Saturday 30 October 2021

Lessons from Luke chapter 10: Keeping the right focus

The warning is to make sure we do not lose sight of the source of our salvation and authority, the Lord God himself
I am a list maker, from shopping lists, and what to pack for holiday right down to what jobs to do today.  I like lists, they order my thoughts and keep me on track especially as I can so often get distracted and end up spending time on things that are not important and miss doing the job that was vital. In short, they focus my attention!

There is a remarkable account in Luke chapter 10 of the Lord sending out 72 disciples into all the towns and places he intended to visit as advance teams to introduce Jesus to the people and prepare them for His visit and ministry.  He gives them a whole list of instructions to follow on how they should approach this task, what they should take or not take, and how they should behave while they are there. He also explains to them the importance of the task He has set for them, because He told them that anyone who accepts them accepts Him and anyone who rejects them rejects Him and also His Father, God.  So they are tasked with both carrying an important message and given the authority to represent Jesus as ambassadors for Him.

Luke records what happened when they had completed this mission and returned to Jesus. `When the 72 disciples returned they joyfully reported to him “Lord even the demons obey us when we use your name!” Luke 10:17 (NLT)` I'm sure they were expecting congratulations for a job well done, or praise for acting in faith and developing spiritual giftings.  But Jesus chose to warn and refocus them instead. “Yes” he told them “I saw Satan fall from heaven like lightening! Look, I have given you authority over all the power of the enemy, and you can walk among snakes and scorpions and crush them.  Nothing will injure you. But don`t rejoice because evil spirits obey you; rejoice because your names are registered in heaven” Luke 10:18-20 (NLT) Jesus was intent upon refocussing them from their excitement and sense of importance at seeing the power of God displayed through them; to their real source of joy and security namely that `their names are written in the journals of Heaven and that they belonged to Gods Kingdom. That is the true source of their authority` (the passion translation)

Jesus knows how easy it is for us to get carried away and distracted by success, acceptance and approval, and even that wonderful feeling that the Lord is ministering through us and using us to speak for, or represent Him. It's just so easy to lose sight of the source of our success, authority, inspiration, and drift into depending upon our own ability. God has given us so many wonderful gifts and promises and indeed the authority in His name to do many things, and that is wonderful and His intention for us. But the warning is to make sure we do not lose sight of the source of our salvation and authority, the Lord God himself. 

Satan lost sight of this and somehow got so full of himself and his perceived authority and importance that he fell from his place in Gods Kingdom in Heaven as we see in the verse above. Even after that fall, he assumed he still had the power and authority to offer Jesus (the King of Kings and Lord of Lords) all the Kingdoms of this world if he would bow down before him. He still tries to assert power and authority over people today, through lies and deceit.
Jesus loves us so much and desires to give us all we need in the way of power, authority, knowledge and experience to be His ambassador and do amazing things in His name.  He says to us in Luke 10:23-24 (NLT) "Blessed are the eyes that see what you have seen. I tell you many prophets and kings longed to see what you see, but they didn`t see it. And they longed to hear what you hear and they didn`t hear it” We are such a privileged people, to have received salvation, redemption, forgiveness and the gift of the Holy Spirit, who directs us every day and illuminates the scriptures to us. We have received authority to overcome the power of the enemy wherever we may find it, and the promise of protection as we do. We are truly blessed but we must in all this remain truly focussed on the source of all this blessing and rejoice only in the only thing worth anything.  That our names are registered in Heaven. 

Right at the end of the chapter there is a wonderful practical example of what Jesus is trying to teach us.  From verse 38 we read the account of Jesus visiting Mary and Martha's house.  We know the story so well.  Martha is racing round concentrating of the dinner she is preparing, on the service she is doing, on getting it right and doing a good job, relying on the skills she has developed over many years of preparing meals.  Mary is sitting listening and learning from Jesus himself.  When Martha challenges the Lord about this his reply is both gentle and powerful. "My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details.  There is only one thing worth being concerned about Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her" Luke 10:41-42 (NLT)

Lord thank you today that you have given us authority over all the power of the enemy, thank you that you have given us protection so we can walk amongst snakes and scorpions and crush them and that nothing will injure us. That you have entrusted us with fighting spiritual battles and overcoming in your name the forces of evil. But Lord please let us never lose sight that you are the source of our life, of all we do and help us to continually sit at your feet and recognise our need to keep you as the focus of all we do.  Amen

Author: Jan Pearson

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Saturday 23 October 2021

Arise Shine

Many people in the world today are looking for celebrity or star status but the light that they seek is self-seeking and so far removed from the true light of God, the Bright and Morning Star.
Arise shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon you.  For behold, darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness shall cover the peoples; but the Lord will arise upon you, and his glory will be seen upon you and nations shall come to your light and kings to the brightness of your rising.  Isaiah 60:1-3

After becoming a Christian, almost shy of 15 years old, I was asked by my Pastor at the time to speak at the Sunday morning communion service.  I thought this was rather strange, as I was only young in the faith and only knew a few bible stories.  I was just learning to read the Bible from the beginning.  I hadn’t been to Bible college and had no training on how to put a message together or speak in front of people.  To say how inadequate and nervous I felt at the time would have been an understatement.

However, undeterred by my fear, I prayed to the Lord and asked him to give me the right message to share with the church and the Lord didn’t disappoint.  I opened my Bible and it fell on Isaiah Chapter 60  ‘Arise, Shine, for thy Light is come and the glory of the Lord has risen upon thee’.   Suddenly, although my faith was very new, I was excited and humbled, as this particular verse jumped out at me.  Without any doubt, I personally knew that the Lord had shone his light into my broken and sad life and that He had brought me to a place of repentance, salvation and hope.  The Light of the World now lived in me and I could be a light in the darkest of places and so could everyone who was at that communion service, or even reading this blog today.   

Many people in the world today are looking for celebrity or star status but the light that they seek is self-seeking and so far removed from the true light of God, the Bright and Morning Star.

Matthew Chap 5:14, says ‘You are the Light of the World, a city on a hill that cannot be hid’.  You might be very young or old in the faith (or somewhere in between) but the Lord wants to shine His light through you today to help others to come to know His love and mercy or to just speak a kind word of encouragement.

It has been a few years since I gave that first little sermon, but I’ve since had many opportunities to allow God’s light to shine into lots of dark situations that have arisen in my personal life, my family, my neighbourhood and places of work.
One instance of this was helping an old lady who was hesitant in crossing a very busy road.   When I saw her fear, I spoke softly to her and asked if I could help her get to the other side.  As we continued to walk together towards the shopping area about ½ mile away, she opened up to me that she was a Christian and that her son was a Pastor in another area, however, she had been ridiculed for her faith in the sheltered accommodation where she was living.  Vandals had recently smashed her windows which were now boarded up.  This had left her feeling vulnerable and afraid to leave her property.  That day was the first time she’d ventured out of her flat.   I was able to listen, give some kind words of encouragement and then pray for her.  We parted with my giving her some money to buy a box of tea bags and to treat herself to a special cake from the nearby cake shop.  I never saw that lady again, but knew that the light of Christ had shone through me into her dark situation. 

Other instances have been where I’ve had to pray about the right decisions being made in Government, in my locality, places of work, and dealing with all sorts of situations as they have arisen on a daily basis.

You might be going through a dark time right now in your own life or have been through a bad situation or even affected by all the issues associated with all the Covid lockdowns and restrictions, but be assured that the Lord is shaping you and that His light will break through the darkness.  He will then use your experience to help others in a similar situation to bring hope, comfort and light.

Be encouraged to make a difference in the place where you are based and let the Light of Christ shine through you wherever you go.

Author: Barbara Wilson

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Saturday 16 October 2021

Under His wings

We cannot expect His comfort and protection unless we come out of our self-reliance and humble ourselves before Him and tell Him that we trust in Him and need His protection
In our garden we have a lovely water feature which is visible from our living room window. It is a large rock with water bubbling gently out of a hole in the top and, as such, is a great attraction for the birds. They use it to drink from but what I find even more fascinating is when they use it as a shower. They spread one wing and then the other to wash underneath or to cool off in the summer. I am always amazed at the wing span of all the different varieties of birds, which always seems so large in proportion to the rest of the body.

It reminds me of the analogy that is used so often in the bible of being under or in the shadow of the wings of the Almighty. This metaphor of course comes from the very touching picture of chicks nestling under their mother’s wing for comfort and protection. I recently saw a short you tube video of a hen in a heavy storm. She was getting absolutely battered and soaked but she had her wings spread over her chicks on both sides of her, to protect them from the storm. What a perfect analogy!!

At the beginning of lockdown many of us read Psalm 91 as an uplifting reminder of God’s faithfulness to us. In Psalm 91:4 it says: He will cover you with his feathers and under his wings you will find refuge, his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart. What a wonderful promise the Lord has given to us but first we must come to him to be protected. Chicks hurry to their mother when they have a need. They don’t just stand there and expect to be protected; they instinctively know they cannot do this on their own. We have to come to a recognition of our need of protection and seek to put ourselves under the wings of our creator.

David uses this analogy in his psalms. He recognised that God was his refuge and strength. Some translations of the bible give the heading of Psalm 63 as a ‘Psalm of David. When he was in the desert of Judah.’ It is obvious from this Psalm and others that David was a man, who trusted in God for his help and protection, wherever he was and whatever he was facing. In verse 7 it says: Because you are my help, I sing in the shadow of your wings.  In Psalm 17 usually with the heading ‘A prayer of David’ it says in verses 8-9: Keep me as the apple of your eye; hide me in the shadow of your wings from the wicked who are out to destroy me, from my mortal enemies who surround me.
In the wonderful story of Ruth we read that when Naomi’s husband and two sons die, while she is in Moab, a foreign country, she decides to go back home to Bethlehem. She tells her two daughters in law to go back to their families and find another husband. One goes back but the other, Ruth, insists on going with her. She says that Naomi’s people will be her people and Naomi’s God her God. She becomes a foreigner in a strange land but because she serves Naomi’s God, the one true God, everything works out for her. She is even part of the geneology of David and of course Jesus!! When she asks Boaz, who she eventually marries, why he is being so kind to her, his answer is this in Ruth 2:11-12: “I’ve been told all about what you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband—how you left your father and mother and your homeland and came to live with a people you did not know before. May the Lord repay you for what you have done. May you be richly rewarded by the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge.”  Ruth had to leave what was familiar to her, change her location and life-style completely to find refuge under the wings of the Lord. We can all find a place under His wings but we have to go to Him. We cannot expect His comfort and protection unless we come out of our self-reliance and humble ourselves before Him and tell Him that we trust in Him and need His protection. 

But we have to be willing. Our Lord Jesus himself laments over Jerusalem with these words in Luke 13:34: Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing. He says that He longed to gather them under His wings but they were not willing. It broke His heart but He would not force His protection on them. If they would not come voluntarily, He would not make them. The same applies to us. Let’s not take the Lord’s protection for granted. Let’s tell Him daily that we are trusting in Him for His covering and protection. This refuge was a privelege for Ruth, the Moabite foreigner and it is a privelege for us too. What a God we serve to allow us under His wings!!

In the words of Charles Spurgeon: ‘Oh tried ones, press closely to the loving heart of your Lord., hide yourself entirely beneath his wings. Here awe has disappeared, and rest itself is enhanced by the idea of loving trust. The little chicks are safe in their mother’s love, and we too are beyond measure secure and happy in the loving favour of the Lord.’

Author: Thelma Cameron

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Saturday 9 October 2021

Dark and Light

It is in the darkest times that we most know our need of God’s light
We have had some dull days and dark evening recently. It isn’t easy to throw off the knife-edge anxiety of the covid era, even though most rules have been relaxed. Many people have thought ‘I wish I could see more clearly.’ I have felt a need to cry out to God for help in understanding and coming out of the shadows. The bible shows me that God knows our circumstances: 

‘In Him was life and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it' John 1:4-5 and 'the true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world.’ John 1:9

C.S.Lewis stated: “I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen; not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.” It is in the darkest times that we most know our need of God’s light. Many years ago, I gave our daughter a lift to a friend’s 16th birthday party by Shustoke Reservoir. The clubhouse carpark was dark and crowded with cars and people, so when I spotted a space, I was glad to reverse into it. You may have heard a saying: ‘My wife’s fine at reversing, so long as the cars either side are Reliant Robins..’ Well, I nearly achieved that, sideways!  You may have guessed, it was the slipway – the clue was in the name, Shustoke Sailing Club. I could have done with a good light then; my daughter’s parting shot was something like: “ I’m glad that no one saw us in the dark, make sure that dad picks me up” My name was mud, almost literally! Of course, I have been forgiven and redeemed.
Anyway, God has given us a clue in the name, JESUS.  And He has given us His work to be our light. As it says in Romans 5:8 ‘But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.’  From the epistle, I Corinthians 13:12  ‘Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror, then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part, then I shall know fully even as I am fully known.’ Back in John 1:14 we read: ‘the word became flesh and dwelt among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father full of grace and truth.’ 

Isaiah had declared: ‘see darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples.’ But this is sandwiched between the promises: ‘Arise, shine, for your light has come and the glory of the LORD rises upon you.’  And, ‘.. but the LORD rises upon you and his glory appears over you.’  

Matthew in his gospel picks this up: ‘The people living in darkness have seen a great light, on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.’

We still need to repent of our doubts and fears, trust in His love and light, and so help to share God’s light with the world.

Author: Mandy Windridge

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Saturday 2 October 2021

Darkness and Light

There will always be valley experiences and it's having faith that He is still leading the way that acts like radar to get us through and achieve the purpose God has for us
Recently Richard wrote a blog about God being the God of the mountains and of the valleys. The Lord really encouraged and challenged me through these words, and also through the words of the accompanying song. But the question is, do I really believe that the Lord is Lord of both the mountains and the valleys? The answer to this question should be a simple yes, but in reality, I find that when things are going okay accepting God is in control is obvious and easy. But when the path starts to darken and head downwards, when things start becoming out of control and challenging, when my own feelings start to plumet; what then?

Actually, what happens then solely depends on whether I let the Lord into those feelings or circumstances, or try to keep Him out and try to weather the storm on my own.  The Lord has taken many patient years teaching me that He is Lord over every situation and emotion so why not just entrust Him with the solution, but I still try to push through on my own. These last couple of weeks have been no exception, but by eventually sharing with the Lord my emotions and fears, He gifted me with the following:

Psalm 139:12 (NASB) Even the darkness is not dark to You, and the night is as bright as the day.  Darkness and light are alike to You. Sometimes we fear dark times because they are uncomfortable and unsettling and our sense of stability can often vanish in a moment, leaving feelings of loss and confusion. But the Lord says quite clearly in the words of the psalm that Darkness and Light are the same to Him. There is no difference to Him and He is not phased by darkness and therefore neither should we be. There will always be valley experiences and it's having faith that He is still leading the way that acts like radar to get us through and achieve the purpose God has for us.
This week I again read the account of the crucifixion and resurrection, in Matthew’s gospel. In the face of the certainty of death and the darkness of the tomb Jesus says to his disciples “But after I have been raised from the dead, I will go ahead of you to Galilee and meet you there” Matthew 26:32 (NLT) Jesus was walking by faith, He knew He was going to suffer a crucifixion, He didn’t want to go through, and even though He asked the Father if there was any other way; He submitted His will to God`s will.  Jesus was well aware that the darkness of death, the tomb and separation awaited Him, however He kept His eyes so firmly on the truth that He would be raised again, He gave the disciples instructions to meet Him in Galilee. Because He knew that darkness and light are the same to God, and God fulfils His purpose in both. Jesus submitted to death and the dark of the tomb because He knew the light of the resurrection power of God would not be consumed by any amount of darkness.  It’s the same for us, we can trust in and submit our dark times our dark thoughts to the Lord because to Him they are not dark, not impenetrable, in fact God uses them to create or resurrect truths, trust and faith that cannot be achieved any other way. 

The second gift was revealed in Matthew’s gospel again. Jesus had been caught up with the Sadducees in an argument about the resurrection of the dead.  And after they had asked a very involved question Jesus simple replied “Your mistake is that you don’t know the Scriptures and you don’t know the power of God” Matthew 22:29 (NLT) All through the pandemic the Lord has been drawing me into the scriptures, their truth, and their effectiveness under the direction of the Holy Spirit. And yet at moments of panic they can all flee from my mind. I really felt the Lord say to me, my problem is I don’t “know” the scriptures; plain and simple! I just don’t know them. So, it is my job to every day read what the Lord directs me to read and ask for the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit to `know` the scriptures. In this way I will build up an arsenal of God's word to be my shield of faith with which to extinguish the fiery darts of the enemies’ accusations etc. But the revelation this week was that for God to be the God of the mountains and the valleys, I had to both know the scriptures and to also acknowledge the Power of God that is revealed and released through them.  Sometimes we only read the word, and it is beneficial, but the true life of God is lived in and through us when we also know the power of the Lord in our lives and in our situations, feelings, emotions because of the word of God. When we wield the Word of God into our situation it can only be truly effective if we acknowledge it is backed by the whole power of God!  What a tool, what a weapon. Because when we realise that God's word is the evidence of God's power then whether we are on the mountain or in the valley, whether we are in light or darkness, nothing can overcome us!!

Jesus said “Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows.  But take heart, because I have overcome the World” John 16:33

I am going to post the song from Richard`s blog again because I think it's powerful and has blessed me:

“On the mountains I will bow my life to the one who set me there,
In the valley, I will lift my eyes to the one who sees me there.
I`ve watched my dreams get broken, in you I hope again
No matter what I know, I know I`m safe in your hands.
Father you give and take away, every joy and every pain,
Through it all you will remain, over it all!"

May God bless you today in knowing his word and the Power of God. Darkness and light are the same to Him.

Author: Jan Pearson

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