God our refuge

Psalm 46 is my prayer for us all today to affirm our faith in God and call upon Him in our times of trouble because He truly is our ever present help. He does not abandon us at these difficult and heart wrenching times but is right there with us in the middle of times of pain, sorrow, suffering and unimaginable grief.

I hope you also take comfort and strength from these words today:

God is our refuge and strength, A very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, Even though the earth be removed, And though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; Though its waters roar and be troubled, Though the mountains shake with its swelling. Selah

There is a river whose streams shall make glad the city of God, The holy place of the tabernacle of the Most High. God is in the midst of her, she shall not be moved; God shall help her, just at the break of dawn.

The nations raged, the kingdoms were moved; He uttered His voice, the earth melted. The Lord of hosts is with us; The God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah

Come, behold the works of the Lord, Who has made desolations in the earth. He makes wars cease to the end of the earth; He breaks the bow and cuts the spear in two; He burns the chariot in the fire.

Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!

The Lord of hosts is with us; The God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah
Psalm 46:1-11

Emmanuel, God with us. He is our ever present help. Call on Him today.

Blessings to you this day. 🙏

Grandad’s Useful Hints

Grandad David

For those who have followed my blog for a while you will have read my Grandad’s testimony in Testimony Tuesday – Grandad’s story.

I mentioned to some fellow bloggers recently that Grandad had left us his “Little Book” of Useful Hints which he wrote in from 8 November 1906 until 22 April 1908. I was encouraged by them to share some of his writings and so occasionally I will post some of Grandad’s musings.

This is the first page of his book inscribed with the date at the top, his name and address in Cadiz Street, Leith, Edinburgh. Cadiz Street is still there although I’m sure the tenement building has been refurbished and perhaps replaced. There is a hand drawing of a pair of crossed swords and a plant pot on a stand. I’m not quite sure what the plant drawing has to do with Useful Hints. It may have a deeper meaning or he most probably just liked plants.

His book of jottings has poems, popular songs of the time, facts, proverbs, fables, drawings and as he says “Useful Hints”. Whether they are still useful hints for us today remains to be seen. I hope they will be interesting as they were written over 100 years ago in a different time and culture. Some pearls of wisdom, encouragement and inspiration may perhaps still therein be found waiting to be discovered.

This one particular entry taken from an Aesop’s fable says;

He who puts on a show of learning, of religion of a superior capacity in any respect, or, in short of any virtue or knowledge to which he has no proper claim, is and will always be found to be “an ass in a lion’s skin”.

This wasn’t one of the fables that I was familiar with. The story is that a donkey puts on a lion’s skin which has been left out to dry and scares the other animals who run away in fear. In his pride and joy he “brays” and the fox then realises who it really is and says:

If you had kept your mouth shut you might have frightened me, too. But you gave yourself away with that silly bray

The moral of the story is that a fool may deceive by his dress and appearance, but his words will soon show what he really is.

The Ass in a Lion’s skin

#TestimonyTuesday-Praising God

Today it is 12 months since my dear friend and sister in the Lord, Karen was diagnosed with breast cancer. What a shocking and terrible day that was for us all but especially for her and her family. The prognosis from the hospital was not good. The cancer had also been found in her lymph nodes in her armpit as well as in the breast. She had some lumps in her leg as well but thank God they were not cancerous. There would be an aggressive treatment plan with chemotherapy followed by radiation and surgery.

Today I want to share the good news that Karen is cancer free, Praise God. God has most wonderfully healed her. Not only is she cancer free but after her chemotherapy treatments the Consultant could not find any trace of cancer anywhere. She had been told initially and on many consultations that she would need surgery to remove her breast but eventually because the treatment was so successful a mastectomy was no longer required. Praise God.

Her journey over the last 12 months has undoubtedly been one of sickness, hardship and pain. Covid was rampant during this time and so we were not allowed to see her for days before her treatments as she had to isolate. She lost her hair and had some bad reactions to the Chemotherapy but through it all her faith in God has been solid and she has had a peace that only God through Christ Jesus and the comfort of the Holy Spirit can give in such circumstances.

The importance of prayer, fellowship and being united together in love and faith has been crucial at this time. We have praised, worshipped, prayed, laughed and cried together. The Lord has encouraged us with key bible verses from His word and with songs and prophetic words.

At the start the Lord led us to the story of Hezekiah in 2 Kings 19. When Hezekiah received a letter with a threat from his enemies and bad news, he brought the letter to God at the altar, laid it before God and prayed. God heard Hezekiah’s prayer and answered. We were encouraged and wrote the following prayer letter to God and laid it before His altar on 24 May 2021.

“You have seen O God the threat to Karen’s health and we lay and surrender all that has been diagnosed before you and ask that you will undertake in this situation and use it for Your glory and your will be done. Specifically, we ask that you will strengthen Karen and draw near to her at this time. Speak clearly to her. Refresh her and grant her peace. Grant your favour in terms of the Doctors, Nurses and all those who treat her and the treatment plan. Help her with the pain and treatments. Keep her well and heal this cancer from her body completely. Draw the family to you at this time so they may know and encounter you at this time. Amen.

Thank you Lord for hearing and answering our prayers. To you be all the honour, praise and glory.

The beauty of Holiness

Holiness – it’s a word we don’t hear a lot or generally feel comfortable using these days even in church.

The Bible tells us in 1 Peter 1:15 “But as He who called you is Holy, you also be Holy in all your conduct“.

Our Pastor says when you think of being Holy just think it’s being separated and different to the world because of Jesus.

It seems to me that when we try to be Holy ourselves (apart from Jesus) then it just becomes a religious list of dos and don’ts which lead to frustration and guilt when we fail.

We can end up doing lots of works with little fruit.

A wise person said “Holiness will take care of itself when we see ourselves as the Holy people of God with a Holy destiny“.

The way of holiness is living in and through Jesus.

In Revelation 2 Jesus says to the Church at Ephesus:

“I know your works, your labour, your patience and that you cannot bear those who are evil, and you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not and have found them liars, and you have persevered and have patience and have laboured for My name’s sake and have not become weary, Nevertheless I have this against you; that you have left your first love. Remember therefore from where you have fallen and repent and do the first works

Jesus said they were patient, hardworking, persistent, hated evil – but they no longer had a fervent love for Christ and God out of which their works were to flow.

They had lost their first love.

Jesus said the greatest commandment is “to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and mind” and then “to love your neighbour as yourself“:

I like to think this expression of love unto God and others is Holiness in action.

Joseph Hero of the Faith (8)

Today’s post is no. 8 in my series on Joseph. We have already considered Joseph’s character and what was different about Joseph from his 11 brothers. Today is considering why Joseph’s brothers behaved as they did. If it is helpful here is the link to my earlier post on those behaviours Joseph Hero of the Faith (3)

Where did these bad character traits come from.

The answer is in the bible. Since the fall of Adam and Eve, we are all born into sin. That is our human condition. Reading the bible we see that there were these particular sinful characteristics which ran through this family and their influence increased through the generations. We are familiar I am sure with phrases such as “Like Father, Like Son” or “The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree”.

The bible doesn’t whitewash sin or sinful behaviour and it presents the people of the bible to us warts and all. We see their good parts but we also see their flaws, weaknesses and sinful nature. We only have to read the account of King David to see this. This is why the bible stories are so relatable and we can still learn from people who lived many generations before us.

The first thread of sinful behaviour which really stands out in the family line is Deception.

Examples: – Abraham pretending Sarah was his sister rather than his wife. (Genesis 12:13 and 20:2). This was not a complete lie so there was some truth mixed in. It was only a half-truth though and Abraham purposely did not tell the whole truth which was then misleading and had consequences for others. He kept back the whole truth because of fear.

Deception with a mix of truth is especially dangerous. It’s one way that we as Christians can be vulnerable to false doctrines and teachings today. You can read more about the dangers of deception here Deception – The Gibeonites Story

This same deceitful behaviour was repeated by Abraham’s son Isaac who also pretended his wife Rebekah was his sister (Genesis 26:7) Again the root cause was fear.

Rebekah takes deception further when she persuades her son, Jacob to impersonate his brother Esau and deceives Isaac into giving Jacob the blessing which belonged to Esau. (Genesis 27:6-23). The root cause here being selfish ambition. A blessing stolen.

Your brother came with deceit and has taken away your blessing

There are many more examples of deceitful behaviour spreading its influence through all branches of the family -Uncle Laban deceives Jacob into marrying Leah, Jacob’s sons deceive the schecemites and kill them (Genesis 34: 13-31), Jacob’s sons lied to Jacob that Joseph had been eaten by wild animals and was dead (Genesis 37:29-35)

The other sinful trait which influences this family is Envy and Jealousy.

Examples: Sarah became jealous of Hagar and her son Ishmael (Genesis 16:5-6), Jacob was jealous of Esau, Rachel was jealous of her sister Leah’s children (Genesis 30:1), Leah was also jealous of Rachel’s relationship with Jacob (Genesis 30:5), Laban’s sons became jealous of Jacob (Genesis 31:1). Joseph’s brothers were jealous of him.

This jealousy led to actions which had consequences for all involved. You can read more about the dangers of jealousy here Beware of Jealousy.

The next bad characteristic is Favouritism

Rebekah favoured Jacob over Esau (Genesis 25:28), Isaac favoured Esau over Jacob (Genesis 25:28), Jacob favoured Rachel (Genesis 29:30) Jacob favoured Joseph (Genesis 37) and Joseph favoured Benjamin (Genesis 43:34).

One of the problems with favouritism is it leads to families becoming fractured and split. People take sides. Factions are developed and there is disunity. Resentment, bitterness and anger start to foster and an often overlooked one – Rivalry develops.

Rachel and Leah become rivals for Jacob’s love and affection. They were rivals in who could give him most children which led to the involvement of their handmaidens to provide more and more children. This rivalry influenced their children and the subsequent relationships between the brothers. This was not a harmonious family and so it did not take much to stir up resentment between Joseph and his brothers.

These sinful traits all feed off and influence each other and they got stronger in each generation. The same traits also came through both lines of the family. They were destructive forces in the lives of these families and we see the effects.

This is the problem with the inherent nature of sin. It’s desire is to have us and master us. Once we open the door to it then it’s influence slowly spreads like poison affecting not just us but those around us.

The Lord warned Cain about sin and how it wanted to work in his life.

If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin lies at the door. And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it.” Genesis 4:7

How then can we rule over sin in our lives.

The good news is that we can and there is a way. Jesus Christ is the answer. Jesus has broken the power of sin over us through His death and resurrection and now through the power of the Holy Spirit working in us, we can rule over sin rather than sin ruling us.

Through Christ Jesus, we as disciples of Jesus do not have to accept the things of the past. We can get off that treadmill of sinful behaviour.

The influence of sin and it’s bad fruit can be broken in our lives. Our old sinful nature has been crucified with Christ Jesus and we take up our cross daily. We confess our sins and He is faithful through His great mercy and love to forgive us our sins.

God is at work in us for His good pleasure and God desires to bring about change in us. We do not have to persuade Him. God wills to do it. Hallelujah. It is God’s desire to help us rule over sin in our lives.

We become new creations in Christ Jesus. The old has gone and the new life in God’s Spirit has come.

We no longer have to accept the influence of bad character or believe the lie that “I have always been this way and always will ” or “I can’t change, I have my father’s issues”. To agree with that thinking is to deny the power of the Cross of Jesus Christ.

Change is possible through Jesus.

If we accept the truth about Jesus. Submit our lives to Jesus and allow the power of the Holy Spirit to work in us there can be change that is not just one off but will transform our thinking and behaviours for a lifetime.

That change may be instant in some areas of our lives but in others it may require time as we work out our salvation and learn to walk in the Spirit. We fall but we get back up again. We help and support each other with our struggles and weaknesses.

Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.“ Galatians 5:19-26

Thank you Lord that you have redeemed us from the power of sin in our lives and that you help us in our weaknesses. Refine us Lord and teach us your ways that we may walk like you. Amen.

Following Jesus

This is the way walk in it..

Isaiah 30: 21 says “Your ears shall hear a word behind you saying “This is the way walk in it”. Whenever you turn to the right hand or whenever you turn to the left”.

If you are looking for direction in your life and seeking the path that God wants you to take or a new door is opening up to you then take encouragement from the promise in these verses.  

God will direct your way.

This could be your season for stepping into the new things of God. 

It may be paths that you or no-one else has travelled before, areas which you have never ventured into, things you or nobody else has ever done but take comfort that God will make it clear that you are on the right path.   

God will direct you to move forward into new things.   

Don’t look back at the old or try to do things in the same way but with boldness step into the new.   

This may be a season for God to show you how to do things in a different way.  Don’t worry or be anxious that you don’t know what’s up ahead – trust God.    If you are walking where God wants you to walk then you are going in the right direction.

You may face discouragement – people may think you are crazy even to attempt something new but God will give you the vision and you will hear His still small voice saying “This is the way walk in it“.   

You will know that it is God speaking to you.   

I encourage you to be bold in faith today as you hear Him speak to you.  

Take hold of the opportunity or opportunities which God is bringing your way.

I sense this may be a season for some that God will completely turn things on their head.  God will flip things upside down but you will emerge unscathed.    Allow God to be in the driving seat.

I pray God will increase your vision in these days.  To stir in you a new vision, a bigger vision and to break new ground for Him.  

To see new things and create new opportunities for the gospel to be preached and people to be reached with the good news of Jesus Christ.

I felt prompted to share this post again today. I hope it is a blessing and encouragement to someone reading.

Blessings,

 

Good Advice or Godly Advice

I’m sure that like me you value good advice from trusted people. As a lawyer I’m paid to be a trusted advisor to my clients. Hopefully, I provide good advice which helps them make their decisions.

There was a man in the bible who was renowned for giving good advice. In fact his advice was so good that it was likened to enquiring at the oracle of God. That’s a huge compliment.

The man was called Ahithophel (a name that just trips off your tongue) and he was a trusted advisor to King David.

There is a fascinating story in 2 Samuel 15-17 of the time when the good advice of Ahithophel was thwarted by God. God had different plans.

The background to the story is that Absalom, David’s son, had secretly conspired to rebel against his father and seize the throne. He had gathered together key people to support him, one of whom was Ahithophel. David had fled with his supporters to escape being killed by Absolam who then took up residence in the King’s house.

Now David and his supporters were really concerned when they heard that Ahithophel had sided with Absolam and would be his adviser. They knew that they had to find a way to ensure that Absalom did not follow his good advice as this was a real threat to David.

There were 2 steps to David’s plan. First he rightly gave the situation to God and prayed:

And David said, “O Lord, I pray, turn the counsel of Ahithophel into foolishness!” 2 Samuel 15:31

I find this prayer quite amazing. Praying to God to turn away the good advice of someone. It made me think of the advisers to those in governments especially with the current situation in Ukraine. Whilst advisers may provide good advice to their leaders, is it Godly advice to bring about God’s purposes and plans. Does their advice lead to peace and goodness.

The other part of David’s plan was that one of David’s other trusted advisers, a man named Hushai, would pretend that he had swapped allegiance to Absolam. He would then provide different advice in the hope of persuading Absolam to ignore the good advice of Ahithophel.

The time came for Absalom to make a key decision. He had usurped the throne but David and his supporters were still alive. What should he do. He asked Ahithophel for his advice. He wisely advised Absalom to let him pursue that night with 12,000 armed men and strike whilst there was this golden opportunity to defeat David when he was tired and vulnerable from fleeing in haste. David was in the wilderness with no protection. He would kill David only and bring back his supporters in peace which would please the men of Israel.

Absalom approved of this advice but asked Hushai what he thought. Hushai was bold. He undermined the good advice by introducing doubt of David’s weakness and reminding Absalom of the mighty men of David who accompanied him and of the mighty and crafty warrior David was. Hushai advised Absalom to rather gather all of Israel to pursue David thus delaying the strike whilst the army was gathered and buying David time. He subtly introduced doubt and fear into Absalom’s mind. The result was that Absalom chose to ignore the good advice of Ahithophel and follow the bad advice of Hushai. Therefore the good advice of Ahithophel was overthrown.

So Absalom and all the men of Israel said, “The advice of Hushai the Archite is better than the advice of Ahithophel.” For the Lord had purposed to defeat the good advice of Ahithophel, to the intent that the Lord might bring disaster on Absalom.
2 Samuel 17:14

Now when Ahithophel heard that Absalom had not followed his advice he took drastic action. We read that he returned to his home, put his affairs in order and then killed himself. Now that is an extreme reaction and it wasn’t done in a fit of pique that the King had not followed his advice. Ahithophel realised that his days were now numbered. He knew that by not following his advice, Absalom was going to be defeated by David and lose his grasp on the throne. This meant that as someone who had betrayed David, he would be killed once David returned.

I find this whole story fascinating and especially how it played out. It has really made me think. If you would like to read more of the story then I recommend reading from 2 Samuel chapters 15-19. This includes the subsequent defeat of Absalom and then the wise advice of Joab to David.

Good advice may not be Godly advice.

#Testimony Tuesday ..throwing shoes

Moab is My washpot; Over Edom I will cast My shoe; Philistia, shout in triumph because of Me.”
Psalm 60:8

I read this Psalm today and it reminded me of a time many years ago when the Holy Spirit prompted me to cast (throw) my shoes over a large wire fence onto some waste ground. I’m sure some of you are reading this and thinking that’s a bit strange but please read on and I will explain.

I had been walking with my friend around a local estate where our church had an outreach work. We helped out with a Sunday School and breakfast for the children once a month. It was a deprived estate with a lot of social problems and we were walking and praying for the families on the estate.

As we walked past a piece of wasteland, which was surrounded by this metal chain link fence, I felt stirred that the Lord wanted us to pray for this spot in particular. As we prayed I saw a picture of this barren piece of land becoming a garden. A barren land being redeemed by the Lord and brought back in to use. I was reminded of the verses from Isaiah:

You shall no longer be termed Forsaken, Nor shall your land any more be termed Desolate; But you shall be called Hephzibah, and your land Beulah; For the Lord delights in you, And your land shall be married.
Isaiah 62:4

We continued to pray into the picture and that is when the Holy Spirit impressed on me to throw my shoes over the fence into the land. Not something I had ever done before, nor has it been something the Lord has prompted me to do since.

I shared this prompting with my friend and it witnessed with her too. The thing was she had just bought some brand new boots. She looked wistfully at her boots, looked at the land and then she said Yes…her new boots were going over.

So we prayed and threw our shoes and boots over that fence.

It meant walking back to our car with no shoes on (which drew some strange looks) but we knew in our hearts that the Lord was about something and our obedience to the prompting of the Holy Spirit was a key.

Roll forward several years and that barren wilderness became a community garden. A Christian charity had a vision to create a garden where the residents of the estate could go and learn how to grow veg, fruit and also provide a place where people could meet, talk and engage with each other.

Now it wasn’t just our prayers that brought that about. We were just a small piece in God’s plan and there would have been much prayer, planning and vision from others many years later that made that happen. In that moment though, the Lord showed us with eyes of faith the vision that He had for that land and the community. Perhaps our prayers and actions of shoe throwing were the seed that was sown in God’s timing.

God is so wonderful that He gives us these opportunities to serve Him. To partner with Him in His plans for His glory and to show His love, mercy and goodness to others. When the Holy Spirit prompts you and you know (you know in that deep inner place) that it is the Lord, then I encourage you to step out in faith and trust God with the rest.

Have a blessed day my friends.

Refreshing Company

I’m fortunate still to be away this week having a refreshing break in the beautiful hills and valleys of Wales. Truly beautiful part of this world and our Father’s creation.

I’ve been able to keep up with my reading and enjoyed Alan’s post on refreshment which comes from reading our precious bibles. Praise God.

It inspired me to share a post from last year on refreshing company. I don’t know about you but I know some people who are “drainers”. I come away from time with them feeling emotionally drained. They’ve sucked everything out of me.

Paul talked about another type of people “Refreshers”. I hope you have plenty of those in your life too. Perhaps you are one of them 😀.

“I was glad when Stephanas, Fortunatus and Achaicus arrived, because they have supplied what was lacking from you. For they refreshed my spirit and yours also. Such men deserve recognition”.
1 Corinthians 16:17-18

These bible verses really inspired me today. Oh how blessed we are to have people like a Stephanus, Fortunatus and Achaicus in our lives and in the body of Christ. People who refresh us.

These type of Christian believers are commended by Paul. They must have been a great source of encouragement and Godly wisdom to the early church.

We all need times of refreshing. One of those ways of refreshing is also through other believers, just as Paul and the Corinthians were refreshed by the visit of these 3 men.

As Paul says, such people deserve recognition.

Can I encourage us all to take some time to think about the people who are the refreshing company in our lives. They make us happy when we see them. They give and impart good things. Positive people.

Let’s thank God for them. They are a blessing.

Let’s also make a point of thanking them. It’s good to let such people know that we value them.

Finally, let’s all try to be the “refreshing” company we enjoy so people are happy to see and hear from us. We can be that source of refreshment to others.

Let’s be “Refreshers”.

Have a blessed day friends.