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Instead of worrying, the Bible tells us to spend our time praying. If we prayed as much as we worried, each one of us would have a whole lot less to worry about. Most times we confuse planning for tomorrow to worrying about tomorrow. Planning for tomorrow is time well spent however worrying about tomorrow is time wasted. Careful planning is thinking ahead about our goals, steps and schedules trusting in God’s guidance. This gives us confidence in God and in the process helps alleviate worry. Whereas when we worry, it is consumed by fear making it difficult for us to trust God wholeheartedly.

Therefore do not worry about tomorrow for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough troubles of its own.
~ Matthew 6:34

Is God interested in all our daily problems and things that concerns us? Yes. He’s interested in every detail of our lives. That means we can take any problem we have to Him without hesitation!

whitefieldWhenever we pray, we should always pray with thanksgiving. The healthiest human emotion is not love but gratitude, it actually increases our immunities. It makes us more resistant to stress and less susceptible to illness. People who are grateful are happy people. But people who are ungrateful are miserable because nothing makes them happy. They’re never satisfied. It’s never good enough. So if we cultivate the attitude of gratitude of being thankful in everything, it will reduce stress in our lives.

What is the result of not worrying, praying about everything, giving thanks, and focusing on the right things? Paul says in Philippians 4:7 we will then “experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard our hearts and minds as we live in Christ Jesus.”

May you, my brothers and sisters, pray more and worry less.  May you consider the lilies of the field and the creatures of the air and notice how they have no worries, and that their every need is taken care of.  May you remember that God cares for you so much more than these.

Jehovah

Consider the lilies of the field
Solomon dressed in royal robes has not the worth of them
Consider the lilies of the field
He takes after each and every need
Leave all your cares behind
Seek him and you will find
Your father loves you so

Consider the lilies of the air
For all of the diamonds in all the earth have not the wealth of them
Consider the creatures of the air
Jehovah loves them with tender hands
He knows your every care
His touch is always there
To see you through the night

Consider the lilies of the field
For how much more does he love his own if Yaweh cares for them
Consider the creatures of the air
He takes after each and every need
If we ask Him for bread
Will He give us a stone
Jehovah loves His own

~ Amy Grant

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Many many years ago we used to sing a song at Youth Group and Easter Camp. We we sang it so much that none of us really paid attention to what we were singing or who we were singing it to.  The song was based on Mark 12:30-31.

Love the Lord your God with all you heart, and
All your soul and all your mind, and
Love all of mankind as you would love yourself, and
Love, the Lord your God . . .
(Repeat x 16)

You get the idea.  We thrashed the song to within about an inch of it’s life – actually we killed it.  It is easy when we read the same bible verse so often for it to become a cliche, and for us to think we get it, just because we have read it so many times before. It’s also easy to get complacent, and familiarity can breed contempt if we are not careful.

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.
Mark 12:30-31 (NIV)

Jesus said that the most important thing we should do is love God and love other people (Mark 12:30-31). Life is not about your accomplishments or acquisitions, your popularity or prestige. It’s about how well you love.

There are three problems that keep us from loving fully as God intended:

  1. We’re all imperfect. There are no perfect relationships because there are no perfect people.
  2. Sin disconnects us. Adam and Eve had the first broken relationship and disconnected themselves from God and from each other. We’ve been excusing ourselves and accusing the people we love ever since.
  3. The more disconnected we are, the more fearful we become. We crave intimacy, but we fear vulnerability. We crave acceptance, but we fear rejection.

You may not have had a say in the hand you were dealt in life. But God sent his son as your Saviour to transform your cards into a winning hand. No matter what connections you’ve made in life, you will be held responsible for what you do with your connections today.

This week will you let God affect your connections? Will you trust him for your future in spite of a difficult past? Will you nurture, protect, and build relationships so that God is more fully glorified in your life? Resolve today to build healthy and not hurtful relationships with God’s help. May you remember that as we try and love God with all our heart, he first loved us.  Out of this overflow God also asks us to love others as ourselves – the second greatest commandment. That’s what life is all about and that’s what love is for.

That’s What Love is For

Sometimes we make it harder than it islove-god
We’ll take a perfect night
And fill it up with words we don’t mean
Dark sides best unseen
And we wonder why we’re feeling this way

Sometimes I wonder if we really feel the same
Why we can be unkind
Questioning the strongest of hearts
That’s when we must start
Believing in the one thing that has gotten us this far

Sometimes I see you and you don’t know I am there
And I’m washed away by emotions
I hold deep down inside
Getting stronger with time
It’s living through the fire and holding on we find

That’s what love is for
To help us through it
That’s what love is for
Nothing else can do it

Melt our defences
Bring us back to our senses
Give us strength to try once more
That’s what love is for

Believing in the one thing
That has gotten us this far

Round off the edges
Talk us down from the ledges
Give us strength to try once more
That’s what love is for

~ Amy Grant

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When I think of the width, depth, length and height of God’s love for me, I can find it really hard to grasp, let alone experience.  It’s hard to comprehend that the Creator of the universe opens His arms wide to us and invites us to come to Him, just as we are.  He took you and me, full of sin and shame and reached down from the wide expanse of Heaven and grabbed hold of our hearts.  He’s never let go and we’ve been forever changed by His love – whether we are aware of this or not. It also makes no difference to God whether we agree with this or not.  Think of all of the ‘non-Christians’ you know that seem more loving than you ‘Christian’ friends – interesting isn’t it?

Whenever I visit the beach, I stand on the shore and look across the wide expanse of ocean.  It goes on, and on, and on.  This is how the love of God is.  There is no end.  It is everlasting.

There is something eternal about this kind of deep and wide and relentless love.  It is as though it has always been, is here now, and will always continue.  One day we will cross the bridge and understand how this all works – for now it is and has always been about faith.

And I hear, when you get to the river
You look back for the very last time
And when you cross, you get washed off forever
Hurry up boy, eternity’s on the other side
Deep as it is wide
~ Amy Grant

May you come to know this week how deep and wide His love is for you.  May you let this image sink into your soul, if only for a minute.  May you know that this requires little understanding, no comprehension, or any reasoning.  May you let go and experience this love, may you let it relentlessly pursue you, lose and find yourself.

And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.  ~ Ephesians 3:17-19

Deep as it is Wide

Step by step we journey onc6f7d5672c5ab1b2096075371210bda7
We walk to the other side
Through the valleys of this world
Deep as they are wide

We walk the pristine shores of life
Time measured by the tides
Waters ebb and flow to meet the oceans
Deep as they are wide

We climb the sunlit mountain peaks
From where darkness cannot hide
Let the light flood your empty soul
As deep as it is wide

Walk with me as life goes on
I’m here right by your side
My everlasting love for you
Deep as it is wide

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At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us. So said Albert Schweitzer, theologian, organist, philosopher, physician, and medical missionary. Albert may just have been on to something here. Gratitude or being thankful is a necessary posture in order to see who we really are and how we are affected by others.

We can be thankful for lots of things, we should be thankful for a whole lot more, and a lot of us take a lot of things for granted. Why should we stop? Why do we need to slow down and be thankful? I would suggest that only from a place of rest can we be thankful. Thankfulness is a reflective activity – it requires us to stop, think and reflect. It requires a great level of thought. Being thankful does something to us. It increases our happiness and it creates possibilities and opportunities. It is a wonderful thing to do.

I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought, and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.
~G.K. Chesterton

I have a lot to be thankful for, and I’m lousy at it. Why? Because I take too much for granted.

Here’s what I’m thankful for:

  • I’m thankful for my beautiful wife, that she stills loves me despite and because of myself. I love her so much
  • I’m thankful for my amazing and talented children, for their joy and laughter. I love them deeply, despite being a grump.
  • I’m thankful that we can eat food – regularly, and that we can continue to do this. I love to eat!
  • I’m thankful that we live in New Zealand, a beautiful paradise. I love the autumn sunsets and sunrises
  • I’m thankful that I can share my faith, and that God uses me to make a difference, I love that about God.
  • I’m thankful that you have got this far and are still reading this, I love how you reading this brings these words to life.

Now, I feel different. I feel happy. I feel a warm glow. Why do I not do this more often? I may just do this more regularly. I think we were designed to be thankful, it is our answer in a world of questions.

If you see the moon,
Rising gently on your fields.
If the wind blows softly on your face.
If the sunset lingers,
While cathedral bells peal,
And the moon has risen to her place,

You can thank the Father
For the things that He has done.
And thank Him for the things he’s yet to do.
~ Amy Grant, Doubly Good To You

So what about you my friend? What to you need to be thankful for? Have you been thankful? Will you set aside five minutes now to make a list – your list. Here or somewhere this week, be bold, be thankful. It may just help someone – someone who you need to thank. Perhaps by being thankful your happiness will be doubled by wonder. So here are some words to you, for you – thank you.

Gratitude

Thank you for the music
Your words and notes
Create loving harmony
In way you may not realise

Thank you for your comments
Yours words give life
To my dreams in the
Sunset of my rhyme

Thank you for sharing
As these words are not mine
But part of a greater message
That needs to be heard

Thank you my friend
May God whisper words
To you, of life, light,
Hope, faith and love.

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God With Us

Everyone loves a good story.  It’s Christmas and it’s an excellent time for a story.  This story isn’t new,  it’s a very old story.  You may have heard it several times before, but it’s worth telling again.  It’s the story of how Christmas began and the story of how God is always with us.  So let’s begin.

Once upon a time, in a land not so very far away there was a woman named Mary.  Mary, a virgin , was living in Galilee of Nazareth and was engaged to be married to Joseph, a Jewish carpenter. An angel visited her and explained to her that she would conceive a son by the power of the Holy Spirit. She would carry and give birth to this child and she would name him Jesus.

At first Mary was afraid and troubled by the angel’s words. Being a virgin, Mary questioned the angel, “How will this be?” The angel explained that the child would be God’s own Son and, therefore, “nothing is impossible with God.” Humbled and in awe, Mary believed the angel of the Lord and rejoiced in God her Savior.

We all know how the rest of the story goes but I want to pause here and focus on how Mary experienced God.  Amy Grant in her song Breath of Heaven (see video clip below), captures the humanity of Mary’s experience.

Breath of Heaven
Hold me together
Be forever near me
Breath of Heaven

Breath of Heaven
Lighten my darkness
Pour over me, your holiness
For your holy Breath of Heaven

Surely Mary also reflected with wonder on the words found in Isaiah 7:14 foretelling this event, “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.”

Here’s my reflection on Mary’s story, the beginning of the story of Christmas, and how God is with us in all our beginnings.

May God be with you and all those you love this Christmas.

Immanuel

God with us
Walk beside us today
Just like you walked with Mary
As she walked along her way

God with us
Hear our silent prayer
Just like you heard Mary
In between her fightened tears

God with us
Draw us close to you
Just like you did with Mary
Make our hearts brand new

God with us
In our hearts you dwell
Just like you were to Mary
Be Our Immanuel

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With a career spanning more than 30 years, Amy Grant is one of the best-selling Contemporary Christian music singers to date. Not only is Amy Grant known among Christians, but she’s also a legend in mainstream music as well. In 2006, Amy Grant received her star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, after selling more than 25 millions records worldwide . 

Somewhere Down the Road is Amy Grant’s 22nd album, released in 2010. It is a unique album featuring six brand new songs, two previously unreleased songs, a new recording of the classic 1982 song “Arms of Love.” The album also includes three previously released songs.

The album title is taken from the title track, Somewhere Down the Road.  The painting featured on the cover of the album is a painting by Amy Grant, with the inscription Somewhere Down the Road.  This part of the song really speaks to me and gives me hope.

Somewhere down the road
There’ll be answers to the questions
Somewhere down the road
Though we cannot see it now
Somewhere down the road
You will find mighty arms reaching for you
And they will hold the answers at the end of the road

I’ve followed Amy’s journey of music for about 25 years.  Her music has been a great source of strength and encouragement to me as I have walked and continue to walk down my own road of faith.  It’s great to know that in my journey of faith, God is always walking beside me and leading me to him (in the good times), and back to him (in the hard times).

So what about you?  Who leads you and who leads you back? 

Lead Me Back

As I walk this road called life
I’m learning something new
Every road I travel
Leads me back to you

Through the darkest valley
From the highest mountain view
Every road I travel
Leads me back to you

Even in the wilderness
Where the travellers are few
Every road I travel
Leads me back to you

So when I think I’ve lost my way
Please lead me back to you
For every road we travel
Teaches something new

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