Posts tagged ‘Christian Growth’

February 13, 2013

A Crisis of Faith

Sad Man

In the 25 years I’ve been a Christian I’ve suffered a crisis of faith – twice. Both times  threatened to derail my relationship with God entirely.  Once was in 1997 and the other time was 2004.  The two triggers that precipitated my crisis of faith could not have been more different.

In 1997 I was studying full time, living out of home and working part time.  Money was tight.  In July I submitted my tax return, and back then you usually had to wait 6 to 8 weeks to get a refund if you were owed one.  I was going to get a substantial refund which I sorely needed.  Looking at when I needed it, I prayed that it would come at 6 weeks.

But it didn’t.  Right now I can’t believe that I cared so much about such a trivial event but when my tax return arrived 8 weeks later I was outraged with God.  I thought, “How powerful are you if you can’t even answer the most simple prayer?”  I didn’t ask for the world – it was the most minor little prayer and yet it not being  answered in the way I wanted threw me into a total spiritual tailspin!  The reason was that almost everything in my life had not gone as planned in 1997, and this was the straw that broke the camels back.

I dealt with this crisis really poorly.  What I needed to do was just grow up and realise that God cares far more about His kingdom, His will and His name (to quote Jesus priorities in the Lord’s prayer).  I never really worked that out and just sort of dragged my feet through the rest of 1997 before finally getting spiritually going again in mid 1998.

Then at the other end of the seriousness spectrum, in 2004 our second baby died.  Catherine went into an early labour and gave birth when she was just 16 weeks gestation, far too early for a baby to survive.  That was one part of a long journey that ended with the birth of our daughter Poppy who is now 6.  Catherine has blogged about that journey in this post.  Whilst we lost 3 babies my faith was not rocked by the first and third losses, but when Catherine fell pregnant the second time my overwhelming instinct was to pray, “Lord let it be different this time.”  Far from being different it was exactly the same.  Same problem, same time in the pregnancy, same outcome.  A complete re-run.  That devastated me and I didn’t know what to say to God.  My faith was shaken to the core.

After a couple of months of working through these feelings the breakthrough came at church one Sunday.  During the music I simply made a decision that I would praise God.  That was the turning point.  It’s not as though all grief vanished at that moment, but from that point I was back on track with the One who gives true comfort.

Upon reflection I could have done things differently.  Some things help and some don’t.  These are two things which genuinely help you get out of a crisis of faith:

Take Communion.  If you are going through a crisis then it’s great to remember that whatever you are going through Jesus went through crucifixion, so that’s likely a fair bit worse than what you are going through.  If you are praying for a for a tax return to arrive then it’s definitely way worse.  Whatever pain is yours Jesus went through unspeakable physical pain all the way to death.  And he didn’t go singing and praising God as it happened either – he was crying out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”  Taking communion is where we get reminded that the cross is central to our lives and our faith.  Jesus knows what a crisis of faith is, he knows what pain is, he has been there.  Communion reminds us, and puts our own problems in perspective.

Praise.  Scripture commands us to praise God for who He is – He is holy, He is worthy, He is pure, He is sovereign.  When we are in crisis our focus turns to ourselves.  But praise puts our focus back on God.  Your praise can come from music, your own prayer time, or wherever.  But when praise comes breakthrough soon follows.

John

December 12, 2012

Grow you Good Thing!

The good people at Willow Creek Community Church in Chicago have cracked it – they have worked out what actually causes people to grow as Christians.  Hold on – I know.  It is the Holy Spirit.  Let me be more specific than.  They have worked out what things that churches do cause the people in their churches to respond to the Holy Spirit, and grow.

Willow have been doing large-scale research since 2004, and have last year published some very interesting results.  Earlier this year I blogged about how merely involving people in church programs does not help people to grow closer to God.  This was the conclusion that some of Willow’s early research uncovered.  And it came as a bit of a blow to a church that has some of the most attractive and well run church programs in North America.

Recently I have been reading one416Dr1ENFsL__AA160_ of the follow-up works that they have published.  It’s called Move.  The researchers (who are now surveying over 1,000 churches, not just their own) have come up with a list of the things that help people grow as Christians.  As you would expect they are many and varied.  They range from evangelism, tithing to understanding salvation by grace alone.  Some of these catalysts, as they like to call them, help new Christians a lot.  Others help mature Christians more significantly.  But the number one thing stands out a mile.  This is what they say, by way of a helpful illustration:

“If your local ice cream parlour could sell only one flavour, it would sell vanilla.  This isn’t just because vanilla ice cream is the most popular flavour, although that is true.  It’s because vanilla ice cream is hugely popular: in fact, it’s twice as popular as the second favourite flavour, which is chocolate. … So your ice cream parlour would choose vanilla.  Hands down.  No contest.

“Church pastors have an equally compelling option.  If they could only do one thing to help people at all levels of spiritual maturity grow in their relationship with Christ, their choice would be equally clear.  They would inspire, encourage and equip their people to read the bible – specifically to reflect on Scripture for meaning in their lives.

“Reflection on Scripture is the spiritual equivalent of vanilla ice cream because its influence on spiritual growth far exceeds the potential impact of other catalysts…Hands down.  No contest.  When it comes to spiritual growth nothing beats the bible.”

Now you might respond, “Ah yes – my church makes a priority of good bible teaching.  We are likely doing well.”  If that is the case then you have missed the point.  The main driver of growth is people reading their bibles on their own.

So – how are you going with your bible reading right now?  Because if you are someone who wants to grow closer to God then it’s the one thing most likely to get you there.  Been a Christian a short time?  Read the bible if you want to grow.  Been a Christian a long time?  Read the bible if you want to grow.

And if you are leading people, then the number one question is, “How are you helping your people get into their bibles?”  Because if you can do that, then they are highly likely to be growing.  If you are not doing that then there might be good things happening here or there but you are denying the people the most powerful source of growth around.

Obviously there is more to being a Christian than reading and reflecting on your bible.  And there is more to Christian leadership than helping people read their bibles.  But it’s hands down the best place to start.

The author of the letter to the Hebrews knew what was going on: “For the word of God is alive and powerful.  It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow.  It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires.” (Heb 4:12)

John

December 12, 2012

Fighting Back!

boxing glovesDo you ever feel attacked, like everything is suddenly coming against you? A number of years ago I had a “God dream’ warning me of an impending attack. In the dream I was standing on raised wooden platform in a field of tall long grass. Suddenly a snake came out of the grass and became airborne darting for me. I ducked and swerved managing not to get hit, but it kept attacking me. Its attack eventually failed. When I woke up I knew that the dream was a warning and God confirmed to me that I was going to come under some kind of attack.

Imagine, if you will, the enemy’s war room. His purpose is to bring you down and in the process throw whatever doubt He can on his arch-enemy – God. He strategizes all night long with his minions coming up with brilliant plans to have your car break down on the way to work, your purse stolen and purposes to cause a fight between you your partner or blow you a bout of the flu. Thankfully the Holy Spirit is sitting in on those meetings too and He’s taking notes! The Holy Spirit does everything He can to then prepare you to thwart these attacks the enemy has planned for you.

In Isaiah ch.7 there is a story about two kings conspiring and aligning forces to attack another King called Ahaz. God sends the prophet Isaiah to instruct King Ahaz on how to respond to this attack.  In a nutshell this is what he says:

Be Careful, Keep Calm, Don’t be afraid and Don’t lose heart.

Be careful

About a year ago I was shopping at the mall. I was leaving the toilets when a girl and I knocked each others elbows as we walked by each other. Unbeknownst to me her arm was in a sling under her sweater. She cried out in pain and her boyfriend who was waiting outside for her threatened to hurt me. Despite apologising profusely he threatened to bash me but he was delayed by seeing if his girlfriend was ok. I left the toilet area quickly. The danger felt very real and I was very scared but I had the sense to be careful and I hid in a clothing shop and left the mall quickly.

 Keep calm

My friend and I visited the fish market early in the morning to buy the ‘catch of the day’. On the way home we heard the sickening noise of a car accident. I jumped from the car and ran toward the sound of the accident. The scene was utter chaos. My own adrenalin level was pumping but upon arrival at the scene someone told me to calm down and instantly I did. I noticed a young girl about 10 years old standing near one of the vehicles in the collision. She was hysterical – just standing there, screaming. Her father was nearby but was dazed and in shock. I asked him if I could pray for his daughter. He said ‘Yes’. I introduced myself to the young girl and I started to pray. I called her mind, body and spirit out of shock and trauma and I spoke peace and calm to her. Immediately she stopped screaming and calmed down. Panic blocks our ability to think clearly. Our body releases stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenalin which block access to our frontal lobe – the place of rational and logical solutions. We must take our own pulse first.  That is keep calm so that we can be of some good for ourselves or others.

 Don’t be afraid

God always says it best…

Be strong and of good courage, do not fear nor be afraid of them; for the LORD your God, He is the One who goes with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you.

Deuteronomy 31:6

Do not lose heart

The Amazing Race has taught me to never lose heart, to never give up. Just keep going no matter how bad things seem. There’s always hope until Phil says ‘I’m sorry to tell you that you’ve been eliminated from the race’. Another team could have stuffed up and /or it could be a non-elimination round. Just never give up.

Isaiah was a true prophet of the living God. His words to Ahaz were wise and helpful then and they are still good for us today.

When you’re under personal attack, public attack or demonic attack let God meet you and protect you by remembering these words…

Be Careful, Keep Calm, Don’t be afraid and Don’t lose heart.

Over and Out,

Catherine xoxox

November 15, 2012

The Story within the Story

I didn’t set out to tell my stories to you, it just sort of happened that way.  I know that I have been hard work for God over the last 43 years but He has loved me enough and been patient enough to endure all my stuff ups. Through some extremely painful, funny and life altering experiences He has taught me His Ways and revealed His perfect love for me. Even now when I get myself into a bit of a pickle He takes the time to show me a better way for next time.

I like to think that my stories are a bit like the parables Jesus told. He painted these vivid word pictures to dramatize what He wanted to teach. While wholly make believe stories the  parables were related to the ordinary life of the people He told them to. Their purpose was not merely to entertain but to bring about a change of mind and a change of heart so that they could be closer to God. The word “parable” comes from the Greek word ‘parabolee’. In the Greek ‘para’ means beside, and ‘ballo’ means to cast or throw. In effect a ‘parable’  means to cast a familiar idea beside an unfamiliar idea in such a way that the comparison helps people to better understand and grasp the unfamiliar idea. The ‘unfamiliar idea’ in all the parables was a concept of the Kingdom of God.

In talking about parables Jesus explained (Matt 13:10-17) that those who sought God would get the deeper meaning, while the truth would be hidden from those who didn’t.  Through the telling of parables Jesus is trying to reveal the deeper meaning of His own presence among them, the meaning of His mission and His person and the meaning of the kingdom of God. In other words, what is important about the parables is the spiritual message they convey about human life, about our life with God.

While it might seem a bit lofty of me to compare my stories to Jesus’ parables consider this….the best chance God has of speaking to me about my life is to use the experiences that occur in my life. My stories aren’t parables because they are not make believe…they really happened! They are what I have lived and they have been what God has used to help me understand the way He works.  In the re-writing of my stories I have tried to be true to the lesson that God taught me through them at the time they happened. I often tell you my stories at my own expense. I tell them when it doesn’t suit me and even when it shames me because I want you to know that you can experience the same freedom, forgiveness and love that I do. In one of the first blogs I wrote I talked about taking our masks off. I believe that I have started to do that. You have read some of my ‘not-so-pretty- spectacular- failures’ but surely you have felt the redemption in them too. The beautiful truths that God has revealed to me have been things like ‘forgiveness brings freedom to my soul’ and ‘that He can and does love me no matter what I have done’. Also ‘no matter how much I stuff up He can still use me’.

You have a story too. A ‘life parable’ that God is speaking to you through. Are you listening? Can you hear God in your experiences? Do you get that He loves you and wants you to discover Him hidden amongst your life – bobbing up in unexpected places. God loves to interrupt our lives because He so desperately wants to be a part of them.  Don’t think because you are a Christian that you are smugly safe in the reading of this post – you probably have more to answer for because you have tasted the fruit but just don’t eat often enough of it. God wants more of you!  I know that is true for me.

Over and Out,

Catherine xoxox

October 31, 2012

Light Bulb!

I have been a Christian for 25 years and sometimes I think I know some stuff and then God in his infinite wisdom takes my blinders off and I have a realisation that is both profound and fundamentally life changing.  I’ve  had a major God – given realisation recently that was so massive that I have experienced a complete paradigm shift in my thinking.  It didn’t just happen, God made it happen through different agents of change that He bought about in my life over the last few years.

The Johari window is a self-awareness tool created by Joseph Luft and Harrington Ingham in 1955. It helps people to better understand their relationship with self and others.  It looks like a window with four quadrants. Something like this:

Quadrant 1: Known Self

These are things we know about ourselves and others know about us: Example: These things are obvious like – you have blue eyes or brown hair or you laugh like a hyena

Quadrant 2 :  Hidden Self:

Things we know about ourselves that others do not know. Example: These are our secrets. The things we hide from others.

Quadrant 3: Blind Self:

Things others know about us that we do not know. Example: These are our personal ‘blind spots’. I remember a good friend once telling me I had ‘small nostrils’. I ran to the bathroom and to my surprise for the first time in 40 years I noticed this too!

Quadrant 4: Unknown Self:

Things neither we nor others know about us. Given that I hold a Christian worldview I would rename this window ‘What God knows’. These are the things God knows about me and that I and others don’t.

For me, the rarest form of realisations come in quadrant number 4. When they happen your world is changed forever. It’s as if  God aligns all the planets in a row  causing a rare and beautiful eclipse which results in an unprecedented A-HA light bulb moment.  It’s like He wonderfully orchestrates all these little happenstances that suddenly reveal this amazing thing and when your eyes see it they are so blinded they can’t remember what they saw before.

Ever since I can remember I’ve wanted to be famous. As maturity, a Christ centred mindset and middle age set in, commonsense has prevailed. I’ve realised that I don’t want to be ‘really famous’ just probably highly regarded, paid to do what I love and allowed in any and all ‘green rooms’. There is a possibility that I may have gotten all that, slim but possible (please no laughing). So this is it then. When Jesus came to Earth He didn’t go for a prominent position with the Sanhedrin (the big religious group of his day) or put up notices about town saying ‘Hi, I’m Jesus the Son of God’. He just loved the crap out of 12 people over a period of 3 ½ years and made such an incredible and undeniable impact on them that they went on to effectively proselytize the rest of the known living world. Jesus was a man who loved people so brilliantly and served them so fully that they in turn lived the rest of their lives totally sold out to every idea and thought vocalised by Him when He was alive. Most of them suffered death for His name. While Christ didn’t seek after high regard, green rooms and being paid for what He loved to do, if He was here today He would have all of that and more.

Soooo, here it comes….if I can just do that, love people and serve them with my whole life and heart with the same love that Jesus did then I will have everything that I ever wanted and more. And that folks is something I am completely sold out to. I don’t need money, fame or green rooms. I want to love God and love others with everything that is within me for as long as I draw breath.

Whatever life I have left all I want to do is LOVE!

Over and Out,

Catherine xoxo

October 17, 2012

Hawaii : Handcuffs and Shackles

My greatest fear was that I would go to prison. This could have been a result of watching too much ‘Prisoner’ in the early 80’s. It was a successful Australian TV drama based on life inside pf Wentworth Detention Centre . I was completely terrified of going to prison. Then, my fear came to pass while on a holiday. It was as scary and terrifying as I imagined. Here is the story….

I was born with a special gift. I can open my throat and ‘skol’ liquid without swallowing. I was returning to Vancouver after a trip to visit family and friends in Australia. I was not walking closely to God and my behaviour reflected that. I had a stopover in Waikiki, Hawaii for about 5 days and I was ready to party. My accommodation was a hostel which provided instant drinking buddies. It was a Sunday night and I was due to fly out the following afternoon so I rounded up all my ‘new friends’ and we headed to the local pub. Fairly soon after we arrived I challenged a male German backpacker to a drinking comp. With one foul swallow he was done and dusted. As is typical with the male ego he re-challenged me and lost again. As the beer slid down my throat I formulated a plan – Mr Backpacker was part of a group. So I took them all on. The bets increased. Soon I was supplying all my hostel mates with free beers paid for by this largish German group of males who couldn’t seem to drink faster than one Aussie girl. Beer after beer I conquered one and all. I was the life of the party but I was also highly intoxicated. The manager stopped me as I went on a toilet break. He was very concerned for me and told me that for my own good he was asking me to leave. He escorted me to the door of the pub and when he let go of me I fell flat on my face.

I ended up heading for the beach as I wasn’t ready to return to the hostel. I met two Aussie girls and we sat and talked. Directly on the Waikiki beach is a police substation. Parked out the front there are numerous police carts. They are similar to a golf cart but on steroids. During the day they are a popular tourist attraction, many people posing for a photo’s in them. The three of us decided to muck around with one. When it was my turn I posed with the CB radio in my hand. No lights were on console so I spoke into the receiver. Code 10, code 10 there is a riot on the beach of 40 people. Within seconds police streamed out of the substation looking for a riot. Code 10 coincidentally means female officer in distress. I was arrested and charged with the obscure crime of ‘tampering with Police equipment’. I was read my rights, fingerprinted and locked up in a group cell. The toilet was in the cell. Disgusting and humiliating.

The following morning, sober, I was transferred to the courthouse. I was the last of about 50 to appear before a judge because I was the only non-American citizen. Customs were required to be there. I was informed that if I was found guilty and convicted I would be deported back to Australia – even though I lived in Vancouver. I took my chances pleading ‘not guilty’ and was immediately shackled (handcuffs for the feet) and handcuffed. I was transferred to another custody centre to be processed. I got one of those funky photos taken with the numbers and became somewhat of a mini-celebrity with my Aussie accent and upbeat personality.

After that I was transferred to the Oahu Community Correctional Center (OCCC) and upon arrival I was strip-searched, which included bending over so bits and pieces could be checked for weapons and drugs. I had to bathe in Lysol (bleach for humans),   to kill any germs and I was given a prison uniform to wear. I was placed into an 8 bed dorm. I went straight into the toilets to have a breakdown when I noticed there were no doors on the stalls. The only privacy afforded me was under the covers of the bed that night. Before bed I asked for my one phone call and was allowed to phone ‘my friends’ at the hostel. I had been missing for 24hrs. They were relieved to hear I was ok and they were able to put up the bond of $50 (out of my winnings from the pub) and get me released the next morning. That night surrounded by scary, dangerous woman who had done some bad things I cried silently for hours.  I wondered if I would still be alive in the morning.

The next day I was released and one of the prison guards gave me money for the bus fare and after an hour-long journey back to Waikiki I hugged my hostel friends like family. I had missed my flight, I had no money and I was in a lot of trouble. The hostel allowed me to work for my room and I put a reverse charges call through to my mum and told her my passport got stolen and she wired me some money. I contacted my friends in Vancouver and advised that I had missed my plane. I had to reappear in court in 5 days with a public defender. I was eventually found not guilty because they couldn’t prove that I was the one who made the broadcast about the riot and I lied to the judge when she asked me if I did it.

I landed in Vancouver a week later – safe but probably not sound. I had experienced my greatest fear and I was worse off for it. While utter foolishness resulted in that particular fear being realised some fears can’t be avoided so easily. Since the birth of my daughter my greatest fear now is that someone will rob her of her sexual innocence. I was challenged upon hearing this statement ‘your greatest fear is the area that you trust God the least’. What a confronting thought?

I came to this realisation. No matter how diligent I was I could not protect my daughter every minute of every day. I decided that I needed  to trust God to look after her no matter if she was in my care or not. With much tears and angst I handed my precious daughter over to Father God. He is now in control. My fear has not magically evaporated but I do now a experience a peace in this area. The issue no longer rules my emotions, my thoughts or my spirit like it did. I trust God to be her Elohim Shomri. (protector) at all times! Amen to that!

What is your greatest fear? How can you trust this fear into God’s hands?

Over and Out,

Catherine xoxo

October 3, 2012

What works

Last month I wrote a post called Love Wins, which discussed the way that church programs actually don’t make a large difference in people Christian growth, but loving relationships do.

In this post I have reflected on my own 26 years as a Christian and posed the question, “what has actually helped me grow?”

Here are the top 3 things that have made the most difference in my life:

1. Having a spouse and close friends who love God with everything.

I remember as a teenager hearing this sermon illustration on many occasions – when a campfire is burning brightly, if you then take a piece of wood and put it into the fire then before long that piece will be burning brightly as well. However if you do the opposite – if you take a piece of wood out of a roaring fire and put it by itself then it will be burning brightly by itself. But come back in a few minutes and the piece by itself will have stopped burning. After a few minutes more it will no longer be on fire at all. The rest of the fire will be be roaring, but the piece by itself will grow cold. In the same way, a person who is surrounded by those who love God will do well in that environment. They will maintain their fire for God. But even if you are the most committed Christian on the planet, when you remove yourself from the company of God’s people, over time your love for him will get colder and colder and colder.

I think the point is spot on. What I have noticed as I have gotten older is that it is just as true of adults as it is of teenagers. And therefore my own walk with God has been greatly enriched by the fact that I have Catherine as a wife, and her deep devotion to serving God. Catherine, you have been and continue to be an inspiration. Similarly, having friends who love God is powerful assistance in my own walk. When you see someone more fired up than yourself, my natural reaction is “I want to be more like that!” And once you do head in that direction a friend who is doing the same is a great encouragement to you, and you to them.

2. Worship music and prayer

I natuarally felt that I should say something about my own devotional life, since I kind of assumed that my own habits of bible reading and prayer have been foundational for my growth. But as I thought about this further I realised that it’s not so much prayer and bible reading but Christian worship music that I have found to be extremely helpful. This morning on the train I was listening to a recent worship CD and was inspired by the music and thanked God for his love and his greatness. I think that is an even more powerful than prayer, because I find that my mind often wanders during my prayer times, and often they are focussed on my needs rather than God’s glory and wonder.

I am very grateful to live in a time when we can carry recorded music around with us, and there is so much great, contemporary worship music around. Most Christians throughout history could not have even conceived of enjoying Hillsong United on an ipod. So to all you worship leaders and musicians out there…keep going!

3. Knowing your gifts and using them.

It has been one of the revelations in my life to realise that God wants me to focus on what I am gifted at. Working out precisely what that role is has been a long journey, but I am so glad to be on it, and so glad to have made the progress that I have. One of the gifts that I have is teaching / preaching. To find out that something that I taught has been useful in someone else’s growth is a magnificent thing. How can you really have a better day than to do something that moves people closer to Jesus? Serving and making a difference in people’s lives is really the ultimate way to spend your time.

So what about you? What has helped you actually grow as a Christian? Leave a comment and let us all know….

John

August 1, 2012

Sticks and Stones Will break your Bones

Poppy and I visited a new park near our house a number of years ago.  One of this park’s feature pieces of equipment is a large swing that hangs down from three metal poles that stand in a tee-pee formation. The swing itself is a very heavy saucer-shaped basket. Three or four kids can lie down in it. You sort of push it up and out and it adopts a very unpredictable orbital trajectory. I had Poppy and two of my friend’s kids in the basket happily swinging away. In my peripheral vision I noticed some movement. When I looked I could see a boy aged about 3 running toward the swing. His mum was jogging slowly behind him well within reach. At any moment she could speed up and stop him which I thought she would, but she didn’t. He just got closer and closer to the swing. It dawned on me that the mother was not going to stop him from running into the path of the swing.  Being hit by the heavy metal and plastic basket with three kids in it would be the equivlant of being hit by a slow moving car.

While all of this seemed to unfold slowly those last few seconds seem to go so fast. As the little boy was about to run into the path of the swing I jumped in front of it and tried to stop it from hitting him. I succeeded but in the process my little finger on my right hand was snapped backwards by the swing. I turned to the mother of the boy and said ‘why didn’t you stop your child? I’ve broken my finger saving him from being hit.’ Incredibly she responded with ‘it’s just dislocated’. Before I could argue with her I realised I was in a great deal of pain. I went to my friend and we both decided it was worth going to the nearby doctor’s office. I got in the car and drove there but it was closed. By now I was in so much pain I was screaming and crying with every move of my hand.

Blinded by pain I drove on to the hospital.  Forever the Scrooge when it comes to paying for parking I couldn’t bear to park in the hospital parking so I drove around looking for a spot. Luckily I got one quickly. Thank God I left Poppy with my friend as I was screaming so much and so loudly it would have scared her.

Upon arrival at the emergency department I was ‘triaged’ to the top of the list, that is I got in immediately. I was offered happy gas which I quickly accepted. I loved it. I made a number of very funny stoner calls. By the time the doctors tried to pull my dislocated finger back in to place, which failed miserably, the discovery was made by x-ray that the bone had been diagonally snapped into two pieces. I had surgery to put a pin in to hold the two pieces in place while it healed.

Recovery was slow and small. To this day I have an obviously crooked little finger but the greater injury was to my spirit. For many months following the accident I struggled with intense feelings of hatred toward the woman at the park. I hated her neglect, her misjudgment, her blasé attitude to my person. I hated her ignorance, her understated diagnosis. I hated that she didn’t care and I hated that she didn’t know what I had done for her son. I hated that I could never yell at her and make her apologise for her stupidity.

I wanted someone to pay. I wanted to blame and shame someone for what happened.  The whole thing was eating me up. I replayed the event in my mind continually, always ending up in the same place – angry and resentful. It took me longer than it should’ve but I finally chose to forgive the woman, not that she knew. I often wonder if she ever even thought of me again.

No one is immune to these things. We are all vulnerable to pain whether it be physical, emotional, verbal or sexual. We all have a choice to harbour the offence or forgive. My hatred became a prison. I became chained to the offender and the offence reliving the event over and over. When I finally forgave her I got out of jail. I was free. Forgiveness is never about the other person – it’s all about you. I know this is the second time I have beat the drum of forgiveness in a blog post but I dare say I’ll need to beat it again – not for your sake but for my own.

Over and Out,

Catherine xoxo

July 18, 2012

The Working of Miracles

It makes sense to me that in every congregation, in every church, in every nation on Earth there are those that God has gifted to move in the working of miracles. But let’s suppose for now that this wasn’t the case and we were all equally ‘ungifted’ in this area. Jesus makes a bold statement to all people in John 14:12 which should give us all some hope to seeing miracles happen.

‘Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these.’

Is there any way we can position ourselves better to see the reality of these words in our life? I believe there are four things every Christian can do to be better positioned to see miracles happen in their life:

Know Him, Know His will

Jesus only ever did what He saw the Father doing. How then can I see what the Father is doing and do it too? Simply, through relationship. Jesus cultivated a life of prayer and fasting often retreating to quiet places to pray to the Father. We can deepen our relationship with the Father by reading His book which reveals His heart, His plans and His purposes. Also, we can ask Him what He wants us to do.  Everyday this is my prayer. ‘Father, I want to see what you see, I want to do what you want me to do. I make myself available to you in whatever way you choose to use me.’ Jesus had miraculous encounters doing some very ordinary tasks – attending a wedding, sailing from one place to another, visiting a well for some water. Jesus did miracles ‘as He went’ from here to there. The miracles John listed earlier from the book of Acts were done in the ordinary lives of ordinary people. They weren’t superstars – they had just spent heaps of time with Jesus. They did life with Him for 3 ½ years. They knew Him – and the bible says if we know Him we know the Father.

Clean Hands, Pure Heart

I believe we must have clean hands and a pure heart to be used by God. Even in Christ, we all sin even though we don’t have to anymore. We all hold onto issues with others for too long, letting our forgiveness accounts get too long. Pornography, stealing, lying, gossip, being judgemental, loving money more than God, self-righteousness, being religious and jealousy are issues that can trip us up and block us from ‘hearing and seeing’ what the Father is doing. Sin blocks us from hearing from God (Ps. 66:18) .  I strongly encourage you to keep short ‘sin’ accounts with all men and God and cultivate a life of Godly character.

Faith – the big One!

Without Faith it is impossible to please God BUT how do you know if you have faith or not when praying for a miracle? I believe the key to answering this question is found in Hebrews 11:1 “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” – Simply, faith sees that which isn’t physically available yet. Faith sees what is when it isn’t! We know that Jesus did what He ‘saw’ the Father doing. How did He ‘see’ it? Most likely in His mind. We are told to have the ‘mind of Christ’. Why? because our minds can be yielded to other ‘mindsets’ and ‘agenda’s’ but if we can set our mind apart for Christ, yielding to His plan and purpose we give opportuinity for our ‘Christ mind’ to act as a ‘godly movie screen’ for the Holy Spirit to show us a ‘picture’ of what the Father is doing. Didn’t Jesus teach us to pray for it to be ‘on Earth as it is in Heaven’  For example – imagine you are praying for someone who is dying of cancer? How does cancer look in Heaven to the Father – its totally gone!  There is no diease or illness in Heaven! Therefore, I can ask God to show me a picture of the person totally well – free of the cancer that is upon them.  Once I see a picture of that person totally healed revealed on my ‘Christ mind’  I can pray with faith because I can ‘see’ what the Father ‘sees’ in Heaven  and I can then ‘believe’ how it  should be on Earth. That is what faith looks like!

So, how do you know if you have the faith to pray for a miracle – ask yourself can I see it? Not once has God failed to ‘show me’ what I need to see to have the faith to pray and believe.

Have a go!

It doesn’t matter how much ‘time’ you spend with the Father or how ‘clean and pure’ you are or how much you practise ‘seeing’ in faith there comes a moment when you’re literally required to ‘activate’ all of that and actually DO SOMETHING or SAY SOMETHING.  And it is only when you open yourself up to that moment and step out that you are perfectly positioned for God to take over and do His part – the miracle itself! Those that cultivate the ‘working of miracles’ around there life are not necessarily gifted to do so they are just willing to position there hearts, hands and faith in a way that God is free to do something. No matter the level of gifting if you never pray for a miracle or lay hands on the sick you will never see miracles.

When do people look for a miracle? People look to God for a miracle in the hour of their deepest and most desperate need when all else has failed. They often have nothing to lose and everything to gain. I remind myself of this as I step into the realm of faith and miracles. I refuse  to allow my pride or fear rob someone else of the opportunity to see God do something miraculous for them.

I want you to know it is not Ok with me that you are sick and need a miracle. It is not Ok with me that you need a financial miracle. It is not Ok with me if you need another sort of miracle and you can’t find anyone to pray. I will make myself available. I will pray my best prayer for you and your situation.

Email me: blogsidebyside@gmail.com

Blessings,

Catherine xox

July 18, 2012

Positioned to do Miracles Part 1

The book of Acts is a history of the early church written by Luke to help his friend Theophilus understand the faith of which he has become a part.  It follows on from the gospel of Luke, picking up the story after Jesus rose from the dead but before he ascended to heaven.

Of course the chapter divisions that we see on our bibles were not in the original text.  However here is an interesting question – what happens in every single chapter of Acts until chapter 15?

Answer – something miraculous.  In each and every one of the first 14 chapters there is an event that is supernatural.

In chapter 1 Jesus ascends into heaven.  In chapter 2 the church is born with flames of fire and speaking in tongues.  In chapter 3 the crippled beggar is healed.  In chapter 4 there was a supernatural earthquake where the church met (in response to their prayer that God would do miracles).  In chapter 5 there were 2 supernatural executions (yikes!) and even Peter’s shadow was healing the sick.  In chapter 6 Stephen, who “performed amazing miracles and signs”, was arrested but has his face supernaturally radiant.  In chapter 7 Stephen sees a vision of Jesus in heaven as he addresses those who arrested him.  In chapter 8 Philip is taken by the Holy Spirit after he finishes leading the Ethiopian eunuch to Christ.  In chapter 9 Jesus appears to Saul on the road to Damascus, and as an afterthought Peter raises someone from the dead.  In chapter 10 an angel arranges a meeting between Peter and Cornelius, after Peter has a vision from God.  In chapter 11 the church organises its welfare program on the basis of a prophecy about a coming famine given in one of their meetings.  In chapter 12 Peter miraculously escapes from prison when an angel busts him out, after first waking him up.  Chapter 13 sees Paul’s first mission’s trip which was started after the Holy Spirit speaks during a prayer meeting and tells the church what to do, and then an opponent of their ministry is struck blind.  Chapter 14 has Paul and Barnabas continuing to travel, “and the Lord proved their message was true by giving them power to do miraculous signs and wonders. (v 3)”.

It is clear that in the life of the early church miracles abounded.  It wasn’t just healings either – it was all sorts of supernatural events. Can you imagine being a part of a church where miracles are normal?  Where the supernatural movement of the Holy Spirit was just what happens in a normal week?  Most Christians I know long to have that decisive intervention of the Holy Spirit in both their lives and in their church involvement.

It seems to me that the best way to bring it about is to be out on the cutting edge of what God is doing.  When Paul was doing missions in places that had never had a Christian witness before it was all happening.

Scholars believe that Acts covers the church’s first 30 years or so.  So very roughly, each chapter is a year or so on from the cross.  If you came to Christ in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost, and then lived the rest of your life in Jerusalem then you might end up in your second and third decade of your Christian life reminiscing about how good it was in the first decade.  But if you made yourself available for what God was doing further afield, then you would have fresh stories to add to the ones from earlier on in your Christian life.

We can’t know for certain what the church in Jerusalem was like when Luke is talking about the church in other places – it would not be right to imply an absence of miracles from the silence of Acts about the Jerusalem church.

But what we can know for sure is that where the gospel was advancing miracles continued to abound.  And I am certain that it is still true today.

John

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