Keep it Fresh

“Wow Anna, that's very careful colouring!”
“Ughhh Mum, don't say that!” she replied.
“Why not?” I asked.
“Because you say that EVERY time…”

Aren't people so perceptive from such a young age?! She was right… I had been giving her that same line when she showed me her pictures, for the last few weeks! Even my four-year-old knew that what I had to say wasn't anything particularly… fresh!

I'll be the first to admit I don't have a green thumb… I kill almost all the plants I try to nurture (even cactuses)! Sometimes I'm too anxious over them, or too busy and neglect them, or I just don't take the time to learn about how to take care of them, so I treat them all the same. Funnily enough, I've found I can be like that with people too. Now, I've taken to keeping mostly fake plants in our house, because they're just so much easier than real ones! But in a way our hearts and spiritual lives, including our relationship with God and others, are a bit like a garden… they need keeping fresh. 

With God, everything is alive! After all, He is the living God! Isn't it wonderful that He placed Adam and Eve in a garden, and their job was to take care of it? It was alive! The whole thing! It was full of plants and animals… fruit, vegetables, flowers, bugs, birds, everything was alive! And the living things they ate, like fruits and vegetables, nourished their bodies and kept them healthy and growing. God loved to walk with them in the garden too… how beautiful and fresh. The bible just seems to be full of stories about gardens, trees, grass, fruit… things that are alive and growing! Every day, the garden of our heart needs tending too… it needs watering with His Spirit, it needs the good soil of His Word, and the sunlight of His daily presence.

John 15: 4-5 “Abide in Me, and I will abide in you. The branch cannot itself produce fruit, unless it abides on the vine. Likewise, you cannot produce fruit unless you abide in Me. I am the vine; you are the branches. The one who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for apart from Me, you can do nothing.”
Many times, I have let my relationship with God go stale… I've gotten into repetitive habits of prayer that were more like going through the motions than attentive listening and sharing my heart, I've been reading the bible with my dusty old “yesterday” glasses on, and having patterns of thinking that were run-over with weeds of unbelief or legalism, choking out the good plants. The scary thing is, not only does it affect me, but it affects the people around me. When someone needed comfort, all I had to give them were stale platitudes. When someone needed a sensitive ear, all I had was “let me tell you all the memorised answers”. When someone had a spiritual need, all I could see was a physical hassle. I was on auto-pilot… I had forgotten to abide. Without abiding, I'm like a fake plant in a way… I can't produce fruit, I can't nourish anyone, I can't decontaminate the air or produce oxygen. Without abiding, I can do nothing.
When we abide in Him, even the same-old-things can become fresh again! I remember when my Mum had just passed away… I was so overcome with grief. I knew that “she was in a better place now” and, “I'll see her again some day”, but for some reason those things just didn't seem to comfort me during that season. I started to wrestle with God about why those statements, though true and factual, didn't seem to help. He didn't really answer me at the time, until one day… I was just going about the housework, when suddenly God gave me a totally new way of thinking about it… we are all like runners in a race in the Christian life, just like Paul talked about in 1 Corinthians 9, and some of those runners He plucks out early and places them at the finish line to cheer the others on, all part of the great cloud of witnesses like in Hebrews 12! Now that was some fresh encouragement! I imagined Mum at the finish line cheering us on as we continue to “press on towards the goal” (Phil. 3:14). I knew God was encouraging me with some fresh ways of thinking about a same-old-truth.
When we abide in Him, we also have fresh and living things to give to others, things that will build them up, just like fresh fruit and vegetables building up our physical bodies. Once when I felt dried up and worn out, I asked a friend to pray for me. She and her husband prayed together, and afterwards she texted me what she felt the Spirit telling her to pray. It was one of the most refreshing prayers I've had prayed over me! It was for new wine to be poured out into new wineskins (Matthew 9:17), which is exactly what I needed but didn't even know it! It was so refreshing and powerful to have someone who had been abiding in the Spirit and drawing from the fresh word God had given.
Lamentations 3:22-23 “The faithful love of the Lord never ends!
    His mercies never cease.
23 Great is his faithfulness;
    his mercies begin afresh each morning.”

Afresh each morning! How wonderful. Let's keep our spirits fresh by daily listening to what God's Spirit has to say!


Fear Not

Sue’s Views

What do you fear most? Disease ….. lack ….. rejection ….. loneliness? Fear is one of the enemy’s most powerful weapons. Once it takes hold ….. it cripples us and dictates the way we live. It makes us defensive in order to avoid what we fear. God understands our fears but He doesn’t want us to live that way. There are 366 ‘Fear nots’ in the Bible! Abraham was a man of great faith but he still had fears. God addressed them in a dream. First He told him ‘Fear not! I am your shield!’ God protects those who trust in Him from danger ….. attack ….. sickness ….. and whatever else the devil throws at us. Next He said ‘I am your great reward!’ Abraham had refused to take loot from his enemies which could have come in handy in the future ….. but God saw his sacrifice and promised to take care of him in every way. Probably his biggest fear was that he had no son or heir ….. but God assured him He would take care of that too! Whatever fear you may have ….. there’s a ‘fear not’ for you in the Bible! 

Don’t Give Up

Sue’s Views
How is your faith level? God told Abraham he would be the father of many nations. The only problem was his wife had not been able to conceive ….. and was now 90 years old! Abraham was 100! They did what most of us would do. They tried to think of a way to make it happen! Sarah came up with the idea of using her maid as a surrogate mother. But her plan only led to heartache ….. envy ….. and family strife that still affects the world today. 
God did bless them with a son of their own ….. but not till after years of disappointment. But Abraham believed God and wouldn’t give up. He hoped when there seemed to be no hope! And God counted his faith as righteousness. Our faith will always be tested. Hold fast to God’s word without wavering! If He said it ….. it will happen!

Faith Requires Obedience

Sue’s Views
Is God asking you to do something that is hard? Many years ago a man named Abram was called by God to leave his country, his people and his father’s household ….. and to go to a place that God would show him. God promised that he would become a new nation ….. be blessed by God  ….. and that through him all the nations would be blessed. Would you have gone? Abram ….. having no idea where he was going ….. but having great faith in God ….. packed up and went! He made a few mistakes along the way. Human reasoning led him astray on a few occasions but he eventually made it to the Promised Land. His great faith has gone down in history and God called him his friend. He also changed his name to Abraham meaning father of nations. If God is asking you to leave something or someone behind ….. it’s because He has something greater ahead. Faith requires obedience!


Sue’s Views
Many find the Bible boring ….. especially the genealogies! Lists of names that are hard to pronounce ….. and what do they have to do with me? But those lists of names prove that they were real people ….. who lived in the real world. The fact that the Bible traces the bloodline all the way from Adam to Jesus proves it’s a book of fact ….. not fiction! It also becomes my bloodline as well ….. so it’s very relevant. So when I read the Bible ….. I’m reading my history and about my family. There are some characters in there I wouldn’t want to be associated with ….. but God works through all kinds of people! There are prostitutes ….. adulterers ….. murderers ….. thieves ….. as well as ordinary folk just trying to make the best of life. It’s really fascinating when you get into it and contains some of the most amazing stories you’ll ever read. The best thing about the Bible is that it is God’s way of speaking to us personally.

The Way Back

Sue’s Views
It’s amazing to think that ….. before the fall ….. Adam & Eve lived in perfect harmony with God and with one another. They walked and talked with Him in their garden paradise. After the dreaded forbidden fruit incident ….. everything changed. It was the beginning of shame ….. blame ….. struggle ….. decay ….. family strife. Things pretty much went downhill from there! Envy ….. murder ….. perversion. The pride and arrogance of mankind led to God being sorry He’d created us and having to start over. But the sin nature had taken root and has been our problem ever since. But God had a plan because He knew the heart of man was only evil continuously. His answer to the problem was Jesus! He still is the only way back to the Garden!


Sue’s Views
Temptation is something we all struggle with but it’s nothing new. Our First Lady Eve was tempted in 3 areas ….. her eyes saw something that looked good ….. her flesh desired it ….. and she believed it would improve her. The devil twisted God’s Word by adding to it ….. subtracting from it ….. and changing it slightly. His methods are still the same! If God says don’t do something ….. it’s for our highest good!

In the Beginning ….. God

Sue’s Views

Everything has a beginning ….. except God! That’s a hard concept to grasp but He has no beginning. He just always was! He created the universe out of nothing! Another challenge for our brains! Men and women have created some amazing things from the wheel to our modern day technology ….. but they always had something to start with. God made the first matter out of which He created the Universe. At first it was formless and empty so He turned the chaos into cosmos with order and boundaries. Then He filled it with life! He filled the heavens with the sun, moon and stars ….. the sea and skies with fish and bird life ….. the dry land with animals and ….. finally with mankind ….. his crowning glory! Many would want to believe it all just happened without any intelligence or design. But our world is full of design. You were designed uniquely and for a purpose. If we didn’t believe that ….. we would live as though we were here by chance or by accident. God formed you in His image ….. and filled you with dreams ….. talents ….. and personality to fulfil His purpose. Your life is precious! 

The Greatest Story Ever Told

Sue’s Views
I started reading the book of Genesis this year. Genesis means the beginning! In this book we find the beginning of everything ….. the universe ….. creation ….. men & women ….. work ….. marriage ….. family ….. and sadly ….. sin! It tells us where we came from ….. and where we are going. What we were created for ….. and what went wrong. But it’s also the beginning of a journey of redemption. It’s the story of a loving Father who sets boundaries for his kids in order to protect them. But they disobey him and reap the consequences. Sound familiar? But the good news is ….. He found a way to bring them back! Everything points to Jesus ….. His own son ….. who took our punishment so we could live. It’s the greatest story ever told!

Blank Canvas

Sue’s Views

The year stretches out before us like a blank canvas! I wonder what the picture will look like at the end! Some of it will depend on us ….. choices we make ….. attitudes we adopt. Some of it will be chosen for us ….. decisions and actions beyond our control. But one thing I know for sure is that ‘the eyes of the Lord are always on it, from the beginning of the year to the very end.’ Deut 11:11. We need to go forward in faith!