Saturday 26 February 2022

Let God tell you who you are

He created you, He redeemed you, He calls you by name, He equips you, He empowers you, He rewards you
1 Chronicles 4:9-10

The name Jabez means 'Pain and Trouble'

Can you imagine walking into a room and hearing someone say "here comes trouble" or someone describing you as "a pain" and what's more Jabez's mother labelled him that way the day he was born, because she gave birth to him in pain, but Jabez refused to wear the label or let that name define him. Instead of looking back at his past and listening to his critics, what did he do? Because he was more honourable than his brothers he turned to God and prayed,

"Oh, that you would bless me and enlarge my territory, that your hand would keep me from evil, that I may not cause pain"

Jabez's most important action was to conquer new territory with divine action. So God granted him what he requested. See God will grant us what we ask if we trust him and ask in faith. Regardless of what others may think or say about you.

In life things can go one way or the other, we can choose to live with what people make us to be or we can change the label and trust God to do it for us.

The label on the outside of a bottle tells us what's inside the bottle, and when you let others label you, they make your world to be so small. That's why Jabez asked God to bless and enlarge his territory. And once you accept the label they place on you, you start to believe that's who you are, and that you'll never amount to anything more than that.
No, only God can tell you who you are, so do what Jabez did go directly to the source (God) He created you, He redeemed you, He calls you by name, He equips you, He empowers you, He rewards you. So when people try to limit you by putting labels on you, God steps in and says in Isaiah 43:1 "Fear not, for I have redeemed you I have called you by your name, you are mine" The truth is that God loves and accepts you as you are and His approval makes everybody else's disapproval as nothing. "Since you were precious in my sight, you have been honoured and I have loved you, therefore I will give men for you, and people for your life". Isaiah 43:4.

Jabez conceived in pain, delivered in victory, we learn why he was more honourable than his brothers. More importantly, we find a man with whom many of us can identify, a man with a painful past and no hope for the future. He was a man who struggled to find meaning and significance in life. He was a man who was desperate to be accepted by his fellow man. But even more importantly most of all he was a man who craved a relationship with God and trusted God to guide him, bless him and give him freedom in life.

We are so precious to God that His desire is to always give us abundantly more than we can ask or think, as His promise words in Jeremiah 29:11-13 "For I know the thoughts that I think towards you" says the Lord "Thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope, then you will call upon me and go and pray to me and I will listen to you, and you will seek me and find me, when you search for me with all your heart".

Author: Herbert Jean

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Saturday 19 February 2022

Be dressed ready for service

We have to remember the graciousness of the Lord, the one who gives us his perfect light and not worry how people will react to it
Be dressed, ready for service and keep your lamps burning, like men waiting for their master to return. Luke 12:35

The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light and the Lamb is its lamp. Revelation 21:23

Back in the early 1920s, at a time of economic hardship following World War 1 and the influenza epidemic, a young woman and her fiancé were helpful to an elderly neighbour. They would walk her home from chapel meetings, down an unlit lane on dark evenings. The lady wanted to give the young couple an engagement gift, and searched at the back of her cupboard. The two objects were black, I am told, covered in melted wax, and barely recognisable as candlesticks.

The young man cleaned them on his father’s lathe and they emerged as dainty brass dressing table candlesticks (probably from before the time that bedrooms had gas lights!) ‘Old-fashioned’, but intended to be a token of gratitude, love and respect. With the old wax removed and new candles in place, they sparkled anew in my grandparents’ home, during both the Blitz and ‘normal’ life events.
The lady took a risk of causing offence or being rejected by giving an ‘old-fashioned’ gift, but it was accepted in the right spirit of good will. The story reminds me of God’s promises relating to the lamp and the oil that He gives His children.

You O Lord, keep my lamp burning, my God turns my darkness into light. With your help I can advance against a troop, with my God I can scale a wall.  Psalm 18:28-29

No-one lights a lamp and hides it…   Luke 8:16

Like that elderly lady, who was brave enough to get something out of her cupboard and put it where it would shine and be seen, we have to remember the graciousness of the Lord, the one who gives us his perfect light and not worry how people will react to it. After all, light is there to be seen and shared! 

‘to give his people the knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins, because of the tender mercy of our God, by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven, to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace.’ Luke 1:77-79


Author: Mandy Windridge

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Saturday 12 February 2022

Is God missing?

They did not notice that the Lord was missing. They worshipped what their own heads had conceived and their own hands had made
In the television drama series “The West Wing”, which is about the executive branch of the American government (the President’s own staff), there is a scene where the press secretary and her staff have been up all night preparing for an important political event. It’s important because it is a breakfast for the leadership of both of America’s political parties – the Democrats and the Republicans. It is intended to show to the American people that although the two parties are in opposition to each other, they get along well in conducting government business.

Well as we can imagine one of the most important aspects of the breakfast is who is sitting next to who, so that no one gets offended that they are considered less important than someone else of equivalent rank, and certainly in regard to someone from the opposite party. Having “burned the midnight oil” in debating the seating and moving people around, they declare themselves satisfied with a good job well done. In the middle of these congratulations the White House Communications Director comes in to work and glances at the model where all of the people’s names are displayed. Instantly he says “you’ve missed someone out”. A couple of minutes of minute examination of the layout leads someone to exclaim – “my goodness he’s right – we missed out the President”!

Jeremiah 2:5-9 tells a similar story but is far more telling. This is what the young prophet says:

This is what the Lord says: “What did your ancestors find wrong with me that led them to stray so far from me? They worshiped worthless idols, only to become worthless themselves. They did not ask, ‘Where is the Lord who brought us safely out of Egypt and led us through the barren wilderness - a land of deserts and pits, a land of drought and death, where no one lives or even travels?’ “And when I brought you into a fruitful land to enjoy its bounty and goodness, you defiled my land and corrupted the possession I had promised you. The priests did not ask, ‘Where is the Lord?’ Those who taught my word ignored me, the rulers turned against me, and the prophets spoke in the name of Baal, wasting their time on worthless idols. Therefore, I will bring my case against you,” says the Lord. “I will even bring charges against your children’s children in the years to come”.

God’s people, a people used to seeing the miraculous and having God fight on their side, had not noticed that these things were not happening anymore. They did not notice that the Lord was missing. They worshipped what their own heads had conceived and their own hands had made. How was it that they did not realise that the miraculous and wonderful had departed and been replaced by their own fabrications?

Worse maybe; their spiritual leaders did not say “where is the Lord”? Those who taught and interpreted the word of the Lord for them did not know the Lord, so their teachings were spurious, dry and lifeless discourses - replacing the living Word of God with lifeless academic teaching and eventually giving rise to religious traditions – well in place by the time of Jesus. Jesus in fact accused the spiritual leaders of replacing God’s word with the traditions of men. In Mark 7:6-9 Jesus replies to the Jewish leaders: … “You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you, for he wrote, ‘These people honour me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship is a farce, for they teach man-made ideas as commands from God.’ For you ignore God’s law and substitute your own tradition.” Then he said, “You skilfully sidestep God’s law in order to hold on to your own tradition. 

This ignorance led to a situation where even learned, sincere spiritual leaders were spiritually blind. Jesus talked to the leading Pharisee Nicodemus concerning being born again. Nicodemus’s reply was one of amazement “How can these things be”? he asked. Jesus replied “How can you a leader in Israel not know these things”!?
Paul warns Timothy saying that: “Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons …” (1 Timothy 4:1). In 2 Timothy 3:1-5 he says more: “But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away”!

This failure of the spiritual leaders to challenge the “establishment” as it went off course, gave way to rulers of the people who did not consider God in their thinking. Despite the legacy of the people being a nation of righteousness and promise, heirs to the Kingdom of God, charged with demonstrating what the character of God was like; their rulers presided over and encouraged wickedness, cruelty, abuse and exploitation. The law was intended to bring them close to God but they ignored it and ruled selfishly often purposely flouting God’s instructions, purposes and laws.

In Jeremiah 2 the prophet says that they behaved like this – rulers, priests, prophets, teachers and the population – and no one realised that God was not with them. Having experienced the provision of God in the wilderness and relied on Him in war, now they were in a comfortable place they abandoned their trust in Him and love for Him. The Lord points out the irony of the situation where their neighbours who were worshipping false gods, phony gods and demonic gods did not forsake their dedication to them; whereas the Children of the one true God - heirs of the Kingdom and partakers of His favour and promises, forsook Him. The Lord declares: “13 “For my people have done two evil things: They have abandoned me - the fountain of living water, and they have dug for themselves cracked cisterns that can hold no water at all!

What are we to take from this today? Well, we live in a nation that has been blessed. We have known God’s provision and favour in many ways and His salvation in war. There is a long church history of revivals and moves of God and knowing the wondrous, extraordinary work of the Holy Spirit in people’s lives. Again and again, I can’t get away from the cry of Jeremiah 2. They did not know that God had left them and they had formed their own “churches” and worship and teaching as it suited them and didn’t interfere with what they wanted to get on with. There is the same cry in Revelation 3:17 to the Laodicean church:  “ … you say, ‘I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing’—and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked …” The tragedy is that they did not know – they thought that everything was OK. It looked good, it sounded good, they felt good – but God was missing.

The questions that these thoughts prompt for me are:

Is the Lord with “the church”?

What message have children of the Kingdom got for “the church”, society and our government?

How do we tell them?

Author: Chris Pearson

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Saturday 5 February 2022

God's Word is not chained

God is a just God. He doesn't let the guilty go unpunished but in Jesus' death the debt was paid in full.
Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, descended from David. This is my gospel,  for which I am suffering even to the point of being chained like a criminal. But God’s word is not chained. 2 Timothy 2:8-9

I wonder if during these two years of pandemic we have felt somewhat chained by circumstances. Sometimes even without a pandemic we can feel locked down by different situations.

The apostle Paul experienced actual imprisonment more than once but he had come to see that even when he was imprisoned God's Word wasn't chained. God's Word goes on regardless.

Jeremiah also suffered imprisonment for prophesying judgement for the people of Judah. Reading the accounts in the Old Testament and the New we can place these people on pedestals, not realising they went through the same struggles and agonies that we go through. But we can praise God for the honest accounts, for no "fake news" in the Scriptures as we can learn so much and draw so much comfort and inspiration.  

When Judah was besieged by the Babylonians and they were reaching the point when they were going to be carried into exile, Jeremiah was held captive in the courtyard of the guard in the royal palace. He was kept for the sole reason of prophesying that the Babylonians would take the nation away and that there wasn't any point in resisting because God had allowed it to happen because of the sins of His people. God points out in detail in Jeremiah 32 all that they had done and Jeremiah had brought warning after warning that the people had ignored.  

In the midst of this, God told Jeremiah to buy a field. The laws of Old Testament (Leviticus 25:25) said if a piece of land was being sold, the relatives of the owner had the first option to buy to keep it in the family. So Hanamel, a cousin of Jeremiah, responding in panic to the situation they were going through, decided to sell and went to Jeremiah to give him first option to buy. Jeremiah, having had a word from God, telling him to buy, bought it following the legal procedures of the time. Jeremiah took that land because it was an investment for the future but more because God said so.
You can read the story in detail in Jeremiah 32. After completing the purchase and making sure the deeds would be safely stored, there is a very interesting dialogue between Jeremiah and God. Jeremiah prayed and God responded. When we read it carefully we realise that Jeremiah confessed the greatness of God, His power and might and how everything that God had told Jeremiah was coming to pass, but still Jeremiah was puzzled by why would God  ask him to buy a field if they were going into exile?

Jeremiah knew nothing was impossible for God, but also that God had enumerated in detail all of Israel's sins and he knew God was right in judging. Jeremiah didn't share his thoughts with anybody but God, and God responded repeating all the promises He had made. His people would go into exile and suffer the consequences of their sins but God reminded Jeremiah of His promises in Jeremiah 31, reiterating again all His "I Will" to His people.

There was a New Covenant and at the end of chapter 32:37-44 we read them again.

This applies to us too. God is a just God. He doesn't let the guilty go unpunished but in Jesus' death the debt was paid in full.  

We need to turn from sin and follow Him. His sacrifice was once and for all. But we need to live a life of repentance and turning, just as the people of Judah did. Daniel and his friends among many others went into Babylon as captives. But His word wasn't chained. Through the life of Daniel and others God shows us that while we suffer the consequences of our sins He forgives and gives us the opportunity to return to Him.

I will give them singleness of heart and action, so that they will always fear me and that all will then go well for them and for their children after them. I will make an everlasting covenant with them: I will never stop doing good to them, and I will inspire them to fear me, so that they will never turn away from me. Jeremiah 32:39-40

This promise for Israel applies to us too. By His Spirit God makes us willing and able to do His will.

May this time of restrictions and limitations remind us that God's Word is not  chained. His covenant is an eternal covenant for Israel and the world, when we receive His gift of salvation. We can use any limitations to draw near to God, to listen and act on what He is telling us, to watch and pray and encourage others to do the same.


Author: Betty Plumb

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