Sunday, 8 September 2013

Vernet les Bains, Languedoc-Roussilon, France

For the next few days before we head home to Hinckley, we're staying in the mountains, with views of the pyranees. 
Just thought I'd share some of the wonder of the region in picture form. 
We've had a wonderful time talking about what we've been reading in Luke's gospel. Things that have struck me have been:
Although the people were praying, and Zechariah himself was praying (Luke 1v 10 and 13) he struggled to believe God was answering his prayer. How often does this happen to us today? Why do I limit God's capacity and will to bless and perform his will in my mind?

The role of Elizabeth and Mary- they have quiet faith and trust that God will perform his miraculous word, and even surrendered acceptance that his will for them is good ( instead of worrying about the very real difficulties lying ahead).  Verse 38 has Mary giving her life into God's hands 'I am the servant of The Lord; let it be to me according to your word'. Humble acceptance of the role God has blessed her with. I love the humility in Elizabeth's exclamation 'why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me?' - and as Murray pointed out this indicates obedience to Jesus as Lord before he has even been born amongst them. She remarks Mary is a blessed woman because she has believed God carries through his word (v 45).  Is this not a picture to us of faith, and what it should taste like?!
Not to minimise in any way the wonderful words of Mary's song of praise, I was struck by verses 49 to 50:

49 ' he who is mighty has done great things for me,
    and holy is his name.
50 And his mercy is for those who fear him
    from generation to generation.'

Mary has a spirit of humble thanksgiving and joy for the great things God has done.
God is mighty and holy - even in just two words we get a view of Mary's theology;
Fearing God is about recognising who God is and revering him in your life- Mary recognises the mercy God shows to those with a proper view of God.
Generations after David, God is providing the eternal king who is to reign. David was massively flawed, but he recognised his need for mercy and salvation from God's hand alone. Mary has clearly read her scriptures, she knows what God has done. 

God showered his spirit upon the weak - Mary and Elizabeth were women, one young, one old, neither rich and influential. Their quiet trust in The Lord is an astounding example of faith.

Zechariah then goes on in prophetic voice, filled with the Holy Spirit, to say God is completing what he promised to Abraham, that the people would 'serve [The Lord] without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.' Zechariah is here indicating the sort of saving faith we might have. We could be serving fearlessly, in Jesus' righteousness. Approaching him safely because Jesus has cleansed us from sin and given us His holiness and righteousness! This is not a contradiction with Mary's words about fearing God. This is fleshing those words out. If we fear God, and recognise his mighty rule over all, we will not fear anything else. We will not fear  that which is in opposition to God. We will not fear missing out on things of any worth because we have thrown our lot in with God- because we know he is everything!

I'm so enjoying looking around me enjoying even a little slice of the creative wonder of our awesome creator God here in France! Here's those pictures I was talking about:

Little friend in our gite!
Brown mountain cows
Pears ripening in the sun
House on the side of the river
White flower
View into the valley from the bridge
Yellow flower
Wonderful husband Murray
Fluffy things I keep seeing
Sweet chestnuts (la chataignerie, the name of our gite, means sweet chestnut grove)
Apple groves are everywhere! Golden delicious?!

Friday, 6 September 2013


Lovely town on the coast

Day 5- Preserving my kingdom of me?

Luke 17 v 26-37

S- Just as it was in the days of Noah, so will it be in the day of the Son of Man. They were eating and drinking and marrying and being given in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all. (V 26-27)

O- God will end all the injustice when Jesus comes to judge- on a terrible day for those who have not listened to his warning
Pattern through bible history: Noah and the flood, Lot and Sodom. Lot's future son-in-laws perished when they took Lot's word to be a joke. (Genesis 19 v 14) They would not leave the city under God's instructions because they wanted to preserve their lives there, despite the depravity of culture. Lot's wife left the city with Lot, by command of the angels before God destroyed the city, but her heart was still in the city and she looked back, and she too lost her life- turned into a pillar of salt. ( Genesis 19 v 17)
But as in Noah's day where the flood came and destroyed them all, there's no going back. There's God's rescue or there's destruction. 
There's a clear division of people: in the ark (Noah's times) or going out of the city (Lot's times) compared with those who are carrying on unaware/ignorant of what is coming, unprepared to change.
The activities described 'eating and drinking' etc are not in themselves evil. Their problem is going about their lives without reference to God. 
Here God is calling us to something very counter cultural: Luke 17 v32-33 read 'Remember Lot's wife. Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will keep it.' 

I was challenged to consider: am I going about my life the way I want it or am I willing to 'give it up' and look towards God's rescue and kingdom. Will I, like Noah, embrace God's rescue provision? 
To be part of God's kingdom: I must not seek to preserve my life, but give it up for God. I wonder in what ways I am doing this preserving thing- on reflection I think it's being perennially too busy to do what God desires, too busy to pray, to love like him, to saturate myself with his word. While I've been on holiday I've idly found myself thinking of many things (hobbies, interests, ways of doing family life) that could occupy my every waking thought for the next 12 months. I feel a tug on my heart to slow it all down, put it all aside and fix my eyes instead on Jesus. 

P- Lord have my heart and mind, soul and strength to use for your kingdom. 
Lord, turn me from seeking my own kingdom first.
Lord, stop me from storming ahead enthusiastically for more fun ideas and let me wait on you and the opportunities that you are giving us for using our energies wisely for you.

What did you expect?

Quotations and ideas I've found thoughtful from Paul David Tripp's book on marriage:

Marriages are fixed vertically before they are ever fixed horizontally. 

A marriage of love, unity and understanding will flow out of a daily worship of God as creator. It is only when you look at your spouse and see the glory of God's creative artistry that you will treat him/her with the dignity and respect that a healthy marriage requires. 

We can end up criticising the other for choices they did not make. When we celebrate the creator we look at each other with wonder and joy. 

It is only in worship of God in our marriages that we find reason to continue [the marriage]. 

Worship is not primarily what we do, but is rooted in our identity.

No one gives grace as well as a person who recognises they need it as well. 

Where will you find the reasons to continue in those disappointing moments of your marriage when those reasons are most needed? Not in your spouse- they are in the same condition as you. Not in the ease of your circumstances- we still live in a world that is groaning and broken. Not in surface strategies and techniques- your struggles are too deep for that. Your only hope is looking up! 

Thursday, 5 September 2013

Exploring Languedoc - south France

Things we have enjoyed: 
Walking through an amazing suspended path cut into the rock by water erosion- gorges de la fou:

Swimming in the mild, crystal clear waters at Argeles North beach. 
Visit to colliour:
Royal castle

Day 4- open eyes to God's kingdom

Murray is keen to go to the beach this morning (North Argeles) so to get there in time and avoid the midday heat it's a short and sweet one!

Going to use S. O. A. and P. for Scripture, observations, applications and prayer points. For more on this see Good Morning Girls website, but basically it's the very simple reflective model I'm using for my bible study here.
Luke 17 v 20-25: 
(Just writing v 20 and 21) 
S- Being asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, he answered them, ''The kingdom of God is not coming in ways that can be observed, nor will they say, 'look, here it is!' Or 'There!' For behold, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you!''

O- 1. The Pharisees have missed the point that the kingdom of God has already come amongst them in Jesus!
2. The days are approaching when Jesus will no longer walk amongst them and they will want him to be there.
3. The day on the 'Son of Man' (another word for Jesus) will be dramatic and visible to all, like a bolt of lightening. This is the day when Jesus returns to judge the earth.

A- 1. Thank God for opening my eyes to Jesus as King.
2. God's kingdom is invisible and to the worlds eyes unimpressive. Ask God to help me to 'seek God's kingdom first' Matthew 6 v 33. 

P- As the bible says Jesus will come again like lightning across the sky, with no warning, there is a sudden terror for those who do not recognise his kingdom. Therefore there's an urgency in sharing the gospel. Praying that God would give me his compassion for others. 
We're struck by how the model of those with faith is being taught the disciples in this chapter: Lord would you help us to live the kind of authentic faith you teach here?

Keeping others from sin, loving your children and forgiving (vs 1-4)
Having faith that realises that God is off our scales ( so much bigger than ourselves!) with power to do mighty things (vs 5-6)
Realising we look for incentives of praise and glory for our willingness to serve instead of simply serving God for his name's sake (his glory) (vs 7-10)
Worshipping in humble thanksgiving for all that you've given us, all you have done to redeem us from our fallen selves and for the hope of sharing in your eternity! 
For the praise of your name! 

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Day Three- Worshipping God or Getting on with our lives

Thought I'd photograph my little stickman drawing of the passage today: The healing of the 10 lepers. 
(Luke 17 v11-19)
It may be a familiar event to you already, but did anything strike you fresh today?
I roped my husband into my bible study over breakfast. 
Thought I might quickly clarify some details. Lepers were suffering from a disease which ultimately made their skin look funny, and they were pronounced 'unclean' and not allowed to live among other people, even their families. They were also prevented from joining in with worship in the jewish community. Theirs was a lonely life and they would have heard about Jesus healing others and in desperation waited to see if he would heal them so they could live normal lives again! While reading it this morning we were struck by how the actions of the 10 lepers look so much like faith. 
Faith has been one of the major topics do far, and there's more today to get our heads around!
Why does it seem like faith? They waited for Jesus so they were clearly pinning hope for healing on him, they called him Master (Lord) which means they attribute great authority to him, they obeyed his instructions to show themselves to the priests. (Showing theirselves to the priests and having themselves pronounced clean was the only way they were allowed back into their communities, to reunite them with loved ones and get back their jobs!)
Jesus tells them to show themselves to the priests. On the way there, one of the ten realises he is healed and begins shouting about God and runs back to thank Jesus. He is the only one. While the others go ahead to the priests, eager to get their lives back, he falls at Jesus feet praising God. Jesus says that his faith has saved him (see footnote for alternative translation: your faith has made you well; your faith has saved you could equally apply- which fits the context?)- defining faith as worship, humility and thanksgiving to God for his saving work. Jesus asks ' was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?'

In terms of applying this truth, I wonder if I am more like the 9 who did not return. I cry out to God in a tight spot, but when I analyse my heart am I longing to get back in control of my life again? Or do I give God the praise due his name? I think this passage is great because it highlights the dangers of living to look well amongst men and encourages us to slow down and thank God for everything he has done and all that he is. It's once again a call to humility, to a face-down recognition that God is God and I am unworthy. Is my life permeated with thanksgiving or am I grumbling away with my little problems, unsatisfied and entitled?
What did you think about today's passage? How is faith portrayed here? 

Prayer: thanksgiving and praise to you oh  Lord! You have done marvellous things.