What do you associate with Christmas? For most of the world, people would probably think of Santa Clause, putting up the tree, giving and receiving presents, and most importantly, food.
However, there is one amazing thing we, as Christians, can associate and still enjoy today… love. Not just any love though. God’s love. Yes, we can (and should) dwell on God’s love throughout the year, but Christmas is a great reason to dwell on it even more.
As it says in the most famous verse in the Bible, “For God so loved the world…”, God loves us, and always has, even way before we came into existence.
God shows His love in various ways; He showed His love to Mary by protecting her from being persecuted from the scandal of being pregnant outside of her marriage to Joseph. He showed His love to Joseph by comforting him in his distress and helping him to see that Mary was telling the truth. He showed His love to the shepherds and wise men by guiding them along the path to have the privilege of meeting Jesus as a baby/toddler. Plus, He showed His love to His own Son, Jesus, by protecting Him from being killed by King Herod through diverting Mary and Joseph’s journey to Egypt.
Not only does God love us, but He calls us to love Him, not just through our devotion to him but by loving and serving others too. God wants us to shine His light brightly into the lives of others. It’s so easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of Christmas preparations and stressing over how many presents you need to buy; maybe we should take some time out to seek out the needs of others and see where we can help someone out. It may be helping out at church, being there for a friend, visiting a lonely family member or just doing a random act of kindness for a stranger. Whatever it is, may God’s love shower you this Christmas and spread into the lives of others this Christmas period.
“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.”
Stephanie Wolfe 06/12/2021
Have you ever met a workaholic? Here are some tell-tale signs:
They will often tell you how many hours they work to keep the company or the organisation going.
Common expressions include ‘if I don’t do it no one will’, ‘I’m just too busy’ or ‘there is so much to do’.
They see holidays as a missed opportunity to get more done. Instead of taking a much-needed rest, they will push themselves even harder to counter their fatigue.
When I encounter this kind of folk, I feel a compelling urge to tell them to stop being a self-made hero and remind them that our true value doesn’t come from what we do. In Genesis, we read that on the seventh day, God stopped, rested and reviewed his work. I believe rest is one of the foundational principles set out by God for mankind. It is a time to stop. A time to be. A time to enjoy followship and rest with God.
Of course, there are times when we need put in a good shift or two because a deadline is looming, but temporary pressures should not become fixed patterns without rest. The secure, servant-hearted person knows when to work and when to rest. They do not strive and strain for approval or recognition.
It is important that, as Christians, we understand the principle of resting in God. Being blind to the damage that endless busyness creates can cause great harm, including robbing loved ones of quality time and failing to help those in need.
Workaholics miss the ‘full stops’ and continue the sentence un-punctuated. Is it time you put a few punctuation marks into your life? This week why not take some time to rest and to remember that your value is found in God.
Barry Boyton, 13/07/2021
I picked up some litter on the way to work this morning. I won’t lie, it made me feel slightly good about myself. I wondered why that was. Was it because it felt good to help other people, was it because I was proud to be doing a good thing?
As I walked along the road, I was reminded of the Bible verse which says: “If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal… If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.” (Corinthians 13:1-3).
As I thought about this, I re-worded the verse in my head: “If I pick up litter, but do not have love, I am only a clanging cymbal.” Was I picking up the litter out of love for my God, the world He created, and the people around me? Or was I doing it ‘that I may boast’ and feel proud as a result?
Was I picking it up with love for those who had dropped it? Or was it with bitter frustration at those people who had not put it in the bin? And would the rest of my actions throughout the day reflect the same seemingly loving, serving spirit? Or was it just for show, maybe to tick off my good deed for the day?
One thing I have learned about God is that he cares about our hearts and our motivation to do things, perhaps more so than we actually do. Of course, litter picking is a great thing to do, and Jesus did teach us to serve others.
However, being a Christian is not about how many ‘good deeds’ we do in our day. It’s about relationships – with God and with others – and love. If we do not have love, the Bible tells us we gain nothing.
Where is your heart at today? What is your motivation for serving? How are you loving those around you? Remember that when we pray, God is faithful to help us do all things in love.
Joanna Hodgson, 14/05/2021
Trust. It takes so long to build, and yet it’s so easy to break. Many people can relate to the experience of building a close bond with someone, letting your guard down and then being hurt by that person. Perhaps they didn’t fulfil their promises to you or you found out that they had spoken badly about you behind your back. It could be something a lot worse, but ultimately this person betrayed your trust and made the walls you had built to protect yourself even taller and more resistant than before.
This is, inevitably, a route to self-destruction as it prevents us from building or developing any potential new relationships. It can even affect the ones we still have as we can then push people away, assuming that everyone will just let us down in the end. It is a very lonely road to be on, full of bitterness and contempt. Unfortunately, when you allow Satan to have that much power over you, it’s very easy to see the world with a darkened perspective.
However, despite all this, there is hope!
God offers this hope to us every single day, and it’s up to us to decide whether we want this hope in our lives or not. We have to make a conscious effort to allow God to change the way we see the world and eradicate the bitterness & contempt in our hearts.
Trusting in God is the wisest risk we could ever take in our lives. I know that may seem like a massive juxtaposition, but it makes sense when you think about it. It’s a risk because we have no idea what God has in store for our lives, but it’s wise because God always fulfils His promises. He will never let you down. God will never abandon you, speak badly about you or harm you in any way. God loves you and wants a deep, close relationship with you- full of love, trust and hope.
I encourage all of you to trust in God and draw near to Him. Let Him break down the walls of your life, so that you can be full of love and peace, and find the companionship we all so desire in our hearts.
Steph Wolfe, 30/04/2021
When Jesus gets involved in our situations, things start to change: problems turn around, relationships heal, lives are restored. The Bible says that He is able to work in all things for our good (Romans 8:28), even things we don’t like and wish hadn’t happened.
However, I also believe that we often have a part to play in this, aside from just asking and receiving. We don’t sit back passively and do nothing while we wait for Jesus to work behind the scenes. Afterall, we’re in a partnership with Him.
Whenever I’ve had significant restoration in my life, there have always been steps God has told me to take: start praying for someone, forgive, move house, write a letter, even start baking! (That one probably sounds a bit unusual, but I think God wanted to refresh my spirit by putting some more enjoyment in my life.)
In short, I’ve learned that when Jesus brings healing, change or victory, it’s very often as a result of us following an instruction that He’s given to us This could be given through the Bible, the still small voice inside us or one of the many other ways God speaks to his people.
When I started to take stock of the good that had come into my life from obeying God’s voice, I realised that I had to start taking what God says to me more seriously.
Is there something God has told you to do that you’ve delayed doing? Why not make a start today?
Dani Taylor, 16/04/2021
When you hear the word ‘Easter’ what first comes to your head? Easter eggs? The Easter bunny? Or a holiday time period? While these things are all very lovely and something to look forward to, we must always remember what Easter is really about. It’s the time when we remember the sacrifice that Jesus made for us. He died on the cross to save us from our sins. He paid the price. Because of Jesus’ sacrifice, those who have asked for forgiveness, and are therefore saved, are able to look forward to the treasures in heaven.
By coming to save us from our sins, Jesus has given us a hope of a future in heaven. A life which will be perfect and free from the power of sin. Even in these times, when we have many battles to face which have a negative impact on our mental or physical health, we need to remember to look forward to the things beyond this world full of sin.
Let us remember this Easter that because of Jesus’ suffering, he has paved a way that we may be able to enjoy the fruits of heaven, even though we are sinners. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you.” (1 Peter 1v3-4)
Rose Emery, 31/03/2021
I am suspended about 10 metres off the ground on a ski lift that has temporarily broken down. Today, the temperature, at its best, is -8. There is a 20 km/h Serbian wind blowing through the French valley; which means that there is a chill factor of -17 Celsius. Even my winter ski jacket would give limited protection against the elements if I were stuck like this for a sustained period. The freezing wind would bite into my face, the gloves on my hands would start to feel really cold, and my body would start to lose heat. It would not be a good position to be in; in fact, it could become very dangerous within a short period of time.
However, the place I am suspended, in mid-air, has tall pine trees protecting me and breaking the strength of the wind, and its chill factor. Of course, I can still feel the cold and see the physical effects of the wind, as the tops of the trees sway around. But where I am stranded in mid-air, there is a surreal feeling of calmness as the worst of the wind is held at bay. Of course I can feel the cold, but there is no immediate danger.
I don’t believe, as believers, that we constantly live in a protective bubble that stops every testing and, sometimes, painful element that life throws at us. But wherever we are in life’s journey, He is not far away. Romans 10:13 says “Whoever calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved.”
Lord, I thank you that, in time of trouble, disappointment and life’s challenges, you will be my hiding place and my shield. Be my strength in my weakness, the windbreak in the storms, the solid ground when life is shifting sands. Be my guide, my friend and my Saviour.
Barry Boyton, 19/03/2021
Making the impossible possible
The coronavirus pandemic has been tough on every single person in the world. There is not one person who hasn’t been affected by this virus in some way; whether it’s through losing homes, loved ones, jobs, and even care for one’s own life. In comparison to last year, there has been a reported increase in rates of suicide across England; from April to August it had risen by 7.3% from 79.6 to 85.4 suicides per month in comparison to the same period last year*. It is so sad to see how much despair and lack of hope had accumulated in so many people, that they felt the only way out was taking their own life.
If only they were shown the path of light, or truly received Jesus into their hearts, their lives would have been completely transformed and their hearts renewed in the Spirit, and they might still be alive today, full of hope, joy and peace.
If only they were told that what they were going through was only going to be temporary, and they could push through those dark times, because once they received Christ into their hearts, he would heal them, make them new and strengthen them for any future trials that laid ahead.
It gives me so much peace and joy to know that nothing is impossible when you have God on your side. What is impossible for man, is possible for God. He can move mountains, He can calm storms, He can perform miracles and heal the sick. OUR GOD IS AN AWESOME GOD!
I thank you that you are an almighty God, who is never-failing and worthy of all our praise. I pray for those who are lost in the world because they don’t know you. I pray that you would shine your light into their lives so they can have hope and be free in the name of Jesus. I pray for those who already know you in their lives, that you would help us to continually rely on you for strength, and we would keep growing as strong ambassadors for Christ.
Steph Wolfe, 26/02/2021
Let me ask you a question: Do you believe all things are possible with God?
I’ve been amazed recently at how faithfully God has been answering prayers around me. Healing has occured, family situations have improved, people have reconnected with each other and with God. I’ve rejoiced at how good God is.
One thing that’s challenged me is why I found it so surprising.
I think it’s completely right that we should marvel at God when he answers prayer. We should always remember to thank him and it will always be mind-blowing that God chooses to listen to and care for us.
However, perhaps we also shouldn’t be surprised when God answers prayer, even if he acts in humanly impossible ways. And we shouldn’t be scared to pray humanly impossible prayers.
Let us remember that we serve the God who created the entire world, who led a people through the middle of the sea, who walked on water, rose from the dead and who fed the 5000 with a boy’s lunchbox.
Surely he can do so much with our little faith and our daring prayers too. The God who turned water into wine can turn an impossible situation into a possible one.
My minister said on Sunday that, though we can’t travel far in the current situation, we can go anywhere in prayer, and I think that’s so true. We can enter homes and hospitals, government and even other countries in prayer and in faith that God hears us.
Let us be bold in what we ask of God, and wait expectantly to see what He will do when our prayers are after his own heart.
‘This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.’ ~ 1 John 5:14
Joanna Hodgson, 12/02/2021
I find that it is often easy to get distracted in our day to day lives. We get ready for the day, go to work, go home, cook dinner and then spend the rest of our evening doing an activity we find relaxing. On a busy day, it’s easy to lose our focus from the Lord. However, as Christians, we all know that it’s good to spend time reading our bible and in prayer everyday by ourselves, which is a goal that is always hard to keep up with all the worldly distractions in life.
A while back, I read a short book called “Happiness” by J C Ryle. For me, reading the book helped me reassess how I spent my time in the evenings and rediscovering the true happiness that only Jesus can give. There were many interesting things to learn about from this book, so I recommend giving it a read, however the main focus I took away was “what is true happiness?”
It was a good reminder that true happiness doesn’t come from reading our favourite book or watching Netflix; the happiness we gain from that can only last so long. True happiness lies in Jesus and only through him can we feel full. We have the Lord to lean on 24/7 and that can give peace in our hearts and allow us to feel freer and happier. We know that every time we make a mistake the Lord is there to forgive us for our sins and once we ask forgiveness we will be forgiven.
“We have a source of Happiness independent of this world.”
Rose Emery, 29/01/2021
There are times in our lives when we experience loss. We lose someone we love, a relationship ends or, in one way or another, things don’t work out. It feels awful.
I remember when I was in the process of grieving the end of a close friendship, God spoke to my heart and said, “Trust me. I’m doing a new thing.”
I found this so comforting. When I felt angry or upset, I would remind myself that He was doing something new in my life.
Naturally, the stubborn part of me objected and wailed: “I don’t want the new thing- I want the old thing!!”
But the hard truth was that the old thing was gone.
It was through the experience of this loss that I discovered that one of the ways God helps us when we’re grieving is by doing a new thing in our lives.
In Genesis, we read about Leah, who was in pain because her husband, Jacob, didn’t love her as much as he loved his other wife, Rachel. God saw this and had compassion on her, blessing her with more sons than she could keep track of. He did a new thing in her life! In those days, it was shameful for women to be without children, whilst a woman with many sons was in a highly-coveted position. By blessing her with seven sons, it’s like God compensated her for her hurt.
I think this is similar to what God does with us.
God doesn’t go back and put all the broken bits of our past back together again; he gives us new gifts, new blessings and new life.
God is often described as a restorer, but I believe He is also a compensator. Actually, I think that compensating us is one of His ways of restoring us. After all, new things help us to move forward so that we don’t get stuck in the past.
Just to clarify… I’m not saying that we can live in a way that doesn’t please God, create a big mess and expect Him to bless us. What I am saying is that when we get ourselves right with God and start again with Him, it brings Him pleasure to do a new thing.
It would definitely be a mistake to devalue or reject the new thing that God is giving us, the very thing that can help to restore us after we’ve been hurt. Let’s be thankful for all the blessings God gives us and believe that, in this new year, God can do a new thing!
Dani Taylor, 14/01/21
What do you associate with joy? Happy memories of sunny days at the beach or winter warmth around a fire with family? Long lost memories in these days, it would perhaps seem.
In the Bible, Joy is not just something that Christians have when times are good. In fact, Paul says ‘Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!’ (Philippians 4:4) But why? What do we have to rejoice about?
Looking back, I find it incredible how God has worked for good in the lowest points of life. Take, for example, the day when I fell off my bike at uni and broke my front teeth. Describing it to anyone, they must think it was the worst day, because I had to go off to A&E, emergency dentist appointments etc. by myself. However, I look back on that day as one that really reaffirms my faith. I felt God so close to me and I look back with joy at how he got me through. I’d go as far as to say it was a great day! But I don’t know how I would have done it without him.
Sometimes, when we are at our weakest, God is working at his strongest, and the times when we have to rely on him most are the times when we realise how faithful he is and how much we have to thank him for.
The first Christmas is always painted as a very cute, cosy, joyful scene. I very much doubt that it was really as clean and cosy as the picture books make out, but if you look in the bible, despite the mess of a pre-marriage pregnancy, a birth in a smelly stable in an unknown town and some strangers coming to visit, it surely was a joyful occasion. Why? What did the worn-out parents, stranger shepherds and wise men have to be so joyful about? Of course, it was the birth of Jesus – a very special baby who was also called Immanuel, which means ‘God with us’.
Let me encourage you that, despite the awful hardship this year has brought, God is still with us, and this, as Christians, is the reason we can still rejoice in every situation. If you are looking back at 2020, struggling to find something to be joyful for, why not pray that God would let you see how he has been with you and helped you through the challenges and difficult times, thank him for it, and rejoice that he will never leave you in the years to come.
3rd Sunday of Advent. Joanna Hodgson, 29/11/2020
Things we hope for in life can often be wishful thinking – things we’d like to happen, though we’re not convinced they will. But what about hope in the Bible? Hope that is based on God’s Word is different – it is solid and secure, because God is always faithful and true.
Before Jesus’ birth, the people of Israel had great hope for a Saviour who had been promised to them by God through scripture. God fulfilled this hope when Jesus Christ was born as a baby on Earth. He was called Immanuel, which means ‘God with us’.
Now, through Jesus, we have an even greater hope of life eternally with God, and this hope is steadfast and secure for all who trust in him:
‘In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade.’
~ 1 Peter 1:3-4
As begin this Advent season, let us rejoice in the hope we have in Jesus.
1st Sunday of Advent. Joanna Hodgson, 29/11/2020
When I moved to Yeovil from Essex two months ago, there was something I immediately noticed as being very different from home… hills!
Walking to work, I found myself amazed at how far I could see. There were views that I’d normally only get when we went on holiday, and I marvelled at them. I took photos and praised God for how wonderful his creation was!
Over time, I got used to the hilly landscape. Seeing the fields in the distance or far-off streetlights at night didn’t surprise me anymore. I went back to my habit of dawdling along, staring at the ground, which I’m sure my mum always used to tell me off for!
But recently, with the autumn leaves falling to the ground in their spectacular display of fiery colours, I couldn’t help but notice the beauty of nature, even when looking at the ground! It made me look up again and remember just how incredible God’s world is.
I think a similar thing can happen with faith sometimes.
It’s easy to get used to the idea that God loves us, isn’t it? Some of us have been taught ‘Jesus loves you’, and have been reciting John 3:16, from such a young age that we can forget what it even means, or just how true it is. We can get used to the beauty of God, and what he has done for us, just like I got used to the beauty of nature.
It’s great to remind ourselves of how indescribably good God is and how much he loves us. Let’s not miss out on the blessings he has for us just because we are not looking for them.
Joanna Hodgson, 19/11/2020
Hi, my name is Steph. I’m a first year intern at Oddments.
For 3 years, I studied musical theatre in a very competitive environment, where I was also being bred into what I like to call “Comparison Culture”. This became the catalyst to a decline in my self-esteem. Being the only Christian in college was a very lonely experience because I had no one else who understood my way of thinking or whom I could relate to.
A combination of being weighed every week, social media, being in a toxic relationship and falling away from my faith in God led me to having a very low opinion of myself. This affected my view of the way I looked more than anything else; but also created a lot of self-doubt about my capabilities in all aspects of life.
However, in recent months, I have been massively drawn to this bible verse in particular because I feel it perfectly depicts God’s love for us, and it helps to remind me that God carefully created me with a lot of thought, making no mistake with how I was formed. If we can appreciate nature in all its beauty, which is also God’s creation, then why can’t we appreciate ourselves??
There’s a quote that also sums it up perfectly:
“You are imperfect, permanently & inevitably flawed. You are beautiful.”
– Amy Bloom
So, what can we do?
- Lift your cares and worries to God.
- Read this verse.
- Speak this verse over yourself.
- Praise God for making you the way you are- God’s perfect creation.
Steph Wolfe, 30/10/20
I like what Rick Warren says in his book The Purpose Driven Life:
“The greatest hindrance to God’s blessing in your life is not others, it is yourself – your self-will, stubborn pride, and personal ambition. You cannot fulfil God’s purpose for your life while focusing on your own plans.”
Being a follower of Christ means a real change in mindset:
To live for Christ, you have to die to self
To lead, you have to be a follower
To be first, you have to be last
To be full, you need to be empty
To be strong, you need to acknowledge your weaknesses
To be brave, you need to have the fear of God
To be wise, you need wisdom from many advisors
Taking up the mantle of Christ and being his follower challenges our core values. We soon find out that within us there is a lot of self-resistance. We stumble over a roadblock called ‘self-determination.’ Our arms ache from the placard we grip that reads ‘I want to be in control’. We will be a follower of Christ, but we want to write some of the terms and conditions. And if life isn’t quite going as planned, it is not long before the bratty child in us surfaces. Then, the voice of blaming others emerges. Dissatisfaction with others, work, the church, the spouse, the relationship, the system, and the team become a constant moan.
Without realising it, we become our own barrier that prevents God working in us. We have become a self-perpetuating prophecy of doom that ends up being played out in front of others. We become the hindrance to God’s blessing in our own lives and the lives of others.
That is why this verse is so important:
“Keep watch over yourself.”
Barry Boyton, 20/10/2020