This week’s Thought is written by Peter Hodson.
From the ends of the earth I will cry to You,
When my heart is overwhelmed;
Lead me to the rock that is higher than I.
Do you find that difficult circumstances can often seem quite overwhelming? They can loom up before us as great rocks of difficulty.
I can only try to imagine what it must be like to spend any length of time in an arid desert having run out of supplies of water and rocks looming up as though to mock our quest for something to drink.
The Israelites were in such a position – but tragically, they complained against Moses and against God, who had already performed such wonders and miracles before them! He was not about to let them perish with thirst!
At the Lord’s command, the whole community of Israel left the wilderness of Sin and moved from place to place. Eventually they camped at Rephidim, but there was no water there for the people to drink. So once more the people complained against Moses. “Give us water to drink!” they demanded.
Yet God showed his compassion and he said to Moses:
... I will stand before you on the rock at Mount Sinai. Strike the rock, and water will come gushing out. Then the people will be able to drink. (Exodus 17:1, 2 & 6)
Archaeological research has revealed a rock some 15 metres high, located very likely in the vicinity of the biblical account. This rock is split through the middle and displays the pattern of water erosion and evidence that numerous streams came forth in several directions.
There is also evidence of the presence of what would have been a great lake in the area. When Moses struck the rock, it was not just a trickle of water, it was great ‘gushings’ to form a lake that could well quench the thirst of some 2 million people plus their livestock! Out of the very rock of difficulty, came a fountain of waters, rivers of blessing!
He turned the rock into a standing water, the flint into a fountain of waters. (Psalm 114:8)
It is not just that God will rescue us out of difficulties – and He often will – but that through our toughest difficulties He will bring the greatest blessings! And so often the blessing will be a changed heart through which Christ can pour his richest blessings to those around us.
So if we’re tempted to bemoan our circumstances, let's lift our eyes on the Rock that is higher than us, the Rock who was struck and from whom gushed rivers of blessing to us all. If we feel we’re being ‘struck’ by life’s circumstances, let's look for His blessing to flow out to needy folk around.
No, despite all these things,
overwhelming victory is ours through Christ,
who loved us. (Romans 8:37)
This week’s thought is written by Sharon Healey.
The lamp of the body is the eye. If therefore your eye be in single focus, pure, sound, your whole body will be well lighted. (Luke 11:34)
During a dark and difficult period in my early years, I went for ministry for deliverance expecting to be set free immediately upon receiving prayer. I was told by those praying with me that I was not ready and was instructed to come back a month later. Although I trusted those praying with me, I felt disappointed and tortured; I did not want to be carrying any darkness in me for an hour let alone a month.
I got home and cried out in pain to God. He answered with these words from Matthew 6:22:
Let thine eye be single and your whole body will be full of light.
A hope came into the midst of my turmoil. I believed God would fulfil his word to me and I was going to be totally set free, but there was a part for me to do.I was to keep my eye single, to simply look at Christ, keep my eyes on the only one who could set me free and not remove my gaze from Him. It was Jesus who would deliver me.
As I walked in obedience a sweet presence began to surround me and I felt Christ walking close beside me for that month. He was carrying me. I did not look to the left or the right and I read the word and thought about him. A month later, His light came and the darkness had to flee. My life changed drastically, I felt as if I was born again again. Where once there was a wall that separated me from Christ, it had been levelled to the ground and when I closed my eyes Jesus was there; I could feel Him so close.
In the Song of Solomon 1:15 the Lord sees within his bride a quality He intensely desires to cultivate:
Behold, you are fair my love… you have dove’s eyes.
“When a dove fixes his gaze upon its mate, it is not distracted by any activities around it and is referred to as being a ‘love bird’ as it has a ‘single eye’ toward another dove. In complimenting us for having this ‘dove’s eye’, it indicates we have cultivated a spiritual sensitivity that lifts us above the earthly distractions.” (wadetaylor.org/the-eye-of-a-dove)
Let us be like the dove today, fixing our eyes upon our beloved and not being distracted by the world. This is where true freedom lies.
"For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
There are many weapons in the Devil’s arsenal that he uses daily against Christians. Fear, discouragement and jealousy are just a few. However, there is one weapon, extremely powerful, that is little spoken of. It’s the weapon of disappointment. It comes in many different packages and can be a doorway that leads to depression and a feeling of hopelessness if it is not handled carefully.
Disappointment is part of life, however, we need to be careful that we don’t allow it to rule our lives and rob us of the joy and peace that God wants us to have.The devil uses disappointment as a weapon, God uses it as an opportunity for us to find Him more deeply.
So, how do we deal with the disappointments in life that comes knocking at our door? One thing we must realise is that disappointment is not the end of the line for us. In Jeremiah 17:2-8 we read:
But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him. They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.
What an opportunity disappointment brings!! If you will turn to God and bring your hurt and disappointment to Him, your roots will go down deeper in Him. As this happens, you find that you are able to stand strong in the midst of more challenging trials. Disappointment will not destroy you, it will strengthen you.
You can also take hope and courage as you remember what Philippians 1:6 says:
Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.
This assures you that God is still working in your life. Your disappointment does not put God’s plans on hold. He does not abandon you when disappointment comes crashing down. Actually, for His plans to be fulfilled, this disappointment is not only helpful, but necessary.
Disappointment also reveals to you just how deeply you want, or perhaps don’t want, God in your life. I once read a quote that said; “ I think that when disappointment comes, it sometimes feels like God is saying,”I thought you said I was all you needed.”” No comment!!
Finally, we must always remember that one person who understands disappointment is Jesus. Having spent His time and energy and emotion on giving out to people, he was deserted by many of his followers, betrayed by a close friend and was forsaken at his darkest hour. Yet, it was in His darkest hour that the work of salvation was wrought for mankind. Jesus faced the culmination of His life’s work in the face of disappointment, yet we read,
"For the joy set before him he endured the cross.” Hebrews 12:2
As we follow in the footsteps of Jesus, we can shoulder our cross of disappointment and discover the joy that he has laid up in store for us beyond the suffering.
Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong.
(1 Corinthians 16:13)
Recently as I was reading a devotional, I came across a part that drew my interest. It reported that "Martyn Lloyd-Jones, once said, ‘There is no grosser or greater misrepresentation of the Christian message than that which depicts it as offering a life of ease with no battle and struggle at all... sooner or later every believer discovers that the Christian life is a battleground, not a playground.’”
How true this is today! The decisive part of the battle has been won by the precious blood of Jesus being shed for our salvation. Today we march under the banner of Christ's complete victory. This is depicted in the hymn,
Onward Christian soldiers!
Marching as to war,
With the cross of Jesus
Going on before.
Christ, the royal Master,
Leads against the foe;
Forward into battle,
See, His banners go!
It was written as a processional hymn for children walking from Horbury Bridge to Horbury St Peter's Church near Wakefield, Yorkshire, at Whitsuntide in 1865 by the curate, Baring-Gould. He reportedly wrote it in about 15 minutes!
Another much loved hymn written in the same vein is ‘Stand Up, Stand Up for Jesus’. It was inspired by the dying message of Dudley Tyng, a young preacher in Philadelphia who was forced to resign from his Episcopal church pastorate for speaking out against slavery in the mid 1800s.
In addition to starting a new church, Tyng and other ministers preached in revival meetings at the local YMCA and soon began to attract thousands. In March of 1858 Tyng preached a rousing sermon to 5,000 young men and over 1,000 made a profession of faith. A few days later he met with a horrific accident and died. However, before he died, he was asked if he had a message for the ministers at the revival and he replied, “Tell them, ‘Let us all stand up for Jesus.'” His fellow preacher, Dr George Duffield, was touched by his dying friend’s words and wrote the hymn “Stand Up, Stand Up for Jesus” as a tribute to his friend.
Stand up, stand up for Jesus,
Ye soldiers of the cross;
Lift high his royal banner,
It must not suffer loss.
From victory unto victory
His army shall he lead,
Till every foe is vanquished,
What a responsibility lay on the shoulders of men like Baring- Gould and Dudley Tyng. And what a responsibility lies with us, today, to stand firm in our faith in Jesus Christ, in the face of an increasingly godless culture!
This week’s Thought is written by Sharon Healy.
I will whistle for them and gather them in, for I have redeemed them. (Zechariah 10:8)
Before I was a Christian, I worked as a waitress. One evening as I was running from table to table, I heard a whistle. Two men were waving and whistling for me to come and take their order. They were from America, so I told them we didn’t whistle like that here but had to wait our turn like everyone else. They just laughed at me!! Also, we had a neighbour who used a whistle to call her children. No matter where they were or what they were doing, when they heard the whistle, they dropped everything to run home to their mother. I don’t know to this day if that was a good or a bad thing, they didn’t seem bothered, but I felt sorry for the girls. Whistling can be used in a derogatory or disrespectful way.
However, years later there was a whistle I heard, a new tune on a new flute, it was the most attractive call I had ever heard. It was the voice of the Lord Jesus saying, ‘Come follow Me’. There was no harshness in this call to serve and I’m glad I answered the call to serve the kindest, most wonderful One I have ever known.
Isaiah 5:26 says:
He will lift up an ensign to the nations from far and will whistle to them (hiss unto them) from the end of the earth; surely they shall come with speed, swiftly.
Barnes’ notes on the Bible from biblehub.com explains, “The term ‘will hiss unto them’ - means he would "collect" them together to accomplish his purposes. The expression is probably taken from the manner in which bees were hived. In Syria and Palestine, they who kept bees were able to draw them out of their hives, and conduct them into fields, and bring them back again, by whistling with the sound of a flute or the noise of hissing…the ancients also had this idea respecting bees.”
I will whistle for them and gather them in, for I have redeemed them… (Zechariah 10:8)
See the kindness and love of God in sending his only son Jesus to call us away form the world and sin, to be redeemed and be part of His family. We should be ready and open ourselves to the voice and call of God and the leading of the Holy Spirit and do what He asks, go where He says, and be available to move at a moment’s notice.
Corrie ten Boom was imprisoned in a Nazi concentration camp for helping the Jewish people. She had become accustomed to the harsh whistle calls in the camp. The Nazi’s blew a whistle to summon prisoners into the camp. Prisoners were awakened by whistles at 4am for roll call to stand in the cold for hours; some did not survive this daily ordeal.
But there is no such harshness in God’s whistle. It’s not a one-off call and, as we become attuned to His whistle, His voice, He will lead us forward.
When she walked free from the concentration camp, Corrie heard God saying to her:
I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which you should go, I will guide thee with mine eye.’ (Psalm 32:8)
She had only a suitcase of old clothes and a Bible to her name. But Corrie had heard the ‘whistle’ of God many years before and had already a deep relationship with Jesus. The Lord’s whistle was gentle and stronger than any enemy whistle. God remained faithful to His word and led Corrie all the days of her life.
God has no favourites. Listen for his voice, become attuned to his whistle and when we hear Jesus say ‘Come, follow me’, be ready to go. No one has ever regretted it.
Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ. (Cor 11:1)
The church at Corinth to whom Paul was writing this statement included some Jews, but was largely composed of Gentile converts, from a wide variety of different backgrounds. This young church was composed of both men and women, the majority from a lower social status or even slaves, but also some who were more privileged and powerful, and even some of noble birth.To reinforce Paul’s teaching to this young group of early believers, he asked them to imitate him as he imitated Christ. This was no idle boast but a statement that Paul’s life was a living demonstration of the message he preached.
As he wrote these words, ‘Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ’, I wonder if Paul remembered a time, many years before, when he himself witnessed a man ‘imitate’ Christ. Paul was privileged to witness this powerfully in the life of a man called Stephen. Stephen was a man who was;
...full of God’s grace and power, (and) performed great wonders and signs among the people. (Acts 6:8)
However, it was not only in his life that Stephen ‘imitated’ Jesus. Stephen was accused of blasphemy and faced death by stoning. As Stephen follows Jesus’ example of martyrdom, notice three things:
Paul watched on that fateful day when Stephen ‘imitated’ Christ. It was undoubtedly something he would remember for the rest of his life. Even today, “Stephen’s testimony still stands as a beacon, a light to a lost and dying world.” (gotquestions.org)
Friends, if we want to help young Christians around us to mature, we need to be like Paul and Stephen; we need to imitate Christ.
The Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God. (Deut 10:17)
I never studied physics at school, but recently I was reading about the ‘Four Fundamental Forces of Nature’. These are Gravitational force, Weak Nuclear force, Electromagnetic force and Strong Nuclear force. Seemingly, of these four forces, Strong Nuclear force is the strongest. It's 6 thousand trillion, trillion, trillion times stronger than the force of gravity. I may not be able to get my head round that, but one thing I do understand is that that is rather powerful!!!!
However, there are other two forces in the universe that I would argue are stronger than these four fundamental forces of nature. The first, and most powerful of all forces in the universe, is the love of God. It was in love that the universe was created to begin with. It was in love that mankind was created. It’s His love that sustains us, even though we may not be aware of it.
O the love that drew salvation’s plan
O the grace that brought it down to man
O the mighty gulf that God did span
(William R. Newell)
I don’t think that this side of eternity we will ever fully appreciate the force and power of His love.
The second force that we often, to our detriment, underestimate, is the power of prayer. The course of wars have been changed through prayer. People have been raised form the dead through prayer.
Time was turned back as a man prayed. Incurable ailments have disappeared as the power of God has been released through prayer. Here’s what others have said about prayer:
“Prayers have no boundaries. They can leap miles and continents and be translated instantly into any language” – Billy Graham
“Work as if you were to live a hundred years, pray as if you were to die tomorrow.” – Benjamin Franklin
“Groanings which cannot be uttered are often prayers which cannot be refused”. – C HSpurgeon
“God warms his hands at man's heart when he prays.” – John Masefield
“It is possible to move men, through God, by prayer alone.” – Hudson Taylor
The power of the love of God and the power of prayer. How mighty, how magnificent!!
Joseph son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit; she will bear a son and you will call his name Jesus for he will save his people from their sins. (Matthew 1:20-21)
In the first century, the community of Israel was occupied by Rome who exerted economic and political oppression upon them. Before Rome it was Greece and before Greece it was Persia. Additionally, much of the land was owned by foreigners who controlled large estates. Local farmers were asked to rent lands and were treated unfairly. Would there be no end to their enslavement?
If you had asked the Jews at that time what was the thing they desired most of all, unanimously the resounding reply would have been, ‘freedom from the oppression of Rome’. After all, what could be worse than the oppression of Rome? What more could they fear than what they were experiencing? God, however, saw things differently.
In reality, oppression from Rome was not the most lethal enemy they faced. There was another enemy that many had no inkling of; one that resided in each son and daughter of Israel. It was sin!
Without realising it, Israel, and all mankind, had an enemy that not only enslaved the body, but also the mind, the will and the emotions. Sin enslaves the whole person.
God knew this and, instead of just freeing his people from Rome, his desire was to free all mankind from sin. This was a much bigger and wider mission than the Jews imagined.
When Jesus graced the shores of earth, he proclaimed that man’s need was deliverance from sin.
From then on Jesus began to preach, “Repent of your sins and turn to God, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near.” (Matthew 4:17)
In his book ‘Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes’, Kenneth E. Bailey observes:
“In a situation of oppression, it takes enormous courage to tell the oppressed community that all are sinners and all must repent.”
But that is exactly what Jesus did. That same message of a great salvation from sin has rung out all down the ages. It has sounded clearly to you and me, where we are in this 21st Century.
How we thank God, that the mission of Jesus was not salvation from an earthly oppressor but from the greatest enemy we will ever face… sin.
Reader, if you haven’t yet accepted the offer of this great salvation yet, do it now. You will never regret it.
Pauline Ann Anderson
Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. (John 8:32)
In his biography, “Amy Carmichael of Dohnavur”, Bishop Frank Houghton, quotes an incident from Amy’s life, told in her own words. Amy recalls, “On this day many years ago, I went away alone to a cave in a mountain called Arima. I had feelings of fear about the future…….and he (the devil) painted pictures of loneliness-I can see them still. And I turned to my God in a kind of desperation and said, “Lord, what can I do?””
Graciously, God spoke to her and said, “None of them that trust in me shall be desolate.” And God faithfully fulfilled His promise to her.
Another person who found himself assaulted by the taunts of the devil was Asaph, the writer of Psalm 73. Finding his mind overwhelmed with doubts, he writes:
But as for me, I almost lost my footing. My feet were slipping, and I was almost gone. For I envied the proud when I saw them prosper despite their wickedness. (Psalms 73:2-3)
But that wasn’t the end of the story. Like Amy Carmichael, Asaph took his dilemma to God.
Then I went into your sanctuary, O God, and I finally understood the destiny of the wicked. (Psalms 73:17)
Many Christians will be able to identify with this kind of mind assault. Some are overcome with anxiety, fear or sorrow as assaults intensify. Some are overcome with discouragement. However, it is helpful to remember what Jesus told us about the devil; he is a murderer, a liar, a thief and a robber. (John 8:14 and John 10:1).
Like Amy Carmichael and Asaph, we too will face situations where we feel afraid or desperate, or confused. Let us follow the example of the missionary and the psalmist and quickly seek the face of God because:
...then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. (John 8:32)
Trust in the Lord will all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. (Proverbs 3:5)
In the New Testament, we read two stories that involve water, a boat, and a man called Peter.
The first of these is in Luke’s gospel. A fisherman was coming to shore after a night of fruitless toil. The fish just hadn’t been in the mood for being caught and Peter, no doubt, wasn’t in the mood for staying out of bed much longer than he had to either. However, a man called Jesus walked up to him and said:
“Now go out where it is deeper, and let down your nets to catch some fish.” (Luke 5:4)
Imagine what could have been going through Peter’s mind. This man, Jesus, was a rabbi, not a fisherman. It was broad day light, the time when fish dive deep below the surface away from sunlight. If the fish can’t be caught at night, they certainly aren’t going to be caught during the day. However, in spite of seeming impossible circumstances, Peter sets out again to fish rather than go to bed and he subsequently witnesses an outstanding demonstration of the miracle working power of Jesus.
Some time later we come across Peter again in a boat on the same lake battling a fierce storm along with his friends.
“About three o’clock in the morning Jesus came toward them, walking on the water. When the disciples saw Him, they were terrified. In their fear, they cried out, “It’s a ghost!” But Jesus spoke to them at once. “Don’t be afraid,” he said. “Take courage. I am here!” Then Peter called to him, “Lord, if it’s really you, tell me to come to you, walking on the water.” “Yes, come,” Jesus said. So Peter went over the side of the boat and walked on the water toward Jesus.” Matthew 14:25-29.
Once again, a miracle takes place that Peter is never likely to forget for the rest of his days.
As well as water, a boat and Peter being common to both these accounts, another element is present that demonstrates something of great significance. Quite simply, it’s ‘trust’.
In both these accounts, in order for Jesus to display his miraculous powers, a man had to trust Him in circumstances that seemed impossible. Peter demonstrated his trust on each occasion with an action. He did what Jesus had said.
There are many times in the life of a Christian where God allows seemingly impossible situations to cross our paths; some are outward, others affect us inwardly. He wants to display His power and His person to us, but often we miss this revelation because we choose to follow our own will rather than His.
What will be your decision, the next time Christ faces you with an opportunity to trust?
‘To trust God in the light is nothing, to trust Him in the dark... that is faith.
C H Spurgeon
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