God Wants You to Flourish – Part 1

I have been reading about the Hebrew and Greek words which are all translated into English as the word blessed. There is a wealth of meaning in these words – happiness, completeness, maturity, peace, prospering, contentment …. But they can be summed up by the word flourishing. When I first read that my immediate reaction was “YES” – what a wonderful description of the impact of the gospel on our lives.

God promised Abraham “ in your offspring all the nations of the earth shall be blessed” (Gen 26:4). We can see that it has always been God’s intention to bless those who put their trust in Abraham’s offspring, Jesus.

Jesus spoke of himself in this way: “I am the door, if anyone enters by me, he will be saved and go in and out and find pasture.” (John 10:9) Jesus is the doorway to blessing.

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To be blessed means to be in a state of flourishing. God’s plan for mankind has always been that we should all flourish. He created us to be objects of his love, children, not slaves. It is not that we come to Jesus, breathe a sigh of relief and then just exist, endure, get by, or plod along waiting for the day when everything will be made new when Jesus comes again. God wants us to flourish now.

What does that mean? Definitions of flourishing include: grow, prosper, bloom, blossom, develop, do well, expand, multiply, succeed, thrive, amplify, arrive, augment, burgeon, increase, score, be on top of the heap, bear fruit, come along, get ahead, get on, go great, hit it big.

This is what it looks like when we are flourishing

It’s not static. It’s not something we have to strive for either. It’s the result of living in God’s kingdom.

What are the key essentials for flourishing? Some very basic things have to be in place. We need security – God has adopted us into his family never to be forsaken again, food – He has given us his word to nourish and sustain us, water – Jesus said that anyone who comes to Him will never thirst again, purpose – God has prepared works for us to do and relationships – he has put us into the family of God.

When we look through Scripture we see this theme of flourishing repeated over and over again. In Psalm 23 we are cared for by a Shepherd, who leads us to pastures where we can feed, by still waters where we can rest and be refreshed, he leads me the right way and when I walk through the valley He is with me, in the presence of my enemies he prepares a table and goodness and mercy are following me all the days of my life.

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In Psalm 1 we see a picture of someone who is flourishing. He is planted (intentionally not merely carried by the wind) by streams which feed his roots, he is fruitful and his leaves do not wither, in all he does he prospers.

In Prov 31 we have picture of a woman who is flourishing in whatever she lays her hand to, whether it is making clothes for her household, buying a field and planting a vineyard or caring for the poor.

God is extravagant in his love for us. He has given us everything we need for LIFE and GODLINESS. That is why we can flourish – because He has given us everything we need.

Since we have come into relationship with God, all that He is is available to us and causes us to flourish. All of His love, all of his goodness, all of His mercy, all of His provision, all of His power – the list goes on.

We can think of ourselves as seeds that have been planted in the best soil conditions for our growth, where we get all the nutrients and warmth that we need to produce growth, flowers, fruit. What would that look like in your life?

Or you can think of beautiful calligraphy where every letter instead of being a boring plain type face has a beautiful flourish. They are different for every letter. We can each flourish individually and it will look different for each of us.

We can flourish and see growth and development in every area of our lives. In our workplaces , in our serving, in our relationships, in our parenting, in our ministry, in our relationship with God, in our creativity.

Jesus came that we “might have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10)

Flourishing means realizing all the potential that God has placed within us. It means being the truest expression of humanity as God intended.

 

Part 2 – This doesn’t feel like flourishing – coming soon

 

Some visual flourishing for you to enjoy!

Photo credits
Shepherd – Unsplash
Others – pixabay
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The steadfast love of God

Never-changing, never failing, always constant, love

 

Psalm 36

Your steadfast love, O Lord, extends to the heavens,
    your faithfulness to the clouds.
Your righteousness is like the mountains of God;
    your judgements are like the great deep;
    man and beast you save, O Lord.
How precious is your steadfast love, O God!
    The children of mankind take refuge in the shadow of your wings.
They feast on the abundance of your house,
    and you give them drink from the river of your delights.
For with you is the fountain of life;
    in your light do we see light.
10 Oh, continue your steadfast love to those who know you,
    and your righteousness to the upright of heart!

I read this passage out during a prayer meeting recently and it has stayed with me since then. I like to amplify my own reading of the Bible as it helps me to engage with the text so here are some of my thoughts and my annotations of the text.

Your steadfast (never-changing, never-failing, always constant) Love (pure, without ulterior motive, genuine, unconditional, divine, father’s love) O Lord (sovereign ruler over everything, master, king, all-powerful) extends (covers the whole distance) to the heavens. (David could not imagine anything further away to help him describe the scope of God’s love.)

Your (I’m so glad it’s your faithfulness and not mine) faithfulness (trustworthiness, loyalty, never-letting-go of me) to the clouds (David has already used the heavens so he picks something else equally out of our reach to describe its magnitude.)

bergsee-2502983_1280Your righteousness (He always acts in line with his own character: his holiness, purity, justice, love, mercy; he acts righteously) is like the mountains (rock-like, unmoving, spanning millennia, not giving way, not fickle/blown about by wind of change, prominent, visible for all to see for miles around) of God.

Your judgments (decisions made on the basis of God’s moral attributes, He is Just, Holy, slow to anger, full of loving-kindness, all-knowing, always pursuing our good) are like the great deep (like the deepest ocean still uncharted or fathomed by man or the inky darkness of the deepest reservoir – impenetrable, the depth of His judgement is a picture of His wisdom.)

Man and beast (all created things, all creatures and peoples on earth, innumerable species) you save (preserve, sustain, feed).

How precious (we can’t adequately express in words, valuable, costly, dear) is your steadfast love (David just has to repeat this phrase because it is so AMAZING), O God (isn’t it incredible, wonderful, that we can address God personally, that we can even come into his presence!)

golden-eagle-1679166_1280The children of mankind (it’s open to anyone) take refuge (hide in, take comfort from, are safe, find shelter) in the shadow of your wings (a picture of God as an eagle or a hen protecting his chicks, spreading out His wings for all His young to come under, there’s room for all, it’s warm and safe.)

They feast (not just eat for sustenance, dig in, hoover up food in quantity and in quality, the best food, treats, nom nom!) on the abundance (not stingy, rich and plentiful, more than enough) of your house (we are part of His family now, we have come home, we live with Him and enjoy all the benefits of living in His family home, not as guests but as family/residents)

And you give them drink (living water, thirst-quenching, cool, refreshing, restorative) from the river (not a trickle, but a flowing body of water, it is powerful, beautiful, mighty, always moving further downstream, it makes glad the people of God (Ps. 46) of your delights ( wonderful, joyful, pleasing, satisfying, enjoyable).

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For with you (that’s where I am – with Him and He is with me, my Beloved is mine and I am His) is the fountain (geyser, gushing up, spraying everyone, the source of everything springing out of Him) of life (that should be LIFE, not the life we once knew but the abundant LIFE of those who love Him, living to the full, fulfilling all the potential we have in God).

In your light (He is the light of the world, we are no longer walking in darkness, misery and defeat) do we see light (we have a new light to live by, all life and light emanates from him, we are no longer lost.)

(No wonder David prays) Oh continue your steadfast love to those who know you (when we have seen, when we have tasted this steadfast love all we can say is – that this is so wonderful please let it continue but in fact it will continue because that’s what steadfast love does, that is God’s heart towards us)

And your righteousness to the upright of heart (not sure that I could describe myself as upright of heart, but Jesus came for us sinners to make us righteous.)

Only one word remains:

Hallelujah!

 

Photo Credits
All photos are from pixabay

 

 

 

It’s all mercy

I don’t receive what I do deserve, and I do receive what I don’t deserve.

When I was worshipping in a prayer meeting this week I found myself weeping at the sheer mercy of God towards me. Mercy is another of those words we use so lightly but hold so much meaning for us. I’ve been thinking about it so much since  that worship time.

The only time God has ever held anything back from me was when I was lost and did not know Him. He held back His wrath even though I deserved it. When my feet were in the miry clay, when I was in a pit of my own making, when I was as far from God as I could be – dead in my trespasses and sin, God loved me! How amazing! He held back all the punishment that I deserved, the wages of sin meant death but He held it back. He held back because of His mercy.

mercy-1However there was a day when He did not hold back, but gave everything, even His own dearly-loved son, to die for me. His mercy paid for me. Because He did not hold back I got to walk free. Free from sin, free from death and the fear of death, free from all that had ensnared and enslaved me; and more than that He lavished His love on me. I who had been opposed to God was now adopted into His family and can call Him Abba Father. I just did not deserve it.

Now, there is no good thing that He withholds. He is lavish with me, not stingy or mean but generous and liberal. It’s all  mercy – “compassion that forbears punishing even when justice demands it”. You see there was nothing good about me that deserved God’s love. I was sinful; but this is the nature of the gospel that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us, the just for the unjust. I still don’t deserve it.

This is the wonder of mercy that I don’t receive what I do deserve, and I do receive what I don’t deserve. Not just once in the past but every day. Every day when I blow it, get things wrong,  give in to temptation, get jealous, greedy, unkind, shout at my husband and/or children etc there is still mercy for me.

Because mercy is given to those who don’t deserve it I don’t have to work at being deserving- it’s unattainable anyway. Far better to spend our time worshipping the One who is merciful and let the wonder of His mercy move us to tears.

annie-spratt-156497Matt Redman has written a wonderful song about God’s mercy here. In it he describes God’s mercy as endless as the sea. Mercy is like those ocean waves – it just keeps coming towards us. We will never get anything other than mercy from God. Hallelujah!

 

Photo credits:
Photos Unsplash
Mercy word cloud created using Tagul

 

 

Living under a shadow

I didn’t feel consciously fearful – there was just something there that I was aware of . I felt that I was living under a nameless shadow.

As many;  of you know I was diagnosed and treated for Breast Cancer a couple of years ago. I now have annual checks to make sure that the cancer has not returned. For most of last year I didn’t give much thought to it but as December arrived I was conscious that I was anticipating the mammogram I would be having in January. It was most definitely on the radar!

In early January I had the routine scan and then the wait for results began.I had no reason to fear; my oncologist had told me that he didn’t expect to see me again  but I can tell you that I was looking to see if that letter was in the post everyday. When it came, it was good news.

I didn’t feel consciously fearful – there was just something there that I was aware of . I felt that I was living under a nameless shadow. I have spoken to others who have had a cancer diagnosis and they all say that you are never the same once you have had cancer, it changes you – because you can’t go back to how it was before.

I suppose my nameless shadow was fear. The thing about fear is that it is irrational, you can’t reason yourself out of it. There is no reason why I should be  more fearful when I have tests  or less fearful when I haven’t – it doesn’t make sense. That’s just the point. Fear doesn’t make sense. It is a slippery thing.

I am sure there are many things that come into our lives that change us forever, things that are painful or difficult,  or leave us with a kind of shadow over us – it’s not just cancer. How do we all walk through it

I often recite to myself: “God loved me yesterday, He loves me today and He loves me tomorrow.” God does not change. Nothing will ever stop Him loving me. He will always be good towards me even when my circumstances are tough, He does not changeFile_000 (21).png

He is with us when we walk through the valley of the shadow of death (see my blog here). He never leaves us or forsakes us. His perfect love helps us with our everyday fears.

We are not meant just to cope with difficult things; we are called to be more than conquerors through Him who loved us. That means that these truths are not just to help me cope with the fears surrounding cancer but I actually have the means to rise above it. It doesn’t mean that I won’t ever have cancer again but it does mean that I can live free from fear and the shadow. What does a more than conqueror look like? I think it is someone who although they experience fear, they take courage and press on and live lives to the full believing what their Father says about them. Courage doesn’t mean the absence of fear. You can’t be courageous if there is nothing to fear. More than Conquerors are able to live through any difficulty and still experience joy. The promise is that Jesus strengthens us, we can’t do it ourselves but He will.

Just recently a friend of mine went to be with the Lord. She had been ill for several years and in pain for some time but she unfailingly had a smile on her face and she did not complain. She loved and served God with all her heart. She certainly was a More Than Conqueror.

I don’t always live like that, sometimes fear creeps up on me but it is where I am aiming for. I am going to lift my eyes to the hills where my help comes from, take courage in both hands and live the abundant life that my Father has promised me.

How about you? – I’d love to hear from you

 

Photo credits
Shadow landscape pixabay
Text created with wordswag

 

 

 

Hearts First

The love of God is our security, it is a rock beneath our feet. It is a source of joy.

At the beginning of the year it is tempting to set goals, make plans and dive into the busyness of the new term (not that those are bad things). We tend to hit the ground running after the post-Christmas break as regular meetings start up again and new projects begin. This year as I was praying about our church’s two weeks of prayer which we hold every January I heard God speak two words to me, “Hearts first”.

Before we do anything God wants us to check our hearts. What kind of shape are they in? Are they filled up with the love of God?heartbeat-1892826_640

It is a reminder that first and foremost God, our Father, wants a relationship with us and what we do flows out of that. He created us in the first place for relationship as an expression of the outflow of love between the Trinity . He has always desired to have a people, to adopt us individually as sons and daughters into his family. We are now in Christ and enjoy the same love that the Father has for Jesus because we are “in Him”. It’s amazing! It’s overwhelming! It’s incredible!

In the story of the Prodigal Son the two sons both had a problem with understanding that their father loved them. The younger son felt guilty and unworthy of his father’s love and so he returned home to work as a servant or slave on his father’s estate. blue-1845901_640The older son thought that he earned the father’s love through working hard. Both could not be farther from the truth. The father was looking everyday for the return of the younger son because he loved him even though he had sinned. He was also alongside the older son everyday and all that He had was available to him because he was a dearly loved son.

Even if we’ve worked through these issues before it’s so easy to fall again into guilt and unworthiness, or performance. The new year is a great time for a personal inventory to ask ourselves do we really know that God loves us? or do we still know that God loves us? You see we will never give Him our hearts if we don’t understand this. We love because He first loved us.(1 John 4:19)

The love of God is our security, it is a rock beneath our feet. It is a source of joy in our lives. It motivates us to love and serve others.

Before we launch off into the activity of a new year we need to be saturated with the love of God, to be captivated by him. It’s then that there is an overflow of love to others whether it’s in serving our churches, in evangelism, at work or wherever God has placed us. So before your life gets taken up with “doing” spend some time with your Father, receive His love for you and pour out your love to Him.

He wants our hearts in good condition – filled up with His love.

YOU ARE LOVED!

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Photo Credits
All images: pixabay

 

 

 

Everyday Fears

I can’t control what may happen to me and those I love by giving in to fear and anxiety

Everyday I take a tablet, everyday when I take it I am reminded that I had breast cancer a year or so ago (you can read about it here). As I take the tablet all sorts of nasty thoughts come to mind. “Am I really free from cancer?” “Is this tablet really working”or  “Oh no I forgot my tablet, am I going to get cancer again” “Will I get all those side-effects”

In addition to this there are the times when kind-intentioned  people ask me “Are you alright ” with a meaningful look as they don’t want to mention the C-word. However I do know what they are talking about and my brain does a loop, “Am I alright now””Don’t I look alright””Maybe they are seeing something I’m not?”

You don’t have to have had cancer to be assaulted with all sorts of fears throughout the day. As a Mum I find I can be fearful about my kids even though they are now adults.  For example, they may be travelling in a car driven by a new or young driver and I wait to hear that they have arrived safely etc.photo-1467219598992-52591d77fdec

I have learned that I just can’t afford to listen to all these thoughts. If I did my life would be controlled by them. Instead I have decided  to trust in the perfect love of God. I can’t control what may happen to me and those I love by giving in to fear and anxiety but what I know is that God is always good and He will never leave me alone to cope with difficult situations.

I like the way The Message puts 1 Jn. 4:18:

God is love. When we take up permanent residence in a life of love, we live in God and God lives in us. This way, love has the run of the house, becomes at home and mature in us, so that we’re free of worry on Judgment Day—our standing in the world is identical with Christ’s. There is no room in love for fear. Well-formed love banishes fear. Since fear is crippling, a fearful life—fear of death, fear of judgment—is one not yet fully formed in love.

The idea that we can take up residence in love rather than fear is helpful. You see I have a choice to make – am I going to listen to those niggling fears and make my home there or am I going to make love my home. I know which I prefer but it is not always so easy.

file_000-17Often we are taken unawares by a fearful thought, then we feed it by allowing it room, going over and over it in our mind, adding to it a number of what ifs (what if the cancer comes back? etc) and before we know it we are overcome with fear and anxiety.

Some of us try to numb our fears by turning to food, alcohol or drugs. Some of us try to suppress or control our fears by adopting certain behaviours – being busy all the time, working hard, perfectionism. There can be a kind of unspoken bargaining going on. If I do x, y or z, God won’t punish me with the thing I’m afraid of.

NO! NO! NO! None of these remedies will ever deal with our fears.Take a look at that verse again:

“There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.” 1 Jn. 4:18

The remedy for fear is to know God’s love. At its heart the Bible is a love story. It is the story of God’s love for us, not just as a people but as individuals. We can each know the love of God for us in a tangible way, we can experience it. It is not just a part of the theology of who God is or an abstract concept.

God’s love provides a rock beneath my feet, I am secure in His love. This love means that I do not have to give room to fear. Jesus has already paid the penalty for my punishment so I don’t have to fear that either. Paul asks the rhetorical question:

“If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Rom. 8:31) and goes on to answer himself:

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 ….. 37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.”

So everyday when I take my anti-cancer tablet I remind myself that none of the things that I worry about can separate me from God’s love. If I make that love my home I have NOTHING to fear and I can live my  life free from anxiety.

How about you?

 

Related Blog: The Valley of the Shadow of Death

Photo Credits:
Fear photo: pixabay
Racing Car: Unsplash
Make Love Your Home created using wordswag