Monday, 11 August 2014

Look to the Ultimate Counselor

This is what I said to a friend today and I thought I'd share it with you. This is really my aim with Rejoice in the Lord always! More than likely, the trials the Lord has called me to walk through are not the same as the ones He has placed in your life: who am I, therefore, to presume I can tell you much about suffering? I have so many things to be thankful for, so many trials the Lord has in His mercy spared me from (or at least He has for the time being)! :P There will, undoubtedly, be trials in your life that I cannot and never will be able to personally identify with.

BUT ... I know the One who does and is able to help you through each and every trial, our ultimate Counselor, the Prince of Peace, and I believe this is what makes blogging on this subject so worthwhile, regardless of how underqualified I may feel to do so. No matter what you are going through or have gone through, the Lord is the One who can ultimately bring you peace and comfort as you trust in Him and His soverignty over everything - even the negative circumstances in your life. I may not be going through what you are, but we are all the same in our need for the Lord in times of trial and temptation: and there is always someone out there who is hurting and needs Him. This is as true for me as it is for you!
"No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it." ~ 1 Corinthians 10:13 (emphasis mine)

Recently, the Lord has had me mulling over how He can use me and this blog more effectively to bring Him glory. Much as I love blogging and believe He can and does use it, it is so easy for it to turn into a one-person kind of ministry with a focus on my own thoughts and limited experience rather than what the Lord teaches in His Word and what a multitude of people have found to be true in the very different life experiences the Lord has brought them through. I personally do not feel that trying to do things entirely on my own (though relying on the Lord of course!) is the most effective way of ministering though undoubtedly the Lord still uses it! :D I want to encourage you all to be praying for this blog as I truly believe that prayer is one way a seemingly one-person ministry can be used mightily for the Lord, and become a ministry that is no longer based on that one person. It is incredible already what a change I have noticed in trying to remember to pray each time I blog or post something (please pray also that I would persist in this!): it appears that automatically God answered that by several people indicating that this blog or a post on it had challenged or encouraged them in some way! :D Praise the Lord for that and may He recieve all the glory!

Also, the Lord has convicted me very strongly lately over the self-focussed way I live my life. I constantly have a yearning to do more for the Lord and really make a difference in people' s lives rather than going through life serving myself. I've been thinking lately that I'm in the very privileged position of having few commitments compared to many people and lately I've been realising that I should be making the most of this time and opportunity that many do not have to really be imersing myself in serving the Lord. I have been blessed with many friends who are committed Christians and who are actively involved in serving Him in many different capacities using their various gifts. While I, on the other hand, feel I do so many things that benefit me but very few things for the Lord. Even this blog, arguably, requires very little personal self-sacrifice as it can be done from the comfort of a cosy chair, computer screen, Facebook and (within reason) as frequently or infrequently as life and time allows.

The Lord has been making it clearer and clearer to me that where my passion and gifting lies is really encouraging people, especially people who may be hurting/going through trials by pointing them to the Lord (though, as said above, encouraging, NOT couselling, which I think is another cup of tea altogether!). However, I am finding that this is something which does not naturally have an obvious outlet or means of serving except to be noticing and avaliable for those who are hurting - with a hug, a listening ear, words of wisdom/comfort, tissues, scripture, prayer etc. Or maybe a little gift or email/text/letter of encouragement or simply to say "how are you doing? I'm praying for you!". However, like all gifts given to us by the Lord, we need to be proactive in using them and developing them, disciplining ourselves, and that's where I find blogging comes in. I may not be part of your life and able to give you a hug or time to talk over a cup of coffee but I CAN point you through this blog to the One who can do more than I ever could! In fact, He already has in sending His Son to die for you!

I have been particularly surpised when I have been in the midst of a trial at the lack of resources focussed solely on this aspect of the Christian life. There have been countless blog posts written on the subject, or blogs devoted to one type of trial you might encounter (such as singleness, marriage issues, a medical condition etc.) but I have come across very few resources online devoted to addressing trials and suffering from a Biblical perspective more generally with a collection of recommendations of other websites/posts/books/resources etc. that is regularly updated (if you have come across resources like this blog, please let me know about it so I can add a link to it here)! I believe that there is a need for resources like this, which is another reason why I persist in blogging here. :)

This has turned into a waffly, unstructured post, but I do feel it reflects accurately my thoughts at the present moment. I hope that has enlightened you all as to why I believe it is right for me to blog regardless of whether my suffering is "greater" or "lesser" than yours (which, I believe in light of what Christ has suffered on your behalf and mine, is irrelevant and far from the point anyway). I hope that it has also encouraged you to be praying both for me and this blog, that the Lord would use it for His glory. And finally, if anyone out there would like to be involved at a more practical level in this blog (such as by writing posts) please prayerfully take it to the Lord and then get in touch! :) 

To God be all the glory - soli Deo gloria!

God bless!

Sunday, 10 August 2014

God is Not Dead!

I read this in my personal quiet time the other day, and I so needed to hear it (amazing how the Lord always provides exactly what you need to hear)! I thought I would share it with you all. :) This is taken from Daily Bread (1959) by M.R. De Haan and Henry G. Bosch.

God is Not Dead!

(Read Psalm 46 - this is an amazing Psalm to read in hard times!)

"God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear..." ~ Psalm 46:1-2

"At one time," said Martin Luther, "I was sorely vexed and tried by my own sinfulness, by the wickedness of the world, and by the dangers which beset the church. One morning I saw my wife dressed in mourning. Suprised, I asked her who had died. She replied: 'Don't you know . . . God in heaven is dead.' . .  . I said to her: 'How can you talk such nonsense, Katie? How can God die? He is immortal, and will live through all eternity.' . . . 'Is that really true?' she asked. 'Of course,' I said, still not perceiving what she was aiming at, 'How can you doubt it? As sure as there is a God in heaven, so sure it is that He can never die.' 'And yet,' she said, 'Though you do not doubt that, you are still so hopeless and discouraged?' . . . Then I observed what a wise woman my wife was, and mastered my sadness."

It is ludicrous to presume that God is dead, and yet from a practical point of view, have not all of us at times acted as if He were? His ear is ever open to the cry of His child, and He is fully able to meet our every need. Nothing goes by Him unnoticed, nothing is out of His control. He who guides the immense universe in its hurried flight through space, also marks the sparrow's fall and decrees even the exact instant when a minute hair shall fall from our head. Nothing is left to chance, all is conceived in His providence. If God then be for us, 'who can be against us?' "Like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear Him" (Psalm 103:13). He loves; He cares; He controls. God is not dead; stop acting as if He were!

Oh God, our help in ages past,
Our hope for years to come, 
Be Thou our guide while life shall last
And our eternal home. ~ Isaac Watts

"To look around is to be distressed. To look within is to be depressed. To look up is to be blessed." ~ R. Becker.


Also, at the moment I'm really finding the book Where is God in All of This? by Deborah Howard that I am reading really good and challenging! She addresses the subject of suffering from a Biblical perspective in a really clear way and I highly recommend it. Watch this space on the blog for a review and favourite quotes sometime, Lord willing! :) In the meantime, here are some quotes from it:
"Everything that is brought into our lives is there because God either caused it, or allowed it to be there. And whatever is brought into our lives is designed by God for our best good and for His glory." (p.27).
This second quote I found particularly challenging:
"But thinking through the theology of suffering, and resolving in advance how you will respond, however praiseworthy the excercise, cannot prepare you for the shock of suffering itself. It is like jumping into a bitterly cold lake: you can brace yourself for the experience all day, but when you actually jump in the shock to your system will snatch your breath away." (p.23, quoted from 'How Long, O Lord?' by D. A. Carson)
This is something not many authors have picked up on, and something I've been realising only lately. Especially when you are spending a lot of time thinking about a God-houring response to suffering (as I do through this blog), you can so easily become prideful and think that you can "handle" trials when they come. But the Lord doesn't want us relying on our own strength and so oftentimes He brings along the very trials that will humble us and bring us to utter dependence upon Him. At least that's what I've been finding! :P

Anyhow... that's probably enough for now!

God bless!

Thursday, 7 August 2014

Some of My Testimony

Hello dear readers! 

I've always been a bit nervous of sharing my testimony with you all. After all, it is very personal to me! There are many things that I do not feel comfortable sharing with you here, and so please bear in mind as you read that this is only some of my testimony, focussed especially on the time I came to know the Lord as my saviour. I have already shared this through the other blog I write at, Violets and Daisies. However, I felt it was time I at least shared with you all here what I have already put out publically. :) God bless, and my prayer is that this would encourage you in your faith, and maybe challenge anyone out there who does not yet know the Lord as their saviour!

My Testimony ~ by Violet

I grew up in a Christian home where I learned about the Bible and went to church. But for ages I was just going along being a “good” child by doing what my parents wanted without really caring about God. I had the mentality that “I don't know enough about God, I'll think about Him later”. Then we moved from one city to another and I went through a really depressive phase where I felt I had no friends and so began making up imaginary book character friends and talked to them in my head as a substitute. I also suffered from nightmares that upset me, and only fuelled my depression. At this stage, God was something I all but ignored completely.

Then I went through another phase where I became angry and easily lost my temper completely. I would slam doors, shout at others, and then go off in a huff to cry but not so much tears of remorse as a “sorry-for-myself” feeling. My way of dealing with my sinful attitudes was to rely on myself rather than God. I read my Bible, but more to make me feel good about myself, and I prayed occasionally, but superficial prayers that meant nothing to me.

However, God soon stopped me in my tracks!!! Over hot drinks and biscuits, as the elders of my church visited our home, I was convicted of my sin, through a passage in the Bible which I can't remember now (I think it was in Hebrews?) but I still stubbornly persisted in following my own way and ignoring God. However, over the next few weeks, the Holy Spirit continued to prod my conscience. We were on holiday, and I was reading some books that were certainly not what my parents would approve of. I hid those books from my parents and read them, satisfying my sinful appetite but again and again the Holy Spirit would minister to my soul reminding me that these books were not pleasing to God. I was in tears for a good part of this holiday, as the realisation of my sinfulness before a holy God continually hit me and yet my inability to stop sinning kept overwhelming me. I began reading my Bible, and searching the scriptures like never before.

Shortly after that holiday, I woke up early before anyone else on a sunny Sunday morning, and I just knew that I had to get right with God. Looking back now, I think God had already been working on my heart in such a way that I was a Christian before then, but that was the first time I fully realized and prayed to God about it.

It would be nice to think that everything went well from there. And it kind of did outwardly, for a time. I even got baptised, which remains a really special time for me. But you see, I was very much a “doubting Christian” - even though I had been baptised I was uncertain as to whether I was truly a Christian. Everyone outside thought me to be one, and looking back now I know that I was saved, but I still doubted in God's saving grace. One day, filled with shame and sorrow at my own doubts and the fa├žade I felt I was putting on, I cried out to the Lord “Oh Lord, if I really am a Christian, please help me not to doubt You!” Around this time I did a speech at school about suffering from a Christian perspective – now I know that the Lord was preparing my heart for the hard times ahead. And you know what? Very soon after I prayed that prayer the Lord answered it! I faced the hardest times yet, and the Lord had to put me through just about the hardest trials I would ever have imagined, but when I went through it all, I was left with such a feeling of peace and assurance that yes, I was saved!

When I went through difficult times, it was so tempting to blame God, to want to give in and to believe that “if there's a God, this shouldn't be happening to me.” But I have learned so much through suffering that I wouldn't know otherwise, such as that this attitude of mine was completely wrong: instead of blaming God, I should be rejoicing for all that He had given me, that in reality I deserved to be wiped off the face of the earth right now and subjected to eternal punishment. Even as I wrote this, I was hit again with wonder at the way the Lord has worked in my life, and all the ugly sin that still remains, yet encouragement that He has never abandoned me!

Times will be hard – the Christian walk is not easy: in fact it is the hardest and narrowest! But I have learned now that the Lord is faithful and hears our prayers, and if we call upon Him, He will not leave us to our own devices. My prayer is that you, also, will come to know the Lord as I have come to know Him.
God bless!

Monday, 4 August 2014

You will never walk alone : the Lord is always with you!

Hi all!

Now this is definitely not my style of music at all, but the lyrics were too good not to share this with you all! I don't know any other songs by this artist, but the words here really helped to remind me that God is always with us and we never walk alone through the trials of this life. God bless and this is my prayer for you today! <3

Along life's road there will be sunshine and rain
Roses and thorns, laughter and pain
And 'cross the miles, you will face mountains so steep
Deserts so long and valleys so deep

Sometimes the journey's gentle
Sometimes the cold winds blow
But I want you to remember, I want you to know

You will never walk alone as long as you have faith
Jesus will be right beside you all the way
And you may feel you're far from home but home is where He is
And He'll be there down every road, you will never walk alone
Never, no, never

The path will wind, you will find wonders and fears
Labors of love and a few falling tears
Across the years there will be some twists and turns
Mistakes to make and lessons to learn

Sometimes the journey's gentle
Sometimes the cold winds blow
But I want you to remember wherever you may go


Jesus knows your joy, Jesus knows your need
He will go the distance with you faithfully

You will never walk alone
He will be right beside you all the way
And you may feel you're far from home
He'll be there down every road