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.

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Day Two- Self exaltation or humble faith?

Greetings from Saint-Cyprien (south west France if your geography is like mine!) 
I've had the benefit today of reading early  on the flight this morning (even with the 4am start muddling my brain!)  and mulling it over through the day, digesting it. Brilliant to have the time to do that with God's word now and again! 
We're looking at Luke 17 verses 5-10 today- as I'm not Internet connected I won't paste it here. It occurred to me today that we haven't talked bible translations: sometimes if you are new to bible study or find language a barrier, using a clearer text can help- try looking at this passage using bible gateway and switch the translation to either NCV or CEV. NLT can also be good. Why not try all three and see if you get a better grasp of the text? ( I often look up the passages out of a range of bibles too!)
Yesterday we met Jesus talking about avoiding influencing others to sin, caring for others by helping them to see the sin themselves and forgiving others who hurt us. Since then the passage moves on to the apostles (that's the group of 12 followers Jesus specifically chose to teach, and to build the church after he rose from the dead and returned to Father God!) who do tend to ask funny questions ( a bit like us really!). At verse 5 they're asking Jesus to increase their faith- fairly innocent question right?! Jesus' reply appears to be quite a rebuke ( a holy telling off!) as he tells them if they had even the faith of a very tiny seed they would be able to move a mulberry tree into the sea. Now what is that about?!
Context is always vital to understanding the bible; that means what text is sandwiching the passage you're looking at. We did that yesterday a bit by looking at the Rich Man story. 
Basically the problem Jesus is pointing to is that his 12 followers haven't got a big enough view of God yet. They don't have any faith! 
I think Jesus is suggesting faith is: understanding who God is ( sounds simple but God is not understood through human efforts alone but by his revelation- this means we need to study his word) and approaching God properly. 
What follows this is an example Jesus gives by getting them to imagine they have a servant ( common enough for a land owner in those days) and they would expect the servant and master relationship to work. The servant, grateful for his job, would not be expecting special thanks for going about his masters orders, neither would the master  expect to praise him for his obedience.
I was thinking about this as I tried to make sense of the two events recorded in Luke.  I was in the plane after take off, flying low over englands turf. The cars were getting smaller on the roads as we rose, the trees were starting to shrink, the vast fields were starting to look like little squares of cereal now. God reveals himself to little specks (us) going about their daily business on planet earth, and we think we're the big stuff. How often do I boast about me rather than about God?! It was a moment of grasping a small bit of truth- humility is what Jesus is calling his apostles to here, and obedience without praise. 
Time to go to bed I think, but lots to think about! What did you make of today's study yourselves? 

Monday, 2 September 2013

Day One of 'Loving Like Jesus' : Don't let others fall into sin!

Breakfast with the boys, reading about the humbling of Nebuchadnezzar. Really God's timing is perfect. Had a great discussion about how God humbled Joel and was teaching him not to be proud but to fully rely on him in an incident yesterday (with karate block breaking- aren't you glad you asked!?), something so mundane it's crazy. We do have an awesome God!

Blessed with times with my stepsons this summer! 

Reheated cup of tea and a sit-down after zipping Joel through town this morning to school, actually avoiding roadworks :D They are back at school and I can't seem to get my head around how fast summer has gone!

Prayer: God would you change me through your word today and give me strength to do your will through my weakness of will, ability and faith. Have mercy on me. Cut through my busyness and be with me through the day. Amen

Open up the bible: Luke 17 v 1-4

Read the bit just before to get some idea of context: The Rich Man and Lazarus is, from a cursory reading, about the division of people between those who live for riches and perhaps ease in this life and those whose hope is in eternal riches and live an uncomfortable life (a place besides Abraham in God's kingdom). The rich man, who is unnamed,  has a lifestyle that leads him to Hades (a kind of fiery grave, or place of the dead). The man pleads for Lazarus, who has found comfort in the afterlife, following a life of discomfort covered with sores and poverty begging outside the rich man's gates, to tell his brothers about the comfort they too could have if they turned from their lifestyle of treasuring riches now. There is a great shocking difference between the two end-points for these two men - the rich man doesn't even have a name. The Rich Man begs Lazarus to go back to tell his brothers what the reality is for them both, and Abraham says that they would not believe a man coming back from the dead to tell them, just as they do not listen to Moses or the Prophets about God's kingdom.
Murray's just pointed out to me that the main point of this is: Will I listen to God like Lazarus did or will I be dead to his voice like the Rich Man and his brothers, even though God has raised his Son from the dead.

Reading verses 1-4:

17 And he said to his disciples, “Temptations to sin are sure to come, but woe to the one through whom they come! It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were cast into the sea than that he should cause one of these little ones to sin. Pay attention to yourselves! If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him, and if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him.”

I read this in my stepsons' bible too for some extra comparison:
17 Jesus said to his disciples: There will always be something that causes people to sin. But anyone who causes them to sin is in for trouble. A person who causes even one of my little followers to sin would be better off thrown into the ocean with a heavy stone tied around their neckSo be careful what you do. 
Correct any followers of mine who sin, and forgive the ones who say they are sorry. Even if one of them mistreats you seven times in one day and says, “I am sorry,” you should still forgive that person.

Write out the SOAP scripture:
Pay attention to yourselves! If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if her repents, forgive him, and if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, saying, 'I repent', you must forgive him.

1. Jesus is speaking to his followers (or to those who would follow him). He's saying that there will be lots of things that bring sin into the lives of other followers, but don't let it be you that's the influence for them to sin! He says the extreme thing that it would be better for us to have a heavy weight around our neck and fall into the depths of the sea. Woah! Hold on! What?! I think this extreme picture is meant to make us realise how powerfully we can affect others and how dangerous we therefore are to the lives of others. We can be so influential in their lives for good or for bad, that it would be better we were far away (at the bottom of the sea) if we are tempting others into sin.Just as an aside, what is sin?! The bible defines sin as living as if God were not in the picture. That means living as if your opinion reigns supreme, like you are the king of the universe. We will see more of the bible as we go through this study, but what we'll see is that it is foolish to treat God like this!
This caution reminds me of a song I learned from Romans 15 v 1-2 - the end point being that all of Gods people may glorify God with one voice! What a great thing to strive for!
We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. For Christ did not please himself, but as it is written, “The reproaches of those who reproached you fell on me.” Forwhatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. (Romans 15:1-6, ESV)
 2. How do we react to their sin? He calls them 'these little ones' which is evocative of speaking about a child. Humanly speaking we desire goodness in the children around us - we would stop them if they were about to do something harmful to themselves or others. The way we would stop them would be with compassion and in love! Even if one of my stepsons had really crossed the line beyond what's acceptable I would still gently take him to one side and say 'please don't do that sweetheart, it's not good for (insert reason/person/you)'.  It would be sincere, (I would not want to see them carrying on!) but it would also be gentle and caring (mainly because it is important that we maintain a loving relationship!). We care about them (and maybe we care a little too much about our furnishings that they are in the process of wrecking in said incident!) and it shows in the way that we reprimand/rebuke them.
Likewise we're there to help our church family to see the sin in their lives and to respond by pushing it out of their lives. We're called to forgive one another. I know that can be the hardest thing to forgive (and keep on forgiving) your close family as they are the people who are meant to love us, right?! And it hurts!! Oh it really hurts!
But Jesus says even if it's seven times in one day that they hurt you and come and say sorry then you should still forgive.
This is challenging stuff!


  1. Examine my life - am I encouraging my church family into sin in any areas. Am I doing my best to keep them from sin?? Do I see them as precious children of the Lord and treat them like this? Pray for the radical reorientation of my heart in this!
  2. Does the way that I aid others who are struggling with sins show sincere sisterly affection for them?
  3. Do I forgive as Jesus has totally forgiven me, or do I keep a secret record of how others have treated me? Is forgiveness real and flowing in my life? 
  4. Am I open to the rebuke (or perhaps criticism, constructive or less constructive) of the church? Or am I protecting and defending myself from any of that by hiding at the back and having superficial relationships.
Lord help me to love others like you. Help me to encourage others and see the horror of leading others into sin, or letting them go that way.
Have mercy on me as I have a hard heart for forgiving others.
My husband is a special brother who you've given me to refine me with his gentle encouragements and to point out where I'm not walking in obedience to you - let me not be angry and defensive at his loving words.
Your precious children are walking alongside me, keep me from causing any temptations or stumbling, and help me to graciously build together alongside them.

This study is based on Luke 17-24 and you can download the study guide here if you would like to join in:

Questions for you to discuss:

How open you are to being part of God's plan to shape his people, that their true desire would be for God's glory?

Or put in less florrid language (sorry!)

Do you want others to live for God? Are you actively pursuing this in your relationships?