The Grand day out

Morning friends. Friday is here and we are nearly at the weekend. I will share a little secret with you today. My husband (the romantic soul he is) is taking me out for the day on Saturday. A whole day. Just himself and I. No dog, no daughters – just the two of us.

He has planned a trip to Stratford upon Avon, birthplace of William Shakespeare. Stratford is a beautiful place on the river and I love it. The historic buildings, the theatre, the winding streets, museums, shops, pubs, cafes, tourists, street performers. Its a great place.

As a special treat for me he has booked tickets see the play – Much Ado About Nothing. You see I love a bit of a Shakespeare. I studied Shakespeare and have read and watched lots of the plays. This is one of the comedies, but a modern interpretation so I’m really looking forward to it.

Theatre at Stratford viewed from the River

Anyway, I digress. My trip has reminded me of the inspiration for one of my previous posts called the Truth will always out which was inspired by Lady Macbeth. I hope you enjoy it again.

Matthew 5 v 8. Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God.

There is a very dramatic scene in Shakespeare’s play “Macbeth” when Lady Macbeth is observed at night sleep walking and “washing” her hands over and over in an attempt to clean them from the “blood” which only she can see on her hands.      She keeps repeating over and over “out damned spot out” but no matter how often she cleans her hands it has no effect.    The “blood” is still there and she knows it. 

Those watching her sleep walking think she has gone mad because they cannot see any blood on her hands. As far as they know she hasn’t murdered anyone or spilled blood– her hands are to all intents and purposes clean.

Her unconscious actions though whilst asleep however betray the truth.

Lady Macbeth was to all intents and purposes a murderer. She had persuaded her husband to murder the King and now she was suffering from guilt and revealing through her actions what had previously been hidden in her heart.      Her heart was certainly not pure as it was full of murderous thoughts, jealousy and scheming ambition.   Consequently, her apparently clean hands were not really clean at all. 

She was the ultimate hypocrite whose heart betrayed her.  

The story of Lady Macbeth is rather an extreme example but I hope it might makes us stop and think and consider our own hearts and what motivates us.   We can all put on a good show (myself included) but impurity in our thoughts and character will eventually come out no matter how much we might try to hide or pretend it’s not there.  

Jesus taught his disciples that it wasn’t enough to just observe the religious rituals of the day because it was the evil thoughts which came out of their hearts which actually defiled them and shaped their actions. 

Jesus had a lot to say about hypocrisy and wasn’t shy to challenge the religious people of the day.  

I believe Jesus issues the same challenges to us, His followers, today.

Jesus didn’t mince His words.   He called the Pharisees “whitewashed” tombs and accused them of being too concerned with appearing holy to others but actually inside they were full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.     

The religious leaders of the day were so meticulous in enforcing, and on the face of it obeying all the laws and traditions, but in practice they were not living out a pure life but were full of “extortion and self-indulgence”.   The outside of the cup may have been clean but not the inside.

Matthew 5 v 8. Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God. 

These words of Jesus show us that it must be possible to become pure in heart otherwise Jesus would be lying.  I believe that Jesus is truth so this statement would on that principle be true.    

The bible teaches us that we cannot be pure through our own efforts – it is impossible.  

The Old Testament points us to the need for a Saviour.    I believe that Jesus is that Saviour who makes this possible. Jesus is the only one who can make us clean from sin by His sacrifice on the Cross and His blood shed for us to cleanse us from sin. 

The apostle Paul teaches us that “Jesus loved the church and gave himself for her that he might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of the Word in order to present her as a glorious church without spot or wrinkle or any such thing but that she should be holy and without blemish” i.e. pure.

Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross ensures that we can daily come and take hold of His blood to cleanse and purify us.   However, we must not treat his sacrifice with contempt and pay lip service when we are convicted of sin.      True repentance means turning away from sin. Changing our behavior. Replacing the old wrong behaviors and thoughts with the right and Godly ones.

I believe in the biblical promise that one day when we die in faith we will then be with and see God.    To be absent from the body as Paul put it and present with the Lord.    However, I think that Jesus’ promise that we will see God can be evidenced in our behavior in our everyday lives.  

When we are hypocritical and our actions do not mirror what we say we believe or what God requires of us in his Word then we do not “see” God at work in our lives or in the lives of others around us.  

However, when we submit ourselves to God and allow Him to work in us and to change us by the power of the Holy Spirit, then I believe we “see” God at work in the changes we experience in our character and motives.     We become more Christ like in our attitudes and so we see God’s character reflected in us and our actions to others.   

I know for myself and I am sure that others can testify to the changes that have taken place in them since becoming Christians.   Some of the immediate changes in my behavior were more obvious and noticeable (my lifestyle changed dramatically when I came back to the Lord) and I think it can be the same for a lot of people.   The lifestyle changes are usually the first to be seen. 

However, some changes in character and behavior are a deeper work of the Holy Spirit especially if we are “blind” or don’t want to acknowledge those character flaws within us. This is when the Word of God and applying the Word is so important as we can use the Word to hold ourselves to account.

1 Peter 2 says Lay aside all hypocrisy –desire the pure milk of the word that you may grow thereby and Romans 12: “Let love be without hypocrisy”.

True Christian love in our hearts will show itself through our actions.

These are certainly the days for action.

We are in a new day of opportunity in how we live out our Christian faith daily- the old pattern & structure of church attendance is not the same any more. We are not pew fillers and were never just meant to be “Sunday believers”. I believe we are now less “building focused” and more “body of Christ” focused.

It is difficult to acknowledge that our hearts might not be right before God and to humble ourselves. 

I am not perfect by any means and some days the thoughts and motives of my heart are anything but pure. I would be lying if I said otherwise, but I love the fact that God’s grace is at work in my life. I take confidence from the fact that “He who has begun a good work in me will complete it” Phil 1:6.

There is an encouraging prayer in the Psalms – Psalm 51 –A prayer of repentance which can help us. 

David acknowledged that he needed to be cleansed from his sins and that God “desires truth in the inward parts”. David certainly knew what he was talking about – the sinful desires of his heart had also led him to contrive a murder (rather like our fictional Lady Macbeth) which he then tried to cover up but God revealed the truth through his prophet, Nathan. David was truly repentant and experienced God’s redeeming love.

Can I encourage us all that our prayer to God this week is “Create in me a clean heart O’ God”.

Family Time

Morning friends and welcome to the weekend. I had a different post for this morning but I think the Lord had other ideas so I have put it back into drafts for another day. This week for me has been a hard one at work with lots of challenges and I’m sure there are some other readers out there who may be thinking the same. I’m really glad to have this weekend to rest and recharge my batteries. The Lord certainly knows that we need to have time to come away and rest.

The weekend for me is a break from the demands of work, it’s precious family time and I also look forward to fellowshipping with my church family on Sunday.

“I rejoiced with those who said to me,
    “Let us go to the house of the Lord.”

Psalm 122: 1

These bible verses came to me this morning as I was meditating and spending time with the Lord. I thought yes, that is how I feel when I go to join my church family. I’m joyful. I’m excited and expectant. I’m really happy to be with them for lots of reasons. Not only because they love, encourage, bless me and strengthen me but I am blessed by our times of corporate praise & worship and prayer. I not only receive but I also have the opportunity to serve. Giving and Receiving.

The preaching is also excellent – Our pastor has started a new series on Romans and the teaching is edifying and it is Christ Centred with a focus on Discovery, Discipleship and Declare. We are on a journey together to discover God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit and our story in His story (the Bible), to be discipled and grow in the Word, firmly rooted in sound Christian doctrine and then to declare – share our testimony and faith with others.

Now you may be reading this and thinking that is not what I feel about Church family. I can understand that because at one stage in my life I felt like that too. I was so badly hurt by “Church” that I vowed that I would never step foot in a church again. I never lost my faith in God but I spent 12 years in a wilderness until the Lord drew me back to a loving church family. I repented and broke that vow off my life because I realised that I had been deceived and robbed of such a beautiful gift of fellowship.

Now I could have justified my behaviour and stayed in that wilderness. No doubt I could also have found people with the same or worst experiences and we would have reinforced in each other that justification for never going to Church again. The Lord knew my experiences and how I had been hurt. However, God also knew the plans He had for me and it wasn’t to leave me in that wilderness. God loved me too much for that and He loves you as well. God healed my hurts and led me to the right fellowship of believers.

The Lord knows today how you have been hurt too. He healed me and He can heal you too. I pray today that the Lord will speak into your heart, bring release and healing to the pain so that you can once again find believers who will help you start on a journey of fellowship again.

If this speaks to you then take it slowly is my advice. One step at a time. It doesn’t have to be anything big or overwhelming to start the journey back. It could be a small step to connect with a fellow believer – the Lord puts us in families for our benefit. I believe the Lord has the right family for you and I pray that the Holy Spirit will lead you and bring you into that family. I just really believe it’s time to move from that place of wilderness to a place of family. Making the heart decision to ask the Lord to lead you to the right family for you will be the start that is needed.

Bless you today my friends.

We all need a helping hand

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Feed My lambs, Feed My Sheep

These were the instructions which Jesus gave to his disciple Simon Peter, when he met him again in Galilee after His death and resurrection.

This was the same Simon Peter who had denied knowing Jesus in his time of trial. Jesus had told Peter that he would deny Him but Peter had protested that he was ready to go to prison and even death for Jesus. It wasn’t to be the case, but Jesus knew that.

It must have been really difficult for Simon Peter to face Jesus again after letting him down so badly, to believe that Jesus would still want him, Peter, to be involved in His ministry and to trust him to look after His flock. What a responsibility. What a calling.

Jesus did trust him though. Even when Jesus knew that Simon Peter would deny him, He comforted Peter by telling him that even after his denial Peter would return and be restored to relationship with Him.

Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift all of you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.’
Luke 22:31-32

Jesus had a task for Peter to do..to strengthen his brothers. The other disciples would need Peter’s support, faith, encouragement and example of humility. I can imagine it was a different Peter who met with his brothers again after his experiences.

I was reminded today of a picture which was shared by a dear brother in Christ at one of our Sunday morning services many years ago. He saw in his vision a long banqueting table. On the table were bowls of soup ready to eat.

The guests at the banquet (members of the church) took their seats facing each other ready to eat. However, when they picked up the spoons they were far too long. It was impossible to get the spoon into the bowl and into their mouths.

Somebody then realised that their spoon could reach the bowl of the person seated opposite them. They started to feed the person opposite them. The others watched their example and started to do the same. Everyone worked together to feed each other.

Jesus has appointed different ministry roles within His church and has equipped His body of believers with every good gift so that His followers can be discipled and fed. Apostles, Prophets, Pastors, Teachers and Evangelists. We have the Holy Scriptures, the Word of God. The Holy Spirit has also come to us. We have the gifts and fruit of the Spirit to help us and to help others.

It’s love for Jesus that is to be the motivation and reason for our service to our brothers and sisters in Christ. Loving obedience to Him our Lord and Master. Jesus asked Peter 3 times if he loved him when He gave him these instructions. Peter replied that Jesus knew that he did love him. Jesus then replied “Feed My Lambs and Feed My Sheep”.

It was Peter’s love for Jesus that was to be the motivation for service. Jesus restored Peter in love and forgiveness so that Peter did not have a wrong understanding and reason to do what Jesus asked. Jesus wasn’t asking Peter to serve him out of duty or penance in mistakenly thinking he had to make it up to Jesus for denying him. A pure love for Jesus will lead to a pure love for the brethren and pure motives for service.

I believe that there are those within the body of Christ who have not taken up their ministry roles or have laid down their roles and gifts for many different reasons. There will be so many different reasons but Jesus knows them all. Jesus wants to restore us just as He restored Peter. There is a way back to Jesus and there is a way forward to serve Jesus in love as He has called us to do.

As Satan wanted to hinder Peter and to sift him like wheat, so satan does not want any of us to take up our God given callings within the body of Christ. Don’t let Satan deceive us or rob us and the body of Christ of our service to each other.

Shepherds – after Gods own heart

“Then I will give you Shepherds after my own heart, who will lead you with knowledge and understanding”. Jeremiah 3:15

We live in times when good shepherds are certainly needed in the body of Christ. In Hosea, we are warned that Gods people perish or are destroyed from lack of knowledge. Ignorance is certainly not bliss and especially at these times when there is so much false news and deception out there. There are false teachings and practices which try to lead us astray.

All wisdom & knowledge are hidden in Christ Jesus. Godly shepherds will lead you in the true gospel of Jesus Christ so that we are not deceived by false doctrines or as Paul said to the Colossians “fine sounding arguments”. Their teaching will be centred on Christ Jesus and the gospel so that we are rooted in Jesus and have a solid foundation of faith to build on. We need such shepherds.

If you are blessed to have a good shepherd or shepherds in your life then value them and respect them. They are a covering for you and watch over you. They will lead you in the right direction and help you make wise decisions. If you are without such a shepherd then I pray that you will find one and God will provide such a shepherd or shepherds for you. Jesus is the Good Shepherd and we need shepherds according to His heart.

Perhaps you could be such a shepherd? Is God calling you to be a shepherd and help shepherd His people.

The bible has a lot to teach us about the value of knowledge and understanding. I believe that we are living in days when God will accelerate knowledge and understanding for Christians. This will help not only us but also others, so that we can bring words of knowledge and wisdom into all sorts of situations where it is needed. Not just in Christian circles but to guide and lead in the world. To be influencers for good. To be the Daniels and Josephs for these days.

God gave knowledge and understanding of all kinds of literature and learning to Daniel and his friends. They used this knowledge to help the King make wise decisions. God gave Joseph a strategy to prepare for a famine. He helped the Egyptians prepare for this time and saved many people in the process.

Ignorance is dangerous and wilful ignorance even more so. Burying our heads in the sand helps no one. It is our responsibility to seek out knowledge. A wise person said that foolishness is doing the same thing time and again and expecting a different result. Let’s not fall into that trap.

Confusion can lead to an inability to see clearly what needs to be done. We stagnate and can’t move forward. Fear can also result in paralysis so decisions are not made and things wither and die. If you find yourself in this position then I pray God will show you the way ahead and give you shepherds with His heart to help you along the journey.