Sunday, 9 August 2020

Give me wisdom Lord!

Where there is no fear of the Lord, there can never be any true wisdom. It’s just not possible.

Wisdom is not simply knowledge or understanding or even discernment. Wisdom goes much deeper than these. For example, you can know how to use a computer without understanding how it works. Even if you understand the workings of a computer you need discernment to know what the best uses for it are. Wisdom is even deeper. For wisdom you need all of the above along with insight and good moral judgement to know how to use it in the best and most moral way and to act accordingly so that choices are beneficial and productive.

Godly wisdom goes further still. 
John Piper says: ‘Godly wisdom is knowing the greatest goal in any situation and the best way to achieve it’
Bill Gothard says: ‘Wisdom is seeing life from God’s point of view. It is getting an inside view of how things really are.’
When God asked Solomon what he wanted Him to do for him, Solomon asked for wisdom. God was pleased with this request. He gave him wisdom and so much more
1 Kings 3:12-13
……Behold, I give you a wise and discerning mind, so that none like you has been before you and none like you shall arise after you. 13 I give you also what you have not asked, both riches and honour.”

Proverbs has many references to wisdom.
Proverbs 4:7 
‘Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore, get wisdom’
Proverbs 1:20-22 
‘Wisdom cries aloud in the street, in the markets she raises her voice; at the head of the noisy streets she cries out; at the entrance of the city gates she speaks: “How long, O simple ones, will you love being simple?’
To me the one that stands out is this;
Proverbs 9:10
‘The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.’
That’s where wisdom begins. Where there is no fear of the Lord, there can never be any true wisdom. It’s just not possible.
In James 3:14-16 he says that earthly wisdom is no good at all but then in verses 17-18 he says;
‘But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. 18 Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness.’

He breaks down the definition of wisdom into seven qualities.

1. Godly wisdom is pure. Matthew 5:8 says that the pure in heart are blessed and they will see God. If we have a heart that is pure, we will see God! If we don’t have a heart that is pure, we will see all sorts of things that are not of God.

2. Godly wisdom is peace loving. If we have God’s wisdom, we will love peace and have hearts full of healing and reconciliation. Proverbs 14:30 says: ‘A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones.’ I have known a few Christians over the years, who exude peace as soon as they walk into a room and make you want to give a sigh of relief and relax when you are with them. I want to be like that. Let us get rid of any bitterness, malice or animosity and live with peace in our hearts.

3. Godly wisdom is considerate. Apparently, the Greek word for this has the meanings of gentleness, non- aggressive or non-argumentative as well as considerate all in one word.  The Lord constantly shows us consideration that we don’t deserve. How much more should we?

4. Godly wisdom is submissive. Earthly wisdom often tends to be arrogant but Godly wisdom listens to the arguments of others in a calm way. Godly wisdom wants to learn from others, learn the truth and shows kindness to people who may think differently.

5. Godly wisdom is full of mercy and good fruit. Often worldly wisdom wants vengeance but Godly wisdom is full of mercy followed by action. James has put these two qualities together as one because there is no point having mercy without that turning into acts of kindness and compassion.

6. Godly wisdom is impartial. It appears that the Greek word for this means holding firm to the same standard, not showing prejudice or favouritism. Godly wisdom does not change its stance on the truth for different audiences.

7. Godly wisdom is sincere. Godly wisdom is not hypocritical. With Godly wisdom, what you see is what you get. 
                   
So how do we get this wisdom? Well, like Solomon, if we eagerly desire wisdom all we have to do is ask. The bible tells us that wisdom is a divine gift that is granted by God whenever a believer asks him. This is clear in James.
James 1:5 says, ‘If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.’

Some people may ask why wisdom is so necessary.  Its importance is obvious, which is indicated by the numerous references to it in the bible. Well at this present time, I would say it has never been more important. We are facing unprecedented decisions and uncertainties in the present and for the future and the only way to get them right, is to ask for God’s wisdom to make the choices that are pleasing to Him and to glorify His name.

Let’s get asking!!




Author: Thelma Cameron 

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Sunday, 2 August 2020

Doing the Right Thing

For a few minutes, a battle raged in our hearts and minds between what was right in God’s eyes and what was right in our eyes.

Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back.  Luke 6:3

The discovery…..
A few years ago, my late husband and I purchased a property as a ‘doer upper’.  It was in quite a state, to say the least, and had a large overgrown garden that hadn’t been touched for years.

We hired a lawn mower to cut the grass (which took numerous cuts over a couple of days) and much to our surprise, we discovered the outline of a garden that had once been loved before it became wild and overgrown.  Straight away, we fell in love with this neglected garden but didn’t know where to begin in restoring it.  Renovating the house was a much bigger priority at the time and money was tight!
          
The dream…..
One day, whilst taking a break from house renovating, we visited a garden centre and one of the highlights of these random visits was to enjoy a treat of tea and cake (mmm delicious!) and to get inspiration of what a nice garden could look like for us in the future when money was no object.

I found a nice table in the restaurant area to sit at whilst my late husband went to order tea and cake.  As I looked around, my eyes spotted a sign on the wall that seemed to jump out at me, ‘If you spend £100 on shrubs or plants we will design your garden free of charge’.  Suddenly, I became all excited at the prospect of having my garden designed by professionals.  My imagination went into overload as I dreamt of what my garden could become.  The only problem was that money was tight and we didn’t have £100 to spare at the time.

Scrimping and saving….
As I couldn’t get that sign out of my head (and the joy it had brought me), I decided to put some money away secretly.  Any spare housekeeping or birthday money was carefully stashed away towards my potential dream garden design.  Amazingly, by the end of 12-months I’d saved £250.00.

One Thursday evening, after we’d had dinner, I told my husband that I’d got a lovely surprise for him.  I explained about the sign I’d read in the garden centre and how I’d secretly  worked hard to save the money towards the planting to enable our garden to be designed exclusively for us, plus a bit extra on the side.  I must point out that the garden centre were not going to be responsible for doing the actual work involved, that would be up to us, but at least they’d be able to design a wonderful garden and provide information on which plants and shrubs would work best together, as at that time we didn’t have a clue about gardening.  I saw my husband’s face light up at my news and we were both very excited.

The dilemma….
However, within 20-minutes of sharing my good news with my late husband, I heard the doorbell ring and wondered who it could possibly be?  To my surprise, it was a relative, who I don’t actually get on with and who I hadn’t seen for a good while.  He was desperate and asked if we could help him out with £250 that night and that he’d repay us in the future.  There was no doubt he was in some sort of trouble as he was very anxious and agitated.  We didn’t ask what sort of trouble he was in, it would have been too humiliating for him.  Note: This person knew nothing about the money I’d saved, it was just a strange coincidence that he turned up. 

As practising Christians what were we to do?  We didn’t have time to consider our options as we were put on the spot?  It was awkward to say the least!  The Bible says, don’t turn anyone away who asks anything of you.  For a few minutes, a battle raged in our hearts and minds between what was right in God’s eyes and what was right in our eyes.  Why had this person turned up unexpectedly wanting the exact money I’d scrimped to save?  Why hadn’t he come the following week when I’d have spent the money and could have honestly said we couldn’t help?  If we gave him the money, he’d probably never pay us back, all these thoughts were going through my head vs what the Bible said we should do. 

The decision….
Although it was tough, we decided to obey the Bible and do the right thing by helping this person out in their desperation.  I had mixed emotions after he’d gone, one half of me knew I’d done the right thing, but the other half of me was gutted as my dream garden now lay in tatters or did it?

What happened next?....
After I’d got over the initial disappointment, something strange happened.  An unexplained joy filled my heart because I knew we’d done the right thing and been obedient to God’s word.

Without trying, my eyes and mind were flooded with garden ideas that I’d never thought of before.  I’m no artist, but I roughly put my ideas down on paper and designed a patio, with a garden wall and beautiful arch (nothing was to scale as that would have been too complicated).  I took my husband outside to describe the ideas that had come to me, showing him my rough sketch, and he was able to interpret it. I then got an unexpected bonus from work and we were able to buy all the materials needed at reduced costs.  Someone from another church lent us their trailer to take rubbish to the tip and fetch slabs, and we worked together to bring my ideas to life.  I then found a discount plant shop and started to buy shrubs and plants bit by bit that looked like they’d work together, and remarkably, they did.  When the garden was finished it looked absolutely amazing, and was a great selling point of the house when we eventually moved.  It also cost a lot less than we ever imagined.

Lesson learnt…
I learnt from this that God can make dreams come true if we simply obey his Word and do what is right.  I found unexpectedly, that I didn’t need someone to design my garden as I already had the creative skills within me to design something beautiful and unique.

Many years later, the person we helped did eventually pay us back, strangely at a time when we were in desperate need ourselves.



Author: Barbara Wilson 

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Sunday, 26 July 2020

The prophets and Lockdown

“I am fed up with what you have made my worship - you do not keep my laws and statues your leaders abuse the people, your hearts are far from me and I am fed up with your sacrifices – for goodness sake just stop”! 

During the “Lockdown” I have just happened to be reading the major prophets – Isaiah, Jeremiah and now Ezekiel. I have been left with a real sense of resonance between what was happening in the world of the Jews at that time of approaching / impending exile, then exile itself and what is happening around us. Many of the passages are difficult to interpret and hard to understand. I read the commentaries and wonder where the people who write them find their ideas? They seem to come up with such detailed and ‘certain’ views of what is meant from such flimsy evidence.
I commented on this to Jan, my wife this morning and she said – “well just ignore that and ask the Lord to speak to you out of your reading” – so I did and this blog is made up of a few snap-shots that came to me.

As many people have reflected “Lockdown” almost overnight, caused many things to come to a sudden halt including all of our church practices. For some the response has been an immediate attempt to “get around” what has happened and find different and often innovative ways to get as near to “normal service” as possible. (The old TV notice “normal service will be resumed as soon as possible” comes to mind)! 

For others the response has been different – now that all of our normal business of running church has halted, the “noise” of daily life has lessened, and we are alone with God – where are we with Him and what has He got to say to us? This seems to reflect the cry of the Lord through the prophets paraphrased its almost like in certain chapters the Lord is saying to His people “I am fed up with what you have made my worship - you do not keep my laws and statues your leaders abuse the people, your hearts are far from me and I am fed up with your sacrifices – for goodness sake just stop”! 

In our fellowship stopping has resulted in a focus on a few simple but profound things like Jesus’s call to abide in Him (John 15) and all that this means.

Of course, we know what the response of God’s people was back in the day – they ignored His warnings and persecuted His prophets who brought the message – even when they were proved to be right. Poor Jeremiah had a hard time of it:

* He warned the people of impending invasion and they persecuted him for it, he was proved to be right but the people would not listen.
* He told the people in Jerusalem to surrender and if they did, they would come to no harm and was persecuted for it, again he was proved to be right but the people would not listen and many died.
* He told the people to settle down and accept the Babylonian rule and was persecuted for it, again he was proved to be right but the people would not listen and many died.
* The people asked Jeremiah whether they should go to Egypt and he told them “no” and was persecuted for it, again he was proved to be right and many died – and so the story goes on. 

One of Jeremiah’s problems was false prophets. I was reading Jeremiah 23 and some words caught my attention – it was Jeremiah’s complaint about the false prophets in verse 10 “their course of life is evil and their might is not right”. The verse brought me back to some lectures at college a long time ago where we were taught ''You cannot devolve (transfer to someone else) responsibility for something, and authority is the ‘right’ to do something whereas power is the ‘might’ to do something''. I have always thought that these were very powerful ideas and there they are in scripture raised by Jeremiah and then the Lord adds substance to them by spelling out what He finds wrong with the behaviour and pronouncements of these people and their prophesies.

To give an example, someone who is an appointed official or manager of a railway can legitimately stop the trains operating for a day and has the authority to do so. A disgruntled employee might sabotage the workings of the railway and prevent the trains from running – they have the power (might) to do it but not the right (authority) to do it. So, God is saying that these false prophets had the ability to speak supposedly in the name of the Lord and also had an audience of willing listeners but they had no right to do it – He had not sent them.

The warnings about false prophesy are harsh – the scripture says that time and again. God sends His prophets to warn people of the error of their ways and in mercy warn about impending or future disaster. It says that anyone who prophesies about “good things” must be watched carefully because only when these things come to pass will the prophet be exonerated and shown to have spoken with the authority of the Lord. The judgement on false prophets was stern and several are recorded to have lost their lives because of leading God’s people astray. 

During ''Lockdown'', there have been many different voices  saying different things in the Name of the Lord, giving interpretations about what is going on. We are warned to test both the spirit and the messages of those purporting to speak in the Lord's Name. These speakers also give us reason to be cautious about certain practices that are prevalent today where intention is to teach people ‘how to prophesy’.
Again, the bible warns about people prophesying what are essentially their own thoughts (even if they appear to have some face validity).

On the other hand, God made Ezekiel a watchman. In this position he was told that if he failed to warn the wicked of God’s judgement upon them and they died in their sins, he would be held responsible for their death. If he warned them yet they did not turn from their sin, he would be innocent of their blood should they die. Also, if a righteous man be taken by sin and Ezekiel failed to pass on God’s warning, he would be held accountable (he could not pass on that responsibility to others – it was his appointed task). (Ezekiel 3 v 16 – 21). Unfortunately, today we appear often to have many words but little observable results or fulfilment of what is said? People are encouraged to share without accountability and we would rather hear and speak what is acceptable and comfortable to society rather than the word of the Lord. How accountable are we for this?

In Ezekiel 6:9 the Lord reveals to Ezekiel the extent of the grief that He feels over the way that His people have abandoned Him and gone their own way: “I was crushed by their adulterous heart which has departed from me…” and in chapter 8:6 “… do you see what they are doing, the great abominations that the House of Israel commits here, to make Me go far away from my sanctuary”? The sin of the leaders was both seen and unseen (Ezekiel 8 v 12) “Have you seen what the elders of the House of Israel do in the dark, every man in the room of his idols”? Also, there were greater abominations in the Lord’s eyes – even in the inner court (Ezekiel 8:15-17) “So He brought me into the inner court of the Lord’s House; and there…. Were 25 men with their backs towards the temple of the Lord and their faces towards the East. And they were worshipping the sun towards the East”. The Lord speaks of the leaders filling the land with violence and injustice, not walking in His statutes and not executing His judgements, provoking Him to anger so that He is going to act in fury.

The consequence of this is that the Lord puts a mark on those who fear Him and “who sigh and cry over all of the abominations that are done within Jerusalem” (Ezekiel chapter 9:4). He then commands judgement on those who are not following His ways and are responsible for leading others astray, beginning with the Elders (verse 6). In chapter 10 the Glory of the Lord leaves the temple in fulfilment of what the Lord declares over the nation, the impending destruction of Jerusalem and dispersal of the Jews throughout the gentile nations. BUT in chapter 11:16-21 the Lord also speaks in this way:

“Therefore say: ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Although I sent them far away among the nations and scattered them among the countries, yet for a little while I have been a sanctuary for them in the countries where they have gone.’ 17 “Therefore say: ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: I will gather you from the nations and bring you back from the countries where you have been scattered, and I will give you back the land of Israel again.’ 18 “They will return to it and remove all its vile images and detestable idols. 19 I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh. 20 Then they will follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. They will be my people, and I will be their God. 21 But as for those whose hearts are devoted to their vile images and detestable idols, I will bring down on their own heads what they have done, declares the Sovereign Lord.”

In this way the Lord declares a message like this (please forgive the paraphrase):

I have brought your worship to a full stop and judged you for not fulfilling your role as my people. Nonetheless, although where I am sending you there is none of the paraphernalia of your temple worship, (none of the trappings of your usual church services) I am going to be with you and I myself be to you your Holy Place. When you return, I want you to abandon / get rid of all of the stuff (detestable practices – things that have glorified people and not God?) that has caused me grief and restore rightful worship. Then I am going to get close to you, I will give you one heart (true unity), I will fundamentally change your heart into a soft, vulnerable one and pour My Spirit out upon You… Hallelujah! Grant it Lord Jesus; please work in me!







Author: Chris Pearson 

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Sunday, 19 July 2020

God is Always with us.

After he left, God just turned up and His amazing peace and presence filled the room. I was in awe and just continued to give thanks and bask in His almighty presence.

I woke up Monday morning (6th July) and realised something wasn't quite right. Knee pain and fluid on my knee is not a new thing to me. I'd had fluid on my knee since Christmas but it randomly disappeared overnight a couple of weeks previous. Having had two weeks of a 'normal' knee, I thought it was on the mend. Waking up in pain on the 6th of July soon burst that bubble!
I got up and carried on with my day as usual but I noticed my knee became more red, swollen, warm and painful throughout the day. My condition became so pathetic that by the end of the day my husband resorted to throwing me over his shoulder just so I could get to the bathroom!

We were hoping it would improve overnight but if not, we'd take a trip to the hospital to get it checked out in the morning.
That is exactly what happened but in a much less organised and planned manner. I'd passed out twice in the morning - the second time I'd apparently stopped breathing and was totally unresponsive. Hubby calls for an ambulance and vwallah! I get my morning visit to the hospital!
My trip to the hospital wasn't as short as I expected. I ended up staying in for four days. This wasn't going to be an easy journey. Due to Covid-19 I wasn't allowed any visitors while I was in Emergency. Nearly two days in and I desperately wanted hubby to visit - to see a friendly face - someone I knew who wasn't coming to see me just to take more blood or perform more super painful tests!

The doctors and nurses were so friendly and helpful. They told me everything...EVERYTHING! I'm hearing words like sepsis being thrown around and they're worried the infection in my knee will spread to my organs. I'm not scared of death. Through Christ, death has lost its sting. Problem is, the enemy found a new way to mess with my head. I couldn't help but think of my two children having to experience grief and growing up without their mother. This broke me.

Over the next two days I was an emotional wreck. This is where God stepped in and took control of the situation.
A pastor friend and his family helped out with the children massively while my husband was visiting (by the end of day 2) and trying to keep normality in check. This gave me some peace of mind, knowing we have people around us who care and are willing to help when I'm not there. 

Another big thing was these messages that came over the public address system every evening. I could hear the Lord's prayer and messages about Jesus. With all the noise and beeping that goes on in a hospital I couldn't always make out exactly what was being said but knowing that prayers and words from the bible were in the air was soothing to my soul. I brought this up with a nurse and asked if someone from the chaplaincy team could come pray with me.
I'm finally asleep. It's midnight. Then a Catholic priest walks in! I found this rather amusing as that wasn't quite what I was expecting, being Christian and all. That and the guy in the bed next to mine was also a Catholic priest!! 

This was to be my final night at the hospital and I was fairly certain I was starting to improve now. I had a strong urge to pray with someone. But not asking for more intervention from God. This time I just wanted to give thanks. To give thanks that the infection didn't spread. To give thanks that I didn't have to be transferred to another hospital to have surgery. To give thanks that my family was taken care of so well and for all the small, daily ways that God stepped in to remind me His mighty hand was on it all.
The priest didn't stay long. He asked a few questions, we prayed, he went on his merry way. After he left, God just turned up and His amazing peace and presence filled the room. I was in awe and just continued to give thanks and bask in His almighty presence.

I was discharged from hospital on the Friday afternoon feeling sore and wobbly but incredibly blessed.
It's still bothering me that my children could have ended up without a mom had things taken a turn for the worse. But I can look back now and know that God will step in and carry us when we have no control over the situation we are in.
Thank you Lord for never letting me go!

''Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you.'' (Deuteronomy 31:6).




Author: Sam Tarplin 

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Sunday, 12 July 2020

A Word of Encouragement

We can't avoid strife in the world around us, but with God we can know perfect peace even in the turmoil.
                   
Finding Peace 
You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in You. Trust in the LORD forever, for the LORD, the LORD, is the rock eternal. Isaiah 26:3-4
"You will keep in perfect peace" that is help and complete protection against fear and worry. This scripture also says, where fear and worry come against the mind, its source is the powers of darkness attacking our minds and it needs to be renewed continually by the Spirit of God. 
Do not confirm to the pattern of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Romans 12:2

Finding Grace
We can't avoid strife in the world around us, but with God we can know perfect peace even in the turmoil. Committed to Christ, we can be secure and stable, and not stricken by the chaos around us. We are able to trust and find grace in God's unchanging mighty power.
And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:7  
Imagine never "being anxious about anything" Paul's advice is to turn our worries into prayers. If you want to worry less, pray more! True peace is not found in positive thinking, it comes from knowing that God is in perfect control of all things.

At times, our minds are attacked by negative spiritual forces, which want to feed us lies. This is where the battleground is.
However, we are told to "Submit yourselves, then to God, resist the devil, and he will flee from you.'' James 4:7

Renewing of The Mind
Paul also reminds us "to be renewed in the attitudes of your mind" Ephesians 4:23. Not giving credence to ungodly thoughts on folks who have hurt us in the past, or things that could happen in the future. Allow our minds to focus on all that is good. Focus on God, on His Word, proclaiming it aloud, where able. Thanking Him for His many blessings, our families, our friends, His constant love, even when we get it wrong.
Finally, brothers, whatever is right, whatever is  pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable, if anything is excellent or praise worthy, think about such things. Philippians 4:8

Being Overcomers
In the UK today, due to Covid 19 many are experiencing mental problems, being lonely and isolated. Many are turning to drink and other means to find temporary peace. Before coming to Christ I was the same. Now, I can honestly say, that Jesus set me free from worry, fears, and hopelessness. It has lasted for nearly 50 years!
At first, a fierce battle ensued, with the powers of darkness, but with the Holy Spirit, victory came, as I began to learn to cover my mind with the blood of Jesus. There are still battles, but with God's help, I can overcome them.   

Standing in The Victory
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and your mind in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7

We can never fully understand the perfect peace of God, but receive it by faith and trust, knowing that Jesus is sheltering us under His wing, and will lead us in the way of everlasting. When the onslaughts come, quote Jesus's words, ''Get behind me, satan! You are a stumbling block to me, you do not have in mind, the concerns of God, but merely human concerns. Matthew 16:23.



Author: John Yates 

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