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!!
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