself and anyone listening that you are a good person. This is a conversation to which God is most definitely not invited. So be careful not to allow your prayers to become one sided conversations to convince you of your righteousness. Remember that true prayer aligns us with God and allows us to judge our behaviour in God’s presence.
 
I am glad I read that article this morning. It challenged me to consider how often and regularly I pray and challenged me to get some order into my prayer life. Maybe this blog is challenging you too? Let us encourage one another to pray more regularly. Let us fulfil our need to pray to God and spend the time with Him that He loves to spend with us.
 
 
Posted By Nan

Matthew 23:37-40
Leviticus 19:1-19, 32-37
Mark 12:28-34
John 13:34-35


I was unable to write a blog on Saturday or Sunday so I am writing today. God has His perfect timing. If I had written on Saturday, I would not have experienced what was needed to write this blog.


Last night I was watching the news and there was an item on Satanists in America. These people were winning converts on a platform of social justice, love, peace and acceptance of others. This horrified me. In his usual style, satan was deceiving people by giving them what they needed to hear. And to do that, he had stolen from God’s direction for our life.
That in itself is not necessarily a problem. After all, Christians are known for living the greatest commandments of God – love – and bringing with that God’s insistence on the outpouring of that love in social justice, peace, and acceptance of others. Or are they …?


What is the picture of God Christians give to the world?


The news story spoke of the harsh, judgemental, condemning, uncaring church that has no compassion for the poor or refugee. That belief is prevalent amongst non believers in our society. That is the image they receive of Christians and therefore of God.


It saddens me that I often feel ashamed to admit I am a Christian, not because I am ashamed of Jesus. I am proud to call myself a follower of Jesus. But because of the harsh, judgemental, condemning, uncaring image of extreme right wingers who show no compassion or love for others and prefer to condemn rather than love.
So into this vacuum of legalism and condemnation enters the great deceiver. What better way to win people away from God than by taking the very heart of what God teaches us and passing it of as your own. After all, our God shaped hole matches the profile of social justice, love, peace and acceptance of others.


What are Christians doing to counter this? Precious little. The news item spoke of the church condemning these people, but nothing about love.


It is a valid question we need to ask ourselves:
“Am I by my actions pushing people towards the deceiver or drawing them towards Jesus?”


Stop and think.
Challenge yourself.
Challenge every little attitude.
Then repent and change your ways.


The only way to counter such tactics of satan is to be Jesus to the world. Be His love. His compassion, His peace, His social justice and His acceptance of others.
Remember John 13:34 admonishes us to love others AS JESUS HAS LOVED US.

Do you love others as much as one who willingly died for others?

Repent and change your ways.
 

 
Posted By Nan

This is an important question to ask ourselves in a world where extremist views on all things, including Christianity are becoming more common.
This has been brought into prominence recently with a well known Australian footballer being sacked for breach of contract after he tweeted hate speech about those who were homosexual. He tweeted that homosexuals would go to hell and claimed a biblical basis for his statements. He continued these statements, encouraged by his pastor father, and claimed his religious freedom was being restricted. This extremely wealthy sportsman then proceeded to raise money to mount a legal challenge to his termination of contract. Something he could have afforded on his own.
Many Christians have supported him because they see this incident as proof that Christians are being denied the right to express their freedom of speech. I suspect that if a Moslem footballer had tweeted that those who did not follow Islam were bound for hell, there would be an outcry and demands for the man to be sacked.
We must be wary of the double standard.
We must also be wary of behaving in a manner that contradicts how Jesus would behave. We need to know our Bibles, not our pastors beliefs, but our Bible and what God teaches us from it.
Before I look at how Jesus spoke to people, I want to discuss the world of the New Testament. It is worthwhile reading the New Testament, especially Acts 17:16-34. New Testament times were a time when the disciples lived in a world of multiple religions. The disciples did not condemn those of other faiths, they just spoke of their faith in a respectful way and accepted the converts they made, and the groups of Christians that came to exist in different centres. All the early Christians accepted they lived in a world where their faith was one of many. They held to their faith and did not condemn those who did not share it.
What happened? When did Christians become so precious they could not share their world with those of other faiths?
In the gospels, Jesus made a distinction between those who followed Him and those who were bound by legalism. The worst of that group were the Pharisees.
There are two incidents in the gospels I want to discuss with a demonstration of how Jesus behaved in these two situations. I am reminded of what an old man of faith told me as a child. He said that he believed we all strived to live like Jesus. That was the mark of a Christian. So we need to look at how Jesus lived and behaved to understand what we should do.
The first incident I want to discuss is in John, Chapter 4 from verse 1.
Jesus was on his way from Judea back to Galilee. He travelled through Samaria and came to Jacob’s well near the town of Sychar. While the disciples went to find food, Jesus rested by the well. As he sat there, a Samaritan woman came to draw water. Jesus asked her for a drink. Jews believed Samaritans were unclean and would not associate with them. They would definitely not ask a Samaritan for a drink of water. Yet here was Jesus asking this ‘unclean’ woman for water. He quietly spoke to her of God and mentioned that she had had multiple husbands and was living currently with a man who was not her husband. He did not condemn her, He just stated the facts in a neutral way. He did not judge. He just loved and accepted her. The woman was so in awe of His quiet authority and stating of God’s promise that she became a follower of Him from that moment.
The Pharisees would have condemned the woman and refused to associate with her. They would have denounced her as one who is going to hell. This is what the footballer has done. Instead of expressing love to others and bringing them to faith, he has spoken harsh words that would not bring them to faith. He has judged, when Jesus asks us not to judge. Remember the missionary Hudson Taylor who went to China to bring the people there to faith. Whereas other missionaries, in Pharisee mode, demanded the people they worked with start wearing Western clothes and adopt Western practices in order to come to faith in Jesus, Hudson brought the people to faith and let Jesus change them. Just as Jesus had brought the woman at the well to faith and then allowed His presence to cause her to change her behaviour.
Another example from the Gospels is the story of Zacchaeus the Tax Collector. This is found in Luke 19, reading from verse 1.
Jesus was travelling through Jericho. Zacchaeus, a wealthy tax collector, heard He was coming and wanted to see Jesus. Because he was short, he climbed into a tree. For the Jews, a tax collector was seen as being a terrible sinner. Yet Jesus stopped underneath Zacchaeus’s tree and told him to come down so Jesus could stay at his house. Zacchaeus had climbed the tree because he was curious. He came down from that tree a believer in Jesus. He later paid back all the money he had taken and gave away half his wealth to the poor. Jesus did not condemn him, although others muttered about the impropriety of Jesus going to stay at a ‘sinners’ house. Jesus merely offered him Himself and Zacchaeus responded by walking away from his sinful practices.
A pharisee would have shamed and humiliated Zacchaeus by condemning him in public and refusing him the opportunity to change. I am not going to enter into a debate about homosexuality and whether it is a sin or not. That is not the intent of this blog. I want people to think about how they should respond to those they think are sinners.
Jesus shows us the example of being full of love and acceptance. He offered the woman at the well and Zacchaeus love and acceptance and they responded in faith.
The Pharisee offers harshness and judgement. There is no love, there is no opportunity for change. This is not the way Jesus’ example shows us to be.
So it is worthwhile asking yourself whether you are a follower of Jesus or a follower of legalism. Read the New Testament, make sure you know it and understand Jesus and His approach. Do not fall for the cultural practices of Western Christianity that seeks to infect Jesus love and acceptance with harshness.
Be one who walks in Jesus wake, not one who leads a band of Pharisees.
 

 

 

 
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Nan
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