Let’s Start Moving Mountains!

It only takes faith like a mustard seed

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What you can see in the photo above is a mustard seed. It is a tiny, insignificant little thing but Jesus has something to say about this miniscule object.

“For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’, and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.” (Matt. 17:20)

I have been thinking about this Scripture a lot recently especially because I pray for people every week as part of the prayer team at my church. Each week we pray for the sick, those who want to meet with God, and those with practical needs . I long to see breakthrough in people’s lives. We are beginning to see healings and of course God has been answering prayer in other ways too.But I want to see more. I want to see Jesus’ words fulfilled in me:

 “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father. 13 Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 If you ask me for anything in my name, I will do it.” (Jn. 14:12-14)

So I have been thinking about faith and asking myself do I have faith the size of a grain of mustard seed? I believe the answer is yes. Each of us who have put our trust in Jesus for our salvation has already answered a big question of faith, “Is there a God”. Our answer was yes when we put our trust in God to be saved. We have already exercised faith to do that. The Bible tells us that it is by grace through faith that we were saved and that faith is the gift of God. (Eph.2:8) It is not something I can work up nor do I need to wait until I have great faith   This is great news!  I already have been given the gift of faith. I just need to use it.

Cloud 1 (1)So how do I put my mustard seed faith to work? I need to start identifying mountains and telling them to move NOW! I find I can settle for praying to a “procrastinator God” who might get around to answering my prayers one day. That is not Biblical thinking. God promises to answer prayer, to heal the sick, provide for us etc. I need to get my praying in line with the Scripture and to believe that God will answer my prayer (there is no point in praying if we don’t believe that! )

We see people praying in the New Testament with an expectation that people would be healed straightaway. I know that not everyone was healed but many were. I need an expectation that God will act. Where does that come from? From the knowledge that God is good, that He loves us and He responds to our faith, that he has made promises to us and from a long record of answered prayer.(see here)

I love to read books about healing; not just the theology but true stories of people today who have been healed. This really encourages my faith. If God can do it for them then why not for me (or you)?

We need to act upon our faith, to step out and ask God to act. This means praying for people when they are sick, praying for jobs for people who are unemployed, praying for financial provision for those in need. Our faith means that we really do have an answer for these things; God himself responds to that faith.

File_000 (17)I have stuck my tiny mustard seed in the front of my Bible to remind me that I have enough faith to see mountains move and that nothing is impossible for me. I am determined to keep praying for impossible situations and to keep asking God for more.

What are the mountains in your life? Get out that mustard seed faith and start praying!

Other related blogs Painting The Fence, The Impossible List

photo credits:
All photos belong to me and  cannot be used without permission. Thank you!
Mountain of the Impossible generated on Tagul.com

 

 

 

 

 

Undeserved

Jesus has done it all

We often know a lot about God but don’t live in the good of it.  We  know that God is good but can’t trust that He is good to me as an individual; maybe we believe that He is good to others but not to me. Why is that?

Many of us struggle to experience the abundance of God’s blessing because deep down we don’t think we deserve it. We have a sense that we are not good enough. Instead of saying “that’s absolutely right, I’ve done nothing to deserve God’s love.  Jesus has done it all for me when He died on the cross”, we set about making ourselves worthy (as if we could).

We try harder to please God, we get involved in works and performing well in order to earn God’s love. This is a miserable place to be. We know the truth but we don’t experience it for ourselves. File_000 (1)We see others enjoying God, worshipping Him with abandon, experiencing intimacy with Him but we are stuck with our to do lists: I must pray more, I must serve more, I must have a regular  bible study, I must, I ought, I should. That is not the language of freedom, it is not the language of grace. Of course it is good to pray and to study your bible but the motivation is wrong. I do not need to earn anything from God because He has given us everything freely to enjoy.

The enemy sees our weakness and he points out all our failings to us. You didn’t pray this morning, you didn’t volunteer to serve, you’ve blown it and so on. This compounds our feelings of unworthiness and we feel condemned. So often our response to this is not to go to God but to try harder. It’s hopeless. How could I ever know that I have done enough to make myself  worthy? It’s like having a mortgage where I don’t know the sum to be repaid or how long the term is . That means I will ALWAYS be trying to repay a debt.

I have spent too long in my life  trying to do well, being fearful of getting it wrong and of making mistakes. How sad it is that we feel we need to work, work, work. We can become like the older brother in the story of the Prodigal Son, he is so caught up with his work that he can’t rejoice when his brother comes home and is jealous of him because His father lavishes love on him even though he has done nothing to deserve it. That is the whole point! And yet he missed it just like we do. This is the message of grace – we have done nothing to deserve God’s love but He has freely given it to us through what Jesus has done for us.

This parable is a wonderful picture of the love God has for us. Even though his son had turned his back on him, the father looked every day for the return of his son. When the day came that he returned home rather than put his son to work he puts a robe around him and a ring on his finger and calls for a fatted calf to be killed so that they can have a celebration.

This is what our Father God is like with us. He loved us so much that He sent Jesus to die for us. We have probably heard that scripture so many times but do we let that truth sink into our hearts, that the God of Heaven, the God of the Universe, the Father of Creation itself loved me so much that He gave His son for me? That means that I am now FREE! Free from sin, free from guilt, free from shame because Jesus has paid the price for me.

File_000 (2)I can enjoy all the benefits that knowing God brings. I can know that I am loved unconditionally, I can enjoy an intimate relationship with God because He no longer calls me a slave but a friend. (Jn. 15:15)

I think that one of the saddest things about the story of the Prodigal Son is that the older brother lived with the father all the time and could enjoy all that brought to him but he didn’t because he was so caught up in working to get his father’s approval.

We only have one life to live – I don’t want to waste mine working for something that is already mine to enjoy. Jesus came that we might have abundant life. Life full of joy, contentment, at peace with ourselves and with God. Why would I choose to live differently?

 

photo credits:
hands: Unsplash
Other photos belong to me and  cannot be used without permission. Thank you!

 

When the going gets tough

… friends encourage

 “Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing” (I Thess. 5:11)

I am not usually prone to fear  but the whole experience of having cancer made me come face to face with some very real fears. Was I going to die? Would I see my sons marry? Would I live to see my grand-children? Would I end my days in a very weakened and sick state as I had seen my father do?

I didn’t lie awake thinking about these questions but they did pop up and surprise me at odd moments during the day. I was managing a whole list of appointments with consultants, GPs, bone-scanners and radiotherapists and in the midst of all this I needed to manage myself; my thoughts and emotions. I say manage because I mean just that. I could so easily have let my emotions run riot but I chose to engage my mind and to recall all that God has said in His word.

I don’t mean that there were not tearful times. At times I felt overwhelmed by everything I was dealing with and just needed to cry. I can remember opening an envelope with eight appointments in it; I felt that my life had been taken over and I was now on a conveyor belt of cancer treatment. There wasn’t room for much else. That felt quite grim.

Once I started my course of twenty-one sessions of daily radiotherapy I spent time in the waiting room everyday with people who were much more ill than I was. The effect of cancer on people’s lives was plain to see. Sickness, weakness, hair loss, frailty. At times I felt like a fraud because I felt so well (what an odd thought!).There were also moments of humour: a man at the water cooler asked a nun who was waiting for treatment if he could get her a drink, she replied “I’ll have a half of Guinness!” Moments like these reminded ourselves of a life outside of the treatment room.

I have already mentioned the gift of The Goodness Bag which helped to sustain me throughout my cancer journey
but there were other gifts. A hug from a friend who came to the door just at the moment when I was really worried about a procedure I was to undergo before my operation; he said “You will be all right”. He didn’t mean I would not have cancer, he was encouraging me that I would be able to go through with the procedure I was dreading. Another friend gave me a framed text which said “Let your faith be bigger than your fears”; I kept this on my File_000 (4)dressing table where it reminded
me every day to draw on my faith in God rather than focus on my fears. Another friend made me a sparkly picture with the words, hope, love, faith, and grace sewn into it. This was on my bedside table, another visual reminder of God’s love for me. Another friend took my dressings off for me when I was left to do it myself and was feeling very emotional. Of course many of my friends were praying for me too.

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If life is tough at the moment I would suggest that you write out some encouraging scriptures and stick them to your mirror, computer screen or wherever you will see them. They will frequently remind you of God’s love and give you hope.

If life isn’t tough at the moment don’t  underestimate the small things you do for your friends when they are having a tough time. Often we can’t imagine how people cope with tough situations. Hugs and words of encouragement, gifts, notes and practical help mean so much to someone who is struggling to get through every day. It can be hard to know what to say but sometimes just doing the normal things you would do rather than concentrating on the problem will be a gift to your friend as it allows them to focus on something other than what they are facing for a little while. Pray for strength for them every day (or when you remember).

The way I coped with having cancer and being treated for it was to constantly remind myself of who God is, what He is like and what He has said. Gifts and encouragements along the way helped me to do just that.

How has someone encouraged you when life was tough?

 

Photo credits:
Trees: pixabay
Other photos belong to me and  cannot be used without permission. Thank you!

What I would say to myself at 17

You are good enough

At the age of 11 (pictured above) I won a scholarship to an Independent School and was soon immersed into school life. Many of the girls that I now mixed with were from very affluent families who were able to go on foreign holidays (unlike my family), lived in substantial properties and some had tennis courts in the garden. I think that my feeling of not being enough began at that time. I was reasonably happy but I think I absorbed an unspoken message that I did not fit because my family were not affluent enough. Friend’s birthday parties were a source of anxiety because I could not buy expensive gifts.

There were embarrassing moments such as when my mum had bought a second-hand summer uniform dress which was far too big for me but I had to wear nonetheless because it was cheaper than buying a new one from the posh outfitters.

I had come to this school from a state school where I had been taught as part of a class of 45 but had thrived and was at or around the top of the class. I didn’t realise that this had become part of my identity – that I was clever. When I then went to the other school I was a little fish in  a large pond where it seemed that everyone was more clever than me, played musical instruments to a high level and had already learned French at their Junior School. Now I didn’t feel clever enough.

photo-1444730558009-b7f0368e1264I muddled on through school, did well at my  O Levels and embarked on my A Level courses. I can’t even remember now how it started but I began to fear that I would not get good enough grades to get into Cambridge University which is where the School were encouraging me to apply. By the end of the Lower VIth (Year 11) I decided that I did not want to carry on with my education and I left school without taking A Levels.

That decision was made solely because I was afraid of failure although at the time I told everyone that I just did not want to carry on at school. That decision was so costly; it affected  my life over many years. I stayed behind when my friends went away to Uni. Even years later I still felt the regret that I had not gone to University and it was mixed up with feelings of incredulity about making that decision. How could I have been so stupid?

If I could, I would tell that 17-year-old that her social status meant nothing to God. I would tell her that she was good enough whether she passed her exams, got lower grades than she needed or whether indeed she did get the grades. I would tell her that God loved her just as she was, that He would be with her every step of the way whether she “failed” or “succeeded”. I would tell her that God wanted her to fulfill her potential whether that was at University or not, that He had plans for her life which would give her a future and a hope. I would tell her that she had been uniquely created by a loving Father to be the unique person that she was. I would tell her that she was a daughter of the King, that she could lift her head high.

How sad that our fears and poor self-image keep us in a prison (often of our own making) because  we have made decisions from a place of fear rather than faith. I had cut off all possibility of a University education which was the very thing I really wanted because of my fear of failure (which was completely unfounded).

This story does have a happy ending because I did go to Cambridge University as a mature student many years later. It was the most challenging experience of my life but I did it and I loved it. (That’s another story).  It was as though that foolish decision all those years ago had been redeemed.

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I am conscious that as I write this in the UK there is  a debate going on about the pressure on our young children to perform well at their SATs. As parents we need to keep communicating both our and God’s unconditional love to our children. They are precious. They are vulnerable to all kinds of wrong thinking about themselves if they only see themselves in terms of academic performance whether it is good or not so good. We need to be the ones who paint a picture of adventure over their lives.

nomadThis adventure is a journey with God; we don’t know where it will take us but we know He will be with us. We may fail but we can pick ourselves up and carry on because our failures don’t define us, they give us opportunities to try again and are steps along our journey.

Not going to University is my story  – your story will be different but  I know that many of us are plagued with fear, self-doubt and feelings of not being good enough. We are believing lies about ourselves. Jesus came to set us free – He died for us not because we were good enough, clever enough, good-looking enough or anything else but because He loved us. I am rejecting the lies about myself and choosing to see myself as God sees me.

but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Rom.5:8)

What would you say to  17-year-old you?

 

 

Photo Credits:
She believed she could so she did and School photo – these photographs belong to me and cannot be used without permission. Thank you!
others: Unsplash

 

 

The Valley of the Shadow of Death

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life

Even though I walk through the Valley of the Shadow of Death, I will fear no evil for you are with me. (Ps.23:4)
If you are like me, you love the imagery of the Shepherd making us lie down in green pastures but not so much walking through the Valley of the Shadow of Death. I love to read promises of how God cares for me but I am so glad that His word also prepares me and arms me for the difficult days and seasons. Our lives are a mixture of different experiences; some photo-1423766111988-c47a5ff6ed06good, some mundane, some terribly difficult. Last year was one of the worst years of my life, I was treated for cancer and at the same time we had a period of terrible uncertainty about my husband Rob’s job. I felt so stretched – cancer and unemployment loomed over me for months like tall mountains leaving me to walk a narrow, shadowy path. The worst thing was the uncertainty. Others of you may literally be facing death or in the kind of despair where you feel you can’t go on. When we are in those seasons we can be gripped by fear.

I found that  Psalm 23 had something to say to us at every stage of that path:

when we are in need – I shall not want – God really does provide everything I need

when we are weary – He makes me lie down in green pasturesThere is a rest for my soul

when we are stressed – He leads me besides still waters – God gives me peace that rules my heart and mind

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when we are feeling dry – He restores my soulHe causes living water to bubble up within me

when we need wisdom for life – He leads me in paths of righteousness the Holy Spirit is our guide

when we are in danger, sick or dying – I will fear no evil for you are with me Jesus has conquered death, there is no greater enemy. This conqueror is with me always and fighting for me. We can take refuge in the shadow of His wings. (Ps. 36:7)

when we are under attack/opposed/oppressed – in the presence of my enemies you anoint my head with oil, my cup overflows. – If God is for us who can be against us?

More than that, this psalm gives us the context for the whole of our lives – surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life. Whatever my circumstances are, this is always true for me that the goodness and mercy of God will follow me wherever I go, not just in the green pastures but in the valley as well.

We so often think that our happiest/easiest seasons are what life should be like all the time. This is not what the Bible teaches, the book of Ecclesiastes puts this so poetically, that there is

“a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance” (Eccl. 3:4)

There will be difficult times but the Bible  teaches us that we can rejoice in all circumstances. Our rejoicing is rooted in the fact that Jesus has died for us, our sins are forgiven and we are now living in the good of the grace of God on our lives. Rather than being overwhelmed by our circumstances we can be overwhelmed by the love of God every day. This is what sustains us – that we are known and loved by God. He is with us in the good days (when we often forget to acknowledge Him) and He is with us in the dark days, even the Valley of the Shadow of Death. He is always the same, never-changing, unfailing.

I am learning to dig deep into these truths. I don’t always get it right, sometimes I complain , sometimes I am miserable, lonely, frustrated, anxious or just plain cross! But my prayer for me and for you is

“that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have the strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.” (Eph:17b-19)

Then we will all be able to journey through the Valley of the Shadow of Death rejoicing as we go.

 

 

Photos Credits:
still water – this photograph belongs to me and cannot be used without permission. Thank you!
others: Unsplash

 

 

The Impossible List

Prayer makes the impossible possible

Some years ago when our sons were very young one of them left a note for us shortly before his birthday. It was a list of things he wanted. He had divided it into three sections: impossible (a Nintendo 64),  middle (a micro scooter) possible (black biking gloves) ! As a postscript he added “I love you Mummy & Daddy” – always a winner with parents! We have kept the note ever since.

At the time we were financially hard-pressed and I think our son understood this and he knew that we didn’t buy extravagant birthday gifts nevertheless he was still hopeful.  When we saw this note something in us immediately wanted to bless our son and to give him what he most wanted and what he thought was impossible. We managed to get a second-hand Nintendo 64 and of course he was very surprised and absolutely delighted. He could not believe that what he thought was impossible had become reality.

This is a great picture of what our Father God is like with us. He delights to give us good things and responds to our faith. He loves us and wants the best for us and His timing is perfect. If we have a wrong view of God, that He is aloof, stern, a hard task-master, we will never trust Him to do good to us and we won’t ask big prayers for the impossible.

Since that time Rob and I have always had our own impossible list of things we have been praying for. Many of those prayers have now been answered and we have added new ones to the list. One example was in 2011. We had owned a succession of elderly second-hand cars which we used to run until they were no longer economically viable (in practice this usually meant that we could not afford to repair them to get them through the MOT.) In November our car finally went to the scrap yard and we began to pray for a new(er) car. We had no savings so we decided that we would pray every day for a car and get by without one until God provided for us. After two or three weeks of cadging lifts, borrowing cars to do the grocery shop and walking wherever possible we came to the point where we realised that it was a lot harder to do without a car than we had thought.

There came aFile_000 (8) day when we decided that we would pray one more time and after that we would have to look for another cheap old car. After Rob had left for work I had a phone call from a friend who said that he and his wife wanted to buy us a car! I phoned Rob who was on the bus to tell him the good news. Shortly afterwards we were able to buy a much better car than we had ever had before and which we are still driving today.

Throughout our married life we have kept a book recording our prayers and the answers we have received. From time to time we read through the book and are amazed to see how many of our prayers have been answered. This is such an encouragement when we are tempted to give up praying. We have many other examples of things that were impossible for us which God has answered.

Our book is annotated with scriptures to remind us about what God is like: “with God all things are possible“, “God has given us everything we need pertaining to life and godliness“, “nothing is too difficult for Him“, “you do not have because you do not ask” God loves it when we ask Him for anything believing that He will do it. We see this in the story of the centurion who came to Jesus asking him to heal his sick slave. He responds to our faith.

Of course some of our prayers  were not answered as quickly as the ones for the car. We are still praying for some things  after many years. Some prayers were not answered in the way we envisaged, for example I wasn’t healed of cancer but God did speak to me and sustain me through the treatment.

We can get very hung up on whether we should pray for things for ourselves but God calls us to have faith in every area of lives whether spiritual or material. He encourages us to pray for our daily bread. Our whole lives should be lived by faith not just what we consider to be our “spiritual” lives. Of course we have not only prayed for things for ourselves – but for our church, our friends, projects, people who are sick, house-moves , church building projects and so on.

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When our prayers are answered miraculously it is SO exciting, the impossible becomes possible, and we turn back to the Giver and thank Him with all our hearts (just as our son thanked us ). When God blesses us it enables us to bless others. There is an overflow of blessing. In fact this is just what the Bible teaches us – that the measure that God uses is “pressed down, shaken together and running over.“More than we can imagine, with plenty to share.

I challenge you to start an impossible list. You will be amazed at the answers to prayer, how your faith grows and how you can bless others through your praying.