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Posted By Nan

This is the time of year people turn their thoughts to the New Year. The old year is almost over and there is a brand new year starting. They symbolism of the new, with its freshness, the so called ‘blank slate’ is irresistible. Consequently people seek to be better in that freshness. And so are born the New Year Resolutions.

A few years ago I was introduced to the idea of a word for the year. A word to focus on in God. I started with a year of focusing on Trust. Then a year of focusing on waiting. Both very powerful foci that were very pertinent to my situation. An hour ago I submitted my research paper, the last part of my Master degree. Now I am finished and oh what a wonderful 2018 I am looking forward to!

If I launch into the new year on my own then I will quickly run out of steam. I may try and try but I will not accomplish much. But I have survived the past three years of my Masters in God’s strength. Every paper I have written, every deadline I have struggled to meet, have all been overseen by God and been accomplished in His strength. So right now I am very grateful to God for His wonderful provision in giving me the strength for the last final push after three years of His sustenance.

So what is the word I am focusing on this year? God revealed it to me two weeks ago. It is a phrase actually. “Follow Me”.

I have a long list of Bible verses which I look forward to studying in the coming year. Preliminary reading has indicated the diverse nature of the instruction to follow.

Exodus 23:2 tells me to not follow the crowd in doing wrong. A very important instruction to remember as I step out into 2018.

Psalm 23:6 reminds me that love and goodness will follow me. Such encouragement.

Matthew 16:24 instructs me to take up my cross and follow Jesus. For me, that is the crux of the instruction to follow Jesus. Seeking for there to be less of me and more of Him.

Coupled with the previous verse is John 12:26 that whoever serves Jesus must follow Him.

Then there is the instruction to follow the Lamb wherever He goes (Revelation 14:4) and follow Him wholeheartedly Numbers 32:11).

My favourite verse from this list is John 8:12 “… I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” NIV.

I look forward to 2018 and walking in the light of life.

What word for the 2018 has God given you?

Posted By Nan

Psalm 27.
Just a quick word for Christmas Day. As I have considered the theme of waiting for God my final thoughts have gone to Mary. She had a lot of waiting to do. And in those final hours of her pregnancy she had a long, tiring journey to take. Waiting for the baby to come and hoping it would come after she reached Bethlehem. I wonder, as she sat uncomfortably on the jolting back of that donkey, exhausted by the trip, if she worried she may be giving birth to her baby by the side of the road? A woman who is pregnant usually looks forward to a time of rest before the birth of her baby. But Mary could not do that. I don’t know how much of that journey she rode on the donkey, but it appears to have been some of it. Either way, she would have arrived in Bethlehem exhausted. And to find nowhere in the entire town where she could stay! By now she may have feel the first stirrings of labour. Did she think she would have to give birth to her baby on a street corner? There must have been relief at being given a stable to stay in but of all places a stable with the animals! Not the idea we have today of a clean, dry location with lots of support to give birth. It was just Mary, Joseph and some animals, as well as the muck you find in a stable. Mary had waited a long forty weeks for this baby to be born. She had waited through the long hours of the journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem. She had waited as Joseph fruitlessly searched for a room for her to give birth in. And she waited through the hours of her labour. Finally he was there. The baby conceived by the Holy Spirit. The one who would bring salvation to the World. The Messiah. The wait was over. And the wait was just begun. 33 long years of waiting. But Mary did not know that on that night he was born.

Posted By Nan

Mark 1:1-4, Luke 2:1-7, John 1:1-18
I am writing this on Christmas Eve. I have been reflecting on the Advent journey to Christmas. Much of that time has been taken up with me trying to finish a research paper to complete my Masters, but finishing has not happened. I was not surprised, God had indicated as much in my prayers. He wanted me to stop and complete the paper properly after Christmas. It was so hard to do. I wanted to finish, to be done with studying by Christmas. But God had other plans and I have to accept that. Yesterday I read a wonderful piece of writing by John O’Donohue. He wrote of the Celtic perception of time as eternity in disguise. He spoke of how Celtic people embraced the day as a sacred space. I wonder how life would be if I did that every day? I wonder how your life would be if you did that every day? John went on to write that Christmas reminds us to “glory in the simplicity and wonder of one day”. Simplicity. How simple are modern Christmases? As I was forced to rest I contemplated all the things I had not done and realised I was okay with that. If simple is what Jesus had born in a stable then isn’t simple the best way for us to be at Christmas? How about we stop? John  wrote that stopping and wondering about the day will reveal to us the “extraordinary that our hurried lives conceal and neglect”. He went on to say that “We desperately need to make clearances in our entangled lives to let out souls breathe.” This is something that I have spent a lot of time contemplating over the past frantically busy months. So much has happened in our family this year. There has been study, multiple appointments for my daughter, two deaths of aged fathers, an unexpected house move, two days each week completing a student placement at a busy domestic violence unit as well as work. There has been precious little time for physical rest, let alone stopping to allow my soul to breathe. How has your year been? Have you found it so busy you long to just stop to let that soul breathe?
God wants us to stop, and breathe, and be with him.

To wait.

Christmas should be about that. About sitting quietly with the baby Jesus, with the wonder of that time when God came to earth to dwell.

Posted By Nan

Exodus 1:1-14, 2:1-10, 23-25, 3:1-22, 12:1-13, 13:1-16, Numbers 14, Malachi
As God had promised Abraham, he was making him into a mighty nation. As God had told Abraham, his descendants were captive in Egypt and growing into a mighty nation. 400 years they suffered and waited for God to free them. I am sure they all heard the story of Abraham and God’s promise to him and I am sure they wondered if God had forgotten them. Meanwhile they grew into a mighty nation. Finally, God heard their call. He prompted a Levite woman to hide her son from Pharaoh’s soldiers because she could see that he was fair in the sight of God. For 40 years that child lived in Pharaoh’s palace before he apparently realised he was an Israelite. Then for 40 years he lived in the desert until God summoned him to the burning bush and sent him back to Egypt to lead the mighty nation of Abraham out of Egypt into the promised land. We all know the story. The people rebelled against God and God forbade any of that generation to enter the promised land. So Moses led the people in the wilderness for 40 years until they all died. Then he led the next generation to the borders of the promised land and he died as well.
The people waited 400 years for God to lead them out of Egypt. The people waited 40 years in the desert before God led them into the promised land. We wait for God’s promises and sometimes we wait impatiently. The Israelites waited 400 years but could not wait 40 years in the desert despite all that God had done for them, even supplying them with food and water. The first consequence of becoming impatient is sin. And that leads to separation from God.
If you look at the Jewish people at the time of Jesus, they had been waiting about 400 years from the words of Malachi to the Jewish people promising the arrival in time of the promised Messiah. As you can see also from Malachi, the Israelites had remained a rebellious people and had eventually lost the promised land and were stuck in a small corner of the Persian Empire. Yet Malachi promised the faithful remnant who had not turned away from God the joy of the promised Messiah and, preceding him, his servant Elijah.
Waiting is hard and we are no better than the Jewish people. We don’t wait well either. This week of Advent I am focusing on the difficulty of waiting for God’s promises. The difficulty of trusting when things look so hopeless. The difficulty of resisting impatience and the inevitable sin that flows from that. And the importance of waiting patiently.

Posted By Nan

Genesis 12:1-8, 13:14-18, 15:1:7, 16:15-16, 17:1-22, 21:1-7
When Abraham was 75 years old, God told him to leave his country, his people and his father’s household and go to the land God would show him. Quite a big ask. God also promised He would make Abraham into a great nation.
Abraham was a righteous man, so he did as God had commanded. At 75 years old he must have expected God to give him children soon. After all, he had to be made into a great nation and that can’t happen without children.
So he travelled to Canaan and wandered around the land for many years. He still did not have any children. But God encouraged him. Again, God showed him the land that he would give to Abraham’s descendants.
Many more years passed and Abraham still had no children. God again came to him, reminding him that He was Abraham’s King. By this stage Abraham was getting a little downhearted. He asked God what God could give him when he still had no children. Without children there would be no descendants to fulfil God’s promise of Abraham becoming a great nation who would occupy the land of Canaan as their own. God repeated His promise to Abraham but this time made it more specific. Abraham would indeed give him an heir. A son coming from his own body and his descendants would be more numerous than the stars in the night sky.
And Abraham believed God.
But Sarah did not. It had been over ten years since God had first promised Abraham a nation of descendants. She grew impatient because she was his only wife and had borne him no children. She asked Abraham to have children to her maidservant so she could have children through her. That was not what God had intended.
At 99 years of age, 24 years after God’s promise. God again gave Abraham His promise of a nation of descendants through Sarah. The son she would bear would be born to her at the age of 90, long after hope of her fertility had departed. Abraham would be 100.
And God gave Abraham and Sarah a son as He had promised.
The story of Abraham and Sarah is a deeply personal story. It is the story of one man and his wife. It is the story of an impossible promise and Abraham’s wait for that promise to be fulfilled.
Abraham grew tired of waiting at times. He argued with God about the nonappearance of children but was reassured by God’s reiterated promise. He allowed his wife to talk him into forcing God’s hand by giving him a child to her maidservant. Eventually he received the son 25 years after God had promised him.
Abraham was credited as righteous and God rewarded him for his righteousness. But even he faltered sometimes in his faith. It is hard to hold on to faith when the promise takes so long. We long for an answer quickly. In hours, days, weeks. And sometimes God answers us that quickly. But more often He answers us in years. Sometimes that answer takes centuries. We cannot rush God. His answer will come at exactly the right time. Any attempt on our part to rush the answer along will lead to trouble. I am sure that every time Abraham tried to take matters into his own hands He repented and God forgave him. It is comforting to know that in our time of waiting, when our impatience causes us to doubt God or even attempt to pre-empt Him, He will still forgive us.
As we wait for the celebration of Jesus’ birth, may we not grow weary of waiting.
As we wait for God’s answers in our lives may we not grow weary of waiting. Look to the Bible. God’s answers sometimes take an incredibly long time to come, yet they always come.
May God keep you strong in Him during your time of waiting.



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