Words of life | Sing His praises

Words of life | Sing His praises

Psalm 147:1-6 (ESV)

“Praise the LORD! For it is good to sing praises to our God; for it is pleasant, and a song of praise is fitting. The LORD builds up Jerusalem; He gathers the outcasts of Israel. He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. He determines the number of the stars; He gives to all of them their names. Great is our Lord, and abundant in power; His understanding is beyond measure. The LORD lifts up the humble; He casts the wicked to the ground.”

Reflection:

What strikes me in these few verses is the pictures that are painted of who God is – from the macro to the micro. He is the God who “determines the number of stars” and also He who “heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds”. As we have been looking at the Trinity, I am continually so amazed at the vastness beyond understanding of our God and at the same time incredibly humbled at His regard for me, little old me. What kind of God who holds all power in His hand would choose to invite me into His perfect relationship of love? Surely to this God “a song of praise is fitting”. At the start of this new week, I decide to choose to sing those songs of praise and turn my heart to the truths of who my God is; star-breather and healer of my heart. And as I do so, I want to encourage all of us to do the same – this week, let us declare to one another the praises of our God. Send someone a message, share a verse or a song; let’s point one another to the truth of who God is and “sing” His praises in our situation.

Prayer outline:

Father, Son and Holy Spirit, how truly majestic You are in all Your ways. When my mind tries to understand the fullness of who You are, I feel so small and incapable, so humbled. Yet You, Creator of the universe, care closely enough to notice and know my pain and sorrows and to “heal my wounds”. How truly majestic is Your name in all the earth. I sing Your praise, for You are worthy. Let Your name and Your fame be known in all the earth. Amen.

Find the whole Words of Life series here

Words of life | God, my refuge and my fortress

Words of life | God, my refuge and my fortress

Psalm 62:1-8

“For God alone my soul waits in silence; from Him comes my salvation. He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be greatly shaken. How long will all of you attack a man to batter him, like a leaning wall, a tottering fence? They only plan to thrust him down from his high position. They take pleasure in falsehood. They bless with their mouths, but inwardly they curse. Selah. For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from Him. He only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be shaken. On God rests my salvation and my glory; my mighty rock, my refuge is God. Trust in Him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before Him; God is a refuge for us. Selah”

Reflection:

Like it has for everyone, lockdown has stripped much of my life as I knew it away, and replaced it with a strange new ‘normal’. It’s been a big adjustment relinquishing control of pretty much everything and having to rely on the kindness and help of others. During this time of uncertainty and the unknown, I’ve found real comfort in this psalm, knowing that God is my refuge and my fortress. He is my mighty rock. When uncertainty and whispers of fear swirl around me, and things seem out of control, God is the calm in the storm. He is in control and He is the hope in our future.

Each of us has a different day-to-day reality in this storm. As I read somewhere the other day: “We are not all in the same boat, but we are all weathering the same storm”. The amazing truth is that God is interested in us as individuals. He meets each one of us in our individual circumstances. We don’t have to strive to find Him, or go out looking. He comes to us and meets us in the place we are in. Whether you are content and at peace, frightened and lost, stressed or exhausted; He is your refuge. He sits beside you, holds your hand and restores your soul.

Prayer outline:

Have a listen to the song “Find You on my knees” by Kari Jobe.  Be encouraged; no matter how hard and dark your circumstances may seem (or indeed may be), your almighty Father can and will lift your spirits, restore your soul and lift you up. Trust in Him and receive His love. Find Him in the place you’re in.

Find the whole Words of Life series here

Words of life | Full Acceptance

Words of life | Full Acceptance

Romans 8:14-16 (The Passion Translation)

“The mature children of God are those who are moved by the impulses of the Holy Spirit. And you did not receive the ‘spirit of religious duty’, leading you back into the fear of never being good enough. But you have received the ‘Spirit of full acceptance’, enfolding you into the family of God. And you will never feel orphaned, for as He rises up within us, our spirits join Him in saying the words of tender affection, ‘Beloved Father!’ For the Holy Spirit makes God’s fatherhood real to us as He whispers into our innermost being, ‘You are God’s beloved child!'”

Reflection:

There is something about the need for belonging and acceptance that is deep in the hearts of all mankind. I love this translation’s description where it contrasts “the spirit of religious duty leading us back into the fear of never being good enough” with a “Spirit of acceptance that enfolds us into the family of God”. How quickly do we find ourselves operating from a deep fear of not being good enough, both towards God and one another? All too often I discover I have somehow strayed and crept back to this place of distortion. It is often marked by feelings of isolation and non-belonging. But the truth is that if we have received the Spirit of God we have been adopted into His family, the ultimate place of belonging.

Prayer outline:

Take a moment to reflect on this truth. The challenge here is two-fold – firstly, am I living in the joy of this truth that I belong and am accepted? Secondly, as a part of God’s family, am I playing my part in embracing others and welcoming them in the same way Father God welcomes me?

Dear Abba Father, I pray today that I will know afresh your Spirit affirm to me that I am your child. Let this fatherhood become real to me as you whisper into my innermost being that I belong to You, and help me, from this place, extend my reach to invite others into your family of belonging too. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Find the whole Words of Life series here

Keeping Your Mind Healthy

Keeping Your Mind Healthy

An article by Laura Clark

“Remember kindness – Remember His promise”

Hi, I’m Laura and I work as a counsellor in two settings: firstly in a Primary School in Gillingham with children. There, I clinically supervise a group of teaching staff who take a lead in building resilience and attachment for children.
Secondly, I work in Croydon, South London, with babies and their families and I run a therapy service in Maidstone with Lara Forza working into SEN schools.

I want to share a few thoughts about mental health. This week is Mental Health Awareness Week. This year’s theme is KINDNESS.
Kindness seems like a good place to start when considering our mental health. This is not just about the kindness we show to each other, but it is the kindness we show to ourselves also. I have worked with so many people who live with a feeling of shame about who they are or what they have experienced. In this time of lockdown, and grief for some, it might have created some new or unusual responses for you. Remembering kindness to yourself is a really good place to start.

I have put together resources which you can access at the bottom of this article. These resources are for adults and for kids. There is a PDF calendar of activities for children at school and at home – if you’d like to focus on kindness this next week – as well as lots of ideas based on Cognitive Behavioural Therapy which is usually the recommended therapy in times of anxiety.

So how to respond in a pandemic…

There are no black and white responses to this time. For most of us, we have never experienced anything like it. I have seen people with more introverted personalities actually feel a sense of freedom in this time in not needing to be socially active. And then there are those who have found this time painfully disconnecting.

There are a few thoughts you might want to consider and I hope this might be helpful for you.

        1.      Connectedness

If you are someone who has found solace in staying home and think you might struggle with reconnecting back in, I want to say, please, let someone climb in your life now and be face to face with people on Zoom, FaceTime, whatever. I’m not talking about accountability, I’m talking about vulnerability.

        2.      Grounding

Grounding is a good technique to fend off symptoms of anxiety and stress when things feel overwhelming. Grounding involves trying to take your mind off of uncomfortable symptoms or thoughts.
You can use the following method if you’re feeling anxious:

Start by sitting in a comfortable place and taking a deep breath. Then remember 5-4-3-2-1:

  • 5 – LOOK: Look around for 5 things you can see, and say them out loud.
  • 4 – FEEL: Pay attention to your body and think of 4 things that you can feel, and say them out loud.
  • 3 – LISTEN: Listen for 3 sounds. It could be the sound of traffic outside, the sound of typing, etc. And say them out loud.
  • 2 – SMELL: Say 2 things you can smell. If you can’t smell anything or you can’t move to find smells, then name your 2 favourite smells.
  • 1 – TASTE: Say 1 thing you can taste. It may be the toothpaste from brushing your teeth or the last thing you ate, etc. If you can’t taste anything, then say your favourite thing to taste.

Lastly, I want to encourage you with this promise from Jesus:

Matthew 11:28-30 New International Version (NIV)
“Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

Matthew 11:28-30 The Message (MSG)
“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to Me. Get away with Me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with Me and work with Me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with Me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”

Words of life | Piece of the Puzzle

Words of life | Piece of the Puzzle

Isaiah 41:10 (ESV)

“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.”

Reflection:

I have completed two 1000-piece Jigsaws during this lockdown. At times I was convinced that someone had mixed two puzzles together and was having a laugh!
here are a lot of puzzled looks on faces at the moment, aren’t there? So many questions in all our hearts. When will things get back to normal? When can I see my loved ones?  It can feel overwhelming and even a bit scary as we try to make sense of everything. In our verse today God reminds us to ‘Fear not’. We need that reminder, we really do. We need to remember that He knows what the picture on the lid looks like.

Imagine each puzzle piece represents one year of your life. You can zoom right out, take the 2020 puzzle piece and know that it has a place in the Jigsaw; it isn’t a mistake. It’s a significant, pivotal, memorable year whose pattern and colour seeps into other years, but it’s a year ordained by God which He oversees. He knows how this year fits into your life and He invites you to rest in the truth of that as you navigate all the challenges it brings.

Prayer response:

Father, thank You that You see my life from the beginning to the end and every day of it is ordained by You. Thank You that You are always with me, always for me and always working everything together for my good. Help me to trust that Your strength within me is enough and that I can rest in the truth that You uphold me every single day. Amen.

Find the whole Words of Life series here

Words of life | In Perfect Peace

Words of life | In Perfect Peace

Isaiah 26:3 (ESV)

“You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You.”

Reflection:

There is an expression that says “mind over matter” – in other words, if you only will it enough in your mind, you can overcome anything. There is definitely truth in the fact that our minds are very powerful and it is where change and even transformation begins. But we cannot do it in our own strength. The Bible isn’t a self-help book. It doesn’t give us instructions on how to make ourselves better people. This verse is a great reminder that God is the One who keeps us in perfect peace, as we set our “minds” on Him. In this time of confusion, frustration and inner turmoil, as we are surrounded by not much else other than our own thoughts, God promises to “keep those in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on Him”. What a promise! So no matter what goes on around us, when our mind looks to Him and chooses to trust in Him, we are kept “in perfect peace”.

Prayer response:

Father God, thank You for Your promise of perfect peace. When my mind is so easily distracted and overwhelmed by all that is going on around me, I choose to focus my mind on You. Help me in this. Give me the grace and strength to keep my “mind stayed on You” and my heart trusting in You. I love You. Amen.

Find the whole Words of Life series here

Words of life | God Knows

Words of life | God Knows

Acts 17:26 (ESV)

“And He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place”

Reflection:

“Why did it have to happen now?” I am sure everyone of us has asked this question and did so with a little angst as well. Maybe it was in a traffic jam on the way to the airport, or a delayed train service the day of your big interview. Those moments never seem to happen whilst on the way to the dentist or church celebration, unless you are running late of course. Time. No matter what we do, the sun rises and the sun sets. Day after day, time rolls on. Have you asked that question during the COVID-19 pandemic? “Why did it have to happen now?” I am sure that many of you have had flights, holidays, business meetings etc. cancelled. You name it, people have experienced it. I am quite amazed by the whole debacle we are in. I wonder what it will be like in the years to come, remembering what it was like to have lived through this time… Once again, the Word of God lays for us a foundational truth. God, in His wisdom and great love, has set the times and places of our life. He knew full well that each and every one of us would be here, on planet Earth, at this time, facing the challenge of COVID-19. There is comfort in knowing God’s all knowing. We may not know outcomes, but we know Him who knows the end from the beginning. We may not know reasons, but we know Him who works all this for our good. We may not know how, but we know Him whose word accomplishes the purpose for which it was sent.

Prayer response:

Take the time now to rest in Him. Reflect on His wisdom, His love and His care for you.Ask God to show you the things that get in the way of you resting in Him. Make note of whatever comes to your heart and mind. Reflect on these things prayerfully. Ask God to work in your life.

Find the whole Words of Life series here

Words of life | God’s Treasured Possession

Words of life | God’s Treasured Possession

Deuteronomy 7:6-9 (ESV)

“For you are a people holy to the Lord your God. The Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for His treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth. It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the Lord set His love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples, but it is because the Lord loves you and is keeping the oath that He swore to your fathers, that the Lord has brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt. Know therefore that the Lord your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love Him and keep His commandments, to a thousand generations”

Reflection:

I don’t know about you, but I like being picked. I like being selected and made to feel like I’m specially chosen. When someone notices that I’m worth choosing for their team, as their friend, for a specific job to do, etc., it gives me a sense of value and significance, acceptance and security. There is something inside of me that wants and needs to know that ‘I have what it takes’. These verses above tell me/us that that is exactly how God sees us. He picked us to be His very own possession, called by His own name. If there is a little voice telling you that, ‘you don’t deserve to be picked; you’re not good enough’, then I have some good news for you: in many ways, this voice is right. BUT, praise be to God, because it is because of HIS unfailing love, HIS lovingkindness and mercy that He DID choose you. You ARE chosen by Him, because He is ‘the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love’.

Prayer outline:

Thank You, Lord, that You have chosen me, that You picked me to be Your treasured possession, holy to You. What an overwhelming thought that You, the God of the universe, chose me to be a part of Your very own people. Father God, this is too marvellous for words. Help me to understand afresh how deep Your love goes. Help me to live in the truth of Your love afresh today. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Find the whole Words of Life series here

Words of life | Our Lord never slumbers nor sleeps.

Words of life | Our Lord never slumbers nor sleeps.

Psalm 121:1-4 (ESV)

“I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the LORD, Who made heaven and earth. He will not let your foot be moved; He who keeps you will not slumber. Behold, He Who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.”

Reflection:

God never “slumbers nor sleeps”. What a thought. I find that very hard to get my head around. On the one side because I can’t imagine there not being a “break” in my day or weekly routine, but also because I get so incredibly tired and weighed down by things around me. Yet God, “Who made heaven and earth”, never gets tired. He doesn’t need a break from the cares and burdens of the day. The worries, prayers and complaints of millions of His children rising to Him each day don’t weigh down on Him. There is no limit to Him. He doesn’t need to take time to “switch off” or “wind down”. This means that there isn’t a moment in the day where He is not 100% aware and attentive to what happens in your life. Every single second is registered in His mind. Because He cares. He is able and capable. And He is the One Who “keeps you”. What incredible comfort and help we find in that: in our LORD.

Prayer outline:

Lord Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth, You made me. You keep me. Every hour of every day, Your eye is on me and Your thoughts for me. Thank You that I don’t need to fret or worry, because You are my help and my defender. I look to You as the One who sustains and carries me. And You won’t grow tired or weary. Holy Spirit, help me to lift up my eyes above the circumstances to You, my Keeper. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Find the whole Words of Life series here

Words of life | Children of God

Words of life | Children of God

John 1:12 (ESV)

“But to all who did receive Him, who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God”

Reflection:

If you have found yourself on social media over the past six weeks, I have no doubt that you have encountered arguments for and against social isolation. There are people who agree with the steps the government has taken, and those who do not. Along with all this, the discussion of people’s rights is often closely linked. In the Kingdom of God we too have rights. Here John lets us know one of them, “The right to become children of God.” This right to become children of God is foundational. We build our lives on truths such as this and this truth comes at the very start of our walk with Christ. As it says, “To all who did receive Him, who believed in His name.” You might ask, “Why is this important now?’ or, “How does this affect me at this time?” Simply, we can experience doubt at the best of times. These are not the best of times for many folk, but it is always the Word of God that is  able to refute the doubt that creeps in. That is why this truth is important , especially in these troubling times. We can know through this promise, that it is our right to become a child of God if we have indeed received Him and believed in His name.

Prayer outline:

Father, I thank You that we have the right to become Your children. I thank You for giving us Your Son, Jesus. I ask that this truth, however foundational, would be before us. It would be present in our thoughts. We are Your children. Amen.

Find the whole Words of Life series here