Sunday, 13 June 2021

Jonah – Part 2 – Fact or Fiction?

We are not told what Jonah had promised to God, but it must have been something along the lines of agreeing to speak out whatever prophetic message the Lord gave to him.  Many of us have made promises to God and this prayer of Jonah is a reminder for us to review those vows. 

(Please start by reading Jonah 2)

Source: Bret Hammond
Discussions persist as to whether it is possible for a man to survive inside a whale. Scientific minded people will point out that it is not possible for a human to pass through a whale oesophagus, and if they did, they would quickly die from drowning, crushing or from strong stomach juices. There is, however, an account of a sailor in the late 19th century whose whaling boat was capsized by a sperm whale they had harpooned. All but two of the men were rescued and returned to the main ship, the ‘Star of the East’. James Bartley was subsequently found and rescued from the animal’s stomach as they cut it open, some fifteen hours later.  It is said that his skin was bleached, he lost his hair and he was nearly blind, but he lived another 19 years. The story circulated around newspaper articles for 100 years, until in the 1980’s someone decided to check out the truth. Records revealed that the Star of the East was not a whaling vessel and there was no-one on board by the name of James Bartley. 

There are many other seafaring yarns and hoaxes which don’t allow the facts to get in the way of a good story, and the name Jonah is still considered to be bad luck to any seafaring crew. But let us look at the Biblical account. It says at the end of chapter 1 that the Lord appointed/prepared/provided a great fish to swallow Jonah. So why should we doubt that God, who created all things (Jonah 1:9), is able to make whatever sea creature He wants to fulfil His purposes at the exact time of His choosing?

At this point we should overlook some of the Sunday school stories and pre-conceived ideas and look at the text. It seems to me from the language that Jonah actually died and was then resuscitated; ‘out of the belly of Sheol’ (Jonah 2:2) – Sheol in every other scripture is the place of the dead; ‘The waters closed in over me to take my life’ (Jonah 2:5)  – drowning; ‘at the roots of the mountains’ (Jonah 2:6a) – deep sea; ‘I went down to the land whose bars closed upon me forever' (Jonah 2:6b)’ – no return, but…‘yet you brought up my life from the pit’(Jonah 2:6c). This is the language of one who has passed away but has been brought back again for a purpose.

Source:Angela Arndt
Some eight centuries later Jesus was being challenged by the Pharisees who demanded a sign. In Matthew 12:38-41 He answered; ‘A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a sign! But none will be given it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. The men of Nineveh will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and now something greater than Jonah is here’.

So, Jonah was a sign. He brought a message of repentance to bad people, but he himself had to die and be restored to life to demonstrate God’s authority over life and death. God confirms His Word with miracles. This sign points forward to Jesus who was to die on behalf of sinners and to be raised, not just for a few more years but for all eternity, into heaven, in the presence of God on our behalf (Hebrews 9:24).

Jonah ran away from the presence of God and died trying to spare his own people of Israel from the ravages of the Assyrians. He was brought back to preach repentance to those undeserving of mercy. Jesus died bearing the burden of all the sins of all mankind. He was resurrected and restored to glory where He intercedes for us (Hebrews 7:25). Jonah’s was a brief restoration to temporal existence, possibly bearing the evidence of his ordeal, but Jesus was resurrected to his new body, permanent and indestructible, yet still bearing the marks of His suffering. Nevertheless, Jonah became a sign of greater things to come.

Hidden in that dark, cold and lonely place Jonah repented saying in Jonah 2:9 ‘what I have vowed I will pay’. We are not told what he had promised to God, but it must have been something along the lines of agreeing to speak out whatever prophetic message the Lord gave to him.  Many of us have made promises to God and this prayer of Jonah is a reminder for us to review those vows.

The moment Jonah repented and vowed to pay up on his promise the power of heaven came down and the shout ‘salvation belongs to the Lord’ went up, the fish heard the voice of its Creator, spat out the prophet, and Jonah was back on dry land.

Next week:  Nineveh – Innocent or Guilty?

Be Blessed.

Author: John Plumb

May God bless and enrich your life

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Sunday, 6 June 2021

Jonah – Coward or Hero?

The cost of obedience to God’s call may be even greater than the cost of disobedience.  The question we might ask ourselves today is this: ‘Am I prepared to hear God’s Word and to act on it, whatever the consequences and whatever the cost?’

(Please start by reading Jonah 1 - the whole chapter)

Source: Heart of Mesa
When the Word of the Lord came to Jonah and what did he do?  He ran.  God had told him to go to Nineveh, some 500 miles north-east of his hometown, but instead he headed for Tarshish, a couple of thousand miles to the west.  What triggered such terror for this prophet of the Lord and why such flagrant disobedience?

The year is 760BC, and the Hebrew people are a divided nation – Judah to the south and Israel to the north.  Both kingdoms have suffered from idolatrous and power-hungry leaders, but northern Israel has been particularly afflicted, and their territory whittled away by surrounding enemy states. God has sent the prophets Elijah, Elisha, and later Amos and Hosea to remind them of the results of repeated apostasy and rebellion against God’s commands. But, to a despairing nation, Jonah brings a message of hope; 2 Kings 14:26-27 ‘For the Lord saw that the affliction of Israel was very bitter, for there was none left, bond or free, and there was none to help Israel. But the Lord had not said that he would blot out the name of Israel from under heaven, so he saved them by the hand of Jeroboam the son of Joash’.

Jereboam II, though yet another godless despot, was able to take back lost territory, quadrupling the size of Israel and ushering in a time of unprecedented prosperity through trade.  All of which was foretold by Jonah the prophet. 2 Kings 14:25 ‘He restored the border of Israel from Lebo-hamath as far as the Sea of the Arabah, according to the word of the Lord, the God of Israel, which he spoke by his servant Jonah the son of Amittai, the prophet, who was from Gath-hepher’. So, we don’t know why God chose Jereboam as deliverer, but we do know that Jonah had impeccable credentials as a prophet of the Lord, yet he still ran.

Source: Redbubble
Now imagine Jonah’s journey from Gath Hepher to Joppa. God could have blocked his way at any time, but our prophet made it to Joppa, had the money for the expensive fare, and found a ship going the way he wanted to go. What was going on in Jonah’s mind?  From the text we know that he was no coward; later telling the sailors to throw him into a storm-tossed sea, and later still telling God that he was not afraid to die. We can only imagine the reasons for the turmoil in this man’s mind as he walked the 60 miles to Joppa.  

As a prophet, Jonah had been given a glimpse of what was to come.  Within a generation the Assyrians (whose vast capital city was Nineveh) would cross the newly established borders of Israel. They would come with vast armies bent on conquest through new levels of barbarism, for whom cruelty was a beaurocratic policy for subjugating every populace in their path and annihilating every culture not their own.  Everything that Jonah knew and loved would be swept away. His future family, his people and his tribe Zebulun would be ravaged, brutalised and deported, the borders gone and the brief success of northern Israel as if it never happened. Isaiah 10:5-6 ‘Ah, Assyria, the rod of my anger; the staff in their hands is my fury! Against a godless nation I send him, and against the people of my wrath I command him, to take spoil and seize plunder, and to tread them down like the mire of the streets’.

Jonah could do nothing to prevent God’s plans.  Worse still, he is being called by God himself to preserve the future tormenters and oppressors who will commit atrocities against all he cares for. He knows God as the God of mercy, he knows the Ninevites as the thugs they were, and he knows what is to come for his people, and he would rather be drowned than have to deliver that message. I imagine on that road to Joppa he’s asking a different question: ‘Why me?’ Here is a man who was prepared to do anything to save his people, even to die so they might be spared, and who points forward eight centuries to one who will.

The cost of obedience to God’s call may be even greater than the cost of disobedience.  The question we might ask ourselves today is this: ‘Am I prepared to hear God’s Word and to act on it, whatever the consequences and whatever the cost?’

Next week we ask the question: Jonah – Fact or Fiction?

Be Blessed.

Author: John Plumb

May God bless and enrich your life

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Saturday, 29 May 2021

Everything that can be shaken will be shaken.

So, while there are many things that we can or should no longer take for granted, we know that we can rely one hundred percent on the Lord and on the truth and total reliability of His Word.

Life has changed so much for us all because of the pandemic and It’s amazing how we manage to adapt and cope. I’ve been thinking about the many things in life that I’ve always just taken for granted until this last year or so. Just the ordinary and simple things like going freely into each other’s homes, giving someone a hug, chatting to a neighbour without standing 2 metres apart, going into a shop without wearing a face mask and so on. I’ve also realised how I’ve automatically depended on the good aspects of life in the UK.

The NHS has been there all my life and whenever I’ve needed a doctor or medication it’s been available. So, when I got toothache, around the time of the first lockdown last year, it was a bit of a blow to realise that I couldn’t see my dentist. I had to make do with a phone call and being advised to take paracetamol. Praise the Lord for paracetamol (Thanks go to Israel for that), but it’s another thing I’ve just taken for granted. Now I wonder, will it always be so readily available?

And there’s something else I’ve tended to take for granted about life here. When it comes to Christians being seriously persecuted it has usually been in far distant places like China or North Korea. But I don’t think it’s wise to take anything for granted about that anymore. You may or may not know that just a few days ago a 71-year-old church pastor was arrested, taken to the police station and detained overnight after, in his open-air sermon, quoting from the book of Genesis about what God has to say about marriage. When I was a teenager back in the sixties I remember taking part in open air gospel services on Margate seafront. That was in the days when there were masses of holiday makers there. We had to risk being heckled, but it would never have crossed our minds to think that we could be arrested for talking about what the Bible teaches or quoting from it. 

The writer of Hebrews tells us about the things God will shake (Hebrews 12 v 26). Part of that verse is a quotation from Haggai, who says:- “This is what the Lord Almighty says:- “In a little while I will once more shake the heavens and the earth, the sea and the dry land. I will shake all nations, and the desired of all nations will come, and I will fill this house with glory,” says the Lord Almighty.” (Haggai 2 v 6-7). We long for the day when Jesus returns, but we know that the shakings come first, along with all that we read in Revelation about the end times. So, all the shakings of this last year help to make us all the more aware that we need to be prepared for more to come. 

I was sorting through some files full of old paperwork recently and I came across some notes that I wrote when listening to Lance Lambert speaking. We were privileged to be in Jerusalem for the Feast of Tabernacles in 2008. Lance was speaking back then about the increasing chaos in the world. He talked about the climate changing and about financial and economic chaos. He said that it was not the devil, but God behind it. He described it as the beginning of a meltdown and said there can be no turning back. He said that the Lord will shake everything that can be shaken in the end times “so that what cannot be shaken may remain.” (Hebrews 12 v 27). He said that the Lord’s purpose was to bring the antichrist out of this turmoil and thus hasten the coming of the Messiah. He reminded us that the place where our treasure needs to be is in the Lord Jesus, unfading and eternal, and of our calling to be witnesses in a world that is hastening to destruction. Lance lived to a good age, but went home to the Lord several years ago, so he didn’t live to experience the pandemic, but what he said seems very relevant now. 

Coming back to the theme of taking things for granted, I realise that another thing that I’ve always taken for granted is the availability of God’s Word. We have at least a dozen Bibles in our house in a variety of translations, along with lots of good and edifying Christian books. But the day may come when Bibles are confiscated, so let’s keep making the most of having them so freely now. Psalm 119 talks about hiding God’s Word in our hearts (Psalm 119 v 11), and the better we know the Word, the better equipped we will be, “having done all, to stand.”(Ephesians 6 v 13). 

So I’ll finish with a couple of Scriptures that are good to meditate on in view of the shakings that we may yet have to face. Psalm 46 is probably well known to us all, but it is well worth holding on to in these days. “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore, we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging. There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells. God is within her, she will not fall; God will help her at break of day. - - - - Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” (Psalm 46 v1-5, v10.) It’s a good Psalm to learn by heart. 

Psalm 18 is a bit long to learn by heart, but the first few verses are a tremendous reassurance of where our security lies. “I love you, O Lord, my strength. The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge. He is my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.” (Psalm 18 v 1-2).  

And lastly, one of my favourite verses:-“The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous run to it and are safe.”(Proverbs 18 v 10).

So, while there are many things that we can or should no longer take for granted, we know that we can rely one hundred percent on the Lord and on the truth and total reliability of His Word. Since His Word tells us that He is the one who is doing the shaking, we can rest assured that He is in control. Whatever else shakes He remains unshaken and unshakeable!  As we’ve heard many times of late, we just need to keep abiding in Him. When many things are being shaken it may feel as if we are in an earthquake zone, but the Lord remains THE SOLID ROCK beneath our feet. Hallelujah!

Author: Hilly Burridge

May God bless and enrich your life

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Sunday, 23 May 2021

Remember, Remember

They claimed to know God, but their teachings were based on traditions and second-hand interpretation. When God in flesh appeared in front of them, they knew him not. Would we?

I have 3 sisters. I can still remember their names. But it is well known that when conversation goes back to days when we had family holidays or stories about us potato picking or turkey plucking then Richard will remember nothing.  When I returned to work with my friend John on his farm after a break of several years, he hoped that I would remember the location of water pipes that I had helped to lay across the farm. He was disappointed!

I suspect we have all used those words: “don’t you remember …..” , often with exasperation. Indeed, Jesus used those words with his disciples as they tried to figure out what he was talking about. Here is the passage in Matthew 16:1-12 

The Pharisees and Sadducees came to Jesus and tested Him by asking Him to show them a sign from heaven.

He replied, “When evening comes, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red,’ and in the morning, ‘Today it will be stormy, for the sky is red and overcast.’ You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times. A wicked and adulterous generation looks for a sign, but none will be given it except the sign of Jonah.” Jesus then left them and went away.

When they went across the lake, the disciples forgot to take bread. “Be careful,” Jesus said to them. “Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.”

They discussed this among themselves and said, “It is because we didn’t bring any bread.”

Aware of their discussion, Jesus asked, “You of little faith, why are you talking among yourselves about having no bread? Do you still not understand? Don’t you remember the five loaves for the five thousand, and how many basketfuls you gathered? Or the seven loaves for the four thousand, and how many basketfuls you gathered? How is it you don’t understand that I was not talking to you about bread? But be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” Then they understood that He was not telling them to guard against the yeast used in bread, but against the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.

The Pharisees and Sadducees unusually come together in this passage with the intention to test Jesus. Their views and teachings were very different to each other, but they chose to unite against Jesus. Jesus was drawing many of their people. His teachings, His miracles and His compassion were talked about throughout the country. But now this coalition of sceptics were goading Jesus to perform a sign. Jesus had silenced this same temptation in the wilderness: ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’ Theses religious leaders chose to ignore all the witnesses, the thousands who were miraculously fed in the countryside by Jesus and his disciples. 

When Jesus replied to the leaders, He made it clear that they watched and interpreted the appearance of the sky believing that it would happen. But they were unable to accept the significance of Jesus's ministry. 

However, I want to look at the response of the disciples. We read that they tried to equate Jesus’s warning about the yeast of the Pharisees with the fact that they had forgotten to bring bread. Jesus comprehended the entire situation. ‘ of little faith’ well that could apply to all of us. The disciples were talking about having no bread, talk that robbed their faith. “Do you not understand? do you not remember..”  Jesus continued with rhetorical questions to direct their attention on to the miraculous feeding of the thousands, in particular how he provided for them personally.  The detail was important. It sharpened the memory, it brought things into focus. And faith began to grow. Now they saw the whole situation differently: Jesus was their shepherd, leading and feeding them. The religious leaders, who should have been tending the sheep, were refusing to believe the miracles and hence, hardening their hearts against Jesus. Moreover, they were actively teaching the people to do the same. Indeed, if Jesus’s closest disciples so quickly forgot the miracles and their meaning, then the crowds  were likely to  put these matters to the back of their minds amidst the hardship of everyday life.

Jesus had described the teaching of the leaders as yeast. It was able to work through and influence the whole of a persons life. The terrible outcome of their teaching is made plain by Jesus (for example in Matthew 23). Previously, Jesus had compared his teachings about the kingdom of God to be like yeast that is worked through a batch of dough. So, we today, can understand that the teaching we follow, will have a profound effect upon our lives and those we interact with. Jesus said of the Pharisees and Sadducees : “though seeing, they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand”.  They claimed to know God, but their teachings were based on traditions and second-hand interpretation. When God in flesh appeared in front of them, they knew him not. Would we?

Finally, let us rejoice in our Lord Jesus Christ. Faith brings clarity; it brings Jesus clearly into the picture. But without remembering and understanding, faith will eventually become lifeless. Let us encourage one another to remember, to understand and to give God the glory.

(PS Our buddy group is going to study a book: ‘Remember’ by Richard Gamble)

Author: Richard Windridge

May God bless and enrich your life

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Sunday, 16 May 2021

Attending to what is important?

What do we need to do differently individually and collectively to seek the face of the Lord for a fresh outpouring of the Holy Spirit?

Source: Twitter
I am in a dilemma really – sitting here wondering how to start this blog and where it will lead? When I was at work in my last real job (I worked as a contractor for two stages of my ‘working life’ so I am talking about being employed here) I had a team of 46 people working on healthcare projects. We needed to work closely together so I/we used every opportunity to develop teamwork and good communication. One of the things that we did was to develop this teamwork around three principles. The principles themselves are not important here, but on my last day when we were having a ‘leaving party’ one of the lead members of the team said, ‘what are those three principles that we were supposed to be using to guide our teamwork’!?

Well, I was frankly in the words of my generation ‘gob-smacked’! What?! There I was thinking that I was being a pain by ‘keeping on’ - trying to remind people of these principles for the last couple of years or so at every opportunity - and here we were after all this time with one of the team leaders (and a much-respected colleague) who couldn’t remember what they were! It was a lesson at a number of levels but the simplest one was that in the jumble of life and all that we have to respond to, we can’t remind ourselves often enough about what is really important.

In this respect Mary keeps coming back to mind; Luke 10:41-42 where Jesus answered and said to her, ‘Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her’. (In sitting at Jesus’ feet and seeking a deeper relationship with God she was not only 'letting down’ her sister by not helping her, but also breaking a cultural norm about the role that she was expected to take given the circumstances of the day). It causes me to think about how difficult it is for us to abandon our normal patterns of behaviour to seek the Lord’s face. 

How important does something need to be to cause us to make real changes to the way that we live? Let’s think about something that we might do that breaks our own cultural norms or current behaviours in response to the Lord telling us to ‘seek His face’; Psalm 27:8 (ESV) ‘when You said, Seek My face’, My heart said to You, Your face, Lord, I will seek’. (Our minds do readily respond to the Lord sometimes, don’t they? It’s easy to mentally get that God wants us to seek His face or to be convinced of a biblical principle. It’s quite another to alter the way that we behave or radically change something in our lives to enable us to respond to what the Lord asks?

Source: Christian Art Gifts
For example, it’s not too hard to understand why the Lord has been teaching us to abide in Him, the true vine. We get that it’s only in the vine that we can we get the sustenance that we need and remaining in the vine is the only way that we can walk with the Lord day by day. But how do we abide? It isn’t understanding the words that brings us into this relationship with the vine, it’s the Holy Spirit that brings us in to the relationship. Let’s apply a test. The scripture is John 15:5,7&8 ‘I am the vine; you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing… If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so, you will be My disciples’.

I guess if we can tick the boxes:

√ asking what we desire, and it being done for us and 

√ bearing much fruit to the glory of God the Father 

… then there is no need to be alarmed? But if we are more like; ‘without me you can do nothing’… then are we really abiding?

Often the bible’s answer to things that are not right, is to seek the face of the Lord. In the New King James version, the word ‘Seek’ appears 310 times not including all of the related words like ‘inquire’; these are not all referring to ‘seeking the Lord but a good many of them are. There are a number of Hebrew (Old Testament) and Greek (New Testament) words that are translated as ‘seek’. 

In Psalm 27:4 David seeks after the Lord with delight: ‘One thing I have desired of the LORD, that will I seek: That I may dwell in the house of the LORD All the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD, and to inquire of His temple’.

In Jeremiah 29:13 the prophet is answering a question as to why the Lord has not answered: ‘And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart’.

I suspect that Mary’s heart was seeking in the manner of Psalm 27 – with delight she was seeking the face of God and establishing her relationship with Him.

In the Laodicean church of Revelation 3 the Lord is urging people to seek His face because He was revealing to them the massive gap between where they thought they were and where they in fact were in His sight – miserable and poor and blind and naked

In the early 1900s, when God was pouring out His Spirit in a new way in churches in different places, three Godly men quite independently declared that in ‘about 100 years’ time’ there would be a similar outpouring. They said that the difference this time would be that it would not be identified with any one person/individuals and that it would be global. In response to this I am reminded of Daniel. Once he saw through prophesy that the years of exile were ending, he sought the face of God to make that word a living reality.

So here are three reasons (not the only ones) for us to seek the Lord for a fresh outpouring of His Holy Spirit:

- As Mary and David, with a deep hunger and delight at knowing the Lord – for the sheer love of Jesus and wanting His name to be honored and lifted high.

- Because we know that something is wrong and are desperate for the Lord to move in power for the sake of the church and those who have no knowledge of salvation at all.

- If we hear (as Thelma reminded us not long ago) the sound of ‘moving in the mulberry trees’ and recall God’s promises to pour out His spirit when His people rise up and seek His face and are convinced that this is the time of our visitation, then we will seek His face for a fresh outpouring. 

I think that this message is coming to us again and again through different people not just so that we will understand it but so that we will live in it. What do we need to do differently individually and collectively to seek the face of the Lord for a fresh outpouring of the Holy Spirit? We need to remember that God rejected the Jews of Jeremiah’s time because they did not seek Him earnestly and in truth. Sometimes we need reminding again and again so that we determine what’s important and change accordingly?

Me with a quenchless thirst inspire,

A longing, infinite desire,

And fill my craving heart.

Less than Thyself, oh, do not give,

In might Thyself within me live;

Come, all Thou hast and art.

                                           (Charles Wesley)

Author: Chris Pearson

May God bless and enrich your life

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Sunday, 9 May 2021

The Peace of God that Surpasses all Understanding

We can say that we trust God in all things, but we don’t really know that we do, until we have been through trials and practically put our trust in God through them

Source: BibleVerse to go
A dictionary definition of peace is ‘Peace is freedom from hostile aggression, a lack of conflict and freedom from fear of violence between individuals or diverse groups’. This represents the world’s view of peace, basically the absence of conflict. True peace, however, is the peace that only God can give. In Philippians 4:7 the Apostle Paul says, ‘And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus’. Also, in John 14:27 Jesus says, ‘Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid’. So, know that God’s peace is far beyond anything we can understand and that it protects our hearts and minds in Jesus, it is a gift Jesus gave us, it is not the peace that the world can give. Jesus tells us not to be afraid, but that is easier said than done. 

Of course, worldly peace is short lived. There are always wars going on somewhere in the world. There are always major conflicts between countries or within governments and all sorts of examples of man’s inhumanity to man. Even in our own lives and among the people we know and love, we see disagreements, unexpected sad and tragic circumstances that appear unjust to us.  So how can we have God’s peace with all that going on? Well, Jesus’ promise of peace does not mean we are free from tribulation; John 16:33 ‘And everything I’ve taught you is so that the peace which is in me will be in you and will give you great confidence as you rest in me. For in this unbelieving world, you will experience trouble and sorrows, but you must be courageous, for I have conquered the world!’ (The Passion Translation (TPT)).

There are many more scriptures to back up the fact that God says, if we believe in Jesus and walk in His ways, we will certainly face trials and persecution in this world. Sometimes, even as Christians, we can mix up the world’s peace and God’s peace. When we go through trouble, we can think God is punishing us for our sins or we are not good enough. We can believe God does not love us or has abandoned us and we can even believe that life should always be a happy and joyful existence if we are leading a Christian life. However, all of these are false. It is perfectly clear that as Christians, we will suffer but God’s Word tells us that we can still have peace in all circumstances. 

God lets us go through persecution, but why? Firstly, if we are followers of Christ, we will suffer because he suffered; John 15:20 (TPT) ‘So remember what I taught you, that a servant isn’t superior to his master. And since they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. And if they obey my teachings, they will also obey yours’. Secondly, God is instructing us. He allows bad things to happen to us, he is not punishing us, but rather teaching us. When we are taught something, it is to further our knowledge and understanding. We can learn a lot from textbooks and teachers, but we also need to get practical experience. As Christians we have the most amazing full and complete textbook, the Bible. We also have wonderful teachers and other books, that help us understand and interpret what God is teaching us. Just as in education there are certain things we have to accomplish practically before we can say we can do it.  Each of us have our own walk with God. We can say we have faith, but unless our faith has been tested practically, then it is just words. If we say we are long suffering and have perseverance or patience, it is just words, if we haven’t been tested through it practically. We can say that we trust God in all things, but we don’t really know that we do, until we have been through trials and practically put our trust in God through them.

Source; embroiderypanda
James 1:2-4 tells us; ‘Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing’. We can’t be expected to feel joy at all times, can we? No, of course not, we are not expected to be robots without feelings and emotions. When my mum went to be with the Lord, two good friends of mine prayed with me that my grief would not overwhelm me. I didn’t understand at the time what they meant, but later, I realised that though I needed to grieve, my grief did not overwhelm me, as it does with some people, because of my relationship with Christ and the gift of His Peace.

Numerous devout people in the bible suffered many trials. Noah, Abraham, Moses, Stephen, who was stoned to death, Paul who came close to death many times and was eventually killed for his faith. There are many more examples, and all of these had the peace of God in them because they trusted God and lived to please Him and not themselves or the world. Jesus himself, in the knowledge that He was going to suffer an inhumanely painful death of crucifixion, went ahead with the Father’s Will for Him. He didn’t, smile with joy, no, He went into the Garden of Gethsemane and prayed a heartfelt prayer to His Father in heaven, sweated blood, asked for the cup to be taken from Him but then obeyed the Father and died for us so that we might have eternal life. 

Some of us can tend to get temptations and trials mixed up, however, temptations never come from God but from within ourselves or from satan. Satan only tempts with that which is desirable to us. He put temptation in Jesus’ way, but as we know Jesus resisted him every time. James 1:13-15 tells us ‘Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am being tempted by God’, for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death’. James 4:7 gives us some advice on how we might deal with these situations; ‘Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you’.

So, how can we obtain this peace that surpasses all understand? The bible, as ever, offers this advice:

Pursue our relationship with God - Acts 4:12 ‘There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved’.  Peace will allude those who don’t have a relationship with God. Without that knowledge of Jesus there will always be fear of death and judgement within the hearts of people. Yet knowing the Lord enables believers to have peace even within the worst of storms.

Put away anxious thoughts and place our trust in God - Philippians 4:6-7 ‘Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus’. Believers can struggle with doubt or unbelief leading to anxious thoughts. However, we are clearly taught not to worry about anything! By praying to God and giving thanks to Him for everything and trusting Him in everything we can receive His peace

Prioritise our spiritual walk - Matthew 6:33-34 ‘But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. ‘Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble’Peace can be difficult to find when we become distracted with the cares and worries of this world. It is easy to fall away from our spiritual walk after a series of small compromises of faith that slowly drain peace from our lives.  Making our spiritual growth a priority is essential to having a life of peace to sustain us in hard times.  We have to ask ourselves: How is our prayer life? Are we constantly in the word? Do we fellowship regularly with other believers?

Push past our present situation - 2 Corinthians 5:7 ‘for we walk by faith, not by sight’. It is easy to get stuck in our present situation and let our peace evaporate just like it did for Peter when he stepped out on the water to walk towards Jesus. Peace isn’t the absence of a stormy situation - it is the ability to remain calm and faithful in spite of the uncertainty. Faith is about hoping for what we don’t yet see in this world and as we grow in our faith, the peace of God will infiltrate our heart and minds with his peace.

Peace, be still – In Mark 4:39-41, When the disciples were afraid for their lives because of the fierceness of the storm, and in a frenzy, they woke Jesus. He said three simple words ‘Peace be still’ and the entire weather system complied. Can you imagine the amazement of those tough and experienced fishermen? The Lord desires that we step back from the anxieties and perplexities of this world to see His power displayed in magnificent ways. Jesus knew about the storm brewing while He slept on the boat and He knows about the storms hovering over our lives even today, yet He still says, ‘Peace be still’

We can take great comfort from what the Apostle Paul tells us in Philippians 4:11-13 ‘I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength’. I pray, that as followers of Jesus, we may demonstrate the peace of God every day so that others may know Him too. Philippians 4:4-7 ‘Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!  Let our gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present our requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard our hearts and our minds in Christ Jesus’.

I leave you with these final words from Philippians 4:8-9 which I use as a prayer for all those read this and myself too; ‘Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you’.

Be blessed.

Author: Barbara Dragunas

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Sunday, 2 May 2021

Two Kinds of Blessing

The Bible doesn’t promise us an easy life. There will be struggles, but one day we will understand their purpose. In Christ we have a future and a reason to live today.  

We all want to be blessed, but what kind of blessing are we expecting, Happiness? Health? Wealth? Prosperity? Power? Jacob was a man who wanted to be blessed by his father Isaac.  The name Jacob means ‘heel grabber’, he was therefore by name and nature a trickster.  First, he caught his brother Esau in a moment of need and stole his birth right, then, aided by his equally scheming mother, he stole his brother’s blessing. You may want to remind yourself of the story by reading from Genesis 27 to Genesis 28:9. Jacob’s character is revealed in that he had no conscience about deceiving his father, only a fear of being found out and cursed instead (Genesis 27:12), but God had plans, as the rest of the story reveals.

Looking closely at the text, we see that Jacob was blessed by Isaac twice; the first in Genesis 27:27-29, the second in Genesis 28:3-4.  There are however some key differences.

Blessing One - The Stolen Blessing

The first blessing promises both wealth and power – the ‘fatness of the earth’ and ‘lord over your brothers’, even ‘blessing for those who bless you’. This is the blessing for the easy life – ‘La Dolce Vita’ in which everything goes right, no struggles, no pain, no trauma nor tragedy.  Did it come to pass? Not at all. Jacob struggled with man and with God, being renamed Israel to testify to his struggling. He ran for his life from his brother, was continually deceived by his uncle Laban, ran away again, bowed and grovelled before his brother, was bereaved of wife and favourite son, and lost everything, becoming destitute in the famine, finally living out his day’s dependent on his re-found son Joseph. Living his last days in exile in Egypt he described to Pharaoh his 130 years sojourning as ‘few and evil’.  Clearly the blessing he gained by deception did him no good at all.

Blessing Two - The Real Blessing

Source: PInterest
There was however another blessing; the real blessing, given willingly by his father to the son who now obeyed (Genesis 28:3-4). This time there is no mention of personal prosperity but the promise of offspring, becoming a ‘company of peoples’, and possession of the land – all the promises that God had given to his grandfather Abraham.  In this blessing Isaac invokes the name of God Almighty, ‘El Shaddai’, the all sufficient One who provides.

So, Jacob, and subsequently the nation of Israel, will struggle, will be rejected and mistreated, but will fulfil the promises of God in covenant continuity for a people and a land. Jonathan Sachs wrote: ‘Time and again God blesses the patriarchs – but always and only in terms of children and a land.  He never promises them ‘the richness of the earth’, or that they will ‘rule over their brothers’.  Wealth and power have nothing to do with the covenant.  They are not part of Israel’s destiny’.

As Christian believers we have been included in these promises. The Bible doesn’t promise us an easy life. There will be struggles, but one day we will understand their purpose. In Christ we have a future and a reason to live today.  

Philippians 3:20 ‘Our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ’.

Be blessed!

Author: John Plumb

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Sunday, 25 April 2021

The Shepherd

Isaiah 40:11 encourages us that He feeds His flock (us) like a shepherd, He will carry his lambs (us) in His arms, and He holds us close to His heart 

Source: PInterest
I was recently sitting in my favourite chair, in the beautiful morning sunshine reading my daily reading, from a lovely little book that blesses me so much, when one of the verses the book highlighted both blessed me. It took me back to a little incident that happened at the weekend that the Lord used to reveal His Wonderful Character and care for me. The verse was Isaiah 40:11 ‘He will feed his flock like a shepherd, He will carry the lambs in his arms holding them close to his heart.  He will gently lead the mother sheep with their young’. I was immediately overwhelmed with the image of Jesus as the shepherd of our lives and all of the different ways that affects us.   

At the weekend we had gone up to a friend’s (John) local farm with our children and we took my daughter in law into the barn where the baby lambs and new moms were being looked after.  It was obvious these sheep were being well cared for and each section of the barn was divided into sections to cater for the needs and development of these little families. There was one section where there were only lambs and I wondered why there were no ewes with them and why they ran to us bleating when they saw us. Next there was a little section where there were two ewes and six lambs between them. One little lamb looked so pathetic, his little knees were pointed in together and he appeared to be all hunched in on himself and slightly shivering. We were both concerned for him and frankly I wondered if he was unwell. However later when we spoke to John and described what we had seen, he explained that the lambs on their own were ones who's mothers had not been able to feed them and they were being hand reared so obviously had learned to trust humans and ran to them. Then even from my faltering description, John knew exactly which lamb I was talking about and assured me that he had been checked and watched, and that he was doing ok.  John is obviously a good shepherd and knows his sheep well. And although, frankly he doesn’t expect to have them with him for eternity, he still puts in so much care tending, birthing and making sure each lamb thrives if it possibly can. Imagine how much the Lord wants to care for you as He is preparing you for eternity with Him.

So why am I saying all this. Well, it struck me this morning that if John does that for his lambs how much more does our Shepherd Jesus know and care for us.  Isaiah 40:11 encourages us that He feeds His flock (us) like a shepherd, He will carry His lambs (us) in His arms, and He holds us close to His heart. He will gently lead the mother sheep with their young. This verse has been a comfort to me over so many years.

He feeds His flock

Source: G21
Are you hungry today, are you seeking the Lord, are you desiring to be fed and filled by him? Well, the good news is that as your Shepherd He has promised to feed you. He will turn up to where you are and give to you the food you need. Jesus says in John 6:35 ‘I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry again’.  His delight is to fill you with Himself, to feed you from the finest of wheat, to make sure you are well fed and thriving by giving you Himself. When we allow him to feed us with His Word and His Spirit, we really do have everything we need. We are equipped for the long journey of life; we really have more than enough to sustain us. Psalm 145:15 ‘The eyes of all look to you in hope, you give them their food as they need it’.  It is only when we are hungry that we are in a good place to eat a full meal.  Jesus wants us to be full but, if you are hungry that’s great Jesus wants to fill you. If you are not feeling in that hungry place in the Lord at the moment don’t worry, just ask the Lord to stir up your hunger, and you will be amazed at the things He can bring that will make you hungry for him and put you in just the right place to eat a full and sustaining meal from His hand.  

He will carry the lambs in His arms and carry them close to His heart

Oh, this image is the most amazingly comforting picture of the Lord’s love and care for us, He carries us!  Some days I really need a good carry. Just like when I was a little girl and my legs got tired, I would reach up and say, ‘carry please daddy’. Dad would pick me up and carry me till I felt stronger and could walk a bit further by myself again. The Lord carries us; It's ok to be carried by the Lord at times. Its not an admission of failure, it's just feeling a bit tired and weary. If you need reassurance that its ok to need rest in the Lord, put down everything else, give Him all the cares and worries and let Him carry you, just look at where Isaiah says he carries us; ‘Close to His heart’!  Not on His back where He cannot see us and we cannot see Him, not under His arm where we can’t see His face, no, it`s close to His heart where we can experience the comfort of His heartbeat and He can respond to us, up close and personal!

He will gently lead the mother sheep with their young  

For those who still have little children to look after will know how distracting that can be. We sit in church services or try to read and pray with little hands clutching at us and little voices vying for our attention. It's hard to be as focussed on the Lord as we would want with such relevant distractions, but He promises to still gently lead. He will speak to you amidst the distraction if we learn to hear His voice above the rest. Ask the Spirit to hone your ability to hear His voice above everything else.  He is still speaking.  

For us older sheep who now have more time and ability to sit and listen in an undisturbed way, well we know we still have the distraction of our lambs (be that our own children or other people who we might be concerned about), only now we worry from a distance. However, the concern and the distraction is just as real and just as invasive.  Jesus is still our shepherd and still wants to lead us, He is just as aware that we need to hear His voice of love, care direction as much as we ever have.  Ask the Holy Spirit to amplify that voice to us again, fill us again, and direct us again, He is still our guiding and caring Shepherd.

And I suppose finally, if today you find that you have responsibility for shepherding others, whoever that may be; lots of people or just one, the responsibility is just the same.  I could ask John, our farmer friend, about the sleep he has missed, or the days off he would love, but his shepherd heart drives him on.  God has put us all in a family to care for each other and even in this we need our personal Shepherd to help us as we care for others, so that we will know how to love and care for them as He would, how to hang in through their difficult times and how we are to keep connected to the Lord so we can be a true friend to them.  It’s a gift given us by the Lord to care for others and as we are an extension to His hands and feet He again will provide and equip us with all we need to fulfil that amazing privilege to care for others.     

May the Lord lead you and guide you today as you rest in the blessing of being one of His treasured flock. 

Author: Jan Pearson

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Sunday, 18 April 2021

Me, Myself and I

I need to be filled with the Holy Spirit, because as someone once said ‘There is no room for God in those who are full of themselves’. There can be no filling if there is no emptying. If I want to have room for the spirit, I need to empty myself of self.

Source: Etsy
America Preacher David Wilson once said; ‘To mature into Christianity is to mature into self-denial to an extent that society will be unable to understand your actions’. Wow, what a challenge!! I have been focusing lately on my own motives for doing things and asking myself if I am doing them for the glory of ‘me, myself and I’ or for the Glory of God? In Corinthians 10:31 Paul says, ‘Whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God’. Yes, it says 'whatever' you do. How many of us can honestly say that we do everything for the Glory of God?

In today’s society ‘self’ has perhaps become even more important than ever before. This is the age of the selfie, a word that entered the dictionary for the first time in 2013. It has become totally normal to take pictures of ourselves to show others where we are, how great we look or what we are doing at any given moment of the day. There are many characteristics that give an indication of ‘selfishness’ or putting oneself first:


Maybe I think I am generally patient, but how often have I found myself being impatient in a traffic queue or a supermarket queue, even when I am not in a hurry? I have found myself wondering why the person in front of me needs to chat with the cashier, or why the waiter is taking such a long time bringing my order. Or maybe I cannot wait for someone to finish their sentence to put my point of view across. Impatience is often a sign of thinking our time is so much more important than someone else’s. We are told in Galatians 5:22 that patience is meant to be a fruit of the Spirit: ‘But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness’.


One of the greatest threats to our walk with God is materialism. We live in a ‘must have’ and ‘must have now’ society, where we can often have what we want, when we want it. I was shocked with myself the other day when ordering some cushion inserts online. I was actually tempted to go for the ones that I would receive the next day even though I could get the same ones 5 days later for half the price. I did not give in on this occasion, but I was surprised how tempted I was!! I need to make sure I am not being drawn away from God by using my money for my own desires. God does not stop us enjoying His blessings but too much wealth spent on ourselves can take up so much time and energy that we no longer glorify God. Affluence is a mixed blessing. If used correctly it can be used to glorify God but if used incorrectly it can take our focus off the Lord and what He wants us to do. 

God warned the Israelites that they would be tempted to forget Him when they experienced financial prosperity. Deuteronomy 8:10-11 tells us: ‘When you have eaten and are satisfied, praise the Lord your God for the good land he has given you. Be careful that you do not forget the Lord your God, failing to observe his commands, his laws and his decrees that I am giving you this day’ and Deuteronomy 8:17-18 continues; ‘You may say to yourself, ‘My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me’. But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms his covenant, which he swore to your ancestors, as it is today’.

Source: PInterest
We are told in Luke 6:38 that if we give generously, we will receive an even bigger blessing, Jesus says: ‘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’. We are also told in 1 John 3:17 that if we see a need and do not meet it, even though we are able, then we cannot have the love of God in us; ‘If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him?’ I read somewhere that most of what God gives us is not for ourselves but for the blessing of others, including our time, our talents, our spiritual gifts, our money are all things that God wants us to use generously to bless others.


It is no wonder that self-importance is a problem in our society today. We are constantly being told by the media or adverts that ‘we matter’ or ‘we are worth it’ or ‘we deserve it’. We are encouraged to do a certain thing or possess a certain thing and then we will be special. The bible however has a different message. It tells us to humble ourselves and to put others first. Luke 14:7-11 ‘When he noticed how the guests picked the places of honour at the table, he told them this parable: ‘When someone invites you to a wedding feast, do not take the place of honour, for a person more distinguished than you may have been invited.  If so, the host who invited both of you will come and say to you, ‘Give this person your seat.’ Then, humiliated, you will have to take the least important place. But when you are invited, take the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he will say to you, ‘Friend, move up to a better place.’ Then you will be honoured in the presence of all the other guests. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted’.  If I am not full of self-importance or selfish ambition I will look to the needs of others and want what is best for them. If I imitate Christ, I will put aside my own desires, as He did and I will do what it says in Matthew 7:12 ‘So, in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the law and the prophets’. Of course, I want to be treated with love, respect, forgiveness, so I need to treat others that way too.

These are only a few of the areas of selfishness that can enter our lives without us even noticing if we are not careful. So, what can I do to keep ‘me, myself and I’ at bay? 

Well firstly, I need to be filled with the Holy Spirit, because as someone once said ‘There is no room for God in those who are full of themselves’. There can be no filling if there is no emptying. If I want to have room for the spirit, I need to empty myself of self. The Apostle Paul was a perfect example of this throughout his life after Jesus had appeared to him. In Galatians 2:20 he says, ‘I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me’.

The Bible tells us to not just read His Word but to remain in His Word, Psalm 119:36 ‘Turn my heart toward your statutes and not toward selfish gain. Let me be focused on your word and your will; not on my will’ and Hebrews 4:12 ‘For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart’.

Being a servant of Christ instead of self means doing everything for the glory of God, dying to self, loving others, coming out of my comfort zone, being willing to help someone when I don’t feel like it, going to places I have never been before, confronting people with the truth…….and so much more!! But for the glory of God, it will all be worth it!!!

Author: Thelma Cameron

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Sunday, 11 April 2021

Let the Light of the Lord Shine

The Lord turns His eyes towards us, not to destroy us but to purify us so that we to shine with His light.

Source: The Baptist Union
I have been struck and blessed by the Apostle John’s vision of the Lord Jesus in Revelation 1.  He was in prison on the island of Patmos because of the Gospel, knowing that the churches he loved and cared for were increasingly being persecuted.  He was in his mid-eighties, in Patmos because the Roman government maintained rock quarries there to which criminals and troublemakers were sent. Earlier on, the Emperor Nero was feeding Christians to the lions. 

Peter and Paul were crucified during that period, but under Emperor Domitian things got even worse. He was a very insecure man who demanded that all his subjects throughout the Empire worshipped him as Lord and God; ‘go to the temple, take a pinch of incense, cast it on the altar and say, Caesar is Lord’, he instructed them.  This was impossible for John, for him, there was only one Lord, only one Person who could demand total allegiance, and for this he was considered to be a threat to Rome. While in Patmos Domitian’s reign, terror intensified for the churches.  John knew that believers were confused, discouraged and afraid, with the pressure to conform to the Emperor’s edict.  Many Christians were harassed by soldiers, losing their businesses and homes with many being murdered. Heresy and immorality were also gaining footholds in a number of congregations.

Throughout this turmoil John remained in the Spirit and God’s response was to give him a powerful vision of the Lord Jesus. This wasn’t an inner mystical experience, John ‘heard’ a voice as clear and resounding as a trumpet, he ‘saw’ the Lord, and the Lord ‘laid’ His right hand on John.  John knew the Lord; he had lived with Him some years before. John sees the Lord walking among the churches he was concerned about and as the Lord delivers the messages, John hears seven times the words, ‘I know…’. The risen and living Jesus knew what was happening among them, their hard work, struggles, fears, pain and emptiness.  In exactly the same way, the Lord is moving amongst us right now. He isn’t distant or withdrawn since His ascension, He is present amongst every congregation. 

Source: PInterest
The whole description is rich in meaning but I would like to draw your attention to the fact that in Revelation 1:16 ‘the Lord’s face was ‘like the sun shining in all its brilliance’, and it was shining on John!  In the Old Testament that is the greatest blessing imaginable. (Numbers 6:25; Psalm 4:6 and Psalm 67:1). The Lord turns His eyes towards us, not to destroy us but to purify us so that we too shine with His light. John says that when he saw the Lord, he fell down at His feet, as good as dead. Do we ever felt like falling down at the feet of Jesus?

The Lord laid His right hand on John, He isn’t distant, He is near.  He said in Revelation 1:17-18 ‘….Do not be afraid, I am the First and the Last.  I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever!  And I hold the keys of death and Hades’. The Lord faced the greatest enemy there is.  On the cross He allowed all the powers that threaten to overcome us have their unrestrained way with Him. He allowed death to take him captive and then came out of the prison carrying away the keys.  

So, in these uncertain times let’s remember who holds the keys, to health, to provision of every kind, to death, to the unseen world and let us to turn our eyes on Jesus.

Author: Betty Plumb

May God bless and enrich your life

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