The Sum of Endurance – {The Close of Day}

8

 

There is something that appears, on first glance, ill-fitting about seeing ‘rejoice’ and ‘suffering’ in the same sentence.  They do not really seem to be words that ease well into each other, complement each other or even seem to deserve shared sentence space.  It’s all in all, on the face of it, an entirely uneasy concept.

Paul finished off at the end of Romans talking about how we are justified through our faith in Jesus.  This chapter begins with what could be seen as the aftermath of that faith in this world.

Suffering.

Yet we who lead first-world lives in affluent countries, with modern conveniences, good healthcare, education, freedom of speech and access to many of life’s luxuries do not sit comfortably with the notion of suffering because our societies, communities, governments, media outlets are all telling us that our lives should be anything but marked with suffering.  Our culture encourages to find our help in any number of modern conveniences, establishments, institutions, and so reduce any kind of suffering we might endure.

If we suffer financially, there are endless banks and loan companies willing to provide short-term, expensive solutions to our problem.

If we suffer with our health, there are multiple free and paid for institutions to meet our medical needs.

We can change the way we look, the way we feel, the place we live, the office we work in – we have abundant opportunities at our fingertips.

But what can be our blessing can also be our disaster.  As we fight the waves of an entitlement culture chanting to us that we should, could, can, will, must have anything we want, need, desire in order to avoid suffering, if we’re not careful when we can’t change our circumstances we look pitifully inward and fail to see God’s richest blessing within it.

In these verses, Paul encourages us to remember that suffering is not the end.  In fact, it is just the beginning. [Read more…]

Not in Vain {how to value your isolation}

 

1

 

There are times when being alone is the sweetest thing in the world. It can mean reading time, an early night, a relaxing bath, a chat on the phone with a friend… or it can mean being productive, getting that one thing done, focussing on a task or challenge.  There are times when we will all embrace our alone time.

There are even times when we can crave it.

But not every instance of being alone is craved or desired. It’s not fruitful or productive.  It’s not even relaxing or enjoyable.

Instead, it’s just one more sign that things are not really as you would like them to be. It’s a different kind of alone. And you didn’t want it or ask for it. In fact, you actually know a lot of people, sometimes you’re surrounded by them. At church or work. Or at school gates or supermarkets. You might even be married, or have children, or even both.

But sometimes no matter how many people we can count with and around us, we are still entirely isolated.

 

Seasons of Fullness

 

Before I was married, I started going to a vibrant and thriving city church. I was in my mid-twenties and part of the appeal it held was the activity of the twenty-something crowd. I lived alone in a city centre flat that I owned myself, and found that by attending this church I had an incredible full life.

There were weekly meetings, Bible studies, church services, Bank Holiday weekend outings, Friday night meets, housegroups, day trips to different places… I was in a season of real fullness. And, despite living alone, I never really ever felt alone.

And it all came after a very difficult spell in my life, and God knew entirely that I needed that fullness.

It was during this time I met my husband, and it was at this church we married and had our first child dedicated. While things changed after marriage and children, I had friends and I had plenty of activities to keep me going.

But shortly after, things took a turn.

 

Seasons of Isolation

 

For reasons I won’t labour on here, my family ended up moving to a remote Scottish island.  For the sake of my husband’s work, we uprooted our lives down in the middle of England and returned to his birthplace.

And while the move was exciting and the challenges were plentiful, we took it all in our stride as we started to lead very different, rural lives in an isolated place, in a very small corner of the world.

It has brought abundant blessings.

And it has brought trials.

It has brought experiences I could never have imagined.

And it brought with it a season of isolation.

One I categorically did not want. Or seek after. Or desire in any way, shape or form.

And I have sometimes hated it.

 

Seasons are that. Seasons.

 

Our days are run by hours and minutes and seconds. As a teacher, my school life is divided into the chimes of a bell telling me that one part of my day has ended and another is about to begin.

Then we have weeks, weekends, months, and these divide into seasons.

And there is much comfort to be drawn from all of these divisions. We know a bad day will end and tomorrow may be brighter. We know the cold of winter will give way to the brightness of spring.

Every unit or part or division of our lives will eventually give way to another. Whether that is a new class coming into a classroom, or a new morning to start again, or a much-needed weekend after a frantic week…and as each hour, day, week comes to an end, so does each season.

So where does the problem arise?

It arises when we wonder why God is not working in the time frames we can understand and quantify. When another bad week, or sad year passes, or when the thing we hoped for, dreamed of, wanted – even prayed with desperation for – doesn’t seem to be coming to pass, we quickly become confused and disillusioned, maybe even angry and bitter.

 

But 2 Peter 3:8 reminds us: But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.

 

God does not work within our own regimented understanding of time frames. Peter tells us NOT to overlook this fact…other versions of the Bible tell us to REMEMBER this fact.

 

2

 

 

So, in the meantime?

 

Friend, are you ‘in the meantime’ today? Are you feeling suspended between this and that? Between a dream and a reality – or even a reality and a dream? Between where you are and where you want to be?

Take heart!  You are not alone, and if you are feeling lost, or isolated, or stuck somewhere you would rather not be, then there are things God wants you to know.

 

  • You are where you are for a reason
Proverbs 19:21 tells us: Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.
Whether where you are makes sense to you or not, the Lord has a purpose in everything. Do you know why you are where you are? Ask Him to show you. Seek the Lord more than you seek after your own plan. Of course, we ought to make plans…if we are not moving forward, we are not going anywhere, but do not plough ahead with your own plans regardless.  Commit them to the Lord, make your moves as necessary and He will establish your steps (Proverbs 16:9).
Until then, use THIS day.
LIVE in it.

USE it.

In whatever way you can – whether you eat or drink, do it all for the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31).  Ephesians 5:15 urges us to make best use of the time we have.

  • God knows where you are and where He wants you to be
One of my favourite quotes is from Charles Spurgeon who said that “had any condition been better for you than the one in which you are, divine love would have put you there”.
Do you hear that?
Divine love.
God LOVES you.  And He knows what you are feeling.  Our job is to trust that our condition is a divine appointment, not a set of circumstances dropped into our lap by a lazy God.

Seek the Benefits, Learn and Grow

 

Let me ask you some questions before I finish.

How are you using your isolation?

Are you looking in or looking out?

 

  • Seek the Benefits

I spent the best part of an entire year wanting to be somewhere else.  I spent hour after fruitless hour on the Internet searching for jobs I didn’t really want.  I investigated moving overseas, even to places I don’t particularly want to go.

When we become so focussed on changing the present circumstances we have, we miss a whole swathe of blessings.  Yes, blessings and even joy.

Friend, it takes effort to seek the benefits of being somewhere we don’t really want to be.  And sometimes, when we are so intent on changing where we are, we don’t even want to see the benefits.

But who are we to suggest that God does not have all things in His hands?  Who are we to think that the benefits are not worth the tally unless we truly try to see them?

James 1:2-3 tells us: Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds,  because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.

Pure joy! But you have to be prepared to look for it, seek after it.

 

  • Learn
Our circumstances are for our good and for our God’s glory.  But we do have to believe that.  We have to truly trust God that out of every difficulty, He will be bringing about a change in us that will be to our benefit.  Maybe it’s trust or patience we need to learn, or how to love people better – there are endless chips that need to be chiselled away in our characters as we become more like Jesus.
So, what can we learn from our isolation? What does God have for us where we are that is for our good and for His glory?
If that’s where you are today, maybe it’s time to ask.  I know I got to the point where I had to realise that there was a purpose I was missing.  Ask Him today, ask Him to help you learn through your isolation.
  • Grow
When we choose to see the joy and the blessings, and we truly seek God’s purpose, you know what is happening?  We are transforming our habits.  Rather than wallow in self-pity or pursue desperately after any other dream (even when we know fine well we don’t even want it!), we begin to praise God for His blessings and we grow closer to Him in our walk.
When our eyes are on the good of our circumstances and the glory of God, how much better off we will be!
Not every day will be a day I value enough.  There will be times when I forget to cherish the moment and realise the blessing.  But I pray that this year these days and times will be fewer and farther between.
Our isolation will not be our undoing unless we let it.  Instead it could be the very thing that brings us closer to God and helps us mature in our faith.
With Grace and Love
Helen x

Our Hope in Jesus – Part 3 {Advent Devotional}

By Bill McIntyre

 

So far we have looked at:

Hope Established

Hope Maintained and today we come to…

 

Hope Fulfilled

 

1 Peter 1:10-12 tells us:

 (10)  Of which salvation the prophets have enquired and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace that should come unto you: 

(11)  Searching what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow. 

(12)  Unto whom it was revealed, that not unto themselves, but unto us they did minister the things, which are now reported unto you by them that have preached the gospel unto you with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven; which things the angels desire to look into.

 

Salvation is the major theme of this letter. Peter never allows us to lose sight of the priority of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ.  It is of this salvation that Peter now writes. He shares two important truths concerning this salvation.

  1. This salvation was spoken by the prophets (verses 10-12)

Long before the birth of Jesus, the prophets were inquiring about this salvation and were searching for it and saw that the Holy Spirit had revealed to them the coming of this salvation. They longed for it to take place in their lifetimes.  They testified long before Christ’s birth and His sufferings concerning the glories that were to follow His death and Resurrection.  And yet, it was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves but rather us who were to be born in later generations (VERSE 12). [Read more…]

Our Hope in Jesus – Part 2 {Advent Devotional}

17

By Bill McIntyre

TODAY LET US LOOK AT:

  1. HOPE MAINTAINED

 

1 Peter 1:4-5

to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time

For those who are born again in Christ we receive our inheritance from him.  This is not an earthly inheritance as Jesus says in Matthew 6:19;“ Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal.”   This inheritance has several outstanding characteristics:

It is-

1. “incorruptible.” It will never perish; it is indestructible. It is the same word used in Romans 1:23 (NKJV) in describing the glory of the incorruptible God.

So when Peter talks here about an incorruptible inheritance he is linking it with God Himself as God is incorruptible.

2. “undefiled—unpolluted and fresh. It will never spoil or decay.  Like our Lord Jesus Christ who is there, our Lord Jesus Christ who is holy, harmless, and undefiled, Hebrews 7:26

Our fallen nature and our Sin that spoil this world, and mar its beauty, have no place there.  Because when we go to meet him we will be made perfect, we will be made sinless, we will be undefiled. This is our inheritance as children of God.  This is our certain hope as children of God. [Read more…]

Our Hope in Jesus {Advent Devotional}

16

By Bill McIntyre

 

What I would like to do is to examine hope from three different perspectives:

Hope Established

Hope Maintained

Hope Fulfilled

TODAY LET US LOOK AT:

  1. Hope Established

Hope

Let us look at this word Hope.  Dictionary definition:  ‘A feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen’.  To split the definition down into two sections we firstly have a desire for a certain thing to happen which is very much the way the world sees hope – as a desire.

Some examples of common usage

Hope against hope: cling to a mere possibility: they were hoping against hope that he would find a way out

Hope for the best: hope for a favourable outcome: I’ll just wait at home and hope for the best

Hope springs eternal (in the human breast): proverb it is human nature always to find fresh cause for optimism

Forlorn Hope: The phrase originally denoted a band of soldiers picked to begin an attack, many of whom would not survive

Hope Chest: a chest containing household linen and clothing stored by a woman in preparation for her marriage:

These examples are very much the worlds view of hope.  There is no certainty in it and it comes down to a situation where some times the hope is fulfilled but more often than not the hope remains unfulfilled.

However if we look at the other half of the definition: An expectation that a certain thing will happen. This is the Biblical perspective: Peter here writes of a sure hope. A hope that holds the future in the present because it is anchored in the past. Peter talks about the hope for God’s salvation and God’s deliverance from sin and death.

This hope is sure because God has already accomplished his salvation when he sent his son to be born in Bethlehem, to die on that cross and to be resurrected from the dead.  The birth, life, death and resurrection of Christ was a life changing reality for Peter and is a life changing reality for all those today who accept the Lord Jesus Christ as their saviour.

Remember, when Jesus died on that cross it was the end of Peter’s hopes at that time – he knew only bitter sorrow for his own denials. But Jesus did not stay dead on Easter morning Peter was told about the empty tomb and ran to see for himself and left in wonder.

When Jesus appeared to the eleven in the room as they ate then Peter’s hope was reborn but now it was a sure hope, a certain hope at the sight of the living Lord.

The birth, life, death and resurrection shows that God has made the Crucified both lord and Christ.

Peter’s living hope is Jesus.  Because of this living hope Peter can say:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.

The birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus spells hope for all those who believe in Him because by God’s mercy WE LIVE.

Through his birth our redemption began.

Through His death we have been given New Birth.

Our hope is anchored in the past – Jesus rose.

Our hope remains in the present – Jesus lives.

Our hope is completed in the future – Jesus is coming back or we will go to be with him.

Where is your hope today?

Is it in the world today that will never fulfill the real hope that you have or is it in the risen Lord who came at Christmastime to bring us salvation and eternal life.

I pray that it is in the Lord Jesus Christ because apart from him there is no hope.

 

The Love of God Saves {Advent Devotional}

15

By Bill McIntyre

Today we conclude our Advent walk through John 3:16; if you missed any of the posts, the links are at the bottom of this one!
Let’s look at these next words:

should not perish but have eternal life

God’s goal in sending his Son from heaven to earth was not condemn you or to show you how bad you are, how unworthy you are or how hopeless you are. [Read more…]

The Love of God is Accessible {Advent Devotional}

14

By Bill McIntyre

As we continue through John 3:16. let’s take a look at these next words:

that whoever believes in him

The really good news about God’s love is that it is not limited to a select few.  It is not available only to those who were born with the right colour of skin or on the correct continent.  Nor is it difficult to obtain.

It is not reserved for only the intellectual elite or the power brokers or financial wizards.

No, the love of God is accessible to “whoever believes in” Jesus – the only Son of God. [Read more…]

God’s Love is Personal {Advent Devotional}

13

By Bill McIntyre

As we take a look at John 3:16, let’s come to the next key word:

Son,

God’s love is not merely some abstract concept. It is not some Hollywood air kiss followed by a meaningless ‘Love you darling’.

It is not just a philosophy or a theological construct that is academic and bearing no relation to reality. [Read more…]

The Love of God is Treasured {Advent Devotional}

12

By Bill McIntyre

As we have been looking at God’s love through John 3:16, we come to these next two words:

his only

What do you treasure in your life today? What is of such importance that you value it above all other things.  Is it a material possession? Your golf clubs, your favourite jewellery, your expensive car on the drive, your holiday home, your bank account?  What would you do if asked to give them up?

The lake and the mountains have become my landscape, my real world. (2)

Some years ago we moved house and in the process sold our house, rented a place temporarily while we looked for a new home. Consequently, we had a substantial amount of money sitting in the bank. One evening while we were sitting in our rented accommodation my wife said, “What would you do if God told you to give all that money away?” My first response was: “Well I would rebuke it because a request like that can only have come from Satan!”

But the more I thought about it the more I realized that God could ask me to be that sacrificial, and if he did then how would I react – with obedience or disobedience?

Thankfully, we were not asked to do it but it got me thinking about the sacrifice that God made for you and me. It was not some material possession he gave up but his only son who he gave for death on the cross for you and for me.

Here we see the amazing, wonderful, tremendous value of the Father’s love for us.  Not only was he willing to give, but we see here that he was willing to give the only one he had.  When you give to someone out of your abundance that is one thing, but when you give all that you have that is quite another.

God had only one son but he gave him that we might live.

But as well as being valuable God’s love is also personal.

Heavenly Father we thank you for the gift of your son and his death that we might be redeemed, Father, let us never forget that treasure and let us proclaim it from the rooftops to whoever may hear.  Amen.

The Sacrificial Love of God {Advent Devotional}

11

By Bill McIntyre

Over the next few days we are looking at the love of God by going through John 3:16.  You can read the first part here.

The lake and the mountains have become my landscape, my real world. (1)

 

that he gave

 

How did God love us?

He loved us by giving, by serving, by sacrificing. So here we learn something important about the nature of true love.

Galatians 5:21 gives us a place for love in the fruit of the spirit:

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.

 I would suggest to you that Love is first on this list because I do not see how we can have any of the others without love being first: [Read more…]

%d bloggers like this: