By nature, I am an independent person, tending towards pushing ahead and getting things done by relying on my own capabilities and resources. Jesus constantly has to remind me that ‘Apart from Him, I can do nothing’ (John 15:5).
Nothing. Not some things. Nothing.
Nothing of eternal value; nothing that truly matters can be achieved independent of Jesus. A life of mature fruitfulness can only grow out of being fully dependent on Him.
Dependence. The dictionary describes it as the state of relying on or needing someone or something for aid, support, or the like. It can be a humbling thing, a terrifying thing even, to be faced with the inadequacies of our own resources and abilities. But it can also be a beautiful thing.
Twelve times in John 15, Jesus uses the ‘abide’ or ‘remain’, commanding us to abide in Him and in His love, and to allow Him and His Word to abide in us. The word He used meant to sojourn or tarry; not to depart but to be held, kept, continually; to remain as one, not to become another or different, to wait. Dependence is not a restriction upon us, but an invitation to intimacy—an invitation to linger in His presence and allow Him to keep and sustain us.
And if we do this, He promises us we will bear much fruit. Independence is the ground of barrenness but dependence is the soil of fruitfulness.
When I find myself grinding to a halt and all my efforts seem futile; when I find myself feeling spent and empty and my joy is lacking, I have to ask myself this simple question: Am I abiding in Christ?
Let’s start this week with Him and not independent of Him. Let’s linger in His presence and wait for His instruction, trusting Him to grow something beautiful in our lives. Let's choose the beauty of abiding.
I am a terrible passenger—just ask my husband! All my fears and anxieties seem to rise to the surface and my heart starts racing--I've even been known to scream. All this has nothing to do with my husband's driving and everything to do with the fact that I am no longer in control.
In Colossians 2:6-7, Paul writes this: So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in Him, rooted and built up in Him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught and overflowing with thankfulness.
The abundant life Jesus invites us to live through Him begins when we 'receive Him as Lord.' But this 'receiving' is not a one-off event—it is a lifestyle. We must continue to receive Him as Lord, day by day, moment by moment allowing Him to take the wheel.
A 'lord' is 'he to whom a person or things belong, about which he has the power of deciding. One supreme in authority.' We love to talk about receiving Jesus as our friend, as our healer, as our light and our life and even as our Saviour—but as our Lord? Well, that can be a different story. We fear that we will be diminished if we allow Him this place of supreme authority. Yet the simple truth is that without receiving Him as Lord, we cannot truly know Him in these other capacities; we cannot enter into the fullness of all that He offers us.
So Paul tells us to be ‘rooted’ in Christ—in Ephesians he expanded on this, praying that we would be rooted and established in love, so we would have the power to grasp the magnitude of Christ’s love for us and thereby be filled with all the fullness of God (3:17-19). When our roots are planted firmly in the soil of Christ’s love we will no longer be afraid of receiving Him as Lord, because His perfect love drives out fear (1 John 4:18).
Do not believe the lie that submitting to Christ as Lord will diminish you—His lordship is essential to your growth; essential to the fullness we are promised in Christ. Put your roots down deep into the truth that you are immeasurably loved by Him and allow Him to lead the way.
Where do you need to receive Christ as Lord today?
This is a common response in our household when I correct one of my children--rather than accepting responsibility, they're quick to blame someone else for their failure.
I understand this tendency—I don't think anyone particularly enjoys admitting they were wrong. Having to confront our failures and inadequacies can be difficult and ignoring them or sweeping them under the carpet can feel easier—at least initially. I've learned the hard way that what we try to cover up festers, but what we allow God to cover over is transformed.
In Acts 3, Peter exhorted those who had just witnessed him and John heal a crippled man to, "Repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord" (v. 19, NASB).
Repentance. It's not the most popular of words or concepts yet without it, we are robbed of God's refreshing presence. Sin cannot go unchecked—the dirt and mess of our lives obstruct the flow of His Living Water in our lives and we find ourselves dry and empty. Yes, repentance and refreshing go hand-in-hand.
Repentance itself simply means to change one's mind [for the better]; heartily to amend with the abhorrence of one's past sin. In order to change our minds, we have to first acknowledge that something is broken and that there is a better way--God's way. Our salvation begins with repentance, and our sanctification—the process of becoming like Christ—requires us to keep allowing God to change our thinking. Repentance is not an isolated event but a lifestyle that we are called to embrace.
There is a lightness that enters our hearts when we keep short accounts with God; when we allow Him to correct us and to wipe our sin away.
As we begin a new week, let us allow God to cleanse us of the grime of the old one. Let us tarry in His presence and allow Him to examine our hearts and show us a better way—a refreshing way.
Search me, God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.
After a night in town, we found ourselves confronted with the plight of the homeless. It was the first time my daughters had come face-to-face with a problem they had only previously heard of. Their young hearts were troubled. Could they do something they asked? Could they buy a meal for the couple sitting begging by the door?
Stories move me. It's not uncommon when I'm reading or watching something for the tears to well up and my throat to constrict—I willingly and instinctively identify with a character's pain; their story and my own seem to merge as I share the emotions of their suffering. My children groan and berate me when they see this happening. "It's just a story, Mum," they tell me. Truthfully, I've worried about their inability to sympathise—even lectured them to be more compassionate. But that night, as I saw how soft their young hearts were to the suffering they encountered, I was challenged that perhaps it is my own heart that needs inspecting because sadly, my empathy doesn't always spill over into real life. Overwhelmed by the enormity of people's pain and suffering, my heart can tend to shut down in an effort to self-protect and keep my sense of powerlessness at bay.
The gospels tell us that Jesus was 'moved by compassion' (Matt. 9:36). He healed the sick, fed the hungry, embraced the outcasts, restored the sinner and ultimately suffered on the Cross to show us the Father’s compassion.
Our word compassion comes from the Latin, 'compati', meaning to suffer with. It challenges us to not leave people alone in their suffering but to participate in it with them; to walk alongside and help them carry their burden of pain; to allow our tears to give way to action. That night, the gift of a meal was our way of participating in the suffering of another.
God doesn't want us to shut down to the pain of this world because it feels too big. Instead, He invites to share in the story of Scripture—to demonstrate His compassion for our sin and brokenness, one person at a time, just as Jesus did. Who is God inviting you to walk with today?
Heal my heart and make it clean
Open up my eyes to the things unseen
Show me how to love like you have loved me
Break my heart for what breaks yours
Everything I am for your kingdom's cause
As I walk from earth into eternity
(Hosanna, Brooke Ligertwood)
I don't know if there's a child in the world who hasn't said to their parents at least once in the process of growing up, "But everyone else is..." Even in adulthood, this desire to be the same as those around us pervades our lives—from fashion trends to food fads to the music we listen to and the shows we watch, popular culture shapes our lives.
In 1 Corinthians, Paul was writing to a group of believers who were allowing themselves to be shaped by the culture of the day instead of the culture of the Kingdom of God. They had elevated man's wisdom above God's, and consequently, pride had crept in creating disputes and disunity between them—and rather than pursuing holiness, they had embraced sexually permissive lifestyles, forgetting that their bodies were sacred temples of God Himself.
Paul has to remind them that even God's foolishness is wiser than man's greatest wisdom (1:25); entreating them to imitate his own way of life in Christ which he tells them agrees with everything he teaches (4:17). In other words, Paul didn't teach one thing and do another.
Theology—what we believe—and how we live are meant to line up. Paul called the Corinthians back to what ‘is written’; back to the timeless and superior wisdom of God, reminding them that no matter what they had been, they were now washed clean by Jesus and filled with the Spirit of God. As temples of the Holy Spirit, they were called to align their lives with the culture of the Kingdom—to bless when cursed; to endure when persecuted; to answer kindly when slandered; to honour God with their bodies.
And so are we.
The way of the Kingdom, the message of the cross, will not make sense to the world—sometimes, if we're really honest, it may not fully make sense even to us. But as we order our lives according to God’s wisdom, submitting to His authority, we make room for His power. Surrender gives way to resurrection and new life.
“For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved, it is the power of God.”
1 Corinthians 1:18
Where do you need to allow your life to be reshaped by the wisdom of God today?
An offended friend is harder to win back than a fortified city. Arguments separate friends like a gate locked with bars.
Proverbs 18:19 (NLT)
I imagine we've all been there at some point in time—standing on the other side of the gate wondering how to get through the barrier of offence and back to relationship. Back to connection.
Offences hurt. Arguments wound. The Hebrew verb translated as offended is pasha, and it means to rebel, to transgress, to revolt; to be rebelled against. This is often how we feel—like who we are and what we value has been attacked. So we fight back, retaliating in kind; perpetuating the cycle of hurt. The walls get higher, the locks more difficult to crack.
Jesus commands us to take a different approach:
But I tell you who hear Me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you... Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because He is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful (Luke 6:26-27 & 35b-36, NIV).
It's counter-intuitive and counter-cultural, but in my own journey, I have found this to be a powerful and effective strategy, because not only does it protect my own heart, it gives me God's heart for the one who has hurt me. You cannot stay bound by hurt and offence when you are praying. Healthy boundaries may need to stay in place but walls of bitterness and unforgiveness come crashing down when we are on our knees for those who hurt and oppose us.
We live in a world that defends the right to be offended; to live as a victim. God invites us to instead live as sons and daughters of the Most High, entrusting our hurts and injustices to Him—the One who judges justly (1 Peter 2:23)—and refusing to be ensnared by offence.
Who is God asking you to pray for? Invite Him to empower you to love them as He does.
Our water tank has been bordering on empty a lot recently—it's been a long dry summer which has reached into autumn. Truthfully, my heart has felt a bit like our water tank and I’ve found myself echoing the cry of David, “I spread out my hands to You; my soul thirsts of You like a parched land” (Ps. 143:6, NIV).
I take comfort in knowing that the Scriptures are full of men and women who experienced ‘dry’ seasons. Elijah was one of them. Both times of national drought and personal depression are recorded as part of his story in 1 Kings. On one such occasion, Israel had no rain—not even dew— for three whole years. The brooks dried up, resources were scarce and people struggling. Yet Elijah went to King Ahab and made this declaration: “Go, eat and drink for there is the sound of heavy rain” (1 Kings 18:41).
There was not a cloud in the sky at the time he spoke these words. Elijah heard prophetically—he heard the answer, the promise of God in relation to their need before it was a visible reality. But it’s what he did next that caused the sound of rain to become the release of rain. Elijah climbed to the top of Mt. Carmel, bent down to the ground and put his face between his knees (18:42)—he chose to align himself with what God was saying and to then persevere in prayer.
In Hebrew, Carmel means a garden land, a place of fruitfulness or fertility. In a time of need and lack, Elijah chose to retreat to a place of fruitfulness. Prayer—our intimate communion with the Father—is that place. Elijah did not move from that place until he saw the clouds of rain beginning to rise from the sea; until what he had heard in his spirit was made manifest in the physical realm.
This year, as I have spread out my needs before God, He has whispered three words to me: ‘On your knees.’ God wants to release the rains of His Spirit. He wants to quench parched hearts and lands. But He wants us to be part of releasing that rain. So He is calling us back to the fruitful place. Back to our knees.
What do you hear today? Will you partner with Him to make it seen?
Confession: I used to avoid intercessory prayer. I thought it wasn’t my ‘spiritual gift’ and that it was therefore okay for me to leave it to those whom God had gifted in this way while I focused on other things.
It was somewhat of a wake-up call to realise that prayer was not a ‘gift’ some were blessed with, but the responsibility and privilege of every believer. An intimate space where God invites us to share and unburden our hearts but also to hear His; a place of communion with Him where lives are changed and situations transformed.
Perhaps this is why when Jesus taught the disciples to pray He started with the words, Our Father. A reminder that we do not pray to a distant, unknowable deity but a loving Father. Nor do we approach Him as strangers who have no right to ask Him for anything, but as children, His children – beloved members of His family who have access to the Father and all that He has.
After teaching His disciples what we now call ‘The Lord’s Prayer’, Jesus went on to tell them of a man who boldly went to a friend’s house in the middle of the night to ask for bread on behalf of another who had turned up unannounced on his doorstep and needed something to eat. His friend was annoyed to be woken, but got up and gave his friend what was needed because of his boldness to ask.
Jesus used this story to implore His disciples to ask so they might receive, reminding them that “If imperfect parents know how to lovingly take care of their children and give them what they need, how much more will the perfect heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit’s fullness when His children ask Him.” (Luke 11:13 TPT)
There is a world in need of bread – but not just any bread, the Bread of Life that is Jesus - and we are the ones who must ask for it. God is looking for sons and daughters who will boldly come to the Father on their behalf. Who will ask, confident in this goodness and generosity of His heart so that many more may receive His gift of life.
Who is the Father inviting you to ask for bread for?
Live today with purpose,
His little voice piped up from behind me as we drove to Church. “Why do we have cars?" he asked.
“So we don’t have to walk and we can go lots of places,” was my reply. Even as I said it, I wondered just how far I would be willing to travel without my car – I had a feeling that my world would become rather small.
In Mark’s gospel, we’re told that ‘Jesus withdrew with His disciples to the lake, and a large crowd from Galilee followed. When they heard about all He was doing, many people came to Him from Judea, Jerusalem, Idumea, and the regions across the Jordan and around Tyre and Sidon. Because of the crowd He told His disciples to have a small boat ready for Him, to keep the people from crowding Him. For He had healed many, so that those with diseases were pushing forward to touch Him (3:7-10)’.
Can you imagine this scene? Jesus had simply wanted some downtime, but instead, He’s met by crowds so desperate to touch Him He has to teach them from a boat.
This crowd were not only desperate to touch Him, they were also willing to travel a great distance to be with Him. For example, it was 70 miles from Judea to Galilee – approximately a 2-3 day journey on foot; from Jerusalem, it was 68 miles and from Idumea, approximately 120 miles. The shortest journey was from Tyre, and even that would have taken at least a day. Their journeys would have also taken them through difficult and mountainous terrain and they probably had to carry some of their sick.
As I read these verses, I had to ask myself: how far would I travel to encounter Jesus? And I realised just how often I trade encounter for comfort.
We may not have to walk on foot or carry the sick or press through the crowds, but every day we face obstacles and distractions that seek to deter us from meeting with Jesus. From hearing His words and encountering His life. But oh how He longs for us to press through and reach Him so He can fill us.
What does it look like for you to lay aside comfort and pursue Jesus this week?