My dream of swimming with turtles was fulfilled in October 2022 when I went snorkelling in Bali. God made clear to me how this experience was much like a decision to live the abundant life that God has already given us. So many people live with their heads above the water, totally unaware of the beauty of the life God can show us if we dare to put our head under the water and see life from a different perspective. God’s world is utterly beautiful and teeming with colour, variety and most of all the unexpected. This ocean can be likened to our inner world with God. The more we spend time in this inner world, the more we see and experience what we could never have imagined if we kept our heads above the water line. How beautiful our world looks is up to us and how much time we spend exploring God’s world. When we spend time with God, or under the ocean (in this analogy) the more we see the miraculous. I want to see the hidden depths of God and experience the wonder and surprise only God can provide in every moment of my life. When we arrived at the snorkelling site I made it very clear I was there to see turtles. The guide said he couldn’t guarantee seeing them and I said I know I will see them as I have prayed about it and had faith that I would see them. He looked at me bemused about my belief but I knew I would see them and sure enough at the second site a turtle had come up for air and so I jumped in and watched it swim. I can ask for miracles knowing God can make them happen. This world was astonishing, and I could have stayed under the sea for so long. This inner world that God and I share is just mine and His, it will never look like anyone else’s. Yours will be different but equally as abundant. God has miracles just for you, prayers that He will only answer for you. He is longing to show you, He wants to pour out blessings on you. He wants to lavishly give you experiences of His love but He can’t do this is you stay on the surface. We have to dive deep on this awe-inspiring journey that is just for you. Spend time with Him, invite Him in, allow Him to show you secret places that may feel frightening but He can light up and make safe. The more you explore God the more you can distinguish between His voice and everyone else’s. When you can always find the Father’s voice, the world changes for good.
John 15:5-8 says “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit. Showing yourselves to be my disciples.”
I felt uncomfortable with the idea of abiding in Jesus as it felt like a passive thing to do, I abide and he does the rest but abiding is active. In John 15:10 Jesus says “If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love”. We keep those commandments for the right reasons, to show our love for God not to earn it. God loves us the same whatever we do but isn’t it amazing when we can show God love in return by doing things for his glory. When we abide, we realise, just like a branch, we can’t grow without him, we can’t survive or bear fruit without him. We are pruned to take away the things that are distracting us from bearing fruit. Sometimes that really hurts at the time as parts of our life are cut away. I would say this though, I am not at all where I thought I would be twenty years ago or even five years ago, God has pruned me so that I start to grow in the right direction. Ten years ago, I was an unhealthy, unfit drugs counsellor with no relationship with Jesus and I thought I knew exactly where my life was heading. I am now a Christian personal trainer who loves Jesus and wants the world to get fitter for God…that took a lot of pruning! I still don’t have it right. I am still plugged into many wrongs things and try to source my happiness from other places than God but those things never work and never last. I am a work in progress but by God’s grace I am at least now in his vineyard! Ten years ago, I wasn’t even in his vineyard, I wasn’t even attached to his vine, so I thank God for bringing me in and choosing me.
In abiding in Jesus, the Scripture clearly states that he will produce the fruit, not us, but him. Did you hear that guarantee? If we abide in Him we will bear fruit. I was challenged by a sermon this week that asked that if we transcribed our prayers over the past month, how would they read? Would the overarching theme be abide in me or something entirely different. Bearing fruit is about bringing other people to Jesus. We can produce no fruit, some fruit, much fruit or more fruit. That’s a squirm in my chair moment when I think about how many people I have and haven’t brought to Jesus since I became a Christian. This is our mission and yet we can’t just leave it to Jesus and take no action ourselves. Surely, if we live as Jesus commands people will want to know about this Jesus seeing us live our best lives (and I don’t mean the facebook/Instagram version of a best life). We should be intentional in the time we spend with God to fill us up. When we live with an overflow of God’s love we can pour that love out onto others, in other words, you can’t give what you haven’t got.
Standing out on a street corner declaring the love of Jesus doesn’t have to be the way to bring people to God, it is about how we live and inviting others to come to know him. Pastor John Jenkins breaks it down into easy steps which don’t feel too threatening to me. He uses the acronym BLESS:
B – begin with prayer – ask the person who is yet to know Jesus or who has walked away from Jesus, what is the need in your life?
L – Listen to them
E – Eat a meal with them
S – Serve a need that they have
S – share your story; we can argue when it comes to Bible verses but no one can argue with how Jesus has changed our lives.
If we all did this, how many more people would be in the vineyard with us, bearing more fruit for the glory of God?
I have been studying the way to have an abundant life and God has made it very clear that to claim this abundant life I need to allow myself to be vulnerable. I like to look like I am perfect, that I have got it all together and I hate it when I drop a ball I am juggling. If I am honest, even if I am overwhelmed, I want people to think that life is a breeze for me. I feel that sense of pride when someone says “I don’t know how you do everything you do” but I have come to realize that this attitude is dangerous for many reasons:
- I am teaching my children the same ideal. Relationships make clear what we need to work on. It is easy to be perfect if we are only in a relationship with Jesus but in other relationships they hold up a mirror to our flawed thinking and behaviour. For example, this week my son left his gum shield for rugby in my Dad’s car who was away on holiday. I got really annoyed with him whilst he berated himself for his forgetfulness. Later, as we prayed together the Holy Spirit whispered to me to pray with him saying that his forgetfulness is part of God’s design of him and it is ok not to be perfect as God loves him exactly as he is. It was a lightbulb moment for me. I was giving my son permission to not be perfect just as Jesus gives me the grace to not expect perfection from myself. I need to teach my son the same love and grace when he makes mistakes that God shows to me so he knows he is always worthy of love and he will always be enough for me and for God.
- Vulnerability reminds me I am alive. Vulnerability shows me I love. It requires faith which helps me grow in my relationship with God. Brene Brown, who researched vulnerability, suggests that when we numb feelings of vulnerability with food, alcohol etc, we can’t pick and choose the emotions that get numbed, it numbs them all including the happy emotions like joy, peace and love. Jesus showed his vulnerability in his humanity. The best example of this is in Luke 22:42 before his crucifixion when he says “Father, if you are willing to take this cup from me. Yet not my will but yours be done.” Jesus knew the pain to come and asked if it could be removed but also surrendered to God in that suffering.
- Vulnerability leads to power, when I am weak I have to rely on God. “For my weakness becomes a portal to God’s power” (2 Cor 12: 9-10). God’s power is in his armour so we can be dressed for spiritual success. In Ephesians 6:18 says “pray in the spirit in all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for the Lord’s people.” We put on the armour in prayer. We put on the belt of truth saying that we believe what God has told us, we put on the breastplate of righteousness by acting based on what God has said. We put on the shoes of peace asking him how us to move forward. We put on the shield of faith praying to God that He support us in our actions. We put on the helmet of salvation asking God to take away distractions from His perspective. We hold the sword of the word of God to give us the right verse at the right time. Remember, David had to fight Goliath only after he was anointed, this is when the devil strikes, when we can do damage to his plan of destruction.
- It gives me clarity. Sin is an indication of needs and an incorrect mindset we haven’t taken to God and dealt with. We can’t have beauty without ashes.
- It teaches us humility. Jesus, when afraid, asked for his friends around him and asked God to help him and we can do the same. It removes the pride that so often sneaks into our hearts.
- It teaches us to be secure, not on our own but in how God sees us. Psalm 139:23 requests “explore me, O God, and know the real me”. Once our real selves to us, as God already knows us inside and out, we can be free. Luke 11:36 says “if you are filled with light, with no dark corners, then your whole life will be radiant as though a floodlight were filling you with light”. When we see ourselves as God sees us we can begin to feel worthy. When we experience and know the love of God, we can remove the need for perfection and bathe in the warmth of his love for us. In the Bible it is described as though Jesus is our bridegroom. “Because he delights in me, he saved me,” Psalm 18:19 …it is hard to get my head round but we need to do nothing to earn his love, we don’t need to be perfect, we just need to enjoy it. God loves us enough to bring flowers every spring, a sunrise every morning, open arms for us to run to whenever we want it, a listening ear whenever we need it. When Adam sinned and hid, God knew what he had done but still went to look for him. He still wanted to be with him and he does to us when we sin.
We can be vulnerable to learn to be more like Jesus knowing that when we get it wrong, because we undoubtedly will, God’s grace is sufficient. He will never stop loving us, His love is reckless, powerful and life changing so if you are vulnerable right now, let God use it to bring you closer to Him.
I have an amazing husband who I have been with for twenty one years. He is patient, kind, an amazing father, funny, loyal and a fantastic cook (that is important too) but he is not a Christian. He believes in God but is not born again. I have been praying a great deal for him to find God so we can grow together in our faith but as yet it hasn’t happened. I have been praying pretty much everyday about this and asking if today may be the day that he is filled with the Holy Spirit. I have been getting sad about the fact is hasn’t happened yet but listening to a podcast today I had a realization. The podcast said that in the winter, when the trees are bare, when they are in a season of waiting for spring, the trees are not panicking that they will not blossom again but are busy resting and growing roots which is what a season of waiting can do for us. We can see through the trees with much more clarity when it is winter. A period of waiting should be a period of action. We should be using this time to learn more about God’s nature. As I prayed again for my husband the Holy Spirit asked if I really thought He wouldn’t make this happen and reminded me that Jim is His child just as I am and I should pray differently for him. My prayers should be a reminder that He loves him so today I prayed differently,
I am thankful that my husband is the apple of your eye (Deut 32:10). Thank you that your love for my husband endures forever (Psalm 136:26). Thank you that nothing can separate my husband from your love. He is more than a conqueror through Christ Jesus who strengthens him (Romans 8:37-39). I thank you that your love for my husband cannot be shaken (Is 54:10). I thank you that your love for my husband is compassionate, merciful and faithful (Psalm 86:15). I am thankful that you rejoice over my husband with singing (Zeph 3:17). Thank you that your love is my husband’s refuge. Nothing will come to him or upon him except your love (Psalm 5:11-12)
This prayer reminds me of the nature of a God who loves us. It is a prayer of power and not of fear. If this period of waiting is needed to show me more of the true nature of God and keeps allowing me to bear fruit then I will keep waiting happily, worshiping a God who is faithful. What is God trying to teach you in your period of waiting?
Inspired by one of my friends who writes so eloquently about the love of God I decided to give it a go myself…I hope it strengthens you and helps you see a side of God you not seen before:
Living in the presence of God
It is the warmth of being enclosed in feathers under His wings,
The fluid around a baby safe in its mother’s womb,
The overflow of a waterfall, the sound of the angels deafening our fears,
The exhale of breath when all is well,
The roar of a lion protecting it’s own.
It’s an outrageous expectation of the miraculous,
The melody of a song only you can sing
The hidden whisperings in your heart that tells you, you are enough, that you are recklessly loved
like a burning fire unashamedly spreading, the wind that blows its own course, the waves crashing, carving out its own design on the rocks
A love that is fierce and abundant and yet fits into our human hearts, a never-ending reflection of His glory.
A design of His created to magnify another side of God’s face. It is home.
It is the snuggled envelopment of a blanket, it is the arms and legs of a child wrapping your body in love.
It is the gentle touch of a husband.
It is the thoughtfulness of friends.
It is stepping out and knowing you will be held.
It is the nudge of God when you neglect to pray.
It is the words given to speak when no words can be found.
It is barefeet in the sand, the sunshine on your face, the unexpected in a day of routine.
It is our anthem, our beat, our rhythm given only to us to sing our song of triumph and redemption.
It is our heartbeat, our purpose, our fingerprint on the world. He is the compass on our own path, a path designed only for us.
It is unique, it is ours and it is a free gracious gift so we can be extraordinary.
On Sunday, the sermon was about serving with a smile and Sarah said we should be living for an audience of one. That idea has left me unsettled this week. I know that I so often don’t live for an audience of one. I want thanks for doing what I do on a daily basis. I complain that my children don’t thank me enough for doing all the mundane jobs behind the scenes. I check for likes and comments on my Instagram posts every morning. I get annoyed when not many people turn up to my classes. I don’t include God in everything. Sometimes I can go quite a while without thinking about Him at all. This isn’t living for an audience of one. This is living for myself. I think this feeling has been made worse because I am reading the book of John and being reminded just how much Jesus gave up for me. He was sin-free and gave his life and here I am moaning about cleaning the bathroom again. Sometimes we need a perspective check so here it is, Romans 12:1 says “so brothers and sisters, since God has shown us great mercy, I beg you to offer your lives as a living sacrifice to Him. Your offering must be only for God and pleasing to Him, which is the spiritual way for you to worship”. Luke 9:62 says “No one who puts a hand to the plough and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.” We don’t need to be focusing on the work we have done but think about the harvest. If we can keep in a season of giving, keep praying for blessings on those who we need to forgive , keep doing it all for the one who gave his life for us to have ours we will be doing it right. This message is for you and me too!
Last year as I stood in a field with my stereo cranked up to full volume at a festival ready to dance alone doing Worshipcise it was made very clear to me that Worshipcise is about God first. It is an hour out of our week to worship. What pleases God most about Worshipcise is, I believe, about what we do with the investment of time we have made together. The energy we expend should mirror the energy we should be giving to fulfilling the commandments of loving one another. The words should act as reminders of God’s promises to us so when we are struggling with setbacks we can remember them. I know the Bible says at the end of our life we will give an account of our lives but I also cherish the idea that the seeds we have sown, we will get to see the fruits from the seeds we sew. Maybe this week we have given a lot of others and are not sure whether its made any difference. It makes a difference to God and its for his glory we do it for so keep sewing seeds and use each day to refuel on the Holy Spirit, give thanks and praise to God who has chosen us to do the good works and get ready for the new battles that God knows are coming. No time for God is ever wasted.
I arrived to drop Frankie off at my Mum’s house this morning and found my dad sitting in the garden with his bible. He looked so peaceful and it just reminded me of the verse “be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10). It has been a beautifully sunny day today. How much time have you spent enjoying it? Have you actually looked out and appreciated the flowers, sky, sun and trees today? You may have been at work rushing around but doesn’t God deserve some time to be thanked for it all. At the end of my bootcamp today, inspired by my Dad, I laid in the grass and looked upa the trees, just spending time in awe that God knows exactly how many leaves, branches and pine cones are on each of the trees. He knows everything. He even knows the movement of the animals in the coldest part of the ocean. It’s just mind blowing! When we rush, we don’t notice the miracles right in front of our eyes.
I am going to challenge you because this issue keeps coming up for me so God either wants me to get it or you or both so I’m going to ask you to stand in front of the mirror. What do you see? Do you see a child of God or do you straight away focus on all the bits of the body you don’t like that much? Do you look at your legs and thank God they work and can do God’s works. Do you look at your mouth and thank God we can use it to praise God and tell others about Him. Do you look at your hands and thank God they can be used to do good. If you stood in front of that mirror today with no other influences, no social media telling you how “should” look, just Biblical truth, how would you look at yourself differently? Would you no longer believe the lies the Devil has thrown out into the world but instead KNOW that you are fearfully and wonderfully made, that you are created in God’s image, that there is no flaw in you. If these are truths that are not yet real for you, take a moment to say them in your heart and mind so we remember who our bodies are designed by and for. Look at the parts in the mirror you don’t normally look at and thank God for them.
Faith is defined in Hebrews 11:1 as a “confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see”. Last Sunday, we prayed over a box full of names of people who have not yet given their life to God and we prayed victory in Jesus name for that to come to pass. I added quite a few names to that box. I have been reading a book this week called “Crazy Love” and is asked this question, what are you doing now in your life that requires faith? To be honest it made me squirm a little but because I have written down awesome things I want God to help me achieve in my life but sometimes I go off the boil with praying about them. I pray for them one day and neglect praying for a few days or give up praying because maybe it seems like such a far off goal it won’t happen. It’s like when you start a diet and lose a pound and then don’t lose anything for two weeks so you give up and go back to the chocolate bars. We have all been there! So today, I ask you what are you doing right now that requires faith? If nothing, then that is a whole new challenge. Hebrews 11:6 says “and without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek Him”. God’s pleasuee rests on us having faith. Does your life in faith cause you to live differently? What are you doing n life that without God’s presence, strength and help there is no way you can do it? What has God been pulling you to do that requires faith and you have said no? God wants us to have extraordinary, faith filled adventures. Lets keep praying for one!