Tag: story

Rightfully righteous

Rightfully righteous

Luke 18:9-14

I am going to make a confession. I was a boring child. Out of all my siblings and friends I was the boring one because I was a rule keeper. Even now as an adult, I love rules and lists and being organised. The Pharisee in this passage seems to be the same. He didn’t steal, cheat or commit adultery, he prayed, fasted and gave one tenth of his earnings as required. Outwardly, he seemed like the perfect person.

Then we have the tax collector. Known to cheat and lie to people, he recognised his faults and sins and asked God to have mercy on him. When they went home, the Pharisee was kept doing the right thing, but didn’t get right with God, but the tax collector opened up to God about his faults and wrong doings and he was right with God – rightfully righteous.

It can be so easy to get carried away doing the right things and looking like the perfect Christian from the outside. But we cannot be rightfully righteous without accepting our faults and opening up to God, asking for His grace and mercy, just like the tax collector.

No one else can judge this because they can’t see what is going on inside. That is down to you to work out with God, and ask for someone to help you work through it if you need or want to open up and get someone else involved.

You will be rewarded

You will be rewarded

Study of Luke 14:12-14

In this passage, we find Jesus telling yet another parable to the man who He had attended dinner with. You will see when you read the whole chapter, that both the passage before and the one after are both parables and each of them are related to dinners and banquets also. He must have been hungry when He was telling these stories to have had food on brain each time!

  1. Why does Jesus talk use parables of eating and banquets so often in His teaching?
  2. Who was this teaching intended for?
  3. Why does Jesus tell the man to not only invite His rich friends and family but also the poor and crippled, lame and blind to the banquet?
  4. What does Jesus mean when He says, “But you will be repaid when the good people rise from the dead”?
  5. How can we use this parable to help us be more Christ-like in our lives?
Planting seeds

Planting seeds

Luke 8:4-15

I think most of you who read this will be familiar with this parable that Luke recounts in chapter 8 but here’s a quick summary just in case:

Jesus told this story to help His audience understand the message He wanted to share. A farmer planted some seeds. Some fell on the roadside and was eaten by birds (these seeds represent the people who hear God’s teaching but the devil takes it away so they cannot believe it), some fell on the rock (these seeds represent the people who hear the message and believe it but when something challenges it, they let their faith go), some fell in the thorny weeds (these seeds represent people who let worries, riches and treasures in their lives affect their ability to do anything with the teaching they hear). The rest of the seed fell on good, fertile soil and grew well (these seeds represent the people who allow the Word of God to change them and are fruitful in their work). Jesus challenges those of us who hear the message to listen to the message and really hear it so it can change us.

I am very familiar with this bible text as I have grown up in church and this was a story often told in Sunday School, but every time I re-read/ hear it, I discover something new about myself and the place I am at in my life and faith at that moment. I have defined myself as a Christian my whole life, and got baptised aged 11, at which time I knew I wanted to give my life to God. At this point in my life, I was like the seed that fell in the fertile soil and grew strong and healthy and was fruitful.

Right now, I don’t see myself in any of these seeds. At this moment in time, I am the seed Jesus didn’t talk about (at least in Luke’s version of the story), the one that got caught up in the wind and travelled far from the Gardner and despite being desperate to grow and be fruitful, lacks the sun and water required to do so. Although I know God is nearby, right now, I don’t feel Him . I think most of us have been in this position in our lives, and the most important thing to remember is that although we might feel alone, we are not – God is there with you. The most important thing is to keep trying to grow so that you can get closer to Him and He will use you.

What seed are you right now? Maybe, like me, you don’t feel that you are like any of the seeds in Jesus’ parable. If that’s the case, what sort of seed would you be? This is a scary thing to talk about as it requires a lot of trust and non-judgement from those you talk to so if you don’t feel comfortable sharing in the comments, that’s fine. Perhaps you could share other times when you have been one of the seeds instead? It might be an encouragement to those who read it to know they are not alone that place.

The Master Weaver

The Master Weaver

Before you get confused thinking you have clicked on the wrong blog post somehow, let me promise you that this is not a craft blog but indeed a post about God as the master weaver.

Many of us who were once healthy and became unwell and never recovered will likely have had dreams and plans for our future. We might have studied for a career, saved money for a holiday, dated to find a future spouse etc., but when we got sick, these dreams may well have gone down the drain as they were no longer feasible options for us.

In 2015, I had recovered from a surgery to open my oesophagus which enabled me to eat again and I was ready to start studying theology, ministry and mission at degree level at university. When I left for my first term, I still had some weakness, pain and fatigue that had remained after my surgery but felt it would only be a matter of time before that went away. 2 years into the course, it hadn’t gone away. Instead, it got worse and I had to drop the practical elements of my degree and carefully plan my weeks to enable me to attend lectures and do my assignments whilst ensuring I got enough rest in too.

I was struggling and realised that although I might be able to get through the degree if I really pushed myself, the chances of me being able to practically use my degree at the end of it were slim, so what was the point of finishing?! I am a stubborn, or tenacious (a more positive version of the same word) person, so decided if I could, I would complete the course anyway. Around this time, I was introduced to the world of online forums and pages for people like me to chat about our illnesses and discuss the parts of our every day lives that our other friends and family couldn’t understand or relate to. I also found out about some online ministries and even, online churches and figured that although this wasn’t what I had intended to do when I left uni, it was a possible avenue to explore.

You might be familiar with the story of Joseph, the youngest son of Jacob, who was favoured by his Father. This made his older brothers jealous and they decided to sell him as a slave and told their Father he had died in order to get rid of him. Later on in Joseph’s life, after many more obstacles, he finds himself with power and comes face to face with his brothers again. When they finally find out who he is (a few years and cultures apart made him look very different to how they remembered him), they asked him for forgiveness as they feared for their well-being and Joseph said,

You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.

There are some things that happen in our lives that don’t turn out the way we want or hope them to, but sometimes the way we plan for things to happen isn’t the way that God has written the story. As much as we can have plans and dreams, our final story will be decided by God and more often than not, His way is so much better when we reflect on the options afterwards. He is the master weaver – reweaving the strands of our lives in ways we couldn’t have ever imagined and making it more beautiful than ever before!

Although I had hopes and plans to be a youth worker, that wasn’t in God’s plan. Instead, He is using me to bring together others like me online, to learn more about God, worship Him, tell others about Him and teach the Church that just because we might have a disability or chronic illness, we are not lesser than everyone else. We have lots to give, and God is using us too.

If it hadn’t have been for my chronic illness, and for completing my degree, YouBelong would not have existed, so although some days are hard, I am thankful for this opportunity and excited to see what happens in the next 12 months!

Can you think of a moment in your life that seemed to go wrong or turn out differently to how you planned or anticipated but that ultimately, was used for good? Share your stories with us at http://www.twitter.com/youbelong_2019 or Facebook https://www.facebook.com/youbelong2019

How to keep fighting after years of suffering

How to keep fighting after years of suffering

I first became ill back in spring 2014 and between then and the beginning of December that year when I had emergency surgery to enable me to eat and drink again, I had lost a lot of weight, strength and friends but my ability to keep fighting was strong and seemingly unbreakable. Looking back now, I can see how ill I was but only because my parents have told me stories from that time and from their perspective because when I was going through that tough time, I wasn’t looking at how bad my situation was because I was too busy fighting! 

Almost 5 years later and my diagnosis list had grown and my time spent in bed has increased, I’m on more tablets and find day to day life much harder yet most of the time, I can eat and drink okay and I can walk short distances which back then I was not physically able to do. I am technically healthier now yet every day is much harder than it was before. Can you relate? Have you lost your fighting spirit? 

I think we need to look at why that is and what we can do to get it back! 

So firstly, why do we lose our fight? 

When I was in school, I struggled to do as much as others in my class when it came to physical activity but if I had to choose between short distance running or long distance I would always choose the sprints – 100m using all my strength, energy and power for a few seconds rather than using 3/4 of my energy for an even longer period of time. Simply put, my endurance is rubbish! It always has been and I don’t like pushing myself physically or starting a task that I know is going to take a long time (but maybe that’s due to impatience more than anything else!) I do think that this has a large part to play in my struggle with continuing to fight. At the start, I knew I was ill but I was so ill that I couldn’t do anything else. Without a goal, there is no expectation and no endurance required – all you have to do is simply keep going. Now I work and have expectations placed on me, I have goals to meet, one after the other, and therefore, endurance is required to meet them time and time again. Fighting non stop is hard so no wonder I’m losing my fighting spirit.

So now we know why but what can we do about it? 

  1. Be real and relational with God – within the Psalms we see the Psalmist crying out to God and telling him about the pain they’re going through but then continuing to maintain conversation with Him which leads to an answer from God and peace within the person who cries out because they kept up the conversation even after getting angry or upset about their circumstances 
  2. Rest and rely on God – when going into battle David said ‘No king successes with a big army alone… horsepower is not the answer; no one gets by on muscle alone’ (Psalm 33:16-17 MSG). 
  3. Remember the growth within – suffering is horrible, particularly when you wake up in pain over and over again without any sign of improvement. But suffering produces growth and maturity and can even plant seeds of faith in others who see what we go through and how we manage. All we need to do is to turn to God in our periods of suffering and listen and respond as we are instructed. 

There is a reason, a purpose, a goal.  All we need to do is rely on God, trust Him and His plans and rest in Him when it becomes too much knowing that He is always there for us.