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.”
31 May 2021
She lay beside the pool of water and thought she might die. She wondered if God heard her cries of despair or was it because she had done everything wrong in life.
The whole thing was a mess. To a certain extent it was all her fault agreeing to give old Abram a son. What was she thinking? She was Hagar the maid and nothing else. Maybe it was because she had started bad mouthing Sarai, the wife, but she felt the need to run away.
And that’s when she felt tired and exhausted lying beside a pool in the desert. She thought she would die but then an angel appeared to her and told her to go back to Abram and Sarai. She wasn’t sure.
She was told that her son would be called Ishmael and that he would be a strong person, not only that she would have many many more children. So she returned to Sarai and Abram and presented them with a son that was named Ishmael. Abram was 86 at the time.
At her lowest ebb she had cried out to God and even though for a moment she felt alone He was there and he heard her. The angel had brought her to the water and after drinking it she felt better, stronger. Life returned and life went on. Hagar would be forever grateful to God for hearing her cries, because he listened and answered.
1-2 Sarai, Abram’s wife, hadn’t yet produced a child.
She had an Egyptian maid named Hagar. Sarai said to Abram, “God has not seen fit to let me have a child. Sleep with my maid. Maybe I can get a family from her.” Abram agreed to do what Sarai said.
3-4 So Sarai, Abram’s wife, took her Egyptian maid Hagar and gave her to her husband Abram as a wife. Abram had been living ten years in Canaan when this took place. He slept with Hagar and she got pregnant. When Hagar learned she was pregnant, she looked down on her mistress.
5 Sarai told Abram, “It’s all your fault that I’m suffering this abuse. I put my maid in bed with you and the minute she knows she’s pregnant, she treats me like I’m nothing. May God decide which of us is right.”
6 “You decide,” said Abram. “Your maid is your business.”
Sarai was abusive to Hagar and Hagar ran away.
7-8 An angel of God found her beside a spring in the desert; it was the spring on the road to Shur. He said, “Hagar, maid of Sarai, what are you doing here?”
She said, “I’m running away from Sarai my mistress.”
9-12 The angel of God said, “Go back to your mistress. Put up with her abuse.” He continued, “I’m going to give you a big family, children past counting.
From this pregnancy, you’ll get a son: Name him Ishmael;
for God heard you, God answered you.
He’ll be a bucking bronco of a man,
a real fighter, fighting and being fought,
Always stirring up trouble,
always at odds with his family.”
13 She answered God by name, praying to the God who spoke to her, “You’re the God who sees me!
“Yes! He saw me; and then I saw him!”
14 That’s how that desert spring got named “God-Alive-Sees-Me Spring.” That spring is still there, between Kadesh and Bered.
15-16 Hagar gave Abram a son. Abram named him Ishmael. Abram was eighty-six years old when Hagar gave him his son, Ishmael.
30 May 2021
Some say her name was “Makeda” while others simply looked upon her as the “Queen of Sheba”. But having said that the one thing that was certain was that she was rich.
You can tell by the entourage that she brought with her and the goods that she offered the King (Solomon). Amongst her offerings were large quantities of gold, spices and precious stones.
People say the only reason she came was because her head was turned by Solomon's fame and wisdom. She had many questions for him and was impressed by his knowledge. Apparently she told him “Your wisdom and prosperity far surpass the report that I had heard.”
In return King Solomon gave her gifts and “every desire that she expressed”. After receiving these gifts, the queen returns to the land of Sheba with her retinue where she gave birth to a son called Menilek. The son of Solomon.
You might be reading this today and consider the relevance of the story of the Queen of Sheba. She 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.
But we come to Jesus with an open, teachable heart bringing all that we have in adoration and worship.
If Solomon, being a mere man, revealed himself and his splendour to the queen, how will Jesus, being God and man, hold back from us, His Beloved? The ones He died for? He won’t. He can’t. He longs to reveal Himself to us.
Jesus has already given us an amazing gift: life abundantly, life forever more. But on top of that He gives us what we request. Like the queen with Solomon, we must first sit at His feet and learn, see His splendour and majesty and marvel at Him. We must learn to adore Him and worship, be taught and instructed by Him.
Part of Sheba's story from the bible
10 When the queen of Sheba heard about the fame of Solomon and his relationship to the Lord, she came to test Solomon with hard questions.2 Arriving at Jerusalem with a very great caravan—with camels carrying spices, large quantities of gold, and precious stones—she came to Solomon and talked with him about all that she had on her mind. 3 Solomon answered all her questions; nothing was too hard for the king to explain to her. 4 When the queen of Sheba saw all the wisdom of Solomon and the palace he had built, 5 the food on his table, the seating of his officials, the attending servants in their robes, his cupbearers, and the burnt offerings he made at the temple of the Lord, she was overwhelmed.
6 She said to the king, “The report I heard in my own country about your achievements and your wisdom is true. 7 But I did not believe these things until I came and saw with my own eyes. Indeed, not even half was told me; in wisdom and wealth you have far exceeded the report I heard. 8 How happy your people must be! How happy your officials, who continually stand before you and hear your wisdom! 9 Praise be to the Lord your God, who has delighted in you and placed you on the throne of Israel. Because of the Lord’s eternal love for Israel, he has made you king to maintain justice and righteousness.”
10 And she gave the king 120 talents of gold, large quantities of spices, and precious stones. Never again were so many spices brought in as those the queen of Sheba gave to King Solomon.
11 (Hiram’s ships brought gold from Ophir; and from there they brought great cargoes of almug wood and precious stones. 12 The king used the almug wood to make supports for the temple of the Lord and for the royal palace and to make harps and lyres for the musicians. So much almug wood has never been imported or seen since that day.)
13 King Solomon gave the queen of Sheba all she desired and asked for, besides what he had given her out of his royal bounty. Then she left and returned with her retinue to her own country.
29 May 2021
They said the meaning of her name was “delicate” but Delilah was a treacherous voluptuous woman. Anything but delicate?
She would go down in history as the woman who used her personal charm to lure a man to his spiritual and physical destruction. As a person she stands out as one of the lowest, meanest women of the Bible. Did she care? Probably not.
The strong muscular man they all feared was called Samson and Delilah was surprised how quickly he fell in love with her but she had a price on his head. Each of the leaders offered her 1100 shekels of silver for his demise and she was able to coax from her man that his strength lay in his long tresses of hair. One night while he slept Delilah arranged for his hair to be cut.
Samson's power was drained and the Philistines took him prisoner and gouged out his eyes and forced him to work like an animal. But as nature would have it his hair grew back.
One day the Philistines held a ceremony in the temple and tied Samson between two pillars. He prayed to God for a restoration of his powers “just this once” and God granted his request, killing Samson himself and all in the temple.
So Delilah? Was she resourceful? rich? now she had all of those shekels in her pocket? Did she gain anything from her experience with Samson? Was she left to play out the rest of her life as a woman of substance?
None of the above as she died in the temple that Samson pulled down. So she had nothing to gain, learned nothing from her experience and the only one that God heard was Samson who wanted “just this once” to have his power back. God can answer anyone's prayer in any circumstances but the outcome may not be what was expected.
Part of Delilah's story from the Bible
16 One day Samson went to Gaza, where he saw a prostitute. He went in to spend the night with her. 2 The people of Gaza were told, “Samson is here!” So they surrounded the place and lay in wait for him all night at the city gate. They made no move during the night, saying, “At dawn we’ll kill him.”
3 But Samson lay there only until the middle of the night. Then he got up and took hold of the doors of the city gate, together with the two posts, and tore them loose, bar and all. He lifted them to his shoulders and carried them to the top of the hill that faces Hebron.
4 Some time later, he fell in love with a woman in the Valley of Sorek whose name was Delilah. 5 The rulers of the Philistines went to her and said, “See if you can lure him into showing you the secret of his great strength and how we can overpower him so we may tie him up and subdue him. Each one of us will give you eleven hundred shekels[a] of silver.”
6 So Delilah said to Samson, “Tell me the secret of your great strength and how you can be tied up and subdued.”
7 Samson answered her, “If anyone ties me with seven fresh bowstrings that have not been dried, I’ll become as weak as any other man.”
8 Then the rulers of the Philistines brought her seven fresh bowstrings that had not been dried, and she tied him with them. 9 With men hidden in the room, she called to him, “Samson, the Philistines are upon you!” But he snapped the bowstrings as easily as a piece of string snaps when it comes close to a flame. So the secret of his strength was not discovered.
10 Then Delilah said to Samson, “You have made a fool of me; you lied to me. Come now, tell me how you can be tied.”
11 He said, “If anyone ties me securely with new ropes that have never been used, I’ll become as weak as any other man.”
12 So Delilah took new ropes and tied him with them. Then, with men hidden in the room, she called to him, “Samson, the Philistines are upon you!” But he snapped the ropes off his arms as if they were threads.
13 Delilah then said to Samson, “All this time you have been making a fool of me and lying to me. Tell me how you can be tied.”
He replied, “If you weave the seven braids of my head into the fabric on the loom and tighten it with the pin, I’ll become as weak as any other man.” So while he was sleeping, Delilah took the seven braids of his head, wove them into the fabric 14 and[b] tightened it with the pin.
Again she called to him, “Samson, the Philistines are upon you!” He awoke from his sleep and pulled up the pin and the loom, with the fabric.
15 Then she said to him, “How can you say, ‘I love you,’ when you won’t confide in me? This is the third time you have made a fool of me and haven’t told me the secret of your great strength.” 16 With such nagging she prodded him day after day until he was sick to death of it.
17 So he told her everything. “No razor has ever been used on my head,” he said, “because I have been a Nazirite dedicated to God from my mother’s womb. If my head were shaved, my strength would leave me, and I would become as weak as any other man.”
18 When Delilah saw that he had told her everything, she sent word to the rulers of the Philistines, “Come back once more; he has told me everything.” So the rulers of the Philistines returned with the silver in their hands. 19 After putting him to sleep on her lap, she called for someone to shave off the seven braids of his hair, and so began to subdue him.[c] And his strength left him.
20 Then she called, “Samson, the Philistines are upon you!”
He awoke from his sleep and thought, “I’ll go out as before and shake myself free.” But he did not know that the Lord had left him.
21 Then the Philistines seized him, gouged out his eyes and took him down to Gaza. Binding him with bronze shackles, they set him to grinding grain in the prison. 22 But the hair on his head began to grow again after it had been shaved.
28 May 2021
She gave birth to twins and her name was Rebekah.
As far as twins went these two boys were completely different. One was born covered in hair so he was called Esau and while he was being born his brother came out of the womb holding Esau’s heel so he was named Isaac.
Two brothers sharing a womb, born together but grew up with a desire to be different from their siblings. Their father Isaac had become an old man and was blind and rightly so called his oldest son Esau and asked him to make him a meal so that he might give his eldest son his personal blessing before he died.
It appeared that Rebekah favoured her second born Isaac. It is said that Rebekah had received a Prophecy that her younger son was to be given the pre-eminence. She was eavesdropping on the conversation between Jacob and Esau and immediately came up with a plan. “Kill two goats and I will make you a meal to take to your father and he’ll bless you before he dies”. The prophecy was fulfilled. The meal was prepared and served, the blessing received.
She even went a stage further and disguised the lack of hair her second born had with the help of some goat skins. What happened next was a series of deceptions and lies with Jacob pretending to be Isaacs's firstborn. He even lied when asked who he was by the blind Isaac.
As a bystander to this story what was interesting was that Isaac did not reverse his decision after he had been duped. Perhaps Issac realised that he should not have singled out Esau for a blessing. But this story is a good example of a young man raised in a Godly home but belongs to a family riddled with mistakes and bad choices.
God chose Jacob because He wanted to choose Jacob - not because of anything Jacob had done, good or bad.
Rebekah’s legacy is not a shiny, perfect one. But the Bible boldly records her story among the other men and women that are counted as worthy to be a part of Jesus’ backstory. Her bad decisions and parenting fails weren’t bad enough to stop her from leaving an incredible legacy. She raised two men, one of which would become Israel, father of the 12 tribes of God’s chosen people.
The Blessing Genesis 27
27 When Isaac had become an old man and was nearly blind, he called his eldest son, Esau, and said, “My son.”
2-4 “I’m an old man,” he said; “I might die any day now. Do me a favor: Get your quiver of arrows and your bow and go out in the country and hunt me some game. Then fix me a hearty meal, the kind that you know I like, and bring it to me to eat so that I can give you my personal blessing before I die.”
5-7 Rebekah was eavesdropping as Isaac spoke to his son Esau. As soon as Esau had gone off to the country to hunt game for his father, Rebekah spoke to her son Jacob. “I just overheard your father talking with your brother, Esau. He said, ‘Bring me some game and fix me a hearty meal so that I can eat and bless you with God’s blessing before I die.’
8-10 “Now, my son, listen to me. Do what I tell you. Go to the flock and get me two young goats. Pick the best; I’ll prepare them into a hearty meal, the kind that your father loves. Then you’ll take it to your father, he’ll eat and bless you before he dies.”
11-12 “But Mother,” Jacob said, “my brother Esau is a hairy man and I have smooth skin. What happens if my father touches me? He’ll think I’m playing games with him. I’ll bring down a curse on myself instead of a blessing.”
13 “If it comes to that,” said his mother, “I’ll take the curse on myself. Now, just do what I say. Go and get the goats.”
14 So he went and got them and brought them to his mother and she cooked a hearty meal, the kind his father loved so much.
15-17 Rebekah took the dress-up clothes of her older son Esau and put them on her younger son Jacob. She took the goatskins and covered his hands and the smooth nape of his neck. Then she placed the hearty meal she had fixed and fresh bread she’d baked into the hands of her son Jacob.
18 He went to his father and said, “My father!”
“Yes?” he said. “Which son are you?”
19 Jacob answered his father, “I’m your firstborn son Esau. I did what you told me. Come now; sit up and eat of my game so you can give me your personal blessing.”
20 Isaac said, “So soon? How did you get it so quickly?”
“Because your God cleared the way for me.”
21 Isaac said, “Come close, son; let me touch you—are you really my son Esau?”
22-23 So Jacob moved close to his father Isaac. Isaac felt him and said, “The voice is Jacob’s voice but the hands are the hands of Esau.” He didn’t recognize him because his hands were hairy, like his brother Esau’s.
23-24 But as he was about to bless him he pressed him, “You’re sure? You are my son Esau?”
“Yes. I am.”
25 Isaac said, “Bring the food so I can eat of my son’s game and give you my personal blessing.” Jacob brought it to him and he ate. He also brought him wine and he drank.
26 Then Isaac said, “Come close, son, and kiss me.”
27-29 He came close and kissed him and Isaac smelled the smell of his clothes. Finally, he blessed him,
27 May 2021
The widow of Zarephath
She lived in Zarephath. She held the jar of flour in her hand and glanced over at the oil. It was time to make his bread once again. For days now she had asked herself the question “who is this man?” But now she knew and the relief that she felt was unimaginable.
There had been a drought and times were hard. She made her usual journey to the town gates to gather sticks, fuel for her fire and for cooking. And that’s where he turned up.
His name was Elijah. He originally asked her for water but then he called over to her and asked for bread. She smiled at that point, “bread?” her supplies were low and she and her son were constantly hungry. She was so low she thought that they would both die of starvation. But Elijah reassured her “just do as I say,” he told her. And she did.
No matter how much bread she made that man and her son, the flour nor the oil never diminished. It was a miracle that played out before her eyes every single day and she never questioned it for her faith in Elijah was strong.
But then it became frightening. Her son became ill and through time he stopped breathing. Elijah was having none of it. She showed him where her son slept and Elijah lay down beside her son and actually cried out to God to bring her son back to life.
The Lord heard his cry, and her son's life returned to him, and he lived. Elijah picked up the child and carried him down from the room into the house. He gave him to her and said, “Look, your son is alive!”
Another miracle performed and the widow turned to Elijah and said “Now I know that you are a man of God and that the word of the Lord from your mouth is the truth.”
The widow of Zarephath showed remarkable faith with Elijah and didn’t question the fact that she seemed to have an endless supply of flour and oil to make his bread. Because of the confidence that she had in him and in his words she recognised the true value of God in her life. This is a very important point in today's church when we have a minister/pastor that talks with confidence in God's part in our lives. This gives us the same confidence to share the work and the word of God. Amen
Ist Kings 17
2-4 God then told Elijah, “Get out of here, and fast. Head east and hide out at the Kerith Ravine on the other side of the Jordan River. You can drink fresh water from the brook; I’ve ordered the ravens to feed you.”
5-6 Elijah obeyed God’s orders. He went and camped in the Kerith canyon on the other side of the Jordan. And sure enough, ravens brought him his meals, both breakfast and supper, and he drank from the brook.
7-9 Eventually the brook dried up because of the drought. Then God spoke to him: “Get up and go to Zarephath in Sidon and live there. I’ve instructed a woman who lives there, a widow, to feed you.”
10-11 So he got up and went to Zarephath. As he came to the entrance of the village he met a woman, a widow, gathering firewood. He asked her, “Please, would you bring me a little water in a jug? I need a drink.” As she went to get it, he called out, “And while you’re at it, would you bring me something to eat?”
12 She said, “I swear, as surely as your God lives, I don’t have so much as a biscuit. I have a handful of flour in a jar and a little oil in a bottle; you found me scratching together just enough firewood to make a last meal for my son and me. After we eat it, we’ll die.”
13-14 Elijah said to her, “Don’t worry about a thing. Go ahead and do what you’ve said. But first make a small biscuit for me and bring it back here. Then go ahead and make a meal from what’s left for you and your son. This is the word of the God of Israel: ‘The jar of flour will not run out and the bottle of oil will not become empty before God sends rain on the land and ends this drought.’”
15-16 And she went right off and did it, did just as Elijah asked. And it turned out as he said—daily food for her and her family. The jar of meal didn’t run out and the bottle of oil didn’t become empty: God’s promise fulfilled to the letter, exactly as Elijah had delivered it!
17 Later on the woman’s son became sick. The sickness took a turn for the worse—and then he stopped breathing.
18 The woman said to Elijah, “Why did you ever show up here in the first place—a holy man barging in, exposing my sins, and killing my son?”
19-20 Elijah said, “Hand me your son.”
He then took him from her bosom, carried him up to the loft where he was staying, and laid him on his bed. Then he prayed, “O God, my God, why have you brought this terrible thing on this widow who has opened her home to me? Why have you killed her son?”
21-23 Three times he stretched himself out full-length on the boy, praying with all his might, “God, my God, put breath back into this boy’s body!” God listened to Elijah’s prayer and put breath back into his body—he was alive! Elijah picked the boy up, carried him downstairs from the loft, and gave him to his mother. “Here’s your son,” said Elijah, “alive!”
24 The woman said to Elijah, “I see it all now—you are a holy man. When you speak, God speaks—a true word!”
26 May 2021
She lay in the sand beside the two dead bodies. Her executed sons. She had a point to make.
Seven in total had been executed, her two sons and the five grandsons of Saul’s daughter Merab. Seven lives obliterated because of the crimes of one-man - Saul.
They should have been buried by sunset but it became clear that wasn’t going to happen. Rizpah didn’t hide; she stayed. The only thing that she fought was the birds of prey by day and the jackals by night that tried to eat their bodies. She lived beside the bodies of her two sons from April to October until the rains came. It was a long seven months.
Were her sons even guilty of anything? Or were they killed simply because they were related to Saul. Sadly that bit was true.
The problem was Joshua had agreed to live in peace with the Gibeonites but Saul had murdered many of them in an attempt to annihilate them completely.
Because of Saul’s oath breaking a famine came for three years and in retribution the Gibeonites asked for seven bodies and David obliged, with all seven from the one family.
Rizpah was aware that there was always a link between sin and death but that didn’t move her from the execution site. She was giving meaning to their death showing everyone the evil of what had happened. But after all that time, news of Rizpah got to the ears of David.
David considered her actions, her loyalty and courage and ordered the remains of the bodies to be buried. Rizpah could leave them in peace.
Some say David's act may have signalled the end of division in the area but who knows. But because of her actions, Rizpah made the people literally look at the true cost of sin. Although she had no rights or power she had courage.
Rizpah means “hot stone or coal” and her name was true to her identity, she was fuel to the fire within her heart who stood by her boys even after death. The hardness that she harnessed helped her in her journey to prove her point and to prove her worth so much so she impressed David.
Rizpah's story in the old testament
7 The king spared Mephibosheth, son of Jonathan, the son of Saul, because of the oath before the Lord between David and Jonathan son of Saul. 8 But the king took Armoni and Mephibosheth, the two sons of Aiah’s daughter Rizpah, whom she had borne to Saul, together with the five sons of Saul’s daughter Merab,[a] whom she had borne to Adriel, son of Barzillai the Meholathite. 9 He handed them over to the Gibeonites, who killed them and exposed their bodies on a hill before the Lord. All seven of them fell together; they were put to death during the first days of the harvest, just as the barley harvest was beginning.
10 Rizpah daughter of Aiah took sackcloth and spread it out for herself on a rock. From the beginning of the harvest till the rain poured down from the heavens on the bodies, she did not let the birds touch them by day or the wild animals by night. 11 When David was told what Aiah’s daughter Rizpah, Saul’s concubine, had done, 12 he went and took the bones of Saul and his son Jonathan from the citizens of Jabesh Gilead. (They had stolen their bodies from the public square at Beth Shan, where the Philistines had hung them after they struck Saul down on Gilboa.) 13 David brought the bones of Saul and his son Jonathan from there, and the bones of those who had been killed and exposed were gathered up.
14 They buried the bones of Saul and his son Jonathan in the tomb of Saul’s father Kish, at Zela in Benjamin, and did everything the king commanded. After that, God answered prayer in behalf of the land.
25 May 2021
Outside the door of her home which was built into the walls of Jericho, havoc was being played out. People were being killed or beaten up badly. People running for their lives in case the soldiers caught them and did their worst.
Inside her home, she was completely safe as were all of her family sitting beside her. For some reason, she was not scared. She wasn’t a scared person usually and she lived a life of danger. Rahab was a prostitute and people looked upon her as a hard woman. So Joshua’s spies didn’t scare her. Neither did the King of Jericho who sent men to her house to ask what the spies wanted. She advised them well, she housed them and then sent them to the hills to hide for three days until the search for them had ended.
In her home that night she looked up to the roof space above her head and smiled. For that’s where she had hidden the men, the spies that came to see the city. She could tell them everything they needed to know and in return, they guaranteed her life and the lives of her family. A simple scarlet cord strapped to the window meant that the soldiers would pass the house ensuring the safety of all within.
Joshua was pleased that the men returned safely and marshalled his people across the Jordan. Although the river was high the army walked across on dry land, with no one pursuing them the Army of Israel was ready for battle.
That battle played outside the walls of Rahab's home. Everyone inside was safe. These warriors with their powerful God recognised the scarlet cord and ignored her. From her window Rahab watched seven priests carrying an ark led by thousands and thousands of troops on the march. For seven days this carried on and then the men circled the walls of Jericho seven times. A ram's horn was heard and the walls of Jericho split allowing the army of Israel in but still, Rahab was safe in her home built into the walls of Jericho. Her faith had saved her and her family from the dreadful treatment decreed for her city.
In Sodom Lot and his daughters were saved, in Jericho it was Rahab. But Rahab was different. She was singled out as part of the great “cloud of witnesses” mentioned in the book of Hebrew. Her own people destroyed and her family saved she left everything behind becoming an ancestor of King David and therefore one of Jesus' ancestors as well.
Her story shows us that God's grace knows no boundaries and the red cord that saved her represents the red blood shed for us by Jesus and the words of Isaiah “though your sins may be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow.” Rahab put her faith in the God of Israel and was not disappointed.
From Joshua Chapter 6 from verse 17
17 The city and all that is in it are to be devoted to the Lord. Only Rahab the prostitute and all who are with her in her house shall be spared, because she hid the spies we sent. 18 But keep away from the devoted things, so that you will not bring about your own destruction by taking any of them. Otherwise you will make the camp of Israel liable to destruction and bring trouble on it. 19 All the silver and gold and the articles of bronze and iron are sacred to the Lord and must go into his treasury.”
20 When the trumpets sounded, the army shouted, and at the sound of the trumpet, when the men gave a loud shout, the wall collapsed; so everyone charged straight in, and they took the city. 21 They devoted the city to the Lord and destroyed with the sword every living thing in it—men and women, young and old, cattle, sheep and donkeys.
24 May 2021
Jochebed (her name means The Lord is Glory)
The sounds offending her ears were horrific. Children crying, women screaming, soldiers shouting and then there was the silence. Silence until another child had been torn from its mother's arms and smothered by the soldiers.
Pharaoh had ordered the first born to be killed by the midwives but these women were strong, too strong for Pharaoh and they feared God. So the children lived, but only for a few extra days because the next order was for the soldiers to smother them.
Jochebed was a woman who belonged to the God of Abraham, she was faithful to God and as far as she was concerned God was faithful to her. She held her baby in her arms and along with her husband Amran they prayed to God. A God they trusted and because of that the ordinary became extraordinary.
Jochebed remembered how God had spared Isaac on the mountain of sacrifice so a child floating in a tar and pitch basket amongst the crocodiles of the Nile should be no problem. No sooner had the baby been put in the river when Pharaoh's daughter and her entourage rolled up and she saw the baby. All of this was witnessed by Jochebed's daughter Miriam who made sure the child’s real mother became its nursemaid.
So from Crocodiles to Pharaoh this child would need protection and two women preserved the life of Israel’s future deliverer and the Jewish race. The child was "pulled from the river" so they named him Moses.
Exodus 1 1-10
A man from the family of Levi married a Levite woman. The woman became pregnant and had a son. She saw there was something special about him and hid him. She hid him for three months. When she couldn’t hide him any longer she got a little basket-boat made of papyrus, waterproofed it with tar and pitch, and placed the child in it. Then she set it afloat in the reeds at the edge of the Nile.
4-6 The baby’s older sister found herself a vantage point a little way off and watched to see what would happen to him. Pharaoh’s daughter came down to the Nile to bathe; her maidens strolled on the bank. She saw the basket-boat floating in the reeds and sent her maid to get it. She opened it and saw the child—a baby crying! Her heart went out to him. She said, “This must be one of the Hebrew babies.”
7 Then his sister was before her: “Do you want me to go and get a nursing mother from the Hebrews so she can nurse the baby for you?”
8 Pharaoh’s daughter said, “Yes. Go.” The girl went and called the child’s mother.
9 Pharaoh’s daughter told her, “Take this baby and nurse him for me. I’ll pay you.” The woman took the child and nursed him.
10 After the child was weaned, she presented him to Pharaoh’s daughter who adopted him as her son. She named him Moses (Pulled-Out), saying, “I pulled him out of the water.”
23 May 2021
Abigail and the fool
She found herself marrying him. She must have thought at some point, “How did this happen? How did I get here?” She was marrying David, a giant amongst men. In fact he was the one who killed the giant. Goliath. But David was not her first husband
David was a neighbour and she (Abigail) was married to Nabal. Now Nabal was an idiot. A blockhead who boasted of everything but in reality he had nothing. No charm, no finesse and certainly no manners.
Now for all Nabals' faults, he was wealthy and when 10 of David’s men turned up looking for refreshments the last thing they expected was to be turned away with a flea in their ear. David was furious and the swords were cleaned ready for a battle.
Of course the battle never took place, a youngster alerted Abigail who immediately loaded up the carts with bread, wine and an assortment of foods and high tailed it to David and his men. Of course Nabal knew nothing of this intervention.
When Abigail met David on the road she fell at his feet and apologised for Nabal, (whose name by the way means “the fool”). David was intent on a war between the two men and promised to kill everything that stood in his way. But the soothing plea of Abigail changed his mind (as well as she took two hundred loaves of bread, two skins of wine, five sheep dressed out and ready for cooking, a bushel of roasted grain, a hundred raisin cakes, and two hundred fig cakes, and she had it all loaded on some donkeys) all of this helped pave the way for a happy David.
Of course Abigail chose her time carefully to tell that fool of a husband and the morning after a grand feast and along with a giant hangover she told Nabal what she had done. He was furious and ended up having a stroke. We are told in Petersons translation that “About ten days later God finished him off and he died.”
“When David heard that Nabal was dead he said, “Blessed be God who has stood up for me against Nabal’s insults, kept me from an evil act, and let Nabal’s evil boomerang back on him.”
After this David sent for Abigail to tell her he wanted her for his wife. She didn’t waste any time at all and got on her donkey with her five maids in attendance and went to become David’s wife.
So what was the point of Abigail's story? Well it showed that she was quick witted and wise. She was a resourceful woman who was able to act quickly and because of all of this she saved lives. She had a consistency about her and showed great generosity and all of this while she was married to Nabal the fool.
2-3 There was a certain man in Maon who carried on his business in the region of Carmel. He was very prosperous—three thousand sheep and a thousand goats, and it was sheep-shearing time in Carmel. The man’s name was Nabal (Fool), a Calebite, and his wife’s name was Abigail. The woman was intelligent and good-looking, the man brutish and mean.
4-8 David, out in the backcountry, heard that Nabal was shearing his sheep and sent ten of his young men off with these instructions: “Go to Carmel and approach Nabal. Greet him in my name, ‘Peace! Life and peace to you. Peace to your household, peace to everyone here! I heard that it’s sheep-shearing time. Here’s the point: When your shepherds were camped near us we didn’t take advantage of them. They didn’t lose a thing all the time they were with us in Carmel. Ask your young men—they’ll tell you. What I’m asking is that you be generous with my men—share the feast! Give whatever your heart tells you to your servants and to me, David your son.’”
9-11 David’s young men went and delivered his message word for word to Nabal. Nabal tore into them, “Who is this David? Who is this son of Jesse? The country is full of runaway servants these days. Do you think I’m going to take good bread and wine and meat freshly butchered for my sheepshearers and give it to men I’ve never laid eyes on? Who knows where they’ve come from?”
12-13 David’s men got out of there and went back and told David what he had said. David said, “Strap on your swords!” They all strapped on their swords, David and his men, and set out, four hundred of them. Two hundred stayed behind to guard the camp.
14-17 Meanwhile, one of the young shepherds told Abigail, Nabal’s wife, what had happened: “David sent messengers from the backcountry to salute our master, but he tore into them with insults. Yet these men treated us very well. They took nothing from us and didn’t take advantage of us all the time we were in the fields. They formed a wall around us, protecting us day and night all the time we were out tending the sheep. Do something quickly because big trouble is ahead for our master and all of us. Nobody can talk to him. He’s impossible—a real brute!”
18-19 Abigail flew into action. She took two hundred loaves of bread, two skins of wine, five sheep dressed out and ready for cooking, a bushel of roasted grain, a hundred raisin cakes, and two hundred fig cakes, and she had it all loaded on some donkeys. Then she said to her young servants, “Go ahead and pave the way for me. I’m right behind you.” But she said nothing to her husband Nabal.
20-22 As she was riding her donkey, descending into a ravine, David and his men were descending from the other end, so they met there on the road. David had just said, “That sure was a waste, guarding everything this man had out in the wild so that nothing he had was lost—and now he rewards me with insults. A real slap in the face! May God do his worst to me if Nabal and every cur in his misbegotten brood aren’t dead meat by morning!”
23-25 As soon as Abigail saw David, she got off her donkey and fell on her knees at his feet, her face to the ground in homage, saying, “My master, let me take the blame! Let me speak to you. Listen to what I have to say. Don’t dwell on what that brute Nabal did. He acts out the meaning of his name: Nabal, Fool. Foolishness oozes from him.
25-27 “I wasn’t there when the young men my master sent arrived. I didn’t see them. And now, my master, as God lives and as you live, God has kept you from this avenging murder—and may your enemies, all who seek my master’s harm, end up like Nabal! Now take this gift that I, your servant girl, have brought to my master, and give it to the young men who follow in the steps of my master.
28-29 “Forgive my presumption! But God is at work in my master, developing a rule solid and dependable. My master fights God’s battles! As long as you live no evil will stick to you.
If anyone stands in your way,
if anyone tries to get you out of the way,
Know this: Your God-honored life is tightly bound
in the bundle of God-protected life;
But the lives of your enemies will be hurled aside
as a stone is thrown from a sling.
30-31 “When God completes all the goodness he has promised my master and sets you up as prince over Israel, my master will not have this dead weight in his heart, the guilt of an avenging murder. And when God has worked things for good for my master, remember me.”
32-34 And David said, “Blessed be God, the God of Israel. He sent you to meet me! And blessed be your good sense! Bless you for keeping me from murder and taking charge of looking out for me. A close call! As God lives, the God of Israel who kept me from hurting you, if you had not come as quickly as you did, stopping me in my tracks, by morning there would have been nothing left of Nabal but dead meat.”
35 Then David accepted the gift she brought him and said, “Return home in peace. I’ve heard what you’ve said and I’ll do what you’ve asked.”
36-38 When Abigail got home she found Nabal presiding over a huge banquet. He was in high spirits—and very, very drunk. So she didn’t tell him anything of what she’d done until morning. But in the morning, after Nabal had sobered up, she told him the whole story. Right then and there he had a heart attack and fell into a coma. About ten days later God finished him off and he died.
39-40 When David heard that Nabal was dead he said, “Blessed be God who has stood up for me against Nabal’s insults, kept me from an evil act, and let Nabal’s evil boomerang back on him.”
Then David sent for Abigail to tell her that he wanted her for his wife. David’s servants went to Abigail at Carmel with the message, “David sent us to bring you to marry him.”
41 She got up, and then bowed down, face to the ground, saying, “I’m your servant, ready to do anything you want. I’ll even wash the feet of my master’s servants!”
42 Abigail didn’t linger. She got on her donkey and, with her five maids in attendance, went with the messengers to David and became his wife.
22 May 2021
Nose in the air? Flat on your face!
I can remember talking to someone about a meeting that I attended and had to make a small speech. After I made the speech I felt as though I had done OK and remarked to a friend that I hoped others at the meeting had liked it too. But what if they didn’t like it? I asked my friend? Don’t worry Alex you're not that important they will have forgotten about you by tea time.
Pride comes before a fall they say but this reading from Luke 18 reminds us that if our nose is in the air we can fall flat on our face.
From The Message translation
“Jesus told his next story to some who were complacently pleased with themselves over their moral performance and looked down their noses at the common people: “Two men went up to the Temple to pray, one a Pharisee, the other a tax man. The Pharisee posed and prayed like this: ‘Oh, God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, crooks, adulterers, or, heaven forbid, like this taxman. I fast twice a week and tithe on all my income.’
“Meanwhile the tax man, slumped in the shadows, his face in his hands, not daring to look up, said, ‘God, give mercy. Forgive me, a sinner.’”
Jesus commented, “This tax man, not the other, went home made right with God. If you walk around with your nose in the air, you’re going to end up flat on your face, but if you’re content to be simply yourself, you will become more than yourself.”
We are called to be true to ourselves and show our real colours. Honesty and humbleness are invaluable qualities that warm people to us for our truthfulness.
The story is for all of us but who do you identify with? We are loved not because we are good but because God is good. Our failings and our sins are not reasons or excuses for us to turn our back on him but to marvel at his loving grace and kindness.
Thought for the day is to pray that we can show our openness to others and to be true to ourselves. To love as God loves us and to forgive others as we receive his grace unconditionally without excuses.
21 May 2021
Psalm 121 The Message
1-2 I look up to the mountains;
does my strength come from mountains?
No, my strength comes from God,
who made heaven, and earth, and mountains.
3-4 He won’t let you stumble,
your Guardian God won’t fall asleep.
Not in your life! Israel’s
Guardian will never doze or sleep.
5-6 God’s your Guardian,
right at your side to protect you—
Shielding you from sunstroke,
sheltering you from moonstroke.
7-8 God guards you from every evil,
he guards your very life.
He guards you when you leave and when you return,
he guards you now, he guards you always.
There is a strange story that comes from the church of St Augustine and St Faith in London, where a cat decided to make a home for herself amongst the pews. This was in the summer of 1940 and The Rector called the cat Faith and made her his pet. Not long after Faith had a kitten and one night the Cat took its kitten down the basement of the Church where it was damp and dusty.
Well, the story goes that the rector took the kitten three times to the body of the kirk where it had a basket in the warmth but Faith the mother Cat, knew better and eventually the rector left the cats down in the basement where they were relatively safe.
One night in Late September not after this a bomb dropped on the church destroying it completely. Coming home to a pile of rubble the rector met some firemen carrying Faith and its kitten. They were found safe in the basement.
We all need protection and it's good that we should seek our protection from God.
Psalm 121 is a song of Ascent and might have been sung by the Levites at the temple in Jerusalem, there is another theory that it was sung by pilgrims on their way to Jerusalem. At the beginning of the pilgrimage, in the mountainous region of the Judean Hills, the pilgrim recognises that the Lord is the one who can give him the help he needs. The one who trusts in the Lord is certain that He will bring him protection day and night. Verses 7 and 8 of this psalm then becomes a blessing reminding us that God protects us from every evil, night and day, now and always
Our thought for the day is for God's protection on us and our loved ones. Protection too for our church especially in places of war and persecution. Protection for our own church and our own minister.
20 May 2021
Psalm 145 v8-13
God is all mercy and grace—
not quick to anger, is rich in love.
9 God is good to one and all;
everything he does is soaked through with grace.
10-11 Creation and creatures applaud you, God;
your holy people bless you.
They talk about the glories of your rule,
they exclaim over your splendour,
12 Letting the world know of your power for good,
the lavish splendour of your kingdom.
13 Your kingdom is a kingdom eternal;
you never get voted out of office.
God always does what he says,
and is gracious in everything he does.
Two weeks from today I hope to be getting ready to go on holiday to Elie. If I was to write down what I like about going to Elie the list would be as long as your arm but the one thing I look forward to the most is seeing the beaches. The sand dunes, the golden sand, the brave people that go in for a swim and of course the tide. Coming in and going out.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote a poem
The tide rises, the tide falls,
The twilight darkens, the curlew calls;
Along the sea-sands damp and brown
The traveller hastens toward the town,
And the tide rises, the tide falls.
Darkness settles on roofs and walls,
But the sea, the sea in the darkness calls;
The little waves, with their soft, white hands,
Efface the footprints in the sands,
And the tide rises, the tide falls.
The morning breaks; the steeds in their stalls
Stamp and neigh, as the hostler calls;
The day returns, but nevermore
Returns the traveller to the shore,
And the tide rises, the tide falls.
All of this reminds us that people come and go and changes frequently occur but as the tide rises and falls without fail, so the things of God are changeless and completely dependable.
Even the disappointed man who made footprints in the sand and could only see one set of footprints when he needed help the most
"Lord, you said once I decided to follow you,
You'd walk with me all the way.
But I noticed that during the saddest and most troublesome times of my life,
there was only one set of footprints.
I don't understand why, when I needed You the most, You would leave me."
He whispered, "My precious child, I love you and will never leave you
Never, ever, during your trials and testings.
When you saw only one set of footprints,
It was then that I carried you."
As night turns to day and the tide goes in and out He is there for us.
Hebrews 11 reminds us, “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him”.
19 May 2021
Thank God! Pray to him by name!
Tell everyone you meet what he has done!
Sing him songs, belt out hymns,
translate his wonders into music!
Honor his holy name with Hallelujahs,
you who seek God. Live a happy life!
Keep your eyes open for God, watch for his works;
be alert for signs of his presence.
Remember the world of wonders he has made,
his miracles, and the verdicts he’s rendered—
O seed of Abraham, his servant,
O child of Jacob, his chosen.
The Bible reminds us that we can praise God with many kinds of instruments with singing and dancing. Eugene Peterson in this translation of Psalm 105 hammers home that while we sing God songs we belt out the hymn.
I repeat this story often but the first time I heard the choir of hundreds singing Majesty at the Billy Graham Crusade in 1991 I could literally feel the wall of music hit me full force in the face. When I walked into Celtic park I remember thinking it was a heavenly choir because everything around me was “electric” as everyone stopped what they were doing as the choir belted out “Majesty! Kingdom Authority Flow from His throne Unto His own, His anthem raise ”
But did you know that singing isn’t an option in the scriptures it’s a command!
15-17 Let the peace of Christ keep you in tune with each other, in step with each other. None of this going off and doing your own thing. And cultivate thankfulness. Let the Word of Christ—the Message—have the run of the house. Give it plenty of room in your lives. Instruct and direct one another using good common sense. And sing, sing your hearts out to God! Let every detail in your lives—words, actions, whatever—be done in the name of the Master, Jesus, thanking God the Father every step of the way.
When you sing you also dig deep roots in the word “sing your hearts out to God!” and you build up others instructing and directing each other, sharing in the words and in the tunes can make a sad heart leap with joy. It can bring a hard heart to tears of forgiveness and grace.
Sometimes we think only of singing when we’re happy and times are good, but singing brings strength for the trials ahead. In Acts Paul and Silas are unjustly imprisoned for the sake of the Gospel, and what do they do while they’re in prison? Sing!
In the persecuted church a pastor reported in their blog
…When we were in prison we sang almost every day because Christ was alive in us…they put chains on our hands and feet. They chained us to add to our grief. Yet we discovered that chains are splendid musical instruments! When we clanged them together in rhythm, we could sing, ‘This is the day (clink, clank), this is the day (clink, clank), which the Lord has made (clink, clank), which the Lord has made (clink, clank).
Even in suffering, sing!
And after all of this if you still don’t believe me James 5v13
“Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise.”
Sometimes singing gives birth to joy and sometimes joy gives birth to singing. But persistently in scripture, joy, and singing are bound together. You can’t study one of those two biblical themes without encountering the other.
If you struggle for joy…sing! If you are joyful…sing! In God’s perfect design and understanding of the human condition, he has bound joy and singing together for his people.
And all the while you are glorifying God.
Sing “to God” and “to the Lord” because he is the object of our praise. Ephesians 5:19 says, “singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart.” It is to him and about him that we sing!
Tom Olsen, an American pastor tells us “Singing has such a unique way of bringing your heart, soul, mind, and strength together to focus entirely and completely on God. In an age of distraction, singing grabs the attention of all our senses and focuses us on God.”
So today? Focus Rejoice and Sing!
18 May 2021
There are certain things that we expect of people and one of the most important is that they treat each other fairly and to be just and fair in their dealings. Here are the words of one of the Old Testament Prophets talking about Power.
How can I stand up before God
and show proper respect to the high God?
Should I bring an armload of offerings
topped off with yearling calves?
Would God be impressed with thousands of rams,
with buckets and barrels of olive oil?
Would he be moved if I sacrificed my firstborn child,
my precious baby, to cancel my sin?
A despicable person in the annals of history was Judge Jeffreys. Out of court he was a drunk and a womaniser. A horrible man who loved nothing better than beating up someone for simply being a lower class. Inside the court he was worse.
He was known to shout and rant to witnesses and with his blazing eyes and rasping bellowing voice and the witnesses and the accused would give him the wrong answer and barbarous sentences would be handed out.
In one fell swoop, 292 people in Dorchester were sentenced to death or slavery, in Exeter, 243 and in Taunton, 233 were all hanged at his behest, including a party of school girls
Power can be a much needed thing but in the wrong hands it can be dangerous and even worse lethal. How can our power match with that of God? Power does not come in our ability to provide offerings and gifts. Our power does not come from money, land or the voice that we have.
The prophet Micah asks “How can I stand up before God
and show proper respect to the high God?”
Our power should be in the prayers that we say, in the scriptures that we read and in the fellowship that we share in God's name. Our power should be the God “in us” and the God that we “share” with our fellow men and women.
Our thought for today should be for those in Power in Governments. Governments in our own country as well as others. Especially where there is war. Palestine and Israel and the thousand even millions of displaced people. This is a perfect example sometimes of power in the wrong hands, the abuse and misuse of power. Let's pray today for all of those suffering under the abuse of power and the dangers of war. Amen
17 May 2021
1st Chronicles 22 5&6
5-6 David was thinking, “My son Solomon is too young to plan ahead for this. But the sanctuary that is to be built for God has to be the greatest, the talk of all the nations; so I’ll get the construction materials together.” That’s why David prepared this huge stockpile of building materials before he died. Then he called in Solomon his son and commanded him to build a sanctuary for the God of Israel.
Christopher Wren was commissioned to rebuild St Paul's Cathedral after the old cathedral was burned down in the great fire of London. It took 35 years for the last stone to be laid and Wren went on to build 5o other churches in the city of London. He died in 1723 at the age of 91 and was buried in the crypt of St Paul's. The words over his grave are translated as “Reader if you seek a monument, look about you.”
In this short passage some say David showed signs of being “the good parent” by making plans for the temple he was leaving his son to build while others say that a good parent would have prepared Solomon and his son for the task and not the materials required.
It’s not for me to say what makes a good parent as I don’t have children but for me, being raised in a good home environment did help. As a child, my parents were not Christians so I wonder if my childhood would have been so different if they were.
Christian writers say that being a good parent is more than taking care of material needs. Working to provide a good home, food, and clothes isn’t the most important point. It’s also more than just teaching children to “Do as I say!” What a parent actually does, speaks much louder than any words they might say. Being a good parent means being deeply committed to the Lord and clearly living out your life with Him daily in front of your kids. It means admitting your mistakes and asking your kids for forgiveness when you fail in front of them. It means not being a bigger-than-life hero but a real-life parent, who stumbles, falls and repents.
I think that our thought for the day should be as Christians what does make a good parent. David was correct in giving his kid a dream and a vision that was bigger than himself. I read today that “Good parents give their child a purpose in life that is bigger than getting married, having a nice home, and then retiring. Every child needs an opportunity to discover their own God-given talents and strengths. It is a parent’s job to help them try out various areas to see where they excel, and then find ways to help them grow in that area. But parents are not to live vicariously through or push their kids like some “little-league parents” do.”
During the 400-meter semi-final of the 1992 Summer Olympics, British runner Derek Redmond tore a hamstring and fell to the track. He struggled to his feet and began to hobble. His father ran from the stands to help him off the track, but the athlete refused to quit; he was determined to complete the race. He leaned on his father, and the two limped to the finish line together, amid deafening applause. “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Eph. 6:4).
16 May 2021
My last account
This is my last witness account of my walk with Jesus. He has now gone.
For me the crucifixion is too sad to talk about. After they laid him in the tomb, there was initially some confusion when Mary went the next day and found it empty. There was nothing other than the linen cloth he had been wrapped in and Mary began to weep. While she was there she saw two angels, then a stranger appeared and asked her why she was crying. She mistook him for a gardener but it became clear to Mary that this was Jesus risen from the dead. So he was alive!
Sometime later I found myself in an upper room where the disciples were told to gather. I was asked to supply them with food and drink but there was nothing happy about this event, in fact, there was a strange atmosphere hanging in the air.
Suddenly the atmosphere changed. It seemed as though all the dust in the room settled and there was a sweet perfume hanging in the air. Even the light changed and there he was standing in the middle of the room. Jesus
“Peace be with you,” he said. The closest of his followers seemed to move around him with a renewed purpose. Jesus told them just as his Father had sent him, he was sending them.
As usual, there was a problem with Thomas. He hadn’t been with the disciples initially and he didn’t believe that it was Jesus but who could blame him.
But Jesus appeared again (just for Thomas?) he focused his attention on Thomas. “Take your finger and examine my hands. Take your hand and stick it in my side. Don’t be unbelieving. Believe.” Thomas then believed and said, “My Master! My God!”
And so this is where my story ends. It was written sometime later that in that room Jesus took a deep breath and breathed into them saying “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive someone’s sins, they’re gone for good. If you don’t forgive sins, what are you going to do with them?”
So this would become the focus now for all his closest friends. Thomas got the assurance that he needed and that personal assurance is still available from Jesus even though he is no longer visible to us. I say that but I feel he is here, all around us. He was dead and then rose from the tomb, he was here and now he is gone but lives in all of us who want it to be.
Looking back there were lots of signs and wonders with Jesus that I did not personally witness but they have all been written down so that we might believe and have eternal life. What a saviour!
19-20 Later on that day, the disciples had gathered together, but, fearful of the Jews, had locked all the doors in the house. Jesus entered, stood among them, and said, “Peace to you.” Then he showed them his hands and side.
20-21 The disciples, seeing the Master with their own eyes, were awestruck. Jesus repeated his greeting: “Peace to you. Just as the Father sent me, I send you.”
22-23 Then he took a deep breath and breathed into them. “Receive the Holy Spirit,” he said. “If you forgive someone’s sins, they’re gone for good. If you don’t forgive sins, what are you going to do with them?”
24-25 But Thomas, sometimes called the Twin, one of the Twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. The other disciples told him, “We saw the Master.”
But he said, “Unless I see the nail holes in his hands, put my finger in the nail holes, and stick my hand in his side, I won’t believe it.”
26 Eight days later, his disciples were again in the room. This time Thomas was with them. Jesus came through the locked doors, stood among them, and said, “Peace to you.”
27 Then he focused his attention on Thomas. “Take your finger and examine my hands. Take your hand and stick it in my side. Don’t be unbelieving. Believe.”
28 Thomas said, “My Master! My God!”
29 Jesus said, “So, you believe because you’ve seen with your own eyes. Even better blessings are in store for those who believe without seeing.”
30-31 Jesus provided far more God-revealing signs than are written down in this book. These are written down so you will believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and in the act of believing, have real and eternal life in the way he personally revealed it.
15 May 2021
A lot of what happened next I was given second hand, but I witnessed enough to know that Jesus was at the end of his life. I stupidly expected him to do something and change the course of what was happening but that did not happen.
Barabbas was free and Jesus was condemned. They wasted no time after the sentence was given and marched Jesus off to be crucified. Jesus had been scourged earlier, a horrific punishment that Romans inflicted on criminals.
And then of course there was the cross. Jesus was expected to carry this large piece of timber all the way up a steep hill.
The guards must have started to get impatient at how slow Jesus was going, so they grabbed a man from the crowd called Simon of Cyrene. I heard he had travelled over two thousand kilometers to attend the festival of Passover and Pentecost, a journey that would have taken weeks, if not months, and here he is, completely unknowingly, helping the Son of God carry a cross.
They walk up the hill, each carrying their cross to Golgotha, a small hill meaning the Skull in Aramaic. Jesus is crucified among the criminals, one on His left and right. To the bystander walking by, Jesus was nothing more than a common thief or murderer.
It is in that moment when Jesus shows His great love and mercy, ‘Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.’ What amazing grace to show to those who had so viciously beaten, mocked and attacked Him. What amazing love to show to His executioners.
One of the criminals joined in on the mocking. He wanted to get out of his sentence, he wanted Jesus to come down and let them both go. The other thief was different. The conversation with him was simply astounding. He recognised the reverence that Jesus deserved.
‘Today you will be with me in paradise.’ The thief was saved from his sins and granted eternal life. That day, I believe he went to be with Christ in glory.
As I sit and ponder I think about three people.
Simon who carried his cross, who only wanted to share a Passover meal but became the one who helped Jesus on the way to his death.
The crowd. Baying for blood and the death of Jesus. Forgiven by Jesus while he hung in suffering.
The thief on the cross whose brief loyalty was rewarded by a place in the Kingdom of God with his new friend Jesus.
On this journey with Christ we all fall into varying categories, we all have served in one way or another but at the end of the day we all share in his amazing grace. Amen
Luke's version of the crucifixion as translated in The Message :
26-31 As they led him off, they made Simon, a man from Cyrene who happened to be coming in from the countryside, carry the cross behind Jesus. A huge crowd of people followed, along with women weeping and carrying on. At one point Jesus turned to the women and said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, don’t cry for me. Cry for yourselves and for your children. The time is coming when they’ll say, ‘Lucky the women who never conceived! Lucky the wombs that never gave birth! Lucky the breasts that never gave milk!’ Then they’ll start calling to the mountains, ‘Fall down on us!’ calling to the hills, ‘Cover us up!’ If people do these things to a live, green tree, can you imagine what they’ll do with deadwood?”
32 Two others, both criminals, were taken along with him for execution.
33 When they got to the place called Skull Hill, they crucified him, along with the criminals, one on his right, the other on his left.
34-35 Jesus prayed, “Father, forgive them; they don’t know what they’re doing.”
Dividing up his clothes, they threw dice for them. The people stood there staring at Jesus, and the ringleaders made faces, taunting, “He saved others. Let’s see him save himself! The Messiah of God—ha! The Chosen—ha!”
36-37 The soldiers also came up and poked fun at him, making a game of it. They toasted him with sour wine: “So you’re King of the Jews! Save yourself!”
38 Printed over him was a sign: this is the king of the jews.
39 One of the criminals hanging alongside cursed him: “Some Messiah you are! Save yourself! Save us!”
40-41 But the other one made him shut up: “Have you no fear of God? You’re getting the same as him. We deserve this, but not him—he did nothing to deserve this.”
42 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you enter your kingdom.”
43 He said, “Don’t worry, I will. Today you will join me in paradise.”
14 May 2021
It was the strangest of days. By the end of the meal everyone was bickering over what had been said. Everyone looked at each other with suspicion and regret.
My initial observation of Jesus was he was like a man full of raw emotion. He was sad but clearly was a man with a job to do.
Looking back at this meal some called it The Lord's Supper while others called it The Last Supper and others considered it a Passover meal but this was more. Yes there was ritual but it was not served cold, everything was done specifically and with love.
After the meal was over I was shocked by this latest revelation. There was so much to take in but there were clearly four things to consider.
First there was a promise. He said to them “It’s the last meal I’ll eat until we all eat it together in the kingdom of God.” So there it was they would all meet together in the Kingdom of God. He assured them and comforted them by assurance that they would see each other one day.
Secondly there was a reference to the past. The rituals of this meal go back years and years. The Passover lamb, the unleavened bread and the bitter herbs go way back to the exodus.
Thirdly there was purpose, After the supper he said “This cup is the new covenant written in my blood, blood poured out for you.” So this was a clear indication that what happened before was changing and there was a new covenant.
Finally there was pathos. Jesus who gave his life for everyone was about to be betrayed and he knew this, not only that, he knew who the person was. Unbelievably it would be one of the disciples. He was heard saying “Do you realize that the hand of the one who is betraying me is at this moment on this table? It’s true that the Son of Man is going down a path already marked out—no surprises there. But for the one who turns him in, turns traitor to the Son of Man, this is doomsday.”
23 They immediately became suspicious of each other and began quizzing one another, wondering who might be about to do this.
Then there was a certain kind of panic in what was said, the emotion still hung in the air and the words still reverberated around the room.
For three years Judas looked like the devoted follower now the devoted had the devil inside him. Those who knew the Son had clung to him and still did, but there was anticipation in the air for what was going to happen next.
Luke's version from the Message
3 They left, found everything just as he told them, and prepared the Passover meal.
14-16 When it was time, he sat down, all the apostles with him, and said, “You’ve no idea how much I have looked forward to eating this Passover meal with you before I enter my time of suffering. It’s the last one I’ll eat until we all eat it together in the kingdom of God.”
17-18 Taking the cup, he blessed it, then said, “Take this and pass it among you. As for me, I’ll not drink wine again until the kingdom of God arrives.”
19 Taking bread, he blessed it, broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, given for you. Eat it in my memory.”
20 He did the same with the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant written in my blood, blood poured out for you.
21-22 “Do you realize that the hand of the one who is betraying me is at this moment on this table? It’s true that the Son of Man is going down a path already marked out—no surprises there. But for the one who turns him in, turns traitor to the Son of Man, this is doomsday.”
23 They immediately became suspicious of each other and began quizzing one another, wondering who might be about to do this.
13 May 2021
12 May 2021
As I have said before, the stories that Jesus tells have many layers and many lessons. I could tell you what this story means and then another man could show you a different perspective and just as valid as my understanding.
Take this story about the man that had two sons. I immediately identify with the older son. All through the telling of this story there is a voice in my head shouting “this is my family he is talking about! Where am I in this story?” Then the punch line “son you are always with me”. Ha! That’s exactly what my father said to me but it didn’t wash with me. It was not good enough that members of my family were spending his money while I grafted away, helping him, pacifying him in their absence. I stomped off like a child.
Now the day after this happened in my own household I did notice how happy my father was, now that our family was reunited. This made me feel a bit better for my father that his brood were all back as one. He was an old man and however fragile my ego was, he deserved happier days than he was getting.
But when I think about the story that Jesus had to tell and when I think about the oldest son. My thoughts turned to the father and his actions.
He welcomed the prodigal son with open arms. It did not matter what he had done, how much he had spent and what he had wasted, his father set a place for him at the table. Who was the bigger person here? The father or the petulant older son?
I could imagine Jesus being the same as the father in his story. Always willing to forgive, willing to give an open welcome back into the fold. And just like the lost sheep, He is there for us. A beacon in the darkness, the shepherd's call to his flock. The determination to seek out what is lost and has now been found. What a man this is!
11 And he said, “There was a man who had two sons. 12 And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of property that is coming to me.’ And he divided his property between them. 13 Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took a journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in reckless living. 14 And when he had spent everything, a severe famine arose in that country, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed pigs. 16 And he was longing to be fed with the pods that the pigs ate, and no one gave him anything.
17 “But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father's hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger! 18 I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.”’ 20 And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. 21 And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’[b] 22 But the father said to his servants,[c] ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. 23 And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. 24 For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate.
25 “Now his older son was in the field, and as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 And he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant. 27 And he said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fattened calf, because he has received him back safe and sound.’ 28 But he was angry and refused to go in. His father came out and entreated him, 29 but he answered his father, ‘Look, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command, yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him!’ 31 And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. 32 It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.’”
11 May 2021
I am the most patient of men. Honestly I can wait for hours. I seem to do that a lot with the disciples. I help out sometimes looking for accommodation for them or places where they can get fed but in general all I do is wait. I wait and watch and listen.
Just the other day I heard him talking about “the master” and what we should be ready for :
35-38 “Keep your shirts on; keep the lights on! Be like house servants waiting for their master to come back from his honeymoon, awake and ready to open the door when he arrives and knocks. Lucky the servants whom the master finds on watch! He’ll put on an apron, sit them at the table, and serve them a meal, sharing his wedding feast with them. It doesn’t matter what time of the night he arrives; they’re awake—and so blessed!
39-40 “You know that if the house owner had known what night the burglar was coming, he wouldn’t have stayed out late and left the place unlocked. So don’t you be lazy and careless. Just when you don’t expect him, the Son of Man will show up.”
41 Peter said, “Master, are you telling this story just for us? Or is it for everybody?”
42-46 The Master said, “Let me ask you: Who is the dependable manager, full of common sense, that the master puts in charge of his staff to feed them well and on time? He is a blessed man if when the master shows up he’s doing his job. But if he says to himself, ‘The master is certainly taking his time,’ begins beating up on the servants and maids, throws parties for his friends, and gets drunk, the master will walk in when he least expects it, give him the thrashing of his life, and put him back in the kitchen peeling potatoes.
47-48 “The servant who knows what his master wants and ignores it, or insolently does whatever he pleases, will be thoroughly thrashed. But if he does a poor job through ignorance, he’ll get off with a slap on the hand. Great gifts mean great responsibilities; greater gifts, greater responsibilities!
Now when he talks about when the master “returns” that stirs up a lot of emotions within me. He is clearly talking about himself but where is he going? How long will he be gone for? Why does he have to go? What is going on with the Son of Man?
That's when I summon the calmness that comes from following this man. There is talk already about him being persecuted some say he will be killed while others talk about him being put to death like a common criminal but he will “rise on the third day.”
But what to do while we are waiting?. His main teaching was to be ready while you wait. Waiting for a master is not about wasting time while you wait, it's about being productive. To be a servant to a great master is a privilege and an honour. A good master cares and looks after his servant and in return the servant will do likewise. The message is keep your shirts on but more importantly mutual care brings mutual respect.
Of course I may say this is all common sense as in everything that Jesus talks about there is always a lesson to be learned.
So from keeping your shirts on to keep the lamps burning.
Nothing good comes from the dark, things go unseen, mishaps are commonplace. But the light lends us to love and to safety. There is a welcome in giving this light and it’s a focus for the one being guided towards you.
So shirts on, lights are on and ready and there is the expectation.
I heard the words. ”Great gifts mean great responsibilities; greater gifts, greater responsibilities.” And, to me, this means that while we are waiting albeit expectantly there is a promise. A promise of the greatest gift unimaginable and that is the return of the master. Because we are good servants and we are ready and willing, what more can we be rewarded other than the love and the respect of some of the greatest gifts and responsibilities that you can have.
The son of man will show up. Be ready. Be prepared. Believe.
10 May 2021
She avoided the few then mixed with the most.
Believe it or not I had met her before, such a shy woman, she never made eye contact and pulled her shawl over to hide her face.
As she walked around the town she gave other groups of women a wide berth and never seemed to socialise with them at the waterside where the clothes were washed. A beautiful woman with a sad face.
Then I saw her again just the other day. I could hardly believe the sight that was before me. She seemed to be running up to people either sharing some news or telling them something urgent. She was frantically moving amongst the crowds. This was a complete change from the woman I had previously observed. And another thing, the joy was flowing from her face.
Turns out she had gone up to the well, an odd thing to do as the sun was at its hottest but I believe she did this to avoid contact with the early morning women. Another thing was, she was a Samaritan woman and possibly not the most popular of faces around these parts.
When I heard that she had met Jesus up at the well, things began to make sense. I’m told that while she was drawing water, he asked her for some. This is the second time I have come across Jesus talking about the Samaritans. First there was the good man who crossed the road to attend to someone who had been robbed. Interestingly the Jewish passerby did just that. He passed by.
So here we have a Jewish man albeit Jesus, engaged in a conversation with a Samaritan woman. Who, by the way had five husbands.
But it's good to know that Jesus will love the least lovable of people and engages with the least likely characters. Someone told me that this meeting between the woman and Jesus was not a random meeting but planned by God. Planned to show us the mercy and the love that Jesus has for his people. Whoever and wherever they came from. Jesus gave her a reason to share the story of the living water found in Jesus and not the water at the bottom of the well.
Another life transformed by Jesus. A woman who avoided the few now mixed with the most and told them “come and see a man that told me everything that I did, could he be the Messiah?”
And not only that but because of her, the same people went to see and hear Jesus for themselves. They were able to confirm with her that this was in fact the Saviour.
John's story of the woman at the well
4 Now he had to go through Samaria. 5 So he came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph.6 Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about noon.
7 When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” 8 (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.)
9 The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.[a])
10 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”
11 “Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? 12 Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his livestock?”
13 Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again,14 but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
15 The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.”
16 He told her, “Go, call your husband and come back.”
17 “I have no husband,” she replied.
Jesus said to her, “You are right when you say you have no husband. 18 The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.”
19 “Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet. 20 Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.”
21 “Woman,” Jesus replied, “believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 22 You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. 24 God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.”
25 The woman said, “I know that Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.”
26 Then Jesus declared, “I, the one speaking to you—I am he.”
The Disciples Rejoin Jesus
27 Just then his disciples returned and were surprised to find him talking with a woman. But no one asked, “What do you want?” or “Why are you talking with her?”
28 Then, leaving her water jar, the woman went back to the town and said to the people, 29 “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Messiah?” 30 They came out of the town and made their way toward him.
31 Meanwhile his disciples urged him, “Rabbi, eat something.”
32 But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you know nothing about.”
33 Then his disciples said to each other, “Could someone have brought him food?”
34 “My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work. 35 Don’t you have a saying, ‘It’s still four months until harvest?' I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest.36 Even now the one who reaps draws a wage and harvests a crop for eternal life, so that the sower and the reaper may be glad together. 37 Thus the saying ‘One sows and another reaps’ is true. 38 I sent you to reap what you have not worked for. Others have done the hard work, and you have reaped the benefits of their labor.”
Many Samaritans Believe
39 Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I ever did.” 40 So when the Samaritans came to him, they urged him to stay with them, and he stayed two days. 41 And because of his words many more became believers.
42 They said to the woman, “We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Saviour of the world.”
09 May 2021
If you had the privilege of following Jesus it was sometimes difficult coping with all the wise words that he shared on a daily basis. Sometimes I would lie in the night and try to remember what he had said that day.
One day I heard him ask “What is the kingdom of God like? What shall I compare it to? It is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his garden. It grew and became a tree, and the birds perched in its branches.” Again he asked, “What shall I compare the kingdom of God to? It is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into about sixty pounds of flour until it worked all through the dough.”
I think I said before I had a brother who was a shepherd. My older brother was a bread maker. His pride and joy was the “shewbread” that came in smaller loaves that were always present on a specially dedicated table in the Temple. It was seen as an offering to God.
The women who helped my brother would take a small piece of dough and leave it out overnight in the open air. Hopefully if nobody stole it the dough would react with fungus spores that are naturally in the air and this became yeast (I am glad I listened to my brother).
Anyway there is a point to my ramblings. When I heard Jesus ask “What shall I compare the kingdom of God to? It is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into about sixty pounds of flour until it worked all through the dough.”
Some of us knew immediately what he meant while others looked at each other curiously”
You see the nature of yeast is that from the smallest microcosm it will grow and thrive. The yeast will change whenever it comes in contact with the dough and will spread through the dough relentlessly making it grow in size and purpose. All of this requires hard work and determination and it just doesn’t happen on its own. It takes strength and agility as well as concentration
All of this is done almost invisibly, the inner workings of the yeast are not visible to the human eye at first but given time you can see the growth and the change that becomes. The work has paid off and the effort is visible for all to see.
I gave myself a headache thinking about the yeast. It felt as though it was in my head and permeating all my thoughts. This is the work Of Jesus. Changing everything and everyone he came in contact with allowing them and their community to grow even from small beginnings
Luke’s version of this parable
The Parables of the Mustard Seed and the Yeast
18 Then Jesus asked, “What is the kingdom of God like? What shall I compare it to? 19 It is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his garden. It grew and became a tree, and the birds perched in its branches.”
20 Again he asked, “What shall I compare the kingdom of God to? 21 It is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into about sixty pounds[a] of flour until it worked all through the dough.”
08 May 2021
Did he walk out there?
They were trying to work it out. They were giving themselves a headache trying to figure out the chain of events. In what order did things happen. Had they missed something out?. What had he done?. Did he hide?. Did they hide him?. Was all of this a game of deception?.
I watched them in a huddle and I could overhear their theories. ”You must have been mistaken! You obviously miscounted them when they went off in the boat?. No! that could not have happened you cannot just walk out onto the sea “on” the water it's just not possible?"
But that’s exactly what happened. The disciples gathered at the edge of the lake. Jesus was definitely not there. I’m not sure if they were waiting for him but in the end they left without him. As I walked back up from the shore the sky darkened and the wind started. I looked back out to the lake and could see the rise and fall of their boat. I have never been so glad that I did not join them.
I heard later from one of the disciples that Jesus had joined them and had met them out on the water. They were terrified. It was night fall and it was dark. It wasn’t a boat approaching them it was a man and he was not supported by any kind of platform and he appeared to be walking. I heard Jesus had to reassure them it was him before they would let him on the boat to continue their journey.
This crowd of inquisitors seemed to have many agendas. Were they trying to second guess Jesus? Or were they challenging his abilities? Were they genuinely looking for him, to follow him, as many were now doing? But their reaction to finally finding him said it all “when did you get here?”
“You’ve come looking for me not because you saw God in my actions but because I fed you, filled your stomachs—and for free.
The crowds that followed were showing their true colours. Only interested in his miracles and not the teaching behind them. It appeared they were only interested in the temporary, the food that he provided for their bellies and not the food for their minds.
It dawned on me that Jesus was not a “side show” for entertainment purposes and neither was he a source of food for their mouths. His food was for the minds and for their future lives. His teaching has to become a lifestyle and not some kind of fad for the few but the manna for the many.
John 6 The Message
16-21 In the evening his disciples went down to the sea, got in the boat, and headed back across the water to Capernaum. It had grown quite dark and Jesus had not yet returned. A huge wind blew up, churning the sea. They were maybe three or four miles out when they saw Jesus walking on the sea, quite near the boat. They were scared senseless, but he reassured them, “It’s me. It’s all right. Don’t be afraid.” So they took him on board. In no time they reached land—the exact spot they were headed to.
22-24 The next day the crowd that was left behind realized that there had been only one boat, and that Jesus had not gotten into it with his disciples. They had seen them go off without him. By now boats from Tiberias had pulled up near where they had eaten the bread blessed by the Master. So when the crowd realized he was gone and wasn’t coming back, they piled into the Tiberias boats and headed for Capernaum, looking for Jesus.
25 When they found him back across the sea, they said, “Rabbi, when did you get here?”
26 Jesus answered, “You’ve come looking for me not because you saw God in my actions but because I fed you, filled your stomachs—and for free.
07 May 2021
Someone called me a “watcher”. I think that is because I walk with Jesus and his men and watch everything that they do. I seldom speak as I believe them all to be wise men and not interested in my opinion. Of course I watch Jesus discreetly and intently and would never dare to engage him in any kind of conversation.
So you may ask “why the silence?” Why do I say nothing? Well I think that’s because I am a changed man, Before I came across Jesus I had my opinions and my habits, my thoughts and beliefs but now that I have heard his words, watched his ways I have made myself empty.
BY that, I mean I have thrown out all my old ways making room for the new stuff. The things that Jesus says, his advice and his commands. I want to be more like him, make him proud of what I am becoming and use all the things I see and hear to be called a disciple.
Let me explain why I am saying all of this.
Just the other day I heard Jesus talking to his disciples and giving them advice. Actually it was more than that, it was more like life skills. All about loving your neighbour and counting your blessings. But the next bit of his advice struck me. He said :
“Don’t pick on people, jump on their failures, criticize their faults—unless, of course, you want the same treatment. Don’t condemn those who are down; that hardness can come back to you. Be easy on people; you’ll find life a lot easier. Give away your life; you’ll find life given back, but not merely given back—given back with bonus and blessing. Giving, not getting, is the way. Generosity begets generosity.”
He quoted a proverb: “‘Can a blind man guide a blind man?’ Wouldn’t they both end up in the ditch? An apprentice doesn’t lecture the master. The point is to be careful who you follow as your teacher.
" Be careful who you follow as your teacher"
Now the word that came to me when I heard these words is “measure”. How can God measure us as people if we cannot measure up to the people we meet day in day out. If we treat people the way we believe that they deserve? How would we feel if God treats us the same way? But of course we have this thing now that Jesus talks about and that is “grace”. Because of God's grace we are free from the guilt and the anguish caused by our actions. So “we” should be the same to other people, our friends, our neighbours those we come up against. Show them grace and forgiveness.
“If you treat people based on what Christ deserves, then you are saying you want God to treat you based upon what Christ deserves. If you really have grace, it will flow out of you. If no grace is flowing out of you in your relationships with other people, it means there is no grace in you.”
You know........ they might call me “the watcher” but I would prefer the “the grace full watcher.”
37 “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. 38 Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”
39 He also told them this parable: “Can the blind lead the blind? Will they not both fall into a pit? 40 The student is not above the teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like their teacher.
41 “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? 42 How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when you yourself fail to see the plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.
06 May 2021
Blinded since birth
I knew a man once, in our village and he was blind since birth. This man sat at his door every day and with a wooden rod and made the most beautiful shawls for anyone who would buy them. Blind from birth but with an amazing gift.
But there was a sadness there, not because the man was blind but the question that hung over his head “what had his mother done to deserve such a disabled child? Had the family been robbers? Was it to do with money? Why was this child born with no sight? Of course this was a common question amongst the blind, the lame and those possessed with demons. It was always someone's fault.
While out walking with Jesus we met one such man. Blind from birth. And of course someone had to ask Jesus “who had sinned to cause this blindness the man or his parents?”
I can tell that no one expected the reply that came from Jesus. In my opinion what he was more or less saying was that the man was blind so that the work of Jesus could be demonstrated “in the man”. Jesus talked of a different darkness not caused by natural blindness but a darkness that fell when people chose to walk free from God. This kind of darkness was just as life changing, causing blindness to what was going on in the world. But this darkness could be reversed by “the light”. Jesus then said “while I am in the world I am the light of the world.”
Jesus then spits on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man’s eyes. “Go,” he told him, “wash in the Pool of Siloam” (this word means “Sent”). So the man went and washed, and came home seeing.
Of course there were the grumblings of the few. “Who did this? How did he do it? Someone even tested the man? where is this Jesus?” The man said “I don’t know” (of course he would not know which one of the group was Jesus the man was blind !).
Two things I thought of when I witnessed this incident. The first was this. When Jesus “cures” people of their ills, just like everyone is different then every cure is different. Sometimes he doesn’t need to touch them other times he does.
The second thing I thought of is this. Somewhere , sometime ago, someone talked of the “Promised one healing the blindness” I believe it was Isaiah. This changes everything. This means that Jesus is the promised one. Promised as in “the one who we are expecting.” So even all those years ago the wisest of men were talking about Jesus.
John's version of this story
As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. 2 His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”
3 “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him. 4 As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. 5 While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”
6 After saying this, he spit on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man’s eyes. 7 “Go,” he told him, “wash in the Pool of Siloam” (this word means “Sent”). So the man went and washed, and came home seeing.
8 His neighbours and those who had formerly seen him begging asked, “Isn’t this the same man who used to sit and beg?” 9 Some claimed that he was.
Others said, “No, he only looks like him.”
But he himself insisted, “I am the man.”
10 “How then were your eyes opened?” they asked.
11 He replied, “The man they call Jesus made some mud and put it on my eyes. He told me to go to Siloam and wash. So I went and washed, and then I could see.”
12 “Where is this man?” they asked him.
“I don’t know,” he said.
05 May 2021
Forgive me if I have given you the impression that Jesus is all about smiles, calmness and rewards but you know there has to be another side to all of this surely.
Just the other day while sitting down by the sea I heard him say that this kingdom of heaven was like a net dragged out of the water full of fish. There are good fish and bad. The good fish they keep and the bad fish are discarded.
Jesus told us what it will be like in the final days. The wicked will be separated from the righteous. The righteous will be saved while the wicked will be destroyed. I heard he used the words “weeping and gnashing of teeth.” Perhaps that was the reaction of those who thought they should have been treated better, perhaps they thought that they should not have been judged so harshly.
You see this is the danger that we are in. We tend to judge each other harshly but when we judge ourselves more often than not, we can find an excuse for our behaviour and justify why we do what we do.
But Jesus teaches us that there is no hiding and there are no excuses. Maybe the “old brigade” those who came before Jesus have the right attitude but there will be a lot of the old brigade who still believe that it's all down to possessions and processions. Some think It’s not necessarily what you do but it's what you have. But that gets you nowhere.
Jesus said “Therefore every teacher of the law who has become a disciple in the kingdom of heaven is like the owner of a house who brings out of his storeroom new treasures as well as old.”
I can see that every group of followers will have a mixed bunch, some young and some old. Some new thinkers and some old thinkers. Some good and some bad. It really doesn’t matter what label you give yourself or what label we give to each other only Jesus can see our hearts and that’s what matters
47 “Once again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was let down into the lake and caught all kinds of fish. 48 When it was full, the fishermen pulled it up on the shore. Then they sat down and collected the good fish in baskets, but threw the bad away. 49 This is how it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come and separate the wicked from the righteous50 and throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
51 “Have you understood all these things?” Jesus asked.
“Yes,” they replied.
52 He said to them, “Therefore every teacher of the law who has become a disciple in the kingdom of heaven is like the owner of a house who brings out of his storeroom new treasures as well as old.”
04 May 2021
A witness account
I think I have said before about the calming nature of Jesus. Whenever I see him, whenever I think about the places he has been and the things he has said, a calmness falls over me.
The other day I saw the disciples standing on the shoreline and they were frantic. They all looked disheveled and some of them looked quite emotional. They had been out on a boat with Jesus.
“I told you we should never have gone out! “ one of them said,
“you could tell the weather was going to take a turn” another piped up,
“madness, I tell you, sheer madness. Did you see the size of those waves? They were bigger than the boat!”
“But Jesus was there! Sitting on the boat we were ok?”
“really? He was asleep! I was thinking I was going to die and he slept on.”
I heard later that someone shook him from his slumbers and he was annoyed. He accused them of having little faith in him and was surprised by their hysteria.
“He actually spoke to the wind!” I was told “he told the waves to die down and they did and the storm that they were making so much fuss about disappeared.”
Standing on the beach all they could talk about was of course Jesus. The man that even the wind and the waves obeyed.
Did you know my father and his brothers were fishermen? My father told me that your boat was only as good as three things. Your sail, your anchor, and your tiller.
One keeps you safe while you are sitting in the port. One helps you guide your vessel where you would like to be and the sail gives you speed and purpose as you travel. My father would then say out loud “I am the master of this vessel!”
As I looked at the disciples it dawned on me that they were still getting to know Jesus. They were not aware sometimes who was in their midst and they did not know how far to trust him as far as keeping out of danger.
As I saw Jesus sitting on a rock with the words of my own father ringing in my ear “one keeps you safe, while the other helps you guide and the other gives you purpose”. In this one man Jesus I saw all three things. An anchor, a sail and a tiller. Keeping us safe, giving us direction and purpose.
He calms any storm.
Matthew 8 v 23
Jesus Calms the Storm
23 Then he got into the boat and his disciples followed him. 24 Suddenly a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. 25 The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!”
26 He replied, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm.
27 The men were amazed and asked, “What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!”
03 May 2021
The Shepherd and the lost sheep.
My brother Is a shepherd and I have not seen him in years.
Being a shepherd is a strange occupation and being a successful shepherd takes a very special person. For a start he is very anti-social, he likes to be alone a lot so that makes his job as a shepherd easier.
He is a big man and that makes protecting his flock less of a problem. He eats whatever meat he finds out in the wilderness and makes his own cheese from the sheep's milk. I have not seen him for years but the last time I saw him I saw that his eyes took everything in always scanning the horizon behind me. He was a good shepherd indeed.
Of course I am telling you this to back up what Jesus told us about the “one sheep that wanders away”. Of course a good shepherd would make that missing sheep his priority and once found he would be elated that his responsibilities were intact. All of his sheep survive his care.
Sitting here thinking about what Jesus said makes me consider two things.
The first thing is, I have heard people call Jesus “the lamb”. A lamb is truly a sign of gentleness, innocence and purity. I heard a wise rabbi say that a lamb also symbolises meekness. Now I have to say that just like the “multi layered” speeches of Jesus, his character is just the same. Many layers and many characteristics and he obviously shares those of the lamb.
Secondly, I listened to some wise men talking of the story of the lost sheep and they believed that the lost sheep was just like a follower of Jesus. He was the shepherd looking after his flock and if one of us decided to go our own way, he would always look out for us and welcome us back just like the shepherd who lost his sheep.
Now while all of this is good news there is one thing at the back of my mind.
In the temple an unblemished lamb was sacrificed to commemorate the eve of the Exodus and I am remembering too that it was the blood of the lamb that was daubed on all the doorposts of the homes of the faithful Israelites and certainly prevented their death.
Again all of this underpins the point I was making that everything that Jesus says or Jesus does comes to us in many levels. No word seems wasted and all his actions seem purposeful and necessary. No matter how big the issue was he was prepared to care for it and no matter how small the problem was even the tiniest lamb he would go out of his way to love it. This man, this good Shepherd would change lives and seek out many lambs in his lifetime and in the generations to come. I am so glad that I am part of his flock and like the good shepherd that he is always looking out for me. Being part of the flock is integral to my life and it's reassuring to know that we all look out for each other.
Here is Matthew's version of the lost sheep -
10 “See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven. 
12 “What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off? 13 And if he finds it, truly I tell you, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off. 14 In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should perish.
02 May 2021
I think that Jesus was sad. The disciples had come to him and told him that John was dead. He had been beheaded on the whim of Herodias’s daughter and Herod had ordered his death.
I think he wanted to get away but the crowds just followed on. When I said he might have been sad, it really was business as usual as he stopped and healed those brought to him who were sick. All of this took place a fair distance from any town. The disciples worried and suggested sending everybody into the villages for food, but Jesus said “they don’t need to go away, you give them something to eat”.
Something was said about some loaves and fishes but that would hardly feed Jesus and his friends let alone the gathering crowd. There were thousands of people now and what happened next was nothing short of a miracle.
Jesus picked up some fish and bread and raised them into the sky. He then broke the bread and 12 baskets began to be passed round the crowd.
Instead of someone shouting ”that’s it! It's all gone!” the baskets seemed to be passed from person to person and everyone was fed quite adequately. I was astounded when the 12 baskets came back after a few hours with food in them.
As I sat and watched all the people eating I thought to myself that this man showed compassion when it was needed the most. It was no ordinary compassion; it was extraordinary but as well as that, it was a familiar compassion recorded way back in the time of Isaiah. Then there was Old Testament prophetic promise :
In Jerusalem, the LORD of Heaven’s Armies
will spread a wonderful feast
for all the people of the world.
It will be a delicious banquet
with clear, well-aged wine and choice meat.
There he will remove the cloud of gloom,
the shadow of death that hangs over the earth.
He will swallow up death forever!
The Sovereign LORD will wipe away all tears.
Yes, the Sovereign LORD is coming in power.
He will rule with a powerful arm.
See, he brings his reward with him as he comes.
He will feed his flock like a shepherd.
He will carry the lambs in his arms,
holding them close to his heart.
There are two things I want to share with you about this incident. The first is the idea that this was all “trickery” that there was no miracle because there was no food for all and it was just plain hysteria. Well my friend if you believe that, I will pray for you. If you think that following this Jesus was all about mind games and feeling good then you are wrong. This man is life changing. I write his words down and read them over and over again and the strength he gives me makes me feel like David facing Goliath. I walk this road differently now and I feel pride in being a follower of him.
The second thing I would like to say is this. Someone in the crowd said -
“This is the Prophet that has come into this world” while another said ”this must be the Messiah''. On hearing this, and thinking of everything that I have seen and heard? All of this is changing me.
It is making me a better person and stronger and it's not just a thing going on in my head. This is something so strong it cannot be measured, it is so meaningful that all the libraries in this land cannot contain his wisdom. My love for him is deeper than any chasm still to be explored by a man.
Jesus truly is the way.
John's version of the story
Some time after this, Jesus crossed to the far shore of the Sea of Galilee (that is, the Sea of Tiberias), 2 and a great crowd of people followed him because they saw the signs he had performed by healing the sick. 3 Then Jesus went up on a mountainside and sat down with his disciples. 4 The Jewish Passover Festival was near.
5 When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming toward him, he said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?” 6 He asked this only to test him, for he already had in mind what he was going to do.
7 Philip answered him, “It would take more than half a year’s wages[a] to buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!”
8 Another of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, spoke up, 9 “Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?”
10 Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” There was plenty of grass in that place, and they sat down (about five thousand men were there). 11 Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted. He did the same with the fish.
12 When they had all had enough to eat, he said to his disciples, “Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted.” 13 So they gathered them and filled twelve baskets with the pieces of the five barley loaves left over by those who had eaten.
14 After the people saw the sign Jesus performed, they began to say, “Surely this is the Prophet who is to come into the world.” 15 Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself.
01 May 2021
Can there be a good Samaritan?
I’ve come to the conclusion that when you are listening to a story about what Jesus did or what Jesus said, the best thing to do is to go away and think about it. Jesus “talks in layers” and by that I mean there are many meanings wrapped around what he is trying to tell us.
Take this story people are calling “the good Samaritan”. Now don’t take this the wrong way but if you were to ask most Jews about the Samaritans, they would probably say “there is no such thing as a good Samaritan". And yet here we have Jesus telling us a story about a Samaritan that not only crosses the road to help but gives money from their own pocket to assist in the poor soul's recovery.
Out of the three people who passed the robbery victim it is only the Samaritan that helps. Jesus raises the question “who do you think is the good neighbour to the man?” An expert in law shouts out ”the one who had mercy!” The response from Jesus was to go and do the same.
So in fact what Jesus was saying was in order to get a glimpse of this thing called “eternal life” we had to show willingness, compassion and love to even those we hate and despise.
So I sat down on a rock and thought about the person I despised the most. Could I show them love? Could I give them some kind of compassion in order to change them? Because I know they will never change!
But I can. Jesus talks about love as something that is not only easy but essential. And along with this love there has to be action. It's not up to us to wait for people to change. We must show change and make it look easy. Then the despised will no longer be despised, the enemy could turn out to be a friend and the stranger could easily be a neighbour no matter how far they are from you.
So if somehow, you are reading this. Have a think about someone who is a problem to you. Don’t even consider them changing but think about how you can change and show them that the change in you is a good thing. The Samaritan turned out to be good and so can anyone for that matter.
Here is how Luke tells the story of the Samaritan.
25 On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
26 “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”
28 “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”
29 But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbour?”
30 In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. 31 A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. 32 So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he travelled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. 34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two denarii[e] and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’
36 “Which of these three do you think was a neighbour to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”
37 The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”
Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”
30 April 2021
I have been too busy telling you about Jesus and have forgotten to introduce myself.
My name is Abiel. It's an old name that can be traced back to my forefathers to the time of Saul. In fact, I am called after the grandfather of Saul from all these years ago. Long before Jesus was born. My own father told me that my name means, “God is my father” and I am probably related to Saul himself.
Do you know there is an expression around these parts, “seeing is believing,” but I think they have it all wrong. I think the expression should be, “believe it and then see”. This appears to be what this Jesus is all about. He wants people to believe first for if you believe, then you will see.
Let me give you an example.
I followed Jesus and his crowd to Cana and no sooner had we arrived when a nobleman came up and literally begged Jesus to come and heal this son. Now this nobleman must have had a modicum of belief in Jesus’ powers to heal his son as we heard the boy was close to death. But no the nobleman insisted that Jesus would help.
Jesus said to the crowd that had gathered, “unless you see signs and wonders you will never believe”. Now I think there was a hint of disappointment in Jesus when he said that but at the same time, the confident air that he had about him did not go away.
The nobleman was impatient, “hurry up or he will die,” but Jesus confidently said “go, your son will live” and the nobleman departed.
I am told that the boy got better and a servant confirmed that it was first thing in the afternoon his fever left him. The nobleman realised that this was the exact time that Jesus said the boy would live. I wonder how the nobleman felt? Relief? Honoured? Happy?
Now when I said earlier, “believe and then see”, you have to hand it to the nobleman because he believed that Jesus could help his son. More than that when Jesus said “Go” my reaction would have been “what do you mean just go? You must come with me if my son stands a chance!”. But the nobleman believed that Jesus was sending him back to a fully alive son.
This is what is happening now with Jesus. People were believing in his actions and his ability to do wonders. People also believed in his words. He told the nobleman “go” and he did. But most importantly people were having faith in Jesus himself. He was different, he was a good and godly man. I think it is a good choice to follow Jesus and to believe in his healing powers. The lesson I have learned from this incident truly is not “see it and believe it” but “believe and then see!”
The story told from John's point of view John 4 starting at verse 46
46 Once more he visited Cana in Galilee, where he had turned the water into wine. And there was a certain royal official whose son lay sick at Capernaum. 47 When this man heard that Jesus had arrived in Galilee from Judea, he went to him and begged him to come and heal his son, who was close to death.
48 “Unless you people see signs and wonders,” Jesus told him, “you will never believe.”
49 The royal official said, “Sir, come down before my child dies.”
50 “Go,” Jesus replied, “your son will live.”
The man took Jesus at his word and departed. 51 While he was still on the way, his servants met him with the news that his boy was living. 52 When he inquired as to the time when his son got better, they said to him, “Yesterday, at one in the afternoon, the fever left him.”
53 Then the father realized that this was the exact time at which Jesus had said to him, “Your son will live.” So he and his whole household believed.
54 This was the second sign Jesus performed after coming from Judea to Galilee.
29 April 2021
Jesus and every kind of people
The crowds had been gathering all day, it was getting busier and busier. They were waiting for Jesus to come out of the house, they had heard that he had spent the night there. If he didn’t come out soon he would not be able to make his way anywhere such was the mob that was forming.
The door opened and immediately the crowds stopped talking. They seemed to clear a path for him so I followed him and his friends. At first I thought he was going fishing as he stepped into the boat but he was only finding some space to talk to the crowd who gathered in anticipation as to what might happen next. He turned to the crowd and the silence was instant.
Jesus then told one of his stories. This one was all about planting seed. It seemed like common sense really telling us that if the seed falls on spoiled land it would not grow but if it landed on good soil it would grow tall and freely. I realised immediately he was talking about people being seeds, given the right conditions they will be fruitful, but then I began to overthink and realised that his story had lots of layers to it and you can go on thinking for a long time about what he had to say. This Jesus was a wise man, in telling these “parables” he was appealing to every kind of person and he wasn’t afraid to talk about the old prophets.
I heard him say to one of his followers “That’s why I tell stories: to create readiness, to nudge the people toward a welcome awakening. In their present state they can stare till doomsday and not see it, listen till they’re blue in the face and not get it. I don’t want Isaiah’s forecast repeated all over again:
Your ears are open but you don’t hear a thing.
Your eyes are awake but you don’t see a thing.
The people are stupid!
They stick their fingers in their ears
so they won’t have to listen;
They screw their eyes shut
so they won’t have to look,
so they won’t have to deal with me face-to-face
and let me heal them.
I like this man called Jesus, if you listen carefully to him you can learn a lot. His story about the seeds stayed with me for a while and I came to the conclusion that I am one of his seeds. I am a strong seed as I have always walked beside wise men. Their guidance has made me strong but it occurs to me that Jesus is not just a wise man. He is different and I hope to learn a lot from him. He told his followers they were blessed because they could see and that they could hear, but again I felt that what he meant went much deeper than our normal hearing and seeing. I love the parables, I learn a lot from them and they make me think.
Matthew's version of the story. Matthew 13
That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat by the lake. 2 Such large crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat in it, while all the people stood on the shore. 3 Then he told them many things in parables, saying: “A farmer went out to sow his seed. 4 As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. 5 Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly because the soil was shallow. 6 But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. 7 Other seeds fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. 8 Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. 9 Whoever has ears, let them hear.”
10 The disciples came to him and asked, “Why do you speak to the people in parables?”
11 He replied, “Because the knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them. 12 Whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them. 13 This is why I speak to them in parables:
“Though seeing, they do not see;
though hearing, they do not hear or understand.
14 In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah:
“‘You will be ever hearing but never understanding;
you will be ever seeing but never perceiving.
15 For this people’s heart has become calloused;
they hardly hear with their ears,
and they have closed their eyes.
Otherwise they might see with their eyes,
hear with their ears,
understand with their hearts
and turn, and I would heal them.’[a]
16 But blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear. 17 For truly I tell you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.
28 April 2021
Everybody loves a wedding. The people that are being married want everything to go well without a hitch and preferably without controversy. This wedding could have been a disaster. One of the guests, Mary, caught my eye, was running around in a panic. The rumour was they had run out of wine. Now that was odd enough but to see Mary involve her son, Jesus was a mystery, what could he do and who was he?.
This young man called Jesus only two days before had begun gathering a group of men around him. One was called Philip and then there was Nathanael, Simon Peter and Andrew. I was told by a friend that Nathanael was telling people that we would see great things from this man Jesus.
But back to the wedding.
I heard Jesus say something about “my hour has not yet come,” but what did that mean? No sooner had he said this when Mary tells the others “do whatever he tells you.”
Now when I said this was odd, things got even more strange. Six stone jars were filled with water. The jars were huge and took a long time to fill. But when I think about it every jar was filled with water and when I think about the amount of water needed, the time seemed to pass very quickly. All of this had an air of strangeness around it.
Jesus was clearly in charge and said, “now serve some to the person in charge of the banquet.”
Now, you will have heard by now what happened and Jesus turned the water into wine but let's just have a think about it. He didn’t throw in some red sand and pass it off as cheap wine. This stuff was good, in fact, it was the best wine we all had tasted. And as I sat there drinking it I began to think about all the elements that make good wine. The best grapes for a start with some added sugars and all the other elements that are available at the market that the winemakers use. I know a man who makes wine and he is always going on about fermentation. Apparently the longer the fermentation the better and adding the sugar just at the right time makes a really good wine the best.
The guy sitting beside me at the wedding even commented that the wine tasted “aged”. I think he saw my blank look and when I said what does that mean? He looked at me with a twinkle in his eye and said, “That means this wine is a miracle my boy. That’s what that is.”
He smiled and lifted the goblet to his lips to taste more of the miracle.
During the wedding I was watching people. These friends of Jesus were all sizes and all ages and they seemed to be deep in conversation over what had just taken place. The family holding the wedding were being praised for the ”best wine ever served at a wedding.” I overheard one of Jesus’s crowd say “Turning that water into wine was a transformation” another responded, “they say he has already transformed the lives of some people never mind the wine.”
“We will have to keep an eye on this Jesus.” When he said this I looked over at Jesus, there was something about him. The calmness and the reverence seemed to emanate from his body. His mother Mary looked on proudly. And just at that moment, I was reminded of Moses and Aaron. It is recorded that they turned the waters of the Nile blood red. I could sit all night and tell you tales of Moses but I know nothing of this man Jesus.
It was at that moment I thought I’m going to keep an eye on this young man. He seems to be special.
Johns version of the wedding
On the third day, a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there, 2 and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. 3 When the wine was gone, Jesus’ mother said to him, “They have no more wine.”
4 “Woman, why do you involve me?” Jesus replied. “My hour has not yet come.”
5 His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”
6 Nearby stood six stone water jars, the kind used by the Jews for ceremonial washing, each holding from twenty to thirty gallons.[b]
7 Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water”; so they filled them to the brim.
8 Then he told them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet.”
They did so, 9 and the master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine. He did not realize where it had come from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew. Then he called the bridegroom aside 10 and said, “Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now.”
11 What Jesus did here in Cana of Galilee was the first of the signs through which he revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.
27 April 2021
As we close the door on James for now I hope that you gleaned something from the past week. For me James talks about “the man in the mirror”. Who do you see when you look in a mirror? Is it a good Christian looking back?
More than any other book in the New Testament, James places the spotlight on the necessity for believers to act in accordance with our faith. It asks us the question “how well do your actions mirror the faith that you proclaim?”
We read in James 2 v26 (The Message)
The very moment you separate body and spirit, you end up with a corpse. Separate faith and works and you get the same thing: a corpse.
We all need that more faith these days.
An interesting wee story about faith :
As a drought continued for what seemed an eternity, a small community of farmers was in a quandary as to what to do. Rain was important to keep their crops healthy and sustain the townspeople's way of life. As the problem became more acute, a local pastor called a prayer meeting to ask for rain.
Many people arrived at the church to pray for the needed rain. The pastor greeted most of them as they filed in. As he walked to the front of the church to officially begin the meeting he noticed most people were chatting across the aisles and socializing with friends.
When he reached the front his thoughts were on quieting the attendees and starting the meeting.
His eyes scanned the crowd as he asked for quiet. He noticed an eleven year-old girl sitting quietly in the front row. Her face was beaming with excitement.
Next to her, open and ready for use, was a very colorful and extremely large umbrella, much bigger than her in fact.
The little girl's beauty and innocence made the pastor smile as he realized how much faith she possessed. No one else in the congregation had brought an umbrella.
All came to pray for rain. But the little girl had come expecting God to answer.
One of the reasons I continue to carry out the words for life is that it helps me with my faith, the discipline in spending an hour or so with the scriptures encourages my faith and makes me a stronger person. It also broadens my horizon as I learn more from the scriptures and share stories to highlight or enlighten.
If I can help one person each day it has worked. If one person tells another about a story in these postings it has worked. Even if it helps me on the day it has worked.
I hope that these seven days of James he has encouraged you according to the faith you proclaim. And all the lessons therein. Thank you
26 April 2021
22 Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. 23 Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror 24 and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. 25 But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.
Someone once commented that they were not that familiar with the book of James. So for the next two days we will have a quick look at James as a book and what it has to offer.
Sometimes known as the Epistle of James or simply James, the Book of James is one of the twenty-two epistles in the New Testament. In the first line of the book, James identifies himself as “James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ,” who is writing to the twelve tribes scattered among the nations. Throughout the book, James encourages believers to not only live consistently in what they have learned in Christ, but also to mature in their faith in Christ. He encourages us to be courageous, and express what we believe. He also encourages believers to live humbly and to pray in all situations. There is a consistent theme of patience and perseverance during trials and temptations, a point many Christians can identify with given the trials our world is facing. There is a lot of wisdom and takeaways from this book.
Here are some of those wisdoms and takeaways :
It is thought that James is the brother of Jesus. The son of Mary but father unknown. Jesus and James do not share the same father as we know the father of Jesus was God.
It's one of the earliest written epistles probably composed AD45 and as far as we know James was martyred AD62.
Some people look at it as one of the most Jewish of epistles, James has a universal message that all Christians can pull from. If anything, the book of James teaches us that we should not just talk the talk but also walk the walk and above all else keep reading and learning from the Word.
If I have learned anything as a follower of Christ from the book of James it is this.
Just as the verse in James 1, it would do us good to have a long hard look at ourselves in the mirror. The person looking back at you is what others see but it is only God who knows us from the inside out. Staying away from mirrors does us no good when we are trying to hide from God.
25 April 2021
A leftover story about prayer from yesterday
A co-worker asked a friend why he brings in donuts if he is trying to diet.
He said, “Well, I always come round the corner where Greigs the bakers is. I say to God, if He wants me to buy some donuts to have a parking spot in the front. Would you believe it on the eighth time around, there it was!”
On a more serious note after yesterday's thoughts on prayer and what James had to say I ended up spending a lot of time reading about prayer and what different people had to say about it. I was struck by what Henri Nouwen says about prayer. I thought I would share it with you today.
A carpenter and his apprentice were walking together through a large forest. And when they came across a tall, huge, gnarled, old, beautiful oak tree, the carpenter asked his apprentice: “Do you know why this tree is so tall, so huge, so gnarled, so old and beautiful?” The apprentice looked at his master and said: “No…why?”
“Well,” the carpenter said, “because it is useless. If it had been useful it would have been cut long ago and made into tables and chairs, but because it is useless it could grow so tall and so beautiful that you can sit in its shade and relax.”
Nouwen goes on to tell us
The world says, “If you are not making good use of your time, you are useless.” Jesus says: “Come spend some useless time with me.” If we think about prayer in terms of its usefulness to us—what prayer will do for us, what spiritual benefits we will gain, what insights we will gain, what divine presence we may feel—God cannot easily speak to us.
But if we can detach ourselves from the idea of the usefulness of prayer and the results of prayer, we become free to “waste” a precious hour with God in prayer. Gradually, we may find, our “useless” time will transform us, and everything around us will be different.
Prayer is being unbusy with God instead of being busy with other things. Prayer is primarily to do nothing useful or productive in the presence of God.
Got some useless time today? Spend it with God.
24 April 2021
Today we are going to talk about what James says about Prayer. But before that let me tell you about the two wives who met regularly to knit and sew in the afternoons.
On this particular day, they were both mending their husband’s trousers.
One wife said, “My husband is so miserable. Nothing goes right at work and when he comes home, he can’t find anything good on television and ends up falling asleep. Our home is a place of despair and so is the church we go to, the organist is terrible and the pastor goes on and on and on.
The other wife said, “My husband is so excited.” He can’t wait to go to church. He loves the sermons. We laugh all the time and enjoy our church friends and family.
It got very quiet in the front room as the women continued sewing the trousers. One was patching the seat of the pants, and the other was patching the knees.
Today, we are going to talk about three verses from James 5.
13 Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise. 14 Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven. 16 Therefore confess your sins to each other and
James 5 and the 5 questions about prayer
Where should we pray? Anywhere. These verses don’t come right out and tell us where we should pray, but I figured it out. If we should pray any time we need God’s help, then I guess it just makes sense that we should pray anywhere we are because wherever we are, God is there.
Why should we pray? Because God answers prayer. These verses tell us that prayer is powerful and effective and that if we will pray, God will hear our prayers, tend to the sick, and forgive our sins.
The five W’s of prayer. Who? Anyone. What? Anything. When? Anytime. Where? Anywhere. Why? Because God answers prayer. And that’s the complete story.
Let’s say a prayer.
Dear Father, thank you for hearing and answering our prayers. As we come to the end of this week we are grateful that we have had you stand bedside us. You bring us all kinds of gifts that are priceless. The gift of love, courage and wisdom, patience when needed and the ability to witness the life of your son Jesus Christ.
Our Heavenly Father, tomorrow is the Sabbath and once again it will be a different experience for many people. Some of us will attend church in the usual way, while others will depend on technology to hear your word. We pray this day for all who in some way contribute to the sharing of your word. In the pulpit behind the camera and on our televisions. We are children of the risen King and we want people to know your son Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever more. Amen
23 April 2021
I read somewhere that the best sermon on the problems of wealth was not a sermon, but a novel. It was not written by a Christian author, but by the famous writer, John Steinbeck. It is called The Pearl. It’s the story of a poor pearl diver who dreams of finding the perfect pearl. One day he actually finds it. The rest of the story unfolds how his once tranquil life turns into a growing nightmare as everyone else desperately tries to take his treasure from him. Every Christian would benefit from reading this powerful story!
But what does James say about the dangers of money? James 5 :
Now listen, you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming on you. 2 Your wealth has rotted, and moths have eaten your clothes. 3 Your gold and silver are corroded. Their corrosion will testify against you and eat your flesh like fire. You have hoarded wealth in the last days. 4 Look! The wages you failed to pay the workers who mowed your fields are crying out against you. The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord Almighty. 5 You have lived on earth in luxury and self-indulgence. You have fattened yourselves in the day of slaughter. 6 You have condemned and murdered the innocent one, who was not opposing you.
7 Be patient, then, brothers and sisters, until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop, patiently waiting for the autumn and spring rains. 8 You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near. 9 Don’t grumble against one another, brothers and sisters, or you will be judged. The Judge is standing at the door!
10 Brothers and sisters, as an example of patience in the face of suffering, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. 11 As you know, we count as blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy.
12 Above all, my brothers and sisters, do not swear—not by heaven or by earth or by anything else. All you need to say is a simple “Yes” or “No.” Otherwise you will be condemned.
Would you like to be outrageously rich? Maybe a few would say “no thank you” but the majority of the public would say “yes please”. As Christians we know that the Bible has many warnings about the dangers of money but most of us would be glad to say “I could handle lots of money or at least I'd like to try?”
James 5 is thundering against the ungodly rich who oppress the poor. The words of our text are not about repentance, but rather a warning of the dangers that might be. James' main target was the ungodly rich outside of the church who are not in a position to hear about such dangers.
But this warning should encourage us to know that those who know God will be faithful and endure. It should also warn us not to fall into the sins that will bring judgement.
When I look at James I see the dangers of the “instant fix” world where money can solve everything but satisfy no one. It’s a dog eat dog world to live in and life is very much in the fast lane. Of course the flip side of the coin is those who patiently wait for their crops to yield. This is a different kind of richness and a world where the harvester is king and the crops are the currency putting bread on the table. The harvester being more dependent on the creator for the harvest gathered.
The patience of the one who waits for the crop, and the perseverance of the one who picks the crop reflect the patience that we should show for the coming of the Lord and the work that is needed to be done in preparation. And of course it's not all about money. Amen
22 April 2021
Maybe you have heard of Muhammad Ali's boast that in the boxing ring he could "float like a butterfly, and sting like a bee." He certainly knew the value of bragging in an attempt to psyche out his opponents.
But on one particular flight, he says in his book, The Soul of a Butterfly, that the flight attendant asked him to put his seat belt on. He said to her, "Superman don't need no seat belt." She smiled at him and said, "Superman don't need no plane, either."
Well, Muhammad Ali was not noted for his humility.
James is still giving out advice in James 4 and this time he is touching on pride and how that can be another thing that can cause ructions within the church.
James 4 What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? 2 You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. 3 When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.
4 You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. 5 Or do you think Scripture says without reason that he jealously longs for the spirit he has caused to dwell in us[b]? 6 But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says:
‘God opposes the proud
but shows favour to the humble.’[c]
7 Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. 9 Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.
11 Brothers and sisters, do not slander one another. Anyone who speaks against a brother or sister[d] or judges them speaks against the law and judges it. When you judge the law, you are not keeping it, but sitting in judgment on it. 12 There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But you – who are you to judge your neighbour?
Boasting about tomorrow
13 Now listen, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.’ 14 Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. 15 Instead, you ought to say, ‘If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.’ 16 As it is, you boast in your arrogant schemes. All such boasting is evil. 17 If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them.
Of course when pride is prevalent we need to bring humility to the party. Humility is an essential quality for spiritual growth. So when dealing with humility there is no middle ground.
Luke 11:23 He who is not with Me is against Me, and he who does not gather with Me scatters.
You can't just sit on the fence, you're either with Him or against Him.
And don’t think for a minute you can be lukewarm in your approach to all of this cause that’s just like playing for the other team.
God wants our friendship, so it’s a good time to ask, what is a friend?
A friend is loyal, has my best interests at heart. So a friend of the world is loyal to the world, has the interests of the world at heart.
So what's the sign of being a friend of God?
John 15:14 You are My friends if you do whatever I command you.
Friendship with God means obedience to His will. Why does James bring this up? He brings up the issue of pride because where there is pride, anger and strife can lurk.
But the good news is that God gives grace to the humble.
Here in this passage of Scripture, James also describes the process of repentance. First, draw near to God.
That means to get close to Him, become His friend. How do you do that? Simple spiritual disciplines like prayer, worship, spending time meditating on His word and being involved in active service.
After all who knows what tomorrow will bring. James ends this passage by reminding us that today we are mist and tomorrow we could be gone. The message of living and doing today for tomorrow might not be an option, encouraging us all to live for the day, live for today and live in humility with our God. Amen
21 April 2021
In ancient Greece, Socrates (the famous philosopher) was visited by an acquaintance of his. Eager to share some juicy gossip, the man asked if Socrates would like to know the story he’d just heard about a friend of theirs. Socrates replied that before the man spoke, he needed to pass the “Triple-Filter” test.
The first filter, he explained, is Truth. “Have you made absolutely sure that what you are about to say is true?” The man shook his head. “No, I actually just heard about it, and …”
Socrates cut him off. “You don’t know for certain that it is true, then. Is what you want to say something good or kind?” Again, the man shook his head. “No! Actually, just the opposite. You see …”
Socrates lifted his hand to stop the man speaking. “So you are not certain that what you want to say is true, and it isn’t good or kind. One filter still remains, though, so you may yet still tell me. That is Usefulness or Necessity. Is this information useful or necessary to me?” A little defeated, the man replied, “No, not really.”
“Well, then,” Socrates said, turning on his heel. “If what you want to say is neither true, nor good or kind, nor useful or necessary, please don’t say anything at all.”
All of this highlights the fact that sometimes words can be damaging as well as hurtful and destructive.
Sometimes our intentions are innocent but with others there is evil lurking behind their “slip of the tongue.”
James 3 tells us
When You Open Your Mouth
3 1-2 Don’t be in any rush to become a teacher, my friends. Teaching is highly responsible work. Teachers are held to the strictest standards. And none of us is perfectly qualified. We get it wrong nearly every time we open our mouths. If you could find someone whose speech was perfectly true, you’d have a perfect person, in perfect control of life.
3-5 A bit in the mouth of a horse controls the whole horse. A small rudder on a huge ship in the hands of a skilled captain sets a course in the face of the strongest winds. A word out of your mouth may seem of no account, but it can accomplish nearly anything—or destroy it!
5-6 It only takes a spark, remember, to set off a forest fire. A careless or wrongly placed word out of your mouth can do that. By our speech we can ruin the world, turn harmony to chaos, throw mud on a reputation, send the whole world up in smoke and go up in smoke with it, smoke right from the pit of hell.
7-10 This is scary: You can tame a tiger, but you can’t tame a tongue—it’s never been done. The tongue runs wild, a wanton killer. With our tongues we bless God our Father; with the same tongues we curse the very men and women he made in his image. Curses and blessings out of the same mouth!
10-12 My friends, this can’t go on. A spring doesn’t gush fresh water one day and brackish the next, does it? Apple trees don’t bear strawberries, do they? Raspberry bushes don’t bear apples, do they? You’re not going to dip into a polluted mud hole and get a cup of clear, cool water, are you?
The bottom line with James is that the tongue is unbelievably powerful and it cannot be fully controlled. For something that is so small it can do an endless amount of damage. James suggests that it can sometimes be restless, unstable and full of poison. James also suggests that the tongue is untameable, blessings and cursing should not come out of the same mouth. In fact, blessings and cursing should be looked upon as bizarre as well as sinful. But we all know that as humans
It can be looked upon as normal behaviour.
If all else fails the Psalmist in Psalm17 has the best advice
Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.
20 April 2021
I’m not proud when I say this but when I was a youngster I had an issue with the kids upstairs. We went to the same Sunday School in the Baptist Church in Partick and the Smiths (let's just call them that?) were singled out every week. For some reason they went to the Sunday school earlier than everybody else, they seemed to be given wee parcels most weeks from the Sunday School Superintendent and don’t talk to me about Christmas as Mrs. Fulton always arrived in her car with gifts for the Smiths and for nobody else up the close. The Smiths were definitely the favourites amongst the Sunday School Staff
Without turning this into Angela’s Ashes there was a lot of poverty where I lived and the Smiths suffered most, while my dad worked in the docks Mr. Smith was an invalid. There was only me in the house while the Smiths had five kids. It wasn’t unknown for the Smiths to have skin issues (scurvy) and the youngest looked like he had rickets. Years later I would discover that the reason why the Smiths were getting parcels each week was because Mr. Fulton owned a fruit shop and the extra parcels at Christmas were possibly the only things that Santa would bring that year while my mum and dad provided me with lots.
On the subject of favouritism James CH2 tells us
“My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favouritism. 2 Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in filthy old clothes also comes in. 3 If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, “Here’s a good seat for you,” but say to the poor man, “You stand there” or “Sit on the floor by my feet,” 4 have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?
5 Listen, my dear brothers and sisters: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him? 6 You have dishonoured the poor. Is it not the rich who are exploiting you? Are they not the ones who are dragging you into court? 7 Are they not the ones who are blaspheming the noble name of him to whom you belong?
James says we shouldn’t make any distinctions, because showing partiality to one person or another divides the community. Playing favourites tears apart the Body of Christ, and damages our witness to the world. Besides, when we show favour to the rich at the expense of the poor, we go against everything Jesus taught. Throughout scripture, we find over and over again that God honours the poor and oppressed, not the oppressors.
In my story at the beginning, Mr. and Mrs. Fulton did not show favouritism they were honouring God by caring for a poor family. To a child like me aged around 8, I thought it was a blatant show of favouritism and I was wrong.
There is another lesson there that sometimes people are making judgment calls on others because of their own insecurities and fears. Faith in God and the teachings of Jesus tell us that in every case and in every decision we should be mindful of what God would want us to do and how we can make each opportunity a witness to the life and work of Christ Amen
19 April 2021
From Eugene Peterson’s The Message Translation
James 1 : 2-18
2-4 Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.
5-8 If you don’t know what you’re doing, pray to the Father. He loves to help. You’ll get his help, and won’t be condescended to when you ask for it. Ask boldly, believingly, without a second thought. People who “worry their prayers” are like wind-whipped waves. Don’t think you’re going to get anything from the Master that way, adrift at sea, keeping all your options open.
9-11 When down-and-outers get a break, cheer! And when the arrogant rich are brought down to size, cheer! Prosperity is as short-lived as a wildflower, so don’t ever count on it. You know that as soon as the sun rises, pouring down its scorching heat, the flower withers. Its petals wilt and, before you know it, that beautiful face is a barren stem. Well, that’s a picture of the “prosperous life.” At the very moment everyone is looking on in admiration, it fades away to nothing.
12 Anyone who meets a testing challenge head-on and manages to stick it out is mighty fortunate. For such persons loyally in love with God, the reward is life and more life.
13-15 Don’t let anyone under pressure to give in to evil say, “God is trying to trip me up.” God is impervious to evil, and puts evil in no one’s way. The temptation to give in to evil comes from us and only us. We have no one to blame but the leering, seducing flare-up of our own lust. Lust gets pregnant, and has a baby: sin! Sin grows up to adulthood, and becomes a real killer.
16-18 So, my very dear friends, don’t get thrown off course. Every desirable and beneficial gift comes out of heaven. The gifts are rivers of light cascading down from the Father of Light. There is nothing deceitful in God, nothing two-faced, nothing fickle. He brought us to life using the true Word, showing us off as the crown of all his creatures.
The epistle is of James is traditionally attributed to James the brother of Jesus (James the Just), and the audience is generally considered to be Jewish Christians, who were dispersed outside Israel
While some authors like Paul have an introduction to their letters but not in the case of James. He launches straight into a very challenging command that we should find Joy in bad things.
Now, I would think that’s the hardest thing for anyone these days to embrace. Why would you think that something bad happening to you is a positive experience?
James is probably talking at this point to people who are facing things like persecution and poverty. The Peterson translates that we should “consider” it as a gift. One scholar suggests that you mark these trials down in your cheque book as deposits and not withdrawals. Instead of saying “why is this happening to me?” the positive response should be “OK so it's bad but I will get through it and I will call upon God to assist me any way he can.”
A general thought for the day should be “how important is it for Christians to trust God? It's so important, James writes, that we should call our worst moments joyful things, because trials help us trust God more. People who trust God ask Him for wisdom—and then take what He gives.
People who trust God make a bigger deal about their rewards in the next life than their wealth in this one. People who trust God don't blame Him for their desire to sin; they give Him credit for all that is good in their lives. They look into His Word, and they act on what they see there.
Surely a better way of life for all?
Words for Life will be taking a wee break from Monday the 05th April 2021 till Sunday the 18th April 2021. Author
04 April 2021
In January 1968 there was a great storm in Central Scotland. In Glasgow, 9 people died. We lived 11 floors up in Broomhill and as we were getting ready for school all we could hear were sirens and bells (my memory). My father had got up really early and had gone to work so it was my mum that was taking me to Rosevale Street where my school was (Thornwood was being renovated).
My point is this, we hadn’t heard. We had slept through it. Half of Glasgow had been literally blown down. We walked to school with a neighbour telling us about people leaving the flats in the middle of the night in case it fell down (?). We were told to stay out of the flats in the afternoon as Ted Heath was landing in a helicopter on the roof of our flats and there were security issues and as we passed a friend's home in 555 Dumbarton Road, I noticed 6 long black bags being wheeled out in trolleys. My mother's neighbour's reaction that day was “ how could you possibly have missed that?”
Picture this scene from Luke. Two disciples walking back to Emmaus. What was the topic of their conversation? Were they talking about what happened at Calvary? Or were they talking about their friend who was no longer amongst them. Dejected and maybe confused they walked. A stranger behind them, walking in step, asks them “what's up?” They are surprised. How could he not know? Where had he been?
So they tell him. "This man that we speak of was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people. The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him, but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel. And what is more, it is the third day since all this took place. In addition, some of our women amazed us. They went to the tomb early this morning but didn’t find his body. They came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels, who said he was alive. Then some of our companions went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but they did not see Jesus.”
You can hear it from their voices, their disappointment and their fear that maybe someone had stolen the body of their friend. But this stranger starts explaining to them. We read from Luke “And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.”
Still, they are not that sure and the stranger is about to leave. They ask him in for a meal
“When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them.”
I wonder if they saw the wounds on his hands at this point. A light bulb moment.
Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?”
Luke goes on to tell us, they got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together and saying, “It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.” Then the two told what had happened on the way, and how Jesus was recognised by them when he broke the bread.
Once they are all together it is confirmed that the Lord indeed has risen.
This journey saw the disciples go through a lot, they saw a lot and learned so much more. Perhaps they thought the journey had ended but it was only just beginning for them. Sinclair Ferguson ends his book by saying :
“The journey of Christ to Jerusalem led the journey of His gospel to the nations and to us. And now we are all on that journey we should pray that Jesus opens our minds to understand the scriptures more and that Jesus will move our hearts. Our hearts will burn with the thrill that we have a crucified Saviour who has risen from the dead and who is with us forever. And He surely is."
Thank you for your time this Lenten season
03 April 2021
Joseph of Arimathea - A man of mystery?
What do we know about Joseph Well, we know he was a “ good and righteous man” as well as being a member of the Sanhedrin (probably not popular or loyal as his loyalties were swayed to Jesus).
We also know that he was a rich man as he owned a tomb in Jerusalem.
So let's read Luke 23 : 50-56
50 Now there was a man named Joseph, a member of the Council, a good and upright man, 51 who had not consented to their decision and action. He came from the Judean town of Arimathea, and he himself was waiting for the kingdom of God. 52 Going to Pilate, he asked for Jesus’ body. 53 Then he took it down, wrapped it in linen cloth and placed it in a tomb cut in the rock, one in which no one had yet been laid. 54 It was Preparation Day, and the Sabbath was about to begin.
55 The women who had come with Jesus from Galilee followed Joseph and saw the tomb and how his body was laid in it. 56 Then they went home and prepared spices and perfumes. But they rested on the Sabbath in obedience to the commandment.
So we see a picture emerging of a man who is very well connected to a group of people that are literally planning the downfall of Jesus. As he lurks in the shadows he must be waiting for the right time to show his loyalty to Jesus. So what does he do? Pay Jesus a compliment? Share his thoughts of this new Saviour? No, he asks for his body, he asks for the body of the most vilified man of the moment. You see he didn’t want Jesus to be thrown into a common grave and he knew by taking Jesus' body he was rendering himself spiritually “unclean” in the eyes of others. But this was important and it was a gesture that would make sure that we would all know the man called Joseph and what he did for his friend.
But what does this narrative show us? Well, we have proof here that Jesus dies and there was a body and it was passed to another to deal with. We know that Joseph prepared it for burial and carried it to the tomb.
Secondly, it highlights the whereabouts of the burial place. The tomb of Joseph. Finally, “no one was expecting the resurrection”. The women were preparing spices and ointments to return after the Sabbath to deal with the dead body of Jesus.
Sinclair Ferguson makes another great point. At the birth of Jesus, he was cared for by a man called Joseph who places him in a borrowed resting place where no baby had ever been placed.
After the crucifixion, Jesus is again tended by another Joseph who lays him in a borrowed resting place where no man had been placed before. The story has come full circle.
At the cross, Jesus had given up what was his for the sake of people like Joseph. Now Joseph was giving up what was his for the sake of Jesus. That’s what it means to be a good disciple.
The gospel is sometimes called “the great exchange” and as this Lenten period ends we should think of what we have exchanged through our belief and through our love for Jesus on the cross. Amen
02 April 2021
On the road, all through Lent, through the words of Luke we have met many people. Today it seems we come to the end of Christ's journey.
Luke 23 : 44-49
44 It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, 45 for the sun stopped shining. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. 46 Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.”[e] When he had said this, he breathed his last.
47 The centurion, seeing what had happened, praised God and said, “Surely this was a righteous man.” 48 When all the people who had gathered to witness this sight saw what took place, they beat their breasts and went away. 49 But all those who knew him, including the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a distance, watching these things.
We have seen our Lord struggle, asking his Father to “take this cup” but on this Good Friday we see a confident Jesus “committing his spirit into his Father's care”
Sinclair Ferguson gives us some clues as to why this change took place.
We can see from the reading it was noon but there is a darkness that has shrouded the whole land for three hours. As well as a fact, we can see this as a sign. This is an event of “deep significance”. Ferguson tells us that there is no light and God's face no longer shone on the earth. Sinclair reminds us of Galatians “nature itself put on the dark clothes of mourning as Christ the creator was put to death by sinful men and on the cross came the curse of God.”
A second indication in verse 45 “the curtain of the temple was torn in two”. Of course this was a sign of grief, death and mourning, could it be that this was God's way of showing his grief in what he had to do? Ferguson hints that the temple curtain was now no longer the barrier between God and man and that there was a new way into his presence.
With his work now complete Jesus calls out “with a loud voice” Father, into your hands I commit my spirit, a reflection of psalm 31 v 5 “into your hand I commit my spirit." But notice now that Jesus is back to calling God “Father”. And just as he said this, he drew his last breath.
“There are many reasons to Love the Lord Jesus. Today express your love for him because for you and me he lived his entire life, moment by moment, in loving obedience to his Father - not least when it was the most difficult.”
01 April 2021
Luke 23 v 32, 39-43
Sinclair Ferguson in his book “To seek and serve” tells us something interesting. Luke spends 2 chapters on the first 12 years of Jesus' ministry and then 16 chapters on the next three years and then 6 chapters on Jesus' final week.
The thought being, that we are now looking at the end of Jesus frame by frame, slowly and purposefully. This is to enable us to meditate and take in the significance of what is going on. We are told that this part of the Gospel is “key” to the whole story.
Let's look at the reading
32 Two other men, both criminals, were also led out with him to be executed
39 One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!”
40 But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? 41 We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.”
42 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
43 Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”
I’ve said it before will say it again but the Bible is full of comparisons and opposites and here is another clear example.
Three men on crosses being crucified. Painful, tortuous and life taking.
One man is full of anger, you could say full of himself. He is almost saying, ”If you are who you say you are, get us all out of this mess,” “Aren't you the messiah?" You can almost hear the sarcasm in his voice.
But from the other side comes the opposite. Full of acceptance “we are punished justly”. Recognition "this man has done nothing wrong” and then he almost embraces Jesus “Jesus remember me when you come into your kingdom”………….and then the reward “truly I tell you you will be with me in paradise.”
I wonder (and here I go again) I wonder after Jesus said this to the man, did he relax? Would people see the man suddenly change shape on the cross knowing that he would be following his friend to glory. I wonder if there was any witness there who would turn to their friend and say “I don’t know what Jesus said to that man but now look at his face…no pain…no tortured look…just peace.”
In his last dying minutes this man's heart has been transformed. Ferguson calls him the “first witness for the defence of the crucified."
And here comes that old chestnut "if you are being accused of being a Christian this easter, is there enough evidence to convict you?"
But I would rather leave you today with the words of a hymn that Aretha Franklin sings on her powerful album “Amazing Grace.”
There is power in the blood.
There is a fountain that I see
Filled with blood
Drawn from Emmanuel's vein
The sinners plunged beneath that blood
Lose all their guilty stains
Lose all their guilty stains