The faith app

I can’t begin to tell you how long it took me to understand what an app was. An app was a world closed to me. Although apps had been around for a while, I just didn’t get it. I even used apps on my iphone; WhatsApp, notes, Guitar Tuna, Bible, but couldn’t grasp the concept of an app, that is until I used a particular App created specifically to take users through a 30 day Challenge (The Nazirite Challenge).

While using this interactive App, suddenly the blinkers came off, and the veil was removed – I got it! I finally understood that an App was an application (small computer program), designed to enable the user to carry out specific functions. During the process of using an App I understood. Living by Faith is like that, you’ll never understand it, or how it works until you take a first step, until you exercise it. You’ll never experience the reality of God, and what He can do until you dare to trust Him.

And it is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to him must believe that God exists and that he rewards those who sincerely seek him – Hebrews 11:6

I never understood who the Holy Spirit was until I cried out to God asking for something more. I believed in God, and had received enough answers to prayer to know that He was real, but I found myself at a point where the shallow experience of God that I’d had wasn’t enough to satisfy the longings of my heart. I needed something deeper, something that all the world had offered me to date couldn’t give. He must have heard my cry, as soon after this, I experienced God in a way that I hadn’t known Him before; an ever-present awareness of God within, being really close to me, calming my fears, and comforting me. It was my personal Damascus Road experience.

God is real! He has the power to transform lives, to heal broken hearts, to repair, to set free, there is nothing impossible for Him, but many of us haven’t experienced the reality of God because we’re not using our ‘Faith App!’ In God’s Kingdom, ‘believing is seeing’; it’s opposite to the world’s philosophy of ‘seeing is believing’.

By default we all have faith in something, even just sitting on a chair suggests that we believe in the chairs ability to carry our weight. What are you putting your faith in?

James Hudson Taylor said –

“How many estimate difficulties in the light of their own resources, and thus attempt little and often fail in the little they attempt! All God’s giants have been weak men, who did great things for God because they reckoned on His being with them” ~ James Hudson Taylor

Today, as you use the many apps that have become a part of our normal way of carrying out various tasks, can I encourage you to pause and ask yourself if you’ve activated your faith app…

Have an amazing faith-filled day!

 

 

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Who’s In Control?

Are you in control of your life? Us humans tend to think we are… I spoke to a passenger service agent at the station yesterday; I was querying a train journey on my oyster card, and while the agent (who seemed tense and curt), checked out my oyster journey history on his handheld device, I felt an inner nudge to tell Him that God loved Him.

Well for the next hour and a half, I was stood in conversation with this guy as he expressed His anger toward this God who had asked me to tell Him that He loved Him. His first response was “Na…don’t tell me that, I’m angry with God!”.

Being the evangelistic type that I am, I told Him that I understood exactly how he was feeling, because I had been mad at God the previous week (I get mad at God sometimes – it’s okay He can handle it!). He said “No, I don’t think you do, I’m almost ready to cross over to the dark side”.

I knew that whatever happened to him must have cut deep. I immediately understood the mannerisms I had picked up, as I initially approached him for help; I couldn’t quite put my finger on it at the time, but had sensed that something wasn’t right with him – he seemed tense and awkward.

The muscles of his face were contorted, and I could clearly see that anger and rage had gripped his heart. I can’t go into the detail of the reason for his anger, but because of this anger, his heart was closed to God. The conversation ended with him saying “I did a deal with God – I do what He wants, and He gives me what I want. He didn’t give me what I wanted, so I’m done!”

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Do we trust God’s love for us even when He allows us to go through calamity, pain and hardship?

How do we react when things don’t pan out the way we want them to? Do we turn our backs on God because we didn’t get what we bargained for? Do we give in to frustration and anger? Have we made the mistake of assuming that we’re in control of our lives? Does the world really revolve around us?

Remember God’s response to Job who experienced a barrage of calamities, one after the other –

“Who is this that questions my wisdom with such ignorant words? Brace yourself like a man, because I have some questions for you, and you must answer them. Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? Tell me, if you know so much” -Job 38: 2-4

There’s always a bigger picture, just like there was in the events that played out in the life of Job, precipitated by God’s dialogue with the devil. Are we trusting enough to believe that God has a plan in all that He allows us to experience in our lives? God promised us that all things will work together for good, to those that love Him, and He prepared us for hard times by warning us that we would have troubles in this world.

Don’t despair when you face hardship, remember God told us to be of good cheer ‘because He has already overcome the world’ (John 16:33) – Are you going to believe Him?

 

 

Streamlined living for creatives

What is it about structure that causes a creative person to feel like a square peg in a round hole? If you’re anything like me; the free-flowing creative type, you have to work extra hard at being structured, organised, and setting goals for yourself, as this pushes you out of your comfort zone. At school I adored subjects like English Literature and English, where my mind was set free to explore and express, but felt hampered by subjects like maths which I found rigid, mechanical and limited.

Creative people need boundaries in the form of goal setting for their ideas, to help keep them streamlined and on track, or they’d end up never creating anything! God may have given us ideas, dreams and visions of what he wants to do with our creativity, but how are we ever going to complete the tasks that God has given us, if we don’t plan for them or set goals?

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Photo by Estée Janssens on Unsplash

Yesterday, while shopping for specific items written down on a shopping list, God spoke to me about how setting goals can be likened to shopping for specific items on a list. Have you ever been shopping without a set plan, or an idea of what you were going to buy? I have, many times, and have ended up wasting precious time walking round the shopping aisles, overspending, and coming home with items that I didn’t really need!

 For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? Luke 14:28

What is it that God is asking you to do? Do you know? Have you got it written down? If God has given you the inspiration for a book, have you set yourself a weekly timetable to impel you to write it? If God has shown you He wants you to be a Forensic scientist, are you ready and prepared to get the training, and put in the necessary research and study needed? Do you want to see God’s plans for you become a reality? Or are you as some say ‘A free spirit?’

As creatives God has called us to walk in partnership with Him. He’ll help us live out the dreams He places in our hearts, but we have a part to play, especially now that we understand He expects us to put checks and balances in place to ensure that His vision for us becomes a reality.

God has the blueprint for our dreams, knows the exact timing, all the other intricacies, and has the overall say, but we need to be responsible to prepare, to research, to pray, to do the practical work, and anything else needed to align with God’s purpose for us.

Dear creative one, we don’t have forever, no more excuses, it’s time to act…

Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and he will establish your plans’
Proverbs 16:3

The long shortcut

Recently checking into a Hilton Hotel with a friend, we decided to leave our luggage in the car, and access the reception on the first floor via the escalator which was directly opposite the entrance. We decided to check our room out, and travelled by elevator from the first floor to our room on the fourth floor,  and found that it was situated only a short walk from the elevator, which we thought was great… really convenient.

Minutes later, we returned to the same hotel entrance with our luggage, and noticed that just past the escalator to the right, on the ground floor was another escalator, which we didn’t see previously. We assumed it would get us to our fourth floor room, which was a short distance from the elevator… well we stepped out of the elevator on the fourth floor and ended up having to walk round the whole hotel, through corridor after corridor, to relocate our room! The lift on the ground floor, which we thought was a short cut, ended up placing us at a location in the hotel which was miles away from our room.

How many of us have tried to get to a destination in life, by taking shortcuts that ended up being long shortcuts? The quick fix diet that led to undesired weight gain, the desire to get rich quick that resulted in a prison sentence, the rushed desire to be married that ended in divorce, the desire for sex that led to an unwanted pregnancy and abortion? The truth is THERE ARE NO SHORTCUTS IN LIFE.

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Photo by Daniel Monteiro on Unsplash

Proverbs 21:5, NLT ‘Good planning and hard work lead to prosperity, but hasty shortcuts lead to poverty’

Life is a process – there is perseverance to be built up, experiences to be had, lessons to be learned, and strengthening that needs to take place, as we’re moulded into the people God has called us to be.

Are we ready and willing to go through the process? Are we patient enough to allow God to take us through His planned routes for our lives?

Be prepared to stick with God for the long haul… remember what it says in Hebrews 6:12 –

‘…we inherit the promises of God through faith and patience’ (paraphrased)  

 

Don’t walk on by

As I stepped onto the bus I knew God wanted me to miss the bus and speak to the guy I had waved at. “If I don’t get on this bus, it means I’ll have to wait a while for the next one”, I thought to myself, but that’s exactly what He; God, wanted me to do! He looked rougher than I’d ever seen him before. I couldn’t disobey God, so I got off the next stop and walked back towards the previous one.

I made sure to keep an eye out for him, I didn’t want to lose sight of him, you’re never sure of God’s reason for making you get off the bus, when all you really want to do is go home and eat the salad you’ve just purchased. I decided that my wants could wait… I also wondered if God could somehow use my delayed obedience.

The above may sound a bit like a story to you, but this actually happened today… I walked back and spoke to this guy, and was given the opportunity to encourage a guy who has been isolated and wrapped up in depression for four years. God gave me words to speak to him that showed Him God cared, I could see this as he swallowed back the emotion that rose up in his throat as I spoke to Him.

Slowly, after I shared with him how God had helped me get through a period of depression, he shared some of his story with me. I thought about the time when God had used someone to encourage me when I was in a dark place, and determined to allow God to use me in the same way. I asked if I could pray with him, and he obliged. It was beautiful to see a twinkle in his eyes and a smile light up his face as we got to the end of the prayer.

He’s coming with me to a fellowship meeting in a couple of weeks time. As I got back on the bus and we waved to each other, I couldn’t help but think about the golden opportunity I would have missed if I had walked on by…

4269100711_794b598fc6_zPhoto Credit: Andrew. W. Rennie
https://www.flickr.com/photos/andrewrennie/

The Unadopted

There is a street near where I live called the Unadopted Road, and this morning God made me walk down it. I noted that the roads were untarred, some of the houses semi-dilapidated, and the surrounding shrubbery overgrown. I wondered if the Street name was a reflection of the seemingly meagre resources that it appeared the local council must have invested in developing its amenity.

My thoughts shifted to the physically unadopted, the marginalised, the forgotten. The ones we don’t pay much attention to… the foster children, rough sleepers, the poor, homeless, and war-torn. Many of our lives are not directly intertwined with the lives of the ‘Unadopted‘, and so we  most times forget that they exist. We eat three regular square meals a day, have an abundance of clothes to wear, and most of us have a place that we call home, but how often do we remember that there are others who don’t have these basic necessities that we take for granted?

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Why are we prone to living for numero uno? Our innate selfishness fills our hearts and minds with thoughts of self-centred priorities.

Recently God has brought to my attention the various needs apparent in the lives of the people that live in the community around me, the homeless guys outside the station where I get my train, the guy outside morrisons that constantly begs for money, the lady with the mental health issue at the entrance to the shopping centre – I’ve wondered at the enormity of the task that lies ahead, how can I make a difference? How can we make a difference? Jesus said: 

“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me,
Because the Lord has anointed Me
To preach good tidings to the poor;
He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted,
To proclaim liberty to the captives,
And the opening of the prison to those who are bound;
To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord,
And the day of vengeance of our God;
To comfort all who mourn,
To console those who mourn in Zion,
To give them beauty for ashes,
The oil of joy for mourning,
The garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness;
That they may be called trees of righteousness,
The planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.”

If we call ourselves Christians today, we need to do more than just sing songs about God’s love. We are called to live His love! We are called to be His hands and feet. We are called to make a difference. We need to see what God sees, and have our hearts moved to want to be used in God’s agenda of bringing good news to the poor, and healing the broken hearted. If our hearts are not being stirred towards others, perhaps we have drifted away from the true meaning of what it means to be a follower of Christ..

Lord forgive me for my indifference, and open my eyes today to see the things that you see, and make me sensitive to your promptings, and alert to the needs in the lives of the people around me. Make me willing to be used by you to make a difference in somebody’s life today.

 

Catch me if you can

God speaks to me through the most mundane of things, things you would think were almost sacrilegious, like yesterday morning, when my towel fell off the towel rail in the bathroom, and I caught it just before it hit the floor.

He said to me, “if you can catch a mere towel as it starts to fall, and prevent it from touching the floor, how much more can I, your Heavenly Father, catch you when you start to fall!” That made me think… as insignificant as a towel is, I was able to catch it, in its downward flight, because I didn’t want it to touch the floor.

This set my heart on thinking about loftier things, PEOPLE. Mankind, from all races, all backgrounds, making decisions leading them on a downward spiral – the prison inmate whose choice led to imprisonment, the alcoholic whose habit resulted in a broken home and a fatherless child, the teenager whose one night stand led to an unwanted pregnancy.

Is there no hope for the ‘Falling ones?’ Society insinuates that there isn’t much, by its stereotyping and labelling; ‘Drug addict’, ‘Prostitute’, ‘Failure’, ‘Crackhead’, ‘Wasteman!’

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The ‘Falling ones’

The genealogy of Jesus Christ mentions a young lady called ‘Rahab’ the mother of Boaz, she was a prostitute (Matthew 1:5). The book of James (2:25), tells us that Rahab was made right with God by her faith, which led her to welcome and hide the messengers sent out to spy (Joshua 2: 1 – 16). She became a part of the solution!

Yes GOD can! With the natural eye, we might not be able to see the treasure in the trash, but with the eye of faith we can. With our natural power we may not be able to change a life, but by the power of God, we can be used as part of that transformation process.

No one is beyond the reach of God’s love and power, no matter how far they may have fallen. Let this truth encourage and inspire you today, as you step out into all the ways that God wants to use you to reach the ‘Falling ones’ today…

The Diversion

So a couple of days ago on my way to the train station, my bus suddenly came to a standstill, no warning, no preparation, just an announcement over the speaker that the Bus would be diverted due to an incident that had taken place. The bus was going to meander through back routes, so I thought it best to alight, and walk the rest of the way to the station.

My thoughts pondered on the truth that God always has a plan in anything that He allows to happen in our lives, and wondered what plan He could possibly have in allowing me half an hours walk to the station, and the possibility of a late arrival at work.

Has your life ever taken an unexpected diversion? A sudden tragedy, the loss of your livelihood, the break-up of a marriage, a health scare, a wayward child? YOU’RE ON DIVERSION! GOD’S DIVERSION! 

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Photo by Jamie Street on Unsplash

Now back to my half hours walk to the bus stop, a few yards away from the train station, I looked ahead, and saw to my amazement, a Pastor who had hosted myself and a friend on a mission trip to Bulgaria last year! God had orchestrated my footsteps (via the diversion), to get me exactly where He wanted me to be at that precise moment in time. Without the diversion, that meeting wouldn’t have happened. All I could do was wonder in amazement at the accuracy of God’s orchestration, and what future plans God had in store by causing our paths to cross again.

When God puts you on a diversion, listen up and be expectant! When Joseph was sold to Potiphar in Genesis 39, he was on diversion. That diversion led to him, as an innocent man being accused of a crime he didn’t commit, thrown into prison, and forgotten, but It was all part of God’s plan of preparing Him to become the Governor of Egypt (Genesis 39 – 45).

The diversions of our lives are all for God’s purposes, the best that we can do is yield to whatever it is that He is trying work out in us. He is master, and sees the full picture, the final portrait at the end of the diversion. Don’t be alarmed by the circumstances that you may be facing today, don’t fall into a state of despair, bitterness, anger, or depression. God is at work, and wants to take us in a completely different direction. Let’s do ourselves a favour, and let Him have His way. He’ll open our eyes to see His Divine intent, if we choose to stay the course…

Isiah 43: 18 – 19 “Do not remember the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold I will do a new thing, now it shall spring forth; shall you not know it?

 

For big mistakes

Sitting in a screen print workshop, my eye was drawn to the practitioner wiping away a smudge on an image inked onto the print frame. I had thought that because the creator of this image had marred the design by causing an unsightly smudge, all his efforts to create a beautiful work of art had come to nothing.

But in that moment, as the practitioner reassured her student, and effortlessly wiped away the smudge, God spoke to my heart; “If a print practitioner can fix a smudge on a print frame, I am more than able to fix people’s lives when they make mistakes”.

Have you ever made a mistake, done something that you really wished, and knew you shouldn’t have? I have too. Although we don’t set out in life to make mistakes, no one is immune from making them, and when we do (as long as we don’t give up), it’s not the end of the story.

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Remember King David? A man who was praised in the bible for defeating Israel’s fiercest terror; Goliath. He gave in to temptation, slept with Bathsheba (someone else’s wife), and arranged to have her husband killed in battle. Adultery, and murder! Grievous sins, and not without consequences, but David came to his senses, repented, and God’s mercy, grace, and forgiveness restored Him.

If you find yourself looking at your failures, and listening to the condemning voice of the enemy, can I encourage you today to cast your gaze on Jesus; the one who died for you. His word says ‘He will not crush the weakest reed or put out a flickering candle’ (Matthew 12:20 NLT), in other words, He won’t put you down when you fall, in fact, He’ll help you get back up again. People around you may point the finger, condemn, and criticise you, but God loves you, and wants to restore you.

Jesus said of the sinner woman in Luke 7, who washed His feet with her tears, and wiped them with her hair : “I tell you, her sins—and they are many—have been forgiven, so she has shown me much love. But a person who is forgiven little shows only little love.” “Your sins are forgiven.”

Truly you are already forgiven, just believe…

 

 

Jesus spoke a curse?

I never fully understood why Jesus cursed the fig tree in Mark  11: 14, that is until yesterday! Wanting to soak up a rare appearance of the sun, and enjoy the wonder of God’s creation, I embarked on a walk around a park in Greenhithe, Kent, featuring a water fountain. The only thing was, the receptacle emitted one puny spurt of water, which led to me expressing rather loudly that ‘it would be better removed’!

I love water fountains, and expected to be awed by a display of aquatic brilliance, but got a mediocre spurt of water instead! All at once, I remembered the story about Jesus and the fig tree, and thought I knew exactly how He must have felt. Excited at the prospect of eating figs to curb his hunger, on His way out of Bethany; from a tree viewed from a distance (created to bear fruit),  He was greatly disappointed!

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If I could feel like that about a mere water fountain, designed to jet water into the air for decorative effect; how much more angry must God be when His people, created to bear fruit and give Him glory, fail to do so. This biblical scenario in Mark 11, evoked a strong reaction from the lips of Jesus – a curse.

God wants us to bear fruit! How important it is for us to live out the purposes for which we have been created. If God has created you to bring Him glory with your life, and bear Spiritual fruit, why settle for anything less? He’s created us to live victoriously (please note that this can only be achieved in His power – see Ephesians 2:10), to be the salt of the earth, to win souls, use our skills, talents and gifting to point people to Him, and better our generation.

The servant in Matthew 25, that heard the words ‘Well done good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master,’ bore Spiritual fruit. What will the Master say to us when we stand before Him? Will His words commend us for living a fruitful life, or will He be forced to release a curse for ‘trampling underfoot’ the Son of God, and living a wasted life?

The choice is yours…