Lessons I’m learning from: Luke 7 (Come as you are)

v 50 ‘Jesus said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace”‘.

Luke 7 presents these one on one accounts between Jesus and others, they are intimate encounters which result in healing and forgiveness. Beginning with the faith of the Centurion, which is not face to face but an intimate demonstration of faith. We also see the depth of Jesus’ emotional connection with the raising of the widow’s son. Finally, Jesus being anointed by the sinful woman. An outcast who was saved by her beautiful act of faith. Mixed in with these encounters is the conversation between Jesus and John’s disciples.  I repeat what I wrote in my last blog. Hope was rising and God was using the most unlikely heroes to do it. For there is power in a willing and obedient heart.

The first aspect that struck me in the account of the faith of the Centurion, was how the Centurion was portrayed to Jesus. The account tell us how the servant of the Centurion who was highly favoured was gravely ill. The Centurion having heard of Jesus, sends some of the elders of the Jews to meet him. What struck me was how the elders spoke to Jesus. v4-5 ‘When they came to Jesus, they pleaded earnestly with him, “This man deserves to have you do this, because he loves our nation and has built our synagogue.”‘. Their belief that due to the Centurion’s good work he deserves and is obligated to receive this healing. It reminded me of what our prayer life can be like. We are told to ask, seek and knock. Our asking should be in faith and in trust that God will give us what we need in accordance with his will. Truthfully, many of us believe we are entitled to good things and healing because of the ‘good’ deeds we have performed. That is totally the wrong mindset. God does not need us to do anything for him because he is God. The deeds we do are in gratitude and trust in God who has already given us so much.

Their request is met by Jesus going with them, only for them to be halted not far from the Centurion’s house . v6-7 ‘He was not far from the house when the centurion sent friends to say to him, “Lord , don’t trouble yourself. for I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. That is why I did not consider myself worthy to come to you. But say the word and my servant will be healed.”‘. A complete contrast to how he was being perceived by others. The Centurion was aware that nothing he had achieved would be able to save his servant’s life. That power and authority came through Jesus. The faith that it was a word from Jesus that was needed not his physical presence, for the centurion understood power and authority when he saw it for that was the life that he knew. Through the centurion’s faith, Jesus is amazed and proclaims to the crowd. v9 ‘When Jesus heard this, he was amazed at him and turning to the crowd following him, he said. “I tell you, I have not found such great faith even in Israel.”‘A humble pursuit of healing, putting trust and faith in Jesus even without needing his physical presence. Putting faith in who Jesus is rather than demanding him to be who you want him to be.

The second account is the raising of the widow’s son. Another incredible miracle that takes place, The aspect I want us to focus on is the emotional response to this situation. v 12 ‘As he approached the town gate, a dead person was being carried out- the only son of his mother, and she was a widow.’ This verse helps to give context to the account, how much the woman had lost and the social status she had now received. v 13 ‘When the Lord saw her, his heart went out to her and he said “Don’t cry”.’ It is a reminder for us all. Jesus is very aware our human emotions, he felt them too. He wept when Lazarus died and was enraged when the temple was being misused. Jesus loved, cared and lifted people up. Jesus does not disregard our emotions, he knows our heart and sees the brokenness of the situation we are in. In the case of the widow he turned a hopeless situation into one of hope and renewed purpose. Which bought hope not just to the widow and the son but also to the people who witnessed the miracle. v16 ‘They were all filled with awe and praised God. “A great Prophet has appeared among us”, they said, “God has come to help his people.”‘. 

Jesus can and will work in incredible ways in our lives. This account shows no demonstration of the widow’s faith. However, as the light of the world Jesus enters into this bleak and dark situation and brings life and healing. There will be and have been times in our lives, were Jesus has pulled us through without us even realising. Where Jesus has shown up when our minds and hearts have been over-whelmed. It reminds me of the words written in ‘The footprints in the sand’, ‘He whispered, “My precious child, I love you and will never leave you. Never, ever, during your trails and testings. When you saw only one set of footprints. It was then I carried you”‘. Let us not give up our hope too easily, for we have a Saviour that never leaves us or forsakes us. Jesus will meet us in our happiest and our darkest circumstances. Regardless of how the situation may end; we have a Saviour who holds us through it all and knows what exactly we are going through.

The final aspect to look at (there has been a lot this week) is the widow who anoints Jesus. v 37 ‘A woman in that town who lived a sinful life learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisees house, so she came there with an alabaster jar of perfume.’.This account is incredibly beautiful and intimate, she would have had to rise up above the social stigma to end up at the feet of Jesus. She is incredibly humbled before Jesus as she does not even face him. She gives her entire self to this action. v38 ‘As she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them.’

Many of us, myself included, can learn a valuable lesson from this sinful woman. For she knew her shame and came to the Lord and sacrificed all she was to serve him. I think the fault of many of us is we attempt to be on the same level as Jesus. Which is never what was intended. The Pharisee show this best v39 ‘When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is- that she is a sinner.”‘ Jesus promptly puts him in his place, for he is no better. For he regarded himself too highly that he even forgot the custom of serving a guest. It is a fault that we are all capable of. That we all become too complacent, that we forget to come humbly before the Lord as we have become too familiar with our belief of who he is. May we never forget that we are no better than the sinful woman. We have such a vast amount of love and grace poured onto us, that we should never think we are on level with Jesus. v47 ‘Therefore, I tell you, her many sins are forgiven- as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little’.

There is much more that can be uncovered in Luke 7, I have only highlighted a few aspects. I pray that it has been an encouragement and you will explore the text for yourself.

This wraps up the June blogs,we will continue to explore the gospel of Luke throughout July.

May you have a blessed week. Remember you are loved and cherished. Love Victoria. xx

Lessons I’m learning from: Luke’s gospel, Chp 1. (Faithfulness, Transformation and Promise.)

Luke 1v14 ‘He will be a joy and a delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth’.

I  was going to do chapters 1-4 but on reflection there is much to learn from the first chapter. In honesty, when I decided I was going to read Luke’s gospel I was going to skip the first four chapters so that I could get into the main bulk of Jesus’ ministry. There is value in each chapter within the gospel or it would not be there as it would take away from the truth of the good news Luke was trying to share. The people who helped pave the way, there is much to learn from their faithfulness.

Chapter One of Luke is a long chapter with a lot of information. That includes both the birth of John the Baptist and Jesus being foretold. There is Mary visiting Elizabeth and Mary’s song. Then there is John the Baptist’s birth and Zechariah’s song. It is a beautiful chapter to take your time to read through because it is full of promises, faithfulness and transformation.

I want to focus on Elizabeth and Zechariah who were people known for their faithfulness. v6 ‘Both of them were righteous in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s commands and decrees blamelessly.’ However, Elizabeth was barren and to those looking at her and Zechariah’s life they would have claimed that they were not blessed by God. v 7 ‘But they were childless because Elizabeth was not able to conceive, and they were both very old.’ Throughout the Bible, we are reminded that there is no barrier that can stop God’s blessing on our lives. Elizabeth’s story is familiar with the Old Testament story of Sarah and Abraham. Both Sarah and Abraham were advanced in their years, Sarah was beyond child bearing age. They were promised that in a years time, from the visitors that spoke with them that Sarah would bear a son. The account continues that Sarah laughed, understandably she looked at herself physically and the years that had passed and saw frailty. Her doubt is questioned when the Lord says, Genesis 18v13-14 ‘ Then the Lord said to Abraham , “Why did Sarah laugh and say, ‘Will I really have a child now that I am old?’ Is anything to hard for the Lord? I will return to you at the appointed time next year, and Sarah will have a son.” 

Similar to the account, when Zechariah is told of the child Elizabeth will bear he has doubt too. That comes, again, by looking at the frailty of who they are. Luke 1v18 ‘Zechariah asked the angel, “How can  I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.”. Again, God proves them wrong and Zechariah is silenced until the birth of his son because of his doubt. v20 ‘And now you will be silent and not able to speak until the day this happens, because you did not believe my words, which will come true at their appointed time.’ There is a blessing in the silence as we will look at later in the chapter. The context of where Zechariah is at the time is important, he was in the temple of the Lord burning incense. He was chosen by lot through his priestly division. When he came back out and had been silenced, the people were made aware that he had seen a vision but because he did not speak there was no knowing what it was.

What struck me was the words that the angel used to describe the child that Elizabeth and Zechariah would have. It was no ordinary child, in their waiting they were blessed with a child who had great purpose. v16-17 ‘He will bring back many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous- to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” These were the notes that I wrote after reading these verses. Through the faithfulness of Zechariah and Elizabeth they were blessed with a child, they also enabled others to be blessed due to their faithfulness. I do believe that there is always fruit within faithfulness, whether it is fruitful for our own life or for someone else either is a blessing. I would encourage you to read Hebrews 11 to see this in action. Through their faithfulness it brings transformation. For Elizabeth, when she finds out that she is pregnant she rejoices. v 25 ‘”The Lord has done this for me,” she said. “In these days he has shown us his favour and taken away my disgrace among the people.”‘ 

In looking at how God transformed their life, not for their glory but for his glory is a reminder for us all. In our faithfulness, we are not doing it so that we can be rewarded. Sometimes that can be our mindset, we believe because we have a great faith we deserve all these incredible gifts and blessings. That is not true. Their is truth in God using our life for his good and his purpose, where it may bring blessing upon our life or it may be through our suffering that someone else is blessed. We have to learn to trust in God’s timing and in his will. It is easy to write but it is not easy to do. That is why day by day we need to surrender and be obedient to who he has called us to be. There have been many faithful servants who have gone before us to pave the way so that we can have our faith and freedom. May we not take that as our right but keep on fighting the good fight, for all those who are suffering and oppressed. Through faithfulness there will be transformation, may we trust that it is all in accordance with God’s will.

Lastly, let’s go back to Zechariah. After the birth of his son his voice is returned to him after the naming of his child. Filled with the Holy Spirit his song is recorded, these are the verses that I would like to highlight.  v76-79 ‘And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare the way for him, to give his people the knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins, because of the tender mercy of our God, by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death to guide our feet into the path of peace.’ Hope was rising and God was using the most unlikely heroes to do it. For there is power in a willing and obedient heart.

I am going to continue looking at Luke’s gospel for the next few weeks. Not chapter by chapter but thematically. I pray that they would encourage you in your faith and allow you to pursue God’s word within your life.

You are so loved and cherished. Have a wonderful week. Love Victoria. xx

Lessons I’m learning from: Comparison (Part 2, Purpose)

Matthew 25v14-16 ‘Again , it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his wealth to them. To one he gave five bags of gold, to another two bags of gold, and to another one bag, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey.’

I begin this blog by looking at the parable of the bags of gold. It was a parable that I was reminded of when I was having some quiet time with God. The question that popped into my head was, is that one bag of gold still significant? My answer was yes, it still has worth and purpose. To give some context on why this parable served to be a reminder, I had finished listening to a podcast on comparison. I was praying over areas of my life that I had been comparing and wanting to surrender them to God. This parable linked to my comparison of my social media and my blog, neither have a high number of viewings or following. I needed that reminder that what I was doing still had worth but also to be humbled too. The reason I shut down my original Instagram was I wanted to have a page that was focused on my blog and on ministry work. It was no longer glorifying myself but about getting God’s word out there, it did not matter about the followers it mattered that it was a place where encouragement and truth would be found. In getting distracted with the numbers, I forgot my purpose. This is the message of the blog today, I pray that if you have been going through the same thing or lacking courage to start something that you have been called to do then this will be of help.

Let’s go back to the Parable, these servants have been given various amounts of gold bags. The one who was given five put it to work and gained five more, as with the one with two gained two more. As for the servant who had one, what did he do with it? 25v18 ‘But the man who had received one bag went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.’ I have read this parable many times and rolled my eyes when it came to the servant with one bag. Why could he have not followed what the other servants were doing? What I came to realise this week, many of us are the servant who was entrusted with the one bag of gold. We look at what the other servants have been entrusted with and feel belittled and unworthy. An important point to remember from the verses at the beginning was that the bags of gold they were given, were in accordance with their ability. That means that they were not given too much or too little. That man who was given the one bag was entrusted with it because the Master knew that the servant could use it purposefully. It was the servant’s choice to bury it. Capability was seen in him but he lacked knowing the purpose behind what he had been given. This is an important reminder for us all, That no matter how small we may feel our purpose is in our creative outlets or even in our jobs, that we need to learn to be faithful to build on what we have been given. We never gain more by doing nothing but our pursuit in life should not always be about having thousands of followers or friends etc. We lose our purpose quickly when we go running after what other people have.

I will put myself in the servant”s shoes with the one bag of gold. I have been entrusted with writing this blog, it is something that I choose to do faithfully each week regardless of the amount of people who read it. I know that my family always read this, hello everyone. I know truthfully that there are people with many more followers on their blog who are writing about the same topic that I am and are receiving a lot more from that. There are times where it could be so easy to bury this blog, to get rid of it and to spend this time doing something else. I know there is fruit in the faithfulness, even in this blog makes a change in one person’s life then it has never been wasted. Even if it makes a change in no ones life reading it, it has made a change in my life by doing it. It has enabled me to see how the purpose of God flows through everything and how his word truly is the living word.

I feel that there are many people who are called to do things creatively but who look at influencers who have so many followers and everything else and believe that what they are called to do has no purpose. Take your eyes off of what other people have and trust what you have been given. Many of us are not called to have millions of followers and we need to realise to have millions of followers would really impact how we live our life. It certainly would not impact it in a positive way, a lot of the time. I have 79 followers on my Instagram page,  that is still 79 different people who follow me which probably includes some bots.  Imagine sitting in a room with those 79 people, what you post online will have a possible impact on some of them or all of them. It is important that what we are putting online is not misguiding or something that is just been created for those people. I use my Instagram to post encouragements from God’s truth, that I hope will inspire and give hope to people. It is about planting those seeds, not about me seeing the reward but it is about God being glorified.  This links back to the Parable well, the Master returns each of the servants are asked to give an account of what they have done with the bags of gold. The servant entrusted with five bags gives five bags more and the one with two bags gives two bags more. The Master replies 25v21 ‘Well done, good and faithful servant ! You have been faithful with few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your Master’s happiness.’

As for the one who had buried his one bag, v24 ‘Then the man who had received one bag of gold came. ‘Master’ he said, ‘I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. So I was afraid and went out and hid your gold in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.’ May we not be like this servant, who gives back to God the incredible gifts and talents that he has blessed us with. Having wasted our life running in fear because we do not compare to the worldly comparisons around us. I pray for each of you reading this, that you would allow God to enable you to step boldly into what he has called you to do. Do not allow your life to fly by you, missing out on all the opportunities that you have been called to serve and bless. There is much more to life than our social media standing or even our social status with our peers and work colleagues. Many of us will bury the good blessings that we have been entrusted with because we do not know the capability that God sees in us to use them. It is only through surrender to God that we come to know all that he has called us to do. That we take the focus off ourselves and realise that the life that we live is not for our glory, it is a life in which we are called to glorify God. It is through our relationship with Jesus that we come to that intimate place of surrender and humility and we enable our lives to be used for God’s glory. It will not always be the easiest path but it will reap the greatest blessings.

What was the Master’s reply to this servant? 25v26 ,28-30‘…You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed? … ‘So take the bag of gold from him and give it to the one who has ten bags. For whoever has will be given more, and they will have abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them. And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be reaping and gnashing of teeth.’ The servant lost his purpose, lost his worth and was cast away from all that he could have had. May we keep surrendering all that we are and all who we want to be to God. May we allow his guidance and transformation over our life, to get us to the end. May we cast aside comparison and rejection and lies. May we as the church build each other up. Supporting one another and coming together to create something beautiful which honours and lifts up the name of Jesus not us.

‘Our life is a small life but a powerful life when lived inside the heart of God’ – Heidi Baker

Have a blessed week, you are loved and cherished. Love Victoria xx

Lessons I’m learning from: what my heart is pursuing.

(Proverbs 4v23) ‘Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.’

I have been reading Proverbs over the past few weeks. Each chapter is full of wise sayings, the outcome either being life-giving or soul destroying. To disregard wisdom is to make room for folly, which only leads to destruction. In comparison, to pursue wisdom is life giving, (Proverbs 16v22) ‘Prudence is a fountain of life to the prudent, but folly brings punishment to fools.’ In reading Proverbs it has led me to reflect on the condition of my heart. Each day, what am I filling it with? It is a question for us all to reflect on. Each day, what are we allowing to occupy our heart? Is it words of truth and life or words of death and bitterness? We are reminded throughout scripture to guard our hearts, it is where death or life flows from. Whatever flows from our heart, does it honour or dishonour God? Does it impact people in a positive or negative way? I am still learning each day what it means to guard my heart, here is what I am learning so far.

(Mark 12v29-31) ‘ “The most important one,” answered Jesus, ” is this. Hear O Israel; The Lord you God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this, Love your neighbour as yourself.”‘ To love God with all our heart, means that we cannot have a divided heart. That we can either pursue God wholeheartedly or we can allow the things of this world to lure us away from the truth. Do not get me wrong, there are many wonderful things in this world. They are pleasing and are sold as life giving. In truth, they are not long lasting and to find that pleasure we have to constantly keep consuming. We empty ourselves pursuing things that will always need updated and replaced. When in reality it is God who can and will fulfil us. I do not write this because I am perfect and fully pursue God. However, I do know the reality of finding my fulfilment in God compared to trying to get it from the world. I know that when I disconnect myself from pursuing God so that I can pursue the world; I am easily defeated and overwhelmed.

It is only by staying connected to Jesus that my heart will find its purpose and life. It is the same for us all, that is why Jesus taught that we must stay connected to him. (John 15v5-6) ‘I am the vine and you are the branches. If you remain in  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.’. Without Jesus we become lifeless; it is through him that we meet grace, life and purpose. No teacher, preacher, artist or celebrity can save us. No fad or technology can give us lasting fulfilment. We becomes lifeless because we pursue the things that take the life from us. I am not saying that we cannot enjoy things here on earth, many of them are good gifts from God. The difference, is not making them our lifeline and our be all and end all. It is easy to put our security in things we see but completely different to put our faith in a true and everlasting God.

We all make choices about what we want to fill us. We pursue what we believe will give us purpose. It is our own individual decision, we have to deal with the consequences. We chose whether to pursue life or death.

In dealing with my heart I had to deal with my emotions. I am a sensitive person and my emotions can easily cloud my judgement.  I am sure I am not alone in allowing this to happen. When someone has hurt me I can easily allow bitterness and resentment to take root in my heart. Already, my heart is not loving God fully because I am harbouring hate in my heart. Instead of surrendering it to God and allowing him to give the wisdom to deal with the situation in grace and truth. (Proverbs 17v14) ‘Starting a quarrel is like breaching a dam; so drop the matter before a dispute breaks out.’. To let bitterness take root leads to many mis-truths and assumptions taking root. What started as a spark turns into a wildfire. Many people get dragged into the mess and more people get hurt. I was dealing with these feelings this week, I was urged to pray and surrender the entire situation to God. To give it to God does not mean it does not hurt anymore. It means that the hurt no longer has the power to control you and the emotion that was clouding your judgement is lifted. I prayed ‘May you uproot the root of bitterness and resentment that has begun to take root in my heart. May you remove it far from me and instead fill my heart with your grace and truth. May my words be gracious and timely.’ It was a prayer of surrender because I wanted Jesus to have full control of my heart again. I wanted my fulfilment to come from the purpose he pours into my life. Not to be filled by bitterness which will lead to darkness and destruction. Some of you reading this will have deep hurts and I pray that in time by surrendering it to Jesus; that even though the scars may not heal, you will know a peace and grace over your life.

I am continuously learning what it means to surrender and allow my heart to be truly devoted to God. It is not easy but it is not something we do on our own. I truly believe that where God sees a willing heart, he will nurture and enable the believer to know him in a deeper way. I was reminded that even David, who was known as ‘a man after God’s own heart’ made mistakes. Through repentance and forgiveness, he never stopped pursuing God. Let us not get side tracked by our sin, believing that God’s grace cannot meet us there. May our hearts be in full pursuit of God and he will guide our steps.

(Proverbs 16v3) ‘Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and he will establish your plans.’ 

May you have a blessed week. Remember that you are loved and cherished. Love Victoria. xx

Lessons I’m learning from: Rest.

This is a much shorter blog than normal; the past week my body crashed and I have spent the non-working hours sleeping. This lesson in pretty relevant.

Rest is something I have been learning to put into my daily routine. I am not the best person at being still, when I sit down I condemn myself for being lazy. I have been learning that to just keep going is not the answer. When I believe rest is found in scrolling through social media and binge watching Netflix, I am left feeling drained and exhausted. I have been learning to prioritise my time, cut down my social media and Netflix use and have started going to bed at a reasonable time.

Rest is vital in a world that is connected 24/7 and is fighting to have our attention and time constantly. I have found the more I give of myself, the more that people will take. To keep going was how I was motivated to live because I feared missing out. It was a reckless way to live because there is such peace and joy in rest. In knowing that  I can leave/surrender all my worries to God. Has enabled me to accept rest as a necessity. For God even rested on the 7th day. If God saw rest as vital, then it is not something that I should simply disregard.

One of the most famous Bible verses, Psalm 46v10 ‘He says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.’. If we are commanded to be still, then we need to learn to do that. To have faith in all things that God is in control, to know that the fear we have can be surrendered. This is something I am learning to do daily, I am a constant worrier and I fret over EVERYTHING. Slowly but surely, Jesus is enabling me to surrender control and allowing his peace to flow into the situation. Even yesterday, God reminded me to see the beauty and the freedom in what I enjoy doing to give me rest and peace after a long week. That each moment of my life does not have to be so pressurised and timed. Rest is a blessing to receive, for now it is something I can enjoy doing without any commitments to other people. For now I am going to enjoy resting.

I pray that if you have been going non-stop, please slow down and rest. If it takes your body to crash for you to slow down, that will only ever do you more harm than good. Take some time to breathe in the fresh air, give yourself time away from the things that consume all your time. Do not be afraid to ask for help, you are not meant to do life on our own.

May you always remember that you are loved and cherished. May you have a blessed week, finding peace where you can. Love Victoria. xx