AN ADVENT MESSAGE 2016 FROM THE INTERNATIONAL PRESIDENT
I would like to be indulgent and share a personal story. It was late in 2013. I had been asked if I would allow my name to forward as a nominee for International President. I had prayed about it and talked with good Christian friends. I knew it was too big a task for me to take on; I had skills, but not the right ones for this task and there were other people better equipped for the role who I knew God was honing for the task. So, I said, “NO!”
Then I received an email from a good Christian friend who drew my attention to the story of The Annunciation . God Himself, in the form of an Angel, visited Mary and gave her a task to do for Him. My friend talked about the way Mary made herself vulnerable in order that God might use her. She challenged me to reflect on this and reconsider my response.
As I re-read this familiar story I realised that my sense of inadequacy was nothing compared to how Mary must have felt. But the thing that challenged me most was this: when Mary heard what God had planned for her she asked a simple but profound question “How can this be?” And God’s response says it all:
‘The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.” Luke 1:35
God had called Mary to a task that humanly speaking she knew was impossible, but the wonder was that it was not her that had to accomplish the task but God Himself through His Holy Spirit.
……… and so I allowed my name to go forward and here I am serving God in this role, daily dependant on God’s Holy Spirit to lead me.
As we celebrate the season of Advent we look forward to all that God has in store. In GBI we have chosen BE EMPOWERED as our theme for 2017. My challenge to you all in your personal lives and in your GB work is this: If there’s a job to be done, be vulnerable, be brave, say yes and trust. It is not you but God through His Holy Spirit that will make it happen. So GB friends say yes and…….
and let’s see what God has in store for us!
Christmas blessings to you all!
Courage to ‘be still’
Be still, and know that I am God! – Psalm 46:10
If you had met me two years ago and asked, ‘How are you doing, Claire?’ I guarantee that a certain four words would have escaped from my mouth ‘I’m really busy, thanks!’
I admit it: I was a busy bragger.
And let’s face, I’m not the only GB leader that is. In the culture that surrounds us, where productivity has become an idol, many of us wear busyness like a badge of honour. It can be intoxicating. For some like me, being busy became proof of my own worthiness.
Are you living a life of ‘breaking busy?’ Alli Worthington defines this as a life without peace where decisions are made for the approval of others not God. I know what it feels like to be tethered to an ever increasingly do-list; it feels over-whelming and anxiety-inducing. It is far from the ‘life to the full’ that Jesus talks about in John 10:10.
Then take off your busyness badge of honour and breathe. Breathe God in. Deeply. Have the courage to be still. Choose to feel instead of making yourself numb from busyness.
And ask yourself some questions:
Why am I always striving to make myself busy?
What makes me believe that achieving and doing will keep me ‘safe’?
What makes me sacrifice my own happiness and health to gain approval from others?
Many of us have formed complicated narratives about our own identity and self-worth. In the world we live in, it’s quite easy to discover than our self-worth is built on a foundation of sand especially if we judge it through the world’s definition of success, achievements and other people’s approval. As Fil Anderson asks in Running on Empty: ‘Are we unable to distinguish between activity and identity, so our activity determines our identity?’
Over the last year, GB International has featured devotions around the theme of ‘Be Courageous’. For some of us, the ultimate display of courage is stepping back from our to-do list and a frenetic way of living to just be with God.
So how can we implement a different rhythm of living?
Pausing to recharge
We need to recognise that our passion and enthusiasm for God’s ministry can be the same energy that causes us to ignore our needs and deplete ourselves. Just like our mobile phones, we have a finite capacity. We need to ensure that we’re recharging and plugging ourselves into our ultimate power source: God. Maybe it’s time to stop doing for God (aka being God’s PA) and start being with God?
Practical step: How are you nurturing your unique connection with God every day? Do you need to strike off something on your to-do list in order to do this?
Some may perceive self-care as selfish but we can’t live the life God has created for each of us if we don’t take care of ourselves. For me, self-compassion is ensuring that I don’t just have a Sabbath on Sunday but have a Sabbath hour every day: 60 mins of doing something that lights up my soul. So let’s savour slowness over frenetic living and be intentional about looking after our souls. But it requires discipline to protect this time and also saying ‘no’ to adding another thing on our to-do list.
Practical step: What will you say no to this week so you can spend time looking after your soul?
Be present over perfect
Amid all the striving that causes us to seek perfection, it is powerful, counter-cultural and Biblical to pause and remember: ‘I am enough.’ Imagine if we all extended God’s grace to ourselves when we suffer or feel inadequate.
In God’s eyes, you are loved (Jeremiah 31:3), forgiven (Titus 2:14), chosen (Isaiah 43:2) and valuable (Deuteronomy 7:6). Sometimes we need to make more time to breath in these God-truths and breath out the lies that our culture feeds us.
Striving to be perfect by being busy can lead us to choose exhaustion over peace, isolation over connection and hustling over sacred presence. Sometimes, the most courageous thing that God is calling us to do is to stop.
Ignore the to-do list.
And rest in Him.
This week, I’m choosing to be present over perfect; living in each moment, making meaningful connections with people and refusing to be ruled by a frenetic task to-do list. This week, I’m even going to strike something off my to-do list so I can be still and know that He is God.
Join me by being courageous and let’s re-discover a new grace-filled rhythm to our lives…
‘Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go,’ God’s words to Joshua.
One lesson learnt from this year is that courage, in God’s eyes is not necessarily courage in the sense of being a brave mighty warrior in human standards, but is more about standing on God’s word and stepping on the waters like Peter, Paul and Silas like Joshua or even like Abigail.
In today’s culture courage is often seen as being brutishly fearless. However, Proverbs 29: 19-23 warns that we are less effective in that form of courage, especially when manifested by hasty words or actions. Instead, Solomon’s divine advice is that if we wish to reach others, delicate guidance is more effective. That was the lesson powerfully demonstrated by Abigail who courageously stepped forth and essentially stopped a full-scale war by one careful act of hospitality and grace.
When I asked Brigaders to share what struck them from our New Testament studies last year, one answer was, ‘the level of the believer’s faith.’ Christ nurtured flawed servants like Peter and Paul by patiently curbing their brutish inclinations and revealing Christ’s divine ways and purposes. Hence, it is no wonder that Joshua’s command to be courageous was preceded by God’s admonition that Joshua should remain steadfast in the study of God’s word, trust God and then God would ensure that he was successful. You see when we are willing to trust the voice of God and step out God gives us the courage to do great things. My prayer today is that we too can be the Abigail, Joshua, Peter, Paul and Silas’s of today, remain steadfast in God’s promises and courageously act in faith knowing that ‘God will be with you.’
It is often said that, “the line between being courageous and foolishness is very thin”. Courage is viewed from different lenses and depending on where you are or what lenses you have on, certain actions taken could be seen as either Courageous or Foolishness.
For our reflection, Let us look at some women in the bible and see how courageous or foolish they were:
Tamar (The story is in Gen 36: 6-30)
The story of Tamar is a bold one! A woman who takes matters into her own hands because those around her are not willing to live by their word. When society takes advantage of a woman because of the traditions of the land, sometimes, it calls for desperate measures to bring about justice. To be courageous, may demand that we work outside the box, that we go against the norm, that we stand for justice when everything in us screams to let it be. Tamar was kept in her father’s house as a widow, with a promise that was not being fulfilled. She took a bold step, that bordered on foolishness (it may have backfired), but because she was resolved to have her justice from her father in law, she was willing to take the risk, and what a risk that was! What risks do you need to take to achieve your desired goal in your life?
Jochebed(Story is in Ex 1:8 -22 and Ex 2: 1 -10)
Our faith or belief gives us confidence that God is in control. Jochebed, the mother of Moses, could not do anything to protect her son except to completely put her trust in the God of Israel. Those of you who are mothers will know that it took great courage to put that basket with an infant son in the river. It was total foolishness that was great Courage. Being courageous is obeying the inner voice that tells you that, “now” is the time to take a certain action. We do not often talk about Jochebed, but about her daughter Miriam. Mother and daughter were both very courageous to pull out that act to work alongside God’s will for Israel. Courage requires that we take a risk, sometimes, we risk the very thing we want to save! Are you feeling courageous enough in your called ministry, to risk all?
To be courageous, may need you to rise above the dangers of this world. To be courageous, may cause you to do things that others may think are foolish. To be courageous, is to go beyond your comfort zone, your comfort space and do something outside the box. To be courageous is to be bold enough to be who God wants you to be in this time!
Go on, be foolish for God and dare yourself to Transform Girls’ Lives as God’s World gets Enriched. Go, go and be a GB!
Our theme this year is BE COURAGEOUS and in our August reflection Lyn Campbell helps us to see that the reason we can have this courage is because we have a God who is there at our side, in good times and bad. Reflect on the words of the great shepherd psalm and read what Lyn has to say:
As I sit here with every fan in the room on, I am reflecting on what a wonderful world the Lord has given us, the clear blue skies, the majestic mountains, the flowing rivers and the heat of the sun. I also know that by 8pm tonight there will be thunder storms with possible flooding! Our lives follow a very similar pattern of highs and lows but unlike the weather they are not always predictable.
For those in Christian ministry leadership, such as we GB leaders these ups and downs of life can wear us down at times. Demands on us are high – people complain that we do too little of this or too much of that. We are expected to be there for everyone at every moment of the day. At times, guilt fills the mind and causes us to doubt our leadership and our effectiveness.
Yet, we are not left alone in this world. Through the darkest valleys of life, through the most difficult times of GB leadership, God is with us to guide and protect us. When we feel overwhelmed with loneliness, the Lord is close beside us. When our hearts are asking hard questions and we feel beaten down, God will sustain us. We don’t need to live in fear, for God is with us ready to comfort, protect and guide us through every mountain and valley of life. He is our true Leader/Shepherd and the more we trust him as Lord, the more we will experience the wonder of having a Shepherd.
I hope and pray that we will all make time to refresh and renew so that we can re-engage with our companies and GB responsibilities with our passion for GB re ignited and on fire to BE COURAGEOUS for Him.
As I finish my role as an IVP for GB International, I have been reflecting on my time as a member of Girls’ Brigade and the changes that have been made over the years. Thinking back to the beginning at Sandymount Presbyterian Church in Dublin Ireland 123 years ago, Margaret Lyttle took that first ‘COURAGEOUS’ step of founding Girls’ Brigade in 1893. Scotland in 1900 founded The Girls’ Guildry in response to a need for a church mission, while in England in 1902, Girls’ Life Brigade began.
These groups continued to grow until in 1964, discussions began on amalgamating the three. What a ‘COURAGEOUS’ step this was. Some of you reading this will remember this change taking place.
Our theme for this year is ‘BE COURAGEOUS’. In the International Resource sent out to all companies this year, we are encouraged to do things differently and let go of past ways, have the courage to speak out and advocate for girls and young women, the courage to go somewhere new, courage to go against the crowd and stand up for our beliefs, courage to face difficulties and challenges, courage to grasp new opportunities. How COURAGEOUS will you be? We can’t of course do this in our strength alone. There are numerous bible verses that come to mind that have encouraged me over the years. Three of these are: Luke 1 : 37 “For nothing will be impossible with God” . Mark 11 : 24 Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. Philippians 4 : 3 I can do all things through Him who strengthens me. Commit your goals, dreams and aspirations to God, then ‘BE COURAGEOUS’ in taking the next step.
The IVP baton for the Pacific Fellowship has been handed on to Renelle Neale of Australia. During my eight years as IVP I have made many friends throughout the Pacific (and the worldwide GB family) and it has been an honour to have had the opportunity to serve God in this way. I wish Renelle all the best for her term of office.
Deuteronomy 31:6 says “Be strong. Take courage. Don’t be intimidated. Don’t give them a second thought because God, your God, is striding ahead of you. He’s right there with you. He won’t let you down; he won’t leave you.”
‘BE COURAGEOUS’ step out in faith and reap the rewards.
Isaiah 40:28-29 NKJV
“Have you not known? Have you not heard? The everlasting God, the Lord, The Creator of the ends of the earth, Neither faints nor is weary. His understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the weak, And to those who have no might He increases strength.”
Do you feel burdened and frustrated? Are you overwhelmed by the demands made on you? God understands what you are going through and He is with you as He has promised. Commit all things to prayer and trust in a great God.
From past experiences , have you seen how God went before you to prepare the way – you might not have known it then, but as events and situations unfolded, God’s presence and abounding grace became evident. In every new challenge, we need to take courage and step out in faith, putting our trust wholly on our great God , who is forever faithful. He gives us faith to face each trial along life’s journey,
To be courageous , one needs to step out of one’s comfort zone, to act in spite of being afraid. This can only happen when we know that God is with us and we claim His promises.
“We know that all things work together for good, for those who love God, those who are called, according to His purposes. ” Romans 8: 28.
God is gracious and gives us grace to grow in courage daily. You will find, on hind sight, how well things work out in the end when we prayerfully place our lives daily into God’s hands. Prayer strengthens us and gives us direction and courage to do that which is needful.
The story of Queen Esther tells of her great courage. She was willing to go to seek an audience with the King, knowing that if he did not raise his sceptre to receive her, she would be put to death. However, she only went before the king, after three days of prayer and fasting. Mordecai had told her that God placed her as Queen of Persia ‘ for a time such as this’. (to save God’s people – the Jews from death) Queen Esther was willing to risk her life for her people, after three days of prayer and fasting. She trusted in God’s strength and wisdom and stepped up to fulfil her calling. God had called her to be Queen, to be in a position to save His people, for a time such as this.
We have this deep assurance that God is always in control and He goes before us and although we cannot always understand everything that happens, we must trust Him.
We must walk in the paths He leads us in, simply trusting in Him and believing that nothing can happen without Him knowing. Our Heavenly Father, who loves us so much, will provide the peace, strength and courage for us to take each step daily. In the midst of pain or pleasure, His love will sustain us and we will have courage to go on.
Take courage, go prayerfully into the future with this wonderful promise of God’s daily provision , His abiding presence and grace. Pray for each other daily.
Joshua 1 :9
“Be strong and of good courage for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
I wonder what you think of when you hear that word ‘COURAGE’? Of course it can mean standing firm in the face of physical danger or being brave and daring! But it’s also about having nerve to do something outside your comfort zone or being bold and resolute in the face of opposition.
In Numbers 13 Moses sent twelve men to go and assess the possibility of entering the promised land. Ten of those men saw the great potential – the wonderful harvest of grapes, pomegranates, figs and the fertile land flowing with ‘milk and honey’ but they lacked courage. ‘We can’t do it,’ they said. ‘The opposition is too great –there are too many people and the cities are too well defended.’ Only Joshua and Caleb stood firm and said ‘Let’s go! We can do it!’
In this year, GBI challenges us all to BE COURAGEOUS in our service to Him. In this first reflection on our theme, I ask you to consider in what area God is asking you to have a go, to step out in faith, to accept the challenge, to seize a new opportunity or to face up to any barriers that may block your way. Follow your heart (for the root of the word courage is the Latin word ‘cour’ or ‘heart’.)
BE COURAGEOUS yourself and encourage those around you to step out in faith even if there is opposition, resistance or hurdles in the way. Be confident for we serve a God who has promised to go with us. Let us like Paul simply say:
‘I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.’ Phil 4v.13
‘You are braver than you believe, stronger than you imagine and smarter than you think…And remember, even when you are alone I will always be with you…’
What a great encouragement given by Christopher Robin to his beloved, and world famous, bear – Winnie the Pooh!
This quote reminds me of the conversation between God and one of his reluctant prophets – Jeremiah.
Reading through Jeremiah 1 v 4-10 reveals a very honest conversation between a man who was clearly called by God, yet initially unable to grasp that he was strong enough and worthy enough for God to use him.
Jeremiah needed courage. he needed to be brave!
Immerse yourself in the dialogue between God and Jeremiah:
God: Before you were born I knew you and I’ve chosen you Jeremiah.
Jer: No – I’m too young, I don’t know what to say Lord
God: Don’t say that Jeremiah – I’ve chosen you and will give you that all you need
God: Here, let me touch your lips… Now follow my lead and be who I called you to be
Sometimes having the courage we need to accept that God has called us AND will use us seems a bit beyond our reach. We think we are…too young, too old, too ordinary, too ill informed or even too sinful.
Yet one of the powerful truths of this story (and many other stories of God at work in his people) is that when the Lord calls us, He is asking of us is to join in with what He is doing in His world – just as we are. After all, God knows us before he calls us!
Two key thoughts spring to my mind from Jeremiah’s experience
1. God knew Jeremiah BEFORE He called him. God didn’t call Jeremiah ‘despite’ who he was, but BECAUSE of who he already was and who he would become
He didn’t call Jeremiah by chance. God formed him knowing he was calling him for this purpose.
What an encouragement – each one of us is formed by God and fully known by Him. It isn’t an accident that we are like we are. Our personality, gifts, positioning in life are all a part of God’s activity in our lives.
This means that we can be courageous. When God prompts us to respond to a particular calling on our lives He isn’t being random in His word to us, He knows us. Having made us who we are He continually prompts us to follow Him AS THAT PERSON.
And as we do so, we are used – like Jeremiah – to reveal God in our nation, family, work place, relationships, GB group….
2. Jeremiah is touched by God, and the presence of God in his very being is what empowers Jeremiah to follow, do and speak for him as the days and years roll on
What an encouragement – each one of us can know that deep empowering presence of God’s Spirit in our inner being. This means that we can be courageous.
We don’t need to live for God and follow His lead through our own strength and determination. The more we allow the Lord to touch us and infill us, the stronger we will become.
So – live courageously.
GOD formed YOU…. with all your personhood, personality and gifts
GOD knows YOU….weaknesses, strengths, fears, limitations, passion
GOD chooses YOU…As you are today. You can follow and be used by God today
GOD fills YOU with the power of His Spirit….lean into His touch as the source of your power to follow and serve
After all …You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem and smarter than you think!
I see being courageous as stepping out in Faith. There are many times in our lives where this applies – in our everyday life and in our Brigade life too. Just taking that first step into the unknown can be scary but when we have Christ in our hearts we can do it knowing that He is there for the long haul, walking with us, or carrying us over the rough ground. Life was never meant to be easy, but He has it all planned out for us and we just need to put our faith in Him.
I had a younger brother who we lost to Leukaemia at the age of 19 years. This was a very testing time for my parents, my siblings and myself. My brother had a very strong faith! Through his example we all came to realise that he was on earth for one thing, to keep us strong in our faith. Through his passing I also noticed that it brought my Dad back to the Church, and this to me was just so wonderful. Is this not we are all challenged to do? Let our faith encourage others!
So many women in the Bible like Esther, Ruth, Mary (mother of Jesus) showed courage in their faith. Hannah (1 Samuel 1) is one of these special women. Look at the problems that she had to have Samuel. Her faith made her courageous and just like her we can do this too, stepping out in faith with Christ in our lives and knowing that He is there with us no matter what.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.
Keep in touch with us on Twitter, RSS and Facebook and be the first to see new content and articles: