Going a little farther, He fell with His face to the ground and prayed, "My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as You will." (Matthew 26:39)
Around 786 BC, we read of a man named Jonah who God chose to send on a mission to preach to a vast, Gentile city. In Jonah’s mind they were Pagans, not even fit to pollute the good earth by living on it. They were the “untouchables”. How could God show any interest in them?
He sets off from Joppa, once the oldest sea port in the world, but, instead of running towards his mission, he is fleeing from it. This famous account sees the reluctant prophet spending three days in the belly of a whale before he is convicted to obey God and complete his mission. That message saw that vast city repent of their sins and turn to God.
Fast forward almost 800 years and we see another reluctant servant of God in Joppa; this time it’s Peter, one of Jesus’ apostles.
Peter had been told by the resurrected Jesus to ‘go and make disciples of all nations’ but, reluctant to preach to Gentiles, Peter needed a vision from God, on a rooftop in Joppa, to send him north along the coast to Caesarea. This historic journey results in the first Gentiles receiving the gospel of Jesus Christ and being baptised in the Holy Spirit. This was the first, of what would become billions of Gentiles following Jesus Christ down through the millennia.
Sometime between AD 30 and AD 33, we see a man, late at night, praying in agony in a garden, facing a commission more momentous than that of Jonah or Peter. He didn’t run in the opposite direction like Jonah, or stall reluctantly like Peter; He accepted His commission, in spite of our sinfulness, and gladly went on to save humanity from its sin.
Aren’t you glad that Jesus didn’t flee in a ship like Jonah or procrastinate like Peter? Aren’t you glad beyond words that He willingly shouldered the cross for all mankind?
Like Jesus, let us not be slow to say “Yet not as I will, but as you will” when we face our Ninevehs, Caesareas and and Gethsemanes.
Pauline Ann Anderson
Foul, I to the fountain fly,
Wash me, Savior, or I die.
(Rock of Ages: Augustus Montague Toplady)
Recently, while reading Billy Graham’s book ‘Nearing Home’, I came across a section where he mentions Bible verses about ‘fountains’ For example,
The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life.
For you are the fountain of life, the light by which we see. (Psalm 36:9)
As I pondered on this, there came to mind another fountain, spoken about in William Cowper’s hymn;
There is a fountain filled with blood
Drawn from Immanuel’s veins;
And sinners, plunged beneath that flood,
Lose all their guilty stains
It brought back to my memory something that I experienced many years ago.
I had acted a little unwisely in a situation; it was nothing major, and in fact, most people wouldn’t even have thought it could be called sin. But deep inside me I knew I had not reflected Christ in the situation. Very quickly, I felt the forgiveness of God but, for months, I couldn’t shake off the feeling of guilt. If I could have turned the clock back to that moment, I would have done so, but life doesn’t work that way.
Then one day, very sweetly, I felt Christ come and wash away the guilt. He had forgiven the sin and now I ‘lost all (my) guilty stains’. It was overwhelming. I felt as though a weight had been lifted off me. I was free, not just free from the sin, but free from the guilt!
What a blessed fountain that is; the fountain that cleanses us, not just from sin, but from guilt, remorse and shame.
Let the water and the blood,
From Thy riven side which flowed,
Be of sin the double cure,
Save me from its guilt and power’
(Augustus Montague Toplady)
And after such a cleansing comes the drinking from another fountain that He has prepared for us;
I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. I will give of the fountain of the water of life freely to him who thirsts (Revelation 21:6-7)
A fountain that cleanses from sin and guilt, and a fountain that satisfies our thirst. Let’s not waste any time in running to both these fountains this week.
But thank God! He has made us his captives and continues to lead us along in Christ’s triumphal procession. (2 Corinthians 2:14)
In Republican Rome, exceptional military achievement merited the highest possible honours. This took the form of The Roman Triumph which was both a civil and religious ceremony held to publicly celebrate and sanctify the success of a military commander.
The Commander was paraded through the city in a four-horse chariot, under the gaze of his peers and an applauding crowd. He wore a crown of laurel and the all-purple, gold-embroidered triumphal toga. He was accompanied by the spoils and captives of his victory. It may have been a happy day for the mighty military leader but it was a day of despair for his captives.
Picture the wounded faces covered in sweat and blood. Picture the despair and hopelessness in their eyes as they faced a future of hunger, torture and agony. Picture the heavy chains they dragged along behind them, chains that bound them to cruel captors and no hope of liberty. Picture those who were chained to the chariot wheels; the only hope of escape is death.
Consider now the triumphal procession of Jesus Christ. Picture the faces of the captives; these are not stained in their own blood but have been washed in the blood of the mighty Commander. They shine now, reflecting the light of the glory of that Commander.
‘And the Lord-who is the Spirit-makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image’. (2 Cor 3:18)
There are no chains on these captives because ‘you were called to freedom’ (Galatians 5:13). They are bound solely by chords of love. Each captive has a future which is overseen by the Commander Himself.
“For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11)
And this procession ends in eternal life. Two triumphal processions. One that speaks of despair and death: the other of hope and life. I thank God that it’s the latter one to which we are called.
Three things will last forever - faith, hope, and love - and the greatest of these is love. (1 Corinthians 13:13)
I don’t think that there will be anyone reading this who is not familiar with 1st Corinthians 13, the great song of love in the New Testament. However, I wonder how many of you remember the first time you read it. I do.
When I first stumbled upon 1st Corinthians 13, I didn’t have the same respect for The Bible that I have today because it wasn’t long since I had handled The Bible for the first time. I hadn’t yet ventured along the road of Bible study and I didn’t realise it was Holy Spirit inspired writing. I thought it was merely a man writing down his own ideas.
On that memorable occasion, I began to read the now familiar words,
Love is patient, love is kind.
It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.
It does not dishonour others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.
Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.
It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Love never fails.
(1 Corinthians 13:4-8)
“Well, this just can’t be right”, I thought to myself. I wasn’t trying to be smart. I wasn’t in any way being judgemental. I truly thought that the person who wrote this had got it all wrong. I reasoned that I loved my family, but I had to admit that I wasn’t always patient with them. Nor was I always kind. And maybe I did get a wee but angry from time to time... but that didn’t mean I didn’t love them!!! I mean, what family didn’t annoy each and express irritation to each other? That was just life and love.
It was then that something happened that I have never forgotten. A gentle voice spoke to me in my mind and said, ‘but this is MY love I’m talking about’. With those words came revelation. Revelation of a love so great, so patient, so kind and long-suffering. Charles Spurgeon describes it well when he says,
For breadth, the love of Jesus is immensity
For length it is eternity
For depth it is immeasurability
And for its height infinity.
God’s love was way above anything I had ever imagined. It made human love look small in comparison. I wanted to find a new name for God’s love; a name that was as big as the reality I had seen.
Over time, I began to realise that, although Corinthians 13 speaks of God’s love, this is the standard that He is asking us apply to our lives. This is one of the most difficult things he asks us to do and in many cases, it cuts right across the grain of what we want to do. But, if it is God who is asking, it is God who also gives the power.
This week, take time to read this chapter of The Bible again, and let God renew in your heart the vision of His love.
Remember your Creator... (Ecclesiates 12:1)
Robert Laurence Binyon published a poem in The Times newspaper in September 1941; it was entitled ‘For the Fallen’ but is more widely known as ‘We will remember them’. It is quoted each year on 11th November, Armistice Day. Last week, our Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, quoted the words at a 75th VJ Day commemoration. He said,
‘At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them’.
Imagine a society where we didn’t ‘remember’ these momentous events. We would all be the poorer for it.
I was meditating this week on the word ‘remember’, considering some circumstances when it appears in the Bible. I felt the weight of the importance of this word. In Luke’s gospel, we read that one of the two criminals crucified with Jesus, comes to a point where he realises his own sin and says:
“Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” (Luke 23:42)
The word ‘remember’ here, doesn’t just mean to bring something to mind. The criminal wasn’t asking Jesus to simply think about him. The ‘remember’ here requires action, some kind of outward gesture, effort or activity. In this case, the criminal wanted Jesus to grant him admittance to Heaven. Jesus assured Him that this would be so.
Similarly, we find the word ‘remember’ in Ecclesiastes 12. The word Ecclesiastes comes from a Greek word ‘ekklesia’ which means ‘assembly’ or ‘congregation’. We read in The Bible that Solomon was visited by ambassadors and kings who wanted to hear his wisdom. In Ecclesiastes 12:1-7, he instructs his audience eight times to ‘remember’ their creator. For example;
Ecclesiastes 12:2 Remember him before the light of the sun, moon, and stars is dim to your old eyes...
Ecclesiastes 12:3 Remember him before your legs—the guards of your house—start to tremble...
Ecclesiastes 12:4 Remember him before the door to life’s opportunities is closed and the sound of work fades...
Perhaps this message was delivered to a younger audience because it refers to youth, but the principle of ‘remembering’ our creator applies to us all, irrespective of our age.
I wonder what action you need to take today in order to ‘remember’ your creator . Perhaps you have neglected to take time aside every day to be alone with God to pray, to read scripture and simply be in His presence. Or perhaps you have become so busy with work that no time is left for those for whom your Saviour would have you remember, to visit the sick or those in prison. (Matthew 25:43).
Perhaps you have been letting you minds wander away a little bit too frequently day dreaming of that holiday in the sun, that shiny new car or the next home makeover.
Whatever it is that you need to do to remember your creator, make room for it and your life will be all the richer as a result of it.
You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength. (Deuteronomy 6:5)
In the Bible, we all have our favourite characters. In the Old Testament, mine are Joseph, Moses and Daniel. I love Joseph for the fact that he kept looking outward in the face of crushing setbacks, Moses for his gargantuan style patience and and Daniel for his unwavering commitment to God, even in the face of death.
However, there is another person that I also greatly admire and that is David. I admire him because of his love for God.
In 1 Chronicles 28 we read of the vast preparations David made for the building of the Temple. Here are just a few...
Then David gave Solomon the plans for the Temple and its surroundings, including the entry room, the storerooms, the upstairs rooms, the inner rooms...
David also gave Solomon all the plans he had in mind for the courtyards of the Lord’s Temple, the outside rooms, the treasuries, and the rooms for the gifts dedicated to the Lord...
And he gave specifications for the items in the Temple that were to be used for worship...
David gave instructions regarding how much gold and silver should be used to make the items needed for service...
He designated the amount of refined gold for the altar of incense...
Finally, he gave him a plan for the Lord’s “chariot”—the gold cherubim whose wings were stretched out over the Ark of the Lord’s Covenant.”
However, not only did David hand over all the plans to Solomon, he also said, “And now, because of my devotion to the Temple of my God, I am giving all of my own private treasures of gold and silver to help in the construction.” 1 Chronicles 29:3 NLT
David knew that he would never see the Temple built in his lifetime. I wonder how many people today would pour their heart and soul into planning a work for God they knew they would never see and knew that it would bear another’s name? Not too many, I think.
I also wonder if Solomon would ever have built this, had it not been for David. I suspect, perhaps not.
You never read of David planning the name for the temple; he just planned everything else. So why did he do it all? He did it because he loved God more than he loved himself. He loved God more than his love for a name for himself. He loved God more than he loved riches for himself. He loved God more than fame for himself. In short, he loved God!!
I think that David brought much pleasure to the heart of God, and here’s the greatest thing...... so can we!
Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. (Psalm 51:10)
Have you ever wondered, when you’re interested in a particular topic, how many times it’s mentioned in scripture? Maybe, like me, you Google to find references to a particular theme.
I did this with word ‘purity’ recently and found the top 100 verses in the Bible that relate to purity. When a topic is mentioned that often, we want to sit up and take notice. Here are just a few of them;
Keep yourselves pure. (1 Timothy 5:22)
Who may ascend the hill of the Lord? And who may stand in His holy place? He who has clean hands a pure heart. (Psalm 24:3-4)
Depart, depart, go out from there! Touch no unclean thing! Come out from it and be pure, you who carry the articles of the Lord’s house. (Isaiah 52:11)
In addition to this, there is another one that caught my attention this week,
So remove your dark deeds like dirty clothes, and put on the shining armour of right living. (Romans 13:12)
I find this to be a very ‘visual’ verse. I picture a young man, coming in from the rain on a stormy, winter’s evening. He’s soaked to the skin and covered in mud. I picture him unzipping his mud splattered jacked and casting it aside. He does the same with his Wellington boots. However, the rain and mud have penetrated to the next layer; in fact every layer of clothes is sullied, so every contaminated piece has to come off.
I picture him now, in his new, clean clothes. But these aren’t any ordinary clothes. This is his ‘shining armour’, whiter than white, indeed dazzling white.
Does this remind you of anything?
Six days later Jesus took Peter, James, and John, and led them up a high mountain to be alone. As the men watched, Jesus’ appearance was transformed, and his clothes became dazzling white, far whiter than any earthly bleach could ever make them. (Mark 9:2-3)
When Jesus was transfigured before his disciples, they saw something of his eternal being; the radiance of His purity, came sharply into focus.
There is an inner clean-ness that God is looking for in each one of us. He wants to gift us the ‘shining armour’, but he can only do that if we live right and live in purity. I wonder what ‘dark deeds’ could be holding someone back today from receiving their ‘shining armour’? Could it be jealousy, or pride or selfishness? Or perhaps it’s unclean thoughts, lust, anger or bitterness?
Shall we make it a point to take along, honest look at our ‘dirty clothes’ and make a decision to get rid of these once and for all? In doing so, we make way for God to bestow upon us His ‘shining armour’ as we live in purity.
"Lo, I am with you always" (Matthew 28:20)
In October 1986, I stepped on to a plane to take my mother to Canada to visit her sister and brother. It was the first time that I was travelling outside the UK since my encounter with God in February 1979 when I was baptised in the Holy Spirit.
What I am about to say now, may sound very strange, but it was very real to me at the time. We all face different things that challenge us. This would not have been a challenge to others but it was for me. I was apprehensive about this journey. I wasn’t apprehensive about flying, nor was I apprehensive about seeing my family who hadn’t seen me since I had become a Christian. Quite simply, I was apprehensive that I wouldn’t be able to find the presence of God in Canada!
I had found the presence of God deeply in Scotland, where I was living at that time. I had travelled to many parts of Scotland and God was there wherever I went. But what about Canada? Canada was so far away. What would happen if I couldn’t find him there?
The moment came when we landed in Toronto. What was I going to face? Would I be bereft of the presence I had come to love and feel so much at home with?
I took hesitant steps as I disembarked the plane as the moment of reckoning came. And there, in that moment, as I set foot on Canadian soil, I felt the presence of God with me exactly the same as I did in Scotland! Whew!
I know that there are many verses in the Bible that assure us of God’s presence with us. It’s one thing to read these verses in The Bible, but they become a reality as you personally experience their truth.
Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go. (Joshua 1:9)
For he has said, I will never leave you nor forsake you. (Hebrews 13:6)
Many years later as I faced the challenge of mission work abroad, the words of a hymn by Madame Guyon lived for me, and are a living, burning reality today.
All scenes alike engaging prove
To souls impressed with sacred love!
Where'er they dwell, they dwell in thee;
In heaven, in earth, or on the sea.
It’s not the location or situation that matters; what matters is that the God of all the universe is with us, whatever we are facing in life. So, don’t be afraid of the things that challenge you this week. Your challenges will be different form mine just as mine have been different from yours. Be strong and courageous, for He is with you always!
For the LORD God is our sun and our shield. He gives us grace and glory. The LORD will withhold no good thing from those who do what is right. (Psalm 84:11)
‘That’s not fair!’. How many times do you remember thinking that or saying that as a child, or an adult for that matter?
One of my earliest memories of this must be when I was about three years old. In our home, we had the old style electric sockets with no ‘on/off switch’; there were no plastic plug-in covers either to prevent children from sticking their fingers into a live socket. I was told categorically, NOT to put my fingers in the socket. I can’t tell you how tempting that socket was to me. I so much wanted to force the forbidden fingers into the socket but thankfully refrained from doing so.
Around the same age, my parents thought it wise to make our back garden ‘child-safe’. This meant putting a makeshift wooden barrier across the driveway so that I couldn’t escape down the driveway on to the road. I remember looking over that barrier to banned territories. This just wasn’t fair!!
As a three year old, I couldn’t understand why such prohibitions were being placed on me. While my parents were trying to protect me from serious harm, and even save my life, I felt as though I was being deprived of things that could be a source of enjoyment.
As Christians, we have all faced times when God has spoken to us and let us know that, in order to move forward with Him, there has to be sacrifice. In many cases, our ‘darling sins’, as Spurgeon calls them, have had to go. Spurgeon also said; ‘Do what the Lord bids you, where he bids you, as he bids you, as long as he bids you, and do it at once.’ How often have we said, or at least thought, ‘that’s not fair? However, like our wise parents, an even wiser God is in control this time. Many years ago, I was telling my pastor, Mary Black, about an area in my life where I felt the death knell of God was sounding. I have never forgotten Mary’s words to me. She said, ‘It’s at times like this that you have got to believe in the resurrection’. I had to believe that, after I had surrendered that ‘darling sin’, there would be new life, abundant life; and I wasn’t disappointed!
In very hot climates, there are streams or gullies called ‘wadis’. These wadis only contain water in the rainy season; they dry up in the heat. We, too, can be like wadis. When God speaks to us and lets us know that there is something He wants to remove from our lives, or something he is telling us not to do, if we disobey, we become dry and barren. Our joy disappears and is replaced by frustration, anger, resentment or bitterness. It’s at this point we need to do what I did when I was three years old. We simply have to trust that our Heavenly Father has our best interest at heart; and we need to obey Him.
I am reminded of the words of a hymn:
But we never can prove
The delights of His love,
Until all on the altar we lay;
For the favour He shows,
And the joy He bestows,
Are for them who will trust and obey.
“The one thing I ask of the Lord - the thing I seek most - is to live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, delighting in the Lord’s perfections and meditating in his Temple.” (Psalms 27:4)
On the 23rd March this year, the most significant set of restrictions on British life in living memory were set in place as the prime minister ordered people to stay in their homes.
As the UK went in to lockdown, people began to ask themselves ‘what will we do?’Joe Wicks invited us to join him and stay fit. Zoom opened up endless possibilities for ‘business as usual’ (well, maybe not quite ‘usual’) on so many fronts including work, social events and even church. People were buying in to bake, while others explored ‘do at home’ hobbies; for the studious type, on-line courses were being thrown at us free of charge (yes, I did one because I can’t resist a freebie!).
Alongside this, though, something else also was happening. Some people heard a ‘still small voice’, that encouraged them to ‘be’ as well as ‘do’. They felt that a door opened into a deeper place of ‘being’ in God. They have taken time to draw aside, they have been ‘delighting in the Lord’s perfections and meditating in his Temple’; it has been a time of blessing indeed. Lockdown has become a time of more intimate fellowship with God, ‘being’ in His presence.
I am reminded of the words of an old hymn:
Alone upon the mount of God I stand,
With silenced heart His voice to hear;
‘Tis love itself hath led this hungry soul
Unto the place of vision clear.
How wonderful amid this hush divine,
Entranced, God’s beauty to behold;
To wait whilst deep with deep doth meet and merge,
And love its secrets doth unfold.
Within the shadow of almighty love,
This soul at last hath found its home,
Embosomed in the faithfulness of Him
From whom it never-more shall roam.
Spurgeon said, ‘Nearness to God brings likeness to God. The more you see God, the more God will be seen in you’.
So, if we have learned more deeply how to ‘be’ in His presence during these past months, let’s make every effort to make this our new ‘normal’ so that we will maintain all that we have gained and, in turn, be able to lead another ‘hungry soul, unto the place of vision clear’.
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