Since you have been raised to new life with Christ set your minds on the realities of Heaven, where Christ sits at God's right hand in the place of honour and power. Let Heaven fill your thoughts. Do not think only about things down here on earth. For you died when Christ died and your real life is hidden with Christ in God. (Colossians 3:1-4)
The aim of the letter is to affirm the superiority of Jesus above all. He was shown to be greater than the prophets who were a very respected group of people; considered to have God's ear. God spoke to His people, through the prophets, throughout the ages. The point was that Jesus was greater than them in as much as God has spoken through His Son. They all had bits of the jigsaw. Jesus was the full picture. So we saw that Jesus is greater than the prophets.
The next step was to show that He is greater than the angels. At that time there was a strong belief in angels. That wasn't a problem. The problem was that they were being asked to believe that the angels could open the way in to the presence of God. They couldn't. There is only one way in to the presence of God and that one way was Jesus. "I am the way, the truth and the life no one comes to the Father except by me" So we saw that Jesus is greater than the angels.
Now the assertion is taken one step further. These people were on the point of returning to that which they had received from their forefathers from the teaching of Moses. When we face uncertainty the tendency is to pull back to what is familiar rather than press on in to the unknown.
They were making comparisons. Moses had delivered their forefathers from their Egyptian bondage. Jesus had not delivered them from their Roman bondage. They could not yet see that He had come to deliver them from a greater bondage. Moses had instigated the tabernacle service. Jesus hadn't added any such inspiring ritual to them. They could not see that God's purpose was to build a temple made out of living stones. Neither could they see that the way in to the presence of God was not through their own efforts to keep Moses' law but through the law of Moses having been totally fulfilled in Christ Jesus.
Moses had a unique place in their hearts. God had spoken to him as a man speaks with a friend. He had been in the presence of God and received the commandments which were the essence of their way of life. He was ranked higher than the angels. God said of him that he was the most faithful in His entire household. He was a leader of great renown. So now, having shown that Moses was greater than the Angels the writer sets out to establish that Jesus is greater than the greatest man of Israel. He was faithful to speak all that God told him to speak. He was faithful to accomplish all that God gave him to accomplish. He argued with God. But he obeyed Him. He was a remarkable man. His faithfulness was unique even when the people he led were unfaithful. No one could conceivably closer to God. That's why the point is made; the Son is more faithful. He is counted as more worthy of glory than Moses. So he writes; consider Jesus as the apostle of faith & as the high priest.
AS THE APOSTLE OF FAITH
This is the only reference to Him as apostle. He was sent as an apostle of the Good News to a fallen world. He was god's ambassador. He was sent with the authority and power of God. He was the undiluted voice of God.
AS THE HIGH PRIEST OF THE FAITH
A priest is a pontifex (bridge builder) over the chasm of sin that separates man from God. To do that he must know God and he must know man. Jesus is the high priest because He is perfectly God and perfectly man. He is the only one who ever has, can and will ever be able to fulfil that function. That's what makes Him the apostle of faith. That's what makes Him the high priest of the faith.
Jesus is worthy of more glory than Moses because His relationship was more exalted than that between Moses and God. Moses was God's servant. Jesus was God's Son. Moses was faithful as a servant in God's house. Jesus was faithful as a Son over His house.
This passage concludes with these words: we are god's household if we keep up our courage and remain confident in our hope in Christ. The way to do that is to set your minds on the realities of heaven Let Heaven fill your thoughts. Do not think only about things down here on earth. The reality is that Jesus is greater than the prophets; greater than the angels and He's greater than Moses.
Article by Mick Smith
We are approaching the time of year when we will, as Christians, be most appreciative of God's plan of salvation that has been made possible through His grace in sending Jesus to the earth. He came to take away our sins so that whoever would believe in Him may have eternal life. Jesus' death is a recorded fact of secular history. It's not just the Bible that informs us about the event. There has never been any doubt that Jesus died on a cross. It's not a story made up by His followers. It was witnessed by many who did not believe in him. It was well documented at the time by the Roman soldiers and leaders. Even the Roman authorities recorded that a man called Jesus, a carpenter from Nazareth, was crucified. Any controversy concerning it has not been about the event; it has concerned the meaning of it.
We have to go to the Bible, God's written communication to everyone, to realise the meaning. The Bible tells us that Jesus died, in our place, to take the punishment for our sins and that He rose again on the third day. His death was an atoning sacrifice. His resurrection was an affirmation that He was the Son of God. His death is essential to the Christian's belief in the provision of God for the sake of our reconciliation but it's only half of the plan of God.
At the heart of our belief is the fact that God can now treat sinners as sons because He treated His only Begotten Son as a sinner. Jesus became sin for us. God could have folded His arms in righteous indignation at the state of fallen man of His creation through the effect of sin; He could have been angry at the thought that His Son, who lived a totally sinless life, had to die to take away the punishment we deserved. But, crucially, He didn't. Instead He opened His heart and reached out with arms of love to all of mankind to enfold us with His love, grace and mercy. All of that was while we were still at enmity with Him. God so loved the world that He sent His only Begotten Son that whosoever believes in Him should have everlasting life.
That set me thinking. For many people Easter has become simply a holiday; a break from work; an opportunity to get away from it all. But, for those who believe, on Good Friday we humbly thank God that He sent His Son to die in our place. We can, with grateful hearts say, "It's Friday but Sunday's coming."
His resurrection is the other essential fact of our faith. John Stott said that "Christianity is, in essence, a resurrection faith.The concept of the resurrection is at the very heart of our faith." There were many who witnessed His death on the cross but no one witnessed His resurrection because He rose from within the sealed tomb where His body had been laid. However there were many who witnessed the resurrected Jesus. The stone that sealed the entrance to the tomb was rolled away to let the disciples in; not to let Jesus out
How can we know? By looking at the substantial evidence. There were eye witness accounts. Though it's true to say that no one witnessed the resurrection (it happened in a sealed tomb) the resurrected Jesus appeared to many of His followers. He appeared to the followers who gathered around the empty tomb. He appeared to the twelve disciples. He appeared to a crowd of five hundred. He appeared to the apostle Paul.
The resurrection is a verified, witnessed, historical fact; one which remains at the heart of the Christian faith. The facts are indisputable. There was an empty tomb.. The large stone that sealed the door of the tomb was rolled away and the Roman seal which no one would have dared to break was broken. There was no body in the tomb and the grave clothes were folded and left in the tomb. These are what the Bible calls the infallible truths.
In addition there was plenty of circumstantial evidence. The lives of the disciples were transformed. The day of rest was changed. Jesus' dead body was never found simply because He had risen. The believers consequently would greet one another with the words, "He is risen" to which the response would be "He is risen indeed"
Jesus answered the questions concerning His death and resurrection with the words, "Unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies it remains alone; but, if it dies it bears much fruit" (John 12:24) He took an example from the natural realm to explain a truth from the Spiritual realm. A grain of wheat sown in the ground appears above ground in a different form. The old has gone and the new has come. That is the essence of faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus.
Jesus died and He rose from death. He has a new body that is no longer subjected to the restrictions of the body that died. It's the same principle at work in the spiritual realm as in the realm of nature when the farmer sows his seed in the ground, in one form, and it is raised in another form.
Jesus died to atone for our sins. He rose from the dead for our justification and He ascended into Heaven to present His blood as atonement for our sin.. This Easter let us give thanks with ever increasingly grateful hearts. Now there's a thought.
Article written by Mick Smith
I've been thinking a lot, recently, about the choices with which we are faced each and every day. It seems to me that, as followers of the Lord Jesus, we are constantly faced with choices that are important as we live in a greatly changing world. Values have changed, morals have changed and society itself has changed. In the midst of all of that we have a leader who does not change. That fact does not make Him old fashioned but it does mean, for His followers, that His leadership, example and values are as relevant today as when He walked this Earth.
Some years ago we were on holiday and had gone to a local church where the pastor, whilst preaching on the subject of God's timing, mentioned that he and his wife were often 'last minute' people because his wife could never make her mind up what to wear and that often involved her trying on one outfit and then changing it at the last minute. It often took her a long time to choose what to wear. it had to be right for the right occasion.
He used a phrase that has stuck with me ever since. He said, in his view, that she had 'two wardrobes full of nothing to wear.' I think he realised, having said that in public, he may have been skating on thin ice because he ended the story with the remark that she always looked nice whatever she wore and her choice, that morning, was particularly nice. On the other hand of course he could just have been a very wise man.
Perhaps, to some extent, we are all a little bit like that. We, generally, want to look good don't we? Come on, be honest, how many of us take something out of the wardrobe and then put it back because it's not quite right or another outfit would look that much better or appropriate. Of course that will be the ladies not the men (oops perhaps I should have left that out.....too late) We may not have two wardrobes full of clothes from which can choose the right outfit but many of us will take time to know what to wear for which occasion.
That set me thinking. The Bible is quite clear on what we should wear. Granted, it's not exactly what clothes we should wear or a dress code for church attendance. It's something much more important than the issue of wearing the right clothes for the right occasion. It's all to do with the issue, a gar more important issue, of what does and what does not please God.
The Bible is quite straightforward in what we should wear in terms of what we should take off and what we should put on. One of my favourite expressions in the
Bible (in the older versions) is that the Holy Spirit put on Gideon. That's powerful. Anyway, we are clearly told, for example, that we need to put off (take off) the old self and that we should put on the new self. It even describes for us the detail of the old and describes for us the new. That's to be found in Colossians chapter three and verses five to seventeen. There's another list in Ephesians chapter four and verses twenty two to thirty two.
If we really do want to dress in a way that pleases God we will do what we are told to do. We are to put off (take off) the old nature and to put on the new nature. The new nature, often referred to as the new self, represents the 'clothes' that God has provided and in which He loves to see us. Such outfits are pleasing to Him. The old nature or the old self represents the 'clothes' that God does not like to see us wear simply because they are not pleasing to His eyes
When we make our choice of what to wear (we are back in the everyday world of the clothes we wear to go out) we we take the clothes we are not going to wear and hang them back up in the wardrobe and then take another outfit from the wardrobe and put that on. Concerning the things (back to the spiritual realm) that the Bible tells us to put off (take off) it's time well spent if we take a look at the two scripture passages above to see if we can recognise anything that we keep putting on that's not pleasing to God. If there's anything that we do recognise it's a good idea (even a God idea) to make a conscious decision to throw them away rather than hang them back up again to be worn at some other time.
That way, in due time, we will be faced with less of a choice of what to wear and, hopefully, what's left will be the things that the Bible tells us we are to put on and are pleasing to God. Now these a thought.
Ephesians 4:22-24 Put off your old nature which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful lusts and be renewed in the spirit of your minds and put on the new nature created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.
I absolutely love driving. It is something that I have enjoyed for many years. My work, as an area manager, in the steel industry involved a lot of travel over a large area. My average mileage was in excess of 40,000 miles each year and there was a great deal of freedom away from an office desk as well as a lot of responsibility in keeping appointments; all of which I enjoyed.
During that time on the roads I saw plenty of collisions between other vehicles. Some of those collisions were minor bumps and scrapes but others were major incidents. Some, I suppose, happened through complacency or carelessness and some must have happened through sheer recklessness of one driver or another; even both. But I cannot imagine that any one of them were caused deliberately through sheer intent. Why would anyone set out to do such a thing on purpose?
That set me thinking. When Jesus died on the cross at Calvary it was not just an accident that caused him to hang there and die. It was not something that happened as a consequence of carelessness in any form. It did not happen to him because of his preaching, his claims or his unpopularity. His death was not an accident from which God managed to salvage some good. When Jesus hung on the cross it was the fulfilment of all that He had come to earth to achieve. No one sent Jesus to the cross. He went to the cross. No one took the life of Jesus. He willingly gave his life. What took place at Calvary was destined to happen in full accord with the will of God. It was the aim of his sinless life. It was a deliberate collision between good and evil. It was with deliberate intent.
God set a deliberate collision course with sin even from before the foundation of the world. The result of this collision was profound. Jesus died as the lamb of God that was slain from before time began. What a collision that was, between good and evil, the day that Jesus willingly died for our sakes. It was so great that the whole earth was covered in darkness and shaken by an earthquake. Rocks were split asunder tombs were opened and those incredible curtains of the Temple were torn in two from top to bottom (Matthew 27:45-54).
Any collision involves a cost. In the case of vehicle collision there is the cost of any repairs to the vehicles involved. There is the cost of an ambulance that might be called to the scene, or the fire service or the police service. There is the cost of hospitalisation and treatment to any or all of the injured persons in the accident. There certainly was a cost involved in the collision that God brought about that day at Calvary.
It cost God a lot to send his Son to die; in fact Isaiah prophesied that it pleased God to bruise him. It cost Jesus his life. That's why, with grateful hearts, we can say thank you to God for what it cost him and to Jesus that he took our place in redeeming sacrifice. We would never have survived such a collision on our own. The price of our redemption has been paid for us. The cost of it is beyond our imagination. The wonder of it is that it was no accident. It was deliberate.
There is always a consequence to any collision. In a vehicle accident someone may have points put on their driving license. They may be fined. They may even be banned from driving for a period of time. Such consequences are a penalty. It indicates guiltiness.
The consequences of the deliberate collision between God and sin are quite incredible. There is no penalty attached to us at all. In fact there is the benefit that God's enemy no longer has dominion over us because Jesus, our Saviour, has taken the penalty upon himself. Wow, what a Saviour!!!
When the centurion, and those that were with him around the cross, experienced the earthquake and saw what was taking place when Jesus died they were filled with awe and the centurion confessed, "Truly, this was the Son of God." (Matthew 27:54) The apostle Paul was, later, to realise that the son of God loved him and gave himself for him. (Galatians 2:20) In fact the truth is that God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son that whosoever would believe in his love for them would have eternal life (John 3:16) but what a revelation that was for Paul when he saw that love for the whosoever became personal for him.
How blessed we are when we comprehend the truth. God intended this collision. It was his deliberate plan. The consequence? The destruction of the hold of sin and death. Surely that is enough to fill us with that same sense of awe that those around the cross experienced. May we, may I, never lose the wonder of the cross. Now there's a thought.
Galatians 2:26 I have been crucified with Christ. It's no longer I that live but Christ living in me. The life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me.
It happened quite a few years ago but it was so dramatic that I, along with many people, still recall it and remember it vividly when asked about it. It was a European cup final and, to all intents and purposes, the team I supported was going to lose. The other team was winning 2-1 and any hope of a recovery and victory was fading fast. Nothing was going right. My team was seemingly doing everything alright but there was no sign of the two goals we needed to score to win the trophy.
Time was running out fast and hope of a victory was fading even faster when a big cheer went up from the supporters. Another player was warming up on the touch line and on he came as a substitute for another player who had not been able to do what he was supposed to do to win the game.
The substitute took the place of the one who was taken off and, to the absolute amazement and appreciation of the supporters, went on to score the two goals that were needed for an unexpected and unlikely victory. Even better; the second goal came in the dying seconds of the game. The substitute had won the game. The trophy and the glory of such a victory was ours; it was shared with the manager, the rest of the team and those who had supported them through it all.
Although no one thought it at the time the manager knew exactly what he was doing as he had waited for just the right time to make the substitution. That's the strange thing about time isn't it? We had scored the first goal and, when we were winning, time seemed to go very slowly as the other team gradually became stronger and scored the two goals they thought would secure them the victory. When we were losing and the end of the game was approaching time seemed to go very quickly and hope was fading fast of a victory.
That story set me thinking. It makes me appreciate how Jesus took my place as my substitute. At Calvary He took my place in redeeming sacrifice. It was me that deserved to die but it was Jesus that died in my place. It was my sin that deserved the due punishment but it was He who stepped in, at the right time, to take my sin, shame and punishment upon himself. The just died for the unjust. God sent Jesus to die in our place so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him (2 Corinthians 5:21) What a substitution!! What an exchange!! What glory!!
Just one of the incredible things about God is His sense of time. It's totally different from our concept of time. The Bible clearly tells us that it was when the hour had fully come that He sent his only begotten Son to atone for our sins. In other words He came on and took our place, as our substitute, just at the right time. There are those who may ask the question, "Why not sooner?" The answer is that God knew the right time.
Just one of the incredible things about Jesus is that, in view of who He is, He was willing to die in our place. The aim of the footballer we spoke of earlier was simple. He had the prospect of some form of glory before him if he could achieve that purpose for which he was sent on to the field. But it was different for Jesus.
The Word who was with God, and who was God, became flesh and dwelt among us full of grace and truth but, in fact, His immediate aim was not his own glory. It was suffering, of such an intensity that we will never fully fathom, purely for our sake and for the sake of the glory of his Father's name. The truth in which we can all share and in which we can equally rejoice is that He endured the suffering and accomplished the victory. That was the glory that was set before him.
This is the time of the year to appreciate fully God's plan to substitute you. You may be thinking that time is running out and you have yet to secure the victory in some area of your life? It might be sorrow or regret. It might be affliction or oppression. It might even be some habit that always rears its head when you thought you already had the victory. You feel as though nothing's changed, it will never change, the clock is ticking and time is running out.
If that is so remember this. God sent Jesus to be your substitute; to do what you cannot do. The wonder of that is that He has overcome the world, and that through his overcoming, you are more than a conqueror. Now we can share in the glory of that victory just as everyone shared in the glory of that football victory years ago. The substitute won the reward but we all share the trophy. Now there's a thought.
Isaiah 53:4-6 surely He has borne our grief and carried our sorrows yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, bruised for our iniquities. Upon him was the chastisement that made us whole and, with his stripes, we are healed.
There really ought to have been a no entry sign. The lane down which we were driving had given no indication at all of what we were now facing and, to be honest, I was already beginning to be concerned about any damage to my car. It was also starting to feel that the way forward could become a bit of a challenge.
The surface of the road suddenly appeared to be in a very bad condition. There were large cracks and big holes that were extremely obvious but, what was even worse was that, there were weeds and bramble bushes growing from them that were far too large for the car to pass over without incurring some substantial damage to the sides and the underside of the car. In addition to all of that the hedges down both sides of the lane were so neglected and overgrown that, in places, they were spreading right across the lane.
There was absolutely no way forward, at that point, and so I took the only option available to me. I needed to back off the situation that faced me and so I began to reverse my car all the way back, a hundred metres, to the point at which I had turned in to the lane with damage limitation being the order of the day.
What had started as a pleasant drive in the country had become more like a nightmare. The thing was that this lane was one I was familiar with as a child. I knew where it led and that it used to be wide enough for the local farmer to drive his tractor along. The assumption was that it would be passable for the car but I hadn't reckoned on the passing of time and the effect of neglect on this little lane.
That set me thinking. How often do we find ourselves in a similar situation in our journey of life where we are faced with obstacles, that seem impassable, preventing us moving on? How frequently do circumstances seem to hem us in on all sides? It's those times where, if we are honest, we do exactly what I had to do in my car. We back off. We compromise and become content with damage limitation.
Now here's the good news. We do not have to back away from these sort of situations. There is a way when there seems to be no way. God
knows the way, Jesus is the way and, with the Holy Spirit as our sat nav, we can move on through what looks impossible and feels so daunting. We are an overcoming people, in Christ, and every situation in which we find ourselves worried (for whatever reason), in reality, is an opportunity to prove that we are willing to trust God all the way through a problem and not just to a point where it feels impossible.
As a matter of fact I can tell you that the sat nav in my car has taken me on a few strange roads but I know that when the Holy Spirit is navigating us on our journey He never makes a mistake or an error of judgement. There is no obstacle in the way of the Christian that cannot be overcome with the Holy Spirit as guide.
When we look at some of the blockages we face they appear to us as giants. A situation may seem impossible and impassable. A hurt may often seem absolutely immovable. Circumstances may seem to close in on us from all sides and we feel as claustrophobic as it did in my car on that journey I was relating to you. Whatever the problem; there is a way forward.
Don't focus on the giant; if we do we don't move forward. Focus on Jesus and, in the light of His glory and grace, the things that trouble us will fade away. Look to the truth of the Word of God and see that the power of God, at work in us, is able to do far more than all that we ask or even think is possible. (Ephesians 3:20). The truth is that we need never become stuck so that we cannot move forward. We can do all things through Christ who strengthens us. (Philippians 4:13).
Why not have a go? Think of whatever situation God has brought to mind while you are reading this and ask Him to clear the way forward and remove all hindrances and blockages that have hemmed you in for such a long time. Tell Him that you are willing. He will do it if you will press on for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:14). Take the first step and see what God can do. Don't hesitate. Press on. Forget the no entry sign. Now there's a thought.
Ephesians 3:20 Now to Him who, by the power at work within us, is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or even think; to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations for ever and ever. Amen.
By Mick Smith
I really do like classical music. I appreciate the works of composers like Beethoven, Tchaikovsky, Bizet, Corelli, Mozart, Dvorak, Vivaldi, Handel, Schubert and Chopin. They all have an obvious and outstanding ability to produce works that are immensely pleasurable (to anyone who has an ear for such).I am amazed that there are such gifted people who can write music for so many different instruments that, when performed together, result in something so sweet sounding, pleasurable and harmonious.
Harmony is a musical term that indicates a combination of musical tones and notes. It is different to the melody but harmony and melody always compliment each other. It's the harmony that adds to the melody so that the result is one to be appreciated, pleasing and savoured.
However, harmony does not just apply to musical presentations. It can be expressed in other ways. For example when people live their lives in harmony it is something, I am convinced, that God enjoys and appreciates.
George Washington once stated "My disposition leads me towards peace and harmony with others. Such harmony assists me to avoid any personal feud with those who have embarked on the same great national interest as me. But it also allows me to disagree with those same people at times." What strikes me about that quote is that if he could express that view with national interest at heart how much more is it an aim for harmony in the kingdom of God.
Are you doubting the possibility of us all living together in harmony? Does it sound impossible? Well there is a place where over one thousand people live together in harmony every day of their lives. It's a town called Harmony in Fillmore County, Minnesota in the United Staes of America. The people there must, from time to time, disagree with one another but they still live in Harmony.
That set me thinking. We have heard much about togetherness at different times this year. The Bible is very clear about togetherness and living together in harmony. For example husbands and wives are to live together in harmony ( Ephesians5:22-23 & Colossians3:18-22). All who are followers of Jesus are very much encouraged to live together in harmony (Romans15:5-7 &16-18) as we follow the example of Jesus.
How about living in harmony with those of other faiths? Can that be possible? What about living in harmony with anyone outside our faith? The answer is "Yes". We can disagree with them about the essentials of faith whilst agreeing with them, and with God, about the value of mankind. We are to value all life whilst holding on to our core beliefs.
Even amongst our own Christian community we are not always going to agree on everything. In fact we don't have to always agree in our opinions as long as we ensure, to the best of our ability, to be agreeable in our dispositions and attitudes to one another. While ever we agree on the major truths of our Christian faith it's ok to disagree on the minor issues of the faith (obviously as long as we do so without disturbing the harmony between us).
What's the secret? How can we live in such harmony? Remember the example that Jesus set as the pioneer of our faith. He lived His life on Earth in such harmony with His Father that He could truly say that He and His Father were one.
Can we do it? Yes we can!!! (Sorry about that I must have been watching too many Bob the builder stories). We don't have to live in Minnesota in the United States of America. We can do it right here where we are as we realise that it is love that binds everything together in perfect harmony (Colossians3:14).
So, as we move from 2018 in to a new year, let us do all we can to ensure that our own lives are hitting the right notes that will gel with other lives in our church and the melody will produce a harmony that is pleasing to God who is well pleased when brothers live together in unity and harmony. I'm not one for making new year resolutions but I am all for exercising determination in a resolute manner. How about you? Have a happy and harmonious 2019. Now there's a thought.
Psalm 133:1 behold how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity
1 Peter3:8 finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble.
It was my first car. I had passed my driving test (first time might I add) & this was my reward. An Austin six with the bonnet that lifted up at both sides, running board & two batteries under the passenger seat at the front. I could go to work in it every day; at least I could if it would start up. Sometimes the starting handle would bring life to the engine but at other times there was nothing. Who cared? I didn't because it was my first car & it had air conditioning (by means of a knob on the dashboard which when turned would lift the windscreen up from the bottom & the outside air would rush in.)
At that time I was living with my parents in a terraced house & it was parked on the road in front of the house. Every night I would put a paraffin heater under the bonnet with the hope that it would keep the engine dry enough to start the next morning. If any health & safety person reads this please ignore that bit !!!!
It didn't always work & in fact the problem became so bad that I had to begin to park it at the top of a hill about a mile away to have any chance at all of it responding to a crash start as it rolled down the hill & I managed to get it into gear. It became quite a challenge.
There were other ways in which that car became quite a challenge. On one occasion I was driving when I noticed a funny smell immediately followed by smoke coming from under the passenger seat. The two 6 volt batteries had shorted & the car gradually rolled to a stop. I did manage to disconnect the batteries & prevent a fire. Those were the days!!
That set me thinking. Do you ever experience that feeling that your journey with the Lord has gradually rolled to a stop. When you were first saved you were fully charged up & you were able & ready to meet any situation head on but, over a period of time, it has become harder to get started in the morning? The problems of the previous day seem to have drained your spiritual battery of of its power & gradually you realise that you have come to a halt.
Let me encourage you. All that's wrong is that your battery needs to be recharged. I learned, over the next two cars that I had, to keep battery leads in the boot of my
car so that I could attach them to another car (obviously with the car owners permission & cooperation) if ever the same thing happened. The power to start the engine from the other car was transferred to my car & hey presto I was on my way again.
How does that encourage us? Well, the Holy Spirit is always with us. He never leaves us nor forsakes us. He has the power to recharge your battery. All you need to do is to connect your spiritual battery charger leads to Him. He will let His power flow through your leads in to your life & hey presto you will be on your way again.
That same power that raised Jesus from death to life is in you. The Apostle Paul, in his letter to the Church in Ephesus, did not stop praying that God would grant us the spirit of wisdom & revelation in knowing Him, that the eyes of our understanding might be enlightened; that we might know the hope of His calling, the riches of His inheritance in the, saints & the exceeding greatness of His power towards us according to the working of His mighty power which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead & seated Him in the Heavenly realm far above all principalities & powers (Ephesians 1:16-23).
So, how about it? If you are feeling good and your battery is well charged that's fine. If not all that is needed is for you to plug in to the power source; the Holy Spirit. He's always on hand because wherever you are He is there with you and, more than that, He's always so ready not only to charge you up with His power but also to keep you charged up. Now there's a thought
Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, for ever and ever. Amen. (Ephesians 3:20-21)
I was sat quietly reflecting on some incidents in my life and as I did I remembered an incident from my time as a delivery boy for our local butcher. He had asked me to help him to pick up a side of beef which I did. But, as I turned away, I noticed that my finger was bleeding quite badly. I had cut it on the bone of the meat we were picking up.
I went home and it was still bleeding so I poured a bowl of cold water and stuck my hand in it; hoping that it would stop the bleeding. It did but what happened was that the water in the bowl turned completely red and when my mom saw it she nearly fainted because she thought it was a bowl full of blood. That incident gave me a talking point for some time afterwards as my friends wanted to see the scar it had left. I still carry the scar of that incident to this day on the end of my finger although now it is scarcely visible. Please form an orderly queue anyone that wants to examine it!! It's the index finger of my right hand!!
I could go on and tell you how excruciating was the pain. I could even tell you how I still returned to work the next day. I might even mention that the butcher I worked for never even asked me if I was ok. But, in truth, I'm not going to because that could be seen as me showing off and feeling bitter. Anyway.....
That set me thinking. The Bible tells us that we are able to draw near to the throne of grace, with confidence, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need (Hebrews 4:16). I don't know about you but that is something I have come to appreciate very much as I have grown in my faith. Why? Because there are times when I know that God's mercy and grace are readily available to me at all times but what I really have come to appreciate more and more is the means by which we can draw near to our awesome God.
Our confidence is based entirely on the blood of Jesus (Hebrews 10:9). It's His sacrifice that makes our ability to approach the throne of grace possible. It is not our own ability or our own achievements or our own worthiness; it is entirely down to the blood of Jesus.
The Bible tells us that, without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness of sin. If Jesus had not hung on the Cross of Calvary; if He had not shed His blood as a completely innocent sacrifice for my sake I would still be lost, without hope in a decaying culture and a dying world.
But because He did I who was once lost am now found. I who was blind (to the truth of God's love for me) can now see. I was once far away from God but now I have been brought near. I was a stranger but now I am a son of the Living God. I was a sojourner but now I am a member of the household of God. I was unsaved but now I am saved. I lived in darkness but now I live in the light.
What I find to be truly a blessing is the realisation and appreciation of the fact that not only am I saved by the blood of the Saviour (it was all that was needed and enough to deliver me from the kingdom of darkness) but that His blood avails for me and goes on cleansing me from all my failures, inadequacies and sins. It's enough to last me my lifetime.
What is this to do with the bowl of water when I was younger and my finger dipped in the bowl? It has much to do with it. You see the blood that came from my finger was enough to spread through the whole bowl full of water to make it permanently red. On that basis do you not think that the blood of Christ has enough strength to cover the whole of your life. His blood avails for me yesterday, today and for ever.
Now there's a thought.
Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:16)
I hereby declare the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth: I once ran a marathon race and completed it!!! It sounds like boasting but if the apostle Paul could....perhaps I can? I'm not really boasting; in truth what I can recall makes me feel quite humble. In particular its what happened as the end of the race was in view.
I was about to enter the stadium and complete two laps of the track to finish the race when all sorts of questions came flooding in to my mind. My whole body was weary and my legs felt as if they had one ton weights attached to them. "What if, so near to the end of the race, I gave in to my feelings and just stopped there and then?" "What if I pulled up and pretended to have an injury? That way I could at least get some sympathy and.....who knows?"
The finishing line seemed to be getting further away rather than nearer but, as I entered the stadium, an amazing thing took place. My legs no longer seemed tired and heavy and my body was filled with a new sense of purpose and determination. Whether or not I had the will to go on was no longer an issue. The truth was I actually began to run a little faster that I had for the last couple of miles.
What happened was simple. The crowd around the stadium began to clap and shout words of encouragement. The effect was amazing. For a few moments I actually wondered if I was winning (the mind is very powerful!!!) Some of the competitors who had run the race in much faster time stayed behind to cheer those of us who had taken longer to complete the course.
All around the last two laps of the track the encouragement continued and, though there were a few of us on the track, it seemed as though all the encouragement was for me. Even though I was thoroughly tired as I went to collect my medal there was a new lightness in my steps. I had completed the race, the prize was won and now I could go home. It had all been worthwhile.
That set me thinking. The Bible tells us that we all have a race set before us (it's called life) and that we need to lay aside anything that might be an hinderance so that we might run it with endurance for it is those who endure to the end who will receive the reward (Matthew 10:22 & 24:13) That reminds me that I actually 'put off' nine pounds in weight through running the marathon. There were times, during the race, when the run had been quite easy and effortless; when everything was going to plan. However, there were other times when it was very hard to keep going and it was at those times that there was a need for grit and determination.
Does that sound like a bit of your race of life? You may be running well. If so that's great but there will be times when you are hurting, in pain and aching that makes you feel discouraged and downhearted. Life is like that. It's a marathon not a sprint so keep on keeping on; endure the pain, bear with the tiredness that you feel because every step brings you closer to the end of the race. So watch out for the encouragement that we all need and let it fuel your determination to continue to the end. Don't give in!!
The truth is that there are times when we all feel the strain of the effort we put in to our lives that makes it hard to bear (there were plenty who dropped out of the marathon race that I ran) It's at such a time as that when you need to be aware of the crowd of witnesses that are encouraging and urging you on from Heaven as you run the race before you (Hebrews 12:1-2)
They are the ones who have already won their race and have received their reward. It's not a medal like the one I received from my efforts in completing the marathon. It's a reward that is undefiled and unfading. It's a crown of righteousness just like the one that's already waiting to be presented to you at the end of your race. Keep on keeping on and be encouraged by the cheers of those who have already completed the race set before them. They have gone home and the truth is that for them it had all been worthwhile otherwise they would not be encouraging you. Now there's a thought.
Hebrews 12:1-2 Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
We had been shopping most of the day and we were stood at what I really hoped was the last pay point of the day when the woman that served us asked me to insert my credit card in the machine. She then asked me to put my PIN number in and, as I was typing it in (with fingers all aquiver) I remember saying to her, "I don't suppose that I'm your millionth customer and so get everything free?" It was her reply that got my attention when she said, "If it was up to me you could have everything free but somebody has to pay for it."
I took one hopeful glance all around before I put the PIN number into the machine and wondered, rather fancifully, whether anyone would step forward to put their credit card in the machine and pay for everything for me. Needless to say it didn't happen and so in went the final number that charged the cost of what we had bought to my credit card account and out came the receipt that showed I owed them HOW MUCH?
Have you realised that when we use our credit card to buy something we are actually getting the seller to give us the goods we are buying and charge it to our account? What we take home is not actually paid for until we pay off the credit card. We didn't actually pay for the goods when we used our credit card. We simply had the cost charged to our account.
There is an old and meaningful term used in accountancy to describe this procedure. It's called "imputing". It means recovering the initial cost. It involves the attribution of responsibility for the initial cost to someone.
That set me thinking. Concerning sin; God does not impute it to our account. He did not charge it to our account but, in the words of that shop assistant, someone had to pay for it. God never did and never will turn a blind eye to sin. The price had to be paid and so He paid the price for us. Now that has to be good news because it was something that we could never afford to pay.
Thankfully, though He never does overlook sin, He is willing to pass over our sins. Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord imputes no iniquity and in whose spirit there is no deceit. (Psalm 32:1-2)
God did not and does not impute the responsibility of paying the cost of our sins to us...but someone had to pay for it. So God did when He sent Jesus to pay the full price by becoming sin for us, even though He never sinned, so that the weight of that debt could be removed from our shoulders and we could become free of debt in Him alone who was good enough and willing to bear the cost.
Does that mean that we are free to go and live however we want? Of course not. Sin always has consequences where it gives God's enemy an opportunity to put a barrier between us and God. But his accusations can never separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus. Remember that.
Little wonder then that the Apostle Paul, when he wrote to the Christians at Ephesus, could cry out, "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places" (Ephesians 1:3)
What a blessing indeed. Lets never forget that the debt that we have run up through sin was far too great for us to settle. The burden of such debt was far too great for us to carry. Can we ever appreciate enough that the Lord does not impute our iniquity to our account? He has recovered the cost by sending Jesus to bear the burden of our guilt and shame. The responsibility to settle the account belongs to Jesus. Why? Because someone had to pay for it. Now there's a thought.
All this is from God who, through Christ, reconciled us to Himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ, God was reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses against them and entrusting to us the ministry of reconciliation. (2 Corinthians 5:18-19)
My car insurance is coming up for renewal. Every year the premium goes up even though I have had no accidents, made no claims, and have a good record; and every year I get quotes from other organisations and do the comparisons then haggle to get them down to the best possible price. It's a bit of a bind but it works!!!
I hope I don't fall off this high horse I am just about to climb on but isn't the whole point of having insurance meant to cover any mistakes that I make as a driver; so why do I have to pay more if I have not made any? Isn't that a bit like a doctor saying "I only accept healthy patients. Anyone who is ill cannot enter my surgery"? I really do question the value of insurance but I know if I want to drive my car I have to have have it in place in case of mistakes either on my part or on the part of someone else.
This conversation I had last time was quite revealing. I was told that, even though I had been accident free for another year, there were more accident claims than ever before because there are more cars on the roads than ever before and that's why premiums are increasing. So, it seems to me, it's not me....it's everybody else! I am being punished for the mistakes made by everybody else.
As I was preparing my list of who to compare I began to wonder about the mistakes I make as a Christian. Does God increase what I owe Him for the coming year based on my performance over the preceding year? Does the premium go up every year even if, in the extremely unlikely scenario, that I never make a mistake? Even worse, if I was to achieve the impossible and not make any mistakes would I be punished for everybody else's mistakes?
That set me thinking. There is no renewal date to cover my mistakes as a Christian. The premium has been paid for me. Even better than that it has been paid once and for all. It does not cover me for one year at a time. It lasts forever. Yes, it covers the past, the present and the future. Wow! That's what I call a great deal.
God does not offer me insurance. He offers assurance. If God insured us against any mistakes He would have to up the premium. What if we made that many mistakes He had to tell us that we were no longer under His cover; that we must find someone or something else to cover all future mistakes?
Do you realise that there are no exclusion clauses in God's offer of His cover of our errors? What even my sin? "Where sin abounds grace abounds much more" (Romans 5:20) Where there was no way God has made a way. He decided to cover every mistake, every careless word spoken, every wrong thought and every sin by paying the premium Himself. It was a one-off eternally effective payment that He made when His Son died at Calvary.
Does that mean I can live recklessly because the premium is paid?No. There are consequences to reckless living just like there are consequences to reckless driving. If there weren't there would be compromise of God's holiness and righteousness. Equally there would be obvious encouragement of my recklessness. God does not overlook my sins but, thanks be to God, He does pass over them. If He was to ignore my sin that would only serve to endorse my sin.
How is it possible for Him to overlook my mistakes? Because He paid the premium to cover all of my mistakes. Can I hide my mistakes from Him? No. He is an all-seeing God. So what do I have to do? Just be honest, tell Him the truth and that I'm truly sorry and its all done and dusted. That's the lavishness of grace!!
The truth is that I will never be in that place where I can barter with God (like I do with my car insurers) over my record. I am truly grateful that God has me covered for eternity because Jesus had paid my premium (one I could never afford or repay). Now there's a thought.
For Christ also died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit; (1 Peter 3:18)
We had received an invitation to a fancy dress party and, without wishing to offend anyone, I simply did NOT want to go. In fact I got so mardy that, when asked the question "What are you going dressed as?" my answer was as direct as the question, "The invisible man!" I can't claim to be the most enthusiastic person on earth when it comes to parties and, quite honestly, when the issue is fancy dress I would rather run a marathon than get dressed up to go to such a party.
So, I hatched a plan. All it needed was for my wife to go on her own and, if asked where I was, she could tell everyone that I was there as the invisible man. All she had to do was pretend to talk to me and pretend to hear my reply. If, by any remote possibility, I was awarded a prize at the end of the evening I could simply make an entrance from the garden in my everyday clothes and state that people needed to see me collect it so that they would know there was no deceit attached. I could see it working. I thought it was a brilliant idea.
However, I eventually came to see that it was neither brilliant nor original as my mind went to the first man, Adam, who tried to make himself invisible in the Garden of Eden. He must have thought he had hatched a good plan as he hid when he heard God walking in the Garden. Did he really think God would be taken in by his plan just as I thought others would be taken in by my plan?
That set me thinking. Over the years I have walked with Jesus I have come to realise that no brilliant plan of mine will hide the truth about how I feel or about any aspect of my life from Him who sees all that there is to see about me. The truth is that I am acceptable to God in Christ. But what does that mean?
Well, I go back to Adam, in the Garden, trying to hide from God. The point of Adam's feeble attempt to try and disguise what he had done was not that it was a brilliant idea. It was that it was seen and known by God but that the consequences of what effect it had on Adam were covered by the grace of God as He provided the skin of a sacrificial animal to cover Adam's wrong-doing. All Adam had to do was to put on God's provision. Adam had tried to hide from God rather than run towards Him to receive His embrace, forgiveness and acceptance.
Go on then I will be honest and not try and hide anything from you. There are hidden things in my life that do not please God. I know; you are taken aback in total surprise,shock and disbelief but it's the truth. They are things that are not seen but have consequences. However, the glorious truth is that they are covered by God's grace as I put on the Lord Jesus Christ, God's perfect sacrifice, to make me acceptable to Him (Romans 13:14).
Even the Apostle Paul had a struggle in this invisible inner area of his life where there was, at times, conflict between the flesh and the Spirit. What a beautiful lesson he learned when he saw that Christ alone was his salvation from the consequences of such a struggle. (Romans 7:13-25) and how grateful I am that his lesson learned was recorded for our appreciation and benefit.
I am still not sure why I dislike fancy dress parties so much but there is something of which I am very sure; I know that I am accepted by a most holy God (even though He knows me right well). I don't have to decline His invitation to draw close to Him because of the things in me that do not please Him. I am free to accept His invitation to feel His embrace because I have put on Christ. He looks at me and sees Jesus. Because I have put on Christ I know that I am enveloped in His identity. Now there's a thought!!
Romans 13:14; But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.
We will have recently read of the birth of Jesus and of the wise men who saw a star in the sky as it guided them to Bethlehem where Jesus was born. When they saw the star they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy (Matthew2:10).
Can you imagine what it must have been like for the shepherds who also saw some scary things at night as an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them and the glory of God shone around them? Then, equally suddenly, a multitude of angels appeared praising God. The importance of those events (besides the obvious announcement of the birth of our Saviour) was their response as they made haste to follow the guidance that they too had received.
There are many people today who still look to the stars for guidance as they search through what their horoscope says each day. God does not guide through horoscopes nor does He always show such obvious signs as a star in the sky. But He does guide!!
As the people of God we can be sure that God does guide His people. He always has, He still does and He will always guide us. This is our God, our God for ever and ever. He will be our guide forever. (Psalm48:14)
There are many Biblical examples of God guiding His people. Noah didn't build the Ark on a whim. Abram didn't just feel to leave his home comforts. Samuel didn't opt to choose David to become king; Elijah didn't choose Carmel with a sense of the theatrical. Peter didn't just bump into Cornelius. Paul didn't leave Asia for a change of scenery. Jude didn't change his mind on what to write & nor did John write the book of Revelation just to while away the time spent in isolation. In each case there was personal guidance from God.
God has a personal plan for everyone He calls into His kingdom & it's important that we know that plan so that we might find fulfilment in our walk through life. The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord (Psalm 37:23). I will instruct you & teach you in the way you should go (Psalm 32:8). For I know the plans I have for you (says the Lord); plans for good & not for evil to give you a future & a hope (Jeremiah 29:11).The path of the plan for my life is specific (Isaiah 30:21).
God's guidance is an integral part of the calling on our lives to follow Jesus. It is an essential element of God's redeeming grace that is lavished upon us & it is available to us all.
There is something for which God looks in any that seek His guidance. It's meekness. The meek He will guide in judgement & teach His ways. (Psalm 25:9). In all our ways we are to acknowledge Him & He will make our paths straight. (Proverbs 3:5)
If we are to be aware of the possibility of such guidance there seems to be the need of a life that is consciously surrendered to God. That, it seems, is a basic requirement. What does that mean? It means that the meek (those who depend upon, trust in & stay close to their God with an undivided heart) are most likely to be in a position to receive the guidance they seek. After all, our lives must surely be about there being less of me & more of Him living His life through me.
The Bible is a main source, not only of inspirational truth and teaching, but also of guidance.The Word of God is a lamp unto our feet & a light unto our path. (Psalm 119:105).When we are seeking guidance for our lives the Bible has to have a place of priority. There are other factors but the Bible has to be the bedrock of any guidance from God. However, it is dangerous to seek so called revelation from the Bible that will justify our own personal feelings on an issue that could allow us to wander down a self-centred path.
Not only does the Bible make direct statements about guidance. It also states Divine principles which God expects us to adhere to in our walk with Him. Though the world we live in may have changed dramatically from the world of the days of the Bible the Word of God endures forever.
The Bible says we are to put God first in all things. (Matt 6:23)
It gives clear guidance concerning discipleship (Matt16:24)
As we move into another new year let us determine to seek guidance and may what we find fill us with great rejoicing as we live our lives for the glory of God.