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Monthly Archives: August 2011

[Guest Post] Standing on His promises…

What a crazy couple of weeks. The nation (and the world) watched in disbelief as horrifying scenes of rioting, looting and criminal damage filled our TV screens. We joined with thousands to pray for peace in our cities and for broken communities to be restored. The actions of all those involved in #riotcleanup encouraged us that there is  great power when a community works togetther, and that social networking can be used for good.

Closer to home we are acutely aware of a number of deaths, sicknesses or difficult situations that our friends, and friends of those we know, are currently facing. It’s certainly been a fortnight when we’ve repeatedly found ourselves praying for God’s peace, love, strength and comfort to be in abundance for many.

There is plenty of opinion – religious and secular – about why bad things happen. Fate, karma, pre-destination, poor government, evil people, religion, free will, bad luck (and, if you’re reading an article in the Daily Mail, ALL of these things!). Whatever explanation you want to give, the truth is, crap happens. For me, the important thing is to think about how we respond to the bad stuff. Are we people who say “Why me? Why do bad things happen to good people?”. I think that’s quite a common, and natural reaction. Mr Blunders will tell you that I’ve totally been one of those people – known to have said (shouted?!) “It’s not fair” not only as a small child, but as a 20-something woman!

One of my most favourite songs ever doesn’t attempt to answer the question “Why?”. Instead, Brooke Fraser (absolutely one of the best songwriters I have ever heard) points us towards the promises on which we can stand when all around us is shaking. Have a listen now (FLAGS) and then come back and read some more…

Come, tell me your trouble, I’m not your answer

But I’m a listening ear, Reality has left you reeling

All facts and no feeling, No faith and all fear

I don’t know why a good man will fall

While a wicked one stands And our lives blow about

Like flags on the land

Who’s at fault is not important

Good intentions lie dormant

And we’re all to blame

While apathy acts like an ally

My enemy and I are one and the same

I don’t know why the innocents fall

While the monsters still stand

And our lives blow about

Like flags on the land

I don’t know why our words are so proud

Yet their promise soothing

And our lives blow about

Like flags in the wind

You who mourn will be comforted

You who hunger will hunger no more

All the last shall be first

Of this I am sure

You who weep now will laugh again

All you lonely be lonely no more

Yes, the last will be first

Of this I’m sure

I don’t know why the innocents fall

While the monsters stand

I don’t know why the little ones thirst

But I know the last shall be first

I know the last shall be first

I know the last shall be first

I love the honesty of this song – that says: I don’t know why these things happen, but I there are truths of which I am certain, and those truths come directly from these words that Jesus spoke:

 “Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
5 Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.
6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.
7 Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
8 Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.
9 Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.
10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Matthew 5, 3-11 NIV

Some of you will have heard me talk about these verses before. It’s one of my favourite bits of the Bible, so I might sound like something of a broken record…please indulge me though! The reason I love these verses is because I think that at most times in our lives, however we are feeling, we fit into one of those catergories. In the good times and in the bad. In the times when we feel close to God and the times when God couldn’t feel further away. And the brilliant, encouraging thing is that whatever category we fall into, there is a promise to stand upon. God promises the grieving parents, who have to say goodbye to their tiny baby that they will be comforted. He promises the faithful ‘peacemakers’ involved in the aftermath of the riots that they will be called His children. He promises the teenager who is bullied at school because she is a Christian that she will be blessed and her reward in heaven will be great.

I mentioned in a previous post that being in relationship with God doesn’t automatically make life easy. And knowing these promises doesn’t mean that there won’t be hard stuff to face. Mr B’s last post (continue) was about actively pursuing Jesus and setting our minds on Him. Sometimes I think that when we’re in the middle of the tough times one of the hardest things to do is to make the decision to be active and to battle through. There’s a line from another Brooke Fraser song that I love which goes “I’m setting down this sadness and I won’t remember it”. More than once I sang that, at the top of my voice, with tears streaming down my face as I worried and wondered what to do with a little boy who wouldn’t eat, wasn’t gaining weight and seemed constantly unsettled. I determindly “set down my sadness” and resolved, not to forget it altogether, but to dwell on it no longer.

I’m not pretending this is easy. But ultimately I believe that there is no situation too big for God to pull me through. And you? Whatever you are going through right now, those promises are for you too.

I’ll leave you with this – just the last verse of this song (From the breaking of the dawn)

Hope that lifts me from despair, love that casts out ev’ry fear,

As I stand on ev’ry promise of Your Word.

Not forsaken, not alone, for the Comforter has come,

And I stand on ev’ry promise of Your Word.

Grace sufficient, grace for me, 

Grace for all who will believe―

We will stand on ev’ry promise of Your Word.

Big love

Mrs B

xxx

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Continue…

Over the past year there have been several occasions when I wanted to through a strop and retreat to my cave.To no longer be a parent, administrator or prayer co-ordinator to name but a few! To give in. To let the waters swallow me up! But, here I am writing this, still a parent (to two amazing boys!), still an administrator and a prayer co-ordinator. Yet I am still dealing with the frustrations that life brings.

Alongside all of this, I have been thinking a great deal recently about our minds.

Romans 12:2 says this;

And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind… Romans 12:2 NKJV

God can do amazing things in our lives, but one thing he does not control is our minds. We have to set our hearts on renewing our minds (to mix metaphors!). What we put in is what we get out. After all, are we surprised that after generation upon generation has told each other that Darwin was right and that we are merely animals, that then people behave like them?

Paul in his letter to church at Colosse, encourages them with this simple phrase;

Continue earnestly in prayer, being vigilant in it with thanksgiving;  Colossians 4:2 NKJV

He called the church to pray, to be vigilant, to set aside time to do it, to make sure that they were doing it. Paul was calling the church to set their minds to it and to renew their minds with the importance of prayer and the importance of thanksgiving.

He also says in his letter to the Philippians;

Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things. Philippians 4:8 NKJV

What constitutes the true, the noble, the just, pure, lovely, of good report and praiseworthy? The answer as with all good Bible studies, is Jesus!

When was the last time we stopped and meditated on Jesus?

I also came across this quote on twitter this morning;

A desire to quit confirms the greatness of your passion to ignore mundane living and is proof that you must continue.

It really inspired me! Many people along the way have quit at all sorts of things.

When marriage gets difficult or hard work, spouses walk away.

When churches get too hard, people find a different congregation.

When prayer goes on and on, we give up or claim that God’s will is not in it!

Psalm 37:4 says;

Delight yourself also in the LORD, And He shall give you the desires of your heart.

The word ‘desires’ can also be translated and possible more accurately as petitions. Which is more than something I just want, it is something that I have thought about. It is something that really matters to me enough to continue in prayer, with thanksgiving, for.

Believing in Jesus doesn’t make our problems go away; in fact in pretty much intensifies them!  But, what it does do is give us a bigger picture to what is actually going on. Jesus asked His Father if there was any way of not enduring the cross. He, it seemed wanted to give up. But he pushed on, ignored mundane living and we can also because he already has!

We believe that prayer makes a difference, that God has leveraged an insane amount of importance in prayer and that by renewing our minds on the life of Jesus we pray with eternity in view.

One of EJ’s favourite songs has the lines;

You’re God of the Big. God of the little. God of the stuff somewhere in the middle! You’re the king of moving mountains!

I need to know this God!

Perhaps you feel like giving up on today and tomorrow as well! May you be refreshed by the renewing of your mind that God is for you not against you! He’s the God of the big, little and everything else.

Talk to him and tell him your greatest need at this time. Tell Him what inspires you, your dreams and what is causing you pain. Where do you need a refreshing from the Holy Spirit?

What will you petition God for and how long will you persevere?

May you continue in your prayers, meditating on Jesus, giving thanks for all that He has done and will do! We press on towards the goal, refuse mundane living and live for our passion!

Grace and Peace,

Steve

Father, forgive me for giving in.

Thank you for your word. Teach it to me that I may pray boldly.

May I learn to dig deep and continue in prayer all the days of my life

Thank you for your grace!

May I see my prayers answered; Your Kingdom come, Your will be done!

Holy Spirit, Help!

In Jesus name, Amen

 
 

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[Guest Post] Deliberate Love…

Hello lovely people.

Once again, thank you so much for your comments on last week’s blog. Keep the feedback coming!

So, it’s time to wrap up this little series on Love. Last week I wrote about the overwhelming, unconditional, amazing love that God shows us and asked;

“So, what does that mean in the reality of day to day life? Is it just a warm and fuzzy feeling that makes us feel better about ourselves? Or does it make a difference to the way we live our lives?”

Well, there’s two things I want to talk about here.

First – God loves us, but he also wants to be in a relationship with us. He wants us to respond to his love, and to love him back. Mr B and I have been together 10 years this year, and will be celebrating our 7th wedding anniversary in a couple of weeks. And I hope he doesn’t mind my revealing this – poor bloke – but he loved me before I loved him (there’s nothing wrong with him….I was just a bit behind!). But as anyone who has had an unrequited love knows, what you really want is for the person who consumes your heart and mind to love you back. You want to talk to them until late into the night, to get to know everything about them, to be in a relationship with them*.

And this relationship is what God longs for us that is what He created us for. Being in relationship with God is how lives are changed. It can’t guarantee anyone an easy ride, but in relationship with God we find joy, hope and peace.

Second – the love God shows us in Jesus is the love that we are called to show others.

A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.
John 13:34 NIV

We are commanded to love others as God has loved us. And these ‘others’ that we must love? Well, they’re not just the people we like. They’re the people who think differently to us, like the Jew and the Samaritan in the parable of the Good Samaritan. They’re the people who hurt us (Luke 6:29). They’re the people of different cultures and backgrounds to us;

The LORD your God is more powerful than all other gods and lords, and his tremendous power is to be feared. His decisions are always fair, and you cannot bribe him to change his mind. The LORD defends the rights of orphans and widows. He cares for foreigners and gives them food and clothing. And you should also care for them, because you were foreigners in Egypt.
Deuteronomy 10:17-19 CEV

Blimey. Challenging?! I think so.

I was in a meeting a few weeks ago where someone said, when talking about the long term unemployed in our town, “Christians and Christian agencies need to change the mindset of these people”. Do we? Or do we need to show the love of Christ to them, without passing judgement on their reasons for their lack of employment and dependence on benefits? Isn’t it more important to be deliberate in loving, supporting and encouraging them, rather than changing their mindset to turn them into something more ‘socially acceptable’?

I work a few hours a week for Eastbourne and Wealden YMCA, as their Chaplain. One of the things I do is run a weekly session at our residential centre in Eastbourne, where residents can come to talk, for advice, support or prayer (if they’re interested in that!). In the initial stages there was no ‘agenda’ for the sessions, as I wanted to spend time getting to know the residents. However, on explaining my role as Chaplain, and the fact that I was a Christian, they soon had questions about God, faith and the Bible and I was able to share some of what I believe. I was asked to report about this work at a trustees’ meeting, and on doing so one trustee commented “Well that sounds good, but have you actually preached the gospel to them?”.

Erm…not yet.

These young people commonly have problems stemming from a resistance to being told what to do or what to think – preaching at them is unlikely to create much of a response. What I can do is show God’s love to them. By listening to them, having time for them, not passing judgement on the things they do, buying them pizza (when they discovered that Steve and I were paying for a couple of pizzas a week, out of our own money, they were totally amazed!). Many of them have never experienced much in the way of unconditional love. If I can reflect just a fraction of the love God has for them, then my prayer is that they’ll ask me more questions about this God and His love.

Loving others as God loves us is certainly a challenge. But I love trying, because it has the potential to build really great relationships with people and enrich my life, as well as those that I’m trying to love.

So that’s the end of the love mini-series. I’d love to hear your thoughts – there’s much more to be said, and I don’t pretend that I have adequately answered the questions posed at the beginning of this post – just shared a couple of ideas.

It’s all got a bit serious here….I’ll be back next week with something a bit lighter – Take That, or musicals, or shoes, or something 😉

Happy Friday everyone!

Mrs B
xxx

*Robbie Williams, please take note. I’ve loved you for nearly 20 years. 😉

 

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Narrowing our options…

 

 

Hello again,

Thank you for all your comments and retweets of Mrs.Blunders last few posts. You can now find MrsB’s previous work on a separate page on the top of this blog, in case you have missed any previous posts.

We return back to our journey through the Gospel of John – we are now into chapter 2 and the wedding at Cana.

I love a good wedding!

I’m even starting to enjoy wearing a tie and looking (nearly!) smart.

Sometimes I do feel like this passage of scripture is brought out to prove that Christians can enjoy a good wedding and what the happy couple are doing is blessed by Jesus. While I  do believe that this is a right and legitamet use of these scriptures I can’t help but feel that there may have been more going on than God just providing a reading to be used in wedding ceremonies!

So, let’s take a closer look;

On the third day a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there, and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. When the wine was gone, Jesus’ mother said to him, “They have no more wine.”

“Woman, why do you involve me?” Jesus replied. “My hour has not yet come.” His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”

Nearby stood six stone water jars, the kind used by the Jews for ceremonial washing, each holding from twenty to thirty gallons. Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water”; so they filled them to the brim. Then he told them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet.”

They did so, and the master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine. He did not realize where it had come from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew. Then he called the bridegroom aside and said, “Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now.”

What Jesus did here in Cana of Galilee was the first of the signs through which he revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him. John 2:1-11 NIV

My journey starts at Jesus’ reply to his mother, “My hour has not yet come”.

I wonder what Jesus meant by this?

Here is my thought; I do not believe that all of Jesus’ life was shaped out before Him, I think there were many things that He knew from his reading of the OT that he knew he would have to fulfil (Isaiah 53). I think that there were many things that he knew he would need to do, like choosing disciples – but did not know who would fulfil those criteria (you can read more on this here, Being Sought). In order to choose the twelve from the many, Jesus spent a whole night in prayer asking the Father which ones to choose (Luke 6:12-15) .

I would even go as far as to say that He knew that someone at some point was going to betray Him, and Judas through life decisions fulfilled this role – Judas (in my opinion) was not for all eternity set aside to betray Jesus.

Judas  made decisions throughout his life that shaped his character, decisions that shaped his picture of the Messiah. He was expecting Jesus to take Rome by storm and set the Jews free. Jesus was all about setting people free, but under His rules and His way. As I said this is my opinion with which you are welcome to disagree with! 😉

I think the “time” reference was probably to do with Jesus public ministry being revealed.

Jesus was looking for when the start of His public ministry would begin, but all the while knowing that when it did start it was going to end in one place and one place alone. He knew from the moment he made himself known publicly, that it would end at the cross. This may be why Jesus does the miracle off to the side of the wedding celebrations and only in front of the disciples. He knew that as word spread about Him that it was going to really start narrowing His options and I believe He wanted to build up a steady head of steam and make sure He had time to teach the disciples along the way.

We will see as we progress through the Gospel of John that Jesus becomes more and more public in His ministry leading up to His ultimate public statement; His death and resurrection.

Now, every day we make decisions that narrow our way. Every decision we make in some way narrows our options. If we chose “this” over “that”, then “that” is no longer an option. We have narrowed our way.

We must choose Jesus with all that we have and live for Him and for His glory alone. As we do this the options to go the other way are diminished. As we choose Jesus (this), the world (that) is no longer an option.

God is looking for His people to truly choose Him.

A people that will call to Him, that will stand up for the poor, the orphans, the widows, the marginalised, the hurt, the broken, the hungry, the suffering and the lost.

We are called to pray like it all depends on God and love and live like it all depends on us.

So, what part will you play?

How will you narrow your options today?

Let me know your thoughts and look out for MrsB’s next post around Wednesday/Thursday,

Grace and peace

Steve

p.s. As a separate note John is using the word ‘sign’ as a clue throughout his Gospel. John is setting up a series of signpost to guide us through his account of Jesus’ life to point to what he sees is the bigger picture of Jesus’ coming. But more on that in future weeks….

Today’s Prayer

Father of all creation,

May I be known as a true follower of Jesus,

I choose today to narrow my options,

To choose Christ and Him alone,

To stand on His promises, that He will never leave or forsake me.

I want to learn to pray,

To speak the words of heaven over all I meet.

To see your kingdom come,

To see your will be done,

To live with only one option; Jesus.

I want to live like this today and everyday!

Holy Spirit, revive me again, cause your word to come alive in me!

Speak afresh to me that I may understand you and your ways,

In Jesus name,

Amen

 

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