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

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.

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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 🙏

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 2)

So the morning of my first shift arrived and I have to say, I had a few butterflies. I felt like the new kid in town even though this was only the second day of the games. I didn’t know who I would be working with or what I would be doing for the next 7 hours. Excited but nervous is how I’d sum it up.

I picked up my accreditation pass and headed for the workforce registration desk. I was checked in, given a water bottle to keep hydrated (very important) and a meal ticket to exchange for food later (also very important). I was then given a number 2 and a spot number 36. No further information was provided. Mysterious..I was told by another volunteer that 2 was my team for the day and 36 denoted my “spot”. A team leader would explain more at the briefing.

It didn’t take long for the more experienced volunteers (they’d actually only done 1 or 2 shifts themselves by this stage) but had clearly worked out the ropes, to explain to me that if you were given numbers 1-3 that meant you were working somewhere outside all day on your feet. Numbers 4-6 meant you had a role inside the Aquatics Centre where the sporting action was taking place.

Most volunteers were already aiming to be picked for teams 4-6 as that was perceived to be the place to be. It was more exciting, less hard work and you got to watch the action and you might get on TV. Mmmmm…I was listening to all this talk on my first day and already was being influenced by what others thought the best shifts were and feeling I’d landed a sucker. I started to think I want to be inside too. 🤔

The team leaders started calling out the team numbers and asking us to follow them. People dispersed to their teams. I was taken to “area 2” which was the area by the public security check in/tickets and also included the lower concourse. It was the first part of the venue that the public entered after queuing for access. There were some food concessions, a souvenir shop and the big #B2022 sign for photos. There was then a slope leading up to the upper concourse and to the venue. The interesting thing was that the slope arched around and so you couldn’t see what was around the corner or much of the venue itself. It was partly hidden away just out of sight. Being assigned to area 2, I was informed that I had to stay in that area for whole of shift. No venturing into other team areas.

I was to be on ticket scanning duty for the shift. There were 5 of us to process about 4,500 spectators in an hour and a half before the events started. Speed was of the essence. There had been problems the previous day with some re-printed tickets but we would have a “trouble shooter” with us. If a ticket didn’t scan we had to call for help and if necessary people would have to go back to the ticket resolution office. We couldn’t let anyone through without scanning their ticket either printed or on their phones. A successful scan emitted a “ting” and a big green tick. Access granted.

It wasn’t lost on me that I was to be a gate keeper for the day. Interesting.

It soon became apparent once the public had come through security checks that they thought they’d arrived and could walk straight in. They weren’t prepared to be stopped again and asked to show their tickets. They had to be verified. We started to call out to them as they were in security line to get their tickets ready for scanning and that seemed to work. It quickened up the process no end. Preparation was the key. It was all about looking at what was happening and directing people to where they needed to be whilst providing a warm welcome and answering enquiries. I’m no shrinking violet and to be fair soon discovered that I don’t mind shouting out instructions. It would be fair to say that I’m quite loud. Whilst I felt initially that I’d been thrown in at the deep end, once I’d mastered the scanner, overcome some ticketing problems then it was great and I really enjoyed it. It seemed I’d found my niche.

Once everyone had their tickets checked and had gone through the lower part of the concourse then our area quickly became deserted. The event was underway and so I felt a bit redundant at that point but we weren’t allowed to leave our posts because of the “late comers”. Apparently, there are always late comers so someone has to be there ready to check the tickets and grant entry. It was then a lot of hanging about waiting for the latecomers. That was the boring part as we were effectively stood down as the main part of our work was now complete. Nothing more to be done until crowd control for the leavers.

At break I sat with some other volunteers…..talk soon turned to what people were doing. It was fascinating how this was such a hot topic of conversation. Everyone was being defined by their role but we knew nothing of each other’s lives outside of this environment. One of the ladies explained that she was responsible for preparing and carrying the medals out for the medal ceremonies..nice. A very visible role. One of the other chaps said he was down the “alleyway”. This was the area outside the venue that people started to queue after getting off the buses. It wasn’t the nicest of areas and was indeed a very narrow alleyway. You had the terrorism police at one end with their guns, the security teams and you were trying to create a warm and welcoming atmosphere giving high fives to the crowds. It was definitely one of the “invisible” roles and hard work.

It was then the medal lady said something really interesting to Mr alleway. She said “it doesn’t matter what we do, all our roles are important”. However, the way she said it came over as really condescending and insincere. I don’t know if she meant it that way or not but it was one of those awkward moments of silence that followed. I thought oh no, that’s probably exactly what I would have said myself. In fact I could even hear myself saying it in a smug tone of voice. It made me realise that it’s easy to say things like that when you have a perceived great job, but the test is whether you’d be happy to be put anywhere and to carry out any role that you were given in the spirit of teamwork without complaining. Deep down did we really believe that each role was as important and necessary as the other…the honourable and the not so honourable. Wasn’t everyone already scoping out the roles they perceived to be better….there was definitely role envy.

That was a definite challenge to me given I’d already had aspirations for an inside role. However, I decided then that I wasn’t going to ask to be put somewhere else on my next shift but would take what I was given each day. That turned out to be more challenging than I realised because it wasn’t long before I was down the alleyway myself…

To be continued.

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…..

To Know Him

The most beautiful moment of my life was accepting Jesus as my Saviour and surrendering my life to Him. Since then discipleship has been a journey of discovery to know Jesus better and more deeply. Jesus came to show us the Father and through faith in Jesus, to enable us to have a relationship with God. It is in that relationship that we become more Christ like as we live out our Christian faith through obedience to God’s Word and Jesus’ teachings.

Accepting Christ is the start of an amazing journey of faith and not the end in itself.

The Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth has come and dwells in us, to lead us and help us in our discipleship journey. The Spirit convicts us of sin and leads in righteousness and truth, to glorify the Son.

We sometimes think as Christians our goal is to evangelise and once someone has made a commitment to Jesus, it’s job done. But that’s just the start.

Jesus asks us to make disciples and not just converts. We are His witnesses of a new life born again into God’s kingdom. Discipleship is to journey with people and requires love and commitment so that we become rooted and grounded in the truth of the gospel. It’s like bringing people into a family. You wouldn’t invite someone to be part of a family and then just ignore them and leave them to it. You show them how to live life as part of the family. What’s expected of each other. Sharing knowledge, wisdom, gifting, there through the highs and lows, joys, sorrows, successes and failures. Encouraging and supportive. Discipline and love. Forgiveness and grace.

We can journey with many different people as believers in Christ. Some journeys are for different seasons. I’ve been discipled by some incredible people and even now the Lord brings people alongside me who help me grow in faith and develop – sometimes in challenging ways. We have to learn sometimes to let some relationships and people go and move on so they can also grow and develop as the Lord leads. Sometimes we have to move on ourselves. We are a body of believers, members of one another. United in Christ.

I love these bible verses:

Therefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, do not cease to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers: that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come. And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all. Ephesians 1:15-23

Amen 🙏

Lifeline..

On Wednesday at our church prayer meeting, this was the word I heard in my spirit from the Lord – Lifeline.

At the same time I saw us all in a boat that was being tossed about in large waves but in the water were people desperate for help. That is when I hear that word “Lifeline”. I then saw the people in the boats throwing out lifelines to those in the water.

There are many people who need a lifeline. Brothers and sisters in Christ- who can we be that lifeline for today, tomorrow, next week.

I then read Andy B’s testimony of being prompted by the Holy Spirit to buy a packet of biscuits for a lady. It turned out to be the lifeline that woman needed. You can read that testimony here Kindness doesn’t need to be costly

We can throw a lifeline to someone today..reaching out as the Holy Spirit prompts us whether in little acts of kindness or into the deeper things as the Spirit leads for the Lord knows and hears the cries of a wounded heart.

Definitions of a lifeline:

A way of getting help on which you depend:

A rope or line used for life-saving, typically one thrown to rescue someone in difficulties in water or one used by sailors to secure themselves to a boat.

Provide (someone) with a means of escaping from a difficult situation.

A lifeline is a safety feature on a boat, a rope that either protects you from falling off or you throw to someone in difficulty.

A lifeline also protects those on the boat from falling off. This is also important I believe in this season. The boat I saw was not on calm waters but was being tossed around. That may be you today. You are going through a really difficult season. Buffeted from all directions. The Lord’s lifeline is there for you. He is your rock..when you pass through the waters He will be with you.

Lord hear our prayer today. Show us those around us who need a lifeline. Be the lifeline that we throw to help and anchor them securely to you. For those Lord whose faith is wavering and who need a lifeline to protect them in this season from falling off the boat, then let us be those who notice and help them to be rooted in you and not to lose hope or faith. Lord we are so grateful that you are not only in the boat with us but you are the boat Lord. Help us to remain not only attached to you and to each other, but to abide in you always. Amen

Replenish (2)

Recently, the Lord prompted this word “Replenish” to me. I wrote a post about it which you can access here Replenish. At the time, I thought there was more in this word that the Lord wanted me to understand and I have been thinking about it on and off ever since.

As I have prayed, I have been led firstly to these bible verses in Ephesians 1 which talk about Jesus. As with anything, we must always start with Jesus, our cornerstone. I have included the words in brackets as the verses are at the end of chapter 1 to be clear who the Apostle Paul is talking about. I encourage you to read the whole chapter but these are the verses the Lord drew me to.

And He (God) put all things under His (Jesus’) feet, and gave Him (Jesus) to be head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him (Jesus) who fills all in all.
Ephesians 1:22-23

Paul is setting out in these verses the pre-eminence of Jesus Christ and His authority and His position now. Not just in the future but in our very present.

Firstly, God has put all things under Jesus’ feet. Not some things but all things, not just in the natural physical realm that we live in currently, but also in the heavenly realm. There is not one thing that is not beneath Jesus’ feet. Jesus is supreme over all things and has all things at His command.

God has appointed Jesus and given Jesus to be the Head over His church. Jesus is the one who is and should be the Head of us who are His body. Jesus is not detached from us. He is the Head of us. What a gift to us. Jesus who has supreme authority and power is the one who leads, guides, protects, nourishes, feeds and provides for us.

As we read on it says that we as the body of Christ are intended to be the fullness of Jesus. Paul has explained who Jesus is, His position, authority, power and we, His body, are to be the fullness of Him.

I want to meditate on that thought again. As the body of Christ, we are connected to Jesus who is the fullness of all things. Jesus is not remote from us, disconnected or disinterested. Jesus is our source of all goodness, righteousness, love, Godly wisdom, kindness, hope, joy, long suffering, patience, humility, strength, power. Jesus is connected to us as the Head of us and He fills us.

We are called to be filled with Jesus. This is made possible through the gift of the Holy Spirit who is given freely to us. The Spirit of God is now in us. We are exhorted to be filled with the Holy Spirit as believers and disciples of Jesus. The fruit of the Spirit is to be abundant in our lives.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Galatians 5:22

Jesus fills all..that is what the Apostle Paul is teaching us. Jesus fills each one of us who is part of His body. Each one of us can be Replenished…filled up to the level that Jesus intends for us, His body. We are to be filled for His glory and His purposes. The intention is for all who are part of Jesus’ body to be filled with Him.

We are intended to be the fullness of Jesus as His body.

What needs replenishing in us today..let us go to the source Jesus and ask Him to replenish us with His fulness.

My prayer today;

Lord, come by your Holy Spirit and fill each one of us who together are your body. May we, your body, be united under you, our Head. Let us be at one in you so that we may be at one with each other. Knit us together Lord in your love. We want to be the fullness of you, who have given us so freely the gift of the Holy Spirit. Fill us again we ask Lord. Fill your body. Replenish us Lord. Let us be the fullness of you in these days for the glory of your Kingdom. Reign in us Lord Jesus. Unite us and breathe upon us breath of God. Amen.

Bless you today.