Abounding in Love

1 Thessalonians 3 v 12-13 says “and may the Lord make you increase and abound in love to one another and to all; just as we do to you so that He (God) may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all His saints”.

Genuine love for one another…it’s a command of the Lord Jesus and a sign to non-believers.

Someone wrote “where love abounds in a fellowship of Christians, many small offences, and even some large ones are readily overlooked and forgotten. But where love is lacking every word is viewed with suspicion, every action is liable to misunderstanding and conflicts abound to satan’s perverse delight.

We can’t opt out of loving one another if we are followers of Jesus – it was Christ’s commandment to us – to love each other as He loved us.

We recall Jesus’ teaching at the last supper. This was his last opportunity to talk to His disciples before He went to the Cross. Jesus reiterates 4 times His new commandment to love one another.

Jesus didn’t remind the disciples of all the great miracles and signs they had witnessed – it was love which was important.

John 13:34-35 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

John 15:12-14,17 “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. 17 This is my command: Love each other.

Jesus said “if you love me then you will obey my commandments.”

1 John 2 v3-6 sets it out plainly to us:

“We know that we have come to know him if we obey his commands. The man who says, “I know him,” but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But if anyone obeys his word, God’s love is truly made complete in him. This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did.

1John 3:11 “This is the message you heard from the beginning: We should love one another. “

How can we love each other in this way. I think it is impossible without a genuine love for Christ ablaze in our hearts.

Do we struggle to genuinely love each other in churches because we have lost our first love for Christ. We strive to love through our flesh rather than an overflow from our hearts. Let us encourage each other to prioritise expressing our love for Jesus in our times of gathering together.

It’s a perfect circle of love – we love Christ and He is our first love then out of this love will flow love for one another. Let us start with love for God first and then allow His love to flow through us.

We could try and manufacture this love for one another. We could perhaps do it for a while but it will stagnate and eventually die – this Christ like love should develop as fruit out of relationship with God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit.

Romans 5:5 “the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit which is given unto us and love is created in us by the Holy Spirit”

Let us not strive to love in our own strength and with our own love but rather that the love for and of Christ will be ignited in our hearts and will come through us – let the fruit be produced by abiding in Him & receiving God’s love through the Holy Spirit within us.

Our prayer for us today as we gather together on the Lord’s day:

1 Thessalonians 3 v 12-13 says “and may the Lord make you increase and abound in love to one another and to all; just as we do to you so that He (God) may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all His saints

I have something to say…

And Jesus answered and said to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.

So he said, “Teacher, say it.” Luke 7:40

I read this passage of Scripture this morning and it really got me thinking about how Jesus approached Simon with an important truth that he wanted Simon to hear and understand.

Jesus was an invited guest into Simon’s home. He had been invited in but had not been welcomed in (there’s a difference) as Simon’s behaviour had made clear. Jesus had noticed all these slights from Simon as the host such as not giving Jesus water to clean his feet or a welcoming kiss. We know from this well known bible story that a woman comes in (who Simon knows is a woman of bad reputation) and instead she cleans Jesus’ feet with her tears and wipes them with her hair and anoints him with oil.

Jesus had discerned Simon’s heart from his actions and also his thoughts about the woman washing Jesus’s feet. Jesus had something important to teach Simon about forgiveness and love but first Jesus tested whether Simon was prepared to hear what Jesus had to say.

Notice that Jesus in this situation didn’t just presume to tell Simon. He gave Simon the opportunity to hear or not what Jesus had to say. This wasn’t a general teaching to a crowd but this was going to be directed straight at Simon. It was personal. Simon could have said.. no thanks I don’t want to hear what you’ve got to say. I’m not interested. I think if he had then Jesus would have respected that decision and not said anything further. However, Simon gives Jesus the right and permission to speak to him and even acknowledges him as a “Teacher”.

When I’m wronged, treated badly or just want to get my views across then my first reaction is usually to just “tell” and get it straight out there without thinking of asking the other person whether they actually want to hear what I’ve got to say or not. Generally, they’re going to get my opinion whether they like it or not but the question is, have I asked and do I have permission to speak into the situation. Perhaps, I should first be saying “I have something to say to you”.

Deception – The Gibeonites Story

It’s #ThrowbackThursday and so I thought today I would publish one of my most regularly viewed posts which just so happens to be (to my pleasant surprise) this story from the Old Testament. If you have not heard of the Gibeonites before then please read on…

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 – that can be a very 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.

Credibility

“Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, With this in mind, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I too decided to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eye witnesses and servants of the word so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught.”
Luke.1-4

This is the opening statement in the gospel of Luke. It’s a bold statement and sets out the confidence that the writer, Luke has in the account he is writing of Jesus because he has carefully investigated everything.

He has tested the first hand accounts of the stories of Jesus from those who were eye witnesses of what happened. Luke acknowledges that many others have sought to share and record what Jesus did because it is such a marvellous truth. People who knew Jesus wanted to share the good news with others just as Jesus commanded them to do.

Luke does not want the truth about Jesus and what Jesus has accomplished to be lost, so in order to preserve the truth for Theophilus he has decided to write a full and orderly account. I wonder if Luke had any idea that his words would be preserved, read and studied by millions of followers of Jesus today still.

As we know there is much taught, discussed and written about Jesus today. You can access so much on the Web. Just as Luke was diligent to test the source of his information so that it was credible, it is so important that we test what we hear, are being taught and read about Jesus. It must line up with the Jesus who is revealed to us in the Bible. The Son of God. Any purported new truth, teaching or revelation of Jesus which is not in the Bible is a false teaching and a false gospel.

Paul commended the Bereans for diligently searching the scriptures to test the message that he brought to them about Jesus. The Bereans wanted to know the truth. I wrote a post called Being Open-Minded which you can read on the link. Alarm bells should definitely ring if someone doesn’t want or like their teachings about Jesus to be tested and expects you to blindly accept everything they tell or teach you.

I’m inspired to read the gospel of Luke again and I hope today’s post has blessed and encouraged you.

#TestimonyTuesday – Life Verses

This week at church we did something different. Our Pastor asked us to share our “life verses” or some people call them their “north star verses”. They are verses from the Bible that have guided, helped, encouraged and shaped your walk with the Lord. They can be bible verses that have been lifelines in times of trouble.

Our Pastor invited people forward and there was soon a queue of people eager to share. They read their bible verses and shared why those bible verses were so important to them. Some were able to recite long passages of Scripture which they had memorised.

It was so inspiring and touching to hear these verses and the testimonies. Do you have a life verse? If so, I would love to hear it and why it’s important to you. Please share in the comments section below.

My life verses are from Proverbs 3:5

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him,and he will make your paths straight.”

These verses give me confidence in God, who cares for me and guides me in the right way. When I am unsure then I remember these verses and declare my trust in Him and submit the circumstances or decision to the Lord.

I took the opportunity on Sunday to share my Dad’s life verses which he shared frequently with us. They had a profound influence on me because they taught me the importance of worship and the intimacy of relationship that the Lord desires with each of us.

My Dad’s life verse was from Psalm 84 verse 10. He recited this passage of Scripture often especially when he had his first stroke and was so ill.

Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere; I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of the wicked

In sharing with others our life verses then we also help disciple others by showing the importance of God’s Word in our lives and how it shapes us. We show that God’s Word is living, active and powerful.

I look forward to reading the comments and your life verses.

Have a blessed day my friends.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Overwhelmed….

I woke in the early hours with thoughts racing through my mind of all the tasks I had not done and were overdue. As I went through them one by one I started to feel overwhelmed and stressed. The more I thought about them all, the more overwhelmed I felt. Stress was building and I wanted and needed some more sleep.

I told myself “Stay calm”. You need to stay calm. I kept repeating those words to myself “Stay calm”. “Stay calm”.

As I repeated that word “calm” I thought, I can stay calm because Christ Always Loves Me.. yes, Christ Always Loves Me. That is never in doubt. His unfailing love never changes or diminishes. He always loves me.

I then thought of dear brother Alan’s post from the other day of how God rescues us in His Firm Hold. I encourage you to read it. It blessed me and I know it will bless you too. As I thought of Alan’s words, I thought, yes I can stay calm because Christ Always Lifts Me. Christ Always Lifts Me. Jesus always draws me closer to Him. I could focus on all the things I haven’t done or I could fix my eyes on Him.

I prayed a simple prayer. Lord take these burdens from me. I give them to you. I know you love me and care for me in all things. Thank you Lord. You are my help.

So those are my two reminders to myself for today. Perhaps you are also in a similar situation and it would help you to say….Christ Always Loves Me and Christ Always Lifts Me.

Have a blessed day my friends.

Pick up your mat….

Last week, I had a word from the Lord which I shared in our church fellowship and it witnessed with some people and their situations. I feel prompted by the Holy Spirit to share this same word with you today. Please weigh and test and if it speaks to your heart too then please pray about it.

The Lord spoke to me about the paralysed man who was lying by the pool Bethesda. When the waters were stirred for healing, he couldn’t get there in time. He kept missing out. He kept missing his opportunity and thought others were always beating him to it. Taking the only opportunity available.

I believe this word was about more than healing and was for other situations. The Lord impressed on me that there were brothers and sisters in Christ who felt they had missed or kept missing their opportunity. Each time they felt someone else was beating them to it and it was too late for them. You see your vision being accomplished by other people and wonder about the promises the Lord has given you. When will they come to pass for you.

The paralysed man had not initially recognised the time of opportunity which had come to him and that the Healer himself was right beside him until Jesus spoke those words to him. “Take up your mat and walk” so the Lord is saying that He is the one that opens doors and makes things happen and gives opportunity according to His Will. He will fulfil His promises within His times.

You have not missed out. The Lord will clearly open the door in His timing and you have to be obedient to His voice telling you to “pick up your mat and walk”. Walk through that door of opportunity. Your time will come. Don’t hesitate but look and listen for the Lord is right there beside you in all things.

Some time later, Jesus went up to Jerusalem for one of the Jewish festivals. 2 Now there is in Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate a pool, which in Aramaic is called Bethesda and which is surrounded by five covered colonnades. 3 Here a great number of disabled people used to lie—the blind, the lame, the paralyzed. 5 One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. 6 When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, “Do you want to get well?

7 Sir,” the invalid replied, “I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me.”

8 Then Jesus said to him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” 9 At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked.” John 5 1-9

Being a team member (Part 1)

You may recall me mentioning recently that I learnt a lot from my time as a volunteer team member at the Commonwealth Games in The Final Whistle. In particular, it was these bible verses (repeated below from Corinthians 12) about being members of the body of Christ that really came alive to me and taught me much especially about how our natural person(s) or our flesh wants to strive for recognition – its a worldly mindset-and how easily we fall into the trap of categorising jobs and roles (the important/not important) and then likewise judge the people who do them.

I met some of the most beautiful people who were fun, hard working, generous, helpful and humble but I also met people who came over as being lazy, full of their own importance, know it alls, bossy and difficult to work with. Mmmmmmm….which one was I? I experienced good team leaders and those who were not so good. There was so much variety of human life demonstrated in that short period of time that it was almost overwhelming but what a blessing it was to me. Over the next few posts I’ll share the background to this journey, the stories (names will be changed) and what I learnt about myself and my role as a member of the Body of Christ and an ambassador for Jesus.

The Background – All the volunteers were called the “Commonwealth Collective” and there were many different teams with a variety of functions ranging from administration tasks, logistics, hospitality, welcome, medical, family services etc. Some were front of house roles which they called being on the “field of play” and highly visible to the public and some were behind the scenes roles – hidden but vital for the other roles to function e.g accreditation. I soon learnt that there were “serial volunteers” who really knew the inside track from having volunteered at many sporting events worldwide. Me, I was a complete novice at this.

We were all strangers from different parts of the UK and some people from overseas who were brought together with our different personalities and skills to carry out a specific function assigned to us. Those roles had been assigned based on our application forms and interviews. The application process had opened about 18 months prior to the start of the Games with interviews carried out over a period of months. There were about 24,000 interviews carried out for 13,000 roles. I was selected to be part of the interviewing panel which I really enjoyed. In my family, my husband, daughter and myself all volunteered and we were all given different roles in different places. Each of us had a very different games’ experience.

The key though was that whatever role we had been assigned and wherever we were deployed, as there were many locations and venues…we were all part of the Commonwealth Collective and identifiable to each other by the uniform we wore and our accreditation badge. There were about 13,000 volunteers who were all members of the Collective. I didn’t meet the vast majority of these people but for that time, I was a team member with them and they were also team members with me. It didn’t matter that we didn’t meet, know each other..we were still part of the same team with a common objective.

How I carried out my role and what I did or failed to do would impact on the other volunteers, some more so than others depending on our proximity and reliance on each other, and vice versa. I didn’t want to let them down. There was specific training given for our assigned roles so that we all knew what was required of us. We were expected to learn and engage with that process. If you didn’t turn up for the training then you couldn’t take part. Training was a compulsory requirement.

There was also a code of conduct for volunteers setting out the standards of behaviour expected of a volunteer. It set out what was expected and what behaviours would not be tolerated. The key requirement was to treat each other with respect. One of the elements that was stressed was to LISTEN. Good volunteers listened and so listening skills were emphasised.

Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ.

For we were all baptised by one Spirit so as to form one body – whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free – and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.

And so the body is not made up of one part but of many. Now if the foot should say, ‘Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,’ it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. And if the ear should say, ‘Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,’ it would not for that reason stop being part of the body.

If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be?

But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I don’t need you!’ And the head cannot say to the feet, ‘I don’t need you!’

On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honourable we treat with special honour. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, while our presentable parts need no special treatment.

But God has put the body together, giving greater honour to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other.

If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honoured, every part rejoices with it.

Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.

And God has placed in the church first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, of helping, of guidance, and of different kinds of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret? Now eagerly desire the greater gifts. And yet I will show you the most excellent way.

1 Corinthians 12:12-31

To be continued…..

Is the Lord’s arm too short?

This is the question that the Holy Spirit prompted me to ask recently.

The Lord said “Who has believed our report? Is My arm too short?”

I have felt prompted by the Holy Spirit this morning to share that word with you today. Do you need to hear those words today?

Is the Lord’s arm too short in your situation, in your circumstances?

Is the Lord’s arm too short to rescue you?

The answer my friend is No. The Lord’s arm is not too short. Not today or tomorrow.

The Lord’s arm is not too short.

Holy Scripture declares it to us. The Word of God tells us of His marvellous works and His miraculous deeds. From the foundations of the world, the coming of our dear Saviour Jesus, His miracles, from His death and mighty resurrection and the outpouring to us of the Holy Spirit. Our Lord is marvellous in all His works.

The Lord can reach down from His throne in Heaven and lift you up today. He is sovereign over all things. Call to Him today and put your faith and trust in Him because He alone is God. He alone can save you. There is no-one else who has the power.

“The Lord answered Moses, ‘Is the Lord’s arm too short? Now you will see whether or not what I say will come true for you.’ Numbers 11:18-23

“Surely the arm of the Lord is not too short to save, nor his ear too dull to hear” Isaiah 59:1

“When I came, why was there no one? When I called, why was there no one to answer? Was my arm too short to deliver you? Do I lack the strength to rescue you? By a mere rebuke I dry up the sea, I turn rivers into a desert; their fish rot for lack of water and die of thirst.” Isaiah 50:2

Bless you today my dear friends. I pray that you will be strengthened and encouraged. Keep your eyes fixed upon the Lord and may your faith in God declare as a sure testimony that His arm is not too short to reach you today.

The Invite

It’s exciting to receive an invitation especially to a celebration. I have received an invitation recently to attend a party..there is free food, drink, a great venue in Birmingham but it’s only for volunteers of the Birmingham Commonwealth Games.

The thing is after working 8 shifts (some very early ones), getting home late, travelling, working my day job….I’m tired. I couldn’t really be bothered and started making excuses not to go. It was easy to find the excuses..but then other people started to encourage me to attend. This was a one off event, it would be fun and I’d be with all my fellow volunteers.

Then someone said something which struck me “it’s free..why wouldn’t you go”.

This reminded me of God’s invitation to receive forgiveness and the free gift of eternal life through faith in Jesus’ His son.

It’s a free gift…an invitation ..why wouldn’t it be accepted?

The sad truth is that there are people who do not accept God’s invitation. Jesus knew that people would reject Him and His message. He told a parable about people who were invited to a wedding feast but refused to come – they made lots of different excuses. This is what Jesus says:

‘The kingdom of heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son. He sent his servants to those who had been invited to the banquet to tell them to come, but they refused to come. ‘Then he sent some more servants and said, “Tell those who have been invited that I have prepared my dinner: my oxen and fattened cattle have been slaughtered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding banquet.” ‘But they paid no attention and went off – one to his field, another to his business. The rest seized his servants, ill-treated them and killed them. The king was enraged. He sent his army and destroyed those murderers and burned their city. ‘Then he said to his servants, “The wedding banquet is ready, but those I invited did not deserve to come. So go to the street corners and invite to the banquet anyone you find.” So the servants went out into the streets and gathered all the people they could find, the bad as well as the good, and the wedding hall was filled with guests.” Matthew 22:2-10

People will always have the freedom of choice whether to accept God’s invitation or not – that is up to them. We cannot force people to accept Jesus, but we should not give up or be discouraged from issuing the invitation because it gets refused – Jesus isn’t.

Jesus told the disciples to shake the dust from their feet and move on when they and their message was not welcomed at places.

Perhaps we need to shake off some past disappointments and defeatist mind sets and start giving out those invitations again. I know I do.

Sadly, there will come a time when it will be too late to issue the invites – the door will be closed- but we can encourage others to “seek Him while He can be found“. Isaiah 55 v 6.

Who can we invite today to find Jesus?