“I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more…”(Isaiah 43:25)
Exodus 19 &20 are well known chapters of the Bible where we read of God preparing the children of Israel to gather round the foot of Mount Sinai while Moses ascends and receives the Ten Commandants.
This day was, and still is remembered each year among Jews during the festival of Shavuot. It is also sometimes called The Day of Mattan. ‘Mattan’ is the Hebrew word for ‘Gift’.
The Ten Commandments were God’s gift to his people. It was an act of love from a Father who wanted the best for His children. He wanted to guide them, to guard them, to protect them.
Mattan is a word that was also linked to the time in ancient Israel of the betrothal, when a bride and groom were living in their separate homes, preparing for their wedding. The groom would send the bride a gift. It was something to help her prepare for her wedding day but, more importantly, it was the sign of the bridegroom’s love for the bride. The mattan assured her that her groom had not forgotten her and that one day soon he would return and take her to his home.
We could fill books describing the countless thousands of gifts that God has showered upon us, each one an assurance, a demonstration of his love for us, a reminder that one day He is coming to take us to Himself. But these gifts are not just given in times when we walk closely to Him. He reaches out with his ‘Mattan’ even when we sin.
Isaiah 46:12-13 (NLT) speaks of God’s gift to us of forgiveness and reconciliation:
“Listen to me, you stubborn people who are so far from doing right. For I am ready to set things right, not in the distant future, but right now!”
Are you in need of this gift today? If so, don’t delay in drawing near to the Giver with a soft, repentant heart and discover how graciously he holds out His Mattan to you.
“I sin like a man, but He forgives like a God”.
Just as you accepted Christ Jesus as your Lord, you must continue to follow him. (Colossians 2:6)
When a Christian turns from following Jesus, or when the flame is burning low in their life, we normally wonder what that person has done to cause this. We look for ‘actions’.
However, there is one question that is not normally asked. It is this, “What has that person been failing to do?” You see, it’s not just a case of ‘commission’ but of ‘omission’.
We can blame someone’s backsliding on spending excessive amounts of time on Social media, but the problem doesn’t just lie in what they are doing but what they are not doing. What is being neglected as they sit hour after hour, night after night in front of a screen? What things of eternal importance and significance are slowly sliding away and being replaced by things of no eternal significance. Times alone with God become shorter then non-existent; Bible reading becomes less frequent until the Book is never opened; looking outward to others in need takes a back seat and even church attendance wanes. Pearls are being displaced by paltry pleasures.
Our verse today reminds us that once we start to follow Jesus, we 'must continue to follow him'. Jesus must never be ‘omitted’ form our lives. We must never underestimate the power of sins of omission.
We are reminded in Proverbs 4:23:
“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.”
Is there something that you need to build back in to your life as you follow Jesus? Don’t wait another day in doing it.
“Not only our actions, but also our omissions, become our destiny.” Abraham Verghese
Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time. (Ephesians 5:15-16)
God has given us many precious gifts from the storehouse of His grace for which we can be immensely grateful.
He showers down forgiveness. He has saved us from the power of sin in our life. He gives us the right to call Him ‘Father’. He has promised to be with us always. He supplies our needs. He gives us friends and family, those who will help us in times of need.
So many gifts so constantly given that we can forget to rightly appreciate all these things and take them for granted.
This is especially true for His gift of ‘time’. Every day, God gifts us 86,400 seconds. He entrusts with this precious gift. He encourages us to make ‘the best use of time’ (Ephesians 5:16) because we will never get a second chance to live these seconds over again. What we do with each second can never be changed, never be undone, never be obliterated. It is woven into the fabric of time.
The Psalmist cries to God,
“So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.” (Psalm 90:12)
To ‘number our days’ means recognising the truth of our limited timespan and living in such a way that these days are not wasted.
That may mean planning to spend only a small amount of time each day on social media; it may mean regularly building in a visit with someone who lives alone and needs support; it can mean spending more time in prayer than on an iPad.
The Apostle Paul urged the early Christians to,
Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. (Colossians 4:5)
Are you making the most of your 86,400 seconds each day, or do you need to do some planning?
“If you knew the sterling worth of time, you would shrink from the smallest waste of so precious a thing.” C.H. Spurgeon
Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen
Recently I was speaking to a group of men, some of whom are new believers, some who have been believers for a couple of years and others who have been Christians for decades. I wanted to transmit something of the greatness, the might, the majesty, the wonder of Almighty God. How do you provide a glimpse of a God who is far higher, deeper, and wider than they had ever previously imagined? How do you enable them to see just how much we limit this God?
I decided to share with them some facts about the Universe.
The size of the universe is astronomical (pun intended)!! Yet, God, it’s creator is so much bigger then even this. In various places in the Bible, God’s magnificent creation is referred to.
He spreads out the northern skies over empty space; he suspends the earth over nothing. (Job 6:7)
Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand, or with the breadth of his hand marked off the heavens? (Isaiah 40:12 )
Can you bind the chains of the Pleiades? Can you loosen Orion’s belt? Can you bring forth the constellations in their seasons or lead out the Bear with its cubs?Do you know the laws of the heavens?
Sometimes we forget that the God who brought “forth the constellations in their seasons” is the same God who says to us:
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow you: when you walk through the fire, you will not be burned;
For I am the LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Saviour “
In His loving kindness, he gently reminds us,
“I am with you always even to the end of the age”
And when we feel lonely or sad He says,
“I have called you friends”
When we are having a ‘bad day’ or a ‘down day’, let’s not forget to turn quickly to the our Creator God who waits to reveal Himself to us “exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think”.
Again David gathered all the choice men of Israel, thirty thousand. And David arose and went with all the people who were with him from Baale Judah to bring up from there the ark of God, whose name is called by the Name, the LORD of Hosts, who dwells between the cherubim. (2 Samuel 6:1-2)
This was an extremely special occasion. The Ark of the Covenant represented God’s immediate presence with His people. Twenty years prior to this event, the Ark came back from the land of the Philistines and had sat at the house of Abinadab for 20 years. David greatly desired the presence of God to be in the central place of Israel, namely Jerusalem.
So they set the ark of God on a new cart, and brought it out of the house of Abinadab. (2 Samuel 6:3)
But this is where David made his mistake.
Transporting the Ark on a cart was against God’s specific command. The Ark was designed to be carried, not set on a cart (Exodus 25:12-15) and was only to be carried by Levites of the family of Kohath (Numbers 4:15).
David would surely have prayed for God’s blessing in this venture, but he hadn’t prayed for guidance. How did God want this to be done? David’s intentions were right but his actions were wrong. David did it his way.
However, David learned from his mistake. He learned the right way of transporting the Ark and he fulfilled his mission through his humility and obedience. He could have chosen to abandon his efforts altogether. He could have sulked and blamed God. His initial reaction was anger born out of disappointment and confusion. But he chose the noble way, the way of humility and confession, and as a result he achieved his heart’s desire to have the Ark in Jerusalem.
So David went and brought up the ark of God from the house of Obed-Edom to the City of David with gladness. (2 Samuel 6:12)
Not only would he be greatly blessed by this, but so would countless others. Jerusalem would have been all the poorer if David had not learned from his mistake and sought to put it right. The Bible is honest about its heroes. It depicts their failings as well as their faith. If we are wise, we will read the accounts of their lives carefully and deeply learn the lessons they teach us.
Have you learned from your mistakes?
“God’s call to any man and the anointing of the Spirit for service are conditioned upon that man’s heart response.” Alan Redpath*
*The Making of a Man of God: Lessons from the Life of David
But be sure to fear the Lord and serve him faithfully with all your heart; consider what great things he has done for you. (1 Samuel 12:24)
When a topic appears often in scripture, it’s a good idea to take note. It is interesting to see how often in scripture we are reminded to thank God, to be grateful to Him for what we have been given both in natural and spiritual terms.
Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy, who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's. (Psalm 103:2-5)
What awe and wonder comes over us as we read and mediate on the words, “Who forgives all your iniquity.” He has not forgiven ‘some’ of our sins. He has not forgiven ‘most’ of us sins. He has forgiven ‘all of our sins’. Perhaps this is an area where you have failed to be deeply grateful. Maybe there has crept in a tendency to take this forgiveness for granted, forgetting the enormous price that Christ paid. Yet this psalmists reminds us to , “Bless the Lord” and “forget not his benefits”.
We are also reminded in this Psalm that God is the one “who redeems your life from the pit.” What pit has he saved you from? Depression? Unforgiveness? Anxiety? Jealousy? Pride? Greed? Drug addiction? Alcoholism? Fear? Vanity? Laziness? Lust? Self-condemnation? I could go on and on; the list is endless. Yet He has also redeemed us from the pit of eternal separation from Himself. As the hymn writer Charles H Gabriel once wrote;
How marvelous! How wonderful!
And my song shall ever be:
How marvelous! How wonderful!
Is my Savior’s love for me!
We can never thank God enough for saving us from that pit. And how many times does the apostle Paul exhort his converts to live a life of gratitude to God? Here’s just a couple of examples:
Always give thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. (Ephesians 5:20)
Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)
Take a little time now to think of the incredible blessings that God has poured out on us, and I know you will want to make sure He is receiving the wholehearted gratitude He so richly deserves.
“Thankfulness makes much of little.” C. H. Spurgeon
Pauline Ann Anderson
“In vain they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.” (Isaiah 29:13)
Throughout the Gospels, we come across the phrase “traditions of men” several times, This refers to the Oral Law which was the rabbis’ interpretations concerning how to live as a good Jew. It expanded upon the Law given by God on Mount Sinai but came from the mind of man not the mouth of God.
These ‘commandments of men’ were recorded in a book called The Mishna. It contains 63 tractates (groups of writings) broken into 6 Orders covering 525 chapters and 4200 detailed laws. They cover subjects as diverse as business ethics, the Sabbath, agricultural laws, marital issues, festivals… in fact almost every subject under the sun.
Life became restrictive and burdensome for the Jews, having to remember and act upon so many regulations. Each day consisted of carrying heavy burdens not laid down by God but added to by man. Was life really meant to be as difficult as that? Actually, no. The Old Testament itself painted a different picture; one of compassion.
“A bruised reed He will not break. And a dimly burning wick He will not extinguish.” (Isaiah 42:3)
He forgives all my sins, and heals all my diseases. He redeems me from death, and crowns me with love and tender mercies. He fills my life with good things. My youth is renewed like the eagle’s! The Lord gives righteousness and justice to all who are treated unfairly… The Lord is compassionate and merciful, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love. (Psalm 103:1-5, 8)
Into this scene walks Jesus. Unlike the rabbis and Pharisees who wanted to lay heavy burdens on people, Jesus said;
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)
The people were to learn that Jesus’ mission was not one of condemnation but of mercy. We see Jesus healing on the Sabbath and in doing so, breaking one of the 4200 ‘laws’.
He allowed his disciples to eat from the cornfields on the Sabbath which was again forbidden by the ‘teachings of men’. When questioned about it, Jesus proclaimed the radical, yet liberating, statement:
“The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” (Mark 2:27)
What a breath of fresh air this must have been to so many people who had trudged their way wearily through life, broken in spirit by the weight of ‘the traditions of men’. The hymn writer William Cowper once said:
“Man may dismiss compassion from his heart, but God never will”.
Thank God for compassion, thank God for mercy, thank God for freedom.
God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance. (Romans 2:4)
I woke one day recently with the words of a Graham Kendrick hymn that I hadn’t heard or thought of for years going through my mind.
We’ll walk the land with hearts on fire
And every step will be a prayer
Hope is rising, new day dawning
Sound of singing fills the air.
Let the flame burn brighter
In the heart of the darkness
Turning night to glorious day
Let the song grow louder
As our love grows stronger
Let it shine, let it shine.
It’s a triumphant hymn. Many will be able to identify with these words as they walk from day to day with the fire of love for, and dedication to, God burning inside them.
However, as I thought about this, I also realised that, for some others, these words will bring sadness because they are echoes of bygone days when their spiritual lives were more vibrant than now. The fire that once blazed has burned low.
But for those in this condition, there is hope. Reading Spurgeon’s powerful appeal to those whose fire has grown cold to return to their Lord and Saviour, there is an overwhelming sense of God’s compassion as He woos his lost sheep. It made me wonder how any could refuse to answer His call to walk in the footsteps of the prodigal son.
If you know today that your fire is burning low, even if you don’t understand how God could welcome you, even if you can’t get your head around His extraordinary graciousness you can still make a decision to accept it. Don’t let doubts or the awareness of your unworthiness cause you to fail to accept God’s forgiveness. Failing to accept God’s forgiveness is often due to pride and stubbornness. If someone came and offered you a beautifully wrapped box, opened it, and inside it lay all the money you needed for the rest of your life, I am sure it would not take much persuasion to accept that box. You may not understand why the gift is given, may in-fact be totally perplexed , but almost everyone would accept such an offer. Friend, is it any more difficult to accept that:
“though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool” (Isaiah 1:18)
Come to Christ today. Speak to Him of your sorrow for your sin and very soon, you too will find yourself singing these words;
Let the flame burn brighter
In the heart of the darkness
Turning night to glorious day
Let the song grow louder
As our love grows stronger
Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.
He is the one we proclaim, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ. (Colossians 1:28)
In my mind, I group sermons into different categories. Let me share some of these with you.
These sermons are those which centre on the person of Christ Himself. For example:
Your eyes will see the King in His beauty.
One thing I have asked from the Lord, that I shall seek: That I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord.
You can’t help but be captivated by the beauty of Christ. Watch as he heals the sick: He has ‘compassion’ on them. There is something very beautiful about compassion. Watch as He walks towards the funeral bier of a dead man, precious to his widowed mother. Again, tired and weary, yet He does not want to turn the children away. Whose heart would not be moved as they see Christ through such a sermon?
So if the Son sets you free you will be free indeed. (John 8:36)
These are sermons where the mighty, victorious, power of God is spoken about. They include references to the parting of the Red Sea, Elijah’s showdown with prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel and Jesus casting out a ‘Legion’ of demons . We are told that this same power can change us, transform us, set us free (a big ‘amen’ to that one).
The men of Ephraim, though armed with bows, turned back on the day of battle; they did not keep God’s covenant and refused to live by his law. They forgot what he had done, the wonders he had shown them. (Psalm78:9-11)
Understandably, most pastors would rather preach sermons of approbation than admonishment however, sometimes sermons need to be preached that some people would rather not hear. It convicts them of their sin. It brings them face to face with choices that they have been avoiding or evading. They hear words that reveal the true state of their life. People will even evade church meetings because they don’t want God to challenge them. They anticipate uncomfortable sermons!
Some people may become angry at uncomfortable sermons, and others, sadly, may even turn away. But sometimes, reproach is necessary to bring about repentance.
Some reading this will soon be attending a week of summer camp meetings. We may hear beautiful sermons, we may hear victory sermons, we may also hear some uncomfortable sermons. Whether you need to have passion for Christ rekindled, your head raised from feelings of defeat, or a challenge to deal with issues you are ignoring, God knows what you need to hear.
Whatever shoe fits, put it on… and enjoy camp!
Pauline Ann Anderson
After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. (1 Kings 19:12)
God has created some truly magnificent wonders in this world for His children to enjoy. We can often take these things for granted. For example, the multicoloured rainbow, sparkling constellations, the ferocity of thunder and lightning, towering mountains, rapidly flowing rivers… and silence.
That last one seems a bit out of place amount the rest, but who amongst us has not appreciated the beauty of silence at some time in our lives?
In my teenage years I was surrounded by noise. Whenever I awoke, my first action was to stretch out my hand and switch on the radio, listening to the latest chart hits as I got ready for school. On becoming a Christian, that was one of the first challenges I faced; not switching on the radio the moment my eyes opened. God was wanting me to find His beauty in silence.
Since that time, decades ago now, I can look back and appreciate many times God drew near in the silence. The night before my father died, I was praying in the next room to where he lay peacefully slumbering through his final hours on earth. As I prayed, my voice fell silent, and into that silence, the presence of God descended. He filled, and I mean FILLED, the whole room. There was not a fraction of a square centimetre where His presence did not fill.
In that silence, I suddenly knew I would see my father again one day. He was going to Heaven. God’s voice resounded in the silence.
One evening in Galilee, Israel, accompanied by a friend, I got into a car. About to turn on the engine, suddenly I heard it… in the silence was the presence of God. The sound of His presence increased and increased. For about a quarter of an hour, we sat in that silence listening to His presence.
We live in a world of a million sounds, well, at least it seems that way. Some are melodious and peaceful and carry a beauty with them. Others are loud, brash, and clamour for our attention.
There is a danger that in the cacophony of sound, we miss the beauty of the ‘gentle whisper.’ Elijah had to go alone onto a mountainside to hear it. He left Mount Carmel. He left those who were threatening his life. He left his servant. What is it you have to do leave today to hear the beauty that there is in silence?
“Quietude, which some men cannot abide because it reveals their inward poverty, is as a palace of cedar to the wise, for along its hallowed courts the King in his beauty deigns to walk.”
Charles H. Spurgeon
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