“WHEN IN TROUBLE WHERE DO WE TURN FIRST?”
Of course most of us know (in theory) the answer –but in reality when do we really turn to our loving Heavenly Father as our first call? It is in our human nature to seek our own way out of trouble or distress – our much vaunted self-sufficiency kicks in, and we turn anywhere than the place where all our answers lie...the loving heart of our God!
The Apostle Paul got it just right when he was writing his Second Letter to the church at Corinth – the Letter starts with an honest appraisal of the difficulties with which he was faced, when he writes of “sharing abundantly in Christ’s sufferings..being utterly burdened and even despairing of life itself”. Yet, he discovered even before he writes of all these difficulties, HE starts with praise as he exclaims “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort”.
WE do not find that to be our usual “starting place” perhaps?! Often perhaps it is “poor me” or “Why has this happened to me?”, and it seems as if once again we need to take a leaf out of Paul’s book and his amazing trust in his Father God. Our response is often a plea for help on the basis of how the trouble is affecting me....
The better way, as has often been said, is to focus instead on the wonder of God’s love and mercy- to look beyond our present difficulties to God Himself and all His love and care for us: our God is far bigger and far greater than the problems we face, and who WILL respond to our need in the very best way possible. Amazing – but true!
14 May 2017
A little used word nowadays perhaps? Only used twice in the Authorised Version of the Bible – the original word simply means “to be first”: once for Christ Himself (Colossians 1: 8), and the other for a church leader Diotrephes (3 John 9) – a church leader who wanted to be first (sounds familiar?).
This church leader just wanted to be No. 1 – to be recognised as such, to have a position, to be looked up to, to be awarded preference over others – what a contrast to our beloved Lord Jesus!
Modern translations change “pre-eminence” to words like “supremacy”, but this hardly represents the original meaning (“to be first”) in relation to our Lord. HE is indeed FIRST in everything! Or is He? Is He first in our own lives: in our worship: in our individual decision making: in our relationships with others: in our attitudes to those in positions of responsibility and authority.
May our lives be controlled by the Spirit-given desire to give Jesus FIRST PLACE in every department of our lives.
7 May 2017
“HOW MANY THOMAS’S ARE THERE OUT THERE?”
With the news that millions of passengers on London’s Underground trains will have been reading the words of Jesus in a new evangelistic campaign, one is bound to wonder whether they come new to people or, at least for some, they struck a familiar chord from past years of church contact?
How many were challenged perhaps to think again on their early Christian roots or even to wonder what happened to make them drift away in the first place: life became too busy, someone let them down who they thought was a Christian, a relationship with someone who had no time for belief – a myriad of reasons undoubtedly lie behind a “falling away” rather than an abrupt decision in the heat of the moment.
One man in the historical account of the post-Easter accounts made his position very clear indeed – “UNLESS I put my finger in the nail prints...I WILL NOT BELIEVE”. Irresistibly drawn back to the company of his erstwhile former companions the following Sunday evening he finds himself confronted with Jesus who promptly gives him a personal invitation to put HIM to the test. Most of you know the result – Thomas finds himself on his knees in love and worship “MY Lord and MY God!”.
His name has, of course, gone down in history – “Don’t be a Doubting Thomas” has crept into our vocabulary – but his example and his re-discovery of personal faith and commitment is a challenge for each one of us. Can you say “MY Lord and MY God”?
23 April 2017
“WHAT A WEEK THIS IS GOING TO BE!”
No, not in world news (although that is grim and worrying enough with all the threats and posturing that is going on) but a reminder to us Christians that this week we recall once again the dramatic progress of Jesus Christ, Son of God and Lord of all, from the noisy acclamations of the Palm Sunday crowds to their heady dreams seemingly dashed as they witnessed His so cruel death on the Cross, and the awesome and dramatic upheaval of nature itself during those awe filled hours, to the acute embarrassment of Roman and Jewish authorities alike when they discovered that the ex-carpenter of Nazareth had become the King of Heaven & Earth and Lord of Glory itself!!
Far from a shameful death written as His obituary, Jesus now strides across the pages of history as the Risen Victor over the power of death itself, the One to whom “every knee shall bow and every tongue confess...”. Countless millions across the intervening years have found their lives changed beyond recognition as they have experienced life-giving forgiveness and a peace of mind and heart that nothing on earth can eradicate.
In fact, as it has often been said, the real and indisputable cast iron evidence of the truth of the Biblical historical record of those amazing days we call Easter spanning the centuries has been the complete change in the lives of those who have discovered Jesus Christ as a living Lord for themselves. So why not walk those days again for yourself, discover at every step and every incident foretold in preceding Biblical historical records, and come to say with the Apostle Paul that simple personal affirmation of trust and faith - “The Lamb of God who loved ME and gave HIMSELF for ME”!
Have an amazing Easter!
14 April 3017
“DID YOU GET CAUGHT OUT?
April Fool’s Day has come and gone – how amazing are the length the media will go to, to try and trick us into believing and accepting “as gospel” some contrived ground-breaking news story or even “a royal wedding”!
It is easy to get “caught out” in all kinds of circumstances in life. Perhaps we get caught in some slip of the tongue which, in other circumstances, we would never dream of thinking – let alone uttering...
Sometimes temptation creeps in and once again we get “caught out” in some sinful failure that is so unlike our normal behaviour or thought pattern. No wonder the Bible (1 Peter 5: 8) talks about “Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour”, and James (James 3: 9) speaks about the dangers “With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness”.
Strong words indeed! There is an old hymn which breathes a prayer, “Lord speak to me, that I might speak in living echoes of your voice” Amen indeed!
9 April 2017
“WHO OR WHAT IS IN CHARGE OF YOUR LIFE?”
A thoughtful provoking question perhaps? Most of us go along happily (hopefully!) as we have done for a long time without asking this very important question. It takes courage even to pause in the busyness of life just to reflect. We sometimes hear of someone described as “a driven person” – but perhaps we all are in some way or another.
The well known Bible teacher/evangelist Jeff Lucas points out the relevance of this question in the incident of what is often called “Jesus and the rich young ruler” (Mark 10: 17–31) This young man seemed to have it all worked out and, in fact, on the surface it was pretty impressive – obviously devout and outwardly generous and abiding by the religious requirements of his faith – and yet something was missing. Faultless in the detail yet the motive was questionable due to his inherent love of money.
Some of us would probably smile and respond that “money” has never been our driving force – the lack of it is more of a problem! But whatever “it” is needs to come under the loving scrutiny of our Saviour. He saw the potential in that young man’s life and just longed to set him free from that overwhelming stumbling block: to release him into a full and rewarding life of commitment and service. You will note from the story that Jesus did not try and “bargain” with the man: in a sense it is “all or nothing” with Jesus, and before we wriggle under that we remember that Jesus gave His ALL for us. God grant that we might respond with all the love and thankfulness that we can muster. As the Apostle Paul once wrote, “He loved me and GAVE HIMSELF for me!”. And you...?
2 April 2017
“IS YOUR MONDAY ANY DIFFERENT FROM YOUR SUNDAY?”
It has been said that some Christians seem to have a different “face” on a Monday than the one they wore in church the previous day – if that is in fact true it makes one wonder what the previous day of worship has really meant to them!
To be able to worship freely and enjoy the presence of God in our gathering together must be one of the greatest privileges open to us, especially if one bears in mind that many, many believers throughout our world do not have that opportunity, or have to meet in secret with the apprehension that must flow inevitably from that experience.
To come into the presence of our loving Heavenly Father, not just to worship but also to cast our cares and concerns on Him as we are invited to do is a precious gift – but that blessing is not just for us alone! It is meant for us to carry forward into a new week, with all its inevitable challenges and concerns, a real sense of the presence of the Lord that should be evident in our attitudes as well as on our faces.
There is a testimony in Scripture of those so committed to loving and serving Jesus that others had no option but to recognise the impact of their lives “...they took note that they had been with Jesus”(Acts 4: 13) - oh that this could be said of us as well!
26 March 2016
“FROM DEEP ROOTS AND FIRM FOUNDATIONS” (Part 2)
Last week we reflected on the deep roots in God needed to survive in the storms of life. But the Apostle Paul added a further dimension to that wonderful sense of security which God offers to His children who trust Him with what happens in their lives.
So he used a double picture in Ephesians 3: 7 – he spoke about being “rooted” and then added our need to be “established/grounded”, which is a word based on the idea of having a firm foundation. So whether we think of security and safety in terms of ROOTS firmly embedded in the soil of God’s loving care, or FOUNDATIONS dug deep into the ground upon which we can build with utter confidence the truth is crystal clear.
One of the most favourite parables that Jesus taught was based on exactly the same truth – the house built on the sand fell, and the house built on the rock stood firm whatever the storm. We all have “storms” in our lives, but in this sense what the storms are like is unimportant – but where our lives are grounded is of the utmost importance – and yours?
19 March 2017
“Where is your REAL home?”
That is a painful question for so many in our world today- many millions either displaced by war or famine, or those seeking a better life than their current situations.
There’s an old saying which suggest that “home is where the heart is”, and there is a real truth enshrined within that. An Estate Agent in our nearby town has a board displayed outside their offices which simply says
and there is much truth in that simple equation.
In our affluent society today many have two homes – their main residence and a holiday home somewhere else. Christians who believe in the Word of God have a unique identity, insofar that we have the tremendous privilege of having an earthly home AND a heavenly home.
To His deeply disturbed disciples Jesus reassured them by saying “I go to prepare a place for you” (John 14:2-3). Later He also added the re-assurance of that unique relationship in which we believers stand when He said “I go to My Father and YOUR Father”. So much is embedded in the promises of God’s Word for those of us who not only love the Lord, but also long for His coming again.
As Scripture closes it finds a real echo in hearts open to God’s Word – “Even so come, Lord Jesus”. As you read this do please make sure you know where your REAL home is!
12 March 2017
“HOW FAR DO YOUR ROOTS GO DOWN?”
Storm Doris has certainly left its mark as it hurled across the country en route for the Continent! Quite apart from the initial frustrations and transport delays (and a very tragic death to mourn) the storm has left plenty of evidence of its passage in the irresistible power of nature over which we have no control. That must be hugely frustrating for those who believe that “modern man” has the answers to every threat and eventuality.
In a local wood a certain tree has towered over its neighbours for many years, casting its long shadow over those of lesser importance..No less than eight sturdy trunks had stood from one root but alas, no longer. As the old saying goes “...and great was the fall thereof”.
The big question is “WHY? Why should a great tree falls so easily?”. Standing on the spot the answer immediately becomes apparent. This tree had virtually no root structure at all! Which brings us back to our initial question “HOW FAR DO YOUR ROOTS GO DOWN?”. When the storms of life hit you are you “blown over”, or is your life firmly grounded in Jesus Christ and His amazing love and care for you personally?
The Apostle Paul had it right when he wrote (Ephesians 3: 17) about our lives being “ROOTED and established in love...how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ” – indeed there is no greater security in the storms of life.
5 March 2017
“WHAT ARE YOU DOING HERE?” (Part 2)
We have recalled God’s question (as above) to the exhausted, shattered, disillusioned Elijah who had plunged from mountain top victory to hiding in a cave to run away from God (as if anyone can) – and quite futile as it happened!
It is a familiar story for some of us, and is nothing to be ashamed of – failure is always recoverable IF we allow God to enter into our hurts and point us into a different direction.
As we read the Gospels it is interesting how Jesus specifically seeks out those who will, in the future, play a significant part in the Gospel story. He seeks out a gang of busy fishermen: a disliked civil servant from his tax collecting role; a political zealot with a core of hatred in his heart against the occupying enemy; and even the man who would be the group’s treasurer who Jesus knew was light-fingered!! Each one of those 12 disciples carefully chosen to fill a specific role in His overall plan for spreading the Gospel worldwide – amazing!
Someone once commented that, in human terms, they were such an ill assorted bunch that no self respecting recruiter would ever have dreamt of assembling them for such a momentous task. And that is exactly where WE come in as the Lord comes to us with that gentle enquiry “WHAT ARE YOU DOING HERE?”. Our response could change the lives of others, but it will most certainly change ours – and to the better too...
19 February 2017
“WHAT ARE YOU DOING HERE?”
An interesting question – especially when it is God who is asking! (You can read the story in 1 Kings chapter 19 as it describes the sad aftermath of the prophet Elijah’s triumphant victory of faith over the 400 priests of Baal).
Life probably has its “ups and downs” for most of us. Times when we feel strong and can face life and whatever it throws at us. And there are other times (more frequently?) when the most we can do is to shrink into our shells as it were, and just let the world go by – with that all-too repeated feeling that we’ve blown it with God.
The story of Elijah’s relationship with God could well be yours as you read this. You too have tried the “running away” tactic – only eventually to find that God has not given up on you AND He still has work for you to do in His mercy and grace.
Now that really is GOOD NEWS!
12 February 2017
THE VERY BEST TRAVELLING COMPANION (Part 3)
“You’ll never walk alone” was a favourite lyric of yesteryear, and finds a strong echo in the Christian understanding of God’s companionship with His people on their life’s journeying.
One of the early solo conquerors of Mount Everest recalled in later years, when he had at last reached that summit, how he took a bar of chocolate from his pack and deliberately broke it in half to offer the other portion to the unseen Companion on his climb – so conscious was he of the Lord’s presence at that awesome moment.
No wonder so many believers across the centuries have not only been aware of God’s promise “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Joshua 1: 5), but have also deliberately and consciously committed themselves to the One who has never yet broken any of His amazing promises recorded for us in Scripture – have you done that too?