The Narrow Gate

So this week, I am blogging “en vacances” as the French say, but from the Peak District and the Derbyshire Dales and not the belle France ….which is where we should be this week coming with the family. Sadly, because of Covid restrictions it was not meant to be. C’est la vie. However, new opportunities beckoned.

It’s been about a 2.5 hour trip from home to get to our new camping ground, so not far, but this is a good opportunity for us to visit some areas we have not considered previously and take our minds off France. Although Covid changed our travel plans, we are blessed in that we live in a tourist destination already. The U.K has beautiful places to visit and although the sun is not guaranteed….as we were always told as kids when sheltering on a windy cold Fife beach, “there is no bad weather wee girl, just bad clothing” 😂

If you have never been to this area of the U.K. then I recommend a visit. The Derbyshire Dales is beautiful and seems much less busy or well known than the Yorkshire Dales, but if you like limestone gorges and beautiful river valleys with babbling brooks then this is for you.

The high Peaks of the Peak District are also great for stretching those legs out, walking to Mam Tor, Kinder Scout. Not that I made it up Kinder Scout (I’m not that energetic) but Mam Tor was just perfect to get my heart pumping. I like a nice river walk me – usually flat but as my husband says, “if you want the views then you got to get up there to the heights”. I tell him “that is why they invented cable cars”.

River walk
Lathkill Gorge
View from Mam Tor

So, to get to the inspiration for this post..the narrow gate. On our first evening here, we ventured for a walk and discovered the “narrow gate”. Here it is..it was the first of many we encountered on our walks in these parts but our first experience of such a gate. As you can see the gate is made of two massive stones, positioned to enable walkers to enter the next field but not the livestock. Let others through and keep others out.

Photo taken at Youlgreave

I seriously struggled to get through it. I literally had to squeeze myself through. I know I’m carrying a few extra Covid pounds but this was ridiculous. My husband thought it was hilarious as I was trying this way and that way and eventually sideways to get through. I don’t know what was going wrong because I should have easily got through the gap. It is very narrow at the bottom and then widens out (a bit) but I seemed to approach it all wrong.

And there lies the rub…with finding and entering through the narrow gate which Jesus talks about. The gate that leads to God and eternal life. We have to approach and enter through the gate (Jesus) in the right way. We can’t take any of our selfish ambitions, pride or get through the gate by belief in our own goodness or good works. My own righteousness and good works are just filthy rags and will not do. They just get in the way and count for nothing.

The good news is that you can enter through the gate by simple faith in Jesus alone. Simple childlike faith. The gate is available to be found by everyone from every nation to find and walk through. There is an entrance fee but Jesus has already paid it for us. He died and paid the penalty for sin so the price is paid in full.

Have you found the narrow gate dear reader and entered through? Or are you approaching the gate in the wrong way and making it too difficult for yourself. Don’t let the things of this world get in the way of walking through that gate. Divest yourself of them and simply come as you are. Believe in Jesus and follow Him.

You can enter God’s Kingdom only through the narrow gate. The highway to hell is broad, and its gate is wide for the many who choose that way. But the gateway to life is very narrow and the road is difficult, and only a few ever find it.
Matthew 7:13-14

“so he (Jesus) explained it to them: “I tell you the truth, I am the gate for the sheep. All who came before me were thieves and robbers. But the true sheep did not listen to them. Yes, I am the gate. Those who come in through me will be saved. They will come and go freely and will find good pastures. The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.

“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd sacrifices his life for the sheep. A hired hand will run when he sees a wolf coming. He will abandon the sheep because they don’t belong to him and he isn’t their shepherd. And so the wolf attacks them and scatters the flock. The hired hand runs away because he’s working only for the money and doesn’t really care about the sheep. “I am the good shepherd; I know my own sheep, and they know me, just as my Father knows me and I know the Father. So I sacrifice my life for the sheep. I have other sheep, too, that are not in this sheepfold. I must bring them also. They will listen to my voice, and there will be one flock with one shepherd. John 10:7-18

Reading the Bible aloud

Do you remember being at school and having to read aloud? I used to break out in a cold sweat at the very thought of it. I’m a natural blusher so the minute I became the focus of attention, I used to burn bright red in the face. I could hear my class mates sniggering and I was so self conscious then that I could hardly get the words out. It was torture to me and I used to dread it. 🥵

When I was in church though it was common for the Bible to be read aloud in a Sunday service, in the prayer meetings and in the bible studies. I became used to the practice of reading God’s Word out loud and started to be able to read out loud more easily and even sometimes from the front of the church. I still blushed like mad but I didn’t seem to let it bother me so much. There was usually a sea of encouraging faces agreeing with the spoken Word of God as the bible was read.

The Lord has been impressing upon me again recently that reading aloud God’s Holy Scriptures is very powerful. We read in Genesis how God spoke creation into being. His Word is in the very fabric of creation. As we speak out the Word of God I believe that creation itself responds. A word spoke in season and in Gods timing does not return void. Isaiah 55 v 11.

You may never have read the Bible out loud before and I encourage you to try it at home, outside or wherever you find yourself at the present time. Reading the Bible with my friends over FaceTime, Zoom or WhatsApp is a real blessing at the moment especially with the Covid situation. God has been encouraging us through His Word. For some I know it can be really hard to read out loud especially in front of others but I have found it to be such a help that I hope you will too.

I believe there is an impact in the spiritual realm when the Word of God is declared out loud. As truth is declared into the airwaves. There is so much false and lies being circulated over all communication channels that speaking out truth is so important. Faith also rises in your heart as you read and hear God’s Word. Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God. Romans 10:17.

I really enjoy being outside and I know from reading other blogs that many of you do too. If you have read some of my other posts you will know that my friends and I will go and pray and read God’s Word at different locations around where we live especially up on the hills and from our local ruined castle walls. You get such great perspective over your town or city from a high viewpoint.

During COVID restrictions it has not been possible to gather as we used to, but where it has been permitted to walk with one or two others then we have continued to do this as the Holy Spirit leads. Last week, we went out for our daily exercise and prayed and read Psalm 18 on our walk. We walked in pairs in different locations in our local area which were all high points from which you could see all over. We read Psalm 18 out loud at the agreed time of 12 noon turning to the North, South, East and West as we did so.

I find during these walks, the Lord shows us different things and brings things to our attention. I always try and look closely at what is happening around me. Last week we noticed the birds. There was a bird in the distance sat right at the top of a tree. It couldn’t have got any higher unless it was flying. It was there for ages but as we read the Psalm the bird flew off at a certain point. God reminded me of some verses in Ecclesiastes which say that a bird in the sky may carry your words and a bird on the wing may report what you say. Ecclesiastes 10:20. It made me think what if the birds themselves carry the word of God as we speak it and repeat it into creation. The Lord certainly works in mysterious ways His wonders to perform.

Here’s the little bird perched on the treetop

Below are the words from Psalm 18 if you feel encouraged to do some reading aloud today. Blessings to you in Jesus precious name. Amen 🙏

“I will love You, O Lord, my strength. The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer; My God, my strength, in whom I will trust; My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. I will call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised; So shall I be saved from my enemies.

The pangs of death surrounded me, And the floods of ungodliness made me afraid. The sorrows of Sheol surrounded me; The snares of death confronted me. In my distress I called upon the Lord, And cried out to my God; He heard my voice from His temple, And my cry came before Him, even to His ears.

Then the earth shook and trembled; The foundations of the hills also quaked and were shaken, Because He was angry. Smoke went up from His nostrils, And devouring fire from His mouth; Coals were kindled by it. He bowed the heavens also, and came down With darkness under His feet. And He rode upon a cherub, and flew; He flew upon the wings of the wind.

He made darkness His secret place; His canopy around Him was dark waters And thick clouds of the skies. From the brightness before Him, His thick clouds passed with hailstones and coals of fire. The Lord thundered from heaven, And the Most High uttered His voice, Hailstones and coals of fire. He sent out His arrows and scattered the foe, Lightnings in abundance, and He vanquished them.

Then the channels of the sea were seen, The foundations of the world were uncovered At Your rebuke, O Lord, At the blast of the breath of Your nostrils.

He sent from above, He took me; He drew me out of many waters. He delivered me from my strong enemy, From those who hated me, For they were too strong for me. They confronted me in the day of my calamity, But the Lord was my support. He also brought me out into a broad place; He delivered me because He delighted in me.

The Lord rewarded me according to my righteousness; According to the cleanness of my hands He has recompensed me. For I have kept the ways of the Lord, And have not wickedly departed from my God. For all His judgments were before me, And I did not put away His statutes from me. I was also blameless before Him, And I kept myself from my iniquity.

Therefore the Lord has recompensed me according to my righteousness, According to the cleanness of my hands in His sight. With the merciful You will show Yourself merciful; With a blameless man You will show Yourself blameless; With the pure You will show Yourself pure; And with the devious You will show Yourself shrewd. For You will save the humble people, But will bring down haughty looks.

For You will light my lamp; The Lord my God will enlighten my darkness. For by You I can run against a troop, By my God I can leap over a wall. As for God, His way is perfect; The word of the Lord is proven; He is a shield to all who trust in Him. For who is God, except the Lord? And who is a rock, except our God? It is God who arms me with strength, And makes my way perfect.

He makes my feet like the feet of deer, And sets me on my high places. He teaches my hands to make war, So that my arms can bend a bow of bronze. You have also given me the shield of Your salvation; Your right hand has held me up, Your gentleness has made me great. You enlarged my path under me, So my feet did not slip.

I have pursued my enemies and overtaken them; Neither did I turn back again till they were destroyed. I have wounded them, So that they could not rise; They have fallen under my feet. For You have armed me with strength for the battle; You have subdued under me those who rose up against me. You have also given me the necks of my enemies, So that I destroyed those who hated me. They cried out, but there was none to save; Even to the Lord, but He did not answer them. Then I beat them as fine as the dust before the wind; I cast them out like dirt in the streets.

You have delivered me from the strivings of the people; You have made me the head of the nations; A people I have not known shall serve me. As soon as they hear of me they obey me; The foreigners submit to me. The foreigners fade away, And come frightened from their hideouts. The Lord lives! Blessed be my Rock! Let the God of my salvation be exalted.

It is God who avenges me, And subdues the peoples under me; He delivers me from my enemies. You also lift me up above those who rise against me; You have delivered me from the violent man. Therefore I will give thanks to You, O Lord, among the Gentiles, And sing praises to Your name. Great deliverance He gives to His king, And shows mercy to His anointed, To David and his descendants forevermore.
Psalm 18:1-50

The One True God who can save us -Our Father in Heaven

Isaiah 45 v 18-22  “For thus says the Lord

Who created the heavens,

Who is God,

Who formed the earth and made it,

Who has established it,

Who did not create it in vain,

Who formed it to be inhabited:

I am the Lord, and there is no other.

I have not spoken in secret, In a dark place of the earth;

I did not say to the seed of Jacob,

Seek Me in vain,

I, the Lord speak righteousness,

I declare things that are right.

Assemble yourselves and come;

Draw near together,

You who have escaped from the nations.

They have no knowledge, who carry the wood of their carved image,

and pray to a god that cannot save.

Tell and bring forth your case;

yes let them take counsel together.

Who has declared this from ancient time?

Who has told it from that time?

Have not I the Lord?

And there is no other God besides Me,

A Just God and a Saviour:

There is none beside Me;

Look to me and be saved,

All you ends of the earth!

For I am God and there is no other.

I believe that there is only one true God in heaven whose son is Jesus Christ who died and rose again and has conquered sin and death.  

He alone is able to save us from our sins.   

Look to God in these days and put your trust in His unfailing love & mercy.   

He is a merciful & gracious God.  Cry out to Him for help and He will surely hear you and answer you.

There is none other able to stretch forth His hand from heaven and save us apart from Him.   Trust in Him and He will not let you down.

Psalm 9: 9  “The Lord also will be a refuge for the oppressed.  A refuge in times of trouble. And those who know Your name will put their trust in you: For you Lord, have not forsaken those who see You.”

God’s glory and righteousness will be revealed.  

I pray and ask God to arise in these times and have mercy on us, to move on our behalf and to save us from this dreadful disease Covid 19 which is ravaging the nations and killing people. 

Rescue us O Lord we ask as there is no-one who can help us at this time to stop this disease and miraculously deliver and heal us. 

There is only you who can do this.  Only you Oh Lord who have the power to do this. 

Show your mighty power in these days.  Hear our prayers God through the precious name of your son Jesus Christ who makes intercession on our behalf before Your throne.

v19 “Arise O Lord; Do not let man prevail, let the nations be judged in your sight.  Put them in fear O Lord, that the nations may know themselves to be but men”.

 

Hey Jude – it’s good advice

Jude – it’s that small book in the bible just before Revelation – very easy to miss.    It might be small but it certainly packs a punch and it’s probably not the subject of a sermon that we hear much in church these days.   It’s key messages are as relevant for today’s church as they were when Jude wrote them.

Jude warns us to:

  1.  Watch out for people who are just pretending to be holy but abuse the grace of God & sacrifice of Jesus and keep right on sinning, then repent & sin again – especially sexual sin.  There is no intention of true repentance.  Don’t follow their example or be led astray by their behaviour.
  2. Watch out for people who despise authority -they are not submissive but proud and will not listen.  They cause division and stir up trouble.
  3. Watch out for those who speak disdainfully & disrespectfully about things they do not understand – especially things of the spirit realm.
  4. Such people are selfish & motivated by greed and a desire for recognition.   They are takers not givers.
  5. These are people who will change their opinions and allegiances – they are easily swayed.   They will agree with whatever view is popular.   They have no firm faith.
  6. These people are grumblers & faultfinders – always moaning and complaining.  Nothing is ever good enough.   They are dissatisfied & disappointed.
  7. They are boastful and living for their own pleasures – people who will flatter & manipulate for their own benefit.
  8. These people follow the flesh and not the Spirit.

We need to be aware of any such behaviour so that we do not agree with it, align ourselves with it or fall victim to it.   Jude’s advice is:

  1.  Build our faith up in Jesus,  keep praying in the Holy Spirit and rest in God’s love & mercy;
  2.  Discern those who are doubting or weak in faith – help to disciple such people and build their faith;
  3.  Show mercy and reach out to help those that are weak – treat them with compassion.      We can all stumble and fall and need a helping hand from each other.     There is a difference between those who are wilfully being disobedient to God and doing ungodly things and treating the sacrifice and blood of Jesus as an excuse to sin.
  4. Warn about the consequences of such ungodly behaviour (in a Godly & truthful way).

The Fountain & Water Gates

The Fountain Gate –   Nehemiah repaired the Fountain Gate.   This gate reminds me of Jesus – who is the fountain of living water- and also the daily power of the Holy Spirit working in our lives.    There is a living well of spiritual water for us to draw from daily.    It is an inexhaustible supply that will never run dry.      Jesus said we never need to thirst again when we come to Him because He is the living water.   He can satisfy our thirst in all areas and bring refreshing to us.    When we are tired, weary or discouraged then we can come to the Fountain Gate and be refreshed.    We can drink deeply of Jesus and be restored.      If we forsake the living water then we will be dry and empty with nothing to give.  Our source of spiritual life is Jesus.

timelapse photography off water fountain
Photo by Gabriel Peter on Pexels.com

 

The Water Gate –    This gate speaks to me of the power of the word of God which is at work in our lives.    The bible teaches us that we are washed by the word of God.      The word of God is powerful and true – a test of our thoughts and intentions.   When we read, meditate and act on the Word of God then we see the fruit if its out-working in our lives and it keeps us on the right path.

The Water Gate was the only gate which didn’t need repair.    The word of God endures for ever.     God’s word doesn’t need to be improved,  added to or altered – it is complete just as it is.   It is the best manual for a successful and fulfilling life.