Saturday 28 October 2023

Pray without ceasing

When two of you get together on anything and make a prayer of it, our Father in heaven goes into action
In current world events it's all the more apparent that we should wholeheartedly be in constant daily communication by talking/praising/praying to our Father God as it was for this purpose He made us. 

When we pray God works. Everything about prayer/talking to God is truly amazing.

God listens when we pray. Mark 11:24 says, "therefore I say to you whatever things you ask, when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them."

As redeemed people we have the greatest privilege imaginable - access to the control centre of the universe, (creator - God the Father, Son and Holy Ghost, Genesis 1:26) yet we rarely use it as we should, and our lack of prayer saddens God. Through the prophet Ezekiel God lamented Ezekiel 22:30 "So I sought for a man among them who would make a wall and stand in the gap before me on behalf of the land that I should not destroy it, but I found no one."

In Genesis 18:22 when Abraham heard that Sodom and Gomorrah were going to be destroyed, he did not rush to warn the people of the cities. No he chose to (remain) standing before the Lord. So are we today intentionally standing before the Lord for our nation and others.

Exodus 32:7-14 when God said the golden calf warranted a nationwide death penalty for Israel, Moses interceded and stood before God and saved the nation.
Psalms 106:29-31 They provoked him (God) to anger with their deeds and the plague broke out among them an obscure priest by the name of Phinehas stood up and intervened before God and the plague was stopped and that was accounted to him for righteousness to all generation forevermore.

Why should we place such a premium on prayer? Simple, because when we pray, God works, scripture attaches breathtaking power to prayer. When two of you get together on anything and make a prayer of it, our Father in heaven goes into action, according to Matthew 18:19-20.

God places prayer as a priority in our Christian walk. Pray without ceasing, pray continually in everything with prayer and supplication. Pray in the spirit at all times, pray with gratitude and thanksgiving

I recently went to hospital to have a hip replacement. I can tell you that I felt so assured and confident going through the operation knowing my family, brothers and sisters in the Lord were praying for me. I remember walking to the theatre with a nurse on my left side, and the words that came to me was in Isaiah 41:13 "For I the Lord your God will hold your right hand saying to you fear not I will help you". All went well according to His will and purpose.  

The first thing I remember seeing when I woke up, was a clock, which reminded me that our time is in God's hands.  

Let us remember God doesn't move by our eloquence, or multiplicity of our words.  He's moved by a heart that tells Him of all our concerns of the day to the power of a God who can. Can what? Can do whatever we have the faith to believe Him for.  Mark 11:24 (nkjv) Jesus - therefore I say to you whatever things you ask when you pray believe that you receive them and you will have them. Our confidence in prayer is not only based on our ability to speak, but on God who is the great "I am". He knows what you are trying to say. We either daily pray/talk to God, or continue/hold on to worrying. What we give to God He handles what we keep we handle.

Spiritually when everything is going out and nothing coming in we collapse under the weight of it all. Is that where you are today? If so prayer is the answer, it restores what life depletes, when we pray we are saying Lord, I believe you're more able to deal with this, than I can, and I trust you and put everything in your hands.  When we pray that way, the surgery you dread, your children, your finances and anything that concerns you are in his hands. God is ready to intervene on our behalf. Just pray from your heart, Psalm 37:5 commit your way to the Lord, trust also in Him and He shall bring it to pass. May the Lord bless you and give you His peace.

Author: Herbert Jean

May God bless and enrich your life

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Saturday 21 October 2023

Mary has chosen…

Turn to Jesus, seek out the gospel and be obedient to it as soon as possible
It has been said that no one on their death bed says “I wish that I had spent more time in the office”. Psalm 90:12 says: “Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom”. Commentators interpret this verse variously, but in its context, it urges us to understand how quickly time passes and to draw wisdom from that understanding. When we are say, 20, the course of life seems to stretch out before us with time for everything - but when we are 70 we understand that the time has passed swiftly by and we have had, had time for so little. If we have had children they have grown up in the “bat of an eye”, the things that we could do we cannot do so well or so quickly, and maybe some of the things that we wanted to make time for we just didn’t? No wonder the bible says in Ecclesiastes 12:1: ‘Remember your Creator in the days of your youth, before the days of trouble come and the years approach when you will say, “I find no pleasure in them”’… 

We understand that the preacher in Ecclesiastes is urging his audience to make time to find their Creator God, the Father of us all, as soon as possible in their lives. If heeded this appeal means that our lives can be aligned with His purposes from an early age bringing many benefits with it and avoiding the futility that is described throughout the book. The message to those who do not know the Lord is clear – turn to Jesus, seek out the gospel and be obedient to it as soon as possible.

I have reflected on this verse recently myself though, in a similar but slightly different context. My baptismal verse was Psalm 27:14: "Wait on the Lord be of good courage and He shall strengthen your heart; wait I say on the Lord”. I have been conscious through my life since I was baptized when I was 11 of this verse and thought to set time aside for precisely that – to wait on the Lord. I was brought up in the era of Pentecostal “waiting meetings” which then became “receiving meetings” where people would just gather in a room and ask the Lord to baptize them with the Holy Spirit, give them a fresh in-filling, use them in different spiritual gifts or just bask in the Lord’s presence. There was such an expectation and faith for the Holy Spirit to move. As a boy I was quite scared by it because even at a young age I realized this is where people met and did business with God. When people were born again, the next week they were in one of these meetings. They waited until the Holy Spirit was poured into them and they usually spoke in tongues.
Well, my confession is that this year I have found myself drawn to set some time aside to fulfil my baptismal text. It has been a blessed and revealing experience. First, I was anxious not to waste the time I had but the Lord reassured me that He had only been waiting for me to “turn up” – so that was a great relief. Then I started to realize that I didn’t know how to “wait on the Lord”. I was conscious that I was responding to another verse in Psalm 27 (verse 8): When You said, “Seek My face,” My heart said to You, “Your face, Lord, I will seek”… but I discovered that I didn’t know “how” to do it. This wasn’t apparent to me at first, but the deeper I started to go with the Lord, the more I realised how much everything flows from Him. The link with our starting verse is that I found myself saying to the Lord “Jesus I am sorry that I have waited this long in my life to set aside this kind of time for You”. Don’t get me wrong; I have had quiet times when the Lord has spoken to me (although I am not really a good and faithful prayer warrior and one of my prayers is “Lord teach me to pray”) and He has often revealed Himself in scripture in wonderful ways. In setting time aside to be with Jesus though I have become conscious that I have missed out on this for a long time – in any reckoning about “numbering my days” this had not been a high enough priority.

Clearly Mary learned this quickly. Here is the well-known story from Luke 10As Jesus and his disciples went on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha welcomed him in her home. She had a sister named Mary, who sat down at the feet of the Lord and listened to his teaching. Martha was upset over all the work she had to do, so she came and said, “Lord, don't you care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her to come and help me!” The Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha! You are worried and troubled over so many things, but just one is needed. Mary has chosen the right thing, and it will not be taken away from her.”

Bible scholars again have some debate about the exact meaning of parts of the original text and make a number of connections. Its clear though that Mary had chosen something that Jesus approved of. So much so that He protected her choice – “it will not be taken away from her”. She attracted criticism from Martha who saw her role in the people who had to be fed and cared for – also possibly because in the culture she was ignoring what was “expected” of her being a woman of that time and place. She had chosen as the scholars say the “best portion” (links to Benjamin’s portion from Genesis 43:34) which has I think at least three components:

  • Dedication – to ignore all and everyone else and spend time on the one thing that was needed
  • Intimacy and submission – to sit in the presence of Jesus at His feet
  • Learning – she listened to Jesus

“Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom” – I wonder what we will think to ourselves when we meet Jesus? “I wish that in my time on earth I had spent more time………. “? 

Author: Chris Pearson

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Saturday 14 October 2023

To the Glory of God

The glory of God is the display of His infinite grandeur and vast greatness.
‘do everything for the glory of God’  (1 Corinthians 10:31, ESV)

It can be argued that the work of the Westminster Divines, in the 1600’s, remains one of the best introductions to the key doctrines of the Christian faith. At my bookcase the other day, I picked up a copy of The Westminster Shorter Catechism.  Comprised of 107 questions and answers – all ‘agreeable’ to the word of God i.e. each question’s response is supported, most comprehensively, by Scripture.  Although an old publication and cast aside by many modern day Christians it does, however, provide a helpful summary and answers clearly what Christians believe.  Yes, the language may be considered ‘old’ and redundant by some, but I challenge any bible believing Christian today to fundamentally disagree with its questions but more importantly its responses.  

The Shorter Catechism commences with the question: ‘What is the chief end of man?’ Re-phrased into modern English by Kelly & Rollinson (1990), they ask ‘What is man’s primary purpose?’ 

What would your answer be? This pre-eminent question, with its response, may find you shouting an immediate response or a more thoughtful, considered reply.  The Westminster Divines answer was emphatic: ‘Man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever’. This caused me to pause and meditate on glorifying God and how we glorify God and enjoy him forever and to think about God’s glory? What a wonderful thought, but also challenging!

In his book ‘Show Me Your Glory (2020) Steven Lawson, says: ‘As related to God, the word glory represents the infinite weightiness of who He is. The glory of God reflects the sum and substance of His holy character. It encompasses His divine perfections, attributes and essence. It includes His holiness, sovereignty, righteousness, omnipotence, omniscience, omnipresence, truth, grace, mercy, goodness, love, and wrath. It is the goodness of God. In short, the glory of God is the display of His infinite grandeur and vast greatness.'

God’s glory exists prior to and apart from any manifestation of it – as Jesus prayed in John 17:5 ‘And now Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.’ (ESV)  We do not add to His glory, we merely recognise it and acknowledge it.

We glorify God: in our heart, thoughts, speech, and behaviour. I would, however, suggest that it begins with our heart and having the correct motives in seeking to continually honour and exalt Him. We do this by loving, desiring, fearing, believing and trusting, grieving for our sins and delighting and rejoicing in Him. It must be all for His glory and honour and not our own. Of course only a regenerate heart (person) can do this. 

Steven Lawson simply says that to glorify God, ‘you just follow Christ. You do what Christ would do. You feel what Christ would feel. You see what Christ would see.  You believe what Christ said. That is how to glorify God.’ (Verbal response to questions asked at Ligonier event 2003). These are certainly challenging words for us all.

As Christians we engage, either individually or corporately, in many and diverse activities – but all should be honouring and bring glory to God. We have been created (Isaiah 43:7) for His glory. Paul, in 1 Corinthians 10:31 instructs us to ‘do everything for the glory of God’.  To the best of our ability and in doing so, we acknowledge Him for who He is; the author, creator and sustainer of everything.  He is the King of glory. This unquestionably brings Him pleasure and great joy to us.
The most honourable use of our mouth and lips is to praise God. As David sang (Psalm 63): ‘O god, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.  So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary, beholding your power and glory. Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you. So I will bless you as long as I live; in your name I will lift up my hands.  My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips’ (ESV v1-5).  

We can glorify God in many ways: by prayer, praise, dance, song. By being obedient to His word and not compromising when man’s secular worldview insists that Christians do so. How easy it can be for Christians to be seduced by what is dangled, by the world, in front of them?

A standard and universal activity is the gathering together on Sundays. Practised by (most) Christians, this day of the week, chosen because it was the day Jesus rose from the dead and now the first day of the week marks a special coming together. But for what purpose? If one was to undertake a straw poll of the reasons why Christians do this, no doubt, it would generate a variety of responses - a simple one is the enjoyment and fellowship of being with God’s people. This is certainly an excellent and important reason for Christians meeting together.

God’s word also instructs us to  ‘...consider how to stir up one another to love and good works; not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some’ (Hebrews 10:24-25a ESV). Again this is an obedient and noble reason for meeting together. However, if affirming what the Divines state, can we say that our chief motive is, to glorify God, in everything we do? That the whole of our corporate worship time is to glorify and honour Him?  

Perhaps it is easier to say yes to this when everything is going well with us; nevertheless, I acknowledge that this sometimes can be hard, especially if we are experiencing difficult and painful periods in our life. However, God understands all our feelings, our happy ones and perhaps most importantly our sad and sorrowful ones. He sees our heart state and therefore we can pour out our true feelings to Him and in doing so can still give glory to Him. How often do we read the most incredible testimonies of Christians in persecuted lands and the example they set, sometimes unto death, in giving glory to God for their situation?

In the Old Testament period, specific experiences of God’s glory were given to individuals and to Israel (Exodus 33:18-23; 1 Kings 8; 10-11; Isaiah 6-1-7) but the supreme revelation of the glory of God is in the person of our Lord Jesus Christ; ‘And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth’. (John 1:14, ESV)

Definitely in writing, and perhaps in reading, this has been a particularly challenging blog. To contemplate what the Westminster Divines stated nearly 400 years ago. I, and maybe we, fall short in so many ways and at so many times – to glorify God in everything, however, I take comfort in knowing that ‘...we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathise with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin...’. (Hebrews 4:14-15).

‘For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be glory forever. Amen’ (Romans 11: 36, ESV).

Author: Irene Cherrill

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Saturday 7 October 2023

Lights in the World?

The light we present is at best, a reflected light, because we have no light of ourselves but rely on the source of our light, Jesus
I never cease to be amazed, that words written nearly 200 years ago, based on words written 2000 years ago, still resonate in my heart and provide me with both a challenge and encouragement.

As many of you will know, I love reading the words of the great Victorian preacher, Charles Spurgeon, not only for his Godly insight but also because of the exquisite use of the English language, dated as it may be.

My daily ‘fix’ comes from two main sources; “Faith’s Chequebook”, published in 1888 and “Morning and Evening”, published in 1866.

On 6th September the morning reflection from “Morning and Evening” was based  on Philippians 2:15, however, I try to make it my practice to read the scripture in context of the whole chapter. As that other great preacher, David Pawson, was fond of saying; “A text taken out of context is a pretext”.

The ESV says, in Philippians 2:12–17

Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labour in vain. Even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all. Likewise you also should be glad and rejoice with me.

The first thing that struck me was that we are called to be lights in the world. There is only one light of the world, that is Jesus, as it says in John 8:12Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness but will have the light of life.” 

The light we present is at best, a reflected light, because we have no light of ourselves but rely on the source of our light, Jesus.

In his reflection, Spurgeon talks about the purposes of the light we reflect, not about its qualities and this is where I found myself challenged, as to how I fulfil those purposes.

He lists four major purposes of light, Illumination, Guidance, Warning and Encouragement.
On the subject of Illumination, which he describes as, “to make manifest” he says that as Christians, our lives should reflect the light of Jesus in such a way, that “a person could not live with us for a week without knowing the Gospel.” Our conversation should make it obvious to all who hear, who we serve, and our daily lives should reflect the image of Jesus.

Wow! I wish I could say I ticked that box. When I consider my attitudes, behaviour and conversation, I’ve an awfully long way to go to truly reflect Jesus as I should.

Secondly, Spurgeon talks about Guidance. We are called to help those around us who are in the dark. We have the Word of life to offer them, and we are called to point sinners to the Saviour, to offer a place of rest to those who are weary. Like Philip we should be willing and able to explain God’s Word to those who may ask.

Once again, I find myself unable to say “Yes, I do that”. How can I offer Guidance to people in need if I keep what I have to myself, because it’s the ‘easy’ option?

Spurgeon then moves on to the light as a Warning. Light houses have been erected around our coast for many hundreds of years, to warn of the dangers of rocks and shoals. In the 18th Century, and even up to the present day

In some parts of the world, wreckers use false lights to lure unsuspecting vessels onto dangerous shores. In the same way the world has labelled activities acceptable, or even advisable, which will lead people into wrong choices and alienate them from God. It is our task, as representatives of Christ, to warn them of the error of their ways, in a loving and non-judgemental way and to guide them back to the truth. How often have I simply ‘kept my head down’, to avoid 'offending people’ or  through fear of being accused of bigotry? Too often, I’m afraid.

Finally, Spurgeon says, we, as Christians, should be Encouragers, he refers to a “Cheering Influence”.  We should be prepared to be comforters, to be able to offer kind words and have sympathy in our hearts for those who are hurting. He ends by saying we should “carry sunshine wherever we go and diffuse happiness around us”.

He often ends his reflection with a prayer, or the words of a hymn and he adds:

“Gracious Spirit dwell with me:
I myself would gracious be,
And with words that help and heal
Would thy life in mine reveal ,
And with actions bold and meek
Would for Christ my saviour speak.”

At the start of this blog, I said that I found Spurgeon’s reflections Challenging as well as Encouraging. In this case I think the former holds true more than the latter. However, as with so many things in my Christian walk, I am encouraged that the God I serve is patient and knows my weaknesses and offers through the Holy Spirit the means to tick a few more boxes.

The words of the above prayer are ones I shall claim for my own going forward. How about you?

Have a blessed week.

Author: Alan Cameron

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