31 August 2021
When we got married the two hymns we chose were “The Lord's my Shepherd” and “Love Divine all Love Excelling” and while they remain firm favourites I have gathered a whole suitcase full of favourite hymns for favourite occasions in the past 41 years.
Queen Elizabeth the second, personally chose a hymn for her own wedding written by the British clergyman Henry Francis Lyte. He produced a hymnbook derived from Psalms and he called it the spirit of the Psalms, as he did not reproduce the Psalms straight from scripture. One particular Psalm, Psalm 103 urges us not to forget the many benefits and blessings that God provides for us Ransomed, healed, restored and forgiven. This translation is from the Message :
O my soul, bless God.
From head to toe, I’ll bless his holy name!
O my soul, bless God,
don’t forget a single blessing!
He forgives your sins—every one.
He heals your diseases—every one.
He redeems you from hell—saves your life!
He crowns you with love and mercy—a paradise crown.
He wraps you in goodness—beauty eternal.
He renews your youth—you’re always young in his presence.
The message Lyte was trying to get across was that although God is slow to chide he is swift to bless and the hymn that The Queen chose was :
1 Praise, my soul, the King of heaven;
to his feet your tribute bring.
Ransomed, healed, restored, forgiven,
evermore his praises sing.
Praise the everlasting King!
2 Praise him for his grace and favour
to his people in distress.
Praise him, still the same as ever,
slow to chide, and swift to bless.
Glorious in his faithfulness!
3 Fatherlike he tends and spares us;
well our feeble frame he knows.
In his hand he gently bears us,
rescues us from all our foes.
Widely yet his mercy flows!
4 Angels, help us to adore him;
you behold him face to face.
Sun and moon, bow down before him,
dwellers all in time and space.
Praise with us the God of grace!
I've heard of a few bride and grooms that have chosen not to have hymns sung at their wedding in favour of musical soloists or local singers. Maybe it's a sign of age but we are losing values that were once held dear. I remember once hearing a celebrity saying that Queen Elizabeth was the second most stable influence in her life. The queen was a committed christian and had never compromised her values or her role in life. She went on to say that God was the most stable influence in her life as he was there day in day out for whatever she might face. As Lyte shared with us in his hymn :
Fatherlike he tends and spares us;
well our feeble frame he knows.
In his hand he gently bears us,
rescues us from all our foes.
Widely yet his mercy flows!
30 August 2021
I love it when we sing a hymn to a well known tune. For instance, there is a hymn sung to The Skye Boat Song and another sung to Nimrod the well known classical piece.
Henry Van Dyke was inspired by Psalm 98
Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth,
burst into jubilant song with music;
make music to the Lord with the harp,
with the harp and the sound of singing,
with trumpets and the blast of the ram’s horn—
shout for joy before the Lord, the King.
Let the sea resound, and everything in it,
the world, and all who live in it.
Let the rivers clap their hands,
let the mountains sing together for joy;
Van Dyke was a Presbyterian minister and well known author who was moved by the beauty of God's creation. Putting his thoughts down into a poem, he found himself as a guest preacher in the Berkshire mountains of Massachusetts. He was attending the Williams College at the time and handed the poem to the college president telling him “here you are, a hymn for you inspired by your mountains which were my inspiration but I'm telling you this hymn must be sung to Beethoven's “Ode to Joy.”
When Van Dyke published this hymn in 1911 he noted that it was to be sung by “people who are not afraid that any truth of science will destroy their religion or that any revolution on earth will overthrow the kingdom of Heaven.” And as his book says “With such confidence Christians have much to rejoice to.”
Joyful, joyful, we adore You,
God of glory, Lord of love;
Hearts unfold like flow'rs before You,
Op'ning to the sun above.
Melt the clouds of sin and sadness;
Drive the dark of doubt away;
Giver of immortal gladness,
Fill us with the light of day!
All Your works with joy surround You,
Earth and heav'n reflect Your rays,
Stars and angels sing around You,
Center of unbroken praise;
Field and forest, vale and mountain,
Flow'ry meadow, flashing sea,
Chanting bird and flowing fountain
Praising You eternally!
Always giving and forgiving,
Ever blessing, ever blest,
Well-spring of the joy of living,
Ocean-depth of happy rest!
Loving Father, Christ our Brother,
Let Your light upon us shine;
Teach us how to love each other,
Lift us to the joy divine.
29 August 2021
Last weekend we came home from a short break in Seahouses in Northumberland. It’s always good to go to places that you are not that familiar with and the villages, beaches and castles were impressive and beautiful.
We once visited Bath, we drove in and drove straight back out again as the temperature outside was reaching 100 degrees. But undoubtedly Bath is considered one of the beauty spots in the British Isles. Pleasure resort and health spa for the ailing it has warm springs, amphitheaters and buildings designed by the Romans.
Folliot Pierpoint (now there's a name!) was born in Bath but had to move to Cambridge to attend University there where he became a classical scholar. At the age of 29 he returned to his hometown of Bath and it is said that his heart swelled as he gazed upon the countryside of Bath in the late spring. So much so that it inspired a hymn. In this hymn the stanza “Christ our God to Thee we raise, this our sacrifice of Praise,” came to his thoughts when he thought of the words of Hebrew 13 verse 15 “Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that openly profess his name."
He went on then to compose the famous hymn :
For the beauty of the earth
For the beauty of the skies
For the love
Which from our birth
Over and around us lies
Lord of all to thee we raise
This our joyful hymn of praise
For the beauty of the hour
Of the day and of the night
Hill and vale
And tree and flower
Sun and moon and stars of light
Lord of all to thee we raise
This our joyful hymn of praise
For the joy of human love
Brother, sister, parent, child
Friends on earth
And friends above
For a gentle
Thoughts and mild
For a gentle
Thoughts and mild
Lord of all to thee we raise
This our joyful hymn of praise
For each perfect gift of thine
To our race so freely given
Graces human and divine
Flow'rs of earth and buds of heav'n
Lord of all to thee we raise
This our joyful hymn, our joyful hymn of praise
28 August 2021
I remember years ago a family argument in our house when we were going on a bus to visit a relative in Ayr. For ticket purposes my mother and father told my brother he was four and a half to which he replied “but I am six!” No explanation from my mum and dad could convince my brother in order to get a cheaper ticket we had to say he was under five. The old adage was “children should be seen and not heard,” but life would be dull if that was the case.
Jeanette Threlfall was invalided as a child, disabled by an accident she did not have an ideal childhood and spent most of her young life staying with relatives. Despite all of this she loved composing poems which told of her joy and cheerfulness. She loved the scriptures and undoubtedly her inspiration was drawn.
Matthew 21 (KJV)
And when they drew nigh unto Jerusalem, and were come to Bethphage, unto the mount of Olives, then sent Jesus two disciples,
Saying unto them, Go into the village over against you, and straightway ye shall find an ass tied, and a colt with her: lose them, and bring them unto me.
And if any man say ought unto you, ye shall say, The Lord hath need of them; and straightway he will send them.
All this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying,
Tell ye the daughter of Sion, Behold, thy King cometh unto thee, meek, and sitting upon an ass, and a colt the foal of an ass.
And the disciples went, and did as Jesus commanded them,
And brought the ass, and the colt, and put on them their clothes, and they set him thereon.
And a very great multitude spread their garments in the way; others cut down branches from the trees, and strawed them in the way.
And the multitudes that went before, and that followed, cried, saying, Hosanna to the son of David: Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest.
They say that Jeanette drew from this particular scripture and in composing a hymn she emphasizes the praise of the little children from this reading. She imagined them singing “hosanna” at the top of their voices while waving palms and singing. The leaders asked Jesus to tell the children to stop “do you hear what they are saying?” they asked him “yes," he said and from that a hymn was born.
Hosanna, loud hosanna,
the little children sang,
through pillared court and temple
the lovely anthem rang.
To Jesus, who had blessed them
close folded to his breast,
the children sang their praises,
the simplest and the best.
2. From Olivet they followed
mid an exultant crowd,
the victor palm branch waving,
and chanting clear and loud.
The Lord of earth and heaven
rode on in lowly state,
nor scorned that little children
should on his bidding wait.
3. "Hosanna in the highest!"
that ancient song we sing,
for Christ is our Redeemer,
the Lord of heaven our King.
O may we ever praise him
with heart and life and voice,
and in his blissful presence
27 August 2021
26 August 2021
Pastor Jack Hayford and his wife were on holiday in the UK in 1977 the year of the Queen's Silver Jubilee. As they travelled the length and breadth of Britain they could not help but be impressed with all the pageantry and celebrations celebrating Elizabeth the Second's reign.
Then they visited Blenheim Palace, the birthplace of Winston Churchill. It dawned on Hayford that if we are all awestruck by the royalty of earthly kings how much more would we be in awe of the King of Kings.
Fast forward to 1993 and the visit to the UK of Billy Graham. It is well documented my experience of working in Edinburgh and Glasgow at these events. But the one thing I will never forget is the first night in Glasgow. Arriving at Celtic Park and parking my car. Suddenly the choir inside the football ground started to sing Majesty. "Majesty Worship His Majesty." Some people walking into the stadium stopped in their tracks and one man in front of me stood and said to his partner "did you feel that?"
Pastor Hayford recalls that while he and his wife drove home one night the words and melody of "majesty" simply came into his heart and how he felt to be part of "His Ministry ''. When they returned home they completed the hymn and "it was not only a description of the glorious regal nature of our Saviour but a statement that our worship can align us with His Throne so that his kingdom authority flows to us and through us.
Worship His majesty
Unto Jesus, be all glory
Honor, and praise
Flow from His throne
Unto His own
His anthem raise
Worship His majesty
Unto Jesus, be all glory
Honor, and praise
Flow from His throne
Unto His own
His anthem raise
So exalt, lift up on high
The name of Jesus
Magnify, come glorify
Christ Jesus the King
Worship His majesty
Jesus who died, now glorified
King of all Kings
25 August 2021
Edwin Hatch was a very well read man, a distinguished lecturer in ecclesiastical history at Oxford and a professor of classics at the University of Quebec. He lectured regularly on the early Christian Church and was famous for his research which was detailed and complicated.
But his faith was a different matter, very simple and as someone once quoted “as unaffected as a child’s”. Yet his simple hymns with simple words had and have a profound effect on the user.
A favourite reading in John 20 reminds us of Jesus reappearing to the disciples in the upper room. The door was locked when he appeared but reassured the disciples as he gave them this command
“Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” And with that, he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”
Hatch once said “at our recreation through Jesus the great of God brings spiritual life and power” and as the reading said, "He breathed on them."
Hatch put the words into one of today's classic hymns :
Breathe on me, Breath of God
fill me with life anew,
that I may love what thou dost love,
and do what thou wouldst do.
Breathe on me, Breath of God,
until my heart is pure;
until with thee I will one will,
to do and to endure.
Breathe on me, Breath of God,
till I am wholly thine;
until this earthly part of me
glows with thy fire divine.
Breathe on me, Breath of God:
so shall I never die,
but live with thee the perfect life
of thine eternity.
24 August 2021
Alfred Lord Tennyson called it the "greatest hymn of all time" and it was written by Reginal Heber. Heber was an Anglican priest in Hornet in England and considered a bit of a rebel due to the fact that he liked to introduce new hymns to his congregation rather than the old metric Psalms that were encouraged. He was a great expositor of "The holy trinity" and loved nothing better than to reach on the wonders of God in three persons.
In Ephesians 4 Paul tells us "As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all."
After serving 16 years in England Heber moved to Calcutta in India where he was the bishop but after only three years he died at the age of 43. Some of his words were set to a tune called Nicaea named after the church council that was founded in 325 AD that founded the Nicene Creed and affirmed the doctrine of the trinity.
Holy, holy, holy!
Lord God Almighty
Early in the morning
Our song shall rise to Thee
Holy, holy, holy!
Merciful and mighty
God in three persons
Holy, holy, holy!
Though the darkness hide thee
Though the eye of sinful man
Thy glory may not see
Only Thou art holy
There is none beside Thee
Perfect in power, in love and purity
Holy, holy, holy!
Lord God Almighty
Oh thy works shall praise Thy name
In earth and sky and sea
Holy, holy, holy!
Merciful and mighty
God in three persons
Oh God in three persons
23 August 2021
I wonder all these years ago if people knew the impact that they would have on our lives all these years later. I am talking about the year 1870 in the state of Brooklyn in America.
A young 37 year old mother was doing her normal everyday household chores. She felt happy and blessed about the life that she had but credited it all to God. But at the same time she knew that she could not live without her Lord and Master. She recalled the Psalms that she loved - In Psalm 86 (using The Message) the psalmist pleads :
Bend an ear, God; answer me. I’m one miserable wretch! Keep me safe—haven’t I lived a good life?
Help your servant—I’m depending on you! You’re my God; have mercy on me. I count on you from morning to night.
Give your servant a happy life; I put myself in your hands! You’re well-known as good and forgiving, big hearted to all who ask for help.
Pay attention, God, to my prayer; bend down and listen to my cry for help.
As she was carrying out those chores suddenly the words came into her head "I need thee every hour" and as it was a bright sunny day she sat at her window and ended up composing a brand new hymn for her church folks.
Dwight L Moody discovered the simple hymn and began using it at his tent meetings and to the amazement of Annie Hawks a simple homemaker from Brooklyn her hymn became a long lasting powerful plea to God.
I need Thee ev'ry hour,
Most gracious Lord;
No tender voice like Thine
Can peace afford.
I need Thee, oh, I need Thee;
Ev'ry hour I need Thee;
Oh, bless me now, my Savior,
I come to Thee.
2 I need Thee ev'ry hour,
Stay Thou nearby;
Temptations lose their pow’r
When Thou art nigh. [Refrain]
3 I need Thee ev'ry hour,
In joy or pain;
Come quickly and abide,
Or life is vain. [Refrain]
4 I need Thee ev'ry hour,
Teach me Thy will;
And Thy rich promises
In me fulfill. [Refrain]
Alex is on Holiday for a week from today.
Words for Life will be back in a while.
Many thanks for your patience and understanding.
14 August 2021
In 1714 Queen Anne of England was dying with no daughter to succeed her. The whole of the country was on tenterhooks as to who would be the new ruler.
A young Isaac Watts had reason to worry as his father was imprisoned by the previous regime and Queen Anne had released him, but what would happen now after she had died?
Watts turned to Isaiah for inspiration and in verse 4 of chapter 26
Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord, the Lord himself, is the Rock eternal.
Then in Psalm 90
Lord, you have been our dwelling-place
throughout all generations.
Before the mountains were born
or you brought forth the whole world,
from everlasting to everlasting you are God.
You turn people back to dust,
saying, ‘Return to dust, you mortals.’
A thousand years in your sight
are like a day that has just gone by,
or like a watch in the night.
And then of course Isaac Watts penned the marvellous hymn O God our help in ages past. Sometimes when you know the back story there is a clearer message in the hymn where the writer is coming from. This hymn is a good example.
O God, our help in ages past,
Our hope for years to come,
Our shelter from the stormy blast,
And our eternal home:
Beneath the shadow of thy throne,
Thy saints have dwelt secure;
Sufficient is thine arm alone,
And our defense is sure.
Before the hills in order stood,
Or earth received her frame,
From everlasting thou art God,
To endless years the same.
A thousand ages in thy sight
Are like an evening gone;
Short as the watch that ends the night
Before the rising sun.
Time, like an ever-rolling stream,
Bears all its sons away;
They fly, forgotten, as a dream
Dies at the opening day.
O God, our help in ages past,
Our hope for years to come,
Be thou our guide while troubles last,
And our eternal home!
13 August 2021
Ever been bullied because of your faith? I had a silly boss years ago who called me either “Holy Wullie” or “Bible John”. Nowadays that kind of situation would be explosive but years ago tolerance and ignorance ran hand in hand sometimes. Anna Waring was painfully shy and most things around her frightened her. But she was a scholar and taught herself Hebrew so that she could read the Old Testament in a different light. She also had a calling to visit prisons and again this made her feel vulnerable and unhappy. Yet she continued forward in the battle to honour her God. Her mantra was “But God is all around me and how can I be dismayed.”
Of course, she put her thoughts into words and the hymn was born “In heavenly love biding”
Peterson's translation of Matthew 31 reminds us that
29-31 “What’s the price of a sparrow? Some loose change, right? And God cares what happens to it even more than you do. He pays even greater attention to you, down to the last detail—even numbering the hairs on your head! So don’t be intimidated by all this bully talk. You’re worth more than a million sparrows.
Christian armour can be priceless and it can be a life saver. How well does He know us? Does He care what happens to us? He knows each and every hair on our head and we are worth more than a million sparrows.
In heav’nly love abiding,
No change my heart shall fear;
And safe is such confiding,
For nothing changes here.
For nothing changes here.
The storm may roar about me,
My heart may low be laid,
But God is round about me,
And can I be dismayed?
And can I be dismayed?
Wherever He may guide me,
No want shall turn me back;
My Shepherd is beside me,
And nothing can I lack.
And nothing can I lack.
His wisdom ever waketh,
His sight is never dim;
He knows the way He taketh,
And I will walk with Him.
And I will walk with Him.
Green pastures are before me,
Which I have yet not seen;
Bright skies will soon be o’er me,
Where darkest clouds have been.
Where darkest clouds have been.
My hope I cannot measure,
My path to life is free;
My Savior is my treasure,
And He will walk with me.
And He will walk with me.
12 August 2021
Kate Hankey was the daughter of a very prosperous banker in London and loved nothing better than the Bible Class of young factory girls that she organised. Suddenly she became very ill and was confined to a year's “bed rest.”
Forbidden to teach her Bible studies she turned to poetry and after ten months she was strong enough to return to her Bible Class. She eventually started up a prison ministry and she continued to tell others the story of Jesus.
From the poems that she wrote two famous hymns were born. “I love to tell the story” and ten months later “Tell me the old old story.”
1 Peter 3 ( the message) reminds us that
Through thick and thin, keep your hearts at attention, in adoration before Christ, your Master. Be ready to speak up and tell anyone who asks why you’re living the way you are, and always with the utmost courtesy. Keep a clear conscience before God so that when people throw mud at you, none of it will stick. They’ll end up realizing that they're the ones who need a bath. It’s better to suffer for doing good, if that’s what God wants, than to be punished for doing bad. That’s what Christ did definitively: suffered because of others’ sins.
It's not a bad thing to tell others about Jesus but at the same time it's sometimes a good thing to remind ourselves about his life and what he does for us and others. Over the years we have been blessed with many “storytellers” my own favourite being David Kossof. Stories are a blessing, storytellers are much needed in our lives. Amen
I love to tell the story
Of unseen things above
Of Jesus and his glory
Of Jesus and his love
I love to tell the story
Because I know 'tis true
It satisfies my longings
As nothing else can do
I love to tell the story
'Twill be my theme in glory
To tell the old, old story
Of Jesus and his love
I love to tell the story
For those who know it best
Seem hungering and thirsting
To hear it like the rest
And when, in scenes of glory
I sing the new, new song
'Twill be the old, old story
That I have loved so long
I love to tell the story
'Twill be my theme in glory
To tell the old, old story
11 August 2021
Joseph Scrivens' fiancée drowned on the eve of their wedding and he set sail from Ireland to Canada alone. When he arrived in Ontario he had no friends but made it his business to befriend people who needed help and became known as The Good Samaritan of Port Hope.
In writing a letter to his mother he couldn’t think of much to say so he wrote a quick poem about his friendship with the Lord and this poem was found by a friend when Scriven became ill. “Did you write this?” asked the friend “Yes,” said Scriven, “ Jesus and I between us.”
What a friend we have in Jesus
All our sins and griefs to bear
What a privilege to carry
Everything to God in prayer
Oh, what peace we often forfeit
Oh, what needless pain we bear
All because we do not carry
Everything to God in prayer
Have we trials and temptations?
Is there trouble anywhere?
We should never be discouraged
Take it to the Lord in prayer
Can we find a friend so faithful
Who will all our sorrows share?
Jesus knows our every weakness
Take it to the Lord in prayer
We are blessed with many good friends and this is one of the great blessings of being a member of a church. Even if it's just a wave across the sanctuary behind a mask you know that they are there and their recognition is a great blessing. Paul in Philippians opened up the first chapter by writing -
“My dear, dear friends! I love you so much. I do want the very best for you. You make me feel such joy, fill me with such pride. Don’t waver. Stay on track, steady in God.”
Make this a day you contact a friend unexpectedly, even send a card or a letter, maybe phone them. Friends are important and we cannot lose them and no greater friend can be had in Jesus.
10 August 2021
Wine is one of the big new things in our culture with wine tasting, wine clubs. It has never been easier to buy a bottle either at the local garage or supermarket. Everything in moderation as they say.
The Bible has a lot to say about wine and the drinking thereof but it also has some things to say about “ being drunk” Proverbs being the best source for advice tells us:
“Who has woe? Who has sorrow? Who has strife? Who is complaining? Who has wounds without cause? Who has redness of eyes? Those who tarry long over wine; those who go to try mixed wine. Do not look at wine when it is red, when it sparkles in the cup and goes down smoothly. In the end it bites like a serpent and stings like an adder. Your eyes will see strange things, and your heart utter perverse things. ... Proverbs 23 v29
John Greenleaf Whittier was an outstanding and famous American poet. He was also a Quaker and at that time did not practice hymn singing but eventually some of his poems were augmented for use in hymns that he composed.
He wrote a poem called “The brewing of Soma”. Soma was an intoxicating drink brewed by the Vedic culture and was thought to be drunk to “bring the skies nearer and to lift the men closer to heaven. It was probably a juice made from a hallucinogenic mountain plant or the haoma plant.
As a Quaker, Whittier was disturbed to see Christians using emotionalism like the Vedic culture and was asking God “to forgive our feverish ways.” Calling Christians back to simplicity and “let our ordered lives confess the beauty of thy peace”.
Definitely a worthy story to one of the great hymns we sing.
Dear Lord and father of Mankind
1 Dear Lord and Father of mankind,
forgive our foolish ways;
reclothe us in our rightful mind,
in purer lives thy service find,
in deeper reverence, praise.
2 In simple trust like theirs who heard
beside the Syrian sea
the gracious calling of the Lord,
let us, like them, without a word
rise up and follow thee.
3 O Sabbath rest by Galilee,
O calm of hills above,
where Jesus knelt to share with thee
the silence of eternity,
interpreted by love!
4 Drop thy still dews of quietness,
till all our strivings cease;
take from our souls the strain and stress,
and let our ordered lives confess
the beauty of thy peace.
5 Breathe through the heats of our desire
thy coolness and thy balm;
let sense be dumb, let flesh retire;
speak through the earthquake, wind, and fire,
O still, small voice of calm!
09 August 2021
Up until a few years ago my favourite time of the year was autumn. The nights drew in and became darker, quicker and the surrounding countryside changed into wonderful colours of gold, amber and crystallised ginger.
Now my favourite month is June when the morning arrives early around 04:30am and the birds wake up for a wee while and then go back to sleep till the world decides to start a new day.
Eugene Peterson’s translation of Genesis 1 is very different to what we are used to -
1 First this: God created the Heavens and Earth—all you see, all you don’t see. Earth was a soup of nothingness, a bottomless emptiness, and an inky blackness. God’s Spirit brooded like a bird above the watery abyss. God spoke: “Light!” And light appeared. God saw that light was good and separated light from dark. God named the light Day, He named the dark Night. It was evening; it was morning — of Day One.
In 1880 a wandering highland minstrel was heard singing a tune and somebody decided to note the melody and preserved it for posterity. Then in 1918 a Scottish poet put words to the melody and called it “child in a manger”. Then in the 1920s, they were composing a new hymnal and the makers were looking for a light hymn to sing at the beginning of a new day and sung to the old Gaelic melody.
Eleanor Farjeon was a playwright, a novelist and a journalist and was very much bohemian dabbling in spiritualism and reincarnation but at around the age of seventy, she was on a journey into Christianity and was dabbling with Roman Catholicism. Eleanor wrote the words based on Genesis 1 v 5 and called it “thanks for the day.” The song was not widely known until the 1970s when Cat Stevens an active Muslim made a recording of it and the rest, as they say, is history.
Morning has broken like the first morning
Blackbird has spoken like the first bird
Praise for the singing, praise for the morning
Praise for them springing fresh from the world
Sweet the rain's new fall, sunlit from Heaven
Like the first dewfall on the first grass
Praise for the sweetness of the wet garden
Sprung in completeness where His feet pass
Our praise today could be this lovely song/hymn and our prayer for today could be one of thanks. For God allowing us to welcome another morning, another day in our lives and another opportunity to share his Word. Amen
08 August 2021
Romans 8:28 says, “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.”
Have you ever had a really bad day? A day when nothing seemed like it was going your way? Maybe you’ve heard the story about the guy headed somewhere who gets on the plane to get there. Unfortunately, the plane starts to crash and he runs to the back of the plane. Fortunately, there are parachutes. Unfortunately, there aren’t enough for him. Fortunately, he sees a haystack in a field below and he jumps. Unfortunately, as he gets closer, he sees that the haystack has a pitchfork sticking out of it. Fortunately, he misses the pitchfork… and the haystack, too.
The truth is, most of us would avoid bad things happening if we could. A few years ago, Steven Spielberg made a film called Minority Report where some special cops (led by Tom Cruise) stop crimes before they’re committed. The whole idea is that if we had the ability to know the future, most of us would edit our futures. But what if there’s a purpose for the bad stuff?
There's a story about a man who was late for a job interview at a big corporate meeting. He’s been circling the parking lot for ten minutes and prays, “God, if you’ll help me find a parking space, I’ll quit drinking, go to church, and be a good Christian.” Almost instantaneously, a parking space appears in front of him and he darts into the building, tossing back over his shoulder, “Nevermind, God, I found one!”
Romans 8:28 says, “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.”
Now, I’m sure we could have a field day with Romans 8:31 “If God is with us, who can stand against us?” or Romans 8:35 “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?” or Romans 8:37 “No, in all things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.”
Paul says that “God works for good in all things for those who love him”.
Paul doesn’t say that God works some of the time in some things.
Paul doesn’t say that God works, but only in the good things.
Paul says that God works all of the time in all things for all who love him
John Ortberg tells a story about an older woman who locked her keys in the car and prayed to God that someone would help her. As she opened her eyes, she looked up to see a tattooed, bearded, burly man approaching her in biker’s leather and a do-rag. “Really, God?” she asked under her breath. “Um, sir, can you break into my car?” She asked. “I’ve locked my keys in the car.”
The man took her the rusted hanger she’d unsuccessfully tried to pick the lock with, and within seconds, he was holding open the door to her car.
“You’re such a nice man!” she cried, jumping to hug him around the neck.
“No, I’m not,” the man gruffly replied, “I just got out of prison for auto theft.”
“Oh, thank God!” she replied. “I prayed and God sent me an expert!”
Thought for the day then is “we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Let us just take each day as it comes and thank God for his wonderful mercies and grace. Amen
07 August 2021
Hebrews 11 From the Message
32-38 I could go on and on, but I’ve run out of time. There are so many more—Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, the prophets. . . . Through acts of faith, they toppled kingdoms, made justice work, took the promises for themselves. They were protected from lions, fires, and sword thrusts, turned disadvantage to advantage, won battles, routed alien armies. Women received their loved ones back from the dead. There were those who, under torture, refused to give in and go free, preferring something better: resurrection. Others braved abuse and whips, and, yes, chains and dungeons. We have stories of those who were stoned, sawed in two, murdered in cold blood; stories of vagrants wandering the earth in animal skins, homeless, friendless, powerless—the world didn’t deserve them!—making their way as best they could on the cruel edges of the world.
39-40 Not one of these people, even though their lives of faith were exemplary, got their hands on what was promised. God had a better plan for us: that their faith and our faith would come together to make one complete whole, their lives of faith not complete apart from ours.
We are given a long list of the great men and women of faith. Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and Joseph. The list goes on and on and Paul even tells us that time prevents him from listing everyone.
We all “do our bit” for the church, but is it enough? Could we do more? You might ask yourself “Why do I do what I do? Who notices?"
I’m positive God notices.
Today if we were to make a list of the great men and women of faith who would be on your list? Billy Graham? John Stott? Or perhaps Joyce Meyer. But if God was to make a list at this moment who would be on his list ?. Quite probably it would be the old man at the end of the road, or the old lady who comes to church every Sunday come hail or snow. It might even be an anonymous missionary who has given their lives to God's work.
But as the Letter to Hebrews reminds us that no one really gets the prize that we think we should get. Of course we are all commended for our faith but it's not till we meet God face to face that we will see and receive the promise that God has assured us of. Eugene Petterson opens up this chapter by telling us, “The fundamental fact of existence is that this trust in God, this faith, is the firm foundation under everything that makes life worth living. It's our handle on what we can't see. The act of faith is what distinguished our ancestors, set them above the crowd. By faith, we see the world called into existence by God's word,..."
Now that is a faith worth having and a life worth living. Amen
06 August 2021
I think I could write a book about my “embarrassing incidents caused by Alex. “
If you are like me and have missed the sound of “live” singing in the church by now you will be delighted knowing that we can sing and be heard. We can hear the choir too as they are spread out in the choir stalls and singing without masks. A few weeks ago I forgot myself, and in a church I was visiting we all stood up to watch yet another youtube video (and can it be) and before you know it I was singing at the top of my voice and got to the end of the first verse before I realised I was breaking the law. The congregation stared at me (I think sympathetically).
Consider for a moment Psalm 89 “I will sing of the Lord’s great love forever; with my mouth I will make your faithfulness known through all generations”. This has proved to be quite difficult recently with the pandemic but all is returning back to some kind of normality.
George Bennard was born in Ohio and at the age of 16 he joined The Salvation Army. He had a lot of responsibilities with his mum and dad so he did not accomplish much until they both passed away and he became a full-time member. George married and he and his wife became travelling evangelists and his main theme each time was John 3:16. He loved that verse.
Because he quoted it so much he began to compose a hymn in his head but although he had the chorus the rest of the hymn would not come and he struggled with the words. While in New York he noticed as the people came to the front of the auditoriums they gravitated towards the cross and he finished composing the hymn.
One night he played it to friends who said that, “God has given you a hymn that will never die.” The hymn was The Old Rugged Cross.
In our house we had one LP that my mother used to play and that was a recording of Mahalia Jackson singing this hymn and if I think about it I can hear Ms. Jackson singing the chorus so clearly
So I'll cherish the old rugged cross
Till my trophies at last I lay down
I will cling to the old rugged cross
And exchange it someday for a crown
The Bible just says “Sing!” Over and over, dozens of times, we are commanded to sing: sing to the Lord, sing praises, sing joyfully, sing a new song. Come into God’s presence with singing. The command to sing may be repeated more frequently than any command in the Bible except the one to love. Certainly we’re told to sing more times than we are told to witness or teach or baptize or even to bring offerings. I like the instruction in James 5:13 (NIV): "Is any one of you in trouble? He should pray. Is anyone happy? Let him sing songs of praise." Of course we know we are commanded to pray. But we are also commanded to sing.
05 August 2021
In Exodus we read "Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up. So Moses thought, I will go over and see this strange sight--why the bush does not burn up." When the LORD saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, "Moses! Moses!" And Moses said, "Here I am."
Every night the sun sets behind the building that we stay in. No big deal you might think as all the living rooms are to the front of the building. So to miss the sunset must be annoying. But having said all that, there is a wonderful phenomenon when it’s a clear night and the setting sun is strong. The light from the setting sun comes from behind our flats and settles on a tree outside our lounge window. So as the other trees darken this one tall tree appears to be on fire. We look for it every night.
Moses was tending his sheep when a bush went on fire. As the fire burned the bush was not “burning up”. As he approached this strange phenomenon God called Moses from within the bush and gave him a set of instructions around delivering the Israelites out of Egypt.
God was in the bush calling out to Moses. Moses met God and worshiped him through the bush. If you live in Milngavie or one of the surrounding areas we are lucky enough to travel literally 15 minutes and be in the countryside. We can admire the hills, the trees, the vista and all the natural beauty that God has given us and through this we can worship a creator who has enriched our lives with natural beauty all around us. Our faith can be restored simply by looking at a hill or a valley or even a tree.
Hebrews 11 “By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.” (read that again?)
Job 12 tells us that “ask the beasts, and they will teach you;
the birds of the heavens, and they will tell you; or the bushes of the earth, and they will teach you; and the fish of the sea will declare to you. Who among all these does not know that the hand of the LORD has done this?”
I’m not saying that it’s a suitable substitute but if you haven’t read your Bible today or said a prayer just look out of your window and I'm sure you will see the wonder of creation and the beauty that’s outside our door at the hands of God. Worship and praise his name each and every day. Amen
04 August 2021
1 Peter 5 verse 7
I read a recent article on the internet that said the biggest selling books at the moment are books on self help, motivational assistance, spirituality and personal psychology. This topic (yes! That was one topic 7 words!) was followed by the usual stuff, cookery, classic fiction, modern fiction, crime, true crime and travel.
Somebody had left a comment in the comments box asking where did the Bible fit in with all of this and the publisher's comments were that the “Bible falls into many categories some of which are mentioned although the Bible itself is not mentioned in the stand alone category. You can find biblical matters in most bookshops under “spirituality” or even “self help”.
I’m not sure if you agree with any of these comments but the two words “self help” sticks in my throat a bit. As Christians, we know that our help comes from the Lord and if we want to look for help “self” doesn’t come into it but God does.
1Peter 5 verse 7 “ Cast all your cares upon him for he careth for you”
Charles Swindoll tells us that 1 Peter 5: gives specific instructions to elders about how to lead the flock of God willingly, eagerly, and by their own example. In humility, we cast our anxieties on the Father who cares for us. In alertness, we are to remain clear-minded, looking out for our enemy, the devil who seeks to destroy us. We resist him by focusing on staying firm in our faith and trusting God to keep His promises.
These are words for great encouragement and maybe conviction for those of us who are burdened with fear and anxiety. It also speaks to those who are serving God day after day with no recognition or help.
Peter tells us that we should take any fear in our lives and throw it in the direction of God. In fact, we should take all our angst and anxiety and everything that worries us and give it to God who cares deeply for us. He will carry our worries and take care of them but it's not up to us to write the script for God, we need to trust in him to handle them in the way that is best,
Peter's words are a command, it is not God's will for us to live under a burden of strife and disbelief, anxiety and fear. Believe that God is mighty and cares for us and hand your worries over to him. Amen
03 August 2021
“I still miss Sarah. Let’s see, how long has she been gone? I was 137 when she died at age 127. On my next birthday, I’ll be 175. Nearly 40 years. That’s a long time to be separated from someone you love. I can still vividly remember when she and I packed up and left Ur a century ago! What a handsome couple we were back then. Of course all our friends and relatives thought we were crazy! They told us it was bad enough to leave the comfort and safety of city life, but to head out for an unknown land at the command of some invisible God, well, that was sheer insanity!
I wonder how Ishmael is doing these days? As I remember, he’ll be 88 on his next birthday. The last report I heard was that he had married an Egyptian girl and had fathered 12 sons. That’s good! I hope the best for him. My heart still grieves when I think back on those events which made it necessary for us to go our separate ways.
Keturah ( my second wife) has been a good wife to me, certainly a fruitful one, giving birth to six healthy sons. But it is Isaac of course, the heir of the covenant, the miracle son, who is the source of my joy and comfort. Again my thoughts turn to Sarah. So much has happened since leaving Ur. God’s righteousness has been imputed to the both of us. Her barren womb bore us our beloved Isaac. Each of our names has been changed for the good. From our seed the Messiah Himself will someday come.”
Some internet facts about Abraham :
Abraham died in c.1815BC and was buried in Machpelah Cave near Hebron (bought by Abraham from Ephron the Hittite as a burial place for his wife Sarah - see Genesis 23:9). Other members of Abraham’s family who were buried here included his son Isaac and his daughter-in-law Rebekah. His grandson Jacob and his wife Leah were also buried here After the conquest of Canaan under Joshua in c.1406BC, the Anakite city of Kiriath Arba (later renamed Hebron – see Joshua 14:15) became one of the six ‘cities of refuge’ where those who had killed someone accidentally could take refuge. It became King David’s capital for over seven years before he captured Jerusalem in 1004BC
Hebron is the second holiest city in Judaism after Jerusalem, as three generations of the founding fathers of Judaism, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob – known as ‘the Patriarchs’ – are buried here. The city is also regarded as holy by followers of both Christianity and Islam, and many synagogues, churches and mosques have been built here to commemorate the lives of the three Patriarchs.
Abraham’s tomb can still be visited at Hebron.
25 1-2 Abraham married a second time; his new wife was named Keturah. She gave birth to Zimran, Jokshan, Medan, Midian, Ishbak, and Shuah.3 Jokshan had Sheba and Dedan.
Dedan’s descendants were the Asshurim, the Letushim, and the Leummim.
4 Midian had Ephah, Epher, Hanoch, Abida, and Eldaah—all from the line of Keturah.
5-6 But Abraham gave everything he possessed to Isaac. While he was still living, he gave gifts to the sons he had by his concubines, but then sent them away to the country of the east, putting a good distance between them and his son Isaac.
7-11 Abraham lived 175 years. Then he took his final breath. He died happy at a ripe old age, full of years, and was buried with his family. His sons Isaac and Ishmael buried him in the cave of Machpelah in the field of Ephron son of Zohar the Hittite, next to Mamre. It was the field that Abraham had bought from the Hittites. Abraham was buried next to his wife Sarah. After Abraham’s death, God blessed his son Isaac. Isaac lived at Beer Lahai Roi.
02 August 2021
Abraham and Lot - divided
For a while we all settled in Bethel. Abram and his wife and Lot and everything that they possessed travelled too. They owned a lot and had become very rich as far as cattle was concerned. But like all families, Abram and Lot began to fight. The problem was the two groups of people Perizzites and Canaanites. Both were farming people and used to outdoor village life, maybe the problem was they were too similar to get on but for Lot and Abram the problem existed and they needed to use different land.
But here is another test for Abram. He has the right to claim the land he wants. He can take what God has promised him. Lot was just along for the ride. God didn’t speak to him, making him the blessing to the nations. That was Abram’s role. But it’s what Abram did about the problem that shows his repentance was real and his faith was strong.
I overheard Abram say to Lot, “Let there be no strife between you and me, and between your herdsmen and my herdsmen, for we are kinsmen. Is not the whole land before you? Separate yourself from me. If you take the left hand, then I will go to the right, or if you take the right hand, then I will go to the left.”
Abram gave Lot the pick of the land and Lot chose to go east. Lot saw the fertile land before him, and he wanted it. So he journeyed East, just as Adam and Eve did when God cast them from the Garden of Eden. He settled near Sodom where it was rumoured to be, ”It was fertile but tempting and full of sin."
No one could blame Lot for taking that portion of the land? It was near the cities. It was fertile. It was well watered. It was perfect for raising a flock. It held prospects of gaining even more wealth because there would be an abundance of people and traders. He chose the obvious place. Abram did not object.
People said there was something spiritual in his choice while others said he was just moving nearer and nearer the Garden of Eden. He wanted paradise. What would happen next, how would all of this end up?
1-2 So Abram left Egypt and went back to the Negev, he and his wife and everything he owned, and Lot still with him. By now Abram was very rich, loaded with cattle and silver and gold.
3-4 He moved on from the Negev, camping along the way, to Bethel, the place he had first set up his tent between Bethel and Ai and built his first altar. Abram prayed there to God.
5-7 Lot, who was travelling with Abram, was also rich in sheep and cattle and tents. But the land couldn’t support both of them; they had too many possessions. They couldn’t both live there—quarrels broke out between Abram’s shepherds and Lot’s shepherds. The Canaanites and Perizzites were also living on the land at the time.
8-9 Abram said to Lot, “Let’s not have fighting between us, between your shepherds and my shepherds. After all, we’re family. Look around. Isn’t there plenty of land out there? Let’s separate. If you go left, I’ll go right; if you go right, I’ll go left.”
10-11 Lot looked. He saw the whole plain of the Jordan spread out, well watered (this was before God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah), like God’s garden, like Egypt, and stretching all the way to Zoar. Lot took the whole plain of the Jordan. Lot set out to the east.
11-12 That’s how they came to part company, uncle and nephew. Abram settled in Canaan; Lot settled in the cities of the plain and pitched his tent near Sodom.
13 The people of Sodom were evil—flagrant sinners against God.
14-17 After Lot separated from him, God said to Abram, “Open your eyes, look around. Look north, south, east, and west. Everything you see, the whole land spread out before you, I will give to you and your children forever. I’ll make your descendants like dust—counting your descendants will be as impossible as counting the dust of the Earth. So—on your feet, get moving! Walk through the country, its length and breadth; I’m giving it all to you.”
18 Abram moved his tent. He went and settled by the Oaks of Mamre in Hebron. There he built an altar to God.
01 August 2021
She was one of the most beautiful women I had ever seen and her name was Sarai. I worked for her husband Abram and it was clear Abram was favoured by God.
So much so, God set a path for Abram to a new land and that came along with some great promises from God himself. So Abram took his wife Sarai and left his home in Haran and took his nephew Lot with him.
So we went on that long journey taking with us all our possessions and we set out for Canaan. When we arrived in Shechem Abram told us that God had asked us to settle nearby and he duly built an altar there and later in Bethel.
But as we approached the Negev we were blighted by famine. As it was bad we all moved onto Egypt and then another problem arose. I overheard Abraham say to Sarai “Look. We both know that you’re a beautiful woman. When the Egyptians see you they’re going to say, ‘Aha! That’s his wife!’ and kill me. But they’ll let you live. Do me a favour: tell them you’re my sister. Because of you, they’ll welcome me and let me live.”
He had no sooner said that when Pharaoh demanded her company and because of that Abram was treated well. He managed to get some cattle, sheep, donkeys, camels and servants. But having reported all that God was not happy and took it out on Pharaoh and Pharaoh and all his people became very ill.
Eventually, Pharoah twigged who Sarai was and became very angry and sent them and everything that they owned all out of the country.
I will tell you more about Abram in the coming days but you have to admit that he was faithful to God. He was prepared to do anything for God, building altars and following his instructions. He even had a plan up his sleeve to entice Pharaoh with Sarai and benefit from that arrangement.
But it's worth noting that whatever he got up to at this point God was looking after Abram always. When we left Egypt we still had everything we had accumulated and as we moved on Abram's adventures were about to continue.
Read this tory from the Old Testament
12 God told Abram: “Leave your country, your family, and your father’s home for a land that I will show you.
2-3 I’ll make you a great nation
and bless you.
I’ll make you famous;
you’ll be a blessing.
I’ll bless those who bless you;
those who curse you I’ll curse.
All the families of the Earth
will be blessed through you.”
4-6 So Abram left just as God said, and Lot left with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he left Haran. Abram took his wife Sarai and his nephew Lot with him, along with all the possessions and people they had gotten in Haran, and set out for the land of Canaan and arrived safe and sound.
Abram passed through the country as far as Shechem and the Oak of Moreh. At that time the Canaanites occupied the land.
7 God appeared to Abram and said, “I will give this land to your children.” Abram built an altar at the place God had appeared to him.
8 He moved on from there to the hill country east of Bethel and pitched his tent between Bethel to the west and Ai to the east. He built an altar there and prayed to God.
9 Abram kept moving, steadily making his way south, to the Negev.
10-13 Then a famine came to the land. Abram went down to Egypt to live; it was a hard famine. As he drew near to Egypt, he said to his wife, Sarai, “Look. We both know that you’re a beautiful woman. When the Egyptians see you they’re going to say, ‘Aha! That’s his wife!’ and kill me. But they’ll let you live. Do me a favor: tell them you’re my sister. Because of you, they’ll welcome me and let me live.”
14-15 When Abram arrived in Egypt, the Egyptians took one look and saw that his wife was stunningly beautiful. Pharaoh’s princes raved over her to Pharaoh. She was taken to live with Pharaoh.
16-17 Because of her, Abram got along very well: he accumulated sheep and cattle, male and female donkeys, men and women servants, and camels. But God hit Pharaoh hard because of Abram’s wife Sarai; everybody in the palace got seriously sick.
18-19 Pharaoh called for Abram, “What’s this that you’ve done to me? Why didn’t you tell me that she’s your wife? Why did you say, ‘She’s my sister’ so that I’d take her as my wife? Here’s your wife back—take her and get out!”
20 Pharaoh ordered his men to get Abram out of the country. They sent him and his wife and everything he owned on their way.
31 July 2021
What can I say about the man I worked for? First and foremost he was extraordinary and I believe that was all down to his belief and his total loyalty to God.
Was he obsessed? Well, he had seven sons and three daughters and an enormous wealth. Job prayed fervently to God especially around his children, in case they had sinned behind his back.
He was a blessed man in every way so it seemed, everything went his way, no problems or obstacles in his way. Then for some reason everything changed.
The first series of events involved the Siberians who attacked Job’s workers in the field and killed the oxen. Then there was lightning that struck the sheep and the shepherds, "frying them to a crisp” and as if that was not enough the camels were killed followed by all the children who were partying being killed also.
The thing that sets Job apart from anyone I know was his reaction to all of these events. Obviously the work of the devil, Job was a holy man but was fully justified to be angry at God for allowing so much to happen to one family in such a short period of time. Anger would be a natural reaction.
But I was told later that “Job got to his feet, ripped his robe, shaved his head, then fell to the ground and worshiped. He then was heard to say “ Naked I came from my mother’s womb, naked I’ll return to the womb of the earth. God gives, God takes. God’s name be ever blessed.”
It was pointed out to me that “not once through all this did Job sin; not once did he blame God.”
I asked someone later what they thought was behind Job's reaction to all of this angst. They assumed Job meant that he came into the world with nothing and everything was a gift from God. God was not to blame for the angst and was still a blessing to our lives whatever.
I think that underlined the fact that Job was a good man and did not hold God responsible for the evils and the badness in the world.
The early part of Jobs life from Job Chapter 1
1 1-3 Job was a man who lived in Uz. He was honest inside and out, a man of his word, who was totally devoted to God and hated evil with a passion. He had seven sons and three daughters. He was also very wealthy—seven thousand head of sheep, three thousand camels, five hundred teams of oxen, five hundred donkeys, and a huge staff of servants—the most influential man in all the East!
4-5 His sons used to take turns hosting parties in their homes, always inviting their three sisters to join them in their merrymaking. When the parties were over, Job would get up early in the morning and sacrifice a burnt offering for each of his children, thinking, “Maybe one of them sinned by defying God inwardly.” Job made a habit of this sacrificial atonement, just in case they’d sinned.
The First Test: Family and Fortune
6-7 One day when the angels came to report to God, Satan, who was the Designated Accuser, came along with them. God singled out Satan and said, “What have you been up to?”
Satan answered God, “Going here and there, checking things out on earth.”
8 God said to Satan, “Have you noticed my friend Job? There’s no one quite like him—honest and true to his word, totally devoted to God and hating evil.”
9-10 Satan retorted, “So do you think Job does all that out of the sheer goodness of his heart? Why, no one ever had it so good! You pamper him like a pet, make sure nothing bad ever happens to him or his family or his possessions, bless everything he does—he can’t lose!
11 “But what do you think would happen if you reached down and took away everything that is his? He’d curse you right to your face, that’s what.”
12 God replied, “We’ll see. Go ahead—do what you want with all that is his. Just don’t hurt him.” Then Satan left the presence of God.
13-15 Sometime later, while Job’s children were having one of their parties at the home of the oldest son, a messenger came to Job and said, “The oxen were plowing and the donkeys grazing in the field next to us when Sabeans attacked. They stole the animals and killed the field hands. I’m the only one to get out alive and tell you what happened.”
16 While he was still talking, another messenger arrived and said, “Bolts of lightning struck the sheep and the shepherds and fried them—burned them to a crisp. I’m the only one to get out alive and tell you what happened.”
17 While he was still talking, another messenger arrived and said, “Chaldeans coming from three directions raided the camels and massacred the camel drivers. I’m the only one to get out alive and tell you what happened.”
18-19 While he was still talking, another messenger arrived and said, “Your children were having a party at the home of the oldest brother when a tornado swept in off the desert and struck the house. It collapsed on the young people and they died. I’m the only one to get out alive and tell you what happened.”
20 Job got to his feet, ripped his robe, shaved his head, then fell to the ground and worshiped:
21 Naked I came from my mother’s womb,
naked I’ll return to the womb of the earth.
God gives, God takes.
God’s name be ever blessed.
22 Not once through all this did Job sin; not once did he blame God.
30 July 2021
He had a tough message to deliver and he certainly wasn’t prepared to sugar coat it. Nor was he the type to tickle the ears of the officials and dilute the threat that was looming.
“Whoever stays in this town will die—will be killed or starve to death or get sick and die. But those who go over to the Babylonians will save their necks and live”
I knew Jeremiah and to me he was a supreme example of being faithful in pressure situations. He had to deal with the political intrigue of officials who favoured Egypt over Babylon and who were strong enough to manipulate the actions of their king. He was the lone voice who refused to bring a message of peace and safety that would tickle the ears and gain him favour in the sight of men.
They would not listen to him. Because of that, they threw him into a cistern, a deep mud pit and he was left to die a slow death of thirst and starvation. Even then he still refused to compromise God’s Word. When he was lifted out of the pit by an unlikely hero and given a second chance to bring a pleasant word to the king, he stuck to his guns. Nothing was going to force him to be disloyal in his prophetic ministry.
But Jeremiah’s message was not born out of a lack of patriotism, or out of fear for his personal safety, or for some personal advantage. He was the loyal spokesman of the Lord, and he had a deep concern for the well-being of his people. They could not escape the impending catastrophe, but they could rescue their own lives by surrendering to the Babylonians. Whatever would then happen to them would not be glorious or grand, but it would be better than the horrors of life in a city under prolonged siege or massacre.
The final intention of the officials was to bring about Jeremiah’s death without bloodshed in a cistern. The cisterns are bottle-shaped, with a narrow opening at the top and a large round cavern underneath. Around fifteen feet deep or more. When I said they threw him into the cistern I exaggerate, this cistern must have been a deep one, because Jeremiah needed to be lowered into it by ropes.
Some say in the end Zedekiah was a coward and having spoken to Jeremiah he returned to the palace to suffer the anguish of knowing what was right to do but lacking the courage to do it.
Jerusalem was eventually captured.
Shephatiah son of Mattan, Gedaliah son of Pashur, Jehucal son of Shelemiah, and Pashur son of Malkijah heard what Jeremiah was telling the people, namely:
2 “This is God’s Message: ‘Whoever stays in this town will die—will be killed or starve to death or get sick and die. But those who go over to the Babylonians will save their necks and live.’
3 “And, God’s sure Word: ‘This city is destined to fall to the army of the king of Babylon. He’s going to take it over.’”
4 These officials told the king, “Please, kill this man. He’s got to go! He’s ruining the resolve of the soldiers who are still left in the city, as well as the people themselves, by spreading these words. This man isn’t looking after the good of these people. He’s trying to ruin us!”
5 King Zedekiah caved in: “If you say so. Go ahead, handle it your way. You’re too much for me.”
6 So they took Jeremiah and threw him into the cistern of Malkijah the king’s son that was in the courtyard of the palace guard. They lowered him down with ropes. There wasn’t any water in the cistern, only mud. Jeremiah sank into the mud.
7-9 Ebed-melek the Ethiopian, a court official assigned to the royal palace, heard that they had thrown Jeremiah into the cistern. While the king was holding court in the Benjamin Gate, Ebed-melek went immediately from the palace to the king and said, “My master, O king—these men are committing a great crime in what they’re doing, throwing Jeremiah the prophet into the cistern and leaving him there to starve. He’s as good as dead. There isn’t a scrap of bread left in the city.”
10 So the king ordered Ebed-melek the Ethiopian, “Get three men and pull Jeremiah the prophet out of the cistern before he dies.”
11-12 Ebed-melek got three men and went to the palace wardrobe and got some scraps of old clothing, which they tied together and lowered down with ropes to Jeremiah in the cistern. Ebed-melek the Ethiopian called down to Jeremiah, “Put these scraps of old clothing under your armpits and around the ropes.”
Jeremiah did what he said.
13 And so they pulled Jeremiah up out of the cistern by the ropes. But he was still confined in the courtyard of the palace guard.
14 Later, King Zedekiah sent for Jeremiah the prophet and had him brought to the third entrance of the Temple of God. The king said to Jeremiah, “I’m going to ask you something. Don’t hold anything back from me.”
15 Jeremiah said, “If I told you the whole truth, you’d kill me. And no matter what I said, you wouldn’t pay any attention anyway.”
16 Zedekiah swore to Jeremiah right there, but in secret, “As sure as God lives, who gives us life, I won’t kill you, nor will I turn you over to the men who are trying to kill you.”
17-18 So Jeremiah told Zedekiah, “This is the Message from God, God-of-the-Angel-Armies, the God of Israel: ‘If you will turn yourself over to the generals of the king of Babylon, you will live, this city won’t be burned down, and your family will live. But if you don’t turn yourself over to the generals of the king of Babylon, this city will go into the hands of the Chaldeans and they’ll burn it down. And don’t for a minute think there’s any escape for you.’”
19 King Zedekiah said to Jeremiah, “But I’m afraid of the Judeans who have already deserted to the Chaldeans. If they get hold of me, they’ll rough me up good.”
20-22 Jeremiah assured him, “They won’t get hold of you. Listen, please. Listen to God’s voice. I’m telling you this for your own good so that you’ll live. But if you refuse to turn yourself over, this is what God has shown me will happen: Picture this in your mind—all the women still left in the palace of the king of Judah, led out to the officers of the king of Babylon, and as they’re led out they are saying:
“‘They lied to you and did you in,
those so-called friends of yours;
And now you’re stuck, about knee-deep in mud,
and your “friends,” where are they now?’
23 “They’ll take all your wives and children and give them to the Chaldeans. And you, don’t think you’ll get out of this—the king of Babylon will seize you and then burn this city to the ground.”
24-26 Zedekiah said to Jeremiah, “Don’t let anyone know of this conversation, if you know what’s good for you. If the government officials get wind that I’ve been talking with you, they may come and say, ‘Tell us what went on between you and the king, what you said and what he said. Hold nothing back and we won’t kill you.’ If this happens, tell them, ‘I presented my case to the king so that he wouldn’t send me back to the dungeon of Jonathan to die there.’”
27 And sure enough, all the officials came to Jeremiah and asked him. He responded as the king had instructed. So they quit asking. No one had overheard the conversation.
28 Jeremiah lived in the courtyard of the palace guards until the day that Jerusalem was captured.
29 July 2021
It all started with a gift
I’m not sure if it was the fact that he was Rachel’s son or the fact that he was only 17. In fact, it could have been the coat that his father Jacob gave him that set him apart from all of his other brothers and caused the jealousy that they felt for him.
But I suspect it was his confidence that they didn’t take to. I used to laugh as I wondered what exactly was Joseph shepherding? Was it his flock of sheep or was it his brothers? And then there was the fact that he felt the need to give bad reports of them. Was he the bad boy of Jacob? Or did he just want the best for his father and wanted the best from his brothers for his father.
Then there were the dreams? Why did he not just keep them to himself? Why was he making himself so unpopular and hated by translating the dreams into images of superiority and lording over the other brothers?
I myself try to see the good in others and I always look to the positives. So in my book Joseph might have been a favoured son but he was a faithful son and a faithful prophet in the making and he truly believed in the word of God.
I noticed how much Joseph suffered for his faithfulness to the word of God and yes in fact his story is a sad one. He suffered for his faithfulness to God.
Hated and taken by his brothers, captured and sold in the process this meek and humble servant of God would defeat the hatred shown to him, battle those who were against him but still remain faithful to His God. We should remember people for the right reasons the good reasons and focus on their achievements and loyalty and especially remember them for their love of God.
Read the full story of Joseph from Genesis 37
2 This is the story of Jacob. The story continues with Joseph, seventeen years old at the time, helping out his brothers in herding the flocks. These were his half brothers actually, the sons of his father’s wives Bilhah and Zilpah. And Joseph brought his father bad reports on them.
3-4 Israel loved Joseph more than any of his other sons because he was the child of his old age. And he made him an elaborately embroidered coat. When his brothers realized that their father loved him more than them, they grew to hate him—they wouldn’t even speak to him.
5-7 Joseph had a dream. When he told it to his brothers, they hated him even more. He said, “Listen to this dream I had. We were all out in the field gathering bundles of wheat. All of a sudden my bundle stood straight up and your bundles circled around it and bowed down to mine.”
8 His brothers said, “So! You’re going to rule us? You’re going to boss us around?” And they hated him more than ever because of his dreams and the way he talked.
9 He had another dream and told this one also to his brothers: “I dreamed another dream—the sun and moon and eleven stars bowed down to me!”
10-11 When he told it to his father and brothers, his father reprimanded him: “What’s with all this dreaming? Am I and your mother and your brothers all supposed to bow down to you?” Now his brothers were really jealous; but his father brooded over the whole business.
12-13 His brothers had gone off to Shechem where they were pasturing their father’s flocks. Israel said to Joseph, “Your brothers are with flocks in Shechem. Come, I want to send you to them.”
Joseph said, “I’m ready.”
14 He said, “Go and see how your brothers and the flocks are doing and bring me back a report.” He sent him off from the valley of Hebron to Shechem.
15 A man met him as he was wandering through the fields and asked him, “What are you looking for?”
16 “I’m trying to find my brothers. Do you have any idea where they are grazing their flocks?”
17 The man said, “They’ve left here, but I overheard them say, ‘Let’s go to Dothan.’” So Joseph took off, tracked his brothers down, and found them in Dothan.
18-20 They spotted him off in the distance. By the time he got to them they had cooked up a plot to kill him. The brothers were saying, “Here comes that dreamer. Let’s kill him and throw him into one of these old cisterns; we can say that a vicious animal ate him up. We’ll see what his dreams amount to.”
21-22 Reuben heard the brothers talking and intervened to save him, “We’re not going to kill him. No murder. Go ahead and throw him in this cistern out here in the wild, but don’t hurt him.” Reuben planned to go back later and get him out and take him back to his father.
23-24 When Joseph reached his brothers, they ripped off the fancy coat he was wearing, grabbed him, and threw him into a cistern. The cistern was dry; there wasn’t any water in it.
25-27 Then they sat down to eat their supper. Looking up, they saw a caravan of Ishmaelites on their way from Gilead, their camels loaded with spices, ointments, and perfumes to sell in Egypt. Judah said, “Brothers, what are we going to get out of killing our brother and concealing the evidence? Let’s sell him to the Ishmaelites, but let’s not kill him—he is, after all, our brother, our own flesh and blood.” His brothers agreed.
28 By that time the Midianite traders were passing by. His brothers pulled Joseph out of the cistern and sold him for twenty pieces of silver to the Ishmaelites who took Joseph with them down to Egypt.
29-30 Later Reuben came back and went to the cistern—no Joseph! He ripped his clothes in despair. Beside himself, he went to his brothers. “The boy’s gone! What am I going to do!”
31-32 They took Joseph’s coat, butchered a goat, and dipped the coat in the blood. They took the fancy coat back to their father and said, “We found this. Look it over—do you think this is your son’s coat?”
33 He recognized it at once. “My son’s coat—a wild animal has eaten him. Joseph torn limb from limb!”
34-35 Jacob tore his clothes in grief, dressed in rough burlap, and mourned his son a long, long time. His sons and daughters tried to comfort him but he refused their comfort. “I’ll go to the grave mourning my son.” Oh, how his father wept for him.
36 In Egypt the Midianites sold Joseph to Potiphar, one of Pharaoh’s officials, manager of his household affairs.
28 July 2021
Answering God's call
I heard all about it after the event. I am pleased I heard about it afterwards because if I was actually there I am not sure how I would have reacted.
Sure, it's one thing being tested by God but to ask a man to sacrifice his son on an altar with flint wood and flames, that’s bound to break even the strongest of men. But not Abraham.
He set off for Moriah as instructed with Isaac, his son with the one intention of sacrificing him to God. No questions asked, no protest made. He even packed the wood for the sacrificial flames before he set off. Abraham was a man of unquestionable loyalty who was following the demands of God and prepared for the journey and the task in hand.
There was no plan B, no mention of “what if” and the only question came from Isaac “ if there is to be a sacrifice where is the sheep?”
No final protestation from Abraham, he built the altar and tied up his son and then took out the knife to carry out the task in hand.
But then. Only then. Did God intervene.
Don’t lay a hand on that boy! Don’t touch him! Now I know how fearlessly you fear God; you didn’t hesitate to place your son, your dear son, on the altar for me. Abraham looked up. He saw a ram caught by its horns in the thicket. Abraham took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son.
What was the reward to Abraham from God? “because you have gone through with this, and have not refused to give me your son, your dear, dear son, I’ll bless you—oh, how I’ll bless you! And I’ll make sure that your children flourish—like stars in the sky! like sand on the beaches! And your descendants will defeat their enemies. All nations on Earth will find themselves blessed through your descendants because you obeyed me.”
Abraham was living proof of the devotion to God that was demanded. It was unquestionable, uncompromising and fearless. Back in Beersheba, every time I saw Abraham he reminded me of how hard it can be to follow God but the rewards for Abraham would be for a lifetime and beyond.
The Message translation of Genesis 22
22 After all this, God tested Abraham. God said, “Abraham!”
“Yes?” answered Abraham. “I’m listening.”
2 He said, “Take your dear son Isaac whom you love and go to the land of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains that I’ll point out to you.”
3-5 Abraham got up early in the morning and saddled his donkey. He took two of his young servants and his son Isaac. He had split wood for the burnt offering. He set out for the place God had directed him. On the third day he looked up and saw the place in the distance. Abraham told his two young servants, “Stay here with the donkey. The boy and I are going over there to worship; then we’ll come back to you.”6 Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and gave it to Isaac his son to carry. He carried the flint and the knife. The two of them went off together.7 Isaac said to Abraham his father, “Father?”
“Yes, my son.”
“We have flint and wood, but where’s the sheep for the burnt offering?”
8 Abraham said, “Son, God will see to it that there’s a sheep for the burnt offering.” And they kept on walking together.
9-10 They arrived at the place to which God had directed him. Abraham built an altar. He laid out the wood. Then he tied up Isaac and laid him on the wood. Abraham reached out and took the knife to kill his son.11 Just then an angel of God called to him out of Heaven, “Abraham! Abraham!”“Yes, I’m listening.”
12 “Don’t lay a hand on that boy! Don’t touch him! Now I know how fearlessly you fear God; you didn’t hesitate to place your son, your dear son, on the altar for me.”
13 Abraham looked up. He saw a ram caught by its horns in the thicket. Abraham took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son.
14 Abraham named that place God-Yireh (God-Sees-to-It). That’s where we get the saying, “On the mountain of God, he sees to it.”
15-18 The angel of God spoke from Heaven a second time to Abraham: “I swear—God’s sure word!—because you have gone through with this, and have not refused to give me your son, your dear, dear son, I’ll bless you—oh, how I’ll bless you! And I’ll make sure that your children flourish—like stars in the sky! like sand on the beaches! And your descendants will defeat their enemies. All nations on Earth will find themselves blessed through your descendants because you obeyed me.”
19 Then Abraham went back to his young servants. They got things together and returned to Beersheba. Abraham settled down in Beersheba.
27 July 2021
Today I want to tell you about three faces.
One is the face of a wise rabbi, another belongs to a rich young man and the third face belongs to me. The young man had obvious wealth, the rings and the robes showed us all that but Jesus literally had what he stood in. Nothing else. I merely looked on to what was to unfold.
How do I get this eternal life Jesus? That was the question. Curiosity lined the young face. But Jesus was annoyed, the young man called him “good” as if that would make the answer any easier to stomach.
“ No one is Good except God alone”. A brief lesson followed about obeying the commandments which the young man was adamant that he had kept them all the time since his childhood. And at this point the faces changed.
Jesus looked at the young man and we are told “ he loved him”. I'm guessing you could tell that by the look on Jesus' face. You can imagine the face. Just like a dad or a mum when the child does or says something wrong but deserves your love. Jesus said you are “missing something” and that thing was “treasure in heaven” so the young man had to sell everything, give to the poor and then follow Jesus.
Jesus' face was full of love but the young man's face was filled with sorrow because although he had the riches and the money, the riches and the money had him.
With the young man gone Jesus addressed the disciples and reassured them that whatever they had given up to follow him they would get back tenfold and more.
It then became clear that no one alone could get into the kingdom of heaven and eternal life wasn’t something that came with power, riches and reputation. These two things only came with God.
As I walked away I saw two men try desperately to get their camel through the narrow doorway into the city when the gates themselves were closed. The third face was my face as I smiled. Thinking about what Jesus had said about the eye of the needle and about the camel, these two men argued fruitlessly and eventually gave up. I began to wonder what advice Jesus would give them but I was too busy trying to think what I would need to give up to follow Jesus.
Reading from Mark Chapter 10
The Rich Young Man
17 And as he was setting out on his journey, a man ran up and knelt before him and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”18 And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. 19 You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.’” 20 And he said to him, “Teacher, all these I have kept from my youth.” 21 And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.”22 Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.
23 And Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How difficult it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” 24 And the disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said to them again, “Children, how difficult it is[a] to enter the kingdom of God! 25 It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” 26 And they were exceedingly astonished, and said to him,[b] “Then who can be saved?” 27 Jesus looked at them and said, “With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God.”28 Peter began to say to him, “See, we have left everything and followed you.” 29 Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, 30 who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life. 31 But many who are first will be last, and the last first.”
26 July 2021
"Blessed are those who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven"
So as we draw to the end of our series on the Beatitudes, we come to this verse about those who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness.
Earlier in the week, I talked about how Jesus doesn’t just teach us things, he does them: he lives them. This certainly applies to today’s Beatitude.
After Jesus’ death and resurrection, his followers looked back to such places in earlier Scriptures, and saw them as pointing to God’s greatest act of salvation, in Jesus, “the ultimate persecuted righteous one”. Jesus lived out this Beatitude in his death and resurrection.
If you focus on ‘persecution’, it can be a temptation to assume that if you’re persecuted, you are getting things right, and then to assume that if as a Christian you’re notbeing persecuted you aren’t being holy enough, so you need to do things which set people’s backs up more – and that might have nothing to do with being righteousness either.
So let’s focus on this ‘righteousness’.
What is ‘righteousness’?
As a word it can sound rather unappealing. It can sound rather ‘holier-than-thou’. It can sound “spiritually self-seeking and narcissistic” – it can sound as though it’s all about our own individual perfection. That certainly isn’t righteousness.
We’ve heard about the merciful, and the peacemakers, and the pure in heart who see God. These are the things to concentrate on, if you want to hunger and thirst after righteousness: comforting the afflicted, being merciful, pursuing peace, following what Jesus teaches us about God, and how we should respond to God and each other.
In situations where violence and intolerance and oppression and abuse are the norm, those who try to do differently will be persecuted. Jesus in the Beatitudes gives encouragement and strength and reassurance to those who do suffer persecution for righteousness’ sake.
And what he says should also remind us to treat other people with understanding and compassion and respect: just because the world rejects and persecutes certain people doesn’t mean they are in the wrong and to be shunned and suspected by us as well. They may well be amongst the righteousness whose cause is known to God. If we take time to find out more, to listen, to allow them to touch our lives, we may well learn a lot more about God than we expect.
And finally a quote from Charles Swindoll
“So whether our experience of living as Christians has been smooth or challenging, let us remember to focus on that ideal of a true Christian, righteousness. If following Jesus’ righteousness is a delightful and easy path, there’s no reason not to delight in it and be at our ease. But when it is more challenging, let us pray for the grace not to lose that delight, and hold firm to Jesus’ promise of the kingdom. Amen.
25 July 2021
Blessed are the peacemakers
What does it mean to be a peacemaker?
I was going to talk about the difference between pacifism and peacemaking.
Then I thought quite a bit about the difference between peacemaking and being a peaceable, gentle sort of person. You could be as gentle as anything without that actually helping to make peace.
A story that comes to mind is about Cyrus in the Old Testament. In the prophecies of Isaiah, there is one person who is particularly named as God’s anointed one in a historical context, a person who God had chosen to do his will – and that was the last person you would expect, Cyrus, the Persian ruler. “What Cyrus did was issue an edict that allowed the Jews to return from exile. Cyrus wasn’t doing this out of any particular affinity for the Jewish God – we know that historically this kind of thing was in line with his general policy for dealing with subject nations. But the result was peace and restoration for the Jews. Cyrus would certainly rank as a peacemaker.”
And there are going to be many, many situations in which the people who turn out to be the peacemakers aren’t the ones you expect. God works in his own ways. He uses people unexpectedly.
What this Beatitude does do, however, is make it absolutely clear that God is a God of peace.
When we talk about following God’s lead, as Christians we know that is also about following Jesus’ lead. Look for peace in every situation, remember that old popular question WWD “ what would Jesus do?”
Try and find some situation today to make peace, in His name. Amen
24 July 2021
"Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God."
Now our attention turns to the pure in heart. Firstly, we might ask who they are.?
Lookup 'pure' on the internet, and you get some interesting answers. There is a franchise of gyms, called 'PureGym'. On the supermarket shelves we can see some foodstuffs all with the word “pure “ on them
And now we read in the Bible that “if?” We are pure in heart we will see God?
The dictionary defines pure as: "not mixed or adulterated with any other substance or material." "The Greek word Matthew uses in this saying of Jesus is Katharos, which indicates being clean or free from stains or shame, free from adulteration; it denotes a physical, religious, and moral cleanliness.” So once again, as we have seen with all of the Beatitudes, the meaning goes so much deeper than a simple reading of it.
The Psalmist writes: “Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord? And who shall stand in God’s holy place? Those who have clean hands and pure hearts...” (Ps. 24:3-4).
The Bible spends a good deal of time on being pure and clean. The Jewish religion had made a fine art of defining what was pure and clean - most of their rules were focused on action (things to do or to avoid doing).
Jesus, however, is not focussing on physical action or behaviour, but on the heart. 'Blessed are the pure in heart," he says.
Jesus reminds his disciples later in Matthew's gospel that it is not what goes into a body that makes it impure, but what comes out of the human heart. In this beatitude, he is trying to teach his disciples that purity of heart - focusing on the state of our hearts - is essential for being in the right relationship with God.
And the promise to the pure in heart is to see God. Now the Bible is clear that no one can look upon God face to face. So what might Jesus mean? Perhaps he is suggesting that when we follow our hearts, as God creates them - to be pure and focused on him, then we will be able to see God in the world.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. “God fills with joy all those who are true to themselves as God calls them”.
As Christians we maybe need to learn to look out for those people, speak of what we see of God at work in them, and encourage one another to be pure in heart.
23 July 2021
Blessed are the merciful for they shall receive mercy
I read in an online dictionary that “mercy requires the feelings and actions of compassion”. To be compassionate requires both body and heart. It is seeing another person's pain, and having sympathy for them, having concern for their pain, and even offering to help them.
Compassion is something the Bible speaks a lot about. The promise of God to his people Israel was often expressed in terms of compassion. The prayers of the Israelites when they felt abandoned in exile was for God to be compassionate on them. Matthew tells us that Jesus saw the crowds following him, who were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd, and he had compassion on them. When healing the sick, Jesus was often quoted firstly as having compassion on the people.
In one of my favourite parables, the Prodigal Son, tells us that as the son returns to his father, the father shows him compassion.
“Responding to human need in others seems to be at the heart of what mercy means. But compassion is not just for humanity. The Bible tells us of God's compassion to us. It speaks often of how God's heart is moved by the plight of his people. "But the Lord was gracious to them and had compassion on them" (2 Kings 13:23).”
Again I have read that “Forgiveness asks us to consider whether, as Christians: we forgive because God forgives us, or whether we must first forgive in order for God to forgive us.”
Think of the Lord's Prayer - both in Matthew and Luke's versions. Matthew 6 says "forgive us" our sins "as we forgive" the sins of others. Whilst Luke's version of the Lord's Prayer reads "Forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us". There is a connection between our ability to forgive, and God's forgiveness of us. We are called to be people of forgiveness, or mercy, that we might know of God's forgiveness and mercy. "Forgive, and you will be forgiven."
So compassion and forgiveness lie at the heart of mercy. To show them is often very challenging. To receive them can be equally challenging. But the alternative doesn’t bear thinking about.
We look to countries with long standing conflicts to see how such grievances are passed from generation to generation, and become such a destructive force in the lives of people and societies. Those who show mercy escape these cycles. And they are blessed by God. They are filled with God's joy, and will know of God's mercy because of their own. May we find the courage in our own lives to be merciful, and to receive mercy from others.
22 July 2021
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled”
...but having read that I like the Peterson translation :
“You’re blessed when you’ve worked up a good appetite for God. He’s food and drink in the best meal you’ll ever eat.
Sticking with the first translation for a moment this beatitude is telling us that when we have a healthy hunger or thirst for God we will feel satisfied. Especially when it’s a thirst for righteousness. But what do others say about this righteousness and how do they put it into context?
Martin Luther once said “Let Christ's righteousness and grace, not yours, be your refuge.” While Theodore Roosevelt admitted “If I have to choose between peace and righteousness, I'll choose righteousness.”
Thomas Erskine quoted “To depend partly upon Christ's righteousness and partly upon our own, is to set one foot upon a rock and another in the quicksands. Christ will either be to us all in all in point of righteousness, or else nothing at all."
Paul David Tripp told us “Our sin is what separates us from God, but it's our self righteousness that keeps us from running to Him for the grace He willingly gives to all who come."
And finally leaving the best till last David the great Psalmist reassures us that, "The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures: he leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul: he leads me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake."
I think I'll take a page out of David's book and say that only God should lead us to the path of righteousness and for His sake and no one else's. Amen
21 July 2021
“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth”
Generally we interpret meekness to mean weakness or timidity.
Therefore this is a strange one because meekness is not an asset to be cultivated. Nor would we think the meek would be entitled to anything, much less the whole earth. No, in today’s world it would seem we live by a different kind of code, one that says something like, “happy are those that push their way to the top, for they can get what they want.” We live in a culture which admires assertiveness, wants to acquire power and prestige, and will do so no matter what the cost and who gets hurt in the process.
So I want us to think again about what meekness might be, and what Jesus is saying about how those who are meek will be blessed and receive God's joy.
If meekness is not to be translated as weakness, or lack of spine, confidence or any other negative attribute, what is it? We can turn to our first reading from Psalm 37 to find clues. "Do not fret", "Do not be envious", "Trust in the Lord", "Do good", "Commit your ways to the Lord", "Be still before the Lord", "Wait patiently before the Lord". Those are some of the Psalmists' words. He ends these descriptions saying "the meek shall inherit the land". So perhaps meekness involves the qualities of patience, lack of pride, focus on ourselves not others, and trusting in God. "
Now most of us will perhaps realise that we struggle with that list of qualities . We are people who fret, or envy, or aren't always good, or who find it difficult to trust. So Jesus is trying to provide his disciples with some encouragement to discover these qualities.
To be followers of Him, they need to be people who wait on God, who are patient for God, and who most of all hand their burdens over to God in trust.
But secondly, I want us to think about the promise of Jesus to the meek. "Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth". That is a strange saying "inherit the earth". Whose earth, land is it?
For inheritance of the land, it seems according to Jesus, only comes to the meek, and not the powerful or aggressive. It is to those who willingly put others first, or who trustfully wait, or who are patient , who will inherit what God promises. In a world when pursuing our own agenda to gain our own rewards, seems the “creed” of our time.
But perhaps Jesus is saying that those who are the landless, oppressed can believe and trust in what God has promised, for theirs will be the land in the reign of God. ?
Chuck Swindoll quotes “Jesus is saying in this beatitude, "Filled with God's joy are those who trust in God to fulfil their needs, for they will receive what God has always promised them".
20 July 2021
Blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted.
What does this mean? Is it as straightforward as it seems?
We know that some pain will never go away and it may seem that some people mourn for most of their adult lives.
Expressing grief to God is healthy and sometimes we see a lot of that in the Bible.
The Psalmist cries out “my tears have been my food day and night”. We read that’s a healthy reaction to grief – it’s good mourning. It’s part of making pain something that can transform us. It can even give something to us in added depth and understanding...as it did for Paul.
He says in Romans 5 that “suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character and character, hope”.
Sometimes we meet people who have suffered yet allowed God to be part of the healing process. Their character has depth, wisdom, and understanding. One of the comforts of sorrow.
Mourning then, at things that happen to us. The external things. But what about when we mourn the things that we have done or things we have seen (maybe on the news on TV).
How many times have we sung “Dear Lord and father of mankind, forgive our foolish ways”. We’ve confessed that we have done wrong in what we have thought, said or done. Perhaps it comes easy to some but not easy to others.
The more we appreciate and mourn the seriousness of our sins the more we appreciate and rejoice in the comfort God gives us. What is this comfort?
It’s through Jesus. Through Him our mistakes are forgiven and forgotten. We are loved and accepted by Him, now and forever. We’re loved unconditionally and accepted by God.
Sadness will always be a theme in our lives, whether from things that happen to us or things we do ourselves. But we know that ahead of us is a time when we can fully experience God's comfort.
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted”.
19 July 2021
Matthew 5 3-12
3 ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
5 Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.
6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.
7 Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
8 Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.
9 Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.
10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 ‘Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
The ‘Beatitudes’ come right at the beginning of what is known as the ‘Sermon on the Mount’ – a much longer set of Jesus’ teachings.
What Jesus says at the start of the Sermon on the Mount, in these Beatitudes, is the heart of his whole message.
He starts by saying who is ‘blessed’ – who is loved, who is cared for, by God.
People over and over again try to limit this. People argue about who Jesus meant, who Jesus means, when he says ‘the spiritually poor’ or ‘the meek’ or even ‘those who mourn’.
Particularly nowadays, particularly people who live in the affluent west, with education, peace, good health, long lives, the rights of the child, all our political and personal freedoms – we feel that that doesn’t sound like us. The people Jesus is talking about must be different from us.
But how would it have felt for Jesus’ original audience?
I don’t think there would have been anyone there who didn’t feel he was talking directly to them. He lived in a time and place where very few people had power or money or influence. Certainly women and children didn’t.
The poor, the meek, the powerless: that would have been a lot of people.
And even the rich in Jesus’ country would mostly have felt powerless because their country was under foreign occupation. And with no modern medicine everyone would have lost a child, a mother, a husband, a wife, or other people very close to them, just through life and death – not to mention what people suffered through violence and political unrest.
Death and loss and worry would have been every day.
So what does Jesus start by telling these people? He starts by making it clear to them that God blesses them all, that God loves them all.
That is the good news he has come to bring, that is the Christian ‘gospel’ when gospel means the good news.
But – and there’s a second side to the Beatitudes – Jesus isn’t just about reassuring people who feel sad and powerless and hopeless. God also blesses and loves and cares for people when they try to change the world: when they try to build peace and make things better.
So the people who first heard Jesus say this would have felt he was speaking very directly to them.
They may have found what he said very, very difficult to believe – and it’s still very difficult to believe – but some of them at least trusted Jesus and believed it, and remembered and repeated it and wrote it down so that we can hear it today.
If it was true for everyone then, it’s true for everyone now. The circumstances may be different, but the message is the same. Why would God change his mind?
God doesn’t stop blessing and loving, and doesn’t stop blessing the things we do to try and make our world better. So let's be grateful and thank him in our prayers.
18 July 2021
Psalm 80 the message
Remember how you brought a young vine from Egypt,
cleared out the brambles and briers
and planted your very own vineyard?
You prepared the good earth,
you planted her roots deep;
the vineyard filled the land.
Your vine soared high and shaded the mountains,
even dwarfing the giant cedars.
Your vine ranged west to the Sea,
east to the River.
So why do you no longer protect your vine?
Trespassers pick its grapes at will;
Wild pigs crash through and crush it,
and the mice nibble away at what’s left.
God-of-the-Angel-Armies, turn our way!
Take a good look at what’s happened
and attend to this vine.
Care for what you once tenderly planted—
the vine you raised from a shoot.
And those who dared to set it on fire—
give them a look that will kill!
Then take the hand of your once-favorite child,
the child you raised to adulthood.
We will never turn our back on you;
breathe life into our lungs so we can shout your name!
I read somewhere that the vine is a metaphor for Israel, whom God delivered out of Egypt and encouraged into a powerful nation.
We know that God Himself brought Israel (the vine), out of Egypt with the mighty Right Hand of God. At the same time Canaan was occupied by heathen people, and the Lord drove them out and planted Israel instead. Israel is the vine that God planted in the Promised Land. In Egypt, the vine could not prosper, because it was denied the necessary things to produce fruit. The law was given to these Israelites on the way to the Promised Land, and they had the opportunity to produce much fruit for God. They failed. This vine was the same as the natural branch on the tree.
In John 15 verses 5-8 we read that "I am the Vine, you are the branches. When you’re joined with me and I with you, the harvest is sure to be abundant. Separated, you can’t produce a thing. Anyone who separates from me is deadwood, gathered up and thrown on the bonfire. But if you make yourselves at home with me and my words are at home with you, you can be sure that whatever you ask will be listened to and acted upon. This is how my Father shows who he is—when you produce grapes, when you mature as my disciples." ( the message)
On a day like today, Sunday the Sabbath day, our prayers are for the Church still. I say still, because at the moment there is nothing more important than the Church and its attachment to God. To produce the fruit that we need to thrive and grow, we need to tend the soil we need to encourage new life and the buds that grow. We need God in our lives and in our church.
I know it’s a simple analogy but as you look outside you see more and more people cutting their grass, remembering to water their plants encouraging new growth with food and nutrients. Always out fussing over new blooms and fresh plants.
The church needs that kind of care and attention. It needs prayer more than ever and of course, it needs you. Amen
17 July 2021
A couple of days ago we thought about what people would say about us. How would they describe us to another observer. Staying with Colossians this is how Paul describes Jesus and not only that the creator.
Colossians 1 18-20
18-20 He was supreme in the beginning and—leading the resurrection parade—he is supreme in the end. From beginning to end he’s there, towering far above everything, everyone. So spacious is he, so expansive, that everything of God finds its proper place in him without crowding. Not only that, but all the broken and dislocated pieces of the universe—people and things, animals and atoms—get properly fixed and fit together in vibrant harmonies, all because of his death, his blood that poured down from the cross.
I don’t know how many times I have read this short passage because it seems to cram everything into one picture. Having said that, Paul's description translated by Peterson seems to have an extra “bite" to it and I think encourages us to see how awesome Paul describes Jesus, and how powerful Christ is to us. But not just as a saviour but as a creator.
How big is your God? How do you see him? If you think your God is small and helpless then you will live differently than you if you believe that He is great. Sometimes we fall into the trap of believing that God is out there to sort out other folk’s problems and issues but not yours.
In Colossians, they could not bring themselves to believe that God could become man. Their view of God was small. What is your view of Jesus today? What size is he?
This is one of those passages that strikes you as beautiful, deep and rich but you have hardly any idea of how deep it is until you get deep into it. If we try to have any kind of concept of how powerful God is our faith becomes stronger. If our faith becomes stronger then our prayer life becomes more purposeful. Now go back to the beginning of this post and read Paul's words again and get a better picture, a stronger faith and a really good prayer.
16 July 2021
Colossians chapter 1 v 3-5 ( the message)
3-5 Our prayers for you are always spilling over into thanksgivings. We can’t quit thanking God our Father and Jesus our Messiah for you! We keep getting reports on your steady faith in Christ, our Jesus, and the love you continuously extend to all Christians. The lines of purpose in your lives never grow slack, tightly tied as they are to your future in heaven, kept taut by hope.
The book of Colossians encourages Christians to not compromise or turn from Jesus. They must grasp who Jesus is and what He did for them. Because of Jesus' resurrection, believers become part of a new body of people that's joined to Him, and their lives are changed and transformed here on earth.
Paul starts his letter to the people of Colossus by commenting on his gratefulness for the people in the city and how they extend their love to Christians throughout. But more importantly “The lines of purpose in your lives never grow slack."
I am guessing this might mean different things to different people but I think what Paul was commenting on here was the aims and ambitions of this group of Christians. They were “tight” in their devotions and their willingness to plan ahead for the good of each other and of course the good of Christ and because of this and the hope that they had a clearer future was mapped out for them.
Today we have to be like the people of Colossus, we must all have dreams and aspirations for our church. They don’t have to be big and they don’t demand hard work by you but they do require hard and frequent prayer. We don’t have to hijack meetings or be eloquent in our delivery of the grand scheme of things but we can let God know through prayer.
Charles Spurgeon once said "True prayer is neither a mere mental exercise nor a vocal performance. It is far deeper than that. It is a spiritual transaction with the creator of Heaven and Earth."
Let's make a point to pray for our church today.
15 July 2021
Someone online asked me why I mention Eugene Peterson's The Message as a translation more and more often. If you are looking at someone to blame you could look to our own minister for that one as he introduced us to this translation (I think) while Emily Campbell was with us. So today I thought I would do a comparison test.
20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.
The translation above is from the NIV version of the bible, now read the same verse from The Message :
“God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us.”
While I love Eugene Peterson's translation I prefer the NIV for this verse from Ephesians and it is a favourite verse of mine and one I use frequently as a benediction. But it’s interesting to look at them both at the same time and in comparing them and combining them they give us a deeper meaning to the verse.
When you have doubts in yourself and the belief bit in your life is on the wain look to The message translation “God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us.
Now think of a recent experience you have come through, or even appreciate the peace and the grace that you feel in your life and because of that you want to give the glory to God for getting you through it, allowing you to enjoy your life. Read the NIV version
Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.
Dare I say it “translations are like a box of chocolates, you never know what you're going to get” but you will get something if you look. If one doesn’t speak to you, choose another, not because you don’t like what a translation is saying to you but another translation will ”work within us” and maybe open up the intended message.
Billy Graham once said, “I am never lonely when I am reading the Bible. Nothing dissolves loneliness like a session with God's Word.” While Max Lucado said, “Reading the Bible can be like meeting someone you don't know, who oddly, somehow seems to know you deeply."
Eugene Peterson famously said "There is nothing terribly difficult in the Bible - at least in a technical way. The Bible is written in street language, common language. Most of it was oral and spoken to unschooled people. They were the first ones to receive it. So when we make everything academic, we lose something."
Whatever translation you prefer it's your translation your preference the words will speak for themselves wherever. Amen
14 July 2021
"There once was a man, his name John, sent by God to point out the way to the Life-Light. He came to show everyone where to look, who to believe in. John was not himself the Light; he was there to show the way to the Light."
I take a very scant interest in the big gospel speakers over in America and I have noticed a pattern forming. More and more criticism is being levelled at them on social media. Further investigation has shown that their followers are becoming disillusioned as the “big names” are taking the place of Christ. This is being done by allegedly changing the scriptures to justify their own thoughts and beliefs which might contradict the Bible. They themselves are being the subject of worship and not Christ or God for that matter. Some are taking on the role of " the light"
I love the book of John and some people mistook him for the light but when this came to his ears his response was definite in John 1v20
When Jews from Jerusalem sent a group of priests and officials to ask John who he was, he was completely honest. He didn’t evade the question. He told the plain truth: “I am not the Messiah.”
They pressed him, “Who, then? Elijah?”
“I am not.”
Exasperated, they said, “Who, then? We need an answer for those who sent us. Tell us something—anything!—about yourself.”
“I’m thunder in the desert: ‘Make the road straight for God!’ I’m doing what the prophet Isaiah preached.”
Those sent to question him were from the Pharisee party. Now they had a question of their own: “If you’re neither the Messiah, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet, why do you baptize?” John answered, “I only baptize using water. A person you don’t recognize has taken his stand in your midst. He comes after me, but he is not in second place to me. I’m not even worthy to hold his coat”
We must remember this, we are not Christ. Our Pastors are not Christ, they bring the light to our attention, they encourage the light into our lives they are the catalyst that brings the light.
But the real light is Christ.
Worship Christ, not people. Know your place; never allow people to worship you or to behave, even remotely, that they are offering you the place of Christ.
13 July 2021
John 1:35-39 The Message
Come, See for Yourself
35-36 The next day John was back at his post with two disciples, who were watching. He looked up, saw Jesus walking nearby, and said, “Here he is, God’s Passover Lamb.”
37-38 The two disciples heard him and went after Jesus. Jesus looked over his shoulder and said to them, “What are you after?”
They said, “Rabbi” (which means “Teacher”), “where are you staying?”
39 He replied, “Come along and see for yourself.”
They came, saw where he was living, and ended up staying with him for the day. It was late afternoon when this happened.
Imagine yourself walking along a busy street and two locals see you coming. You know they are exchanging words about you, nothing bad just a comment on who you are. What would they say? In as few words as possible how would they describe who you are? “The woman that delivers the flowers,” “The man that does the church garden?”
“Here he is, Gods Passover lamb” was John’s comment on Jesus and because of those few words the other two disciples were “won over” and followed Jesus.
What can we say of Jesus to win folks over? How can we win them over enough to follow Jesus for the rest of their life?
Soul winning is one of the most important activities that one can undertake for both the Lord and mankind - bringing more souls to Christ.
You are a Christian because somebody won you over. They might not have shared the Word with you; instead, they might just have invited you to a place where the Word was shared.
Learn to share the Word. Speak as naturally as you always do.
How did John do it? He simply said, "Look, the Lamb of God!" Did John say anything complicated? No.
The Lord will confirm your 'simple' words, leading to a harvest of souls. So let's learn to open our mouths to the glory of God! Amen
12 July 2021
Your love, God, fills the earth!
Train me to live by your counsel.
Do you still get letters sent to you? I mean the ones from friends and family? If it's “yes” then you are so lucky, there’s nothing so good as receiving a letter from a loved one sharing news or imparting knowledge.
I sometimes look upon the Psalms as letters (ok so I know they are not but just go with the flow for a minute). With that in mind have a read at a portion of Psalm 110 (especially the Peterson translation)
You’re blessed when you stay on course,
walking steadily on the road revealed by God.
You’re blessed when you follow his directions,
doing your best to find him.
That’s right—you don’t go off on your own;
you walk straight along the road he set.
You, God, prescribed the right way to live;
now you expect us to live it.
Oh, that my steps might be steady,
keeping to the course you set;
Then I’d never have any regrets
in comparing my life with your counsel.
I thank you for speaking straight from your heart;
I learn the pattern of your righteous ways.
I’m going to do what you tell me to do;
don’t ever walk off and leave me.
Prayers sometimes don’t come easy and when that’s the case I always think the Psalms are good, when your confidence is on the wain you can get a boost from the Psalms if your feeling flat or vulnerable reading the Psalms can be the antidote.
13 words to include in your prayer today from Psalm 110
Your love, God, fills the earth!
Train me to live by your counsel.
What more can we ask?
Words For Life is back after a few day's break. Thank you for your patience and understanding.
06 July 2021
Before the mountains were born
or you brought forth the whole world,
from everlasting to everlasting you are God.
When I think about it “fads” is a really odd word. To me, fads mean “of the moment” or something temporary. Here today and gone tomorrow. What is the fad of the moment? Maybe home baking due to the lockdown. Maybe something like jigsaws or embroidery again due to the lockdown.
But like all fads, they are put away waiting for the next one to arrive. The other day someone said to me, “back at church? Now the pandemic is all but over?” I counted to ten before answering. I really wanted to tell them that I couldn’t get wait to get back to the sanctuary but the church was still here for me during the pandemic. Albeit we had an online service every week, twice in fact and the church is still where it was before the pandemic, God in fact was always there for us before, during and will be when the pandemic is a thing of the past.
The Psalmist says, “before the mountains were born from everlasting to everlasting you are God,” and that’s worth remembering for your thought for the day. It’s a worthy topic for your prayer for the day. With everything that’s going on, we should never forget our God is an awesome God. Permanent. Steady.
The old BB hymn plays in the background
We have an anchor that keeps the soul
Steadfast and Sure while the billows roll
Fasten to the rock which cannot move
Grounded firm and deep in the Saviours love.
God is still there, the Church is still there Steadfast & Sure
05 July 2021
“This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” 1 John 4:10-11
The Bible tells us that we naturally rebel against God. We live our lives the way we want to, instead of the way God wants us to. We read It may help to think of this rebellion as sin. Without Jesus, who is the only ‘cure’ for sin, we will remain enemies of God because of our rebellion, and we are under his judgement. But God so loved the world that He sent Jesus to die on a cross to make a way for us to be reconciled to Him, if we turn from our rebellion.
Faith is the cure.
The Apostle Paul in his letter to the Galatians wrote;
“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9.
To receive this gift of faith, we simply need to ask God for it, and believe that we have received it. However, faith is much more than just a miracle cure for the disease of sin; it is also the key to living the Christian life.
“There was once a Scotsman who rowed people across a river. On one oar he had carved the word ‘faith’ and on the other oar he had carved the word ‘works’. One day as he was rowing, one of the passengers noticed the carvings and asked him about them. The Scotsman did not reply but pulled in the oar marked ‘works’ and started to row with only one oar. The boat went round in circles. He then pulled in the oar marked ‘faith’ and started to row only with the ‘works’ oar. The boat again went round in circles, but this time in the opposite direction. He then rowed with both oars and reached the other bank safely. Before his passenger got off the boat he said, ‘A Christian must row his life using both oars, faith and works. Only then will he reach heaven’s shore.
“The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.” Galatians 5:6
“Faith without works is dead” James 2:26, and true faith influences the heart and life so that we obey God and serve others.
So let us decide to express our faith by serving our community, and sharing the gospel in love.
04 July 2021
Matthew chapter 5 ( part of the sermon on the mount)
14 “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden.15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.
Another random verse pops up today and this time it's all about “the light”. In my head when I consider this passage I can hear someone sing “this little light of mine I’m gonna let it shine”
All you have to do these days is turn on the tv news or the radio and you can immediately be plunged into darkness by the news coming through of what is going on all over the world.
But it's not just that, I feel politics is now becoming dark as is social media and the entertainment world. So knowing all that it's no surprise if we feel like shouting out to God “where is the light?????”
Of course God would then hold us by the shoulders, look us in the eye and smile and then say, “YOU are the light!!!!”
In the darkness of crime, terror and disease, we are the light. In the darkness of modern politics, entertainment and social media, we are the light. We are the light. It’s not that we ought to be the light. It’s that we are the light. And we are meant to shine by doing good works that glorify God.
The good works don’t need to be overtly Christian. We are not talking about standing on the corner carrying a sign that says “I am the light,” nor do we need to go round doors posting scripture pamphlets (although that’s a great idea). It’s the simple things in life that we do quietly for others. People we know and people we don’t know.
But just a wee warning on that matter. We need to be careful that our good works do not backfire and we glorify ourselves.
03 July 2021
Job 13 v 5
I wish you’d shut your mouths—
silence is your only claim to wisdom.
I found something on the internet called “Bible dice”, there a few sites like it and every day it generates a verse from the Bible for you to ponder. The one I looked at yesterday was all about giving “advice”. Job 13 verse 5 came up. (my setting was on The Message at the time).
So the advice given to me was “I wish you’d shut your mouth, silence is your claim to wisdom” (when I read that, I can hear so many voices in my head who have said something similar to me over the years).
Many many years ago when I worked for BT, the campaign that was very popular at the time was Bob Hoskins telling us “It's good to talk”. My manager at the time put on my annual review “Alexander takes Mr. Hoskins advice to the limits of human tolerance and as a manager, I will suggest the next campaign should have the strapline, “Silence is Golden”. She was a good manager and it was a good annual review.
There are times when we should keep our mouths firmly closed, and there are times in biblical history things would have changed if mouths were closed. What would have happened to Jonah if the whale decided to shut its mouth? Being one of them.
But of course, there are times we need to open our mouths and there are times when silence is more appreciated. The Psalmist tells us “Praise the LORD! Praise his name, you servants of the LORD, who stand in the LORD's house, in the Temple of our God. Praise the LORD, because he is good; sing praises to his name, because he is kind.”
Maybe Job was right to say what he said to the people around him on the day but there are times when we need to open our mouths wide, praise his name loudly and sing his praises sweetly. Amen
02 July 2021
3 I thank my God every time I remember you. 4 In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy 5 because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, 6 being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.
I was thinking about the “new church” when I stumbled across this verse from Philippians. Now when I say the “new church” what I really mean is the old church, the same church but with the new arrangements. We hear people say “it's not really a service is it?” or “there is not much of an atmosphere” but how would we feel if we were looked upon as “not much of a disciple?”
But at the end of the day nothing has changed. Christ died for our sins on a cross and he rose on the third day. Grace is still out there for us free of charge and in order for folks to come back to the church buildings, we need to throw the doors open wide and welcome everybody in.
I read about a church that has the following words above the door as you exit the building. “ You are now leaving the Sanctuary and entering the Battlefield. God Speed and keep up your prayers”.
But would it be great if, as we enter the sanctuary we read the words in Philippians :
I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.
Good luck in the battlefield and keep praying, hope to see you in the sanctuary sometime soon.
01 July 2021
John 6 v 51
“I’m telling you the most solemn and sober truth now: Whoever believes in me has real life, eternal life. I am the Bread of Life. Your ancestors ate the manna bread in the desert and died. But now here is Bread that truly comes down out of heaven. Anyone eating this Bread will not die, ever. I am the Bread—living Bread!—who came down out of heaven. Anyone who eats this Bread will live—and forever! The Bread that I present to the world so that it can eat and live is myself, this flesh-and-blood self.”
52 At this, the Jews started fighting among themselves: “How can this man serve up his flesh for a meal?”
Some translations cut it while some miss out but this translation of John 6 from The Message drives home the truth of the words spoken by Jesus.
He is trying to convince those listening, the accuracy of his words and the promise behind them. In using a common commodity like bread he recognises that everyone eats bread. It’s a staple diet amongst the people but the bread that Jesus offers is completely different. In as much as bread can be an innocent, disposable and part of the daily diet, the bread of life is completely different.
Consuming this bread will allow the partaker “eternal life” and this living bread is Jesus himself.
The last verse shows us that the Jewish people still didn’t get it. They couldn’t reconcile the fact that this meal was the flesh of Christ but they could be forgiven at this point as Christ had not risen from the dead fulfilling all his promises.
Spare a thought today for those who are not familiar with the bread of life and pray that they might seek him out wherever they are.
30 June 2021
Psalm 9 v19
Arise, Lord, do not let mortals triumph;
let the nations be judged in your presence.
Strike them with terror, Lord;
let the nations know they are only mortal.
We read in the newspapers, we see in the news. Standoffs between nations on the high seas, jets flying into “prohibited zones” and dictators flexing their muscles with a show of people power and weaponry wonders. But who is it all for? and who benefits? Where does the power lie?
There is a gospel song that reminds us that the battle belongs to the Lord and Psalm 9 reminds us that the nations are mere mortals and all will be judged in the presence of God.
Spare a prayer today for those who wear a uniform for this country, those who wake up in strange beds each morning not knowing what their day is about while in a foreign land or living in some kind of settlement. Those who face an actual battle not knowing where they are being sent not knowing what their future holds.
Battles can be physical and battles can be mental whatever your battle is about Eugene Petterson directs us to the book of Peter and “ Therefore, prepare your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” Amen
29 June 2021
Psalm 134 v 3
Lift your praising hands to the Holy Place,
and bless God.
In turn, may God of Zion bless you—
God who made heaven and earth!
Yesterday we talked about knowing God. Today it’s a case of “do we know what he has done?” He created the heavens and the earth. We are so lucky that we can see the works of the creator from our doorsteps. The rolling hills, the reservoirs of water, the luminescent night sky. Do we need any more reminding?
And he made us too, each with our own DNA, unique in every way and capable of so much (and so little). Think of a lonely world where we are few, but then again that might appeal to you. We are all individuals and we are all sons and daughters.
And as much as we worship such a powerful creator the words ring out in our ears of the great hymn writers who give us so much “visual” and inspiration.
From heaven you came helpless babe
Entered our world, your glory veiled
Not to be served but to serve
And give Your life that we might live
This is our God, The Servant King
He calls us now to follow Him
To bring our lives as a daily offering
Of worship to The Servant King
( some words from Graham Kendricks Servant King)
28 June 2021
Acts 17 24-29
24-29 “The God who made the world and everything in it, this Master of sky and land, doesn’t live in custom-made shrines or need the human race to run errands for him, as if he couldn’t take care of himself. He makes the creatures; the creatures don’t make him. Starting from scratch, he made the entire human race and made the earth hospitable, with plenty of time and space for living so we could seek after God, and not just grope around in the dark but actually find him. He doesn’t play hide-and-seek with us. He’s not remote; he’s near. We live and move in him, can’t get away from him! One of your poets said it well: ‘We’re the God-created.’ Well, if we are the God-created, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to think we could hire a sculptor to chisel a god out of stone for us, does it?
Paul stood before the intellectual giants of his day, highly educated deeply religious but as one man put it “ totally ignorant about God”.
It could be said he is trying to show us that God is not far off and has made himself accessible to everyone. This is a message we need to repeat over and over again. If you don’t know God, it’s not God’s fault. God has already done everything necessary for you to have a relationship with him. He created the world and then left his fingerprints everywhere. He sent prophets and kings and poets with his message. Then he capped it off by sending his Son to the world. God has made it perfectly clear that his heart yearns for men and women to seek him.
And like the Prodigal son, should be we find ourselves separated from God we must run back looking for reconciliation and throw ourselves into his waiting arms. Nothing we have done, said, thought, or denied is a stumbling block that denies God from our lives.
Likewise, if we are safe in his arms, finding comfort in his solace and peace in his presence “ don’t you think that's the perfect time to say Thank you”
Alex is away on his break. Words For Life will be back in a couple of weeks.
04 June 2021
She was the happiest she had ever been and she was a Queen. But the secret was she was Jewish and that would not go down well in certain circles. Especially the King.
But she was courageous. As an outsider looking in, Esther was beautiful. She was the wife of the Persian King Xerxes and cousin to Mordecai. But lurking in the sidelines was Haman who was the king's new adviser.
Mordecai was a bit of a stumbling block. As a Jewish man he wouldn’t conform to the rituals laid down by the King and this made him stick out from the crowd. Haman was determined to get rid of all jews including Mordecai and this was a problem that seemed insurmountable.
Mordecai refused to bow down to the king’s new adviser Haman, who got so angry that he wanted Mordecai and all of the Jewish people killed. Queen Esther knew she could stop the massacre by telling the king she was a Jew – and after inviting the king and Haman to two dinner parties, she finally worked up the courage to tell him. And King Xerxes got very angry … at Haman!
Haman was killed, the Jews were saved, and Esther became a hero to her people.
The Queen of Sheba came to Solomon with an open, teachable heart. She brought gifts and riches with her. She came to worship and to gaze on his beauty.
As we finish this series on women of the old testament one of the things I have noticed is that most of these women had guts and in the face of adversity it seemed that they would be crushed or made to feel insignificant
We come to Jesus with an open teachable heart bringing all that we have in adoration and worship. While it is not wrong to stand up for what you believe in, we have that added security of a friend and saviour in Jesus.
The Queen of Sheba was given the name Makeda which means greatness. Her name came from all that she had and all that she possessed. Great riches that we could never fathom. Great riches that thankfully we don't need to impress God.
Centuries later we worship a God who supplies us with abundant riches and a relationship that does not measure power or beauty except what we find as we wander through this earth. Thank you all for your time and patience with the words for life.
Just part of the story of The Queen of Sheba from 1 Kings
1-5 The queen of Sheba heard about Solomon and his connection with the Name of God. She came to put his reputation to the test by asking tough questions. She made a grand and showy entrance into Jerusalem—camels loaded with spices, a huge amount of gold, and precious gems. She came to Solomon and talked about all the things that she cared about, emptying her heart to him. Solomon answered everything she put to him—nothing stumped him. When the queen of Sheba experienced for herself Solomon’s wisdom and saw with her own eyes the palace he had built, the meals that were served, the impressive array of court officials and sharply dressed waiters, the lavish crystal, and the elaborate worship extravagant with Whole-Burnt-Offerings at the steps leading up to The Temple of God, it took her breath away.
6-9 She said to the king, “It’s all true! Your reputation for accomplishment and wisdom that reached all the way to my country is confirmed. I wouldn’t have believed it if I hadn’t seen it for myself; they didn’t exaggerate! Such wisdom and elegance—far more than I could ever have imagined. Lucky the men and women who work for you, getting to be around you every day and hear your wise words firsthand! And blessed be God, your God, who took such a liking to you and made you king. Clearly, God’s love for Israel is behind this, making you king to keep a just order and nurture a God-pleasing people.”
10 She then gave the king four and a half tons of gold, and also sack after sack of spices and expensive gems. There hasn’t been a cargo of spices like that since that shipload the queen of Sheba brought to King Solomon.
11-12 The ships of Hiram also imported gold from Ophir along with tremendous loads of fragrant sandalwood and expensive gems. The king used the sandalwood for fine cabinetry in The Temple of God and the palace complex, and for making harps and dulcimers for the musicians. Nothing like that shipment of sandalwood has been seen since.
13 King Solomon for his part gave the queen of Sheba all her heart’s desire—everything she asked for, on top of what he had already so generously given her. Satisfied, she returned home with her train of servants.
03 June 2021
The three most affected women in this story would be Tamar, her mother Maacah, and Ahinoam, the mother of Amnon.
Other wives of David and their children would be sympathetic, but would quickly look to see what they could gain from Amnon’s crime – which way the wind blew, and what chance might there be to seize some political advantage for themselves. Among them would be Bathsheba, a commoner newly introduced into the harem.
But at the center of this storm stood Tamar, her position as darling of the king and petted princess now destroyed forever.
When her brother Absalom found out what had happened he comforted her as best he could, and moved her out of the harem into his own house. Then he went to the King and demanded that Amnon marry his sister – marriage between a half-brother and sister was a possibility in this extreme case, though biblical law prohibited it elsewhere.
Amnon refused outright to marry her, the callous streak already evident in David now coming out in the son. David was angry but did nothing to resolve the situation, or even to punish Amnon for what he had done. This was typical of David – he could never chastise his sons even when they deserved it. Instead he did what many people have done when confronted with rape or incest – he protected the abuser rather than the victim, and tried to hush things up.
Since David did nothing to remedy the wrong, people around Tamar were powerless to help the girl. Like many victims of crime she gradually became invisible, the crime ignored, not spoken of.
But her brother Absalom was not so accommodating. He could not force Amnon to marry the devastated Tamar, but he would take his revenge.
For two years he said nothing, did nothing, but then he set his trap. He gave a feast for all David’s sons. At the height of the festivities when Amnon was half-drunk, Absalom had his half-brother killed, Absalom escaped, fleeing for sanctuary to Geshur.
Did the murder of Amnon help Tamar in any way? Probably not. It may have given her some fleeting satisfaction, but as matters stood she was condemned to the life of a childless widow.
Maacah may have used what little influence she now had to see that her daughter returned to David’s harem. In either place, Tamar’s position would have been lowly, little better than a servant.
Some years after the rape of Tamar, Absalom led a revolt against his father King David. He was able to take over the royal city of Jerusalem, and force his father to flee.
Absalom’s revolt against David was not successful, and the young man died after a terrible battle. The only information we have is that Absalom named his own daughter Tamar, and the text notes tell us that she was a beautiful woman.
02 June 2021 (Warning ! today’s story spills into tomorrow)
Her name was blemished for something that she did not do. The person that was to blame was her half-brother Amnon, he was obsessed with her and tricked her into making bread in front of him because he was feigning illness. Her name was Tamar which means “date” (the fruit) and she was the beautiful daughter of King David.
Some say she would be the subject of an arranged marriage but that would be irrelevant now that Amnon had his way with her. His obsession with her was completely unnatural. He watched her, he waited in places where she passed, he could not get enough of her presence, and above all he wanted to possess her.
The catch was that he was not prepared to offer her marriage.
Why not? At that time it would have been a possibility, though not a preferred one.
Tamar was looked upon as a royal princess and a virgin. She lived in the women's quarters and could not go outside the walls unless accompanied by a chaperone. The problem here was that Amnon was not used to being refused by a woman and there seemed little opportunity to get her alone. It is said he hatched a plot with his cousin Jonadab and pretended that he was ill, then lure the unsuspecting Tamar into his bedroom.
When Amnon had finished his brutal business, his feelings for Tamar suddenly changed. Now he was revolted by the sight of her, could not bear to look at her, was filled with a loathing far stronger than the lust he had previously felt.
He shouted at her to get out of his room, get out of his sight, but she pleaded with him, trying to retrieve something from this desperate situation. They might still marry, she argued.
If we draw on the story of Tamar to answer the question, “how do you accept that life is not fair?” We can learn two important lessons. First, she waited patiently. Secondly, she saw an opportunity to make her life better and she took it. This took courage hopefully tomorrow will fill in the blanks
Tamar's story from the Bible : 2 Samuel 13
In the course of time, Amnon son of David fell in love with Tamar, the beautiful sister of Absalom son of David.
2 Amnon became so obsessed with his sister Tamar that he made himself ill. She was a virgin, and it seemed impossible for him to do anything to her.
3 Now Amnon had an adviser named Jonadab son of Shimeah, David’s brother. Jonadab was a very shrewd man. 4 He asked Amnon, “Why do you, the king’s son, look so haggard morning after morning? Won’t you tell me?”
Amnon said to him, “I’m in love with Tamar, my brother Absalom’s sister.”
5 “Go to bed and pretend to be ill,” Jonadab said. “When your father comes to see you, say to him, ‘I would like my sister Tamar to come and give me something to eat. Let her prepare the food in my sight so I may watch her and then eat it from her hand.’”
6 So Amnon lay down and pretended to be ill. When the king came to see him, Amnon said to him, “I would like my sister Tamar to come and make some special bread in my sight, so I may eat from her hand.”
7 David sent word to Tamar at the palace: “Go to the house of your brother Amnon and prepare some food for him.” 8 So Tamar went to the house of her brother Amnon, who was lying down. She took some dough, kneaded it, made the bread in his sight and baked it. 9 Then she took the pan and served him the bread, but he refused to eat.
“Send everyone out of here,” Amnon said. So everyone left him. 10 Then Amnon said to Tamar, “Bring the food here into my bedroom so I may eat from your hand.” And Tamar took the bread she had prepared and brought it to her brother Amnon in his bedroom. 11 But when she took it to him to eat, he grabbed her and said, “Come to bed with me, my sister.”
12 “No, my brother!” she said to him. “Don’t force me! Such a thing should not be done in Israel! Don’t do this wicked thing. 13 What about me? Where could I get rid of my disgrace? And what about you? You would be like one of the wicked fools in Israel. Please speak to the king; he will not keep me from being married to you.” 14 But he refused to listen to her, and since he was stronger than she, he raped her.
15 Then Amnon hated her with intense hatred. In fact, he hated her more than he had loved her. Amnon said to her, “Get up and get out!”
16 “No!” she said to him. “Sending me away would be a greater wrong than what you have already done to me.”
But he refused to listen to her. 17 He called his personal servant and said, “Get this woman out of my sight and bolt the door after her.” 18 So his servant put her out and bolted the door after her. She was wearing an ornate[a] robe, for this was the kind of garment the virgin daughters of the king wore. 19 Tamar put ashes on her head and tore the ornate robe she was wearing. She put her hands on her head and went away, weeping aloud as she went.
20 Her brother Absalom said to her, “Has that Amnon, your brother, been with you? Be quiet for now, my sister; he is your brother. Don’t take this thing to heart.” And Tamar lived in her brother Absalom’s house, a desolate woman.
21 When King David heard all this, he was furious. 22 And Absalom never said a word to Amnon, either good or bad; he hated Amnon because he had disgraced his sister Tamar.
01 June 2021
If you were to ask me what I am known for, the first thing would be “my sorrow”. The pain of emptiness was unbearable for me. While other women could go on with their day as a childless person it was becoming too much to bear for me.
Another thing I can be known for was my faithfulness. I would pray to God “God my name is Hannah and I know that you hear my prayers please give me a son for me and my husband Elkanah. All day long he fusses over me demanding that I eat and telling me that he was worth more than ten sons. But I only wanted the one."
The third thing that I can be judged for is my dedication. I pleaded with God that if he gave me a son I would dedicate the boy to God and the temple and leave him there to be brought up in his ways and in his house. I called the boy Samuel which means “heard by God.”
I overheard some women say that I had dealt with the whole situation with grace and dignity. This is despite old Eli thinking that I was drunk in the temple. Such was my grief. But I held my tongue and continued my prayers knowing that God would hear me.
This whole situation has taught me that we can honestly express our desires to God and tell him about our pain, frustrations and stresses and in trusting him he can give us comfort, hope and support as well as peace in our sorrow and pain. I trust God and so can others.
An extract of Hannah's life from the Bible :
1 Samuel 1
Hannah was reduced to tears and had no appetite.
8 Her husband Elkanah said, “Oh, Hannah, why are you crying? Why aren’t you eating? And why are you so upset? Am I not of more worth to you than ten sons?”
9-11 So Hannah ate. Then she pulled herself together, slipped away quietly, and entered the sanctuary. The priest Eli was on duty at the entrance to God’s Temple in the customary seat. Crushed in soul, Hannah prayed to God and cried and cried—inconsolably. Then she made a vow:
If you’ll take a good, hard look at my pain,
If you’ll quit neglecting me and go into action for me
By giving me a son,
I’ll give him completely, unreservedly to you.
I’ll set him apart for a life of holy discipline.
12-14 It so happened that as she continued in prayer before God, Eli was watching her closely. Hannah was praying in her heart, silently. Her lips moved, but no sound was heard. Eli jumped to the conclusion that she was drunk. He approached her and said, “You’re drunk! How long do you plan to keep this up? Sober up, woman!”
15-16 Hannah said, “Oh no, sir—please! I’m a woman brokenhearted. I haven’t been drinking. Not a drop of wine or beer. The only thing I’ve been pouring out is my heart, pouring it out to God. Don’t for a minute think I’m a bad woman. It’s because I’m so desperately unhappy and in such pain that I’ve stayed here so long.”
17 Eli answered her, “Go in peace. And may the God of Israel give you what you have asked of him.”
18 “Think well of me—and pray for me!” she said, and went her way. Then she ate heartily, her face radiant.
19 Up before dawn, they worshiped God and returned home to Ramah. Elkanah slept with Hannah his wife, and God began making the necessary arrangements in response to what she had asked.
Dedicating the Child to God
20 Before the year was out, Hannah had conceived and given birth to a son. She named him Samuel, explaining, “I asked God for him.”