Saturday 28 August 2021

Be Still And Know That I Am God

If we want to understand and obey God’s voice we need to master the art of listening
I am one of those people who finds it difficult to focus on one thing at a time. I very often have two or three tasks on the go at the same time.  As a retired teacher, after years of marking books in the evening, I still find it almost impossible to watch a TV programme without doing something else at the same time, like crafting, knitting sewing etc. I find it so difficult to just sit and listen. The world praises a multi-tasker but it is sometimes the worst thing you can be when you are trying to focus and really listen.

‘Listen’ is a word that I used many many times, daily, as a teacher. Although I was able to instruct the children with this word to keep quiet, there is no way I was able to be sure that they were actually doing what I asked. I could instruct them to hear what I was saying but not to listen, if they decided not to.  In English hearing and listening are not the same thing. You can hear the words but not necessarily listen to the meaning behind them. If someone answers us with the phrase ‘I hear what you are saying’ we automatically think that person heard the words but is giving them no consideration whatsoever. Listening is to pay attention and take in what is being said and give the words some consideration, whether you agree with them or not.

In most translations of the Bible Jesus is quoted as saying, on several occasions ‘Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear’. In the New Living Translation, however, it says, ‘Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand.’ He is calling for people to pay careful attention. It’s another way of saying, ‘Listen up! This is important!’ But unless we are willing to tune out other distractions and come to the word of God determined to listen, we will never understand what he is trying to say to us. In Mark 4; 13-20 Jesus talks about different types of hearers in the parable of the sower.  There are those who let the word of God pass straight through their ears. Some hear the word yet they do not allow it to take root because worldly pleasures and comforts take over. Others hear the word but end up rejecting it because of trials. Others hear the word and open their hearts to understand and act upon it so that it transforms them and they bear fruit.

We are used to so much ‘noise’ in the world today. We hear electronic bleeps all over the place, music playing in shops, there is often terrible repetitive music when you are put on hold on the telephone (our doctor’s surgery has the most awful music when you are waiting to make an appointment. It hardly puts you in a good mood if you are having a long wait until it is your turn in the queue). My point is that it's very often a problem in everyday life to be quiet. We can be so easily distracted. But we can’t always blame worldly noises for our lack of focus. Sometimes it's the noise in our own minds that is the problem. How often, when listening to a bible teaching or a piece of scripture being read, do I find myself thinking of the chores I haven’t done, the e-mail I forgot to send, what we are going to eat that evening. Even when I am singing a beautiful song and I believe I am truly worshiping, I am sometimes surprised to find that my mind is elsewhere and I am just singing words and not listening to their meaning. 

But the Bible tells us to ‘Be still and know that I am God’. If we want to understand and obey God’s voice we need to master the art of listening. This is a huge challenge to me and I am guessing I am not the only one. It means that we have to quiet our hearts and minds. God may communicate with us in many different ways, some people have had messages from God in dramatic ways. But often it is through ordinary circumstances, reading the bible, praying quietly, words from other people that resonate. God wants us to walk closely with him, stay connected to him and pay attention to what he has to say.
Alice Clark, in an article about how to know if God is speaking, suggested that there are three options for who we might hear, when we’re listening out for what God is saying: yourself, satan, or God. 

She said if it is yourself – ‘your own thoughts are probably going to sound logical or analytical. It’ll sound like the kind of things you often think.’

If it’s Satan – ‘Satan always condemns. His purpose is to steal, to kill, and to destroy. So, if the thoughts you’re hearing are negative, destructive, vicious or accusing, it’s the enemy.’

God – ‘When God speaks, it always lines up with the Bible - His character and His actions. He is kind, loving, inspirational, wise, healing, and convicting without being condemning.’

In John 10:27 it says: ‘My sheep listen to my voice; I know them and they follow me’ 

If we are listening to Jesus’s voice and recognising it, we will follow him—this kind of listening results in faith. Paul says in Romans 10:17, “Faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ” 

Those sheep in Jesus’s flock know, listen to, follow and obey the Good Shepherd’s voice. So, lets read the rest of the passage and see what happens if we truly listen to the Good Shepherd’s voice.

In John 10:27-30 it says ‘My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand.  My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand.  I and the Father are one.

Wow! Let’s persevere in listening to our Saviour’s voice. It’s surely worth it!!!

Author: Thelma Cameron

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Saturday 21 August 2021

The Beatitudes A Map

Prayer is a wonderful place to pursue justice, persistence in prayer rather than letting the enemy steal, kill and destroy God`s justice in the world.

I`m always amazed when the Lord shines the light of the Holy Spirit on something that is so familiar to me, and causes me to see it in a totally new way. I`m also surprised that He uses so many different ways to get our attention. He did this recently with one of the best known sections of the bible, the beatitudes. These verses at the beginning of Jesus sermon on the Mount found in Matthew chapter 5 and are well known to most Christians. This is how they read in the New Living Translation 

1. God blesses those who are poor and realise their need of Him, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs 

2.  God blesses those who mourn for they will be comforted

3.  God blesses those who are humble for they will inherit the whole earth

4.  God blesses those who hunger and thirst for justice, for they will be satisfied

5.  God blesses those who are merciful, for they will be shown mercy

6.  God blesses those who’s hearts are pure for they will see God

7.  God blesses those who work for peace, for they will be called the children of God

8.  God blesses those who are persecuted for doing right, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs

9.  God blesses you when people mock you and persecute you and lie about you and say all sorts of evil things against you because you are my followers. Be happy about it! Be very glad! For great reward awaits you in Heaven. 

The Holy Spirit knows us very well and He knows the hooks that will get our attention. For all of us it is different, after all God made us and so He also knows what interests us and will get us listening at times when He wants to speak to us.   I know I have mentioned scenes from the TV series The Chosen before, but the Lord does keep using some of its scenes to really focus me on things He wants me to see differently. This time it was during one scene when Jesus is preparing the sermon on the mount and Matthew is writing it down.  They are discussing the order of the sections of teaching in the sermon on the mount (a lot of dramatic licence here I think, not sure this would have happened but who knows.  I try to remember what Jesus says to us when He advises us not to disregard the message because we struggle to accept the messenger).

Anyway back to the scene. Jesus finally says to Matthew I`ve got it, the opening of the sermon. It is a map; directions where people should look to find me. Jesus then dictates the verses I`ve quoted above, and Matthew says but how is it a map?  Jesus replies, if someone wants to find me those are the groups of people they should look for.  Well; this stopped me in my tracks, it flipped the whole beatitude section for me.  There was I thinking that they were nice little encouraging verses for us if we feel we need to be reassured of the way God sees us. But what if we think of them as a blueprint for the way we are to be used as a map to show the world the way to Jesus. This obviously posed me with the question, what kind of map am I?

1. Do I recognise that I am poor (poor in spirit and have no sufficiency of my own) and realize my need of Him every day and seek for His sufficiency alone.  Or is the direction I am giving one of, I can do this myself or I`ve got this. Rather than illustrating that without God I can do nothing.

2. Do I mourn?  Am I sad at the enormous sense of loss the world experiences every day they live without the Lord. For how will I receive the comfort of directing someone to the Lord if I am not living in the awareness of the state of bereavement they are in, living without Jesus in their lives. I confess I don’t always keep this thought front and centre.

3. Humility, well almost enough said.  I looked up the attributes of healthy humility.  *They acknowledge they don’t have it all together * They know the difference between confidence and pride *They seek to add value to others * They take responsibility for their own actions * They understand the shadowy side of success * They are filled with gratitude for what they have.  Humility is a tall order so I realised I need Gods help to remain humble

4. Hunger and thirst for Justice.  Do I really huger and thirst for this.  I think sometimes I`m happier just letting things pass and not really pursuing Gods Justice in a situation.  Prayer is a wonderful place to pursue justice, persistence in prayer rather than letting the enemy steal, kill and destroy God`s justice in the world.  Lord help me to hunger and thirst for Justice so I will be a encouragement for others to pursue it also.  After all it says; all it takes for evil to succeed is for good people to do nothing.

5. Merciful.  Simple really, being merciful and seeking the good in people rather than being judgemental.  This can sometimes be a real challenge.  But the greater challenge is, do the people of the world see me as merciful, if I am to be a map pointing the way to Jesus, who is so full of mercy and grace, then I must display mercy in my daily dealings with others 

6. Keeping a pure heart.  I have to take control of my thinking, Philippians 4:8 says clearly “And now dear brothers and sisters one final thing; Fix your thoughts on what is true, honourable, and right, and pure and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise “ this takes discipline but really does bring its own rewards 

7. Peace isn’t just the absence of war.  To be at true peace with each other we often have to work at it.  I need to pray that my own thoughts and desires are brought into submission for the sake of the greater peace.  Becoming a peacemaker takes patience and understanding and the willingness to intervene to bring peace about.  The world sees when we do this but more importantly the spirit of division and discord cannot abide when we actively intervene to bring God`s peace into a situation, either by prayer or action 

8. Lord let me stand out or be persecuted for doing the right thing in your eyes rather than celebrated for doing the right thing in the world`s eyes. Then I will be a true map directing people to you

9. We can expect to be mocked, persecuted and lied about because we do these things as we stand up for and follow the Lord. They did the same to Him so we are no different.  But the challenge to me is be happy about it, be very glad (not always an easy thing to do and challenging, but the reward is great. Its really about my  `future focus` not my present comforts)

Sorry to be so wordy but it amazes me how a simple one liner in a tv show can explode when the Holy Spirit starts to challenge you. We are to be a map!  If someone was trying to find Jesus, am I actively participating in one or more of the groups they are looking for who will give good and clear direction to the way of finding Jesus for themselves. Honestly! it’s a challenge.  However, the Lord does back this one liner up in scripture.  Verse 14 says 

You are the light of the world, like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden.  No one lights a lamp and then puts in under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand where it gives light to everyone in the house.  In the same way let you good deeds shine out for all to see, to that everyone will praise your Heavenly Father (or be directed to Him)

Lord help me to be a distinctive and easy to follow map,  directing lost  people to you today.

Author: Jan Pearson

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Saturday 14 August 2021

Towards Collective Spiritual Warfare – The Armour

When the Holy Spirit is in charge of our prayers and mobilizes the Word of God about a situation things start to happen
This blog is the “middle bit” of a reflection on spiritual warfare. In the first message on the MCF website (15th August 2021) we considered some thoughts about the nature of our warfare, our champion and adversary. Next week we will look at some of the weapons and tactics at our disposal - some of the ways that the Lord has given us to overcome and enforce His victory. This blog talks a little more about our armour and its use.

The well-known scripture about our armour is set out in Ephesians 6:13-18. This is what Paul says about it:

Therefore take up the whole armour of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith with which, you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints.

As has often been noted we are urged to take the whole armour of God not some of it. Also, people have said that we have only one offensive weapon – the sword. What a weapon this is – it is the sword of the Spirit – the word of God. As we will see later its not just any scripture; it is the Spirit – determined word for that specific occasion. As Paul suggests in Romans 8:26-27 the Holy Spirit plays a vital part in making our prayers relevant and focussed on what the Lord’s will is in any situation:

Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God.

Now here are the points that I want to make about this armour:

As many have said it’s all needed - all of the time and we need to put it on, take it with us or have it to hand.

It is apparent that the way in which this armour is put into use is through prayer. Armour is no good on the shelf and no better on the soldier if its never put into use. Armour is made for battle not parties or business meetings or negotiation. Negotiating with our enemy is no use. First the only deal that he wants to make is one that he can break because he is the father of lies. Second Jesus died on the cross, was buried (preached to souls in hell), rose again, ascended and sent us the Holy Spirit – He defeated the enemy on his own ground. We are here to enforce that victory but we can’t do it in our own strength and we had better not try without the armour that God has provided

It’s not the fact that we only have one offensive weapon that’s important – its what we do with it! A soldier with a weapon as powerful as the word of God can be in defence or attack. It’s the soldier that can’t hear the captain’s instructions that is in trouble. How many times do Christians huddle behind their shields quietly absorbing fiery darts from the enemy? All of us will probably have experienced a time when God has called a group to pray and they have been on the attack – when the Holy Spirit is in charge of our prayers and mobilizes the Word of God about a situation things start to happen and we are conscious of it. One time we were called to pray for someone who was on the point of dying. The Lord directed us to pray in particular ways and particular times for two weeks and our friend recovered miraculously. When this happened, we felt the Lord saying: “You have set yourself to pray for your friend and have earnestly prayed and fervently followed my directions during this time – will you seek me for my agenda and pray about that with the same obedience and fervour”? I guess a challenge could be “will we”?
Using the Shield of Faith puts us into the attack – its impossible to defy what we see with our natural eyes and press towards what we see with our spiritual eyes from our eagle’s vantage point and not be in attack. This is the shield of faith pushing back on the enemy’s lies and dark thoughts and deflecting his wild accusations and anger.

When we get to the site of the battle, we are then meant to attack the enemy and His purposes with the Sword of the Spirit – the Word of God. Wow – and guess who is directing the point of the sword? The Holy Spirit – because we do not know what to pray for but the Holy Spirit connects our prayers with God’s will and God’s word – the right word for the right time!

In the MCF message next week we will think about how the armour and weapons can come together in collective prayer – fighting as a unit and army, rather than individual soldiers. There is a question about whether we are willing to let go of some of our own individuality for a while to come into “one-accordness” and see the Holy Spirit lead us as a fighting unit? 

Author: Chris Pearson

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Saturday 7 August 2021

Challenge of the Crocheted Mat

He wants to help and empower us so that we can live to bring Him glory

My Mum used to love crocheting, so when my husband and I got married, it wasn’t surprising that we got given quite a few crocheted items; - chair-back covers (very fashionable at the time), mats for the dressing table, sideboard etc.

One day when someone came to stay, out came one or two of these precious items to make the room look nice and welcoming. When he’d gone and the time came to clear up there was no sign of one of the crocheted mats; where had it gone? Perhaps it had got muddled up with his own things! Then all was revealed; - as I emptied the rubbish basket, there amongst the rubbish was a screwed up mat looking a distinctly pale brown as if it had been used to mop up a spilled drink. I suppose that to the uninitiated eye it was a handy cloth for mopping up the liquid, rather than a work of art to be treasured. 

Thankfully after a few washes and soak in bleach it looked more like it was supposed to look. However, it set me thinking; - How much do I stop and think about and value, all the beautiful things God has created and loves to share with me, or do I just take them for granted and even regard them as easily disposed of?

Then came the challenge of not just the physical things but what about the Spiritual things – His Word and His Spirit, and my very life? When I stop and think of all the care and planning that the Lord has put into all His workmanship I have to ask myself  how am I using these beautiful gifts? Am I using them for His Glory and to bless others, and for the right motives? Unfortunately in most cases I find myself unable to give a firm "yes" in reply!

Thankfully, in God’s mercy and grace, when we have messed things up, but truly want to be living for His glory, we can come to the Him in repentance and be forgiven and restored. He says through Isaiah 1:18 “Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow”, because of the sacrifice Jesus made on the cross in shedding His blood. (Much more powerful than any washing powder or bleach)

There is a lovely old hymn written by Charles Wesley which sums this up perfectly:

1. O Thou who camest from above,
the pure celestial fire to impart
kindle a flame of sacred love
upon the mean altar of my heart.

2. There let it for thy glory burn
with inextinguishable blaze,
and trembling to its source return,
in humble prayer and fervent praise.

3. Jesus, confirm my heart's desire
to work and speak and think for thee;
still let me guard the holy fire,
and still stir up thy gift in me.

4. Ready for all thy perfect will,
my acts of faith and love repeat,
till death thy endless mercies seal,
and make my sacrifice complete.

Let’s be encouraged that He wants to help and empower us so that we can live to bring Him glory, for “All things were created by Him and for Him”, as He says in Colossians 1:16.

Author: Joan Townsend

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