It’s a Wonderful Name

Choosing a name….. I asked my Mum the other day why she had decided to call me Nicola. I knew why she had called my brother, Ian. She wanted a really short name that couldn’t be turned into a nickname. Ian would always be Ian. It so didn’t work because my family all called him “E” usually shouted at high volume in one long “Eeeeeeeeeeeeeee”.

My name, Nicola was just one of the names she happened to like. It didn’t have any specific meaning or significance for the family. My name gets shortened to a nickname all the time as you can imagine. I don’t think anyone calls me much by my full name anymore. It’s usually, Nic or Nikki.

Names give an impression and expectation but can get lost in translation. Our school ran an annual cultural exchange trip to France when you stayed with a local family who then returned to stayed with you. When I went I was the last kid left on the coach and I could see a bit of a kerfuffle outside amongst the teachers. It turned out that in France and much of Europe “Nicola” is a boy’s name and the poor family were expecting a boy. They weren’t prepared to receive a girl. Fortunately, there was also a sister, Fabienne, so she ended up being my exchange pal but her poor brother had to stay and wait another year. I was so what he wasn’t expecting by my name. What a disappointment to him but an unexpected gift to his sister.

There is a name that I have found never disappoints and it is Jesus Christ. When we choose to put out trust in that name it is life transforming, not only our present but also our future. The name of Jesus has power and authority.

Yesterday, as we celebrated Christmas our bible verses were:

For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Isaiah 9:6

Jesus is given a lot of names and titles throughout the bible. Just in this one passage of scripture we read 5 of them. It made me think how I often overlook or “shorten” and don’t fully consider and understand the names given to Jesus, what it means for me as a believer now and the riches that are there waiting to be discovered in the names and character of Jesus. Getting to know more about Jesus through each facet revealed about Him in His names.

It’s something I’ll be delving into in the New Year to discover more about those names starting with “Wonderful” and sharing the riches of blessings in Christ our Lord.

Have a blessed day my friends.

The Awe and Wonder of Christmas

This Sunday, my talk at church was about “Christmas Means”. I had chosen as my theme: “Emmanuel which means God with us.”

Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us.”
Matthew 1:23

Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign:the Virgin will conceive and give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel “. Isaiah 7:14

As I was preparing for my talk the Lord spoke to my heart about rediscovering the AWE and WONDER of those incredible bible verses.

GOD WITH US.

about rediscovering the AWE and WONDER of the story of Jesus’ birth.

These bible verses are not just for Christmas!

The nativity story is so familiar to us that we can easily skip past these bible verses, perhaps even only read them once a year, without truly meditating on them. Contemplating the miracle that has taken place.

A Virgin has become pregnant by the power of the Holy Spirit and given birth to God’s own son, There are angelic visitations, hosts of angels appearing from heaven, a bright new star has been seen in the sky which draws men from a far land. This is no ordinary event. It is momentous.

A Holy God, who we were separated from by sin, who could not be touched by human hands or His face looked upon, has Himself come to us and lived with us. I encourage you to read the story of the God of the Mountain in Exodus 19 which helps us to gain an understanding of how much of an incredible privilege we now enjoy through faith in Jesus to be in relationship with God.

When God tells Moses he will come down and appear on Mount Sinai there is a warning to the people…don’t approach the mountain or touch it or you will die. The people have to be kept at a distance and they can only approach the mountain when they hear the trumpet. They have to be cleansed and prepared over 3 days ready for God to appear. When God comes down on the mountain there is smoke, thunder, lightning, fire, the mountain shakes and the people are terrified. I think I would have been too. The people are too scared to go up the Mountain and remain at at distance.

That is the reality of the effect of sin and our separation from a Holy God. That’s why we needed Jesus. It was death to approach that Mountain. There is separation from God, there is distance. God can’t be seen as He is covered by a dark cloud.

Jesus laid aside his heavenly glory to take on human flesh. Jesus came in the Father’ love to save us from our sins and restore us into relationship with God. Jesus, God’s only son came and lived with us. Fully God yet man. God of the Manger.

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” John 1:14

Jesus came to show us God’s goodness, compassion, mercy, love and justice. Jesus could be touched, he allowed himself to be touched and He touched people. He touched lepers who were unclean and sinners. He reached out and touched the untouchables.

Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. I am willing he said “ Be clean!” Immediately he was cleansed of his leprosy, Matthew 8:3

Jesus showed us the Father God who loves us with such incredible love.

So this week I have been thinking. When was I last truly filled with Awe and Wonder as I read the Bible, see and experience God’s beautiful creation, consider the miracle of My Salvation, consider the miracle that God now dwells in Me by the power of His Holy Spirit! God in Me.

God of the Mountain. God of the Manger. God living in Me and you.

Dear reader, does God want to restore your sense of AWE and WONDER at His Story too x

If you would like to listen to more then you can access my preach here on YouTube by clicking this link to the service. Have a blessed week.

https://youtu.be/nQZ9eCDxVII

The Good News

“The gospel is only good news if it gets there in time.”
― Carl F. H. Henry

We have been privileged and blessed as a church fellowship this weekend to have Simon Guillebaud come and speak to us for our Kingdom Weekend when we focus on missions both near and far.

Simon has been a missionary in Burundi and shared his story of how God took him to that African nation and the incredible way that God has used him and his fellow believers in that country to show the love of God and salvation through faith in Jesus.

Simon came with the purpose of stirring our faith and exhorting us as believers in Christ to share the Good News that we have received wherever God has called and appointed us to be His witnesses. He warned against the dangers of apathy and other distractions of life which can interfere with our sense of urgency to share the Good News.

Simon’s teaching this morning was from the passage in Romans 10 verses 9-15

“If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. 11 As Scripture says, “Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame.” 12 For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, 13 for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

14 How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? 15 And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!

So fellow believers in Christ how wonderful it is that we are the bearers of Good News but as Simon reminded us today as Carl F.H. Henry said: “The gospel is only good news if it gets there in time.

I have an encouraging testimony to share with you about how the Lord answered our prayer for the Good News to be given in time for someone. My friend’s son was diagnosed with terminal cancer just before Christmas last year. He has undergone much chemotherapy and is now on his second course but the Consultants have told him that it is terminal and he does not have much time left. We have prayed for him that he will hear and receive the Good News of salvation before it is too late. My friend has shared the gospel with her son but sometimes with family they won’t really “hear” what you say to them. I am sure if you have family who are not saved then you can identify with that.

We had been praying that the Lord would put someone else across his path. He lives hundreds of miles away from us. Last week the Lord answered those prayers. During a visit to the hospital a man (a complete stranger) asked my friend’s son if he had faith and then proceeded to share Jesus with him and why he needed salvation. Wow – thank the Lord that this man who we do not know was faithful and obedient to share the good news and that the message “got there in time“. My friend’s son called his Mum to tell her about this and we now pray that he will respond – our responsibility is to be obedient to share our faith but it is for the person who hears to respond. We cannot do that part for them but we continue to pray that the Holy Spirit will convict him, his heart will be softened and he will call on the Lord and be saved.

Lord today I pray that those who need to hear the message of salvation, the Good News will hear it and receive it in time. Stir our hearts with a sense of urgency our dear Lord and Father to share the good news when we have opportunity to do so. Thank you Jesus for the privilege of being co-workers for your Kingdom. Amen

First Snow

Don’t get toooooo excited but we woke up to our first snow of the winter today as a result of storm Arwen. It wasn’t very much but it was still snow. We don’t get much snow where I live so for the children it’s great excitement. Making snowmen, sledging and all the fun things then you get cold, wet and can’t wait to head back in 🤣

I posted yesterday about our sins being washed away and becoming as white as snow in Pure Whites by Jesus’s blood and posted this bible verse:

“Come now, and let us reason together,” Says the Lord, “Though your sins are like scarlet, They shall be as white as snow; Though they are red like crimson, They shall be as wool.
Isaiah 1:18

“Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Make me hear joy and gladness, That the bones You have broken may rejoice. Hide Your face from my sins, And blot out all my iniquities”. Psalm 51

I love the snow and so it’s wonderful that it gives me another opportunity to blog these bible verses again today and be thankful for salvation in Jesus who cleanses us from all our sins. As I enjoy the snow today I am reminded again of this truth.

Bless you my friends and have a joyous day.

The dog enjoying his morning walk in the snow

Pure Whites

Pure whites

After a recent time of fellowship and ministry during which we took communion, my friend had a picture of pure white washing pegged out on a clothes line.

It’s a simple picture really but it spoke deeply to me about who I am now in Christ. I’m as clean as that white washing.

In order to be truly cleansed from sin and it’s effects it can only be through faith in what Jesus has done for me through his death and resurrection. I believe as a Christian that we receive forgiveness for our sins through confessing our sins, repenting of them and believing Jesus has paid the price for our wrongdoing. As a follower of Jesus, I believe that it is Jesus’ sacrifice and his blood alone which has cleansed me from sin.

You might not feel clean like that or might feel you still have some dirty linen but there is no stain or dirt that can’t be made clean, pure and washed as white as the washing in this picture. Just like new. No stains, no grey, no streaks, no spots no matter how filthy. How do I know this? The bible tells me and I believe it.

Come now, and let us reason together,” Says the Lord, “Though your sins are like scarlet, They shall be as white as snow; Though they are red like crimson, They shall be as wool.
Isaiah 1:18

When we as followers of Jesus take Communion and we break bread together and drink the wine, we remember the Lord’s death until He comes again. We remember with thanksgiving all Jesus has done for us. We have opportunity to allow the Holy Spirit to convict us if there is anything we need to confess or put right before we take Communion.

When we were in lockdown many did not have the opportunity to take Communion together. As I joined with my brothers and sisters in Christ this week I was reminded how powerful it is when we recall and thank God for what Jesus did for us all through His being broken for us and being poured out for us. How powerful it is to confess and release sin in my life and receive cleansing.

He (Jesus) took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.”
Matthew 26:27-28

Jesus shed His own precious blood so that we can be cleansed from sin. A free gift of grace that is available to everyone no matter who we are. The bible tells us that all have sinned so all need to take this cup of forgiveness. Have you my dear friend? It’s freely available to you. If you want to be truly clean then I believe there is no other way.

Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call.”
Acts 2:38-39

Do you hear the Lord calling you to repentance? I pray that you will hear and respond to God’s grace and mercy today and be ever thankful to God who through His great love has reached down from heaven and rescued us from sin and death. Praise God.

Six Things…no wait 7

Ephesians 5:8-10 – “Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases God”

As followers of Jesus we are to live our lives in a way that is pleasing to God. The bible tells us about 6 things, actually 7 behaviours that God does not like at all.

I’m sure you’d agree that some of these behaviours we too would think are extremely bad but some like being proud or telling lies we could be tempted to ignore but this is what Proverbs 6:16 tells us:

“Here are six things God hates, and one more that he loathes with a passion:

eyes that are arrogant,

a tongue that lies,

hands that murder the innocent; and

a heart that hatches evil plots,

feet that race down a wicked track,

a mouth that lies under oath, and

.

a troublemaker in the family”

Lord we want to live our lives in ways that are pleasing to you. Help us keep our feet on the paths of your right ways as you reveal to us in your precious Word, the Bible. Let us live today and tomorrow lives that are pleasing to you as we walk out our faith in your son, Jesus Christ. May your Holy Spirit convict our hearts of sin and wrong and may we turn in repentance to you through the richness of the grace and mercy that you pour out through Jesus on us as your children. Thank you Lord that when you look at us who are hidden in Christ Jesus you see your Son in whom you were well pleased. Thank you that in Jesus and through the work of the Holy Spirit we are empowered to live a life pleasing to you. Praise God. Amen

Apple of His Eye

It’s #ThrowbackThursday and I feel led to repost this post from 2020 reminding us that we are so precious to God and we are indeed the Apple of His Eye.

It’s good to be reminded that God has such great love for us that He never leaves us during the hard times. He is always faithful. God loves us and His grace and Mercy are available for each one of us through faith in Jesus Christ. If you need a reminder today of how much God values you as the apple of His Eye then please have a read of this post The Apple of His Eye.

Blessings to you my friends.

Photo by Daniel Reche on Pexels.com

The White Horse

Following my recent post on The Cloud of His Glory I was reminded of one of my posts from a while ago which is about the white horse which Jesus our Lord and King rides in John’s vision in the book of Revelation. You can read that post here The Heavenly Steed. It’s an encouragement to those who do not yet know Jesus as their Lord and Saviour not to leave it too late to repent and find forgiveness.

Revelation is the Revelation of Jesus in all His Glory and these verses in Revelation 19 are some of my favourite Bible verses. John describes this incredible scene and with every word he uses, you can picture it unrolling like a dramatic movie. It’s the scene when the hero says enough is enough and he rides out with his army. This is what John wrote using the amplified translation.

And I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse, and He who was riding it is called Faithful and True (trustworthy, loyal, incorruptible, steady), and in righteousness He judges and wages war [on the rebellious nations].

His eyes are a flame of fire, and on His head are many royal crowns; and He has a name inscribed [on Him] which no one knows or understands except Himself. He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God.

And the armies of heaven, dressed in fine linen, [dazzling] white and clean, followed Him on white horses.

From His mouth comes a sharp sword (His word) with which He may strike down the nations, and He will rule them with a rod of iron; and He will tread the wine press of the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty [in judgment of the rebellious world].

And on His robe and on His thigh He has a name inscribed, “KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.”
Revelation 19:11-16

Jesus came to us first after laying aside all His heavenly glory as a helpless baby to suffer and die for us but when He returns He comes as the all powerful and majestic King of Kings and no-one or nothing can stand in His way because all authority and power has been given to Jesus by the Almighty God in Heaven. What a mighty King we serve.

Be encouraged today my friends because this same all powerful and victorious Jesus loves you and lives to make intercession for you before God’s throne. Bring all your cares to him because He truly cares for us.

Photo by Helena Lopes on Pexels.com

Deception – The Gibeonites Story

The bible story of the Gibeonites and how they tricked Joshua & the Israelites (which you can read in the book of Joshua Chapter 9) is a fascinating bible story which has a lot to teach us about deception.

What is Deception

It is a deliberate attempt to make you believe something which is not true – there is an intention to mislead – something is hidden, concealed, there is an ulterior motive.    Deception presents facts in a way that you think they are the truth.    It will usually contain a mixture of truth, half-truths & lies – it distorts the truth.    Deception is usually very close to the truth otherwise it would be easily spotted.  Craftiness, & Cunning are usually involved. 

Deception can also arise from giving or allowing a false impression to be made by manipulating information, exaggerating or leaving truth or some truth out – lying by omission.  If you let someone believe something untrue about you – the person has a wrong impression and instead of correcting them you let them believe it – that’s also deception.  That is such a subtle trap we can all fall into – allowing someone to believe an image of ourselves that we project which is not reality- even as believers.

A lie will usually lead to another lie. Eventually you are so far away from the truth you no longer recognise the truth.   That is why deception is so dangerous –it’s very subtle. We start to believe the lie is actually truth because we have a wrong reference point or foundation for what we believe.   We receive information through a distorted lens of deception and don’t realise it is not truth. We then think others are deceived!

We see elements of this in the plan of the Gibeonites.  It was very cleverly thought out – they went to great efforts to paint a picture and give the impression they had travelled from a long long way away and were not in fact neighbours of the Israelites.    Their bread was mouldy, their wine was gone, their clothes & sandals were worn out and tattered etc.   Those facts were true but the reason they gave was not true.   That was the deception.

There is always a motive for deception– sometimes it is just as important discerning the motive behind the deception.  The reason why someone wants to deceive us or why we deceive ourselves (self-deception) or others. It can be for a whole host of reasons – dishonest gain (greed), self preservation, fear etc. to name just a few.  

In this story the Gibeonites had heard what had happened to the cities of Jericho & AI (the Israelites had wiped them out) and they feared for their lives – they didn’t want to die. It was all about self-preservation – than can be a strong motive for deception– we lie or cover things up because we don’t want someone to know the truth about us – preserving ourselves.  Fear about what people would think if they know the truth –we become trapped in this false picture we have created.

The Gibeonites wanted a peace treaty with the Israelites– that was what they told Joshua & that was true (v2/3).    It doesn’t seem like they were planning a Trojan horse – enemy infiltration– and kill the Israelites afterwards – we’re not told that.    The Gibeonites had various options to achieve their aim.  We know from verse 1 that they could have joined forces with the other neighbouring Kings in the area who planned to attack the Israelites.     That was a genuine option.  The Gibeonites were not a weak people or small in number– In Joshua 10 we find out that Gibeon was a might city – bigger than Ai & full of mighty men.  They could have fought.

However, they discounted that option – the Gibeonites were wise enough to realise that they had no chance of getting what they wanted by force because God was on the side of Israel.  If someone can’t beat you at something or take something by force then beware that they don’t cheat you out of it instead. 

Their other option would have been to throw themselves on the mercy of the Israelites & God – been honest from the very beginning – there was an option to do the right thing – but they resorted to obtaining what they wanted by deception.  

This is still true today of how the enemy, Satan, will use deception against us.  It is one of his greatest strategies – his motive is to “rob, steal and destroy” – he wants to ruin the fullness & joy of a life of freedom & redemption that Christ has given us & all that God has for us.  Satan wants to stop you growing and maturing and being an effective disciple of Jesus.

If Satan cannot frighten us or overcome us by a direct attack then he will seek to deceive us in some way either by what we believe about our faith in God and salvation in Jesus or what we believe about ourselves.   We need to be able to identify and discern those lies.   Otherwise there will be consequences of us believing the lie – strongholds will develop in our thinking or behaviours which are not Godly and we won’t be mature and develop in our faith with a firm foundation of truth.    

In these days with so much access to information from so many various sources we really need to be able to discern false teachings, false doctrine, false prophecies etc- That is why we need the tools which God has given us to discern deception.

The motives for deception can look “good” to us too -just as the Gibeonites thought and this is part of the trap with “self-deception” – we can do what we think is good rather than what is Godly.   We can convince ourselves that the only way out of a situation is to “bend the truth” for a good cause. What a trap. 

Where does Deception come from?

Deception originated from Satan – Jesus said satan is the “father of lies” John 8:44 – “He (satan) was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him.  When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies”.  

We see satan’s nature as the liar and deceiver in the garden of Eden.  Satan deceives Eve into eating the forbidden fruit which introduced sin & death into creation. 

Deception is sin –a half truth which misleads – is sin – self-deception is sin.

Deception introduces DOUBT  –  Deception can mean you start to doubt the “truth” – you doubt your ability to know the “truth”.     You start to doubt your own faith – “Are you really a Christian”?   Satan introduced doubt when he said to Eve ”   Did God really say”?  You can start to doubt you have heard God correctly.     

Watch out for doubt in your thoughts– where is it coming from?  Doubt and Discernment are different things coming from different sources. Doubt does not come from the Holy Spirit. Discernment is the Holy Spirit working in and through us to reveal truth.

We can deceive ourselves – self- deception – it can be in our own hearts.   The bible says that “the heart is deceitful above all things” Jeremiah 17:9 – It is so important to ask God to search our hearts and ask Him to reveal if there is any sin in us.    Are we deceiving ourselves in areas of our lives, in our behaviours or attitudes.

So we see that from that very first act of deception in the Garden of Eden there are then stories of deception throughout the bible. Jacob deceives his father Isaac to steal the birth right from his brother Esau, Laban then deceives Jacob into marrying Leah, Joseph’s brothers deceive their father Jacob and pretend Joseph is dead.

The Pharisees tried to deceive Jesus, Ananias & Saphira tried to deceive Peter and Simon the Sorcerer tried to deceive Paul.

There is a pattern of deception and deception is still at work today.  Jesus warns his followers not to be deceived.

Matthew 24;24   “For False Messiahs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect.

Paul warned the early churches – 2 Corinthians 11:3 – “But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ”.

Acts 20:30 “Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them”.

Let us heed these warnings and be on our guard as believers against deception.

Discovering Deception

The good news is that this story of the Gibeonites tells us very clearly how to avoid deception –in two words – Ask God.

I love the fact that there is no mystery here, it’s clear -In one sentence we are told exactly why the Israelites were deceived by the Gibeonites– they didn’t ask God but relied instead on the evidence of their own eyes & ears.  Self-Reliance & not God Reliance.    

Can we rely on God – The answer is Yes.  

Firstly God knows all things (He is omniscient) – nothing is hidden from his view. God cannot therefore ever be deceived.   The bible says in Hebrews that no creature is hidden from His sight but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.

God forbids deception so it is not part of His character– Leviticus 19: 11 “Do not lie.  Do not deceive one another”.    Proverbs 12:22 “The Lord detests lying lips but he delights in people who are trustworthy”.

We can also trust Jesus – The bible teaches us that there was no deceit in Jesus –  Isaiah 53: 9 “nor was any deceit in his mouth”.  

Jesus is The way, The truth & The lifeJesus does not deceive us or lie to us.

Jesus has also sent us the Holy Spirit – as believers we have the Spirit of Truth– living within us.  Jesus said the Holy Spirit is our counsellor and will “lead us into truth”. John 16:13 “But when he, the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth.  He will not speak on his own, he will speak only what he hears (from God) and he will tell you what is to come”.

God promises us guidance when we seek Him. There are lots of promises in scripture that when we seek God He will lead & guide us and that we can trust in Him.   In Psalm 5 – we are encouraged to take our requests to God each day in prayer and look up (wait for the answer).

God has provided us with His written word – Holy Scripture– His words of truth.   God’s Word is the plumb line.  If you want to check something is truth – first check what the bible says about it. Go to the source first.   

Hebrews 4 says  “ For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness for he is a babe but solid food belongs to those who are of full age – that is who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good or evil.”

We need to study and get into the bible ourselves and then practice and test whether the things we hear, read etc. are good (of God) or evil.   We have to know these things for ourselves and so mature in our faith.  We also need to live out our faith in doing good.   James says that we deceive ourselves if we don’t act out our faith as doers of the word and not just hearers.

Ephesians 4;14  “Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming.”

The symbolism of the mouldy bread and wine that has run out also speaks to me in this story.      As believers we also need fresh bread from heaven – Jesus is our daily bread. He is the living water which never runs out. Reading the bible, Prayer, worship & praise- these are all ways that we daily eat & drink and build ourselves up in Christ.

One of the gifts of the Holy Spirt is Discernment.  I encourage you to ask the Holy Spirit for the gift of discernment.   Through the exercise of that gift we can discern between good & evil and truth & lies. The Holy Spirit reveals hidden things and what would not be possible to know by our human understanding – it is a divine revelation from God.  

Jesus exercised discernment– Jesus discerned the hearts & motives of the Pharisees when they were trying to trick him –  “you hypocrites he said– why are you trying to trap me”.    Peter discerned through the Holy Spirit that Ananias & Saphira were lying to him and lying to the Holy Spirit.  The impure motives of Simon’s heart in seeking the gift of the Holy Spirit were also discerned.

Why did the Israelites not ask God about the Gibeonites?   We are not told why – just that they didn’t.   This is really interesting because the Israelites had a recent testimony of God revealing deceit in a miraculous way. They discovered why the battle of “Ai” was lost by God revealing deception by one of their own people who had stolen and hidden spoil from the battle which had been forbidden.  They could have easily asked God about the Gibeonites.   Was it over-confidence or mis-placed confidence in their own abilities – they asked a few questions of the Gibeonites, tested the food etc. but ultimately they relied on themselves and not God. There is a warning in this to us.

The Gibeonites were also pressurising the Israelites to make a peace treaty and to act quickly.    That can be a sign of deception –  being pressurised into making a quick decision. We need to make time to seek God and ask Him for guidance before making a decision especially if that decision will have big consequences.   Don’t be rushed.

There were also signs of deception – – warning bells were there – The Gibeonites flattered the Israelites.  Perhaps Joshua & the people were flattered to hear that their exploits in battle had reached so far and wide.  Perhaps some pride crept in which made them vulnerable.   So the lesson for us it to beware the flatters.

Romans 16:18 “For such people are not serving our Lord Christ but their own appetites.   By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naïve people.”

Ephesians 5 v 6 “Let no-one deceive you with empty words”.

Seeing is not always believing

We are warned not to believe everything we see especially when it comes to signs & wonders.    If people are just looking for signs & wonders as evidence of truth or God – the miraculous – then there is a great danger of being deceived.  

Paul says in 2 Thessalonians 2 9-10 “the coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with how Satan works.  He will use all sorts of displays of power through signs and wonders that serve the lie – and all the ways that wickedness deceives those who are perishing.   They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved.”  

Appearances can be deceptive. The appearance of the Gibeonites deceived the Israelites. They believed what they saw with their eyes.

The good news is that Truth will eventually out. One day the truth will be revealed. The things that are hidden will be revealed by God.

In this story it was only 3 days – a very short time -before the Israelites discovered the truth.

Dealing with Deception

This is a really important part of the story. There are lessons we can learn. 

Imagine how Joshua & the Israelites felt when they realised they had been deceived – angry, upset, vengeful, stupid, shamed, guilty, disappointed, betrayed –perhaps they looked for others to blame, fearful that they had disobeyed God. 

Put yourself in their shoes for a moment and imagine – How would you have felt & how do you think you would have reacted.  

You may have even experienced deception and can identify with those feelings. – I know I have – twice that I know I have been in fellowships which have been deceived by trusted people– a huge amount of money was stolen from one church and in another there was a sexual predator pretending to be a believer.    It can cause a lot of pain & hurt –especially if you have been deceived by someone close to you – but the fallout from how we react can be even worse than the effects of the deception itself.  It can cause division, disunity, bitterness, recriminations & unforgiveness even pride – blame those who have been deceived and act as though it wouldn’t have happened to you.   “How could they have let this happen”?    Relationships are really tested and sometimes don’t survive.   We need to guard our hearts in these incredibly difficult circumstances.

In this story we read that the Israelites were not happy at all with Joshua & the leaders when they found out they had been deceived – they started to complain.  There was the potential here for there to be a rebellion against the leaders.    The people wanted revenge and to kill the Gibeonites and when that wasn’t possible then have them severely punished and to be their slaves.   That would have been a terrible life of slavery & drudgery.   Open to future abuse as well by their masters.    The Israelites had been slaves in the past and now they had the chance to be the masters – to make someone else pay.   There was the potential that the Israelites would even deceive themselves into justifying their own bad behaviour or mistreatment of the Gibeonites.   They deserved it by deceiving them and had brought this on themselves.

The Gibeonites had obtained the covenant of the peace treaty with the Israelites by deception. It might seem justifiable to us for the Israelites to have broken the covenant they had made as it had been obtained by fraud. As a lawyer, I know that the law today enables parties to terminate a contract if there has been fraud or misrepresentation.   It is seen as the fair thing to do.

However, the Israelites had made this vow & covenant in God’s name and the leaders were concerned about bringing dishonour to God’s name and also fearful about what God might do to them if they didn’t honour the covenant.

That decision was Godly Wisdom indeed because later in the bible we find out that Saul does break that covenant.   The result is that God is really displeased and there is a famine as a result which is only brought to an end when 7 of Saul’s sons are killed (crucified) as a substitution to make right the wrong that has been done to the Gibeonites.

This reminds me that through Christ’s death on the Cross and His Resurrection Power we are given the ability in Jesus to overcome our natural desires of our flesh for revenge, anger etc when deceived and to forgive the deceiver and release them to God.

What did Joshua do in this story?

Joshua doesn’t attack the Gibeonites when he discovers the truth.    He confronts their lie in the right way.    He wants to discover the truth – why did they lie.  

That is important for us – we may need, in some circumstances and however, difficult and upsetting to confront the deceiver. In the right way- in a Christ like way- just like Joshua did.     Jesus did the same with the people who tried to deceive him – He called it out.   “Why are you trying to trick me

The Gibeonites take the opportunity and tell Joshua the truth.  It’s like a confession of their sins. They confess the lie.

They are under a curse because of the lie but Joshua also shows them Mercy – v 27 – He doesn’t make them the slaves for everyone – imagine what a life of hell that would have been -but he makes them woodcutters & watercarriers for the house of God.   This would still been a hard & demanding work but not the punishment that the people wanted and perhaps arguably that the Gibeonites deserved.  

By making them the woodcutters and watercarriers for the house of God Joshua actually brings them close to God.     This reminds us that God is truly merciful to everyone and He has made a way through Christ for everyone to come into His family.

So I would say -Put those who have wronged you into the hands of God.   Let Him deal with them for you.   If we have done wrong let’s confess our sins and God will forgive us.

It doesn’t say in the story that Joshua explicitly forgave the Gibeonites but this is something which we are required to do as believers.  Forgive those who trespass against us.   Jesus tells us to forgive – it is a requirement of living out a life of faith.  It is not easy.   I didn’t realise for a long time that I even had any unforgiveness in my heart still towards the person who had hurt me through their deception.    It wasn’t obvious – I didn’t think about them or wish bad things on them.   I thought I had dealt with it but I had deceived myself by burying the hurt & fear deep inside me.  

God showed me the effect of that buried unforgiveness in my life was like those little foxes which ruin the vineyard.   It was ruining my fruitfulness in certain areas of my Christian walk.  God really opened my eyes to the things I had deceived myself about by not dealing properly with those things– lies that I had started to believe – that I couldn’t really trust God to protect me or those close to me, that there was hatred buried deep in my heart towards this person.   I learnt to forgive by God’s grace.

Defeating Deception

When we deal with deception in the right way I believe that we defeat it’s power in our lives.     In Joshua chapter 10 the Gibeonites are under attack from the other Kings and they ask Joshua for help.

This was the test.   Joshua does not refuse them help. He helps his one-time enemies who had deceived him.  Joshua is faithful to his promise and because of this and the way he acts, we read in Chapter 10 that God gives the Israelites their biggest victory in battle so far – there are miracles and God enables them to defeat all of the 5 Kings who had plotted against the Israelites at the start of chapter 9 at once.   God says “Do not fear them for I have delivered them into your hand”.

If you are obedient to God then he will give you the victory over your enemy and you will overcome.

God can do the miraculous in your circumstances – in v11 of the chapter we read how God came to their aid and cast down great hailstones from heaven – a demonstration of His great power.   

Even the sun stood still v 12 and v 14 – The Lord fought for Israel.  He didn’t just fight for the Israelites though (His people) – He also fought for the Gibeonites – it was their city that was being attacked.   God was now protecting those who were serving in His house and part of His house.   We are also under God’s protection now having been brought into His family through Jesus the Son.    We are under God’s loving care.    God surrounds us with His favour.

I don’t think that Joshua & the Israelites would have had such a victory if they had not honoured the peace covenant made with the Gibeonites. God honoured Joshua and gave him a mighty victory.

Bless you my friends.

Wounded Sheep..Strong Sheep

We recently returned from a church weekend away in beautiful Wales. It was so lovely to spend this time away in fellowship with our Christian family and to hear great teaching. Sharing meals together, chatting, fun, worship, prayer…all those things pre-Covid I took for granted. How precious they are.

The Holy Spirit was certainly present and moving in our midsts during that weekend away and many shared what they received from the Lord. Today, I want to share a picture that my dear friend Heather received and also the bible verses which the Lord gave her about the picture.

I believe there are brothers and sisters in Christ who connect with us through this blog who also need to hear this.

Heather saw a picture of a large flock of sheep who were all moving in one direction and from her perspective onto new pastures. At the front she could see some really strong and healthy sheep who were forging ahead with the Shepherd walking alongside them. However, at the back of the flock there were some sheep lagging well behind. The stragglers who were struggling.

These sheep were all wounded in some way. Some were limping, injured and crippled. Some had bad eyesight or were partly blinded and couldn’t see clearly where they were going. They kept bumping into things. Other sheep couldn’t hear clearly what the Shepherd at the front was saying. They were partly deaf and asking “What’s He saying”

These sheep at the back felt like losing heart and giving up. They couldn’t keep up with the other sheep. They were struggling and falling further behind. They were discouraged. They didn’t feel like they belonged.

However, the Shepherd was looking back and He noticed those sheep. He left the other sheep and goes right to the back of the flock to them. He starts calling each of those sheep by name because He knows them by name. He tells each one that He knows their name. The Shepherd tells each one that He will walk with them. He will heal them and He will take them into the new pasture.

These are the bible verses from Ezekiel:

For thus says the Lord God, “Behold, I Myself will search for My flock and seek them out. As a shepherd cares for his sheep on the day that he is among his scattered flock, so I will care for My sheep; and I will rescue them from all the places to which they were scattered on a cloudy and gloomy day. I will bring them out from the nations and gather them from the countries and bring them to their own land; and I will feed them on the mountains of Israel, by the streams, and in all the inhabited places of the land. I will feed them in a good pasture, and their grazing ground will be on the mountain heights of Israel. There they will lie down on good grazing ground and feed in rich pasture on the mountains of Israel. I will feed My flock and I will let them lie down [to rest],” says the Lord God. “

I will seek the lost, bring back the scattered, bandage the crippled, and strengthen the weak and the sick; but I will destroy the fat and the strong [who have become hard-hearted and perverse]. I will feed them with judgment and punishment.”
Ezekiel 34:11-17

There is great comfort and encouragement in this picture as Jesus who is our great and chief Shepherd seeks out those sheep who are lost and wounded but there is also I believe a gentle warning to those who are forging ahead at the front.

There is a danger that those sheep who are strong in faith and doctrine and pressing ahead will not remember and help those in the flock who are weak and struggling. They could become hard hearted to those who are more weak in faith or wounded. Those limping and carrying wounds may need help and support from past emotional wounds and abuse. Those not seeing or hearing clearly could be affected by false teaching or doctrine or sin. Let us not forget that the Lord has given gifts of ministry and service within the church that we may help each other grow and mature.

Is the Lord also calling you by name to walk alongside and help one of His wounded sheep with Him today?

Are you a wounded sheep who is suffering? Then be encouraged because Jesus the great Shepherd has seen you, will come to you right where you are and knows exactly what you need to heal and restore you. Don’t give up but look up.

Thank you Lord that you found me when I was lost, weak and hurting. Now let me also be a shepherd to those you bring into the fold. Amen.