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.

Being a Faithful Servant

Look up and see the King of Glory (JESUS). Do not be asleep when He comes.

Do not let Him find you beating and taking advantage of those more weaker than you. Oppressing those who are weak.

Rise up & shine. Dust off your garments. Shake them out. Let them see the light of day again. Step out into the light of His glory. Do not conform to this world but be different. Be children of the king. Act like children of the king.

In my spirit as I prayed I heard the Lord say:

Woe to those who are sleeping. Let them wake now. Let them wake now and put their hand to the plough before it is too late. I will take away from them and give to another if they do not act on my words and follow me. Deny themselves, take up their cross and follow the master.

I am grieved by some within my body of believers. I am angry with the corruption, hypocrisy and those who abuse My name. They take My name in vain. My name is Holy. My name has authority. My name is not to be taken in vain. My name has power & authority but woe to those who use it in vain & treat it with disdain. They will be undone. They will be destroyed.

Make your way straight before My face.

“Now I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse. And He who sat on him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war. His eyes were like a flame of fire, and on His head were many crowns. He had a name written that no one knew except Himself. He was clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. And the armies in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, followed Him on white horses. Now out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should strike the nations. And He Himself will rule them with a rod of iron. He Himself treads the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. And He has on His robe and on His thigh a name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS. Revelation 19:11-16

“You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain.
Exodus 20:7

But Jesus said to him, “No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.”
Luke 9:62

Who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his master made ruler over his household, to give them food in due season? Blessed is that servant whom his master, when he comes, will find so doing. Assuredly, I say to you that he will make him ruler over all his goods. But if that evil servant says in his heart, ‘My master is delaying his coming,’ and begins to beat his fellow servants, and to eat and drink with the drunkards, the master of that servant will come on a day when he is not looking for him and at an hour that he is not aware of, and will cut him in two and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites. There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
Matthew 24:45-51

Therefore strengthen the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be dislocated, but rather be healed.
Hebrews 12:12-13

Psalm 55 – Betrayed by Friends? Trust in God

If you have never read Psalm 55 then I recommend a read. It is an amazing Psalm. David just pours out the hurt, pain & anger he feels over being betrayed. You can really feel the pain behind the words. It is raw and real. He puts his broken heart out there and the emotion is tangible.

Why this Psalm is enlightening is that it’s not just any betrayal though.. it was the betrayal of a very close friend and equal. Someone David trusted completely who went to the temple with him. They worshipped together. Spiritual companions. They were of the same heart & mind as David or so he thought. David found out the truth though. His friend was not really his friend. He was out to destroy him. It cut him deeply to be betrayed by someone he trusted completely. As David said, if it was an enemy he could have coped with it. You know your enemies are against you but you expect your friends to have your back.

Imagine as a Christian being betrayed by your closest confidant at church. You have been going to church together for years, perhaps you came to faith together, walked the journey together, you think you know them, trust them, you have shared your heart with them and then you find out it was all a pretence. They weren’t your friend at all, they didn’t have your best interests at heart, they were actually working against you all the time. The shock, the pain, hurt, anger…you would feel it just as David felt it.

I believe Holy Spirit is warning us that we are going to see more of such betrayal being revealed in the body of Christ. We need to prepare our hearts. You may have already experienced it. Jesus warned believers about it in the last days that brothers & sisters etc. will betray each other, How will we deal with it if it happens to us and not compromise our faith. For our own sakes we can’t allow such betrayals to crush us and destroy trust of others and impact future Godly relationships. We can’t give into revenge or thoughts of revenge. David certainly wanted God to take vengeance. You read it in this Psalm. He gives voice to those thoughts.

The pain and hurt of such betrayal needs to be acknowledged and poured out to God. It will fester otherwise. It is important to guard our hearts so that bitterness and resentment do not take root and cause us and others even more trouble. Choosing to forgive others as Jesus forgives us is the test. God can help us to forgive through the power of the Holy Spirit working in us to do this. Without the Holy Spirit, I think it is impossible as our flesh will want to lash out and cause hurt as we have been hurt. We can trust God though to bring healing to the wounds and for justice and truth to be outworked. He is our shield and protector.

We can’t allow these painful experiences to drive us away from fellowship with other Christians. David wanted to just run away – verse 6 “oh that I had wings like a dove, I would fly away and be at rest.” and these things will want to make us run away too…run from everything even those people that truly love us and want the best for us. Betrayal can be a doorway for shame especially if someone has betrayed things about us to others that will cause people to judge us or treat us differently. Running away is not the answer. We won’t find any rest by drawing away and isolating ourselves. There will be a true godly friend who can draw alongside you at these difficult times. Help is there. Don’t reject those who want to help and love you at these times out of fear of the same thing happening. Learning to trust again.

There is something else I believe in this Psalm though that the Holy Spirit also reveals. In the midst of David’s brokenness & outpouring I read in verses 20-21 a prophetic word inspired by the Holy Spirit about the anti-christ and how he will operate and it’s a similar story.

“He has put forth his hands against those who were at peace with him; He has broken his covenant. The words of his mouth were smoother than butter, But war was in his heart; His words were softer than oil, Yet they were drawn swords”.

Anti-Christ will pretend to be a close friend & ally of Israel who will deceive Israel into making a peace treaty which will prove to be a deception. He will break that treaty mid way through and betray them. This is prophesied in other parts of scripture about a seven year peace treaty. Israel will feel utterly betrayed. Anti Christ is a flatterer and a deceiver. War and not peace is his true intention. The betrayal of David by a close friend shows us I think how anti christ will operate. Is Anti Christ a fellow worshipper or spiritual person? I don’t know but it provokes me to think about the possibility.

Why have I also flagged these verses. To show that God can still use us in such situations despite our brokenness and work through us for His glory. He can use you still. Don’t give up and allow the pain of betrayal to consume you. Instead rise up, believe in the gifts He has deposited within you and the ministry He has called you to. You are a gift to the body of Christ. Don’t let the enemy rob you of it and destroy your future.

There is an answer and hope in v 22 “Cast your burden on the Lord and He will sustain you. He shall never permit the righteous to be moved”. This promise to sustain you also means to nourish, bear, hold up, protect, support and defend you. God will do all this for you – give him the burden of betrayal and trust in His unfailing love.

Blessings to you in Jesus name.