Wednesday, 25 November 2020

REPENTANCE

Repentance – isn’t that rather an old-fashioned word? We don’t seem to hear much about it these days. But recently God has challenged us to pray for a spirit of repentance to wash over us.

Repentance was the primary word used in calling people to God. Repent and believe the gospel. But it did not loom large in my becoming a Christian. After all, I was a good girl – probably because I was too much of a coward to be naughty.

It was when I heard that if no one else had sinned, Jesus would still have gone to Calvary for me that, by faith, I knelt in surrender to him. He came into my life and, wonderfully, began to change me. I read the verse in Isaiah that ‘we all have turned to our own way, and the Lord laid on him the iniquity of us all.’ I knew this ‘all’ included me. It is not so much individual sins but a life in which self is on the throne which is rebellion against God. Yes, we need to repent and believe the Gospel, to turn away from our old life and live this wonderful new life with Jesus.

Photo by Ben White at Unsplash
But then came a time when I had a very unpleasant  experience. It shook me and I became very afraid. I forgave the one and thought it was all over but my peace and relationship with Jesus was not restored. It was then that He came near to bring me to repentance. He showed me that I had been concerned about someone else’s sin or motives, but gently he showed me that it was all the wrong thoughts and suspicions in my mind which were grieving the Holy Spirit and that I needed to repent.  Now at
last I had peace and joy restored to me as I confessed my sins to God and turned away from this wrong thinking too.

In the Bible it says ‘God raised up Jesus, a Prince and Saviour, to give repentance and remission of sins.’ One said, ‘As a prince he gives repentance.’ Repentance certainly became a gift in my life, and one which constantly needs to be renewed.

I have been taking assemblies in our local schools. A favourite lesson concerns God’s measuring stick. We have fun is realising that even the younger children can consider themselves tall if they stand beside someone shorter than themselves. But if we really want to know how tall we are, then we need a measure. I produce a measuring stick, way over our heads. We all come short.

Likewise, I explain, we can all think we are good if we compare ourselves with others. We don’t throw stones, say bad words perhaps, but God has given us his measuring stick, the commandments. The only One who comes up to God’s measure is Jesus. And none of us can compare with him, for the Bible says ‘All have sinned and come short of the glory of God.’

So back for the best part of the lesson. Suppose we had to reach way above six feet to be allowed into God’s house? None of us could go in. Now hopefully I find a nice tall teacher who will take a little child in his arms or on his shoulders and thus demonstrate that he/she can reach the measure and go in, with his help.

Even so, none of us are good enough, - able to keep all of his laws, to reach up to God’s measure. But God has given us Jesus. If we will come to him he will lift us up. In Christ alone we reach to God’s standard. We are accepted in the Beloved.

As we pray for God’s spirit of repentance to wash over us this picture is of inestimable comfort to me. No, I don’t have much scope to be ‘naughty’ in my old age, but there is that continual warfare against wrong thoughts and attitudes, and oh, what a comfort to know that the Saviour is close by, ever ready to take me afresh in his arms, to raise me up and clothe me in his righteousness.

I love the old hymn,

‘Jesus, the name to sinners dear, The name to sinners given. It scatters all our guilty fear, It turns our hell to heaven.’ 

Let’s pray for this spirit of repentance to wash over us and make us ever more dependent on the mercy and grace of our wonderful Saviour. Didn’t the angel say, ‘Call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.’?

 

 

Monday, 2 November 2020

JESUS THE WAY!

I had just passed my driving test – yes, many years ago now. At that time  Christians often had a Bible text in the rear window of their car. Was I confident enough in my driving to declare myself a Christian? But if not now, when?

There was one text which so wonderfully expressed my own Christian experience and that was John 14: 6

          ‘Jesus said, ‘I am the way the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father, but through me.’

Of recent weeks this verse has been the theme of our ministry in church.  Jesus – the Way, and I felt I wanted to share this, my testimony.

So how had I been confidant that this verse was especially for me and that I should display it in my car?

I had been brought up among a group who called themselves Bible Students. I knew a great deal of the Bible but when Billy Graham came to London I heard the Gospel in a fresh way and for the first time realised my need of a Saviour. I began to go to Evangelical meetings but was still attending services with these Bible Students. Finding serious differences, I cried out in agony to God:

‘Lord, it was so easy for your disciples. All they had to do was so follow Jesus, and I am trying to find out what is right and what is wrong.’ 

Wonderfully, I heard God answer me. ‘No,’ he said, ‘It is just the same for you. It is just for you to follow Jesus.’

‘Lord,’ I replied, ‘If that is true, then make it so plain to me that it  is either to choose you or to deny you.’

God did just that. A few weeks later I was in a  small cottage meeting where the whole theme was, ‘Come out from among them and be separate.’ Somehow I knew God was speaking to me. Sharing with a friend, he replied, ‘For me to attend a place where they deny that Jesus is God would be to deny my Lord.’

He had made the issue plain, for I had been brought up to believe that though Jesus was our Saviour, yet he was a created being, and the Trinity was a false doctrine. 

God had answered me. I chose Christ. Now with Thomas I could say, My Lord and my God.  Ever since then, every decision I have to make is a matter of choosing Christ.

Facing leaving everything I knew to go to the mission field, I expressed my fear that I did not have the courage to do it. Then God gave me a picture. Jesus was standing at the door of the airport and told me, ‘I am going. You can come with me, or leave me.’  I knew I could not leave him. He is my way. When I got to New Guinea, Jesus was there. He has never left me.

And also he is

‘Jesus the Truth.’ I had been brought up to believe that we, the Bible Students, had the truth. We were the truth people. But now, in following Jesus, not only their teaching with regard to the Trinity, but much other of their teaching I had to discard. No longer did I have all the answers, as I had thought. I was confused. But I learned that when things happen we cannot understand that we must go to Calvary. No, we may not understand but we can trust in the love of this God who died for us, and I did find some relief that I no longer had to explain away those things that did not seem to fit in. Jesus was the truth.

Later I married a theologian, and came to more understanding, but still, for me, Jesus, not doctrine, is the Truth.

And ‘Jesus the Life’? Before I knew Jesus as my Saviour I had been baptised, I had consecrated my life to him yet I had no joy in my life. Often I would pray that God would take me to heaven because I thought I would be happy there. But now I had a joy and a peace in my life, even though it is far from perfect. When I am feeling burdened, condemned, disconsolate, I am able to bring it all to Jesus. He teaches me to cast off the spirit of heaviness and put on my garment of praise.

So it was that with confidence I drove my little Morris 1,000 through the streets of London, and often I would hear little children reading aloud these precious words.

Jesus said, ‘I am the way, the truth and the life.’ Now, many years later, my days of driving now past, it is still my testimony, and I pray yours too.

 

Tuesday, 20 October 2020

BURDEN BEARERS

 

It is a long time since I was able to carry even the lightest burden on my shoulder, but thank God I am still able to be a burden bearer for him.

Photo by Graham Covington on Unsplash

Jesus said, ‘Come to me, you who are burdened and heavy laden.’ He doesn’t tell us that he will take our burdens away, but that he will give us grace, strength, and perseverance too, to carry them, together with him.

He goes on to say, ‘Take my yoke upon you.’ Yes, together, he says, we will carry heavy loads.

The high priest of the Old Testament gives us a beautiful picture of burden bearing. He has chains running over his shoulders to enable him to carry the breastplate which covers his heart. I’m sure it was heavy, for it was of gold and it had these twelve precious stones set into it. Symbolically he was carrying the burden of the twelve tribes of Israel into God’s presence. (You will find this in Exodus 28: 15 – 30)

We may often feel burdened for family or friends and sometimes distant peoples who are suffering grievously. What can we do to help? Surely we are not meant to be drained emotionally, remaining helpless.

God has comforted me by this picture of the high priest. We can take these needy ones


Photo by Edgar Soto on Unsplash
as precious jewels and carry them on our hearts. Yes, sometimes they are heavy and we feel weighed down, but I remember the elderly preacher who, burdened by the message God had laid on his heart, told us, ‘When God lays a burden on us, it is a gracious gentle burden.’

I’m sure the High Priest never complained at the weight of the breastplate, so may we too count it a privilege to carry these burdens right into the presence of the One who describes himself as ‘gentle and lowly of heart.’ He is tender hearted and hears the faintest cry. And remember we are yoked together with him.

Friday, 11 September 2020

TO PUBLISH ABROAD

 

‘You servants of God, your master proclaim, and publish abroad his wonderful name.’

Those of you who love Handel’s Messiah will well remember the triumphant chorus,

‘The Lord gave the word. Great is the company of the preachers.’ But  another translation of this verse is ‘Great is the company of those who publish it.’

Yes, in whatever way, we all have a responsibility to make the name of Jesus known.

When God challenged me with the message, ‘What is that in your hand?’ I knew my answer was, ‘A pen.’ Not a computer as yet, but God was calling me to write.

First, short stories, then children’s books and later poems, all published. I was amazed. But now, forty years on, the world is a different place. Desk top publishing

<span>Photo by <a href="https://unsplash.com/@chrislawton?utm_source=unsplash&amp;utm_medium=referral&amp;utm_content=creditCopyText">Chris Lawton</a> on <a href="https://unsplash.com/s/photos/books?utm_source=unsplash&amp;utm_medium=referral&amp;utm_content=creditCopyText">Unsplash</a></span>

has made it much more difficult for our main line publishers. Biblical novels are no longer popular, yet with a generation growing up with little or no knowledge of the Bible, God’s call to ‘publish abroad’ becomes more and more necessary.

When the door was closed for me to return to New Guinea I attended some courses with the Wycliffe Bible Translators. Their burden was that every tribe might have God’s word in their own mother tongue. But some of these tribes were so small. Was it worth those long years of labour for just a few thousand people? They believed it was. After all, with how many people do we interact, influence or have as close friends in our life time? Maybe not more than six hundred. God is reminding me of this challenge as I face yet again ‘self-publishing’ as it is called, though I am not clever enough to tackle desk-top publishing myself. For many years my husband and I were thankful to use Moorleys Print and publishers and they were always happy to work with us, knowing that we accepted the responsibility of marketing our books.

How thankful we should be for those wonderful authors who have been published and have the gift to make God’s word and his servants come alive to us. Thankful too that he continues to use some of us who may not have the skills to reach the heights others have done and yet are used of God to encourage, enlighten and bless.

I thank God for the privilege of being a teacher, of loving the children in His name and seeing their hearts opened up to respond to his great love, from the needy of London East End to the previously stone age people of Papua New Guinea, and even now in retirement  among the more privileged children of Porthcawl. I was delighted to hear that, just before the Lockdown caused by the Coronavirus that a child had referred to me as ‘the little girl who tells us stories from the Bible.’ It is a wonderful book and we should seek in whatever way is open to us to tell these life giving stories from this book of life.

But for many weeks now this opportunity of going into the schools has been closed

Photo by Green Chameleon on Unsplash
but another is still open. God is giving me long, undisturbed mornings to write, so that others will see these stories not as dusty history from long ago but of a living God who is still seeking to enter into our everyday lives. May we all be found among that great company of those who publish the word of God, in whatever ways we can, for we are all God’s workmanship, his poems. And who knows how far our message may be carried?

 

Since writing this blog I have been able to send off the manuscript of my latest biblical novel, Freya’s Fragrance, so hopefully it will shortly be available, from Amazon or direct from me.

Thursday, 13 August 2020

LOOKING BACK, FORWARD OR UP?

‘Looking back, it is easy to see how God has been working, but it is much  harder to

<span>Photo by <a href="https://unsplash.com/@lexmilo?utm_source=unsplash&amp;utm_medium=referral&amp;utm_content=creditCopyText">Alexander Milo</a> on <a href="https://unsplash.com/s/photos/into-the-unknown?utm_source=unsplash&amp;utm_medium=referral&amp;utm_content=creditCopyText">Unsplash</a></span>
look to the future.’ It was my husband who said that, and I think it is true.

We believe God’s word, that he makes all things work together for the good of those who believe in him. But there are many tragedies in life. Has good come from them?

I think of the terrible suffering of the Israelites under the cruel taskmasters of Egypt. How could that be for good? But then I came to understand that if they had continued in their life of ease they might never have become a nation, ready to enter the Promised land.

Years later, their exile in Babylon is another example. Looking backward, history shows us a people who, during those seventy years, at last forsook  their idolatry and heathen ways, but learned to treasure their holy manuscripts; to gather to worship in their synagogues, realising that God was still with them, even in a strange land.

Yes, it is easy, looking back, but it is not easy when you are going through it. Yet, doubtless referring to their fierce suffering in Egypt that God said, ‘In all your affliction I am afflicted and the angel of my presence saves.’ (Isa. 63:9)

It was in the humiliation of being captives in Babylon that the three Hebrew lads in employ of the king were threatened with the fiery furnace. ‘We will not bow down. Our God is able to save us, but if not….’ God did not save them from being thrown into the furnace, but it was in the fire that Jesus came to walk with them and made himself known to a heathen king.

There was terrible persecution in China not so m any years ago when they tried to wipe out any knowledge of Christianity, yet today the Christian church is growing and prospering daily. Was it through their suffering?

Yes, it is easy to look back and know that God has been active in all the suffering of his people, turning it to good. But even so, it isn’t easy to believe in our present situation. Apart from our present trials of coronavirus, we have brothers and sisters also grievously persecuted for their faith, even amid other trials of warfare, floods and famine.

I remember when in Ghana a car crash left me without transport for some months. It had seemed so wrong, yet looking back I know God gave me opportunity to become fluent in the language, and make good contacts in my village.

 Yes, we can look back and sometimes we may understand, but still when we are in the midst of trouble we want to shout out, ‘Where are you God?’ How can any good come out of all the suffering caused by this present pandemic?

For many months I have prayed with a friend threatened with the return of mouth cancer. I was so thankful, thinking no news was good news, when the axe fell. It seems she has to go through very invasive surgery.

We understand how Mary and Martha felt when their brother Lazarus died.

‘Lord, if only you had come, then he would not have died.’ But Jesus had stayed away on purpose in order to do a greater miracle.

Instead of self-pity, my friend had begun her newsletter with the verse from Jeremiah 29,

<span>Photo by <a href="https://unsplash.com/@maneye?utm_source=unsplash&amp;utm_medium=referral&amp;utm_content=creditCopyText">Manikandan Annamalai</a> on <a href="https://unsplash.com/s/photos/tunnel?utm_source=unsplash&amp;utm_medium=referral&amp;utm_content=creditCopyText">Unsplash</a></span>

‘I know the thoughts that I have toward you; thoughts to prosper you and not to harm you, to give you a future and a hope.’ Not seeing the answer we had hoped for, she is believing and trusting.

Yes, we may look back as much as we like and see God at work, but still it is hard looking forward seeing no light at the end of the tunnel. Yet we can always look up and see Jesus.

‘Now we see not yet all things put under him, but we see Jesus…’(Heb.2:9)

 

 

Wednesday, 22 July 2020

HE RESTORES MY SOUL


I believe in speaking out the word of God, especially when we are in times of need.
‘This book of the law shall not depart out of your mouth,’ was the command given to Joshua, and we too are told to confess with our mouths as well as believing in our hearts that Jesus Christ is Lord.
When I find myself in need of speaking out the promises of God I turn, time and again, to David’s wonderful Shepherd Psalm.
‘The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.’ We must believe this.
But there are other words I have learned to cling to. It goes on, ‘He restores my soul.’
It was when I was living in Ghana that I came to appreciate this verse as they interpreted it. In the Ashanti language it says, ‘He cools my soul.’
In the oppressive heat and humidity, and especially under the awning for their
great conventions and with crowds of people dancing and rejoicing before the Lord, how often I cried, ‘Oh Lord, you have promised to cool my soul,’ and I knew that the gentle breeze I felt was sent direct from heaven. 
Then I came back to the unpredictable weather of the United Kingdom. I remember we were gathered in a large old Welsh chapel for a Women’s Rally. The cold seemed to be creeping into my bones.
I remembered the promise of restoration. ‘Lord,’ I prayed, ‘if you can cool my soul, can you not warm me?’ I don’t know whether their heating system had kicked in or whether it was my own personal miracle, but I knew God had answered, for I was no longer shivering. 
Just now I feel I am suffering from the deprivation of lockdown. I’ve been trying to practice godliness with contentment, thanking God for all the inspiration he has been giving me in writing, and the ability to get out of my flat every day for a little walk, even in the rain.
But recently I’ve heard of a friend, separated from her family for these long months, able at last to visit for a few days. When she spoke of the joy of a physical embrace, and being brought a cup of tea, the enemy took advantage to stir up self pity. I knew I must fight this attack. Where is my sword of the spirit? What can I speak out of God’s word to put the enemy to flight?
I’m sure we have all been inspired by the testimony of Asia Bibi, the Pakistani Christian who, separated from her husband and children, spent eight years on death row,  in solitary confinement and doubtless under constant pressure to deny her faith. Yet she has emerged to freedom and a new life with no apparent scars of those years of deprivation upon her. She endured, like Moses, ‘as seeing him who is invisible.’
If she had faith to endure, why should I feel hard done by in my comfortable circumstances? Once again I am learning to speak out words from this, our favourite psalm.
‘Lord, you are my shepherd, I shall not want.’ I come to the verse, ‘You restore my
soul.’  Lord, what is it I need for you to restore me? I don’t need cool breezes, I am not in need of warmth.’ But I was in need of comfort, for I was struggling with the tears. Then it came, a wonderful hug, straight from the heart of God.
It was not a physical hug. Not allowed. No, it came as an email,  a message from the heart of God, reassuring me of his unfailing and all-embracing love. I have courage to continue. The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. 
Whatever our circumstances, may we each know the Lord as the shepherd who restores our soul. 


Monday, 29 June 2020

CONTENTMENT


It is hard to be content in lockdown. Some, like myself, have too much time on their hands, while others have seemed over whelmed with extra responsibilities and the demands of the computer.
My life had been getting increasingly busy, so at first I was delighted to have each morning free for my writing. In the afternoons I have been able to get into our community garden where there is often someone, keeping our distance, to chat to. But after ten weeks or more and nothing else to record I was so longing for the ban to be lifted and to meet up in reality, with lots of hugs.
It was then God reminded me that ‘godliness with contentment is great gain’.
I have always been inspired by the life of Joshua, Moses young assistant, who eventually became leader of the nation.
Setting out to write his story, while still in the grips of Covid 19, the story of the plagues of Egypt seemed to be relevant to our situation. After all, Pharaoh did ask Moses to pray that God would take the plague of frogs away and God did, though I can never understand why Pharaoh asked for it to happen in the morning. Another night with frogs in his bed?
So if he could ask for that plague to go, surely we can pray for an end to lockdown because of Covid 19?
Well, the frogs did go, but that wasn’t an end to the plagues, was it? There were ten in all, but that was because Pharaoh didn’t keep his word.
‘Yes, yes, make the frogs go and I will let the slaves go free,’ but then he decided he could not do without his slave labour to build his treasure cities.
So, what about us? Emancipation of slaves may have been declared long ago, but there is still so much inequality in the world, and while we are not short of food, many are still starving, oppressed and yes, enslaved.
We may not be in a position such as Pharaoh was, but if God were to answer our cry for an end to lockdown would we be willing to pray and act on behalf of injustice and suffering?
Yes, let’s pray, but meanwhile let us also ask God to help us to find contentment in our present situation, for godliness with contentment is great gain.
  
COVID 19
Is a plague come on us as in Egypt’s land
In those days of so long ago?
Pharaoh had only to ask that it soon be gone
If only he’d kept to his ‘No.’

No to oppression, cruelty and pain
As he built his cities so strong
And do we care for the cheated, the poor
And sorting out right from wrong?

Oh yes, we care that we can’t meet our friends
And no holidays, parties or fun,
But what of the poor, imprisoned, afraid?
What of freedom for everyone?

Oh, what did it take that those slaves be set free
And what was the price that was paid?
A lamb for a house, and its blood on the door
As the angel of death did invade

And we know that God gave his Son as our lamb
That we are forgiven and free
So let’s pray for God’s mercy, protection and grace
And contentment for you and for me.