Persecuted…

“If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. If they kept My word, they will keep yours also. But all these things they will do to you for My name’s sake, because they do not know Him who sent Me. If I had not come and spoken to them, they would have no sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin. He who hates Me hates My Father also. If I had not done among them the works which no one else did, they would have no sin; but now they have seen and also hated both Me and My Father. But this happened that the word might be fulfilled which is written in their law, ‘They hated Me without a cause.’ “But when the Helper comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify of Me. And you also will bear witness, because you have been with Me from the beginning.”
John 15:18-27

My friend Dean at Gospel Road 66 is writing a series about prayer for the persecuted church. It is a reminder to us all that persecution is happening amongst the body of believers with some of our brothers and sisters in Christ facing incredible levels of hardship and physical sufferings and death for the sake of their faith. You can find his first post here Praying for the Persecuted Church

The Apostle Paul says in many of his letters that he never ceased thanking God and praying for the saints. Today can I encourage you to take 5 to thank God for our brothers and sisters around the world and to pray for those who are being persecuted for their faith.

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.

Then…

A repost today dear friends on the power of a very small word. Since last Thursday and the death of our Queen Elizabeth II, we as a nation under God are in a “Then” moment. We are in times of huge change that require prayer before God that His will for our nation and our new King Charles III come into alignment. Let us join our prayers brothers and sisters in Christ with our nation at this key time of transition and change.

Then is such a little word but it is can be so powerful. It’s a word which speaks of change. There is a before and THEN something happens which changes the story.

In Genesis, we read the story of Noah. The flood has come upon the earth and Noah, his family and the animals are in the ark. They obeyed God’s instructions and went into the Ark and then God shut the door.

“So those that entered, male and female of all flesh, went in as God had commanded him; and the Lord shut him in.”
Genesis 7:16 NKJV

It was after obedience that the THEN came and God shut the door. Sometimes, we are waiting for God to act and the THEN to happen but we maybe haven’t done our part to enable the THEN. Something at our end needs to change.

Dear brother Alan posted the other day about prayer warriors still being required. You can read that post here which I recommend if you have not yet read it. https://devotionaltreasure.wordpress.com/2021/12/31/2022-prayer-warriors-still-required.

There is an often quoted portion of scripture which contains one of the most powerful THENs in the bible.

If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.
2 Chronicles 7:14 NKJV

Prayer changes things and brings about the THEN. If we want to see change then let us seek God’s Will and act on it. Let us be Prayer Warriors for change.

Bless you my friends.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

In Green Pastures

I was searching on my bookcase yesterday for a book by C S Lewis. I know I have it but I couldn’t find it anywhere. I have probably either lent it to someone or put it elsewhere. I easily lose track of my books and am also a bit of a magpie. I did find several books lent to me though which I’ve yet to return. Whoops and apologies to those who thought they’d lost them.

My searching wasn’t fruitless though because I came across this tiny little book called “In Green Pastures” by J R Miller. He is not an author I had heard of before but he is credited in this book as being the author of another book called “ Come ye apart”. That sounds like a book worth reading doesn’t it..Come ye apart.

The title of the book had caught my eye as we have recently studied Psalm 23 in church and I thought the book was on that theme. However, it’s actually a Daily Devotional. It’s been clearly written in another generation, which you can tell from the language used, but there is no date of publication inside.

A quick search on Amazon though revealed it was first published in 1904 and you can still buy this book. That’s longevity. Dr. James Russell Miller was born in 1840 in Frankfort Springs Pennsylvania and died on 2 July 1912. He wrote quite a number of Christian books which are available still. He may be more familiar to my fellow American blogging friends? I’d be interested to hear.

The book was given to my late mother in law, Clare, by a friend who had written these words on the first page:

To Clare, in remembrance of many happy days, with love and all good wishes…”Hold fast that which thou hast”. Revelation 3:11

What a lovely inscription. I am sure each time our dear Clare picked up this little book, she thought of her friend and those words encouraged her. I love the exhortation to hold fast that which you have. Our faith and trust in Jesus is so precious. The most precious thing we have and not to be taken lightly or for granted. Let us be encouraged today to hold fast what we have been given through the grace and mercy of God.

Clare must have valued this little book because she had kept it all her life. We found it amongst her possessions when she died. It was precious to her so we didn’t want to part with it either. It has sat on the bookshelf though unread. Who knows what little treasures I will now find within.

Anyway, I am digressing, but if you are looking for another daily devotional then perhaps you could consider this little book. Even though it is written over a hundred years ago, God’s truths are constant. Culture may change around us, blown by winds of change, but God’s Word stands firm like a beacon in the darkness. I thought I would share today’s devotional on the Sin of Thoughtlessness below:

Lord please forgive me my thoughtlessness and for causing hurt to others even unintentionally. Help me through your Holy Spirit to be kind, gentle, loving, thoughtful and considerate particularly today and in the weeks ahead. I pray for a gentle heart. Amen 🙏

Influence

Influence…this was a word that the Lord spoke to my heart recently and I have been pondering it.

It’s very important that I recognise what it is that is influencing me. Ideas or emotions that are shaping my thinking or actions. The Lord wants me to be aware of what is influencing me.

Subtle influences conforming and trying to mould me to this world’s culture which may be more influential than I realise.

Influence….whether we admit it or not we are all influenced by something or someone. That someone can also be us….our “old” selves rather than our “new” man in Christ.

So something to consider…..our actions, thoughts, desires, decisions, plans….what is influencing them.

The decisions we make or see others make (which may or may not affect us) they are all influenced.

Some sources of influence are open and transparent but other influences are subtle, manipulative, controlling and coercive. We don’t want to get caught in a trap of those influences.

There are influences which we can discern are clearly for good and then others which would lead us into ungodly things.

It’s interesting to me that there is this social phenomenon of “Influencers”…people given this label who are “Influencers” because of the power of their social media presence and amount of followers. Advertisers flock to their sites.

As I have thought about sources of influence in my life, I have made a note of the following, you may think of others and I’d be interested to hear:

My bible/Jesus and His teachings,The Holy Spirit’s leading

Me/My emotions (good or bad), my experiences, my character

My husband/My parents/family

My friends

Work

My Pastor/His preaching

My fellowship group at church

Bloggers that I follow/connect with

Newspapers/Magazines/Books

Television/Films

Songs/music

Twitter/LinkedIn/Instagram

Alcohol (any amount will “influence” our behaviour)

I’ve written all these down as I thought about them but it may not necessarily be the case (all the time) that those at the top of the list influence me the most or those at the bottom the least.

What weight do I give to these influences in my life. How long do I spend with each one. Which are more reliable.

Test, weigh, prove. In court as a juror you have to weigh the evidence given. An eye witness account from a plausible witness corroborated by one or two others will far outweigh hearsay or second hand testimony. The evidence is tested and weighed through questioning and cross examining. The trustworthiness of the witness tested.

Are we influenced by things taken at face value without testing the source?

Through the media, it seems people can be whipped up into a frenzy of emotion and opinion very quickly and sometimes over seemingly nothing or things subsequently proven to be false or fake news.

Psalm 24 encourages us to swing wide and open the gate and let the King of Glory, Jesus, come in.  

The Gates of the City were historically important places of influence and decision making. The elders gathered at the gates of the city to discuss and make decisions.

The Gates were opened to allow access or shut to refuse entry and for protection and safety of the citizens within.

The Gates were large, strong and often barred and guarded.

We all have gateways of influence in our lives and minds. 

Every day we make decisions to permit or refuse things to operate in our lives and indwell our thoughts whether for good or bad.

Let us guard the gates of influence in our lives.

I want the gates of influence in my life to be opened wide for Jesus Christ’s influence.  Not just a little bit open for Jesus but flung wide open.

Come Lord Jesus come.

Expectation – What is my expectation

On Thursdays, I publish something from my archives which has inspired or challenged me in the past. Today’s reminder was about Expectation and some questions I asked myself 2 years ago.

I have been thinking about this today and it is a challenge.   What am I hoping/expecting to receive from God when I pray to Him or seek Him for direction in my life?

Do I have a confident expectation in the goodness of God?

I sense God is saying– What is your expectation of me?  

Don’t be limited by past experiences.

Widen your expectation – expect the unexpected.

God can do immeasurably more than we can do or think.  

Do I come to Him with a limited expectation based on past experiences or disappointments and a misunderstanding of His word and character?  

The truth is that God can do awesome things and totally surprise us by His amazing love, grace and mercy.

It is easy to get in a rut and expect the same to happen all the time.

Expectation can be stifled through habit and tradition.

I am being encouraged to allow the Lord to guide and shape my thinking by His Word and hence my expectations – After all – God’s ways are far above our ways.

God reminded me of the story in the Acts of the Apostles of the lame man who was seated outside of the gate Beautiful begging for money.  

He must have sat there day in and day out holding out his hands expecting to receive money from the people going in and out of the temple.

He had the same expectation of Peter & John, but they gave the lame man so much more than he expected. They gave him healing and restoration by the power of Jesus Christ. What a beautiful day that was at the Gate.

It was interesting that the story also says that the people around did not expect a miracle of healing either because the man was said to be “old” – he was above 40 years of age – goodness what an expectation!

Does our age and what other people think of us affect our expectation of God – that we are too old, too young or don’t qualify for God to move in our lives in power.

God forbid.

The beautiful aspect of this story is that the lame man received so much more than he expected to receive. It is such an amazing demonstration of God’s abundant love and mercy.

I pray for us all to have a right expectation in the goodness of God, not limited by past experiences but to be inspired by the Holy Spirit to increase our expectation and expect the unexpected.

Amen 🙏

The Perfect Plan of God – Harmony

Today, I am reposting a post from 2018. I find it useful to go back and read some of my old posts and discover again some things the Lord has put on my heart and encouraged me with at various times, especially when I’m in a period which is extremely busy at work and I can feel overwhelmed. This post reminding me that God is sovereign and has a perfect plan for each of us reassures me that my future is secure in Him and to keep my eyes fixed on Him. I am in Him and He is in me which brings great peace and comfort to my soul.

2018 – God reminded me today that even though at times my life seems chaotic and overwhelming to me when I am trying to balance work, family, home and many other things which distract me, the truth is that He is always right there with me and I am made right with Him through Jesus.   

I am living out His perfect plan for my life because He is in it.     I don’t have to earn it or work at it – I just have to accept the greatest gift which Jesus has given to me – the gift of relationship with God.

I wrote down the following words which came to me as I spent some time with God today:

My children,  From the very foundation of the world I had a plan and My plan has not altered.    It is a plan set in the heavenly realm and My son Jesus achieved and accomplished in perfect obedience and perfect sacrifice and in perfect timing that plan.   Every person on earth who has ever lived and was created with life has a place in My perfect plan.    There is no-one who has ever lived who is not able to partake.  None has been left out.  

I long that all would come into My perfect plan for their lives.   My plan is simple.  It consists of relationship between Father, Son, Holy Spirit and you in perfect harmony of relationship.  There is nothing which can stop you being part of My plan.  

All that is necessary is humble acceptance of My son’s sacrifice and offering of Himself for you.  He has obtained by His death and resurrection the keys of death and hell so that the door is open to walk into the perfect plan for your life.   No other plan will bring you the desires of your heart for no other plan can bring you into perfect harmony with Me.  It is simple and it is true.  There is only one plan which is perfect and so why accept anything less for yourselves.

sky sunset person silhouette

I hope that you have found that perfect plan in Jesus for your life with God. It’s called the gospel – the good news. The bible teaches that sin has separated us from God but Jesus, who had no sin, became that bridge to God by dying in our place. Jesus took the punishment that our sins deserved and made it possible to be reconciled with God and adopted into God’s family. We have to acknowledge our sin, accept Jesus as our saviour and then commit to following Jesus as a disciple for the rest of our lives, growing in the knowledge of God and His Kingdom being filled with the Holy Spirit and expressing God’s love to others. Telling others the good news about Jesus.

You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! Not only is this so, but we also boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation. Romans 5:6-11

 

 

Gates -The Rubbish Gate

Just as the name suggests this gate which Nehemiah rebuilt was the one used to get rid of the rubbish and waste from the city. The rubbish has to go somewhere.

I don’t know about you but even after being a Christian for over 40 years, I am still a work in progress. Working out my salvation. I sin (even when I don’t want to or intend to) and get things wrong. However, I don’t write myself off. Even though I sin, I know that the power of sin over me has been broken because of the work of Jesus Christ at the Cross.

I repent when I know I have done wrong or when the Holy Spirit convicts me and I am forgiven and cleansed by the power of the blood of Christ. The rubbish is swept out of the door. When the accuser comes to me I just point to the blood of Jesus and he has nothing on me. The slate is wiped clean.

I don’t use the grace of Christ as a licence to sin though but I rely on the grace of God in my life and the work of the Holy Spirit to convict me of sin. Keeping short accounts and pursuing a life in Christ.

If there is still rubbish in your life or you are carrying it around then I encourage you to get rid of it. It is only choking the word of God and the fruit of the Spirit from maturing in us. If we allow the Holy Spirit to search our hearts then He will convict us of sin. Keeping our hearts soft so they do not become hardened by sin and disobedience.

Guard the gate to your heart. There is so much rubbish out there in the world, don’t let it through the gates to contaminate and pollute your soul and mind.

What rubbish needs to be out of our lives today? Let’s be ruthless with it and get rid of it – once and for all through Jesus.

Photo by Emmet on Pexels.com

Gates-The Fish Gate

The Fish Gate is another gate which was rebuilt by Nehemiah. Fishes have been associated with Christianity for many years. The sign of the fish is still a symbol you see denoting Christian faith.

As followers of Jesus Christ we are called to be “fishers of men”.

The body of Christ has been given the great commission to go out into all the world and make disciples of Jesus. It is the mandate from Christ to His church.

If we just put all of our efforts into catching fish though and seeing converts, people being saved, but we don’t disciple them properly afterwards, then we shouldn’t be surprised if we don’t see any growth or maturity and people fall away from faith. The Christian life is one of walking daily with Jesus and serving God and each other.

Discipleship requires service, commitment, love and sacrifice. In order to walk alongside people, especially people who are hurting, we will need grace, patience, empathy and love in abundance. The Holy Spirit will help us to develop the fruit of the Spirit in us as we disciple others.

It’s such a blessing to help other believers to grow and mature in faith in Jesus. There is a cost to following Jesus and it’s important that we present the whole gospel to people. The Christian life can be one of suffering, hardship and persecution because of our faith in Jesus and preparing people for that is a key part of discipleship. The Lord is with us in all circumstances of life, the ups and downs. Our God is big enough to handle the challenges and hard questions. We do a dis-service to God if we do not study and present the whole of scripture.

So are the nets (our churches) ready for the catch or do they need some repair work to avoid people falling through the gaps. Are you personally willing to receive and disciple new converts. If you are a follower of Christ then I encourage you to share your testimony and life with others who are new to the faith and disciple them. Help them and strengthen them to grow and mature in Christ and share your experiences with them. We all have something to offer in service to Jesus. Is there someone that you can take under your wing today or give a supporting hand?

We often leave the discipling to others but as someone said it’s just an invitation to someone to “come journey with me as I journey with Jesus”.

Jesus invites us to follow Him and become more like Him. That is the discipleship journey – to become like the Master. We are all on the journey together, at different stages, but we can all help each other to keep pressing on to the finishing line.

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,