This thought is from Mary Bell.
I have entered my garden, my treasure, my bride! (Song of Songs 5:1)
Some months ago I bought a blueberry bush and planted it in a tub. After the lovely heatwave we have had my bush developed fruit. Every day I went into my garden I found two to five ripe berries which I picked and enjoyed.
It made me think of the above verse. As Jesus comes into His garden ( which is my life) does He find fruit there each day? That fruit can be telling Him I love Him, thanking, praising and adoring Him. Also as I pray for another or do a kind, thoughtful deed, that can be fruit He can gather.
Let us not despise the day of small things. We can bring delight to Him even if we think the thing that we bring is small.
In love my soul would bow
My heart fulfil its vow
Some offering bring Thee now
Something for Thee.
Let us all bring something to Him today and every day.
This post has been written by Dave Wilson.
Following on from my last post, I have some more thoughts from the story of the resurrection of Lazarus (John 11: 1 - 43 NASB), and would like to share these with you.
God's Call and Our Response
"Come forth, Lazarus". With these words, probably the greatest miracle of His earthly ministry was accomplished. One writer said if Jesus hadn't qualified his call, then all the dead of all the ages would have come forth from their graves, but only Lazarus was called, and so he alone came out of the grave.
We often think of that call coming to us in our sin in saving power, but there are many other occasions when we can hear that call if we listen for it. The voice of Jesus calls us out of our fear, our defeat, our despondency, our tiredness, our laziness and many more. Sometimes we may just have settled down in a place of comfort, and that voice calls us out to a new place, or a new ministry.
I am reminded of the words of a song:
In the dark and all alone, growing comfortable
Are you too scared to move and walk out of this tomb?
Buried underneath, the lies that you believed
Safe and sound, stuck in the ground
Too lost to be found
You're just asleep and it's time to leave
Come on and rise up, take a breath, you're alive now
Can't you hear the voice of Jesus calling us
Out from the grave like Lazarus
You're brand new, the power of death couldn't hold you
Can't you hear the voice of Jesus calling us
Out from the grave like Lazarus
Rise up, rise up, rise up
Out from the grave like Lazarus
No matter what situation we are in, the voice of Jesus is always calling us " Come further up, Come further in" as C.S Lewis put it.
Our Communal response
After being raised Lazarus was still wrapped in his burial clothes. I always imagine him a bit like the classic Mummy from the Scooby Do cartoons of my childhood, shuffling forward with his hands out and moaning. Jesus says to the the people around "Unbind him, and let him go free". I find it interesting that this did not happen when Jesus himself was raised, so it makes me believe there was some significance to it.
One possible area of significance for us lies in our response to God moving in another individual's life. Jesus himself said that a prophet was without honour in his own country, and I think that in many ways we can be responsible for not allowing new ministries or new growth to flourish either generally or as they might impact directly on our own lives.
I'll give some examples. I remember being in a discussion with a very good friend about an incident involving a third friend, and it slowly dawned on both of us that we were seeing the third person through the lens of who and what they had been many years before, as they were so familiar to us, but God had been changing them and it was very unfair of us to not recognise that. Another example I can give is when a relatively young person said in a sermon at Camp something which I believed to be completely wrong (that's still my opinion!) but I found that I had closed off to their ministry as every time that they spoke, I just thought to myself "That's the person who said that thing". My attitude to them had to change.
In a multi-generational church like ours that are many opportunities to take offence. There's an old Scots saying, " Ah kent his father" which is aimed at bringing down people who we believe think too highly of themselves, but it's important that we don't carry this attitude into the spiritual life of the church.
"I knew them when they were just young", or "that's just So and So's child". It gets even more invidious when we bring children into it "I remember when they did something to upset my children", "Oh, they were no wee saints, let me tell you!". We are also guilty of imagining slights "she walked past me once 10 years ago and ignored me" and guilt by association "that's the husband/children of the woman who walked past me 10 years ago" and what's potentially even worse, we spread our discontent to other people around us.
If you don't recognise some of these thoughts (and there are many more!) then you're a better person than me.
What we see Jesus do in the Lazarus Story is tell the people round about to "Unbind him and let him go free" and I believe that instruction still stands today as far as our approach to people coming into new areas of spiritual life, be that personal growth or new ministries and callings. We need to be supportive and reject the thoughts and feelings and almost automatic responses that would bind them in our lives and make us less receptive.
This equally applies in our own lives of course. Nobody knows our inward faults and failings better than us and as a result we sometimes do not believe that God can move in us or through us, and we sometimes have to take action to loose those old graveclothes that are still tied around us, so that we can move freely in the new stream of life that God has brought us into.
"Unbind him, and let him go free".
Let that be our attitude going forward, and look to build up the Church rather than resist God's moving.
This post has been written by Dave Wilson.
I have been thinking a lot about the story of the resurrection of Lazarus (John 11: 1 - 43 NASB), and would like to share some thoughts with you.
The plan is to cover the first two in this post, then the next two in another post.
God's timing and answer to prayer
We tend to think in very black and white terms (or in modern terms, binary terms). We pray to God, and expect a response either positively or negatively, because we do not see the bigger picture, and here we see Jesus behaving in what outwardly seems to be a very strange way. Instead of rushing to Bethany at the first word of Lazarus taking ill, he waits for a few days and then turns up. By the time he arrives, Lazarus has been dead for four days. What He knew, and the others didn't, was that they were about to see their deepest prayers answered. They wanted Lazarus to continue living with them and he was about to be restored in a way they did not expect or even imagine. Jesus had been involved in two previous resurrections, in both cases just after death, but this was different. After four days in the tomb, Lazarus was not exactly going to be in his prime. As the KJV says "By this time he stinketh!".
Jesus didn't come when Mary or Martha wanted, or heal him as they wanted, but instead came at a time that was right for him and wrought a miracle that brought much more glory to God.
God's answer to our prayer can sometimes not be a "Yes" or a "No", but a "Not Yet" and his response can be something that meets our deepest need, but in a totally different way to that which we imagined or asked for.
"Jesus wept". The answer to many a Bible quiz, and the shortest verse in the Bible. Sometimes people believe that Jesus wept because he had lost his friend, but logically that does not make sense, as He knew that Lazarus was going to be raised. In fact, reading carefully, you begin to realise that the reason for His weeping was that he was touched with compassion for his friends in their mourning and loss, and in fact was moved to the point of tears as a result.
Whenever we find ourselves in a place of distress, we can take comfort in knowing that Jesus draws alongside us and is deeply touched with compassion for us.
This thought for the week is from Mary Bell.
Many years ago I was doing nurse training in a Sick Children’s Hospital and I did a stint in a neonatal ward. I helped nurse a baby there that had three major abnormalities, one of them being rare.
But what really struck me was when I came within a certain radius of that particular incubator, I was aware of God’s love surrounding that baby. It was tangible and it made an impact on me, and I wondered why that particular baby.
Some time later I went to the Isle of Skye on holiday. I was recommended to visit Jack McArthur’s Church there, and after attending a meeting, there was a cup of tea and chat with the folks there. It transpired in the course of chatting that they had been praying for a baby in that hospital and as we compared dates and the condition of the baby (and I may have remembered the name in those days) that the baby they had been praying for was the same baby that I had felt surrounded by the love of God.
In recounting this story it has also struck me how amazing it was that I decided to go to Skye on holiday, and discovered the answer to my question of why. Is it not like our Heavenly Father to take note of our thoughts?
Be encouraged as you pray for your loved ones to be surrounded by God’s love or protection that God does indeed place a wall of love and fire of protection around them and it is very real.
This Thought for Today has been written by Dave Wilson.
I've got to be honest; patience isn't one of my virtues. I hate queueing and have been known to make detours of many miles just to avoid sitting in traffic. When I was commuting into Edinburgh and Glasgow, and there were no viable alternative routes, my attitude was mostly one of resignation rather than acceptance. In fact, if it was schoolwork, I would like to think it would come back marked Could Do Better, but I suspect it would be more likely to come back saying See Me After Class.
The other thing that's almost certain to drive me round the bend (or grinds my gears as the young people say) is having to queue in Supermarkets, and that's what this story is about.
I recently picked Callum up from work and popped into the Supermarket to get something for dinner. Callum's last words to me as I left the car were "please try and be quick", and I was very conscious that he was hot and tired after working, so I ran (or probably more precisely walked quite quickly) round the shop, picked up a few bits and pieces, and made for the tills. When I got there was a lady at the till in front of me who not only seemed to have bought one of every item in the shop but was quite happily chatting to the cashier about what she was going to do with each one of them. I hung back for a couple of minutes in the vain hope that another till would open, but eventually had to step forward and place my groceries on the belt. No sooner had I done so than an announcement came over the tannoy saying that till 3 was now opening. I looked over quickly, but it was already queued full of people.
I could feel the usual annoyance and tension starting to build up, when suddenly, I felt the gentle nudging of the Spirit, saying "Rather than being annoyed, why don't you use the extra time to bring Me in to the situation. You could pray for the lady in front, you could pray for the cashier, you could pray for all in the shop Who knows, you might be first person to pray in here all day!"
So that's what I did. I prayed just as God directed. I don't know if it made a difference to the lady, or the cashier, or the shop, but it made a difference in me. The annoyance and tension all just melted away in those few moments of not thinking about myself and how I wanted it to play out.
I think this partly what is meant by "praying without ceasing". It doesn't mean we never stop, but we have an attitude that is tuned to listening to what God wants us to bring to him and doing it, and by doing so it turns out hearts towards God, and away from ourselves.
I might even try it next time I get stuck in traffic!
Then Jesus said to them, ‘Don’t be afraid! Go tell my brothers to leave for Galilee, and they will see me there’. (Matthew 28:10)
These were the words of the risen Christ... and they are just as relevant today as they were when Jesus spoke them. He wants us to find Him in the Galilees of our lives. In the ordinary everyday places.
When we think of the ministry of Christ, we realise that He walked through towns, villages, country places and many people heard Him speak and saw Him work miracles. Some saw only a remarkable man speaking interesting - even profound - thoughts. Others saw the Son of God. They listened, they opened their minds but also their hearts and their spirits and they found a Saviour and were touched by another world. It started in the Galilees of their lives - the ordinary places.
Jesus wants to walk with us and speak to us then we are in church - but also when we are in our homes, our work, our everyday situations. Sometimes it’s a word of correction - as happened to the disciples, for example, when they were arguing about who would be the greatest. Sometimes it’s a word of comfort - as when He spoke to Martha and Mary when Lazarus had died.
Moses was out in the desert looking after the flocks of his father-in-law when he saw the burning bush. He stopped, and turned aside to look and then to listen. Very quickly he found himself on holy ground.
A poem by Francis Thompson has in it the lines:
And lo, Christ walking on the water
Not of Gennesareth, but Thames!
Are we aware that we have a Saviour who walks beside us and who can transform ordinary places into holy ground? I can remember certain places where, unexpectedly, God spoke to me in a way that brought a profound change into my life. I can picture exactly where I was when it happened, and sometimes it was in a very ordinary place when I was just going about my everyday business... and that place became holy ground. Maybe that could happen more often for me if I was more ready to listen and to see, instead of being too absorbed in the natural circumstances around me.
And maybe that is true for you too.
This Thought for Today has been written by Isabel Fairgrieve.
The title which I have chosen for this “thought for the day” is actually the title of a book by author Peter Maiden. Peter is well known to me as a teacher, preacher and as a man who has devoted his life to serving his Lord and Saviour. He began writing this book in 2019 and shortly afterwards received a diagnosis of terminal cancer. For many of us, continuing to write under such a title would have been very difficult, if not impossible, but Peter continued and his book was published after his death in 2020.
One of the chapters is entitled “Gratitude and Sovereignty” and it was in this chapter that I found such encouragement. I would like to share with you some of these thoughts.
2021 is rushing on and we are still experiencing difficult circumstances, uncertainties and for many people, anxieties and worry. For the Christian though, we have a source of many encouragements found in God’s Word. My baptismal verses were Proverbs 3:5-6:
Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him and he shall direct your paths. (Proverbs 3:5-6)
It’s a wonderful statement of how our lives ought to be lived. However if we fail to follow these wise words, then our pride and determination to be self reliant lead us away from dependence on God and bring so many problems into our lives. Recognising that God is sovereign is a wonderful remedy to doubts and worry about the future. Take a look at Matthew 6.25-34 and be encouraged.
God’s Word is full of wonderful verses making it so clear and plain that he is in control and he deeply cares for us. Here are just a few of my favourites:
1 Peter 5:7, John 14:27, Psalm 46:1, 2 Cor 12:9, Phil 4:7, Phil 4:19
These verses give us tremendous encouragement and underline the wonderful blessings available to us and remind us of some of God’s promises. The words of the old hymn, “Count your blessings, name them one by one...” come to mind. I love the way the writer pens the line, “And it will surprise you what the Lord has done.” It’s as if we haven’t given enough thought to the blessings we have already received, but once we do, and start to name them we are surprised by the number of them! What a generous God we have. With that in mind we have so much for which to be thankful.
This quote from Peter’s book is surely comforting and a timely reminder of God’s sovereignty, particularly apt in these uncertain times: “God has his hands on the reins of the universe and of my life, and he does not allow those reins to slip out of his hands.”
Getting our priorities right is crucial. Putting Jesus in the centre of our lives will bring the peace and joy we seek. Giving thanks to God can change our mood from sometimes dwelling on the difficulties of life to a positive and uplifting attitude of gratefulness. May each of us put into practice what we read in God’s Word and thereby reap the benefits of a bountiful God who lavishes his love on us in our daily lives.
I Know Who Holds The Future.
I do not know what lies ahead,
The way I cannot see;
Yet One stands near to be my guide,
He’ll show the way to me.
I know who holds the future
And I know He holds my hand,
With God things don’t just happen,
Everything by Him is planned;
So as I face tomorrow
With its problems large and small,
I’ll trust the God of miracles –
Give to Him my all.
Don’t do as the wicked do, and don’t follow the path of evildoers. Don’t even think about it; don’t go that way. Turn away and keep moving... Look straight ahead and fix your eyes on what lies before you. Mark out a straight path for your feet; stay on the safe path. (Proverbs 4:14, 15, 25, 26)
I once heard someone say that turning back begins with a turning of the head to look in a different direction and as we continue to look in that direction we turn our body around and then, lastly, our feet begin to walk on a different path.
That is so true of backsliding and wrong choices. The easiest time to stop is right at the beginning. When the thought, the desire, the temptation first comes into your mind or your heart, that is the time to turn away. The longer you think about it, the stronger its grip becomes.
The above verses underline this...
‘don’t even think about it. Turn away and keep moving’.
If only we would do this, what a lot of trouble we could avoid! The resentment or anger wouldn’t take a grip and fester inside us; the allure of something wrong wouldn’t waft a sweet perfume into our beings... the longer we look, the stronger its grip becomes.
‘Look straight ahead and fix your eyes on what lies before you’
We could add to that. These words come from the Old Testament but we can say ‘fix your eyes on the One who goes before you - Jesus Christ Himself. He is stronger than anything that can come against us. But we need to look STRAIGHT ahead and FIX our eyes on Him. There are choices here. Commitment is needed and then He gives us the strength to follow it through.
This Thought for Today has been written by Dave Wilson.
As we are about to enter a time when the restrictions of lockdown are lifted and we hopefully begin to restore some normalcy to life, some of us will undoubtedly be happy, but there may also be those who are grieving and sad, or possibly confused or hurting and thinking "What was that all for?" or "Why did God allow that to happen?". Thinking about this recently, I remembered hearing a story about Corrie ten Boom. Corrie was the youngest child of a jeweler and watchmaker and became the first woman to be licensed as a watchmaker in the Netherlands in 1922. A devout Christian, she also started a youth club for teenage girls, where she would teach Bible, sewing, and other creative skills.
Almost exactly 80 years ago, in May of 1940, the Nazis invaded the Netherlands. One of the first gatherings they banned was Corrie’s youth club. Over the next few years, Corrie’s family became active in the Dutch underground, hiding and providing safe refuge for Jews and vulnerable members of the Dutch Resistance, driven by their faith. The Gestapo raided their home, known as The Hiding Place, in 1944, and Corrie and her family were taken to concentration camps, where she continued to lead Bible studies and worship in the midst of the worst conditions, with her father dying early on, and her sister dying just twelve days before Corrie was miraculously released, Even after, she continued to care for those who had been deemed “less than human” by the Nazis. There isn’t time or space here to tell the rest of her story, but this is the common thread: no matter how dark her future seemed, she trusted in the God she knew so well. She testified to His goodness in the storm.
Later in life, when she told her story around the world, she would hold up this tapestry, showing her audience only the back of the fabric.
From this perspective, it makes little sense. It looks chaotic. It looks like a random mess! She then went on to quote the poem The Master Weaver by Grant Colfax Tullar:
My life is but a weaving
Between my God and me.
I cannot choose the colors
He weaveth steadily
Oft’ times He weaveth sorrow;
And I in foolish pride
Forget He sees the upper
And I the underside.
Not ’til the loom is silent
And the shuttles cease to fly
Will God unroll the canvas
And reveal the reason why.
The dark threads are as needful
In the weaver’s skillful hand
As the threads of gold and silver
In the pattern He has planned
He knows, He loves, He cares;
Nothing this truth can dim.
He gives the very best to those
Who leave the choice to Him.
Then she would slowly turn the tapestry over to reveal this beautiful, bejeweled crown.
“This is what God sees…from His perspective…a masterpiece!”
If you find yourself dismayed at the past or worried about the future, then a large part of that comes from our perspective - as the poem says - we are looking at the tapestry from the wrong side! In God's wisdom, he does not always allow us to see the tapestry of life from his perspective (although he sometimes graciously gives glimpses). What we need to learn do is put our faith and trust directly in the skill of the Master Weaver, knowing that He has the best plans for us, and the tapestry he weaves for us will be wonderfully and particularly personal and beautiful for each one of us.
Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.
Corrie ten Boom
And now these three remain - faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. (1 Corinthians 13:13)
Well known words from a very well known chapter in the Bible.
Ponder them for a moment. It is crucial that we never lose faith and hope. There are many circumstances in life that can cause these things to be shaken. I am sure that as you look back over your own life you will find situations, experiences which have caused your faith to waver and your hope in Christ to falter. But for many of us, we have found that time after time there has been that undergirding of the presence of God which has caused us to find that we stand on a solid rock - and we are upheld!
The scripture says - the greatest of these is love. And in this there is the secret. It is not our faith or our hope which is the anchor - it is His love.
I have found this year that Easter and all it means is still very alive in the spiritual atmosphere around us. There are many aspects of Easter which bring God and the Lord Jesus very close to us - and the greatest of these is love. I was speaking to someone a few days ago, someone who is finding life very hard at the moment and was feeling that she wasn’t measuring up to what a Christian should be. As we spoke, I felt the love of God reaching out to her - He is the God of all compassion who knows our frailty and is there to help and strengthen us in our weakness. I don’t know how much our conversation helped her, but it certainly left a profound impact on me. He loves us, Calvary shows the depths of that love, and His love remains and always will remain. I have gone through the rest of this week with a tremendous sense of the constancy of the love of God for my soul - and for every soul. I must hold on to faith and hope, but it is the undergirding of His love that is the secret.
And as we rest in that love, surely our love for Him begins to grow. And that is what brings more strength to our souls than our faith and our hope. Remember that when Peter was restored by the Lord Jesus the question Christ asked him was not about faith or hope. It was:
"Simon, do you love me?" (John 21:17)
His faith had been shaken and so had his hope - but his love was still strong. And in his restoration faith, hope and his own love were strengthened by the love of Christ and he went into a new day.
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases. His mercies never come to an end. (Lamentations 3:22)
Rest in His love as you face a new tomorrow.
Copyright © 2014 Struthers Memorial Church All rights reserved
Struthers Memorial Church is a registered Scottish Charity No. SC 006960 | Struthers Memorial Church is a company limited by guarantee incorporated in Scotland Company No SC335480 | Registered Office: 33 West Stewart Street, Greenock, PA15 1SH.