Tag Archives: blessing

I am the Older Woman Now

psalm127

This article from Raising Homemakers appeared in my inbox this morning, and I thought I would share it, because the topic has been so much on my heart lately.

As you know, I would have loved to have more children, but after our fourth, my husband felt that it would be irresponsible to have any more, so we had a break of 7 years, and when we finally started trying again we had a run of miscarriages, so four it is.

My husband isn’t a believer, so he has no faith or reason for confidence that there is a good and faithful God whom we can trust to provide for us, and of course the prevailing culture tells us that ‘two is enough’ and any more is over-population. Please. My heart weeps for the church and our culture, because we are cutting off God’s blessings before they reach us, and we don’t know what we are missing.

I would like to encourage anybody who is considering a larger than average family, or even allowing God complete control over your family planning, to stop listening to the faithless counsel of your peers and know that the Word of God is trustworthy: children are without a doubt a blessing, and we do indeed serve a God who is faithful and good and who can be trusted completely.

the_bible_calls_debt-71559

But (and this is not meant to be a caution to put you off but rather a heads-up so you can plan your house-building, being fully informed about the cost) taking a leap of faith like this will require you to go deeper into God – to be willing to trust and obey completely in the areas of finance and time management to name but two aspects. It’s not a journey for the easy-believer or the faint of heart.

If God has laid this matter on your heart, take it back to him in prayer, seek his heart and his will, and be open to his leadings. Don’t miss out on one of the sweetest blessings he offers.

In my experience, it is a very rare couple indeed who end up inundated with children, and the hardest part about trusting God with your fertility is the possibility not that he will give you too many children, but rather that you might not end up with as many as you hoped.  ❤

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Wilderness Experience

I have a confession to make. I try not to let this blog get too personal – I prefer to keep it ‘on topic’, just talking mainly about cooking and housework and crafts.

But here is the thing. I am really, really struggling.

I know that we are blessed in many ways. After our landlord evicted us, we were re-housed against all the odds, in the town where we wanted to be. That was pretty miraculous, but it is far from ideal.

The house that we were put in has turned out to be totally unsuitable – there is no garden for the children (they were pretty heartbroken when we had to sell their trampoline), and since it is designed over three floors (meaning that I have to be more active than I can cope with), I have got much sicker since we moved here. In fact, I seem to be in relapse. I’m arguably sicker now than I was when I first got ill. It’s too small, so most of our books and possessions and furniture is still in storage, and our finances are a nightmare. My kids are ill, there just seems no end of massive, insurmountable problems.

I feel as though I am in the ‘pit’.

The result of this is that I am finding the upkeep of the housework impossible, and I’m not well enough to do the cooking. Added to the physical issues, or perhaps as a result of them, I think I can safely say that I have descended into a deep depression.

And I am feeling a failure.

We have had a run of more than five really rough years now, and I feel as though I have been brought into a long-term, painful wilderness experience, or a ‘Job’ experience, and I don’t really understand why.

So many scripture passages talk about blessing following the keeping of Torah, and for those who bless Israel. So I just keep wondering, what have I done wrong, and why am I missing the blessing? And when is it going to end?

I pray, I read the Word, I try to remain faithful. But it feels as though my prayers fall on deaf ears, and I have never felt more distant from Abba.

I never expected the ‘narrow way’ to be quite this rocky.

Practical Theology

I was thinking about my post on Isaiah 2 and the topic of sanctification. In fact, I couldn’t get it out of my head.

I do really enjoy studying the Bible, theology, and doctrine. I was raised on it really as my dad trained to be a pastor. He never actually practised though and stopped short of ordination for various reasons, but it was our meat and drink as I was growing up.

But here is the thing. What does it matter if I am ‘sanctified’, ‘justified’, ‘saved’ or have ‘eternal life’ to look forward to? In the here and now, life is hard, and horrible and increasingly so. Theology shouldn’t really just be a distraction from real life.

My own situation is this: I’m at home after a bad relapse of chronic illness, but I don’t get any kind of disability benefit, and my son who did get it just had notification that it’s being denied him this year. My husband, who does work, is on the minimum wage. If we want to carry on eating and paying rent, we’ll need to dig really deep to find places to trim the budget. I’m grateful that food banks are available, but it isn’t enough to raise us out of poverty and misery, and really it is no way to live.

I have written before about the scandal of inequality in the Church – the enormous wealth of the comfortable classes and the appalling spectrum of poverty (even just here in the UK, let alone in third world countries) and really it is far, far too easy to just sit back and believe that God blesses whom He wants to bless, and that if you’re not blessed with material comfort, there must just be some fault in you – you’re in sin, you’re faithless, you must deserve it in some way. I.e., “it is not my responsibility to do anything about it.” No, no, no, no, no!

The early church seemed to have behaved quite differently with their finances than the modern, western, wealthy church. Apparently they held what amounted to a common purse –

“They held all things common”

Those who had plenty sold their excess and gave to those who needed it, so that there was no lack among them. (See Acts 2:44-47.)

In the book of Malachi we read:

“Even from the days of your fathers ye are gone away from mine ordinances, and have not kept them. Return unto me, and I will return unto you, saith the LORD of hosts.”

The LORD tells Israel that they have neglected His House, that is, their duty to financially provide for the Levites (the priestly tribe of Levi) who were dependent on subsidies from the rest of Israel. He challenges them that, by not giving, they are robbing God!

But, if they are willing to give, the windows of heaven will be opened to them.

“Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the LORD of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.” Malachi 3:10

Try it! I challenge you! As we were reminded on Sunday, you can’t ‘out-give’ God! And then perhaps, as we repent, and turn back to God – turn all our finances over to God, perhaps then the church, and our land will be healed and restored so that nobody is under the curse of poverty.

The Mountain of the Lord

This blog was intended to be primarily Anglican, and I do intend to start looking at the readings from the lectionary, but I haven’t been able to get to an Anglican service in a while due to illness, and the fact that I can’t get a lift before 10am.

So, lately, I have been hanging out at a local evangelical/ pentecostal church.

The most recent sermon was on a the topic of a single verse (verse 2) in Isaiah chapter 2:

“In the last days
the mountain of the Lord’s temple will be established
as the highest of the mountains;
it will be exalted above the hills,
and all nations will stream to it.”

I am aware of course that there is a range of differing eschatological positions, and that the standard Anglican eschatology is basically preterist – i.e. (if I understand it correctly) that the majority of prophecy has already been fulfilled and/ or is to be taken metaphorically rather than literally.

I was raised in a church (an American Baptist from Grand Rapids, Michigan in fact!) that took the Pre-Trib, Pre-Millennial view (with the idea that the Rapture would occur literally, prior to a literal Tribulation and followed by a literal Millennium of the rule of the Kingdom of God) very seriously.

Eschatology is a branch of Theology that isn’t generally popular, but Tim LaHaye’s ‘Left Behind’ series (which advocated that same Pre-Trib, Pre-Millennial view) brought it into the public view and made it popular.

But having read a few of those books, one thing they did for me was to make me seriously doubt that I had it all figured out or that the view I had been brought up with was the one true interpretation it was presented as being.

So back to Isaiah 2. It would seem that the basic options for interpreting this verse (or rather passage, as it’s really just asking for misinterpretation if you take a single verse out of context) are either:

– that a literal temple will be established in the literal Jerusalem (as the rest of the passage suggests), at a future time (or that this literally happened at some past point that would have been future when it was written), OR

– that the temple is metaphorical, and that this metaphorical temple will be established (in either the literal or a metaphorical Jerusalem) in the future or has already been established. (Although once a passage is taken to be metaphorical, the time element can legitimately be ignored.)

The speaker in this case, without any apparent reference to the rest of the passage or the context, what it meant to the original writer or readers, or how the passage has traditionally been understood, spiritualised the meaning of the verse, suggesting that the ‘mountain’ referred to success, prosperity, and the proliferation of the Gospel, that the ‘Temple’ referred to men’s hearts, and that this was something that would happen in the future but that the ‘Last Days’ were now.  By extension, it was used to suggest that the future of the local church was very bright.

It is not my intention to slander anybody of course nor to offend or upset the speaker in question. (If he is reading this, I would be happy to discuss it!) But this struck me as a particularly careless handling of Scripture. Not because it wasn’t a possible interpretation (it fits with the second option, although what ‘Jerusalem’ represents wasn’t addressed because it was outside of the scope of that single verse), but rather because the suggestion really was that, if you take a verse out of context, it’s alright to make it mean anything you want it to mean, and that the original intention is of no consequence. Of course, in some ways, that would seem to be the prevailing view anyway.

The rest of the passage continues:

Many peoples will come and say,

“Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,
    to the temple of the God of Jacob.
He will teach us his ways,
    so that we may walk in his paths.”
The law will go out from Zion,
    the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.
He will judge between the nations
    and will settle disputes for many peoples.
They will beat their swords into plowshares
    and their spears into pruning hooks.
Nation will not take up sword against nation,
    nor will they train for war anymore.

Come, descendants of Jacob,
    let us walk in the light of the Lord.

The line ‘They will beat their swords into plowshares’ is a very famous phrase which is often quoted at memorial services for servicemen, in a wish to end the ongoing futility of war, so there is a lot in the passage that wasn’t even touched on in the sermon, and the passage immediately following this one is about the ‘Day of the Lord’ which is usually understood to refer to judgement rather than blessing and reward.

What does it matter whether or not we get our eschatology right? Do we need to know what is coming up in the future? Do we need to have a right understanding of the chronology of end-time events? Will it alter our thinking and behaviour if we have different ideas about the flow of history, the direction of events and the ultimate end-game? Or should we just be faithful in every age?

There is a sense in which Scripture can be understood to have multiple fulfillments so, for example, some of the passages in Isaiah which are clearly understood to be Messianic in nature – foretelling the coming of Christ – may have had an early fulfillment (a ‘shadow’ of things to come), a fulfillment at the time of Christ, and/ or possibly an ultimate fulfillment at the end of the age. So from that point of view it may be possible to accommodate multiple interpretations without one cancelling out the other. As a Messianic Jewish Anglican who tends to see a future for Israel, the Jewish people and Torah in the church, I would support that ‘multiple fulfillments’ view.

But does that make it possible for Isaiah 2:2 to be telling us that the future of the local church in Cornwall is prosperity and success in evangelism? It seems a bit of a stretch to me.

Moving On

This prayer was at the end of the book “The Grace Outpouring” and I hope it’s ok to quote it here in its entirety.

“I felt I had to share it as it seems so appropriate, it could have been written just for me:

“Father, I acknowledge the reality of who I am. I acknowledge the weakness, the sin, the mess in my life and I ask you to come and have mercy on me, just as I am, because of who Jesus is.

So with your help I take my sin, my weakness, my pain, my grief and place it all on the cross where Jesus died, so that he can carry it away and then forget it forever. I let go of these things now.

With your help I choose to let go of grudges and bitterness, and forgive all who have wounded me.

Father, would you please put the Spirit of Jesus deeply within me and begin to shape and refine me? Will you begin to do what I cannot do? Will you begin to produce within me the person you’ve always wanted me to be? Will you please begin to lead me in the paths you’ve always planned for me?

I ask this in Jesus’ name.”

Amen.”

Amen.

The last three years have been a painful process of letting go of past wounds that seemed to refuse to heal over. But I feel as though I have finally turned a corner and can move on now, able to bless those who wounded me instead of cursing them.

I really hadn’t planned for this blog to be so deeply religious, at all, but that seems to be the way that life is flowing for me right now, and instead of fighting it (inner control freak), I’m going with the flow.

Read52 Week3: The Grace Outpouring

This week’s choice is a book that my mother bought me last year and which has been sitting on the shelf for several months, unread.

“The Grace Outpouring: Becoming a People of Blessing” by Roy Godwin and Dave Roberts is another inspirational book documenting the incredible spiritual power being unleashed at Ffald-y-Brenin, a Christian Retreat Centre in Wales that has become a “missional house of prayer” which blesses individuals, groups, building locations, communities and whole localities (not only their own).

Like Catherine Booth’s book last week, there is a kind of infectious passion contained herein which has made me want to change the way I speak, the way I think and the way I behave. Instead of criticising and complaining, I am challenged to bless and invoke God’s blessing.

On the other hand, it could be extremely depressing to read about all the amazing, supernatural workings of God when one’s own experience of faith has not included anything like this. My own background is a mixture of Pentecostal and Cessationist. I have seen some strange and possibly dodgy things in church (and emotional manipulation by means of music to create a fake atmosphere is a pet hate of mine), but I have also been present in rare meetings where the presence of God has been so thick and heavy and beautiful it has been almost tangible.

My Cessationist background (via Baptist Midmissions – American missionaries who ran the church I grew up in) tells me to beware of ‘Strange Fire’ – and I haven’t wanted to look too deeply at the recent controversy because I think that on balance it’s not terribly helpful. Yes, be discerning and ‘test the spirits’. But I admire the Pentecostal earnestness and enthusiasm, and I wouldn’t want to dismiss as ‘demonic’ or ‘Satanic’ what might be a real move of God.

Quiver-Full

I just wanted to share with you the fact that, since my husband is not a believer, although we agreed at the outset to have a large family, he changed his mind after our 4th baby was born.

I’m not posting with the intention of complaining about my husband, just really out of a kind of desperation. After five years of waiting, hoping and praying he would change his mind to no avail, this desire to have more children is still so painfully strong and won’t just go away on it’s own, and my husband’s mind is resolutely against it.

I ran a group for several years called the UK “Quiver-Full” fellowship, the word “Quiver-Full” coming from Psalm 127:3-5

“Lo, children are a heritage of the LORD: and the fruit of the womb is his reward.  As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man; so are children of the youth.  Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them.”

It was designed to be a place of support and encouragement for those who are allowing the LORD to determine their family size and spacing, and those who are seriously considering this monumental decision.

When believers think of the spiritual armour Paul speaks of in Ephesians 6 (and it’s worth cross-referencing with Isaiah 59), one ‘weapon’ that is generally not considered is “arrows” – most of the armour and weaponry we’re used to fighting with is intended for close combat, but actually, our blessed little arrows are intended for long-range fighting.  Have you ever wondered about why the enemy is waging such a desperate, prolonged and appallingly wicked onslaught against children (not just abortion, but all the things that even believers take on board – the myths of over-population, the lie that children of believers don’t belong to the LORD, the lie that children are a burden instead of a blessing)?  It’s because he knows something we don’t seem to know – that the next generation of believers are the next generation of the warriors of the LORD, his enemy.

I don’t honestly know what G-d’s plan is for us, and I hardly know what to pray for anymore. I just know that the heartbreak of being denied something that I have desired so strongly for so long is more than I can bear, so if my husband won’t change his mind, I wish the desire would subside.