Self control

Have you ever reacted badly to something and immediately thought, oh no! I wish I hadn’t reacted like that? Or, that one particular reaction in a split second is going to have such awful consequences.

When I was younger ( not very long ago) my big sister stuck her foot out and tripped me up as I was walking down the hall in my house. I fell flat on my face and my lack of self control saw some very colourful language spill out of my ten year old mouth. Of course, this all happened just in ear shot of my Mum, which then resulted in me having my mouth washed out with soap and being labelled by my brother with the nickname soapy for the rest of my childhood.  ( true story, phone Childline)

That’s just one very minor example of many consequences I had to endure because of my lack of self control.

If you happened to answer No to my question, you’re very fortunate indeed, and I would encourage you to firstly check for a pulse, and secondly, get yourself checked into some local clinic for research purposes.

We all at some stage in our lives have reacted badly in a situation.

We all have suffered consequences of our lack of self control.

It has to be a human condition, if not why would self control be a fruit of the spirit? Wouldn’t we have ample amounts of it without divine help? Self Control is something we need to seek and ask the Holy Spirit for more of.

I asked a group of friends once what fruit of the spirit did they feel they required the most and everyone, including myself, answered with self control as the top desire. Whether it be controlling what comes out of their mouth or what goes into their mouth. What our heart lusts for, or our reaction in tough situations, each one having their own reason for wanting more self control.

Personally, for me, what comes out of my mouth has always been an area in which I’ve needed more self control; not always in anger or rage, but sometimes just because what I might say is not necessary or appropriate at the particular place in time.

What goes into my mouth also. I’m currently off chocolate for Lent and, well, so far so good, But I’m cheating in the fact that I absolutely know there are enough foods besides chocolate that will satisfy my desires and cravings. Kind of defeats the purpose, but I do hope I can put more energy into seeking God in this period of Lent and sure isn’t that what it’s really about.

This week, surprisingly for a change, it wasn’t me in the hot seat, but I watched on as I witnessed someone else’s poor lack of self control, and the consequences of their obvious inability to control their tongue in a ten minute window when they were required to do so. It was all too familiar to circumstances I found myself in in the past, knowing that not so long ago and, without the help of the Holy Spirit, that would have been me. 

I’m so thankful for how much God has grown me in this area over the past few years. I’m a long way off perfect, but still proud of my progress.

Ironically, the same day, I picked up the UCB Word for Today and started to read their daily devotion. The title was BORDERS… the opening scripture

Proverbs 25:18 A person without self control is like  a city with broken down walls.

Which in today’s world doesn’t mean a lot because our cites now don’t tend to have great big walls around them. However, in the ancient world, a city wall was there for security to keep the enemy from attacking. A City with a broken down or fallen wall could easily be taken over and besieged.

And similarly, so can our hearts and minds without being mindful to the need of controlling not only our tongue but what we allow to fester in our hearts. Anger, bitterness, lust, unforgiveness, hate.

I once heard Joyce Meyers saying love and self control are the book end to the fruit of the Spirit; if you have them in place the rest of the fruit of the Spirit will fall into place. I’ve tried and tested this theory over the years and believe it to be very true indeed.

Galatians 5:22-23 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

We need to get our bookend in place. We need to be aware of the consequences of poor self control  and just how much the enemy will jump at these opportunities to infiltrate and set up residence in our hearts and minds.

Philippians 4:8, NIV: “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.”

Today, can I just encourage you to take some time with God talking over any areas of your life in which you particularly lack self control. Allow his spirit to minister to you encourage and strengthen you in the areas you lack. Take that new awareness with you through your week and give thanks for the times when you feelHoly Spirits power making that difference.

Seeing God’s plan, when you are in a jam

Have any of you ever fallen victim to a highly addictive game? Their developer will sell it as a brain training game; I would say soul destroying, time wasting, anxiety inducing game would be a more accurate description! As you can probably guess, I’m speaking from experience. First came Angry Bird, then there was Candy Crush, both of which had to be deleted from my phone after near misses with the wall… That’s the phone and the wall, for clarity.

Last year my middle son introduced me to a new game he was playing on his phone. It took me approximately 3.5 seconds to relapse into my old addictive ways of being hooked on this new brain trainer. The game is called, Let me out. This is not some shameless plug for the game, in fact, I strongly recommend, for your own sanity, you stay well clear. The game itself is rather basic, with basic graphics. The aim of the game is with your birds eye view of a traffic jam, moving one car at time to release your car that is stuck in a jam. You need to be able to calculate which cars need to move where to allow you to drive out freely. The key is usually in the movement of the first vehicle, which allows all others to move freely, with every level the challenge becoming slightly harder. Every so often you will have an easy level to lull you into a false sense of security before the next level being twice the difficultly. You get it… well you will if you have ever been hooked on a game of its type.

It’s been a long time since I have played it as I had to delete it and the temptation of losing hours to this game on my phone. Just the other day I was watching my son play it. As I watched him move the various vehicles around in his attempt to get free the thought came to me how similar this is to our lives.

I’m not saying that God is playing some addictive game with our lives. However, God holds the plans to the future. When we are away down here, sometimes all we have is a view of what is obstructing us moving forward or breaking free, and sometimes we don’t even see that, but we don’t see the other things that are blocking movement. We don’t see the obstacles and obstructions that need to be addressed, or moved, or broken down first in order to move the main one right in front of us. But God does, because God sees the whole picture and plan and we don’t.

Confession time. Of all the wonderful gifts and talents God has blessed me with I can tell you that natural patience was not one of them. I know it is a fruit of the Spirit that can be developed but it does not come naturally or easily to me.

When I was a kid I was always routing around trying to find presents before Christmas and as an adult, before I knew Christ, I would run off to “fortune tellers and psychics”, willing to hand money over in a bid to hear what lay ahead in my future. As a Christian, I have cried out to God on numerous occasions for insight into the plans he has for me and my life. Oh how great would it be if he would just plop down on the end of my bed and read out this five year plan to me.

Firstly, if God did appear at the end of my bed, I would probably be so stunned that anything he had to say to me wouldn’t even go in and, secondly, it would probably be beyond anything I could comprehend, not to mention it would scare the absolute you know what out of me, and then there is all the human unbelief thrown into the mix. The whole exercise would be totally pointless, besides, God left us the Holy Spirit to do all the guiding and counselling.

Sadly so many of us so often fail to recognise or consult the Holy Spirit in our deep desire to know more. But I don’t want to get railroaded into a whole Holy Spirit debate, that’s a whole different discussion. For this blog, I want to focus on trusting God in our jams.

I have to say that this is an area in which I feel like I’m a bit of veteran. Well not always the ‘trusting’, the being in the jam part, yes! In my experience, I have found two different outcomes to jams of life I have encountered. I have done the whole try and fix this jam myself, which usually is exhausting and pointless, and I end up coming back and asking God to guide me when I’ve exhausted every possible avenue myself. Then there has been, less often I confess, sitting tight, trusting God and waiting for him and his promise of working all things together for our good.

There are way way too many examples in the Bible for me to list all of the different stories that show God was working while people were waiting, so I will just go for the whole Bible. Right back at the beginning when Adam and Eve came into agreement with the enemy, God had a plan to put things right again with the promise of a saviour. He worked that promise that right through all the lives of the people we meet in the Bible, from a man that built an ark, through the infertile couple, through sibling rivalry, through a favoured son sold into slavery, through a baby in the bulrushes, through children in the desert, through wars and famines, temples raised and destroyed, kingdoms raised and ruined, through good kings and bad kings, prostitutes and outcasts, illegitimate children, a virgin birth, through treason and mockery, slander, betrayal and deceit, through all this God had a plan to buy our freedom, ever since from that fateful day in Eden.

“And I will put enmity Between you and the woman, And between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, And you shall bruise His heel.””

Genesis 3:15 NKJV

There is no jam in your life that God doesn’t have a plan of escape for you. You just need to ask yourself can you trust God and all his infinite resources to work things in your favour, to allow your life and his plans to align, or are you gonna try to rely on your own very limited wisdom and insight to find a solution to your problem?

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

Romans 8: 28 NIV

I know which seems like the most obvious choice, but I also know our human nature, combined with an enemy who constantly chases our tail with lies and betrayal, while we live in a world that thrives on convenience. You want something now, you have instant access to it – food, tv, shopping, you name it, we rarely have to wait on anything these days, why should we wait on Gods plans to prevail? The only answer I can give you is because they are worth the wait. His plans are so much better than we could ever think or imagine. They are eternal plans for our good, and they are worth the wait for the everlasting glory they hold.

“Never doubt God’s mighty power to work in you and accomplish all this. He will achieve infinitely more than your greatest request, your most unbelievable dream, and exceed your wildest imagination! He will outdo them all, for his miraculous power constantly energizes you.”

Ephesians 3:20 TPT

Cheaters Prosper??

The title seems rather ridiculous, I know! But I know it’s a thing… I know sometimes it seems that cheaters prosper, while those who try to live their life right by God the best they can seem to suffer the penalties.

In our house, we have a strict no phones at the table policy, which I must admit if it’s anyone that breaks the rules, it will be me! Bad Mummy! In an effort to create a bit of family time that didn’t involve the kids staring at screens, we have a few games at the dinner table. We will play while dinner is cooking and also kind of mid eat/after meal.

We have a few different games, mostly involving rolling dice and moving counters or building brick towers and dominos (my favourite). My youngest is ridiculously competitive and such a sore loser. This will often drive him to cheat (playfully) at the game. He will quite obviously skip two rows in a game, or go up a ladder he is nowhere near, or magically drop the dice a small inch to the perfect number, hold the Jenga tower in place, or add a domino to somewhere it’s not meant to go. He does it quite openly and, most often has to rectify his cheat, but the odd time he makes a move that we miss and he will prosper and usually win. It’s all done with a bit of fun and let’s face it, no lives are at steak, so it’s not that big of deal… like who hasn’t been tempted to cheat on a board game?

On a more serious note, lots of us are tempted to cheat in our real life to prosper, to lie on the CV to get that job you want, to keep that money just fix your taxes, to get that boy you want just be more promiscuous. All these things may involve what we consider winning, but it’s only in the short term. It’s a hard pill to swallow when dishonest, immoral behaviour seems to be not only consequence free, but a cause of advancement.

Joseph in the Bible could tell you a bit about that. Joseph would have had many reasons to feel abandoned by God. He’d been sold into slavery by his own brothers, now working in Potiphar’s house he had managed to work his way into favour again. Joe, who seems to have been a bit of a stud muffin, found himself batting off the advances of Lady Potiphar, who I would imagine would have been perfectly groomed and stunningly beautiful. Regardless, Joseph wasn’t willing to sacrifice his morals for a quick fumble and so he fled. Turns out lady Potiphar doesn’t take rejection too well and runs off to the hubadub with a big fat lie to ensure poor Joe gets slung in prison. Well if she can’t have him, no one else should, eh?!

“But Joseph refused. “Look,” he told her, “my master trusts me with everything in his entire household. No one here has more authority than I do. He has held back nothing from me except you, because you are his wife. How could I do such a wicked thing? It would be a great sin against God.”Genesis 39:8-9 NLT

Ultimately, Joseph’s honor to his master and God cost was prison… mmm, have you ever felt like that? I wonder looking back did Joseph ever think I should have just done the dirty deed with her and saved myself years in prison. Probably not!

Joseph knew that by staying close to God and honouring God and his law that he would see his promises come into fulfilment, and he was right. God used that time in prison to train Joseph to be the greatest leader of his time, that saw a whole nation through seven years of famine, a nation that surely would have been wiped out had it not have been for that time in prison while God prepared him for his destiny. If Joseph had just forgotten God and gone off and had a quicky with potties mrs, who knows what would have happened, probably death of Joseph and a whole nation starved to death.

God doesn’t give us these moral guidelines to be a party pooper or spoil our fun. He wants our pure, honest hearts surrendered to him and trust his plans for our life, so he can prosper us, even when it feels like we are in a prison or at a dead end delay. We need to keep our hearts pure and cling on to the truth and promises of God. We need to take our eye of the momentary pleasure and think about the eternal effect.

If others are advancing through dishonesty, impurity, and sin, we need to pray for them, not from a self-righteous, moral high ground, but because it is really heart-breaking that they would sacrifice their eternal glory for momentary pleasure. It is not something we should envy and yet so often we do.

“Come to God through the narrow gate, because the wide gate and broad path is the way that leads to destruction—nearly everyone chooses that crowded road!”
‭‭Matthew‬ ‭7:13‬ ‭TPT‬‬

Will you join me today in asking God to divert your heart from the attraction of advancement through deceit. Will you pray with me and ask God to purify your heart and keep your focus firmly on him, his will for our lives, his vision, his dream, and eternity with him.

“We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation.”
‭‭Romans‬ ‭5:3-4‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Hold on to Hope

We would have to lead quite a remarkable life to avoid the pits of life. Everyone’s pit looks different; for some their pit looks like losing a loved one, for another it might be a personal illness, for another job loss or betrayal, debt, depression, weight fluctuation. The list is endless of reasons why we may find ourselves in a pit of pain and despair.

I know for a lot of people, this year 2020 has been ear marked as a pit year. I see many stating on social media that they wish to erase every trace of it, even from their age, which is funny. If you’re anything like me, I constantly erase years off my age in forgetfulness, then tell people my age of two years ago, and then I remember, oh yeah! I got older didn’t I, in the blink of the last two years.

This year, the year of the infamous Covid-19 which, let’s face it, if we take nothing else from it, we have now all learnt how to include unprecedented into our daily vocabulary. We have all had to face a situation we never imagined we would be in. National lockdowns and homeschool, business closures, a rise in online shopping, mask wearing and hand sanitising. The effects of this pandemic have ripped through our lives with some devastating effects; there is no denying that this has been the cause of many many peoples pit!

However, some people have used this time to change their life for the better. Some have got fitter, forged stronger family bonds, some have used this time to learn new skills, some to renovate and improve their homes, read more, eat better, slow down. In this time, people have been able to re-evaluate their priorities and ultimately improve their life.

While others have become bitter, depressed, gained weight, lost money, families have broken down and homes fallen in to disrepair.

I feel like it could all come down to the perspective of the pit. Choosing to partner with pity in the pit, or prosper in the pit.

In the Bible we see Joseph, Israel’s most loved and favoured son, quite literally thrown into a pit, which was an upgrade of the original plan that his brothers had to kill him. So perhaps that was the first reason for his hope, “well at least I’m not dead.” It would have been easy for Joseph to accept his fate and partner with pity and lay down and die in his pit, but Joseph knew God had called him to greatness. He knew that God had mighty plans for his future, so he embraced his dreadful circumstance and clung to the hope for his future and, in his time in captivity, he did everything he did to the best of his ability. He had more than enough reasons to partner with pity and forget God and his promises, but through all his ups and downs, over the next thirteen years, Joseph held onto his promises, despite many reasons to partner with pity.

“But the Lord was with Joseph in the prison and showed him his faithful love. And the Lord made Joseph a favorite with the prison warden.”
‭‭Genesis‬ ‭39:21‬ ‭NLT‬‬

He used his time when his situation was out of control to allow God to use him, train him, and prepare him for the time when God’s plan for his life would come into fulfilment.

We face many circumstances in our lives that throw us in the pit. The devil himself is busy digging pits for us to fall into, and he has prepared the grandest, most extravagant pity party for us down there. He will pull out all the stops, invite all his friends, and try his hardest to make us forget the dreams and plans God has put on our heart. He will drown out the sound of hope with the loud symbols of rejection, disappointment, pity and despair. He will have his buddies convince you that God’s plans were stupid, unrealistic, unreachable, and that his party is way more fun. His game plan even may include convincing you that, even if there was a way out of that pit, you couldn’t do it because you’re not strong enough, and to some degree he’d be right.

We were not designed to fight the devil, that was Jesus’ job. And today, in case you have forgotten, He won! Jesus fought and won, the battle is over, the keys to the kingdom secured. Today I want to invite you to look around, look up and see, look for the rope ladder out of your pit, look for the life line Jesus bled and died for you to have. Choose to stop eating the devil’s party food and dancing to his loud music, instead come into agreement with the truth that, despite your circumstances, despite this pit, you are loved, you are highly favoured, and God’s plans for your life are still in place.

“I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” John 16:33 (NLT)

Today will you consider leaving the pity party and put your faith and trust in Jesus and live a life filled with hope for the future?

“For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.”
‭‭Jeremiah‬ ‭29:11‬ ‭NLT‬‬


The Big Why?

My youngest son considers himself quite the comedian, quite often his amused audience consists of one person… himself! Although that doesn’t seem to hinder his enthusiasm in any way. His method of entertainment often comes in the form of mild torture and the reaction it achieves. Now, without making him sound all dark and demonised, because he is actually a very bright light in the world, what I mean, as we might say in Northern Ireland, he loves the banter, winding up! It’s all light hearted and fun, well, most of the time. Sometimes he will push it too far, but is usually wise enough to know when he has reached his limit and will loveingly redeem with adequate affection. You know the type, a class clown really, and if I’m honest an apple that didn’t fall too far from the tree. Like he had to get it from somewhere, right!

He recently got a phone, well actually he has had a phone for probably a year now, what he has got now is a friends contact list and WhatsApp. Now he has turned into a bit of a spammer. I roll my eyes at his amusement as he is kicked off another group chat.

Sadly, for his brothers and me, we can not so easily dismiss his playful torture.

A few day ago his pestilence came in the form of why, why, why, why, why, why.

This I can except from a curious toddler, but from an annoying preteen my patience wore a little thin. Mostly because I believed I could out play him at his own game by giving him a suitable answer for each of his why. I’d love to say my reason for this was love, to show him that he mattered, that he was heard, his questions were important to me but, honestly, I just wanted to beat the nuisance outta him.

My patience wore way too quickly and, on about the fifth why, I caved and with a louder, more forceful voice said, “because Mummy said so, now away on and give my head peace.

He had won, he had the victory! With a playful giggle and a knowing smile, he said, “alright Mum, calm down, I was only asking.” He skipped off in victory, probably to pick his next victim. I shook my head in defeat knowing he had got me, but mostly relieved to have peace and to get back to what I was doing. He’d be a hard kid not to love with his playful nature.

Today, as he corrected my stupidity for sending an emoji of an American football instead of a rugby ball, more of his playful banter. I thought back to the why episode, and my thoughts led me to thinking about God and the different, far more serious whys I have asked him over the years. Then an even bigger thought rose in my mind about all the whys I hadn’t ask him, and why I didn’t ask them.

It got me thinking about this nature that when we become adults we suddenly stop asking why, or how for that matter. It’s like, given our years on planet earth, we should have accumulated all the wisdom and knowledge that we will ever need and we no longer need to ask why or how. It can’t be true or we would all be millionaire geniuses.

But for some reason our culture has taught us that there is a certain amount of shame found in not knowing. Well I think culture is a liar, there is no shame in not knowing. In fact, the only way to grow in wisdom and knowledge is by not knowing and asking why or how.

Personally, I don’t think I ask it enough to God… mostly probably because of this false belief that you can only go to God with the big stuff. It’s not true, but somewhere deep down in my soul resides the false narritive that God is too big to be bothered with my smaller stuff.

If my kids only came to me with the big stuff we wouldn’t have much of a relationship. Mum, I’m really sick, I need to go to the hospital. Mum, I have no money, I need you to pay, Mum, I got in trouble, I need you to fix it. I would want to know how that they were sick, where their money went and what excatly was the cause of their trouble. This would involve a lot more communication than one request at a time.

The same goes for our relationship with our Father God, but the difference being he has all the answers, all the solutions to all our questions, and his patience is not going to wear thin like mine did to all my boy’s whys.

But, even better than God asking us why, we can ask him why and not just the big things, like why does that baby have cancer, and why doesn’t God just wipe out all the baddies, and why did I not get my dream job?

You can be sure of this: The Lord set apart the godly for himself. The Lord will answer when I call to him.”
‭‭Psalms‬ ‭4:3‬ ‭NLT‬‬

We have access to God 24/7 and, I can promise you, there is no why or how too big or small for God. Why am I in such bad mood? Why did I react so badly to that situation? Why does this situation break my heart so badly? Why can’t I stop thinking about this person? Why do I struggle to concentrate when reading? Why do I feel so silly when I pray aloud? Why do I feel so guilty? Why can’t I let go of this shame? Why do I struggle to like this person? Why do I need to go to church if you’re in my house? Why do so many people journal yet I find it boring? Why do I feel like I have no purpose when I’m a Christian and meant to be filled with purpose? … this lists goes on and on!

So you may think, ha ha, good one, that’s all well and good for those who hear and know God’s voice, but I don’t. But knowing and recognising God is built through communication of the whys to God and the whys from God.

You start asking questions, and I’m certain, if the answers don’t come from an audible God’s voice, they will coming in another form, in a dream perhaps, in a knowing in your heart and a random conversation, through a podcast in a song, READING GOD’S WORD.

For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires.”
‭‭Hebrews‬ ‭4:12‬ ‭NLT‬‬

God is so desperate for an intimate relationship with us that he will answer your questions and he will do that in many different ways, it is up to us to have the open heart to receive his answers and acknowledge that when they come it was God. The more we acknowledge God, the more we build our relationship, and so on and so forth.

Today I want to encourage you to take your whys, your not knowing, to God and have an expectant heart, ready to receive a reply. Be open and expectant and then acknowledge in the, “I know that was you God,” and build on that two way relationship and grow your understanding of God’s nature and heart for you.

And we are confident that he hears us whenever we ask for anything that pleases him.”
‭‭1 John‬ ‭5:14‬ ‭NLT‬‬