Gardens…

Meet Me in the garden…Those were the words I heard in my spirit as I was waking one morning. I initially turned over and tried to go back to sleep but I heard them again – “Meet Me in the garden”.    I knew it was the Lord Jesus speaking to me and inviting me to spend time with him – not in my actual garden – but in that secret place where I go to pray and talk to Him.    It was early morning so I got up as quietly as I could, so not to disturb my family, and went downstairs to a place I could be alone and meet with the Lord.

It was a really blessed time in His presence.   I started to think more about why the Lord has said to “Meet Him in the garden” and what is so special about a garden.   

During lockdown because of Coronavirus,  many people have spent more time in their gardens or local parks.   It is a blessing to have a garden – a place which is yours, a sanctuary to enjoy and take pleasure from.    A place to reflect, enjoy the beauty of nature and time to relax.    Gardens draw us in and make us feel better – they are food indeed for the soul.   There is something in our DNA which draws us to a garden – even if we are not green fingered ourselves – we can appreciate the beauty. This is me with my dog peeking through a floral display in the park.

I started to think more about gardens in the bible.

God was the first Gardener – It says in Genesis 2 v 8  that “the Lord God planted a garden”  – the Garden of Eden.    How amazing & beautiful that first garden must have been – planted & designed by God’s own hand.   It says that every tree planted was “pleasant for the sight” and “good for food”.       God made that garden especially for Adam.   He took the time to create a special place for Adam.   A place of nourishment & also a place to meet.    God would walk in the garden in the cool of the day and meet with Adam & Eve – a time of relationship.   There is also a special place for each one of us – a place where we can go and meet with God – a place to be in His presence.

Life was in that very first Garden – it was formed there – God created Eve from Adam’s side and the Tree of Life was in it’s midst.    Jesus came to give us life in all its fullness and I believe that we find life – true life – in our relationship with Him.    When we come and meet with Him we meet Life – Jesus said “I am the way, the truth & the life -No-one comes to the father except through Me”.      We won’t find true life or relationship with God any other way – After Adam & Eve had eaten of the tree of knowledge of good & evil they were put out of the garden in case they ate of the tree of life and lived forever in sin.     Jesus through his death and resurrection has cleansed us from sin, there is a way back into the garden of fellowship with God for us and we are now partakers of eternal life.

Death was also in that Garden – When Adam & Eve ate of the tree of knowledge death came.   God made tunics of skin to cover them – an animal had to die to provide clothing for Adam & Eve.  Death had entered into creation.   Death was also drawing near in the Garden of Gethsemane.    Jesus met with his Father in prayer in the Garden on that night.    It says in the gospels that Jesus often went with his disciples there and that is why Judas knew where to find him.    On that night – it was a place of betrayal, pain & suffering for Jesus.   He was in great sorrow and in deep distress.   He had been betrayed, let down by His disciples and was facing death & torture.     The garden is a place that God wants us to come when we are in such times of sorrow – times of anxiety & fear.  Times when we feel overwhelmed and think that we can’t continue – when it all seems too much.    Times when people close to us have betrayed us or let us down.God will draw us to Him, will comfort us & strengthen us in such times so that we can continue.

Beware of the enemy in the Garden. Satan entered the garden of Eden and deceived Eve. Watch out for the lies of the enemy. Don’t let him lead you astray. The garden can provoke others to jealousy. Jezebel schemed and plotted to have Naboth killed because her husband Ahab desired the vineyard garden that belonged to Naboth. The king wanted it for a vegetable garden but Naboth refused to sell. It was his inheritance and not for sale. The enemy always wants to steal your inheritance in Christ. The enemy is jealous of your position in Christ and he will do what he can to steal from you. Guard yourself and trust in God. The enemy will try and stop you enjoying relationship with God. He will tell you that you are not good enough and all sorts of lies to interfere in your relationship with God.

New Life & hope was in the Garden – When Jesus conquered the grave and rose from the dead and appeared to Mary ,she thought at first that he was a Gardener.   I had never really thought about that before but my friend mentioned it to me the other day.     Why would Mary have mistaken Jesus for a Gardener unless he was in a garden and it was a reasonable assumption to make.   From a place of sorrow and grief the garden became one of hope for Mary. There is hope in the garden – Jesus was dead but now He is alive.   It is a place of hope. It’s a place of victory. It’s a place of new beginnings.

Nourishment in the Garden – The plants which were in the Garden of Eden were good for food and there was a river which flowed from there to water the garden.    We all need food & water to survive and flourish.   Jesus said “I am the bread of life.  He who comes to Me shall never hunger and he who believes in Me shall never thirst”  – “Man cannot live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God”.  There is spiritual nourishment in spending time with God in His presence and hearing what He has to say to us in those quiet times and as we spend time in His word – the bible.   Jesus is the true bread of life and out of Him spring rivers of living water.     I am becoming more aware of my need to spend more time in His presence, in His word than doing things for God.  I am blessed by the giftings which God has given me but being in relationship with Him is the most important thing – Reminding me of my first love.

Love is in the Garden – unconditional love waits in the garden. God loves us no matter what we have done or what we do.

You will hear God’s voice in the garden. As He spoke to Adam you will hear His still small voice speak to you saying I love you.

God is love. If you seek Him you will find Him. If you are looking for love you will find it in God the father and Jesus the son. Blessings to you.

 

A course correction – the right direction

The Lord has been speaking these same words “a course correction” to me over the last month or so. It has certainly got my attention and through various scriptures and pictures, I keep coming back to this theme of a “course correction”. As I have been reading and praying, I believe that the Lord is emphasising that whether it is on a personal level or even governmental and national – there is need of a “course correction”.

I have this sense that some may have gone “off course” in terms of following God, or in doing what God wants us to do in our lives or doing what is pleasing to Him. The degree of “course correction” required is going to vary depending on how far we have wandered from the right path or direction that God wants to take us. It could be just a small correction or adjustment to get us back on track or if we are going in the wrong direction entirely then it will mean a complete “U” turn – whether that is in terms of mindsets and/or behaviors to get back on track.

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For some I believe it means they will find the right way in God through Jesus for the first time. It will be a complete revelation of truth to them. They will hear the good news and receive the gospel and believe. There could be opposition, trouble and persecution to this new direction in life and for some people it will mean going in the opposite direction to those around you – people you may have journeyed through life with for a long time. There will be challenging times ahead but Jesus will journey with you and take you through.

You might be led to take a different path and for some there may be a literal parting of ways with certain people – this even happened with the Apostle Paul when he parted ways with Barnabas and they went in different directions in their missionary journey. I see this happening in certain ministries – people are going to part company but God will show the timing of this and trust Him to give you peace about the decision. It may mean for those who do not discern God’s hand and direction that there could be hurts along the way and difficulties to overcome, so I pray for God’s grace in these situations and a covering of protection of hearts & minds. That no root of bitterness will spring up or jealousy among fellow believers leading to disunity and trouble.

At the start of Covid 19 we certainly seemed to be having a time of “reset” and people took the opportunity of an enforced lockdown to review lots of aspects of their lives. Even Churches were not immune and had to review their practices and make changes to the way that they functioned in terms of meeting together, teaching & helping each other and their local communities. Lots of changes were made, there was innovation & new practices undertaken – but recently people seem to be wanting to get back to “normal”.

People are saying more and more that they can’t wait until things return to normal. I can understand this because there has been a lot of confusion and changes of rules/regulations and this has unsettled us -there are restrictions on our every day lives and we are longing for a return to normality, but I don’t think God wants us to return to the old “normal”. I believe God really wants us to embrace a course correction. God does not want us to return to old habits and ways of doing things especially if they were wrong. There is something better that God has for us.

The Lord first got my attention on a “course correction” with a reading in the book of Habakkuk. Habakkuk was a prophet in the Old Testament and in Chapter 2 he says “I will stand my watch and set myself on the ramparts and watch to see what He (God) will say to me and what I will answer when I am corrected“.

Habakkuk actively sought correction from God – he prepared himself to listen and receive it but in my experience (this may just be me) -we usually try and avoid correction or disciplining. I don’t think I have met anyone yet who really likes being disciplined and told they are wrong but it is good for us and its necessary. We can make wrong choices or we move and act impulsively or at the wrong time. God loves us and correcting us is a sign of His love for us – If we are children of God then it is a given that He will correct us. As a loving Father, God wants to correct us and show us when we are “off course”. God wants the best for us. He showed Habakkuk plainly – God said “write the vision and make it plain i.e. clear so that he may run who reads it” – in other words God speaks clearly to us through His word and shows us what is required for Godly living.

When I was thinking about this scripture from Habakkuk the Lord showed me a picture of a sail boat. It was just a small simple boat with a sail and a person sitting at the helm with his hand on the tiller. The tiller is the “course corrector” – without the tiller the boat would just go with the currents, the winds & tides which would dictate its course. However, the sailor constantly adjusts the pressure on the tiller to keep the boat going in the right direction. God is the tiller in our lives. There is always going to be a “wind” or a “current” in our lives which tries to influence us and take us in a certain direction. It’s identifying which is prevailing and influencing the direction of my life – is it culture, relationships, work, fears, lies, anxieties, my desires, my assumptions etc. there are so many things – or am I allowing the word of God and the breath of the Holy Spirit to lead me in the right way – with my eyes fixed on Jesus. It’s challenging to take time and ask God to identify what is truly influencing our decisions and the direction we are travelling.

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The good news is that Jesus comes to set us back on track if we are going the wrong way. Jesus set two of His followers back on the right course. In Luke 24 starting at verse 13, we read the story of two followers of Jesus, one named Cleopas, who were travelling from Jerusalem on the road to Emmaus. Both had been in Jerusalem when Jesus was crucified and were discussing everything that had happened with Jesus’ death and also the story that the women had told them that morning of Jesus’ tomb being empty. They were confused, sad and didn’t know what to believe. They had now left Jerusalem & the other believers – we are not told why- and were travelling to Emmaus – 7 miles away – going in the wrong direction. Jesus took the time to go and meet them on the road and explain the truth to them – he took them through the scriptures and explained the truth about the Messiah as prophesied in the Old Testament. These men both knew Jesus but they didn’t immediately recognise Jesus on the road but something compelled them not to let this “stranger” go on but to hear more from Him. The story ends with them doing a “U” turn and heading back to Jerusalem.

I love this story – Jesus shows His love and compassion as the good shepherd for these two followers. He actively seeks them out because they are headed in the wrong direction but they don’t realise it. They need to be in Jerusalem. They need to go back to where they headed out from. Jesus eventually reveals himself to them when they all sit down to eat & break bread together (this speaks to me of a time of intimacy and fellowship) and then immediately once they recognise Jesus it all makes sense – they get up and head back to Jerusalem – even though it is late at night to tell the rest of the disciples the good news – Jesus is alive – He has been resurrected.

This story made me think – What would have happened if those two followers had not returned to Jerusalem. Not only did they encourage and immediately witness about Jesus’ resurrection to the other disciples when they returned which must have had an impact especially when their story was verified when Jesus appeared again to all of them there, but I also think they could have missed out on receiving the baptism of the Holy Spirit which Jesus had promised His followers. It is not recorded in scripture, but I do believe those two men were part of those 120 who were recorded as gathered in the upper room in the Acts of the Apostles and received the infilling and power of the Holy Spirit. Jesus did not want them to miss out on the fullness of what He had promised and it’s the same for you and I today. Jesus does not want us to miss out on the fullness of what He died and rose from death to give us – life in all its abundance.

I think Jesus wants to cause an intervention in some lives to get us back on track. We hear of “interventions” being made in secular terms – someone might be in a desperate situation and there has to be an “intervention” by friends or authorities to get them to stop and change – to get them to realise truth. Jesus does the same and the New Testament is full of stories of Jesus intervening in people’s lives and totally changing them and their circumstances. The apostle Paul is another example who comes to mind- Jesus meets him on the road to Damascus and totally changes the direction of his life – instead of persecuting and killing Christians as Saul – he becomes Paul – a believer and follower of Christ who becomes a witness of Jesus – an apostle and missionary.

Isaiah 55 v 7 says “Let the wicked forsake his way, …….Let him return to the Lord, and He will have mercy on him, and to our God for He will abundantly pardon”. The good news of Jesus is that salvation -believing in Jesus and accepting Him into our lives – the biggest course corrector to lead us back into fellowship with God – is available to everyone. Repenting means doing a “U” turn – a “turn around” – turning away from our former sinful and self-centered lives – and following Jesus as a disciple. It is not too late to make that decision to get off the wide path that Jesus says leads to destruction and instead choose to take the narrow path which Jesus guides us to and puts our feet on – the path of salvation and to eternal life with God. Restoration in all its fullness.

And what of those of us who are followers of Christ already- where could we possible need a course correction. Jesus speaks to the churches in Revelation and showed them some course corrections needed -Firstly – the church who had forgotten their first love. I was really convicted of this recently – My love for Jesus – it needed rekindling. My passion for Him as I had at first as a young believer – when I first came to know Him and love Him. Those verses in Revelation 2:4 spoke right into my heart “I have this against you – that you have left your first love”. Remember from where you have fallen – repent – a course corrector – it’s always first and foremost about Jesus. It’s about our relationship with Him. It’s not what we do but why we do it – Jesus is the reason – our love for Him.

It’s not just losing our first love, Jesus also points out in these early chapters of Revelation the churches who are tolerating immorality, idolatry, false teachings, tolerating false prophets, the indifferent church – neither hot nor cold and the dead church – having a name for being alive but actually dead. Jesus has words of correction to all these churches but also words of encouragement to keep the churches on the right paths of His presence and teachings. To help them get back on track and overcome all trials and temptations just as Jesus did – with His guidance and the Holy Spirit at work in us and through us. We, who are the Church – the body of Christ – a living, breathing body with Christ as our head need to take these words of Jesus on board – They are relevant to these times that we are living in. What is Jesus saying to His church today – what words of correction is He bringing to us.

I pray that this blog will be an encouragement, challenge and help to you. It may resonate with you and may you be blessed in Jesus’ precious name.

Invite Christ in -Access all areas

I had this word when I was praying some time ago and have shared it in our fellowship but feel that the Lord wants me to share it again now.

My dear children – you are all children in my sight, dear and beloved to me. How my heart aches for you. How my heart longs to take you in my arms and remove the burdens you are carrying.  I am here – just waiting for you. Waiting to lift you up in my arms and carry you through the night. Do you hear me calling to you?  Do you hear my still small voice crying out to you?   Do not try and block out my voice.   Do not fill your hearts and lives with worldly things which would stifle my still small voice.   Make room in your hearts for me.   Make room.

Some of you need to clean out the house (our hearts) – to make room so that I can come in and sup with you and talk to you and make you mine.

Some of you have squeezed me into the smallest room of your heart and tried to close the door and keep me in that small space and will not allow me to have access to the parts which I need to access – the parts which need healing, cleansing and release.

Some of you have opened up a parlour, the best room, where I am invited to sit.   Where everything to outward appearances is swept clean and tidy – all rubbish hidden out of view – a room where a fire burns and which seems welcoming and inviting and where everything appears to be alright – but you are not comfortable with me.   You are not comfortable in my presence and you do not know how to be comfortable with me. You are not really comfortable with my presence there because you are fearful that I will want to go into the other rooms and all the other rooms are barred to me. You are ashamed of them. You feel that they are not good enough for me. You feel that I would not want to really see inside those rooms – rooms which are dirty, unclean, cluttered, and full of things which you are ashamed of – those are the very rooms I need to go into with you and help you clean. Help you bring warmth and light into those rooms. Those areas of your life which you are ashamed of – those areas of your life which you try and keep me out of and pretend do not exist. I am not fooled.   I want to come into all areas. I want to be able to access all areas of your life and your hearts.

Do not be afraid my children. Do not be afraid. If you will open the door then I will come in and we will eat together. We will talk together, we will commune together. I made you, created you, I know you better than you know yourselves.   I will not be shocked or outraged by anything in your life or in your heart. If you are willing to submit to me completely then I will come in and do a work in you. I will restore you and refresh you.

Some of you ran well once. Who interrupted your race? Who hardened your heart against me? Who deafened your ears and muffled my voice? Who stole away your desire to be with me and the intimacy that we once enjoyed? Who stole your first love?

I am the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. I sit at the right hand of my father in heaven. I am not a thief or a trespasser. I do not enter in where I am not invited.

Do not keep me out of my rightful place in your heart and in your life. I want to take up my rightful place in your heart and in your life.   Let me take up my rightful place.   Come to me and submit yourself to me. Open the door and let me into my rightful place.   Open the door and let me into the closed places.   I am King and Lord of all and there is no other but me. Let me come in.     Do not leave it any longer.   The time has come to let me be King and Lord in my rightful place.   For the time will come when I will no longer be stood here knocking.   Let me in to that locked and darkened room in your heart so that I may bring my light and my healing touch.