Thursday, 30 December 2010

Thinking Thursday: Begin With Me

As we move towards New Year and the ubiquitous resolutions, let me offer these thoughts:

I’m talking to the man in the mirror
I’m asking him to change his ways
My message couldn’t get any clearer:
If you want to make the world a better place,
Take a look at yourself and make the change.

So sang Michael Jackson, and he had a point. So much is wrong in our world. Crime, natural disasters, injustice. We say, “Somebody ought to do something” or blame it on the nebulous ‘they’. Campaigning for truth and justice is a noble thing. Not many of us can go off to Africa or Haiti or some inner city jungle and get personally involved. But what about closer to home? What could you do to change things, even something small?

Recently I watched the film of the Dr Seuss book 'Horton Hears a Who.' The world of Whoville is saved because one man believed and stood firm before the people, and one elephant believed and refused to let the animals destroy it, and one boy shouted loud enough for everyone to hear. What could you do or say that would change things for the better?

If enough people just started being kind to others, what would our country look like? If just you started being kind to others, or honest, or helpful, what difference would it make to your life and the life of those around you? In the words of another song:

Let there be peace on earth
But let it begin with me.

Sunday, 26 December 2010

We Should Let Our Light Shine

We should let our light shine every day for Jesus.

He should glow in our lives like a candle and we should stand firm in God and not let the enemy blow our light out, when the enemy tries to get at us through other people or through our emotions in life. The enemy can be so cunning that he can turn something small to something big, even bring back things from the past and try to make us think that we’re no good, not good enough for God. But this is not true.
When we come to God He forgives us every wrong in our lives. All we have to do is confess and ask Jesus to come in and He will heal us and make us whole. Jesus can take away every mountain in our lives. Jesus loves everybody, never mind what we have done in our lives, how wrong we may have been, Jesus forgives, sets the captives free.

God’s word says, “The Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost” (Luke 19:10), “No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6), “God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)

When we come to God we open up the door and let God in. We now must trust and obey “for there is no other way but to trust and obey.” We need to pray and read God’s word more for growth in our lives, Christian growth, being whole again, free from bondage. “He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering... Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, … He was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.”(Isaiah 53:3-5)

So let us remember at this Christmas time, at the sharing of gifts and celebration, why Jesus came into the world as a babe at Bethlehem. “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, … And he will be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:6) It is the most wonderful precious gift anybody can have – that is the gift of God in their lives. Jesus shed his blood for us on the cross and all we have to do is let God into our lives.

“If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” (2 Corinthians 5:17). He will change us, refresh us, cleanse us, and make us whole – a new creation. Amen.

Thursday, 23 December 2010

Thinking Thursday: Conviction vs Condemnation

Imagine that you decided to surprise your parents or your partner while they were out one day by spring cleaning the living room. All day you cleaned and polished. The picture rail, the lampshade, under all the furniture, in every corner. Then they came home and you showed them the room. How would you feel if they said “It’s a shame you didn’t put the rug back straight”?

That’s what the devil is like. He wants to bring you down and discourage you. Every cup is half empty and everything you do is less than perfect. We need to recognise our faults and failings, but it is important that we know the difference between conviction and condemnation. Satan is our accuser (Rev.12:10) but Paul tells us that there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ (Rom.8:1). Condemnation brings feelings of hopelessness and despair. If you are feeling like that you need to reject it and look to Jesus.

The Holy Spirit brings conviction (John 16:8) – a sense that there is something wrong, but that we can do something about it. Related words are confidence, certainty, or reliance. The Holy Spirit tells us that the cup is half full, that God has brought you this far and will not let you down (Rom.8:2-4). He will work with you if you let Him.

Monday, 20 December 2010

Making a Happy Christmas

We all wish each other "Happy Christmas" at this time of year, but what do we mean? What is a happy Christmas? I would suggest that the key thing is our expectations. Kids are looking forward to Father Christmas; some of us are looking forward to someone's face when they open the present we have chosen so carefully; Mum is looking forward to having all the family together. And the happiness of Christmas will be how far those expectations are met.

So how do you make a happy Christmas? Perhaps you should start well before and find out what people's expectations are, and think about how you can see that they are fulfilled. Or maybe you need to gently help them to adjust their expectations, to avoid disappointment. But most of all, you need to look at your expectations. Are you hoping for too much? Are you asking everyone else to see to it that you have a happy Christmas?

Society today has become so materialistic, that it pains me to hear people, especially children and teenagers, express the thought that their Christmas cannot be happy unless they receive that one special present they are hoping for. The giving of gifts should be more about the expression of love than about the actual gift. I remember one year when our youngest daughter had no money, she gave us a photo frame with pictures of all our children, and a poem on the back. It meant so much because she had put so much thought and effort into it.

Christmas is about love. It all started because of the love of God, sending his only Son to rescue humanity when we couldn't do anything ourselves. The gifts we give, the visits we make, the food we cook, are all to reflect that love in the way we love each other. If we can remember that, we will have a happy Christmas.

Saturday, 18 December 2010

Scribbling Saturday Web Site Review: Obooko

Obooko has two objectives; the first is to provide a free platform for new and established writers to showcase their work; the second is to offer people, regardless of their means, access to contemporary writing in a wide range of genres and categories. You retain all your rights and they will not offer your work for sale. There are no charges, no contracts to sign and you are free to promote your book wherever you wish.

Whether you are a new writer or an established author wishing to gauge reaction to a final draft, self- publishing on obooko is the perfect way to 'test the water' and receive feedback from members. What's more, because your book will be in digital format you can make corrections and upload new versions of your ebook whenever you wish.

Thursday, 16 December 2010

Thinking Thursday: Mary, Did You Know?

I wrote last week about not worrying about tomorrow, for God will give us the grace we need when the trial comes. Much as we would like to know the future, actually we only want to know as long as it's not bad news. We want to know who we'll marry, what job we will have, if we will pass our exams, if our children will do well in life. But would you want to know that you will be unhappy in your marriage, you will be unemployed, fail your exams. Would you want to know in advance that you or your loved ones will suffer, or die? I think not. Such knowledge would mar the good times in between. May even be too hard to bear.

At this Christmas season, we think about the birth of Christ, and sometimes realise what an uncomfortable place it was. Sometimes we think about why he was born, and the suffering that he would face on our behalf. There is a powerful song that ponders on how much Mary knew in advance of the destiny of her first child. Written by Mark Lowry and Buddy Greene, it reminds us of the importance of this child, but stresses the joys to come, rather than the pain.

Mary, did you know
that your Baby Boy would one day walk on water?
Mary, did you know
that your Baby Boy would save our sons and daughters?
Did you know
that your Baby Boy has come to make you new?
This Child that you delivered will soon deliver you.

Mary, did you know
that your Baby Boy will give sight to a blind man?
Mary, did you know
that your Baby Boy will calm the storm with His hand?
Did you know
that your Baby Boy has walked where angels trod?
When you kiss your little Baby you kissed the face of God?

Mary did you know.. Ooo Ooo Ooo

The blind will see.
The deaf will hear.
The dead will live again.
The lame will leap.
The dumb will speak
The praises of The Lamb.

Mary, did you know
that your Baby Boy is Lord of all creation?
Mary, did you know
that your Baby Boy would one day rule the nations?
Did you know
that your Baby Boy is heaven's perfect Lamb?
The sleeping Child you're holding is the Great I Am.

If you want to hear this song, click here.

Saturday, 11 December 2010

Scribbling Saturday Web Site Review: Fiction Factor

Fiction Factor descibes itself as an online magazine for fiction writers. Every month it features tips on writing better fiction, articles on improving your writing, tips on fiction writing, learn to write a novel and get stories published, promoting and marketing your fiction and much more!

The site is easy to navigate. You can browse some of the writing categories by using the drop-down menu, or if you prefer, you can use the navigation links at the bottom of the page.

There are also courses, a forum, and they also sell books on writing. Fiction Factor is also the home to 9 sister sites, each focusing on a specific fiction writing niche. Here you'll find descriptions of and links to Romance Factor, Sci-Fi Factor, Horror Factor, Fantasy Factor, Erotica Factor, Short-Fiction Factor, Children's Fiction Factor, Freelance Factor and Christian Fiction Factor.

You can subscribe on the site and receive a monthly newsletter. Each newsletter is filled with tips for getting published, articles on better fiction writing, recent updates and additions to the site, current market listings and hints especially for writers.

Thursday, 9 December 2010

Thinking Thursday: Do Not Worry About Tomorrow…

Worrying about tomorrow is something we all do, and I used to have trouble understanding Jesus' command that we should not. I used to think of planning: life would soon fall into chaos if I didn't think about tomorrow. But since I had my stroke, I have found myself thinking about tomorrow with fear. What if I never recover fully? What if I am permanently dependent on others for care? How will I bear it? And those thoughts are dangerous.

About 50% of stroke victims suffer depression, and I can understand why. With each disability, so much is lost, not only in the present, but in the future. So many plans and hopes will not now be realised. I have not suffered depression, but I feel what I call 'the black pit' looming just out of sight, to swallow me if I dwell on these things or begin to despair. Yet when I look back, the experience I went through in the early days after my stroke should have thrown me in the pit. Yet I bore it all, and even managed to smile.

As I thought of possible futures and how I could bear them, I looked back and thought of how I bore my previous suffering. Only through God's grace. I do not have the fortitude. In worldly terms, I couldn't bear it. But I did. So in the future, my only hope of bearing whatever comes is the same. I have to rely on God.

Corrie Ten Boom was a Dutch lady whose family sheltered Jews during the German occupation and who were betrayed and sent to a concentration camp. I remember reading in one of her books that she asked her father what if they were sent to a concentration camp. He replied by asking her "When we go on a trip, when do I give you your train ticket?" She replied that he gave it to her when she reached the station. He said that, in the same way, God would give her the grace she needed when she needed it, and not before.

Now I understand what Jesus meant. If I worry about future suffering, it will ruin my present, because I am trying to bear something that has not yet happened and I have not yet received grace for. I receive grace today to bear today's trouble.

Matt.6:34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
2 Cor.12:9 My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.

Saturday, 4 December 2010

Scribbling Saturday: NaNoWriMo: The End

Well, NaNoWriMo is over for another year. I took part for the first time, and I didn't win - or did I? The strict definition of winning is to write 50,000 words in a month, and get your word count validated on the web site. I managed 37,045 words, so I didn't win. But the benefits have been enormous, so I feel like a winner.

For one thing, I have never written that number of words in that short a time before - so that's a winner.

The story I wrote was another about my space ship the Kestrel. All previous stories have been around 25,000 words after a couple of drafts. This one was 37,045 after the initial write and a quick review - so that's a winner.

I write when the fancy takes me, sometimes not for days. I just wrote hundreds of words every day for 30 days - that's a winner.

The outline for my stories has been the overall plot and a few cardboard characters, which causes long pauses in writing while I decide each set of details as I come to them. This story was outlined in detail during the month before - so that's a winner.

And the biggest winner was my confidence. Even if my Kestrel stories are never good enough to publish, I have proved to myself that I can come up with ideas and I have the self discipline to work every day, which I am certain will carry over into other areas of my life.

So, all things considered. I'm a winner!

Friday, 3 December 2010

Thinking Thursday: In Christ and Into Action

God has no special favourites. He is willing to work through any person who is willing to let him. God has no plans outside of Jesus Christ, and we share in the outworking of those plans by virtue of being 'in Christ'.

When a person becomes a Christian, there are two things which take place in their experience: Christ comes to live in them, and they come to live in Christ.

Col.1:27 … Christ in you, the hope of glory.
Col.3:3 … your life is now hidden with Christ in God.

Your body is the means whereby the real you, who lives within it, is able to be expressed, through which your thoughts are spoken, your plans fulfilled, and your work done. Without a body none of these things would take place. When we become a Christian, we become part of Christ's body, through which he will speak and act.

1 Cor.12:27 Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is part of it.
Eph.5:30 … for we are members of his body

Serving the Lord Jesus Christ is not an 'optional extra' to the Christian life, but is an inevitable part of the relationship with Christ into which we have been brought.

Eph.4:16 From him, the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.
1 Peter 4:10 Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others.

God does not want us primarily to be dedicated to causes, but to be available to Christ! He may call us to give our lives in the interest of some particular cause, but our commitment is primarily to Christ, and consequently, to anything he has given us to do. Every new morning we can anticipate that the Lord Jesus Christ will be free to express himself through us that day, and accomplish some aspect of his work, whether we can identify that he has done or not. This is our privilege, and this is our responsibility.

For Christ to be in us gives us power. But for us to be in Christ gives us purpose.
For Christ to be in us gives us resources. But for us to be in Christ gives us responsibilities.
For Christ to be in us is dynamic. But for us to be in Christ is demanding.

This is the Christian life. Having faced our failure to express his likeness and image in the world, we come to the cross for forgiveness, to become the vehicle for the expression of his life and purpose.

The world desperately needs to know this, but will have no grounds on which to believe it until they see the life and character of Jesus Christ lived out in your life and mine. This is God's purpose for you! It was his purpose when he first created man, and is therefore the only thing that makes life make sense in any ultimate way. Have you found reality in Jesus Christ, or have you substituted it with something else?

[Based on Christ For Real by Charles W Price]