#Freedom Day

Well today 19th July has been labelled “Freedom Day” here at home in England now that more Covid lockdown restrictions have been lifted. Given current circumstances though it’s not really a “Freedom Day” -we’re not all truly free as there are still restrictions in place and also a lot of people who can’t enjoy the full benefits for various reasons. Its not full freedom by any means.

I find it significant and interesting that our own Prime Minister Boris Johnson and the Chancellor Rishi Sunak can’t participate fully in #Freedom Day as they have to follow the rules and self isolate having come into close contact with the Health Secretary who has Covid – although they did try some creative thinking or was it rule bending 🤔 to try and get the rule dis-applied to them. Thankfully they wisely did a U-turn and agreed to comply with current rules like responsible citizens.

You can’t write about #Freedom Day without thinking of true freedom and what that means. It will mean different things to different people dependent on their experiences and circumstances. As Christians we can truly celebrate a #Freedom Day that is available to everyone to participate in through simple faith in Christ Jesus. Jesus is the one who has set us free from the effects of sin and death so that we can live in true freedom and have ever lasting life. He took our punishment through His sacrifice and death on the cross. He was punished for us and we have obtained freedom through God’s grace and mercy.

My own personal #Freedom Day was 26th June 1976 when I asked God to forgive me for the wrong things in my life and accepted Jesus as my Saviour. I gave my life to Him and went on to be baptised in water as a sign of repentance and was filled with the Holy Spirit. Praise God that I’m truly free and I hope dear reader that you also have your own #Freedom Day to celebrate or if not, that you discover Jesus and become truly free.

All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ. Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure. So we praise God for the glorious grace he has poured out on us who belong to his dear Son. He is so rich in kindness and grace that he purchased our freedom with the blood of his Son and forgave our sins. He has showered his kindness on us, along with all wisdom and understanding.” Ephesians 1:3-8

Although we may live under permanent or temporary physical restrictions, in Jesus we are truly free spiritually. Amen and thanks to our Father in heaven, Christ Jesus and Holy Spirit.

True freedom
Photo from 2015 trip to Robben Island. Freedom cannot be manacled

A Know it all?

“Meanwhile, a Jew named Apollos, an eloquent speaker who knew the Scriptures well, had arrived in Ephesus from Alexandria in Egypt. He had been taught the way of the Lord, and he taught others about Jesus with an enthusiastic spirit and with accuracy. However, he knew only about John’s baptism. When Priscilla and Aquila heard him preaching boldly in the synagogue, they took him aside and explained the way of God even more accurately.” Acts 18:24-26

We have a saying at work that we use a lot as a balance and check:

“You don’t know what you don’t know”.

Think about that saying for a moment.

It’s demonstrated here in the story of Apollos. He didn’t know what he didn’t know until two fellow believers told him and gave him a more full understanding of faith and explained the baptism of the Holy Spirit.

Sometimes, we are deficient in our knowledge, but until we discover that or someone points it out to us, we are blissfully unaware. We think we are fully informed but we may not be. As a lawyer it makes me consider and research carefully before giving a client advice in case there’s something I have missed.

There are some keys we can learn from these verses.

Apollos knew the Scriptures. He had been taught about Jesus and he taught others. What he taught was correct but it wasn’t the whole story, He had limited knowledge. Whoever had introduced Apollos to faith had limited knowledge too because he only knew what he had been taught up to that point.

You will only learn as much as your current teacher knows.

Aquila and Priscilla had been given a more complete teaching. They had been with Paul and learnt from him. When they heard Apollos speaking publicly they realised that he was lacking in knowledge. They didn’t just leave him in ignorance though but they acted. They didn’t leave Apollos in the dark. Instead they took him aside and explained things more fully to him.

Note that Aquila and Priscilla didn’t publicly shame Apollos. They didn’t flaunt their knowledge or act in a superior way. They took him aside these verses say and so would have explained things privately to him. This was wise and respectful. It also meant that they didn’t squash his enthusiasm and his gifting. He was already an eloquent speaker.

Let us also be careful how we correct those who may not be as mature in faith or have more limited knowledge. We don’t want to be responsible for squashing the gift within them or dampening their enthusiasm in the wrong way. We also need to understand their current level so as not to overwhelm them and make things too difficult to grasp.

As we considered in the last post about Being Open-Minded it seems that Apollos was just that. It was to his benefit and then the benefit of others that he listened, was teachable and then went on to share with others what he had learnt.

I pray that today I won’t consider myself a know it all but will be willing to be shown a more excellent way when I am deficient or lacking in knowledge and understanding of God.

Have a blessed day friends.

Adding knowledge

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

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.

Jesus – He who protects and sustains us

The Lord has impressed upon me recently that He is the one who we can put our trust in 100%. He is able to keep us and help us in all circumstances of life especially those unexpected changes and difficulties. What is unexpected to us is not to Him who knows all things. He has already gone before us and prepared the way. He is preparing us, his body of believers, for more difficult and challenging times ahead so that we can persevere in faith and be overcomers in Him. Holding fast to the confession of our faith in Jesus.

As I was praying I wrote the following which the Lord spoke to my heart about His church, the bride. His unfailing love for us.

My beloveds, I am calling My bride to Me. It is time. I have come to search her out and gather her to me as a hen would gather her chicks. I am come to cover her and protect her in the times ahead. I put my arms around her and hide her under My wings – My arms of protection are all around her.

I will keep her safe and I will protect her. Come to Me in these times ahead which will be very distressing and troubling. There will be great upheaval. There will be a mighty shaking. I will support, protect and look after My bride in these days. She is my beloved. The apple of My eye. My father has entrusted her into My hands and I will present her radiant before My father’s throne.

Hold fast My bride to the confession of your faith. Keep rooted in Me. Keep your eyes fixed on Me. You can rest assured that I will sustain you in the times ahead for all things are in the power of My hand to give to My beloved. Ask of Me and I will provide for you. I will sustain you and protect you. Keep close to Me and I will not let you down. You can trust in My unfailing love for you. A love which will sustain you through all things. Blessed are My children. Blessed are those who put their hope in Me for I will not disappoint them.

I am looking after My children in the times ahead. I will keep them and preserve them from the evil one, for I alone hold the keys of death and hell. They are mine now and I will keep them forever. No-one who belongs to Me will see the second death for I have written their names into the Lamb’s book of life and they are safe in My hands. Whatever may lie ahead of you My beloveds, take heart for I have already walked the path and I will sustain you as you go. Be still and know that I am God. Be at peace in Me. Amen.

Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying. Romans 12:12

Jesus is our rock and sure foundation. We shall not be moved.