Wonder

I do’nt know about you but the last few weeks have placed quite a burden on my heart, I have become so much more aware of the hurt and the brokenness of the world as it occurs closer to home; with the attacks in Manchester and London as well as with our brothers and sisters facing persecution in the Middle of the East. These are hard times but times that require us to get on our knees and let our hearts break for the things that break His as we pray for restoration and healing, for the coming of His Kingdom.

However, amidst these terrors God makes us aware of His presence and the joy that comes from knowing that in the darkness His light shines even brighter and won’t be extinguished. He challenges us to look at things from a different perspective.

Recently I have been obsessed with Hillsong United’s latest song “Wonder.” This song explains the wonder we experience as we choose to share God’s way of seeing the world, and really reminded me to be joyful in times of trial, to live in constant wonder of Him despite the brokenness and suffering of the world.

The chorus declares “I see the world in light, I see the world in wonder, I see the world in life, Bursting in living colour, I see the world your way, And I’m walking in the light.” Does this mean we see through rose tinted glasses? Not at all, but rather we have a hope that although we see the reality of sin and suffering we can see the light and aim to adopt God’s perspective.

I was really struck by the lines “You’re the wonder in the wild. Turning wilderness to wonder.” Thinking about them I challenged myself to look at the personal wilderness that I sometimes walk through and reflected on how God can turn that wilderness into wonder. For instance, when I come out of a season in the wilderness I can look back in wonder at what God has delivered me from.

But not only is God’s wonder revealed when we leave our wilderness, but its right there with us in the midst of our pain. This time last week I watched Ariana Grande’s One Love Manchester concert and was reduced to tears as I watched in wonder at the unity and compassion shown in the midst of so much suffering. I truly believe that in the pain of the aftermath of that horrendous attack God’s wonder was revealed, does that make it all ok? No but it instils a hope within us, it ignites a light to overcome the darkness, a wonder in what God can do in the midst of suffering.

So I’m aware that this month She Spreads Light have been focusing on the theme of Honour. This post has not specifically touched on this, but I felt that God placed this message on my heart to share with you all. I encourage you however to really think about your perspective , have you chosen to see the world through the eyes of God? It is such an HONOUR (I knew I’d get it in somewhere) that God invites us to share in His wonder, to see things the way He does, so why wouldn’t we?

Love Always. 

Rachel x

Mercy, We need You

“If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”- 1 John 1:8-9

What a passage! The religiosity and moralistic part of me is called out and convicted here, because if we are truly honest a lot of the time we distract ourselves from our own sin by looking at the sin in others and seeing ourselves as clean. But realistically we too are so full of sin. I have been really challenged this week to humbly read God’s word, allowing myself to be convicted by what it says and I pray that you too will have this conviction as you read the verses above.

But on to the topic of mercy, I think these verses perfectly encapsulate just how great God’s mercy is for us. Not only does it tell us of God’s merciful character, but encourages us to confess our sinful nature knowing that with a repenting heart we will be made clean. By truly acknowledging the depth of our brokenness the fullness of God’s mercy is revealed to us.

The thing is we will never get everything right, as Paul writes we “all fall short of the glory of God”, therefore we are always in desperate need of His mercy. Despite the amount of times we run the opposite direction, when we return with a humble heart asking for forgiveness he mercifully embraces us. He never gets fed up or says “do I really have to give you more mercy”, instead in his immeasurable love and generosity he forgives us time and time again. However, this doesn’t give us permission to do whatever we want, but allows us to rest in the knowledge that no matter how many times we mess up “nothing can ever separate us from God’s love” (Romans 8:38) because of God’s mercy.

In light of this I challenge you to take some time this week to prayerfully examine your heart,and to acknowledge your brokenness. However doing so in the knowledge that if you repent on this you will be covered in His mercy.  Remember that the Father doesn’t see us as objects of condemnation, but of praise as Paul tells the Romans in chapter 2:29, ” a person’s praise is not from other people, but from God.” that is the amazing, intangible, fullness of his mercy.

Take Me Back

When I came to church for the first time – I hadn’t really grew up a church kid. One of my first experiences of a kid’s camp was leading one. Whoever was doing the memory verse used to say it in all different voices? Remember that? That’s where I’m going with this.

God is at work in your circumstances. (Normal)  GOD IS AT WORK IN YOUR CIRCUMSTANCES. (Shouting) God is at work in your circumstances. (In a whisper) God ooh eeh ahh – is – ooh – working – in – eeh ahh – your circumstances. (That’s a monkey – in case you didn’t catch that).

BUT SERIOUSLY. God is at work in your circumstances. Sometimes you just need to hear that. Timing cannot diminish His love or His power to work within your life. The next instalment of the story of Hosea and Gomer proves that. Our lives are living proof of it.

 

She ran away. I don’t really know if it was out of fear, shame, or pride that she did it. To be honest the reason for running from me is not the reason I pursued her. I didn’t chase after her because I wanted to know why she ran from me – why the life I had offered her wasn’t enough. I simply went after her because I loved her; I didn’t love her past and I didn’t know about her future. But I knew I loved her. I didn’t even go after her because of the kids or her responsibilities. I didn’t go after her because I wanted to control her like so often other church men paint a picture of. I wanted to go after her because I loved her with a love that felt like peeling of the layers of an onion and crying at the release of every layer. Because each layer revealed something even more beautiful about her. When onions do what onions are supposed to do they create an incredible flavour that nothing else can create. So could Gomer if she was only given the opportunity.

That’s the thing about Gomer. There is something inside of her that I am willing to fight for. What she believes she deserves is not what I have bought for her. The price I have paid for Gomer has led to sleep-less nights and empty pockets. It has led to me giving everything for her and the truth is I don’t hold it against her that she ran. All I want her to know is that in me she finds full safety, full protection, and the fullness of provision – because I know her better than anyone else.

Then God ordered me, “Start all over: Love your wife again, your wife who’s in bed with her latest boyfriend, your cheating wife. Love her the way I, God, love the people, even as they flirt and party with every god that takes their fancy.” I did it. I paid good money to get her back. Then I told her, “From now on you’re living with me. No more whoring, no more sleeping around, you’re living with me and I’m living with you.” – Hosea 3 v 1-5 MSG

Hosea.

You see Gomer was never created to whore herself. She was bought with a price, she was cherished. Hosea was willing to give everything up for his wife. Just like God gave everything up for us. He created a world with you in mind. He sent his son with you in mind. He thought you worthy of His love, He thought you worthy of His son. He sees the inside you. Not the one plastered with a smile but the true darkness that goes on behind closed doors. He sees that part of you and says I love that part. I love the darkest, dirtiest, most shame filled parts of you and I am going to send my son to die for you so that I can love you back to full life.

God seeks us out just like Hosea sought out his wife. He seeks you out because you were never intended to live in shame. You were never intended to believe lies that you are worthless and unworthy of love. You were never created to be dictated to by your surroundings. For Hosea and Gomer it didn’t look like God was working in those circumstances. It looked like the world had won and that Hosea should just give up. But just like God he didn’t. He pursued Gomer. God pursues you. He is NEVER distant. He is NEVER bringing you shame. He is full of grace – waiting to love you back to life.

SSL Team x

Understanding Grace

Its nearly Easter. A time when the word “Grace” gets thrown around like confetti, the intention is there as people say “God’s grace is amazing” yet the word falls lightly, having little impact. The over use of the word has robbed it of its amazing meaning. Google defines it as ” the free and unmerited favour of God, as manifested in the salvation of sinners and the bestowal of blessings.” So practically it is the undeserved goodness God shows to us. Isn’t that amazing? But sometimes I think we’ve become desensitized to the power of this word, so this week I challenge you to truly meditate over the amazing gift of grace and what the really means for us. But how can we do this?

Read Hosea

I have to admit I’ve never read this book, but I have read an adaption by Francine Rivers called “Redeeming Love.” This story for me perfectly portrays grace through the character of Hosea, who is divinely called to marry a prostitute named Gomer. Gomer goes back to another man after their marriage yet because of his love and grace Hosea takes her back despite the hurt she caused Him. How many times have we run from God? Yet every time He calls us back with His arms open wide. If you don’t fancy tackling Hosea just yet, why not read “Redeeming Love” the most moving adaptation Ive read.

Jesus Loving Barabbas

Unusual title? I thought so too when I first came across this video, however by the end I totally understood it. These 8 minutes completely changed my perspective on this part of the Easter story and made me see God’s grace in a whole new light.   Give it a watch here, you wont regret it.

https://youtu.be/RwX_EpNR4CA

Grab a notebook

As I’ve already said grace is God’s  favour towards us, who are so undeserving, so why not reflect on how God’s grace has personally touched your life. Make a list (or a spider diagram-whatever floats your boat) and write down ways in which God’s grace has manifested in your life. This is a great way to adopt a grateful heart whilst fully understanding God’s grace.

Today as you read this I pray that the words of Ephesians 2:8-9 will truly rest on your heart, ” For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God- not by works, so that no one can boast.” Know that it is because of God’s grace that you woke up this morning, that no matter what you do (for good or bad) you are covered by His love and grace.

 

Lent

IT’S PANCAKE TUESDAY!! I’m not sure you can tell how excited I am, but I’m pretty ecstatic, I mean who doesn’t love a good pancake? But soon it will be over for another year and then comes those 40 days of lent.

I have to admit sometimes I think lent is misinterpreted, people use it as an excuse to take up that New Years Resolution that only lasted a few weeks or to justify and motivate going on a diet. But there is SO much more to lent than going off chocolate.

At the very start of Jesus’ ministry he went into the wilderness and fasted for 40 days and nights, reflecting, praying and preparing for the beginning of his ministry. Now Im not suggesting that we all have to fast for the duration of lent, however some do find this useful. The important thing is that we treat lent as a time of prayerful reliance on God. Therefore I really encourage you to pray and think over what you are going to give up or take on over lent. Ask yourselves what things are holding you back in your relationship with Jesus, what unnecessary distractions do you have.

When it comes to giving up something, sometimes it gets hard, in the times when its hard I encourage you not to complain but to turn to God for strength. This is such a great practice as we learn to depend more on God’s strength and not our own.

Also, over the last few years I have come across a new approach to lent, a generous lent-not a season of giving up but of giving. As I think of the amazing generosity of our father who gave us a saviour that we were so undeserving of, I am challenged to adopt God’s generous heart and obediently live it out. An amazing way to do this is through an initiative called 40 acts (signup link below). This initiative sends you daily challenges to do some acts of kindness for the 40 days of lent. Maybe this year instead of choosing an act of self-improvement try an act of unnecessary kindness-the impact you can make with one small act is amazing!

As you enjoy your pancakes think about how you want to spend your lent. I encourage us all to not think about what will benefit ourselves, but what will benefit our walk with God, and maybe also those around us.

https://40acts.org.uk/

in the mess

Dear you,
The you who has had a rough week, the you who doesn’t have straight A’s, the you who scrolls through Instagram and Facebook first thing rather than flick through the pages of your bible, the you who spends too much money on that chai latte, the you who values your worth by the number of likes on your profile picture, the you who is messy.
Far too often, we define ourselves as these things. We value ourselves as how we’re feeling, our grades, what we do, we define ourselves as being messy. It’s hard to ignore the voice in your head telling you that you’re worthless and telling you that you’re not good enough and that your mess is too much for anyone else to handle.
Your mess is okay. Your mess is real but it doesn’t define you. Your mess is never too much for God. He loves you even with your mess. He loves you even when there’s 43 tabs open and you can’t figure out which ones playing the music, when chemistry notes are on the same page as health and social care notes, even when you fail that exam that you revised so hard for. He loves your mess, absolutely loves it. He can handle the mess and He wants you to hand it to Him and trust Him to take it.
God is always good. Even in your messiness. Even in your crappy days. He is always listening and always loving. I believe that God doesn’t always give us these challenges, but He will take us out of them eventually. Even if His answer is no at this very moment, He is still good and He is still working. Don’t give up. Keep asking. Keep believing.
Believe that God is the answer to your problems, He doesn’t promise to answer all of our mess, but know that He is the answer. Hear His whisper. He is asking you to Trust in Him. know that when the mess becomes messier, He is in the middle of it all, with you. cleaning up the mess, when you don’t even know where to begin in the mess.

lots of love, SSL xo

All about that book

Someone once said ” In books I have travelled, not only to other worlds, but into my own.” Anyone who knows me even the slightest will know I love to read, I am one of those annoying people who will leave you with a huge pile of books to read because I just can’t help recommending every amazing book I’ve read to others. But as well books have been pivotal in my relationship with Jesus, finding a book that points me to God and His word is always a winner. Now I’m about to leave you with a few books to add to that infinite “to be read pile.”

For those exploring faith and Jesus…

Blue Like Jazz.  This book was one of the first christian books I read and follows Donald Miller’s own journey of faith in a brutally honest way. There is something so special reading such a candid account of someone’s journey with so much relatable content. This book doesn’t contain any confusing theology or religious jargon, however it does contain a
cartoon strip (you’re going to have to read it to find out more) Wherever you are in your faith, just read it.

For putting feet to your faith…

Love Does. Have you ever thought about God’s love as a verb? This is exactly what Bob Goff explores in this book, writing stories of himself and others about how they have answered the call to share God’s love everywhere they go through their actions. This book is literally a written pep-talk and a easy, but enlightening read.

Praying Bolder Prayers…

Red Moon Rising. This book follows the 24-7 prayer movement and Pete Greig writes of how God has moved in big ways through something as simple as prayer. Reading this I was drawn to be more expectant and found a new appreciation for the gift of prayer. To be able to be in conversation with the creator of the universe in such an intimate way is something that constantly baffles me. (PS-if you’ve read this already Greig’s new book Dirty Glory is also a fab shout!)

I could write on and on about even more amazing books, but for now I will leave you with these three. As I’ve already said these are books that have been pivotal in my journey with God, but we must not forget the ultimate, life-changing, life-breathing book, God’s word itself-The Bible. Although it is amazing to read the interpretations and experiences of some truly gifted people it is important that we always put the Bible first.

In 2 Timothy 3:16-17 Paul writes “ All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. 17 God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work.”

Never lose wonder at God’s amazing book, continue to pursue knowledge in order to know Him better through both The Bible and other books inspired by His word.