Saturday 25 November 2023

The Solid Rock

Jesus is the only stability we can have through life. He is the only sure thing.

Some weeks ago, we were in a Primary School assembly, performing the parable of Jesus about a man who built his house on the rock. His house remained stable in a storm. Another man, who built his house on the sand had his house destroyed.  In Matthew 7 it says:

“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. 26 But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”

I was standing there in the scene watching the story unfold, with these two grown men, wearing their one size fits all robes and their tea towels on their heads (actually our wardrobe is far more sophisticated than that but you get the picture), standing behind cardboard houses, acting out this story for the children, making them laugh in places, making them be the sound of the wind and the storm in other parts, when it suddenly occurred to me how important it is to build our life on the firm foundation that is Christ Jesus. I have read and heard this story many times over the years but this time it hit home.

Jesus is the only stability we can have through life. He is the only sure thing. We are tossed around by every type of storm not only in our own lives but also the world around us seems to be getting worse and worse every single day. Without our Solid Rock we could go under. Our lives could go crashing down, but if we choose to stand on the firm foundation that is Jesus, we can have love, joy, hope and peace no matter what circumstances we are facing and no matter what we read in the newspaper or hear on the news.

‘On this the Solid Rock I stand; all other ground is sinking sand.’

There are many references to The Rock in the Bible, none more beautiful than David’s song of praise in 2 Samuel 22 He said: “The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer;3my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation. He is my stronghold, my refuge and my saviour—from violent people you save me.”

This passage has come from David’s personal experience. David knew God’s deliverance first hand on many occasions. He also used this same name for God in many of the Psalms. He knew the Lord’s refuge in his times of trouble. We, too, can have that same refuge if we cling to Him and trust only in Him, our Rock of Ages.  Jesus our Rock grounds and stabilises us. Even when the waves crash around us, He is our firm foundation and our true hope, a hope that the world cannot give.

“Rock of Ages, cleft for me, Let me hide myself in Thee”

We can be thrown around by every type of storm of life. Inflation, interest rates, job losses, money worries, family problems, health crises, broken relationships and many other circumstances can all bring us down if we are not careful. Only when we have built our house on the rock, is there stability. As the world appears to be getting worse in countless ways we need to hold on tight to that Rock.

“We have an anchor that keeps the soul,

Steadfast and sure while the billows roll,

Fastened to the Rock that cannot move,

Grounded firm and deep n the Saviour’s love.”     

Charles Spurgeon is quoted as saying: “I have learned to kiss the waves that throw me against the Rock of Ages”  

Wow!! I am not sure I have got there yet. It is hard to to rejoice in our trials but James 1:2-3 says this:

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 

It is difficult to literally be thankful and joyful in the problems we face and we cannot easily have an outward appearance of joy no matter what befalls us but we must trust the Lord, that everything works for the good of those who love Him and put our trust in Him. If we can let the waves of our suffering throw us against the Rock, then we can have a deep-seated joy and peace that passes all understanding.

“Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say, it is well, it is well with my soul” 

However, not everyone wants to build their house on the rock. Some people will stumble and fall against it. Isaiah 8:14 says prophetically about Jesus that He is: a stone that causes people to stumble and a rock that makes them fall.

Knowing Jesus
There are several references in the Bible to the fact that “The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.” The teachers of the Law in the time of Jesus rejected Him as their Messiah even though they were with Him and saw His miracles. Instead, they were more interested in accusing Him of breaking the Sabbath rules rather than being amazed and pleased about His ability to heal. Still today many people have rejected the Cornerstone and it will cause them to stumble. The Bible is black and white not grey.  There is no such thing as “many paths lead to God”. There is only one way. People are offended by this in society today but the word of God is quite clear. 

Some time ago in a ladies’ meeting someone had a picture that has stayed with me. It was a rock standing in the middle of the sea with waves crashing around it. On the rock were the Christians and floundering in the stormy sea were the none Christians. The Christians were bending and struggling to pull up onto the rock those who were fighting for their life in the water. It made me think that there is no point, as Christians, to be content to be on the firm foundation when there are those around us needing help and guidance to find their way onto the Solid Rock.

As we stand on the Solid Rock let us tell others that they too can stand with us. Let us try to make them understand that their hope can only be in Jesus.

My hope is built on nothing less,

Than Jesus' blood and righteousness

And I dare not trust the sweetest frame,

But wholly trust in Jesus name.

On this the Solid Rock I stand All other ground is sinking sand. 

 Author: Thelma Cameron

May God bless and enrich your life

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Saturday 18 November 2023

Worship - A Life of Surrender

Even when our troubles seem like a prison sentence that has no end, there is one, because God is always there on the case for us, we just have to trust Him.

Navigation Church
One of the things I love more than anything, is worship. When I praise God through singing, I really feel moved and connected to my faith. A powerful song is one written in a way that really helps you to reflect upon and engage with all the amazing qualities of our Lord, that makes you remember how much you love and trust Him.

This week the song 'battle belongs' was on my mind, so I stuck it on in the background. It immediately encourages a reflection of how when we see the difficulties of life, the battles, the obstacles, God is looking at the victories, the movement of those obstacles, because He is not trapped in an emotional troubled state, but can see what is beyond it. Even when our troubles seem like a prison sentence that has no end, there is one, because God is always there on the case for us, we just have to trust Him.

The chorus of the song is a big eye opener and challenge, it says "when I fight, I fight on my knees, with my hands lifted high, oh God the battle belongs to you" it is so crucial when times get tough, to start there. On our knees. Arms high, giving it over to God and trusting that He will fight on our behalf. Because we can't do it alone, there is no victory there. 

Look at how many times people in the bible thought they could do it in their own strength and the result was an overwhelmingly disappointing failure. The bible is full of examples where God brought about victory in the most unlikely of situations (like when Gideon defeated the Midianites army with just 300 men in Judges 7:22  When the three hundred trumpets sounded, the Lord caused the men throughout the camp to turn on each other with their swords. The army fled to Beth Shittah toward Zererah as far as the border of Abel Meholah near Tabbath, or Jonathan and his armour bearer taking on the Philistines in 1 Samuel 14:12-14 The men of the outpost shouted to Jonathan and his armour-bearer, “Come up to us and we’ll teach you a lesson.” So Jonathan said to his armour-bearer, “Climb up after me; the Lord has given them into the hand of Israel.” 13 Jonathan climbed up, using his hands and feet, with his armour-bearer right behind him. The Philistines fell before Jonathan, and his armour-bearer followed and killed behind him. 14 In that first attack Jonathan and his armour-bearer killed some twenty men in an area of about half an acre). 

If I Walked With Jesus
And He used the most unlikely of people (like David and Saul who were the least in their family/clan) to enable us to get a sense of just how incredible He is and if we trust in that, we will be okay.

So, when life is troubling and difficult or hope seems lost, let's start by getting on our knees, lifting our arms to the most amazing Lord of Lords and hand the situation over.

That isn't easy, especially given we are human and prone to wanting to see results immediately, to have things our own way, to be in control. But if we don't make every effort to keep giving it over to God, we will just end up with overwhelmingly disappointing failure. There is hope in this increasingly dark and depressing world, His name is Jesus!

Proverbs 3: 5-6

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.

Author: Rebekah Cronk

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Saturday 11 November 2023

All things work for good

It is the trials and sufferings of life that draw us closer to Him when we truly cry out to Him
All things work for good, Romans 8:28. How quickly we use this verse to placate ourselves or others to encourage and bless in times of difficulty. Nothing wrong with that but let’s not take it out of context and look at the whole verse.

We know that all things work together for good, to them that love God, to them who are called according to His purpose. We …that is those of us who follow Jesus… know …it is fact. All things, all circumstances, all the troubles and cares of our lives together are intended to do us good as God works out His plans for each of us. 

The world says how can this be? Surely God is love? Why does He let bad things happen? A huge question with no easy answers but I hope that your testimony agrees with mine. It is the trials and sufferings of life that draw us closer to Him when we truly cry out to Him.

This is one of the very first verses I was given as a new Christian in very testing circumstances and to this day I honour the church leader who (I think bravely) spoke it out over myself and my husband. Our newborn daughter was dying, I came to faith during my pregnancy and met Jesus for the first time through His Word and the guidance of the above church leader. I believe too that I was prayed into The Kingdom through the prayers of the church family I had just joined.  

Our baby lived for two weeks and in that roller coaster time of emotions and dashed hopes God was truly my Rock. He was already working for good in my heart, giving me His supernatural strength and showing me His love.
We talk about “the storms of life” and there are many scriptures describing the reality of these times and God’s presence through them. One such verse that speaks right into my experience is, Psalm 93:4 Mightier than the thunders of many waters, mightier than the waves of the seas, the Lord on high is mighty.

As I was beyond prayer at this time God showed me a simple picture of a little dinghy without a sail being tossed about on a pitch dark stormy sea. I was on that boat desperately clinging on to the mast, it was all I had. God was that mast, with me right in the centre of that storm. 

Of course when she died we still grieved and had to deal with our empty arms and empty cot but with a new found joy and comfort that only God can give. He used it for good as my husband came to faith too through this experience. We can both now testify to the hope we have in Him and the joy of knowing we will be reunited for eternity with our daughter. God truly removed the sting of death replacing our loss with His peace. 

In the early weeks of grief that followed a kindly neighbour spoke to me with that awkwardness that so often accompanies the subject of death. Asking how I was doing she stated how unfair it was as “we were such a lovely family”. Well, I think I gave her some sort of reply to the effect that life seems unfair but God isn’t and what made us so special that it shouldn’t have happened?

Like most of us there have been countless more trials in our family over the years. Cancer, heart attack, redundancy, failed relationships and broken hearts. Each one a testimony of God’s faithfulness to hold our hands and carry us through, drawing us close. Each one with stories of His provision too many to mention here. The hope we have in Him covering all and working for our good as we who are called love Him and seek to follow Him. 

Author: Margaret Riordan

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Saturday 4 November 2023

World Peace?

Real peace among humans can only be achieved when people first make peace with God
Peace is a basic human need (though not a human right). Without it we cannot rest, nor can we work effectively; it is vital for our health. Peace is the essential ingredient for humans co-existing, for being together and functioning together. 

Through Isaiah the Lord makes an offer: "Peace, peace, to the far and to the near,” says the Lord, “and I will heal him." Then he says "There is no peace,” says my God, “for the wicked.” (Isaiah 57:19-21)

Spiritualists tell us to 'visualize world peace', but at a human level you might just as well 'visualize whirled peas' (not my pun). I would go so far as to say that 'world peace' is an oxymoron. A godless world is incapable of peace and will always tend to greed for power resulting in oppression, conflict and annihilation. The evidence? - world history.

'The way of peace they do not know, and there is no justice in their paths; they have made their roads crooked; no one who treads on them knows peace.' (Isaiah 59:8)
Even Jesus said: 'Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division.' (Luke 12:51)  Jesus was correctly predicting that tribes and nations would fight as much over religion as they do over resources, and that persecution over creed would override even family cohesion.

Jesus came to offer a different kind of peace, one that the world could not understand. He knew that real peace among humans could only be achieved when people first make peace with God. 

On the eve of his crucifixion he made this promise to his disciples: 'Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you.' (John 14:27). 

This peace is not only available to each one of us but is a biblical command delivered through Paul: 'And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.' (Colossians 3:15)

The word 'rule' (Gk brabeuo) is best translated 'to act as referee'. In the recent Rugby World Cup the referee would confidently stand between two huge opposing prop-forwards, knowing that he has the authority to send off aggressive players. In the same way the peace of Christ is the authority that drives out the fear and anxiety that world events would instil in us. 

As we lament over the cruel and tragic loss of life and well-being in Israel and Gaza, in Ukraine, and in many other wars across our troubled planet, we know that peace will only come when the Prince of Peace returns to the very spot from where he ascended, just outside Jerusalem.

Meanwhile we can know peace, not as the world gives, but the peace of Christ ruling in our hearts, sharing that peace with the church - the 'one body'. The peace of Christ drives out fear and panic from our hearts. No wonder we can be thankful.


Author: John Plumb

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