Sunday 31 January 2021

The Lord Restores ME (Psalm 23)

It struck me that God really does see every part of us and His desire is to restore all of it!  

Source: Praise Banners
I am currently reading through Psalms, not a place I thought I would end up in after the exhilaration of reading through Isaiah.  I was so challenged by that book and its prophecies that seem to be speaking directly to this generation. When I had finished, I asked the Lord what to read next and he said clearly read Psalms, you are going to need a time of comfort and encouragement.  So, today I would like to share something from one of the most well know Psalms, but something that spoke right into my spirit today. 

Psalm 23 (NLT Version) ‘The Lord is my Shepherd; I have all that I need. He lets me rest in green meadows; he leads me beside peaceful streams.  He renews my strength……’. Hold on I thought, don’t you mean soul (instead of ‘strength’), it should read soul!  It was then I noticed that there was a highlight by the word ‘strength’. It was at this point that the Lord stopped me and caused me to look a little deeper

For my 60th Birthday my husband bought me an NLT Bible complete with a wonderful concordance and a dictionary of some Hebrew and Greek words.  This is where the Lord led me; the Hebrew word for the NLT interpretation ‘strength’ is nepesh, which in Hebrew means – ‘soul - life, - self.  In fact, much of the immaterial part of a person similar to the spirit, which is also related to the inner person. But nepesh often has more connection to the physical life, including the seat of cravings and desires.  Often the word is simply an equivalent of the pronoun `my soul` or `me`.

I was really struck by the thought that God – Our Shepherd – not only restores my soul, the eternal part of ME but restores ME, every part of ME.  He restores the ME that only I see, He also wants to restore the ME that others get to see but I`m not aware of. He also wants to restore the ME that He alone sees, the me He wants to mature and perfect.  It struck me that God really does see every part of us and His desire is to restore all of it!   The trouble is that in Psalm 23 we get swept along with the image of the green meadows and peaceful streams and we fit `renews my soul` in with that image of calm. Sometimes it can be a calm process but at other times renewing of our soul, our ME can take us down a challenging, and often unwelcomed path. Things can happen that cause us to feel ill at ease, challenged or actually not in agreement at all with what`s going on for us!  We can sometimes feel anything but calm and frankly can question the Lord as to what is going on!

Source: Faith
Isaiah 45:9 puts it so well; ‘Does a clay pot argue with its maker? Does the clay dispute with the one who shapes it, saying ‘Stop, you’re doing it wrong’! Does the pot exclaim ‘how clumsy can you be’? In other words you are getting it all wrong, this shouldn’t be happening!!  Isaiah goes on to say; 45:10 `How terrible would it be if a new born baby said to its father ‘Why was I born?` or if it said to its mother “Why did you make me this way?’ And yet I know I have questioned may times what the Lord is doing, or maybe not liked the way I behave in situations, and asked the Lord why I am the way I am, instead of realising this was the way God created me to be and I am still a work in progress, still under restoration.  

If we want to restore something, say a piece of neglected furniture or paintwork, this can involve many processes.  Admittedly, the majority of the process will involve tender care, restorative products that enhance and build up whatever is being restored, time and patience to do each step carefully and perfectly till the beautiful finished product can be seen.  However, any experienced restorer will have to point out that before you can restore you often have to strip away, sand down, treat with harsh chemicals and sometimes trim off old and useless areas to allow the restored beauty of the finished item to shine through.  It`s at this point if a stage of the work is skimped on or missed then the finished product may not be perfect, not fully restored may even result in a patch up job.  Not desirable if you want to present a perfect item. However, the Lord wants to present us as perfect to the Father.   It is funny how we like to think of the Shepherd leading us to green pastures, letting us drink from quiet waters and us lying down protected in peace and serenity, without wanting to think of the journey over thorns thistles, hard climbs and low depths that we might have to traverse to get there.  The commentary on the Hebrew word nepesh mentions that the soul, the ME is also the seat of cravings and desires.  We all know that these can sometimes be at war with the Lord’s perfect plan for us and need to be perfected and restored too.

This prolonged time of Lockdown and social isolation has been a strain on all of us (even on those who by their nature like to be a little `set apart`). I have heard many people and some Christians say that they are really fed up now and wonder why something can`t be done to stop it all.  I really do understand this and empathise with those sentiments. It’s been a long hard journey for everyone, which has also had its normal everyday difficulties to deal with under extraordinary restrictions.  A little decision like ‘shall we get such and such fixed’ can be weighed down with lots of decisions and considerations about exposure, safety, and should we just try and wait till …………

But through it all for me, the Lord has taken this time to do lots of restoration of His own.  Only when the pressure is on does the real ME become exposed.  Sometimes I`m comfortable with the ME I see but other times I`m very uncomfortable with the ME that appears.  But amazingly I feel very encouraged in all of this because God has firmly promised that He renews my strength - He renews my soul – He restores ME.  And I feel that the extra time that the restrictions have given me, the Lord has provided plenty of restorative time to help me deal with all the stripping, sanding, treating, restoring and TLC He has poured out on ME.  I am sure that I am not alone in this, so many have had challenges to face, and mountains to climb, as well as quiet waters to sit by and green meadows to rest in.

So, what is the purpose of all this restoring, why is it so important that the Lord is so fervent in renewing and restoring our soul - our ME, even to the point of taking us through challenging times sometimes too? The answer lies in the second part of Psalm 23:3 `He guides me along `right` paths, bringing honour to His name’.  Here the little Hebrew dictionary kicks in again.  The Hebrew word for right is `tsedeq` meaning justice or righteousness.  This is a character quality of the Lord, flowing from his moral purity. God has lovingly revealed his standard in his word, and he desires it be dept as a matter of tsedeq’. 

The Lord wants us to develop in us His character to mature and perfect us, because we are to bring honour to His Name both on Earth in the way we represent Him to others, and in the heavenlies to the principalities and powers in the Heavenly realm.

So, the purpose of restoration is that my ME will be more like His HIM.  Jesus reminds us so well in John 16:33 the reason for why we need more of his HIM in our lives; I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me.  Here on Earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world’.

I know most of us know this, and I apologise if it sounds like I`m trying to bring something you already know, but the journey from the calm meadow and quiet waters of restoration to the understanding of the trial and difficulties of restoration and the purpose of perfecting my ME have been such a blessing I just felt I had to share.

Author: Jan Pearson

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Sunday 24 January 2021

Stand on the Rock

I don’t know why we are going through valley experiences any more than I know why we enjoy mountain top moments, but I do know the Lord is with us every step of the way

Source: PInterest
The very central scripture of the Bible, indeed the very centre is Psalm 118:8 ‘It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in man’.  Also, this theme can be found throughout the Bible:
Psalm 40:4 ‘Blessed is the one who trusts in the LORD, who does not look to the proud, to those who turn aside to false gods’;

Psalm 62:8 ‘Trust in him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge’

Many other scriptures remind us again and again where we need to place our trust and yet once more at the beginning of the New Year, I was seeking the Lord and realised that once again we are placing our trust in not just man but a vaccine! Please don’t get me wrong, I have the highest respect for Boris Johnson and all the Medical team advisers.... who would want their job at a time like this?  I am very grateful to the many scientists who have laboured long and hard and will be pleased to receive a vaccine that will protect me from this dreadful virus.

We can get overwhelmed by anxiety, worry, fear and grief.  As a fellowship we are all experiencing all of these emotions.  So, there I sat, at the beginning of the year asking the Lord what I should do.  ‘Here I am Lord, I can’t be sent out to do Your will because we are in lockdown so what do I do that I am not already doing?’ 

Be an encourager, was what I felt the Lord telling me to be.  I must admit I liked that answer because that is something I have always tried to be, an encourager, especially in my working life. My next question then then was....’who do I encourage, how and with what?‘ 

Source: PInterest
Source: Pinterest
Now I am always the first to realise the Lord has a tremendous sense of humour because as soon as I had voiced these thoughts in prayer I came upon a picture.  This picture at first sight was anything but encouraging. Picture if you will a small lighthouse with huge waves crashing almost over the very top. The lighthouse looked overwhelmed and I could find no encouragement in this, so asked the Lord to show me what I was obviously not seeing.

Very patiently the Lord showed me that no amount of buffeting winds, rain and stormy seas would dislodge this little lighthouse and the answer was hidden, beneath the water unseen, this lighthouse was built on rock.  This gave me such encouragement as we have all built our lives on the ROCK, but the encouragement did not stop there because once these huge crashing waves subsided, the light was still shining out of the top of this little beacon of warning but also of encouragement.

Other scriptures recently given to us also link in: 

Psalm 23 ‘The LORD is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, He refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil, my cup overflows. Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever’

Psalm 23 refers to ‘quiet waters’, but if you are in the company of our Saviour, like the disciples experienced in the storm-tossed boat, we too can know a peace that surpasses all understanding. Our Pastor, Kevin, recently reminded us of my favourite scripture, Romans 8:28 ‘And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose’.

Now I won’t pretend that I know all the answers, only the Lord does, I don’t know why we are going through valley experiences any more than I know why we enjoy mountain top moments, but I do know the Lord is with us every step of the way, in the highs as well as in the lows and if we have our anchor in the ROCK, no amount of buffeting can dislodge us and even more encouraging is the fact that our little light will still shine brightly to help and encourage others to come to safety.

I encourage you to keep your eyes fixed on the LORD and not on the circumstances whatever they may be, the Lord WILL take us through and ‘will never leave us or forsake us’ (Hebrews 13:5).  So please feel encouraged by the fact that we know the Lord has anointed us with oil and our cup overflows and let us share our light with those who feel overwhelmed. We could lead them to the place where they can anchor themselves to the ROCK too.

God bless.

Author: Linda Allitt

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Sunday 17 January 2021

Help in Times of Trouble

We may look back in wonderment at our busy pre-covid lives. But we long to see people embracing God’s values, in His Kingdom.

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I guess that during lockdown we have thought of the angel coming to Gideon on the threshing floor (Judges 6). He brought news of salvation, physical and spiritual, from God. Like Gideon, we may feel our small everyday contribution is not going to make a difference, but that is where God sent His angel.

Simeon met Mary, Joseph and the infant Jesus in the temple in Jerusalem, as they were going about their duties and he recognised God’s salvation prepared in advance (Luke 2:22-32).

Lockdown has brought a routine of following rules, doing the ‘right thing’ and being considerate of others. We should not belittle this or grow weary. As believers, we are following God’s requirements: ‘ do justly, love mercy and walk humbly with your God’ (Micah 6:8).

God promises to be: ‘ ever-present help in time of trouble’ (Psalm 46:1). I was reminded of this a few weeks ago, in another lockdown, overhearing a conversation in a hardware shop between a tradesman and the shopkeeper, along these lines: ‘What are we going to do if these measures don’t work? It will be God-help-us!’  ‘Well, yes, if ever we have needed that, it’s now!’

Some individuals are looking to God and turning from reliance on the distractions that the world offers. I remember visiting the model village at Babbacombe, near Torquay. One of the model buildings that stuck in my mind was the ‘Lord Ellpus Hall’.  We may look back in wonderment at our busy pre-covid lives. But we long to see people embracing God’s values, in His Kingdom.

Author: Mandy Windridge

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Sunday 10 January 2021

The Belt of Truth

The more that we share our lives with Jesus, and the more that we trust Him and His word, the more that truth becomes our way of life too. If His truth is in us and we trust Him day by day, then it makes a difference in our lives

Pilate, a roman governor well-schooled in politics, asked Jesus at His trial 'What is truth'? Watching the sad pantomime of the American election last year, I guess that we can understand what he meant – for many people truth is not about what is really going on; it’s about how they present what’s going on, and if they find that still doesn’t help them achieve their goal – they lie…

Jesus, on the other hand not only undertakes to tell us the truth about what is going on (in the bible He is called 'The Faithful witness') but is THE TRUTH behind everything? The well-known scripture from John 14:6 says 'I am the way the TRUTH and the life'. So, what does this mean?

The book 'Peace Child' describes early encounters between some Christians and tribes in the far East. The people that they met were one generation away from full-on cannibalism. Their moral values were such that the highest honour was given to those who could befriend someone, play them along for a while (the longer the time the higher the honour) and then betray, kill and eat them. The problem was of course that no one could trust each other and so they needed some rules to enable life to continue. Two important rules were: 1) That you couldn’t betray a possible future or present mother-in-law (or the tribe would die out in a matter of years) and 2) If another tribe gave you a 'Peace-child' (literally one of their children to become a member of your tribe), it was taboo to harm anyone from that tribe whilst the peace-child lived.

Well of course the message that the Christians were able to announce was that Jesus was our 'peace-child' – forever - and therefore the lying and treachery didn’t need to carry on. We may look at this as a story about people with primitive beliefs but if we examine ourselves and our own society, we see that truth is indeed hard to find and lies and treachery are easy to find. Experience has taught us that trust based on 'speaking the truth to one another in love' (Ephesians 4:15) is not what we expect – people are very often after something. There is a famous phrase from a government enquiry. When a high official was asked if he was lying, he said 'No, I was merely being economical with the truth'!

Well it is very difficult to have trust without telling the truth. If you find out that someone is lying, trust tends to disappear like a puff of smoke. This is why when Paul is describing the armour of God in Ephesians 6 he starts with 'Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist'… He knew that the stability of a roman soldier’s armour was his belt. His fighting ability – the very core of it – was about the belt being in place and properly fastened. It provided a means of ensuring that he was mobile and none of his clothes or weapons would trip him up. It provided an anchor point for weapons that he might carry with him and it shared some of the weight of his breastplate carried by his shoulders down onto his waist. If you look at the picture of a roman soldier with his traditional belt in place, you will see that it also afforded some protection for other vital tackle – and thereby his ability to father children!

So, all in all, Paul knew what he was doing when he started with the belt of truth – without it our Christianity falls apart! We believe in the truth – we believe the truth of the gospel – we are persuaded that God has shown us the true way to eternal life through the bible and His Son Jesus Christ. Without that belief it says that it is impossible to come to God (Hebrews 11:6). The Holy Spirit – the Spirit of Truth – has been given to us to reveal all truth to us. Here Jesus is not only speaking about just reading the bible but that the Holy Spirit wants to reveal how that is relevant to me and you – today. He wants us not only to believe in the truth but through trusting him that truth becomes part of us. The more that we share our lives with Jesus, and the more that we trust Him and His word, the more that truth becomes our way of life too. If His truth is in us and we trust Him day by day, then it makes a difference in our lives.

It is only natural that if the truth is in us and part of us then we will tell the truth – just as Jesus did – even when its hurts. It hurt Jesus in two ways. First it hurt him because when He told the people around Him the truth they were not at all pleased – they spread rumours about him, they physically abused him, made his life very difficult, persecuted Him, and of course in the end, they killed Him. Sometimes this is the impact that the truth that we tell and the truth in us will have on others and they will not like it and will treat us badly.

On other occasions Jesus told the truth to someone sadly because He knew that it was in their best interests to know that something was wrong but that it would hurt them to put it right. He told a rich young man that he needed to sell his possessions to get the freedom that he was looking for and he was very sad. He told Peter that he would deny Him and that upset Peter greatly. Are we courageous enough to pray that the Holy Spirit will speak the truth that we need to hear into our lives so that we can put it right?

The belt of truth also guards our private parts. This is difficult territory – it’s about Jesus ruling in the area of our sexuality, being true to the husband or wife that God appoints for us, not lying, not cheating and being open with them. Yes, God’s truth does not stop at the bedroom door – He will not tolerate promiscuity, exploitation nor abuse, nor condone selfishness, cruelty nor causing mental or physical harm to another person. Some get away with this now because it is done behind closed doors, they will need to give an account before God of it if they want to become His children or on the day of judgement, The Spirit of Truth commands that we confess our sins before the Lord to receive forgiveness for and freedom from them.

Lastly, there are times when even when we know the Lord, we can lose our way. We know when this is happening for a number of reasons, usually because we have put too much confidence in the flesh – our truth or experience and not His. Forsaking the truth will mean that our testimony suffers. Men will see and know that we have not followed or compromised what we believe. It is painful but the Spirit of Truth shows us the way back – by confessing our failings to the Lord and telling the truth to others about how we went wrong. Peter found a way back from his denial and how God used him!

Author: Chris Pearson

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