Don’t miss the new

 

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God is doing something new in you.

Don’t miss it.

Don’t mistake it.

Don’t misunderstand it.

He is working in your life, today, in this season, in this moment.  He is doing something new and good and beautiful.

It started when you first met Him and He made you His new creation.  It started with a new name and a new destiny as old debts and identities were cancelled.

And what He started in you, He is finishing.

He is bringing His new life to every corner of your old one.

Do you see it?

New things are, by their very nature, tricky to recognize because they are unfamiliar.  They are different to what we have experienced before.  They seem foreign and easy to misinterpret or overlook or even reject.

Sometimes these good, new things are hidden behind disappointments or imperfect circumstances.  Or perhaps they are disguised as set-backs or u-turns or closed doors.

Sometimes they just feel too painful to be good.

In Isaiah, God pleads with His children, ‘Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past.  See, I am doing a new thing!  Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?  I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.’  Isaiah 43.18-19

God was doing something new but His children were in danger of missing it.  It didn’t fit within the perimeter of what He had done in the past.  It was almost unrecognizable, even strange but it was good and it was God.

And so it is with us.

God is making a way.  He is carving out a path.  It may twist and turn and appear to be going completely the wrong direction, but don’t fear.  It may look unfamiliar, even scary but remember that it is a new way, a way you haven’t gone before.  Trust the Good Shepherd to lead you well.  Trust His ways because they are perfect.

Don’t expect things to always be the same, to look safe and familiar.  We have mountains to climb and the paths are steep.  Sometimes the only way forward is straight up.

God is always doing something new, something surprising, something out-of-the-box.

It’s a God thing. He is the creator after all and His ways of working in our lives are countless.

Our God has never run out unique melodies so don’t be surprised when He gives you a new song to sing.  

His mercies are new every morning, so keep your eyes open.  There are fresh revelations in His Word and new places to discover in prayer.  There are areas of your life that are broken that Jesus wants to touch and heal. There are long-standing circumstances He is ready to change and old prayers He is ready to answer.

Look. See what He is doing.  It is new and fresh and alive.  Don’t miss it by facing the wrong way.  Don’t let yesterday’s discouragement close your eyes to a miracle today.  Remember the wonderful things God has done in the past but don’t expect future blessings to look the same.  God is so much bigger than that.

Let Him be big.

Let Him work newness into your life.  He has already started.  There are green shoots poking up through the cold soil.  Don’t miss them. Open your eyes, your heart and your hands.  Say yes to God, even before you see the whole picture.  Trust His goodness and His leading and He will make a way, a new way, a good way.

And then expect every single day of your Christian life to be utterly unpredictable and altogether miraculous, for the glory of His name.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Beautiful buildings

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It takes wisdom to build a house, and understanding to set it on a firm foundation; it takes knowledge to furnish its rooms with fine furniture and beautiful draperies.’ Prov. 24:3-4

I don’t know if you have ever worked on a building project.  It is all-consuming.

Eighteen years ago this month, my husband and I bought an ugly house on a pretty street.  It needed to be completely redone but we saw the potential for our growing family and so we took a leap and embarked on years of redecorating, building work, dust and dirt.

And, this summer my brother and his wife finished a monumental project.  For three years they managed the building of a new medical clinic in Mexico and it completely took over their lives.  They are incredibly proud of the end result but so happy to be finished!

Building a clinic can teach you a lot about life.

That is because there are so many darn decisions!  Some are really, really important and some are not and you have to know which is which.  Some decisions take a lot of thought and some just need to be made quickly so you can move on.  Sometimes those decisions have a knock-on effect that you didn’t anticipate. Building projects of any kind can have tricky junctures that need to be navigated and problems that block your forward motion until you solve them.

And so it is with our lives.

Proverbs 24.3-4 beautifully reminds us that we dare not built without God’s wisdom, knowledge and understanding.  It is above our pay grade.  

In Exodus 35.31 we see that the craftsmen working on the tabernacle needed supernatural wisdom, knowledge and understanding.

Proverbs 3.19-20 tells that creation was formed using wisdom, knowledge and understanding.

If you look up the meanings of wisdom, knowledge and understanding you will see definitions like skilful, shrewd, insightful, intelligent, cunning, aware of the facts, thoughtful, sensible, practical, well-fitted and stable.  

Like Proverbs 24.3-4 so beautifully describes, we are all building things. We are building marriages and families and ministries and careers.  We are helping our children build their futures and faith-walks.  We are constructing relationships and characters and legacies every minute of every day, either consciously or unconsciously.

These precious projects need insight, skill and thoughtfulness.  They cannot be thrown up or they will fall down.  Foundations need to be laid well, structures need careful planning and layouts have to practically work or they are no good.  There is so much to think about, how do we manage it all?

We read in Ecclesiastes 4.12 that there is a strength in the number three and I believe there is a durableness to our lives when we look for our wisdom, understanding and knowledge from three places –

God’s wonderful, perfect Word,

really great advice from good people

and the personal promptings of the Holy Spirit

Now, we all have our natural tendencies.  Some of us are quite independent and so we look to God’s Word and the leading of the Holy Spirit but we are not particularly interested in advice from others.

Others of us thrive on advice from books and friends but don’t take the time to seek God’s will for ourselves in His Word and in prayer.

And some of us read and follow the Bible but haven’t yet discovered the whispers of the Spirit that can help us apply Bible verses or advice for a specific situation in a really personal way.

I think that if we neglect any of these, it can make us weak and unbalanced.

Marriages and friendships, families and ministries all need a foundation of God’s way of doing things that we find in His Word.  You cannot scrimp here because it will determine the strength and stability of the finished product.  There is endless wisdom for every area of our lives found within the pages of the Bible, just waiting to be discovered and applied.

But our building projects also need inspiration.  Like the dozens of home decoration magazines I devoured when I was working on my house, we can be creatively stimulated by others.  New ways of doing things, different perspectives and clever insights are invaluable.  So, read good books and articles.  Listen to Godly advice and implement it. Ask questions of those around you who are building well.  Let wise counsel be a gift in your life that sparks solutions.

And then let the Holy Spirit breathe life into it all.  Listen to His sweet voice as He gives you insights that will transform situations with the resurrection power of God.  Allow Him to show you not just how to do things but when to do them.   Let His voice guide you personally.  Listen and follow.

Every day we are building things.

Don’t build alone.

Allow wise people to come alongside you and help you.  Let God’s Word inform the design so that every room looks like Him.  And, eagerly welcome the still small voice of the Spirit of God.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Opinionated wedding planning

 

DSC_1069In Ephesians 5.15-17 we see that living carefully is equated with wisdom.

No surprises here.  The dumbest thing I can do is waste my precious, God-given life on things that don’t matter, right?

Today, as I was thinking about wisdom, I read verse 17 in the Amplified Bible and this phrase jumped out at me, ‘do not be vague and thoughtless and foolish’.

In verse 15 we see the opposite of this when it says, ‘Live purposefully and worthily and accurately’.

If I want real wisdom, the ability to know what is the right thing to do and how to do it, then I have to overcome the barriers to wisdom, one of which is thoughtlessness.

I have written about thoughtlessness before and how a busy and fast-paced life can often cause it.  But I think there is another, perhaps more subtle contributor to my thoughtlessness and it is a strongly held opinion.

The problem is that if I have a strong opinion about something, I don’t feel the need to revisit it.  I just re-enforce my idea, occasionally sharing it on Facebook with others who agree with me.  There is no room for listening to another point of view or gaining fresh input or even recognizing when I am wrong.

Now, when I talk about opinions, I don’t mean Biblical beliefs.  I am not talking about something I have studied in the Bible and wrestled with and prayed about and then made part of my belief system.

I am talking about all the other stuff.

I am talking about the ‘I just really think…..’ stuff.

I am talking about my politics, denominational preferences, parenting style, cultural bias and personal choices.

I am talking about the way we I live my life and the way I think everyone else should live theirs.

I don’t think there is anything more humbling than actually doing something that you have theorized about for a long time.

Like for instance, parenting.

Or marriage.

Or church ministry.

Or really anything that is hard.

It is so much easier to be an armchair pundit than to actually play in the game.

Honestly, I feel like my forties have been one long journey of replacing my not-so-great ideas with God’s loving wisdom. It has been humbling, embarrassing and very painful.

And it has been so very freeing.

You see the danger is that when I form opinions about what I will never do or what I will always do, I run the risk of thoughtless behaviour.

I risk automatically living life in a certain way, without ever questioning it.

Being thoughtful means lifting my opinions to God and letting God’s Holy Spirit breathe on them.  Then the useless, papery chaff just blows away and the wheat remains.

God, in His great mercy and love, if I let Him, gently removes anything that has no value to my life and He leaves what does.  He blows away my foolish assumptions so that only truth remains.

And actually, I can’t have both anyway.  I can’t hold onto my opinions and also seek God’s way of doing things. That’s why the Bible tells me that the beginning of wisdom is the fear of the Lord.  I can’t ever really be wise unless I value God’s perspective above my own.

I cannot ask for wisdom with a closed hand or a closed heart or a closed mind.

Here is a small example from my real life today.   I am planning a wedding for my daughter.  It has been exciting, fun, and hard.  And as I look back over the last 8 months I can see that my biggest problem has been my strong opinions about how weddings should be done.

I dread to think how many times over the years I have voiced my wedding theories, saying how things should be done, what I like and don’t like, how the day should go, how the service should be, etc.

Those words haunt me now because it just isn’t that simple.  Weddings are complicated and there are many people to please as well as budget limitations and practical considerations.

So, one by one, my ‘non-negotiables’ have gone out the window and compromises have been made.  And one by one my silly opinions, my judgements, my ideas have been replaced by God’s perfect wisdom for this wedding for this family on October 6, 2018.

And that is so much better, isn’t it?

Because I can’t have both.  I can’t have my way and God’s way.  I can’t have God’s answers if I worship my own.  There is no space for the whispers of the Holy Spirit in life that has it all figured out already.  

Living life carefully means even my strongly held opinions must not be off limits to my loving God who sifts and divides and replaces what is useless for what is true and good.

So I choose to let Him in today.  I will let Him walk around my life and touch and restore and replace all that is not of Him.  I will let my wonderful God show me how to raise kids, spend my money, love my spouse, plan a wedding and how He has uniquely designed me to change the world.  I will learn to let God guide my politics, my doctrines and my decisions.

And then, most powerfully of all,  I will learn to give others the freedom to do the same.

Instead of opinions, I want only the voice of the Shepherd saying, ‘Here is the way.’

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wisdom’s value

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The verses that originally inspired this blog are Ephesians 5.15-17.

‘This causes you to realise that you will have to be very careful about the way you live; to be wise, not foolish.  Make use of every opportunity to please God by the way you live, especially as there is so much evil in the world around you.  How much better to understand what God wants of you than to live in a sinful, foolish manner.’  (The Truth Bible version.)

I keep a bookmark there in my Bible so I can revisit this passage regularly, gleaning all the goodness from it for my life.

Today my eyes settled on a phrase.

‘Be wise, not foolish.’

So often when I need wisdom, (God’s way of doing things, God’s perspective for a situation), I think of James 1.5 that tells me that if I need wisdom, I should ask God.  This is a good thing to do and I can testify to the fact that God always answers that prayer.

But it isn’t the only way to obtain God’s wisdom.  In this verse in Ephesians, we are told to be wise, not foolish. The Greek verb used here for ‘be’ means to become or to generate something.

So, it is possible to generate wisdom in my life.

I can ask for wisdom, and God loves that, but I can also live life in a way that is producing wisdom too.

This is a far less passive approach, isn’t it?   While daily asking my Heavenly Father for His heavenly wisdom, I can also be busy making the conditions of my day to day life conducive for this wonderful gift.

And the Bible is very clear what these conditions are.

Proverbs 9.10 tells us that, ‘The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.’

Knowing God’s will for me in every situation starts with an understanding of who God is and who I am.  There is a wonderful humility that comes from knowing I have the potential, even the tendency, to be wrong about quite a few things, quite often.

 

Fearing the Lord means dreading the idea of living one minute of my life outside of God’s loving will.  It means loving His ways because I love and trust Him.

I believe that I cannot produce wisdom from a heart that is unteachable or proud or independent.  It is like trying to grow a beautiful olive tree in a bucket of cement.

When I really know God and how good He is, I will value every word He has spoken.  I will treasure every instruction and command and warning.  I will love what He loves.

Read Proverbs chapter three today.  See how beautifully God’s wisdom is described.  It is compared to gold and silver and rubies.

I wonder if, in 2018, wisdom is a bit out of fashion perhaps.  We live in times where doing things my way and figuring it out for myself are greatly admired.  We pride ourselves on not living life like the previous generation did.  We can treat their advice and input like family heirlooms we don’t want to inherit,  preferring to head down to Ikea instead.

But what about God’s ways?  Are we too independent for those too?

I don’t have a lot of valuable jewellery but I have a few pieces that are precious to me.  I have a string of pearls my parents gave me for my high school graduation and a gold locket that belonged to my grandmother.  And of course, I have my wedding ring.  These are precious to me.  They are precious because they are made beautifully from valuable materials but mostly they are priceless to me because of who they are from.

God’s ways, His Words of life to me, should be priceless.  His wisdom is like expensive gemstones, rubies and diamonds that are set in gold.

And yet, so often I think I know best and I make myself a pasta necklace like the ones my toddlers used to make for Mother’s Day.  Instead of the family jewels in my jewellery box, I wear it, admiring my independence and self-reliance.

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But the only way to cultivate Godly wisdom in my life is to value it.

When I can see just how beautiful God’s ways are compared to my human logic, I am in a good, safe place.  It is the place where I can hear what God is saying and see what His is doing and make choices and decisions that produce life.

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Its OK to stop

A few years ago our family decided to hike up to the top of Mount Snowdon in North Wales.  It was a beautifully warm August day and the conditions were perfect.  The path that we chose gently inclined and the scenery was beautiful.  It was all so pleasant, so easy.

243529_608306497399_1559077759_oThen our way took a turn and I found myself hiking/scrambling straight up a verticle trail.  I needed all my strength just to keep up with the others and within an hour my legs just gave out.

They felt like jelly and I couldn’t take another step without risking a fall.  At this point, a little panic took over.  My teenagers had jogged to the top already and were looking down wondering what was going on.  I could see the end of the trail and the top of the mountain but I couldn’t think of any way to get myself there.  Unfortunately, going down the mountain was also out of the question.  I was well and truly stuck.

So I did the only thing I could do, I sat down.  I drank some water and had my protein bar and laughed a little.  And do you know what?  In half an hour I was at the top.

To live life carefully in this world, we need to know when it isn’t safe to take another step.  

We need to know when to be careful with ourselves.

There are times when disappointment or loss leave us wobbly.  Shaky souls need time to recharge in God’s presence and refuel in His Word.  Life decisions can wait. This is not the moment to try and figure everything out!  Worship first and then you will be ready to walk.

Know yourself well enough to recognize spiritual and emotional fatigue so that you make time to rest and recover.

Allowing ourselves to stop means that before we know it we will be back on our feet and hiking to the top of that particular mountain.

If this is you today, if you need rest and encouragement and renewed hope, please know that it is okay to stop as long as you know where to sit.

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Unattended thoughts

 

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There is a verse in the Bible I am in the daily habit of disregarding.

It is a very well-known verse.  Walk into any Christian bookstore and you will see it on bookmarks, coffee mugs and t-shirts.

Philippians 4.8 says, ‘Whatever things are true, whatever things are honest, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report, if there be any virtue, if there be any praise, think on these things.’

How lovely and inspiring!  What a wonderful verse to write out and put on my fridge.

What an easy verse to completely ignore.

Because so often thoughts are like the mouse in my attic.

A few weeks ago I went up into our loft space to get our summer clothing down and I discovered to my horror that a mouse had been living up there, making a nest and eating my favourite handbag.  I didn’t know he was up there until it was too late.

Unattended lofts attract mice like unattended gardens welcome weeds.

Unattended minds are vulnerable to similar intruders.

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If I never listen to my own thoughts and question their truthfulness, I am probably making a home for ideas that are contrary to God’s truth and they will be destructive in my life.

I need to decide to set high standards for what I think about because my thoughts become my beliefs and my beliefs become my actions.  Like a burly bouncer standing outside a nightclub, I must be discerning about what I let into my mind each and every day.

Because lies always entangle and confuse us. Truth brings freedom and fruitfulness.

 

Whether we believe it or not our thought life is strongly influencing us.  It is affecting who we are and how we see everything and everyone around us.

Psalm 51.6 is a powerful verse.  In it, David writes that God wants truth in our innermost being.

One of the commentaries I read described this as being so full of truth we are incapable of self-deception.  I don’t know about you but I need a whole lot of this kind of truthfulness in my life.  I need God’s truth to reach every part of my soul.  I need it to touch my mind, my will and my emotions so that pesky vermin are caught, weeds are eliminated and the good stuff can grow.

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Because I know I am capable of believing lies and even lying to myself. 

I do it all the time.  Sometimes I lie to myself about why I don’t like someone.  I justify my feelings in all sorts of ways when the truth is I am offended or envious or just entertaining unforgiveness.

Sometimes when I really want to do something I decide it is God’s will before I have even prayed about it and then I take the happiness I feel as God’s confirming peace.

Sometimes I am dead wrong and I manage to convince myself that I am right.

Sometimes I accommodate doubt, fear, anxiety or judgementalism.  They come and go like lodgers with a key to my front door.  Before I know it they are sitting at my table and dictating the conversation.

Have you ever really listened to your thoughts?  Try it if you dare.  Pick a day when you are not working and set your phone alarm to go off every hour.  When it does, stop and listen to your thoughts.  What are you preoccupied with?  What keeps replaying over and over again?  What are you dwelling on?

Be honest, what is the soundtrack of your life?

Tune in.  Listen with an objective ear.  Be honest with yourself.

I tried this a few months ago and it has changed my life.  I discovered that my life, that was marked by anxiety, had a soundtrack of untruths.  Why was I surprised?

Do you know that anxiety, fear, anger, worry and bitterness all have something in common? They all start with a thought.

Something will happen in your life, something hurtful or scary or difficult and then a thought arrives and we either invite it in or send it packing.

Decide today that when it comes to your thoughts, you are not a pushover.  If it isn’t good or true or lovely or honest, it is not coming in.

It is your garden, your mind, your life and you decide what lives there.

 

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Positioned for promises

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Times of waiting on God can be tricky.

In Genesis chapter 15 we see Abraham’s bright idea to help God by having a child with Hagar.  And then, in one of the saddest chapter of the Bible, we watch as his human solution plays out.  It’s not pretty.

When chapter 17 begins, 13 long years have passed.   I am sure God’s promise seemed a distant dream as each day Abraham watched his foolishness wreak havoc.

But then the Faithful One, the very author of the promise, speaks.

‘I am Almighty God; walk before me and be blameless.  And I will make my covenant between Me and you.’

And hope returns.

Almighty God, I am, Yahweh has spoken and He still has the full intention of doing everything He said He would.  His promises are irrevocable because He is the One who keeps them.

But He wants something from Abraham.  He wants Abraham to walk before Him.  The Hebrew word for the phrase, before Him, is the same word used for the presence of God that Adam and Eve hid from after they had sinned.

God the Creator wants to be known.

Can you wrap your head around that today?  This God we serve, who is working out His plans and purposes in the earth, isn’t some CEO of the universe who barks orders, directing His will from afar.  He longs we would know Him, know His heart and His presence every day of our lives.

It reminds me of  John 15.15 where Jesus says, ‘I no longer call you servants because a servant does not know his master’s business.  Instead, I call you friends for everything I learned from the Father I made known to you.’

Our God wants us to be part of what He is doing on earth.  He has places for us to go and things for us to do.  But first He wants a relationship.

And we need to know God in this way because just like Abraham, our human solutions often fall short at best.  At worst they cause pain and loss.  But the answer isn’t to live in fear of getting anything wrong or making silly decisions.

The answer is walking close to our Promise-giver God.   It takes humility but also confidence and boldness, believing that God will do everything He has promised in His perfect timing.

Are you waiting for God today?  Is there a promise you are believing for or a decision that needs to be made?

There is wisdom in being quiet enough and careful enough to hear God’s way of doing things.  And, there is safety in God’s promises and in His presence. 

Do what it takes to position yourself for both today.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The miracle of margin

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If we are to live a careful life, the life described in Ephesians 5.15-17 that makes the most of every God-given opportunity, we will need margin.

Margin is space, leeway, a little extra.  It is good old elbow room.  It is leaving enough space in our minds, our schedules, our finances and our hearts for unexpected life events or God-opportunities.

And margin really is miraculous because when we leave space for God, He fills it.  

I love the story of the widow and Elisha in 2 Kings 4.  Here we see a dear woman who needs a miracle.  She really is in the most desperate situation. Elisha tells her to collect as many jars as she can. Then the miracle happens as oil fills every last jar to the brim and the widow has a resource she can now sell.

I often think of those jars.  The number of jars available really did determine the size of the miracle that day.  I think it is often the same in my life.  The space I make to hear God, meet with Him and serve Him determines the size of the miracle I can receive.

And yet, how often do I ask God to bless my fullness instead of asking Him to fill my emptiness?

Perhaps we have become uncomfortable with emptiness.  We are so used to noise and activity that quiet can make us uneasy.  Busyness is the badge we wear to prove we are valuable.  Multi-tasking is a way of life.  Our schedules are packed and our minds are busy.

But what if we decided to make some space?  What if we, in faith, put out some empty jars for God to fill?  Like wells dug before it rains, we could dig down into our lives and make room for God’s agenda.

What if we determined to not be over-extended in any area of our lives so that we have space for the unexpected?

Because margin is really availability.

If I have leeway in my schedule, my energy and my resources then I can respond to the promptings of the Holy Spirit.

If someone is hurting, I can be there.

If I am touched by a need, I can give.

If God is speaking, I can stop and listen.

And if God opens up an opportunity to me I will have the energy, time, inclination and resources to wisely make the most of it.

God wants to do so much more in and through you than you ever have imagined. He wants to speak and deliver and heal and restore.  He wants to extend His Kingdom in your life and the lives of those around you.

He just wants more space to work.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reflection

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Ephesians 5.17 says, ‘Do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.’

If you are a Christian, you probably want to know God’s will.  And if you are like me, that is not something you have always found easy.

Isn’t it surprising that in this verse, understanding God’s will is a command?  So, there must be something we can do on our end to better discern God’s leading and direction.

The Greek word for ‘foolish’ is ‘aphron’ and the meaning is interesting.  It means without reason, senseless, acting rashly, without reflection.  Conversely, the Greek word for ‘understand’ is ‘syniemi’ which means to consider and join together in the mind.

Paul is teaching us that the careful life is a reflective life.

We cannot live carefully and rashly at the same time.  Following God is a thoughtful process.  It takes prayer, listening, more prayer and often waiting as well.

Have you ever sensed God speaking to you about something and everywhere you look you see that same message?  You hear a sermon on Sunday and then something similar pops up in your daily Bible reading and then a friend mentions a verse, etc.  Like a jigsaw, God’s leading can be discovered piece by piece.

But if we aren’t reflective, we can miss these precious fragments of God’s providence in our lives.

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In the parable of the sower, Jesus explains the meaning of the seed that falls on rocky soil and is gobbled up by birds.

When  anyone hears the message about the Kingdom and does not understand it the evil one comes and snatches way what was sown in his heart.’ (Matthew 13.19)

Will it surprise you to know that ‘understand‘ is the same Greek word we see in the Ephesians passage?

No sermon or Bible study or personal prophetic word will bear fruit in my life unless I understand it.  Unless I take time to consider it, wrestle with it, submit to it and apply it, it is absolutely useless.

If every week I forget the sermon before I eat my lunch it has no value in my life whatsoever.  We have to chew on things to get the goodness from them.  

Ken Gire says, ‘The reflective life is a life that is attentive, receptive and responsive to what God is doing in us and around us.

Being attentive, receptive and responsive to God’s truth will always position me to know His will and to live a beautifully fruitful life as I follow Him.

 

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