Portraying God

As Christians we want to portray God accurately to others. Misrepresentation is a serious thing. So serious that there are laws in place to protect people from misrepresentation and compensate them when it happens. This is certainly the case in the UK where I live and practice law and I am sure in other nations.

Although this week’s blog will have a bit of a legal influence (it’s my day job after all) I promise it won’t be boring…now there’s a possible misrepresentation if ever there was one!! 😊

This theme of misrepresentation caught my attention recently when I read again Job’s story. It’s certainly not the easiest book in the bible to read. As a heads up, the things that happen to Job and his family are terrible. If you’ve never read Job before then do try it and persevere as it has lots of rich nuggets in there and spoiler alert…a happy ending.

One of the things though that we can easily overlook as we get to the end of the story and the good stuff for Job is that God is not happy about some things that have happened. In fact He is angry that Job’s friends have not spoken accurately about God in their discussions with Job when they were trying to ‘help” their friend. They have misrepresented God in their talks and God is now taking them to task for it.

That’s serious stuff and really got me to thinking and it’s a big challenge. As a Christian do I accurately represent God to people or do I misrepresent Him? Do I accurately reflect God in my blog and my writings? In my family life, church life, with my Christian friends and in my workplace. When I preach in church and in our small group fellowships. This is a massive topic for thought and discussion and I’m sure will prompt lots of thoughts and comments from others as we reflect and consider this more.

Now in legal terms there are different levels or types of misrepresentation because the law realises that not every type of misrepresentation is the same. There are two though that I thought might help us think about this a bit more.

There is an “innocent” misrepresentation where the person didn’t realise that they had said or done something wrong. They hadn’t meant to mislead the other person into believing something which wasn’t true because they believed it to be true themselves.

That’s an easy thing to do and it can happen to us. We say something about God that we believe to be true, perhaps it’s something we have been told by others or taught, even brought up in faith to believe or was our mindset before but actually it’s not correct. Our source of information was wrong or we have not interpreted it incorrectly. We didn’t mean to mislead anyone but we have done it. We have believed and repeated a false teaching or doctrine. We have become the blind leaders of the blind that Jesus warns about. We may have given the wrong impression about God perhaps because we don’t want to offend someone

There are consequences for both parties though when this happens because even an innocent misrepresentation is wrong and leads us on the wrong path. Someone suffers along the way. Perhaps not immediately but at some stage it will have an impact.

When I read the story of Job I think that’s what his friends have done. They were sincerely trying to help. They thought they were giving Godly advice and they were learned, sincere, passionate and believable. There’s a responsibility on us to ensure that what we tell others about God is true especially when we think we are helping others with Godly advice. I always remember being taught in class that “ignorance of the law is no defence”. In other words if I’m caught speeding I can’t say I didn’t know that the legal speed limit was 70 and I was doing 90. I’m expected to find out what the requirements are to be a responsible citizen.

The good news is that as believers we have been given the tools to portray God properly. We have the bible, Jesus’ example to follow and the Holy Spirit who is the Spirit of Truth and God himself that lives within us. Thank the Lord that we can trust in God that He will lead us and guide us into all truths. If we have doubts then we have the ability to discover the truth about God. We need to have that humble attitude of heart though and be willing to listen and be corrected. If we think we know it all then we will be heading for a fall.

We also need to take our responsibility seriously to check things out for ourselves and apply ourselves to knowledge and understanding and seeking guidance from Godly leaders and teachers. God has blessed us with the gifts of ministry especially the gift of teaching within the body of Christ for this very reason. Paul used to do this within the early church and there are examples in his writings. This is why it’s beneficial and necessary to belong to a good fellowship of believers and meet together to be discipled.

The other type of misrepresentation is a fraudulent misrepresentation. Now in this case the person knows that what they are saying or doing is wrong and they are deliberately misleading the other person for their own gain in some way..it could be for a material benefit or for more subtle benefits. This is why Jesus himself warned us about the wolves in sheep’s clothing. Those within the body of Christ who are pretending to be believers but are deliberately trying to sabotage the work of the Church and hurt believers. They will be exposed and they can and will be identified. They won’t display the fruit of the Spirit and Peter and Jude’s letters to believers also help us to look out for the signs and warn us to avoid following their behaviours.

I want to portray God accurately. I ask God to forgive me when I have not done so and pray that He will lead me and guide me in His truth. To put the record straight when I have got it wrong. Teach me your ways God so that I may and will also help others to discover you, the one true God, your son Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit of Truth.

Let me know your thoughts and have a blessed day. I have a feeling that the Lord has much more to teach me on this topic. Bless you.

After the Lord had finished speaking to Job, he said to Eliphaz the Temanite: “I am angry with you and your two friends, for you have not spoken accurately about me, as my servant Job has.”
Job 42:7

We all need a helping hand

Taking Stock

Today, I attended for the first time a breakfast meeting with Christians from all over our region of the Black Country in the West Midlands organised by “Love Black Country”. For those who may not be familiar with the Black Country it is an area outside of Birmingham which takes in the four boroughs of Sandwell, Dudley, Wolverhampton & Walsall. I myself live and work in the Dudley borough in the town of Stourbridge.

It is an area with a great industrial heritage, rich in coal, iron and other minerals and many specialisms developed in local industries of glass making, iron & steel works, chain making, leather working etc. A little known fact but the chain for the ship Titanic was made in the Black Country in Netherton and the first steam locomotive to run in America was built right here – it was called the “Stourbridge Lion”.

The area has, like other industrial areas, suffered over the years through various recessions and loss of manufacturing jobs etc. and areas within the boroughs have been and are still classed as deprived. However, as Christians we believe in a God who can bring about transformation. The churches in the boroughs have joined together as a network with a vision for transformation of the area through:

Listening to God. Working Together. Pursuing Transformation.”

Their logo is below and you can access their site here to find out more about them and the vision at https://loveblackcountry.org.uk

The Big Breakfast today was the first opportunity for, what I understand was a smaller than usual group, to meet together since the Covid restrictions were implemented and certainly for me was the largest group of people that I have met with for the last 15 months. It was a great time and I’m glad that my friend encouraged me to go – it was a very early start!! There were Christians from all denominations and sizes of churches represented. A great opportunity to meet other believers – we may have some differences in how we do things but we can still come together in unity with a common purpose to see our borough changed by the love of Jesus.

It was a time to remind ourselves how much has changed for Christian fellowships and believers during this time of Covid. A time to take stock. There has been, because of the enforced changes, great innovations and flexibility in delivering church meetings and fellowship online and the opportunities to use new technologies. We were certainly moved out of our comfort zones big time and for many it was a scary time, unsettling and difficult but there were great things achieved for God’s Kingdom. Today was a chance to hear about the experiences of others and reflect on what has happened during this period and thank God for the good things that the Churches were able to do to show God’s love and help their local communities. When people were looking for help they turned to the churches because there already existed a network of volunteers and programmes in place. Many churches were prepared and could connect with other local organisations to facilitate and provide help where it was needed. On line church services became more accessible to those who would not usually have entered a church building.

It was also a time of reflecting on the sad things which have happened – the losses, deaths, times of grief, isolation and difficulties which people have encountered. The speaker talked about us moving into a season of rebuilding and restoration but just as in the time of Nehemiah, it was important to go out and survey and ascertain the true state of the Church. Take stock of the damage. Nehemiah did exactly this. He went out before he did any rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem to inspect and review their actual condition which had been reported to him but he needed to see it for himself. He also wept over their condition. I thought that was a very wise and thought provoking statement. Before going forward it is important to look and assess our true condition and any damage or hurts sustained in this period which sometimes unless it is obvious to us can only truly be revealed to us by the Holy Spirit. The hidden cracks in the foundations. It is good to have a time of reflection and assessment of the true state of where we are in God whether that is in the corporate sense or individually.

For some years previously, I had received a number of words and encouragements when praying about being in a season where God was wanting us to move out of our comfort zones.  I know that this resonated with a number of people that I regularly pray and fellowship with. There was a sense that as Christians we had become too comfortable whether that was in our fellowships, in our buildings, in our traditions and programmes. God wanted to shake us out of our comfort zones.  Like the mother bird stirring up her nest and pushing her young out – she does it for their own good – they have to learn to fly and leave the nest. As Christians, God is encouraging us to leave our comfort zones – move out of nests- the place we may have made our security and put our trust Him. He truly knows what is best for us and what will enable us to grow and develop in Him and to reach those who need to encounter Him. Covid has brought about an enforced period of change and this is an opportunity which many people have taken hold of to do just that – they have tried new things, new experiences and taken new risks. They have moved and I believe God wants you to keep moving forward, trying new things in Him and not going back to the familiar ways of doing things. It is certainly a time of change which isn’t going anywhere any time soon. Change will bring about transformation.

Have a blessed day in the Lord. Perhaps a day to take stock and reflect.

The Narrow Gate

So this week, I am blogging “en vacances” as the French say, but from the Peak District and the Derbyshire Dales and not the belle France ….which is where we should be this week coming with the family. Sadly, because of Covid restrictions it was not meant to be. C’est la vie. However, new opportunities beckoned.

It’s been about a 2.5 hour trip from home to get to our new camping ground, so not far, but this is a good opportunity for us to visit some areas we have not considered previously and take our minds off France. Although Covid changed our travel plans, we are blessed in that we live in a tourist destination already. The U.K has beautiful places to visit and although the sun is not guaranteed….as we were always told as kids when sheltering on a windy cold Fife beach, “there is no bad weather wee girl, just bad clothing” 😂

If you have never been to this area of the U.K. then I recommend a visit. The Derbyshire Dales is beautiful and seems much less busy or well known than the Yorkshire Dales, but if you like limestone gorges and beautiful river valleys with babbling brooks then this is for you.

The high Peaks of the Peak District are also great for stretching those legs out, walking to Mam Tor, Kinder Scout. Not that I made it up Kinder Scout (I’m not that energetic) but Mam Tor was just perfect to get my heart pumping. I like a nice river walk me – usually flat but as my husband says, “if you want the views then you got to get up there to the heights”. I tell him “that is why they invented cable cars”.

River walk
Lathkill Gorge
View from Mam Tor

So, to get to the inspiration for this post..the narrow gate. On our first evening here, we ventured for a walk and discovered the “narrow gate”. Here it is..it was the first of many we encountered on our walks in these parts but our first experience of such a gate. As you can see the gate is made of two massive stones, positioned to enable walkers to enter the next field but not the livestock. Let others through and keep others out.

Photo taken at Youlgreave

I seriously struggled to get through it. I literally had to squeeze myself through. I know I’m carrying a few extra Covid pounds but this was ridiculous. My husband thought it was hilarious as I was trying this way and that way and eventually sideways to get through. I don’t know what was going wrong because I should have easily got through the gap. It is very narrow at the bottom and then widens out (a bit) but I seemed to approach it all wrong.

And there lies the rub…with finding and entering through the narrow gate which Jesus talks about. The gate that leads to God and eternal life. We have to approach and enter through the gate (Jesus) in the right way. We can’t take any of our selfish ambitions, pride or get through the gate by belief in our own goodness or good works. My own righteousness and good works are just filthy rags and will not do. They just get in the way and count for nothing.

The good news is that you can enter through the gate by simple faith in Jesus alone. Simple childlike faith. The gate is available to be found by everyone from every nation to find and walk through. There is an entrance fee but Jesus has already paid it for us. He died and paid the penalty for sin so the price is paid in full.

Have you found the narrow gate dear reader and entered through? Or are you approaching the gate in the wrong way and making it too difficult for yourself. Don’t let the things of this world get in the way of walking through that gate. Divest yourself of them and simply come as you are. Believe in Jesus and follow Him.

You can enter God’s Kingdom only through the narrow gate. The highway to hell is broad, and its gate is wide for the many who choose that way. But the gateway to life is very narrow and the road is difficult, and only a few ever find it.
Matthew 7:13-14

“so he (Jesus) explained it to them: “I tell you the truth, I am the gate for the sheep. All who came before me were thieves and robbers. But the true sheep did not listen to them. Yes, I am the gate. Those who come in through me will be saved. They will come and go freely and will find good pastures. The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.

“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd sacrifices his life for the sheep. A hired hand will run when he sees a wolf coming. He will abandon the sheep because they don’t belong to him and he isn’t their shepherd. And so the wolf attacks them and scatters the flock. The hired hand runs away because he’s working only for the money and doesn’t really care about the sheep. “I am the good shepherd; I know my own sheep, and they know me, just as my Father knows me and I know the Father. So I sacrifice my life for the sheep. I have other sheep, too, that are not in this sheepfold. I must bring them also. They will listen to my voice, and there will be one flock with one shepherd. John 10:7-18

Curve Balls..

Life has curve balls. For me, For you. For our families. For our friends. Even for Christians. Things happen, shocking news comes that we weren’t expecting to receive. Times of pain, hurt, disappointment, unsettling times of trouble. It shakes us, throws us off track and then we remember that we serve a God who knows all things, is our Rock, our Fortress and an ever present help in times of need.

In such times, the Lord draws us to Him with love and reminds us of His faithfulness and goodness. That He is a good, good God and we can trust in Him.

Recently, the Lord gave these promises from His Word to sustain us in the difficult and painful times ahead. I hope that if you are experiencing such times yourself that you will also find hope and comfort in these verses. I have meditated and spoken them aloud especially at the start of the day. They have uplifted my soul.

Psalm 91:2. “ I will say of the Lord:He is my refuge and my fortress, My God in Him I will trust”

Nahum 1:7. “ The Lord is good; A stronghold in the day of trouble; And He knows those who trust in Him.”

Psalm 25:5. “ Lead me in your truth and teach me. For you are the God of my salvation on you I wait all the day.”

Psalm 96 1-3. “ Oh sing to the Lord a new song, Sing to the Lord all the earth. Sing to the Lord, bless His name, Proclaim the good news of His salvation from day to day. Declare His glory among the nations, His wonders among all peoples.”

John 3:16. “For God so loved the world He gave His only begotten son that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”

Lamentations 3: 22-23. “Through the Lords mercies we are not consumed, Because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning:Great is your faithfulness”.

Isaiah 26:3-4 You will keep in perfect peace those whose mind is steadfast because they trust in you. Trust in the Lord forever He is the rock eternal

My friend also gave this wise advice.

I believe the Lord wants us to stop fretting and to rest in his love and goodness for this season and also to look and see His beauty in nature all around us.

Have a blessed day.

One of my favourite places in Wales
La belle France
The amazing rock formations in southern France

Bill’s story – Lessons from my Father

I don’t usually do two posts in a day, so this is a new experience for me. I earlier shared my Mum, Pam’s story of her experience with Meningitis in Pam’s story. As it is Father’s Day then I want to honour my Dad, William or Bill as he was usually called, and tell you about him.

Dad’s experience of God’s healing power in his life was very different to Mum’s. We are all unique and no-one’s story is exactly the same. Every story has value and we all have something to share. This is why I believe in the power of testimony. Your story with its uniqueness of relationship with God the Father, Jesus the Son and Holy Spirit will speak to someone.

I believe that God truly knows what is best for each one of us and learning to surrender to him and trusting God when things don’t go according to our plans is a valuable life lesson. Dad’s experiences helped me to understand and see that God’s grace is sufficient for us and how God gives us the grace and strength we need to hold on and persevere in times of testing and suffering.

My Dad, Bill was quite a character. He was a passionate Christian who loved to share the gospel with everyone he met. He was full of energy, never still and very engaging..a cheeky chappie as they say and loved to talk. He could have made a living by talking…He was a big supporter of many Christian ministries and particularly loved T L Osborn, Oral Roberts, Billy Graham. Luis Palau and Reinhard Bonnke.

Dad worked hard. He worked the night shift in a factory and sometimes I would hardly see him. I’d be going out to school and he’d be coming in from work. He had big plans though for when he eventually retired. He was going to take Mum travelling in one of those big Winnebagos. This prompted much laughter in our family as Dad was well known for getting lost and being quite incapable of reading a map. Mum wasn’t much better either so I had quickly learnt to become chief navigator on our family holidays from a young age.

However, sadly those plans were not meant to be. Dad retired at 60 but then almost immediately suffered a massive stroke which rendered him paralysed down one side of his body. He was confined to a wheelchair. We would have loved him to have been miraculously healed but those prayers were not answered. We were grateful though to have him still with us. Dad could still laugh and joke and he still continued to share the gospel. In hospital he had a poster by his bed of Jesus standing beside the empty tomb. I don’t know what happened to him when he was so ill in hospital and unconscious but when he recovered, he could not talk about Jesus without being moved to tears and tell people how much he loved Jesus. It was very humbling to see.

Further tragedy was to strike not long after though when Dad suffered another major stroke. This time it was on the other side of his brain and took his speech. He could no longer talk as he did. It was very hard to see him struggle to express himself. He could utter sounds which we started to learn to interpret and we could still understand some words, especially when he was saying “Jesus”.

During this time, Dad could have become embittered and angry at his lot and how his life had turned out but he didn’t. He faithfully attended church and loved watching and listening to great preachers. He was still grateful to God and he knew that there were also many people who were worse off and suffering much more than him. He was always a big supporter of the Barnabus Fund and taught us that it was important to support fellow believers who were being persecuted and suffering greatly for their faith in other nations.

Dad had lost his independence and all ability to look after himself and was totally reliant on my Mum, my brother and his carers to do everything for him, getting him up, washing, dressing and even feeding. He had limited movement in his right arm but was very weak. He sometimes got frustrated when we couldn’t understand him but he maintained his cheerfulness and was able to cope with what had happened to him. It was only through God’s grace operating in his life that I believe enabled him to be like that. He was a testimony to me and others of God’s grace and peace in action.

Although, Dad was never fully physically healed, he did experience times of God’s healing in his body. One time, I recall was when he was taken extremely ill with pneumonia and was in the hospital. We were called to his bedside because the doctors did not think he would survive the Pneumonia. The chief registrar and doctor stood at the bottom of his bed and it was the first time that I had heard what is called the “death rattle”. It’s the most horrible sound of someone struggling to breathe and effectively taking their lasts breaths. It is a rattling sound from deep within the chest.

I had called my friends from the hospital to pray and I had asked God to take Dad if it was his time but if not, then to restore him to us. It was all I could think to ask God for at that time. We had the comfort as a Christian family to know that Dad would go to be with his Lord Jesus, but truthfully I didn’t want to let him go. He was my Dad and a big influence in my life. I wasn’t ready to say goodbye yet.

As we all waited by his bed, Dad suddenly stirred and pointed to the corner of the room. We couldn’t see anything but I believe that he could see something in the spiritual realm. They say the veil into the spiritual realm is thin at such times. I felt prompted to tell Dad that it wasn’t his time to go. He should tell whoever was there that he wasn’t ready to go with them. I can’t explain what happened next but Dad seemed to relax and continued on breathing but his breathing started to change. It became quieter and more regular. His face changed and was more relaxed.

After a while of this the Registrar stated that he didn’t think Dad was going to die after all that day and they would come back later!! Praise God, Dad recovered and lived for many more years after that day.

Our appointed times are truly in God’s hands. God as our Heavenly Father loves us much more than we can understand. I thank God that my earthly father is now safe in Father God’s care. Dad went to be with the Lord in 2006. I’m sure Bill will have lots to tell me one day when we meet again which we surely will.

Dad always said he was looking forward to getting to heaven. One thing he wanted to do was meet the Apostle Paul. He had lots of questions for him…it makes me smile to think of my Dad chewing the ear off the Apostle Paul..one of his great bible heroes. Bless him.

Dad’s favourite scripture was Psalm 84: It was the reading at his funeral. His favourite verse was:

A single day in your courts is better than a thousand anywhere else! I would rather be a gatekeeper in the house of my God than live the good life in the homes of the wicked.
Psalm 84:10

Dad’s enjoying eternity in God’s courts now and I’m sure he has never been happier.

Dad as a young man