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’.
A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken. (Ecclesiastes 4:12)
On Thursday 18 September 2014, Scotland voted in a referendum which asked the question, "Should Scotland be an independent country?" The "No" side won. Those who fought for Scotland to remain as part of the United Kingdom adopted the motto ‘stronger together’.
I’ve noticed that since then, other causes have adopted this motto also. It’s short, to the point an needs no explanation. And, have you ever noticed how many times in The Bible, this thought ‘stronger together’ occurs? Here are just a few examples:
1. In Genesis 2:18 we read, “Then the Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper who is just right for him.”"
2. Regarding the friendship between Jonathan and David, we read, ‘Jonathan went to find David and encouraged him to stay strong in his faith in God.” 1 Samuel 23:16 NLT
3. Jesus sends out his disciples in pairs to minister, and the apostle Paul usually had travelling companions with him.
My cousin recently said, ‘We humans aren’t designed or meant to go it alone.’ This is echoed in Galatians 6:2 where we are exhorted to ‘'carry each other’s burdens’'. And closely linked with this thought is the principle of unity. In Psalm 133 we read:
“How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!
It is like precious oil poured on the head, running down on the beard,
running down on Aaron’s beard, down on the collar of his robe."
Notice that unity is compared to the most precious item that existed in Israel at that time; the oil that was used to anoint the High Priest as he ministered before God. There was nothing more precious than this. In God’s eyes, unity is both precious and priceless.
I recently read a quote from Joni Eareckson Tada where she said,
'Believers are never told to become one; we already are one and are expected to act like it.’
So, armed with the knowledge that there is strength in unity, there is power in unity, shall we march forward this week remembering that we are ‘stronger together’?
Pauline Ann Anderson
Then the Lord said to Elijah, “Go and live in the village of Zarephath, near the city of Sidon. I have instructed a widow there to feed you". (1 Kings 17:8,9)
Last week, the prophet Elijah erupted onto the scene of my ‘Bible in a Year’ readings. I have read about this prophet many times, but noticed a few interesting points.
The ‘Law of First Mention’ is a guideline that some people use for studying Scripture and says that, to understand a particular word or doctrine, we must find the first place in Scripture that a word or doctrine is revealed and study that passage. In Elijah’s dealings with the widow in Zaraphath, we read of two ‘First Mentions’.
1. It is the first time that we read of a minister of God being sent to a Gentile. Dr J B Lightfoot called Elijah ‘the first prophet of the Gentiles’. However, not only was Elijah sent to a gentile but to a woman, a widow at that!
To a 21st century western mind, this is no big deal. But, at that time in the east, women were despised. Later, the Talmud records a daily prayer of rabbis which includes this line, “Thank you God that I was not born a slave, a gentile or a woman.” These were apparently the three worst life situations imaginable.
In Jesus day, women were discouraged from going out in public, and when they did, it had to be with a male escort. In our era, it doesn’t strike us as strange to see that Jesus had female followers and openly ministered to women, but it certainly would have seemed strange in Jesus’ day. Jesus challenged social conventions in nearly every single interaction He had with women. He truly challenged the status quo.
But God showed, as far back as the time of Elijah, that He was interested in Gentiles and women alike.
2. It is in this same chapter of The Bible that we read for the first time of someone being raised from the dead. We don’t read of this happening before and we presume that Elijah hadn’t read about it either! There was no precedence for praying for a dead person to come back to life; Elijah set the precedence. In later days we read of the dead being raised in the ministries of Elisha, Peter, Paul and, of course, Jesus Himself.
3. There was one final incident that struck me about Elijah, albeit not a ‘first mention’. In 1 Kings 18 we read of the contest on Mount Carmel between the God of the prophets of Baal and the God of Elijah. A thrilling read if ever there was one!!
While reading, I was struck by the difference between the prophets of Baal and Elijah. The prophets of Baal danced round the altar, shouted on Baal, and kept shouting louder. We read that ‘they cut themselves with knives and swords until the blood gushed out’ (1 Kings 18:28)….all to no avail. Then,
...at the usual time for offering the evening sacrifice, Elijah the prophet walked up to the altar and prayed, ... Immediately the fire of the Lord flashed down from heaven and burned up the young bull, the wood, the stones, and the dust. It even licked up all the water in the trench!” (1 Kings 18:38-38)
Notice the difference. With the prophets of Baal, there is confusion, tumult and frenzy. With Elijah there is confidence, quietness and peace.
Isn’t it wonderful that this God of Elijah, a God of love, miracles and peace, wants to draw near and reveal Himself to us too? Let’s take time aside this week and allow Him to do this.
"So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing." (1 Thessalonians 5:11)
A few years ago, I left work to drive home. After a few minutes, I had to turn back because I had forgotten something I needed. I walked back into the building and a member of staff, out of the blue said to me, ‘I just want you to know we really appreciate you. We value your work here. I just want you to know that.’ I was utterly taken aback!! What had brought this on? In typical Scots fashion, I mumbled something like, ‘Yeh. Fine. Right’, while all the time thinking, ‘what’s got into him’? Anyway, I got what I needed and headed home. I was a bit bewildered, but, none the less, it was very encouraging. It felt good. I’ve never forgotten it.
Some time ago, a teacher I know was helping a man with his written English. He was a bit discouraged but the teacher pointed out to him all the things that were good about what he had done and assured him his action points were minor and he would make great progress. A few days later he told the teacher how much that had encouraged him. He made excellent progress after that.
In his Bible in One Year, Nicky Gumble writes, ‘Encouragement is not flattery or empty praise; it is like verbal sunshine.’ Isn’t that a beautiful image, verbal sunshine? Don’t we just love the sun? It makes us feel happier, lighter, brighter. Sunshine can be a real mood changer.......and so can encouragement.
We read the story in Acts 9:26 when the Apostle Paul (Saul at this point) went to Jerusalem to meet the believers there, ‘they were all afraid of him. They did not believe he had truly become a believer’. That could have been quite a frustrating and discouraging moment, but look who comes to his rescue; Barnabas, the ‘Son of Encouragement’.
However, there’s another bonus to bringing verbal sunshine into someone’s life. Have you ever noticed that as you encourage others, you too feel better? Proverbs 11:25 says:
“Those who refresh others will themselves be refreshed.” (Proverbs 11:25)
So, as we enter a new week, let’s try and bring some ‘verbal sunshine’ to those around us, and we’ll probably be surprised at how much refreshment comes our way too.
If you really fulfil the royal law according to the Scripture, ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself,’ you are doing well.” (James 2:8)
Some of you will be familiar with the name of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria. It was his assassination that led to the outbreak of World War 1.
Another name, not so familiar to us, is Gavrilo Princip. He was the young Bosnian Serb who, at point blank range, shot dead the Archduke and his wife. Princip was only 19 years old when he made the attempt to free his country from Austro-Hungarian rule.
That one bullet ricocheted around the world to countries as far apart as Japan and the USA and, after four years of unprecedented levels of carnage and destruction, 16 million men, women and children had lost their lives.
As I thought about this recently, I pictured Princip on that fateful day in June 1928, striding out in front of the Archduke’s car, taking aim and pulling the trigger. Little did he know that his one action would be the spark that lit the fuse of World War 1.
Did he ever stop to consider the possible consequences of this action? I don’t believe he did. His zeal for a freed Bosnia-Serb alliance blinded him to the heinousness of his crimes.
A few years later, shortly before his death, talking to a psychiatrist, Princip said that he believed the World War was bound to happen, independent of his actions, and that he “cannot feel himself responsible for the catastrophe”. However, the truth remains that history could well have been written as a very different story if Princip had carefully considered the consequences prior to his action.
In the Bible, in 2 Samuel, we read of another man, whose actions led to the death of many. The selfishness of Absalom and his lust to be king, led to 20,000 of his soldiers losing their lives for a throne what was not rightfully his.
Like Princip, did Absalom ever stop to consider the consequences of his actions before he led the coup? I don‘t believe he did. He was driven by pride and ambition. Pride blinds a man to truth and causes him to act in selfish, self-centred ways.
Have you ever done something that you later regretted? Have you ever caused emotional or physical pain to another human being? I’m sure we all have. So, how can we prevent it from happening again? Jesus said,
‘A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another’. (John 13:34-35)
James reinforced it when he said,
‘If you really fulfil the royal law according to the Scripture, ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself,’ you are doing well.” (James 2:8)
So, quite simply, if we obey the Royal Law of Love we need never fear the consequences of our actions again.
"And there was no more sea." (Rev 21:1)
Like many of you, I love water. One of the things I loved about living in Scotland was that you were never far from a loch or the open sea. Living in East London, I miss the open water. Because of my love for water, I used to feel perplexed every time I read in Revelation 21:1 ‘and there was no more sea’. I just couldn’t imagine a Heaven with no ‘sea’; but what could this mean?
I knew it couldn’t be literal; how could something of such awe inspiring beauty be missing from Heaven? For years I bemoaned my lack of understanding of this verse, then one night I opened my ‘Morning and Evening’ by Spurgeon and there it was!! I want to share with you what he wrote:
“In the new dispensation there will be no division—the sea separates nations and sunders peoples from each other. To John in Patmos the deep waters were like prison walls, shutting him out from his brethren and his work: there shall be no such barriers in the world to come.
Leagues of rolling billows lie between us and many a kinsman whom tonight we prayerfully remember, but in the bright world to which we go there shall be unbroken fellowship for all the redeemed family. In this sense there shall be no more sea.
The sea is the emblem of change; with its ebbs and flows, its glassy smoothness and its mountainous billows, its gentle murmurs and its tumultuous roarings, it is never long the same. Slave of the fickle winds and the changeful moon, its instability is proverbial. In this mortal state we have too much of this; earth is constant only in her inconstancy, but in the heavenly state all mournful change shall be unknown, and with it all fear of storm to wreck our hopes and drown our joys. The sea of glass glows with a glory unbroken by a wave. No tempest howls along the peaceful shores of paradise."
At last, my question was answered! The ‘sea’ represented barriers and instabilities. And, guess what? There’s none of those in Heaven!! No more divisions between individuals, no more depressions, no more mood swings, and no more ‘blues’ that humans often experience!
Now every time I read this verse, I read it with a sense of triumph rather than tragedy. I’m looking forward to a Heaven with ‘no more sea’. Aren’t you?
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