No need to beg, just ask!

I have the most wonderful husband.  As the spiritual head of our home, he is supportive and caring, and generally doesn’t put his foot down too often. But there is one thing that he absolutely insists that I do not do – buy presents for my kids’ birthdays in advance!  You see, Phil knows only too well that days, maybe a week, after I’ve squirrelled the gift away it will be retrieved and delivered into their eager hands much earlier than planned.  

Now, I know that I’m not alone in this, and in defence of all early-gift-givers, can I say it’s really not our fault!  Anyone who has ever given a gift to a child before will testify that the joy on their faces is the greatest gift a parent can receive.  And how do we know that we will receive this reaction?  Quite simply, we know our kids and the things that they like – it might be a long-yearned for doll or skateboard, or perhaps we have chosen something they have never before seen or experienced.  Either way, we know that they will be blessed through the gift we bring!  

It was with some surprise then that God pulled me up just this morning on his attitude to blessing me, his child.  My prayer was, “God I know I don’t deserve it, but I would really like to be blessed today, if that’s okay?”  Immediately the scripture from Matthew 7 came to my mind, 

9 “Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? 11 If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!

Th revelation to my was huge!  I’ve been a Christian for nearly 30 years, yet still I equate the blessings of God with how good or bad I am!  My kids are not always little angels, in fact sometimes quite the opposite!  But that doesn’t mean that I refuse to see them blessed with gifts or hugs or kisses or my presence!  They don’t have to beg and grovel for my love because of their moments of disobedience or rebellion.  They are just kids!  They are learning, and I love them unconditionally!

In the same way, we are children of God, loved by him unconditionally and blessed over and over again because of this love, and in spite of our failings.

You don’t need to beg for God to bless you.  Just ask, and you can be sure that his blessings are already on their way!

Birds of a Feather

Recently I decided to go outside to my ‘swingy seat,’  coffee and bible in tow, and have my devotional time.   Going through my mind was a recent discussion between myself and a couple of friends about the different denominations amongst the church.  I recently read an article decrying the modern churches of today as being too “youth orientated, shallow in their beliefs” and possibly even deny the triune Godhead.  And then there are the reciprocal bullets fired back at the “hymn-singing, organ-playing congregations” which surely must be boring God to sleep!

All in all, that’s a lot of ‘discerning’ based solely on the appearance of churches and their styles!  And it made me recall my own attitude towards other churches over the years.  Oh yes, I’ve done my fair share of conclusions-jumping.

Feeling quite uncertain, I prayed and asked God to show me if denominations were, in fact, a good thing or if we had, once again, gotten it wrong.

As I sat there, sipping my Nescafe and waiting on God, I began to notice a bird calling out in the early morning air.  A single bird, calling out to whoever might be listening.  Suddenly the little soloist was drowned out, and I became aware of a very large, very loud bunch of Galahs in the trees across the road.  What a noise!  They were screeching and flapping their wings as they jumped from one tree branch to another!  There easily would have been 50 or more birds at that party, having a blast!  And as I sat and listened, I became  more and more aware of the variety of birds around me, and each type had their own way of celebrating the new day.  Some perched atop a tree and quietly preened, whilst others were racing through the sky chasing each other! The party at tree No. 56 eventually moved down the street, and the quiet singing of the little bird could once again be heard.

And it suddenly became very clear that this was indeed God’s answer to my question about denominations.  Birds are classified by scientists as being in one family and are then broken down into different species therein, based upon their appearance and habits, their similar characteristics and behaviours.  And I believe that as Christians we are not that dissimilar.

We are all of the family of God, saved from sin and welcomed into His eternal kingdom.  We do not all worship God the exact same way, but it does not matter!  Some worship like the small, quiet bird, in relative quiet and with few spoken words.  Others are just like the noisy Galahs who can’t seem to sit still for even a minute!  Some are brought into the presence of God through hymns and the haunting sounds of the organ, others through brass band music, some through the loudness of an electric guitar and drums and bright, flashing lights. The key here, though, is that we are all brought into God’s presence! That is, or at least should be, the overriding factor, the one thing that makes all of the other traits obsolete!

Oh how wonderful it would be if we could stop criticising and judging the churches of God; they are, after all, His, and the people worshipping there are our brothers and sisters!  Unity will not come from us all singing the same way or having the same style of worship service.  No, unity – true, God-centred, God-pleasing unity – will only come when Christians stop tearing each other down and start  loving one another.  For  in spite of our different styles, we are worshipping the same God!

And God, my dear friends, is the only person we should be aiming to please!

Rest on the Promises of God.

The other day my kids wanted to watch a movie. Amid the cries of “Yes, this one,” and “No, that one,” I happened across the story of Joseph.  Having always loved the story of Joseph as a young girl, and thought I’d sit and watch the movie with my eldest boy.

Now I am a bit of a softy when it comes to ‘feelgood’ movies, so by the time Joseph was embracing his brothers, I was a complete mess of tears and tissues!  I wasn’t sure what set me off; the artistry of the pictures? the haunting musical score? Or was there a spiritual connection that I had not expected from a kids’ movie?

If I’d been in any doubt of the spiritual connection at the time, God certainly confirmed it the next day when I sat down to read my daily devotional, and the reading was from the story of Joseph!  There are many wonderful lessons from Joseph’s life that I could share, but there is one that is my favourite: that I can trust God to use all situations for my good, and the good of His Kingdom.

I think it’s pretty safe to assume Joseph didn’t expect God’s plan for his life to include being thrown down a well and then sold into slavery by his brothers! One can imagine the frustration and anger Joseph felt towards them, and also towards God at his apparent lack of intervention. In hindsight, however, it is clear to see that God had orchestrated the events to bring Joseph to the exact place He needed him to be, not only for Joseph’s benefit, but for the future of Israel as a nation.

Sometimes I feel a lot like Joseph. Granted I’ve not have been sold into slavery, but the daily trials and tribulations can be relentless, stifling my spirit and causing me to wonder if God’s put me on hold and forgotten me! But no matter how hard things get, I know in my spirit that I can rest in the knowledge that God is all powerful, and a keeper of his promises.  And he promises us in Romans 8:28 that in every situation, he “works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (NIV)

I pray that whatever trials you are facing at the moment, you will know the peace and rest of God in your spirit as you trust in His direction and guidance.