Spiritual Benefits

 

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The heavenly realms are all around us all of the time.“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ Ephesians 1:3. It is the realm where the spiritual activity of God’s Kingdom and the kingdom of darkness happen. The term “blessing” means we have God’s approval placed on our lives when we come into relationship with him. We do this by accepting the work that Jesus did through his death and resurrection and then devoting our lives to his leadership.

God then sees us through the lens and person of Jesus, as we have become what the scripture calls “in Christ” and then spiritual blessings are ours to live in the good of. Spiritual blessing means “God speaks well of us”. When this reality sank into my mind and heart, the course of my life and thinking lifted. There is no accusation from God, but only good things are said about me in the heavens.

The benefits of engaging with Jesus : Ephesians 1:1 -14

1. We are made co heirs with Jesus. God has appointed him an heir to all things in heaven and earth. “Holy and blameless” is how God now knows us and this salvation was a plan, even before sin came into the human race.

2. Accepted through Christ and in Christ, we have favour and grace through Jesus. Elsewhere Paul speaks about “putting on Christ.” God sees Christ’s holiness when he looks at us. In Colossians, it speaks of Christ being the image of the Father and we are the image of Christ when we are in him. So the Father sees the reflection of himself, Holy, blameless, his glory, this is the work of the blood of Jesus poured out for us. It changes our lives. Our position shifts from sinner to righteous. This makes sense as to why we can come before the throne of grace according to Hebrews and when Jesus speaks of asking and it will be given to you. When we realize how God sees us, then faith comes alive on the inside and burns, as we can be the hands and feet of Jesus in the world.

3. Praying the price. In Christ, we are no longer slaves but we are free, as the Israelites were led out of slavery, so we have been too. The behaviors, addictions, history that bound us, no longer have the ability to keep us chained. It is true to be said that we often don’t realize it, so we stay bound in Egypt and do not head for the desert – but the power of the curse has been lifted. The enemy has let you go, but you choose to stay. We must pursue to understand our freedom and walk it out as revelation comes.

4. Belonging – our identity becomes changed we are no longer orphans as we are marked with the Holy Spirit and have an eternal home. We go from being insecure to secure confident people with a purpose to make this message of love known to the world.

I have only touched on a few gems there are more and as we research, think and pray, God will bring fresh revelation so that we may know the full joy of all we have through because of Jesus.

Desert training

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The Holy Spirit led Jesus into the desert Matthew 4:1-11. We can find ourselves thrown into what feels like a desert place. We become hungry for God. Yearning to hear from him and yet can’t seem to find him. We can feel disconnected when we try and engage in worship and our prayer life becomes an act of discipline rather than a flow of communication from desire. In the desert we not sure how we got here or how to be during it. We certainly can’t figure out when it will end.

Psalm 23 refers to “walking through the valley of the shadow of death” and the desert can feel and look likes the shadow of spiritual death. Interesting how Jesus handled the desert. He spoke the word of God when the temptation came from the voice of the devil he came to offer an immediate way out and encourage Jesus to follow him rather than the voice of God the father. But Jesus stood firm and spoke scripture to deal with the temptation. What ever takes us to the desert it could be a situation, pressure or the leading of the Holy Spirit it doesn’t matter. What matters is how we navigate it and what our response will be.

God is always looking for our response and to see how we will act under pressure. We probably always act well on the stage of our life but when we are behind the closed doors and the desert experience is strong how will we respond then?

We learn from the book of Job that our character is tested and formed at the same in the desert. Job lost everything except his own life and yet still he had a faithful response and would not slander God or blame him when his so called friends came to offer him a way out. Both Jesus and Job remained faithful and trusted in God despite what they felt like.

I wonder if we can reframe the desert turning it into a training camp where our motives are purified and character is put to the test as if we were being prepared for greatness. Rather than spending ours complaining to God or to those around us we can use the desert wisely and enter training.

 

What a night

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For unto us a Child is born,
Unto us a Son is given;
And the government will be upon His shoulder.
And His name will be called
Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Isaiah 9:6

Today is Christmas Eve the day when we can stop and think about the reason for Christmas – the birth of Jesus Christ. Nineteen years ago I walked into a Church on Christmas Eve and gave my life fully to Christ. I invited him to come live with me as I travel through life.

Jesus Christ came into the world as the saviour of the world. He is known as the light of the world and brings everlasting life to those who choose to embrace him. Today I have been able to stop and stand still to look at the amazing gift of God to us. This gift being God himself coming to dwell on the earth in the form of mankind known to us as Jesus Christ.

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As I stood in a Church this afternoon and lit a candle, prayed a prayer to dedicate my life afresh to Jesus I was reminded of being connected to the amazing story of Christmas and the person who invoked it. Christmas is where the sacred world of God meets the human world of us and I am so pleased that am able to know God and He knows me all because of the birth of Christ.

Christmas time is our opportunity to say hello to Christ.

 

A prayer for Christmas

Heavenly Father

As I stand and look for you this night. Bring love and hope into my heart.

Bring peace and comfort into my soul as I sit and remember your gift of Jesus.

I place my life into your hands and trust your ways and direction each day.

Bring joy and love into every bone in my body, a joy that overcomes all pain and fear.

May that Joy spill out to others.

May your Love flow through me to be a blessing.

Thank you Heavenly Father for Jesus the light of world that lightens up my heart.

 

 

Your life counts

What story are you writing through your life? I am writing this from Uganda, having been out here for two weeks. This was not my first time in fact the story of Uganda and I began in 1997 when I first travelled to an area called Kumi. That trip was the tipping point for me that led to making changes in my life. The impact of that trip will never leave me and causes me to keep investing in the story that is unfolding every time I return.

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In the west we are so goal driven to tick things off that we sometime fail to see the bigger picture that is being painted over our life span. In 1998 I went back to Uganda with the intention to live in the country and co ordinate medical services for the poor. However sometimes it is not possible at the time to go ahead with the best laid plans. But a seed had been planted in the hearts of the Ugandan people and I.

I met a man in 2003 called Simon. He helped a team I was leading with translation and logistics – he had a humble heart working as a cleaner at Ngora hospital and lived in a small garage at the time. He told me how he would come to the UK and study one day. I was blown away when he did. He studied and went back with an MA in theology and development. Whilst in the UK he had worked at a takeaway shop and sent the money back home.

Once home he brought some land and built a house in a remote village with the money he earned. Simon is ordained as a priest in the Anglican Church of Uganda and together we train and equip men and women in the ministry. This land now serves the community in that area by providing clean water that we at RSVP Trust helped to construct. Young people who were unemployed are employed to help with the project. They deliver water to elderly people who have no children to help them. They help the sick when food and wood are needed and they cannot manage. I sat down and met the young people on this trip and talked about the importance of having a vision for living whilst you are young.

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The land is about venture into poultry farming so more hopeless uneducated young people can gain employment and have a purpose in life. Who would have dreamed that the man I met who lived in a garage and cleaned the hospital would have such an impact in his community through our friendship. His latest project is to restructure and regenerate Ngora hospital. I had the pleasure of spending a day at the hospital distributing gifts of hope and thinking about how we can support local people receive medical care.

As I reflect prior to returning home I am again awe struck realising that what I thought was lost had an even larger vision waiting to be unveiled sixteen years later. I thank God for allowing me to take this journey having learned to trust Him with my life plan. So I wonder what story your life is revealing?  I would encourage you to sit back and look at the wider impact that your life is producing. 

Transformation

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Every day we have the opportunity to change. Changing our mindsets and attitudes eventually changes the state of our hearts and leads to transformation. Many of us like the idea of change but can’t seem to pull it off. I have worked alongside men and women seeking change for ten years and indeed have had my own battles with wanting transformation of the heart; it is not an easy quest.

This is where embracing Jesus Christ as a person and his way can lead us onto the path of transformation. Jesus walked the path of right living and so he knows how to do it therefore having an active relationship with him can direct us as we seek change.

Transformational change is a process and not a quick fix miracle cure. We often want the quick fix but we would miss the lessons on the way. The disciples who lived with Jesus went through a three year challenged to change process. Daily Jesus challenged them on attitudes and mindsets by modelling a different way to think and live. Working to renew our mind means working to a daily recovery action plan. This helps to set us free from old habits, attitudes and mindsets that are infiltrating our hearts and prayer is the icing on the cake.

By now you maybe asking where do I begin with designing a daily recovery plan. A great place is to become aware of what areas you would like to be changed. This can be done through prayerfully asking Jesus. Over the years I have asked Jesus to pin point areas where I need to soften in my heart to be more like him in my ways. If we notice what we dislike in others then realise we are probably acting the same. Then we have an area that could be transformed.

inspiration-again-1383695Daily taking one day at a time begin to practice living from a different platform. The teachings of Jesus and the New Testament form foundation for that platform. So get digging to see how Jesus dealt with life and do that. Ask questions of the Bible looking for the how to do mindset / attitude as you head out on the process.

Lasting transformation of the heart comes through Gods divine ability working on the inside and our engagement with that process in a practical way. Lets hot up our personal prayer life and watch our transformation begin.

Stay Onboard

boatHow do you keep your faith alive is a question I keep getting asked as I travel around speaking at various Churches and events. I have had times when I feel my faith has become weak but part of my personality is to keep pushing through regardless and after a time faith springs up again.

When I sat down to think through the question I recognised that faith can get knocked when we are hurt or when we are out of step with what God has been speaking to us. Suddenly we may feel and act defensively toward Gods people or God. Ultimately our hearts can become shutdown and we are unreachable.

The key to not letting the hurt take root on the inside is to speak to God immediately. Give him the problem to sort out. In this world things are going to happen that we won’t like but maybe there is a silver lining. I was recently sat with a woman who had lost her unborn baby. I was blown away when she said “maybe this is a silver lining for me here. I have to believe that to get me through.” Such a brave perspective through a difficult time. I notice that often God takes brick walls that we hit, difficult situations we face or relationship breakdowns to bring new life.

Three actions you can take to keep faith alive. Firstly hang out with other like-minded people. The Bible advises us “not to give up meeting together” for a reason. Be around people who believe the same things as you. I love hanging out with people who are Jesus focused and love listening to their stories of what he is calling them to do and opportunities they have had to share Gods love; it inspires faith in me. It is apparent that we are likely to become like those we hang out with. If you want to grow your faith then be around people who are living out faith.

Secondly cultivate time with God each day. The Bible advises us “to pray continually.” Prayer is not going to God with a list but it is the vehicle for developing our relationship. It is one of the ways that we “stir ourselves up in our most holy faith.” It would be strange if I only spoke to my husband or family when I wanted something we tend to chat and listen and share our hearts; that’s relationship. I learned to pray by listening to others, reading books, thinking about how Jesus prayed and others in the Bible and then doing it.

Allowing the Bible to lead and direct our thoughts and habits and relationships is vital to keeping our faith alive “all scripture is God breathed and useful.” If God has spoken and its written down that’s amazing I want to read and know Him through what He has said and allow His thoughts and ways permeate my life.

The book of James observes “a person who asks God for something and then doubts is like a wave thrown about on a sea.” They are not sure in their mind what they believe and then confusion can come leading to loss of faith. When we form a deep friendship with God we know whom he is and our eyes are firmly fixed on him. As we relax into God his peace comes in the most difficult of times and we are able to resist the temptation to walk away thereby strengthening our faith.

Anxious Solutions: Part Two

roseAs I sit and write this I am sat in Rwanda having travelled yesterday. Travel is always very stressful for me, not only the day, but in the lead up to it for at least three days before. I can feel all the mixed emotions kick in. So over the years I have discovered a practical way to manage myself. Travel for me means adventure, which I love. Also separation from the people and places I love. It means extra pressure, as the ministries I oversee in the UK don’t stop just because I am out of town

It is interesting to intentionally notice what brings us to the table of anxiety. Awareness is the key to not allowing anxiety to determine the course of our days. We all have difficult situations or days as we travel through life and it’s about finding small ways to manage ourselves during those days.

In the last article I recommended daily prayer as a means of giving over our anxieties to Jesus who is built to carry such things on our behalf taken from 1 Peter 5:7. There is also a great scripture in Psalm 55:22 “cast your burden upon the Lord and He shall sustain you; he shall never permit the righteous to be moved.” I love this it is filled with action on our part and then shows Gods role and why. That’s the power of having a devoted payer life.

There are several practical things that we can do to help ourselves when anxiety is trying to get a hold. I notice that structure and routine help my mind and therefore my actions. I work in a field where chaos and the darker side of life reign, so my personal life has the opposite, which means creating an organised environment and having lighter times and connecting with positive friendships each day to help me feel a lot calmer.

Over recent weeks I have been running a short distance everyday in the evening to bring routine in the chaos of transition, I find myself making lists not of what to do but what I will do each day. We shouldn’t under estimate the power of eating healthily and at regular intervals. Ditching the junk food and reducing sugar intake can help immensely so our blood sugars don’t bounce around too much helping us to.

Something my grandmother passed onto me was to stop and watch the flowers and enjoy the moment. For me that looks like taking a coffee at a set time, and tea in the afternoon at a set time on my own as much my schedule allows, each day this provides with me a margin of time to rest my mind and be.

When I feel the presence of stress or pressure I notice that I tend to get very whizzy in my thoughts and actions, some may think I am having a highly creative moment but really it’s a stress reaction. Switching off the tv, taking a break from social media and computer devises allows me to gain perspective without extra voices directing my thoughts and emotions; getting down time is really important in the age of connectivity. This is where having times of booked in gym sessions will release all of that and clear my mind completely allowing my mind and body to come back to normal rhythm.

If you remember nothing else, establishing a rhythm for life that works with your personalities, could be the way of finding your freedom from anxiety. Don Egan whom I work with has written a small booklet “Rhythm of Life” which goes into more detail about the how to gain peace on the inside when the outside is difficult.

You can order the Rhythm of Life booklet from RSVP here.
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LEVELS OF FREEDOM

Freedom pillar Apartheid museumI have noticed that there are levels of freedom from addiction. We can set ourselves free from using the substance or drug of our choice; that is one level. Then there are the layers that have to be peeled back by asking questions such as ‘why did I do that?’ or ‘why am I vulnerable to addictive patterns of behavior in my life?’

I strongly believe that Jesus has the ability to set us free in the blink of an eye. This was my own experience but then I had all the under-the-surface pain and anger to look at. I have read lots of books and articles, and listened to talks about how to deal with the root of addiction, yet nothing seems to help. The pain and anger are still present and they raise their ugly heads from time to time and, without a sunstone to sooth that pain, the feelings are overwhelming at times.

In the end, I did the same thing as I did when I prayed for Jesus to set me free from alcohol. I knelt down and spoke to Jesus about the pain and the anger and I asked Him if He could show me the root of that anguish and bring healing and transformation to my heart, mind, and emotions. Within a day, as I gently allowed time for Him to speak to me, He revealed the original wound so that I could pour some prayer into the area. It is our prayers and the prayers of others that gives Jesus access to the root to make way for the next level of healing.

Healing can be a process that happens as we draw close to the spirit of Jesus. We may get clean of an addiction to a substance or a drug, but then we need inner healing on the hidden darkness in each of us. I believe the Bible when it says that Jesus heals all our diseases (Psalm 103:3). He transforms our darkness, painful past, and original wounds, and He bestows His presence into those areas bringing the abundant life (John10: 10).

When the healing comes, it is often in a twinkling of an eye but we may have been praying for it for many years. Suddenly, inner peace comes and we are able to forgive, we are able to let the pain and the anger fade as God draws the dark places inside us into the light—the light of His glorious truth.

Jesus invites us to go to Him with anything and He will quench our thirst if we draw from Him as a resource—and we will no longer be thirsty (John 7: 38). Let’s get prepared to receive levels of freedom. Come and drink of the spirit of Jesus and we will not get thirsty. Let the savior of the world quench the thirst of our cravings / loneliness / anger/ pain and bring healing and love to our mortal bodies.

Anxious Solutions: Part One

benchI thought I would write a few thoughts down about this huge topic. As we walk through life we meet all sorts of people and have all sorts of situations around us. This means we will encounter stress and anxiety so rather than try and avoid people and places I have found it helpful to have a plan to counteract stress before anxiety begins to take hold. Over the years it is Gods presence that has help me to handle anxious moments when they come.

Earlier this week I spent some time chatting about how I have learned to handle anxiety with a woman that I help to mentor. What I have discovered over the years however we try to eliminate encountering stressful situations they will still come. Often out the blue anxiety will creep on us. It is the constant drip that builds into a collapsed person.

A few years back I got so unwell from being exposed to chronic stress that it began to affect my body physically until I had full on adrenal collapse. I had no control over this and it took two years for my body to recover. I was left with the warning from professionals that I had to change my lifestyle. Being in the throws of ministry this has been a challenge. I have to live a calmer life and mostly practise not carrying others problems in my own heart and mind. So I have to work mental and physical boundaries to the max.

Anxiety is the product of fear. So when I have the feelings of dread, nausea or panic begin to come I ask myself what is it that I am afraid of and does the apprehension come from a rational thought or from a perceived thought. So the second question to ask is what is the fear based in reality or not. If it is a real fear coming as a waning then we need to stop do something about it. However if it is not then we must lay the fear down somewhere. The state of stress can be made worse if we hold the fear inside ourselves like its a precious secret that we need to keep but it is actually something that can take hold and seek to effect other areas of life including relationships.

Fear is sneaky and at it’s best at nighttime when it is dark and when we are alone so the third question to ask is who can I share this with so we are not isolated in the situation. It is helpful as another voice will bring a different and maybe the rational voice we need to hear.

The most important thought I have on anxiety is to bring everything to God the author and finisher of our faith. Jesus claimed in the Bible that we should “put all our cares and burdens of him as he cares for us” he recommends that we don’t worry and uses the birds of the air as an analogy pointing out that they are provided for and looked after so why do we worry about what will happen all the time.

When we allow anxiety to come and be a friend life may pass us by, as we are too busy caught up in the worry. Having a relationship with God through prayer will help ease any anxiety we maybe carrying. If we pray daily about the things that concern us each day placing them at the feet of Jesus then He can carry those burdens on our behalf and we can walk in peace even in the midst of very difficult and sometimes traumatic situations. God’s peace can rule our heart. As we pray the sacred peace invades us and anxiety, stress and worry diminish – they loose their grip.

So spend a few moments with God in the quiet and let him bring quiet to your heart and mind each day.

Take A Break

1444868_24714299We have all been exposed to teaching either by reading books or hearing sermons about doing more, serving more and it would be true to say that some need to find their unique God gift and get operational with it. However for others we need to learn to take a break. If we are not careful in developing break times and times off, then we will indeed break others and ourselves.

I always remember my parents being what I thought was a slightly strict with the “you can’t go out and play tonight” or at the weekends the no word would come out again. I can now see what was happening they were observing that I would need to rest to be able to function all the other days.

Most of my ideas, creativity, hearing God comes from when I am on a break. The break can be five minutes or a day it makes no odds, the point I’m making is to down tools and take a break. In other words when we stop the doing and trying to make things work often God can pop an idea or brings things to our attention; our mind is free and not filled with clutter. Clutter can come in many forms.

As an introvert (energised by being alone) personally I find events the most draining and often Churches & organisations love events. So I spend the majority of my time being in a box that I don’t fit into. However I have found a way to bring the balance I need by creating margins of space around events.

If you lean more to the extrovert (energised by being with people) then you gain synergy and creativity from the people you are around which is great. Maybe you will need margins of people contact around times of solitude to create energy. We need both in the world, introvert and extrovert, the key is allowing each other to be ourselves.

With regards to how to take the break we may need to be creative / flexible as we live in a world where identity is wrapped up in the word “busyness”. I often like to do some gardening to clear my head or have a bike ride in the evening. Sport such as running and belonging to a gym have been a personal rhythm that I have been using for the past twenty years. I have noticed that when I do something practical it gives me a chance to open the window on creativity in the spiritual.

Your window maybe different but I would encourage you to open it. Jesus often took a break from the people who were always waiting to see him. He would rise early in the morning to go and find a place of solitude to pray.

When we pray we are stopping to disconnect from all we do to connect in the spiritual and in the stopping peace, wisdom and refreshment come.