Most of my life I have said Yes to people when I really wanted to say No. I said Yes because I wanted people to like me. I thought if I said No then people wouldn’t like me.
This thinking was flawed because lots of people say No to me and I still like them.
In fact, some of the people who say No most often are the people I admire the most.
I saw No as my enemy because I assumed saying No would cause people to dislike me.
But here’s the thing.
The fact is people don’t change. Right now in your life a third of people who know you really like you. Saying No to them will not stop them liking you.
Another third of people hate you. Saying Yes to them will not make them like you.
The other third of people you know couldn’t give a damn about you either way. They are not going to change either.
So saying Yes when you want to say No will not make you more popular.
Saying No will not make you less popular.
Saying No will bring you more peace because you will avoid spending time doing things you really don’t want to be doing.
You have a right to say No.
Some people say ‘Jump!’ and we ask ‘How high?’ We should be saying No. We are not going to jump.
You have a right to say ‘No, I can’t answer you today and need a few days to think about it.’
You have a right to say No to bullying.
You have a right to say No to people who use you or give nothing in return.
Recently I have tried to stop saying Yes when I mean No.
Sometimes I phrase it like this: That wouldn’t be helpful at the moment. I just need some space.
Saying No has brought a new peace into my life.
When we are always available to everyone, to do what they want us to do, we are making ourselves of low value. Anything that is in free supply is always cheap.
But when the availability of something is restricted the value increases – people will always pay more for something that is rare.
As we roll into the Christmas period later this year, I can guarantee that there will be some new toy or gadget that will be in short supply and it will be the ‘MUST HAVE!’ item for Christmas. Watch the price go through the roof. People will pay any amount to have it because of the short supply.
You need to reduce the supply of you. You need to let others know that you are not available as much as you used to be. You need to say No.
When you say No, you will end up doing more of what energises you and brings you peace and life.
No is not your enemy.
No is your friend.
No watches out for you.
No gives you space to be you.
Saying No today releases us to say Yes to the right things later on.
The answer is No.
What’s your question?
‘Simply let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes’, and your ‘No’, ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.’
‘Ridiculous yachts and private planes and big limousines won’t make people enjoy life more, and it sends out terrible messages to the people who work for them. It would be so much better if that money was spent in Africa – and it’s about getting a balance.’
When did you last play? When did you last paddle in the sea or build a sandcastle?
As we get older, we can easily think of play as a childish thing and assume that adults who still play like children are immature. But if you think that, you’re wrong.
For six years, back in the 1980s, I worked with under 5s, with the pre-school kids. One of my tasks was to encourage toddlers to play. I spent my mornings in sand and water trays, built things from duplo (baby lego) and assisted little people as they painted works of art or played with dough.
Play has lots of benefits for child development – much more than occupying kids so they don’t get bored. The benefits of play are many:
- love of life
- release of energy
- tension reduction
- abstract thinking
- mastering new concepts
- anxiety reduction
- conflict resolution
- self-help skills
- learning to experiment and take risks
But when we stop playing, and start taking ourselves too seriously, we can stifle those aspects of our adult development.
I like to play. Sometimes my friends will ask me sarcastically ‘What are you going to be when you grow up?’
We shouldn’t be immature – as in throwing a tantrum when we don’t get our own way or when someone criticises us. But I believe play continues to be a healthy pastime for adults. Sometimes we only think of sports as valid forms of play for grownups.
Last week we were on holiday. The sun was shining and we went to the beach. When the kids were little, I used to help them build sandcastles and tunnels in the sand. But now they’re grown up and left home, it’s just us two grownups on holiday.
One afternoon I found myself absorbed in trying to divert the water flowing across the beach by building banks with pebbles and sand. I found it very relaxing and therapeutic. Soon an hour had passed and the water curled round my diverted earthworks. I watched as the new direction of water-flow eroded a new channel as the stream flowed out to the sea.
Did I make money with my creation? No. Did it solve a problem in the world? No. Did it achieve anything? Yes.
It left me feeling relaxed and full of new creative ideas. It tuned me into nature and it’s gentle persistence. It rekindled that awe of the wonder of the creation in which we live. In some ways, it was a healing experience.
A little playtime on the beach, listening to the rhythm of the sea, fired up all the things on the list above.
If ever you feel stale, stressed or trapped, get to the coast and play on the beach for an hour or two. I guarantee you’ll feel better for it.
‘I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.’
The devil has a growling dog he likes to set on people. It growls, bites and hurts a lot of people. It does a lot of damage and leaves many people quivering in fear. His dog is called Shame.
At the beginning of the Bible we read that humans were free from shame.
‘The man and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.’
This doesn’t mean they were arrogant – ‘they felt no shame.’ It means they lived in a wonderful relationship with God. They had no secrets before him. They walked before him with nothing hidden and were free from shame because he loved them as his own children.
In the next part of the story, we are introduced to the talking snake character. He secretly plots against God and temps the humans into a life long addiction of independence from their Creator.
Soon they are filled with the feeling of shame. They hide from God and start to wear clothing – a symbol of hiding their real selves from God. And this feeling of guilt and shame dogs the human race to this day.
Jesus was free from shame and he went about setting people free. So addicted to shame and shaming others, the humans drag a woman caught in adultery before Jesus. (John 8) Quite where the man involved was, we are not told. They urge Jesus to name and shame the woman. They want him to signal her guilt so they can stone her and, more importantly, make Jesus look as judgemental as they were.
Jesus, in effect, holds up a mirror and shows them their own lives. So filled with shame themselves they begin to disperse. The woman is not condemned and Jesus doesn’t condemn or shame her. His gentle rebuke to ‘sin no more’ is not intended to shame her but to suggest a more positive lifestyle, free from guilt and shame.
Sometimes people with chronic illness begin to believe that it is their fault – that they must have done something so wrong that God has cursed them with pain and sickness. Shame then undermines and mocks God’s love for his creation. But God didn’t send sickness.
The devil’s dog shames us through addictions, secret behaviour, and self-destructive actions. It comes to rob our self-esteem. Shame devalues us. It is a lie of the devil. Today you can stop believing the lie.
When we engage in a walk with Jesus we can become free from guilt and shame. He can begin to change our behaviour, our lifestyle, or whatever is the root of our feeling of shame.
‘Anyone who trusts in [Jesus] will never be put to shame.’
The Bible points to a Saviour who came and took the full force of the dog of shame. He allowed it to attack him so that we could be free from its effects.
‘Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.’
Today you are welcome to walk with God, free from shame. It’s time to renew our mind so that we can live free in the love he has for us. We can come to him just as we are without fear of being condemned. And in our friendship with Jesus we will be transformed to reach our full potential in life. And the blessing will overflow into the lives of others, setting them free also.
‘… be transformed by the renewing of your mind.’
Have you ever read a Bible story and struggled to make real sense of it? Most of us have at some time. Back in June, I was having one of those moments. As I meditated for a while, a strange thought came to me – What if God lived near Oldham?
You see, I grew up in North Manchester, not far from Oldham. If God had lived near Oldham and all the Bible stores happened in the Manchester area, I think I would understand them better.
I began to wonder what would have happened if the Garden of Eden had been located in Piccadilly Gardens in the centre of Manchester… So I wrote a little story about that.
Then more questions came to mind. What if Noah lived in Clayton Vale? What if Jesus lived in the park I used to play in? And where would such a God go on holiday?
The result of this meditation is a new book – a story that traces the Bible narrative but locates all the events in the Manchester area.
It’s an easy to read exploration of the Bible located in a more familiar environment. It is a bit Northern and has moments of comedy, while exploring the profound subject of God’s grace towards humans.
As I wrote this story, I felt drawn closer to God. My hope is that those who read it will feel the same. The book – The Chronicles of Godfrey – is now available in Paperback and on Kindle from Amazon and also fromRSVP Trust.
May you live loved in the Father everyday.
Have you ever wondered how we could tap in to the river of living water Jesus promised to believers? In many places today, the people of God seem dry, powerless and spiritually bankrupt. This is in stark contrast to Jesus’ promise of a river of living water we could tap into at any time.
The only condition he mentioned at the time was that we believe in him. Yet many believe and remain dry, wounded and hurting. Some pursue other means to alleviate pain or negative emotions. So where are the living waters we were promised?
“He who believes in me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” (John 7:38)
I think many Christians are confused about ‘the heart’. Many Christians think prayers in their head and think that is a prayer of the heart. But if we look a little closer, we will see Jesus spoke of something quite different.
Did we invite Jesus into our head or our heart? When that happened, did we feel that experience in our head or somewhere else?
When Jesus spoke of the source of living water he used the word koilia meaning womb or belly or even bowel.
So, in this case, the King James version more accurately translates what Jesus was saying.
“He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.” (John 7:38, KJV)
If you think about it, this is the location where we engage with life. We talk about having a ‘gut reaction’, a ‘gut feeling’ or ‘feeling gutted’. When we are anxious, we speak of having butterflies in our stomach.
Later on, when John is writing about showing kindness to the poor, he uses the word ‘splagchnon’ meaning spleen, bowels, inward affection, tender mercy, intestines.
“But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart (splagchnon ) from him, how does the love of God abide in him?” (1 John 3:17).
This verse also tells us that we can open or shut this place. This is like a tap we can switch on and off.
It is the place where we feel fear and anxiety. It is the place from which the living water that Jesus promised will flow. But if we have the tap switched to fear or anxiety, it is difficult for the living water to flow. Fear and living water cannot flow at the same time, from the one tap.
Try this exercise: Take your hand and place it on your belly. Close your eyes and think of some really happy memory. Where do you feel the happiness? Now think of a person or situation that tends to give you anxious thoughts. Where are you feeling that anxiety? Isn’t it in the place where your hand is?
Now put those thoughts aside. Keep your hand on your stomach and speak the words of Jesus…
“He who believes in me, out of his belly will flow rivers of living water.” (John 7:38)
Just focus on where your hand is and open that place fully to Jesus. Let the living water flow. Don’t allow your head to take over, keep your focus on where your hand is. Allow the Holy Spirit to flow and the Father to speak to your spirit.
I have been doing this everyday over the Christmas break and have found this a very helpful thing to do. All we need is in that flow of living water.
Let me know how you get on.
How do we get a breakthrough into our next season or into our ‘promised land’? Here are a few things I’ve noticed over the years:
1. Hear from God
We can spend ages going round in circles using our own reasoning. But if we are trying to find God’s direction and leading, we need to hear from him. Everything of value, including creation, begins with a word from God.
The good news is, he is speaking and you can hear him. He said his sheep would know his voice.
“And when he brings out his own sheep, he goes before them; and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice.” – John 10:4
“My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.” – John 10:27
2. How do we hear from God?
It is not with our ears or running about listening to this person and that person, it is listening directly to the Spirit which we do with our heart, not with our head.
“Today, if you hear His voice, Do not harden your hearts …” – Hebrews 3:7, 8
3. The crossing of the Jordan is a key lesson in breakthrough.
The Jordan represents the last obstacle to the promise of God.
Notice that it is not enough to hear from God about what to do, we must seek his guidance as to timing. Joshua camped out for three days before crossing the Jordan.
“Then Joshua rose early in the morning; and they set out from Acacia Grove and came to the Jordan, he and all the children of Israel, and lodged there before they crossed over. So it was, after three days, that the officers went through the camp;” – Joshua 3:1-2
God’s vision for your life has an appointed time.
“For the vision is yet for an appointed time.” Habakkuk 2:3
Next we must let God lead – don’t rush ahead of him. Trust his covenant.
“and they commanded the people, saying, “When you see the ark of the covenant of the LORD your God, and the priests, the Levites, bearing it, then you shall set out from your place and go after it.” – Joshua 3:3
The ark of the covenant represents the presence of God. When we see God begin to move, then we should follow. When it comes to God, we are followers not leaders. Don’t rush ahead.
Don’t assume this breakthrough will be like the previous one.
“… for you have not passed this way before.” – Joshua 3:4
Trust God to do his stuff, don’t assume you have to do everything.
“And Joshua said to the people, “Sanctify yourselves, for tomorrow the LORD will do wonders among you.” – Joshua 3:5
When the time comes – act! Step into, and across, the Jordan. The first book after the gospels is not called ‘The excuses/ policies/ procedures/ theories of the Apostles’ – No. ‘The Acts.’ Do something!
All significant breakthroughs have a Jordan to cross. Why did Jesus not start ministry at 25? Because that was not God’s appointed time. But when the time came, even Jesus had to cross the Jordan.
“Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan to be baptized by him… When He had been baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened to Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting upon Him. And suddenly a voice came from heaven, saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” – Matthew 3:13-17
What is your Jordan? What is the obstacle standing in the way of you entering your promised land today?
The country was occupied by brutal oppressors. They ruled with an iron fist. Beatings, torture and brutal executions were routine. The Roman occupation of Israel was not unlike the Nazi occupation of Europe in WW2.
Feared and hated, they too ruled with an iron fist.
One day a Roman Centurion came to Jesus to ask for the healing of his servant – a Roman asking a Jew for help.
Think about that for a moment. Translate it to something more familiar – A Gestapo commander asking a Jew for help.
What went through Jesus’ mind we don’t really know. But it seems it was not judgement. He responded swiftly.
“I will come and heal him.” – Matthew 8:7
We read a story of a remote healing for a foreigner but the situation was far more awkward than that. Here is amazing grace in action. No judgement. No conditions. Only grace.
“I will come and heal him.” – Matthew 8:7
I feel awkward that we sometimes label groups of people in our society as beyond God’s love. We seem quick to label, judge and condemn.
One of the most moving authors I have ever read is Corrie Ten Boom. She and her family suffered so much at the hands of the Nazis. She spent years being brutalised in a concentration camp.
After the war she travelled widely speaking about forgiving our enemies – never an easy thing to do.
When a man who had been a guard in the concentration camp met her face to face, forgiveness was very hard.
“Even as the angry vengeful thoughts boiled through me, I saw the sin of them. Jesus Christ had died for this man; was I going to ask for more? Lord Jesus, I prayed, forgive me and help me to forgive him… Jesus, I cannot forgive him. Give me your forgiveness… And so I discovered that it is not on our forgiveness any more than on our goodness that the world’s healing hinges, but on His. When He tells us to love our enemies, He gives along with the command, the love itself.”
I am not sure how the crowd surrounding Jesus felt when he not only healed the Centurion’s servant but went on to commend this Roman for his faith.
Sometimes we may feel we are beyond God’s grace. ‘Perhaps our sin has rendered God unwilling to heal us’, we may think. But hear the grace in His words –
“I will come and heal him.” – Matthew 8:7
Whoever we are, whatever we have done wrong, regardless of how far we fell – the arm of God’s love and forgiveness can reach us.
“I will come and heal him.” – Matthew 8:7
Rest in that knowledge today.
“Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life.” – Proverbs 4:23
The Bible tells us to ‘keep’ or to ‘guard’ our heart with all diligence. To ‘guard’ means: to watch over in order to control entry and exit, to take precautions against, to protect against damage or harm. The dictionary describes diligence as ‘careful and persistent work or effort’.
In other words, we must be extremely careful about our heart. I’m not talking about the lump of flesh that pumps blood around our body, though naturally we are all keen to protect that. I’m talking about the heart as the center of our thoughts and emotions. We talk of having ‘peace in our heart’ or of being ‘hard hearted’.
The Bible says we must strive to protect this place because out of it spring the issues of life. It’s the place where we love or hate. It’s a strong force in our decision making and so influential in our actions.
It is also the place where we get wounded from time to time. Harsh words or some bad experience can get to our heart. We have to decide to get better or get bitter. When we are growing up, it’s easy to get hurt by the words or actions of others. If love was withheld from us in our formative years or we encountered periods of bullying and control by others, our heart can be wounded. Sadly, that is just life and true for most of us to one degree or another.
“For I am poor and needy, and my heart is wounded within me.” – Psalms 109:22
We need to deal with the issues of our heart otherwise they will deal with us. They will fester and grow even darker. Every murder began with a resentment, which grew into a hatred, which gave birth to a killing. This is why we must guard our heart with all diligence.
“For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander.” – Matthew 15:19
In order to stop these evil things coming out of our heart, we must put good things into our heart. We do this by reading, meditating and thinking about God’s word. Memorising scripture stores it up in our hearts and brings light into our inner darkness.
“The precepts of the LORD are right, giving joy to the heart. The commands of the LORD are radiant, giving light to the eyes.” – Psalms 19:8
If we are going to guard our heart, remember God’s word tells us we must do it ‘with all diligence’ or with ‘careful and persistent work or effort’. This is so important we should allocate a space everyday to check our heart. I find it works best by spending a little time alone first thing in the day and last thing at night. It’s not always possible but it should be our default routine. The Bible has a simple prayer for these moments.
“Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” – Psalms 51:10
Healing for our heart begins with sorting out our relationships. To have peace in our heart requires peace in our relationships as far as it depends on us. If our relationships are chaotic, it will be hard to keep peace in our heart.
Relationships will always be your greatest source of pain and your greatest source of joy. We were created for relationships. When they are good they are such a blessing. When they go wrong, they are so painful. But this is life.
Above all, healing for our heart begins with sorting out our relationship with God. Opening our heart to him and allowing him access to our inmost thoughts is the beginning of healing for our heart.
“Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.” – Psalms 139:23
Some people want to serve God but only as advisors. If we want real healing in our heart we must give everything over to God. We must let him determine the outcome of situations. We must grasp, in spite of all our self-centred, arrogant thinking, that God knows far better than we do how to act in every situation.
“Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.” – Proverbs 3:5-6
Sometimes I think we spend far to long looking at where we’ve been and where we are. When what we should be looking at is where we are going. What I am sure of is that our heart is very precious and will determine our future happiness. This is why Christians sometimes use the phrase ‘I invited Jesus into my heart’. What does that mean? It means that we allow Jesus to deal with all our pain, all our hurt, all our frustration and invite him to live in that secret place.
The alternative is that our heart becomes filled with dark thoughts, strife and anger. And ‘anger’ is only one letter away from ‘danger’.
How is your heart today?
When Neil Armstrong died on the 25th August 2012, I was taken back in my memory to 1969 and what should have been an English lesson. Mr Millington, our English teacher, wheeled the big school TV into classroom and showed us the first moon landing.
The pictures flickered, were in black and white and of poor quality. The sound was crackly and uncertain. We watched as the moon grew larger on the screen.
Then there seemed to be a thud and all came to a standstill. The radio crackled… then we heard the first words from the moon’s surface.
‘Tranquility Base… The Eagle has landed.”
When I watch that video today I am moved by it – that men reached out and touched the moon. Creation never ceases so amaze me. The detailed smallness of it – the ants nest discovered when a paving slab is lifted; The beauty of it – when we walk in the Lake District and reach a mountaintop and take in the view; The largeness of it – when I look up into a clear starlit night sky.
“When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have ordained, what is man that You are mindful of him, and the son of man that You visit him?” – Psalms 8:3-4
The vastness and the detail of creation convinces me that we are not alone. Nature is not just some cosmic accident. God’s hand can be seen, if we are willing to consider the possibility.
St Paul said that we could even understand something of God’s attributes through nature.
“…what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead…” – Romans 1:19-20
And when we are seeking an answer to prayer that doesn’t seem to be coming, sometimes we need to be still and consider the heavens and the work of his hands. And trust the One who made all things well.