Knowing who God is sets us free to be free – Jeremiah 29.11-13
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”
This verse is one of the ‘favourites’ of many Christians. It’s a top verse for knowing who God is and what he says about us. It is full of promises and truths that we can believe, ask God for and even remind God of (he doesn’t forget but sometimes we need to push through and God likes that kind of faith!)
One thing we learn is that God responds to us when we respond to him. Yes, the truth is that Jesus has already done everything on the Cross, there’s nothing we can do to earn God’s love and favour. But when we believe God and step out, or when we pray to God with all our hearts, something happens. It touches God’s heart. The Bible talks about putting God first and then other things fall into place. So we know that when we seek God, then something happens and God responds in a big way.
But here’s another truth: when we know what God thinks of us and what God says about us (I mean really get hold of that truth) from Jeremiah 29 and the Bible in general, then something comes alive in us. When we know how good God is, how amazing his plans are and how he loves us, then our love for God comes alive. Imagine you like someone and then one day they tell you that they love you. It’s amazing and you feel a buzz and a happiness on the inside of you. Then your love for that person grows to a new level and you want to do things for them to make them happy. This is a bit like it is with God. When we know God has good plans for us, we have a confidence about who God is and who he says we are. This should give us a fresh energy to give our everything for God, call out to him, pray to him and live for him. So get Jeremiah 29.11-13 inside of you and let God get outside of you to others!
Shadow of death – Psalm 23.4
“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.”
Psalm 23 is about God’s provision. The very first verse says everything we need to know – ‘The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.” As Derek Prince used to say, there is nothing specific about that promise which limits it in any way. So it doesn’t say, ‘I shall not want food’ or ‘I shall not want money’ etc. Instead, God says that we shall not want, period. It includes everything that we need. But we can also play a part in helping others! One time I unexpectedly went to the door to find an envelope had been pushed through with £200 in it. Amazing – God used someone to provide. Maybe you could be someone who provides for others..?
But back on track with Psalm 23.4… God talks about us passing through the ‘valley of the shadow of death.’ Many times people have this verse read when they are dying or going through a really tough time and this can be such a comfort for people. But reading the verse, I felt God speak to my heart and say that this verse is also about our time on earth – our lives. As a human on earth we are born and then we die. We live in the ‘valley of the shadow of death.’ Unless Jesus returns while we’re alive (wouldn’t that be amazing?!) then we won’t live forever on the earth as we are now. The shadow of death is always here on earth. This isn’t how God meant things to be – but our sin messed things up. So when Jesus returns he’ll put things right way up again with no death and no suffering. But as we walk through life here on earth, God has given us his promise that we don’t need to fear evil but that he is always with us. He’s given us his rod (to guide) and his staff (to protect) us. Taken together this comforts us, knowing that God’s got our backs and he’ll come through for us, even when it doesn’t feel that way. God is a good shepherd!
Don’t Run From Your Provider – Hebrews 1.3
My family are animal lovers – mainly dogs and cats – but all animals and wildlife. Over recent years as wildlife has generally declined across the UK due to environmental reasons and development, the passion to look after and defend it has grown. Our wildlife, insect life, bees are essential to the food we eat. And God made animals and gave us responsibility over them – so we should make sure they are treated well. So as a result of this, my family love to feed the birds (in the words of the original Mary Poppins…)
Around the garden, there are feeders, fat balls, meal worm, raisins and water. The feeders are cleaned regularly and the water is changed and cleaned – this helps stop diseases such as finch flu. So there is a very healthy amount of birds that visit. In the 2019 bird survey, every bird mentioned as being common in British gardens was found in my family’s garden, plus a bunch of other birds. Sometimes my family say they’re reluctant to go outside in case they disturb the birds!
And yet when my family go outside to put the food out and replace the water that the birds love to sue to drink and have a bath in, the birds fly away. The blackbirds make a noise like ‘pink pink’ in protest and the smaller birds fly into the hedge and the trees. The Bible tells us that God created our world and that he keeps things going by the power of his Word (Hebrews 1.3). God created a world where things can grow and be discovered to feed and clothe us. Yet most people run away from God. They’re like the birds in the garden who run away from their provider. Don’t be like that and be someone who points people to the provider, God. The birds run away to protect themselves but with God, the best protection is to run to him!
Clothed – Zechariah 3.3-5
“Now Joshua was dressed in filthy clothes as he stood before the angel. The angel said to those who were standing before him, ‘Take off his filthy clothes.’ Then he said to Joshua, ‘See, I have taken away your sin, and I will put fine garments on you.’ Then I said, ‘Put a clean turban on his head.’ So they put a clean turban on his head and clothed him, while the angel of the Lord stood by.”
The Pharisees in the days of Jesus were experts at religious rules – coming up with hundreds of rules about what you could and couldn’t do and when you could or couldn’t do them! But sometimes the church (or parts of the church) have come up with similar kinds of rules, even about how you come to faith or how you stay ‘in the faith’. They have replaced what Jesus did on the Cross with rules and regulations – even down to people not really believing in Jesus if they haven’t said the ‘right words’ in a prayer. Now it is super important how we live our lives and that what we say, think and do reflects the heart of God in us.
And we have a part to play in agreeing with God and wanting to be more like him. But the central thing to know is that we can be friends with God through Jesus because of what Jesus did on the Cross. Only Jesus paid the price to get right with God; only Jesus lived a perfect sinless life and only Jesus has done the perfect work to make it possible for us to know God personally. That’s why all religions don’t lead to God – unless we go through Jesus – because only Jesus can make us right with God. But it’s important for us to know that we are right with God not through what we do, or what we wear or what we say. We are right with God because of what Jesus did. 2 Corinthians 5.21 tells us that we are made right with God through Jesus. Zechariah confirms this. In Zechariah, we find Joshua dressed in dirty clothing. He couldn’t make himself right with God. So God got an angel to remove Joshua’s dirty clothes (representing his sin) and replace them with fine, clean clothes (representing God taking away the sin and replacing it with God’s right ways). We can always step towards God and walk in a closer way with God but it’s God that draws us, God that makes us right and God that works in us to want to be more like him. If you’re struggling today, just receive God’s love, receive his forgiveness, ask him to make you right and then just allow God to spruce you up with clean and quality ‘clothing.’ Our part is easy – we just say ‘yes’ to God. That’s what the Lord’s prayer really is – us saying yes to God.
‘The Flowing is in the Knowing’ – Mark 1.10-15
One day Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee, and John baptized him in the Jordan River. As Jesus came up out of the water, he saw the heavens splitting apart and the Holy Spirit descending on him like a dove. And a voice from heaven said, “You are my dearly loved Son, and you bring me great joy.” The Spirit then compelled Jesus to go into the wilderness, where he was tempted by Satan for forty days. He was out among the wild animals, and angels took care of him. Later on, after John was arrested, Jesus went into Galilee, where he preached God’s Good News. “The time promised by God has come at last!” he announced. “The Kingdom of God is near! Repent of your sins and believe the Good News!”
Do you know who you are? OK so you probably (hopefully…) know your name. But do you know who you truly are and what God thinks about you? God calls you unique, valuable, loved, precious. He has called you by name, helped make you, shaped you, gave you skills, gave you life, has a plan and a purpose for you that is better than any plan you could think up. All we have to do is say yes and than follow God’s plan for our life. As we go, he helps us grow.
But one thing that may help you is that the flowing is in the knowing. What that means is that when you know who you are and what God says about you – it’s much easier to do things for God and to live out a God-life. In our world today there are many people who don’t have an identity. It’s been stolen through family breakdown, violence, murder, people being sold into the slave or sex industry and other bad things. But when we know and believe what God says about us, it makes us more secure. Before Jesus went into the wilderness and beat off the temptations from Satan and before Jesus went around preaching the good news about God, he had an encounter with God where the Holy Spirit landed on him like a dove and where God said ‘this is my son who I’m well pleased with.’ When you come to God, he puts his Spirit in you and then says, “You are my child and I’m well proud of you. I love you.” When you know you are loved, you know you are wanted, accepted and that helps you live out a great life.
God’s Covenant Promises
Numbers 23.19 – “God is not a man, so he does not lie. He is not human, so he does not change his mind. Has he ever spoken and failed to act? Has he ever promised and not carried it through?”
God is not like us in the sense that he does not lie. God only speaks truth and God keeps his word. What God says will stand forever. It doesn’t matter what people say or what they think. What God says has always happened and always will do. The Bible is a unique book in that it has hundreds and hundreds of prophecies (God predictions about the future). More than that, all of the prophecies that could have come true, have come true. All of them. Exactly. One estimate is 500 of the 1000 promises made have come true so far. Any prophecies that haven’t yet happened yet are because they are for the future – but they will happen. We can guarantee that on the basis of who God is (faithful and true) and the fact that the things he said would happen have happened!
God made many big promises in the Old Testament – to Noah, to Abraham and to David (the one set of promises we don’t need to worry about from the Old Testament are the 613 Laws that God gave to Moses – because Jesus said he completed those). God has also made other promises about the future of the world, about the truth of Jesus, about Jesus returning as judge, about heaven and hell and many other things. Sometimes people around us criticise God or even try and act as experts on what the Bible says. But knowledge about something does not mean they understand it. People who don’t know God can’t fully understand who he is like people who do know God. We can know about someone’s husband or wife but we won’t understand them like their husband or wife does. It’s the same when we know God. And when we know God, we know that what God says will happen. He is truth. When we know that God is truth and that we can trust him, it helps us live with more confidence. Things may happen we don’t fully understand but God’s plans and purposes will come to pass. The exciting thing is that as we say yes to God, we get to become part of God’s plans and purposes and he will never fail us!
God’s Word is True no matter what – Mark 5.42
“…They were overwhelmed and totally amazed.”
Sometimes when we read about healings and Jesus doing amazing things, we can stop and think about those times that things haven’t happened – when people haven’t been healed. But that’s
So we’re left with a choice thinking either God doesn’t heal everyone, or that God doesn’t heal at all, or that while God heals, not everyone gets healed! Sometimes people doubt God, doubt the Bible and doubt their faith. One preacher did a survey and found that many professors and scientists who can be very hostile to God have had bad things happen in their life and blame God. But we shouldn’t blame God and when we get bitter and angry, it can destroy on the inside. However, it can be quite a painful subject if you have had loss. Cry out to God but don’t stay angry with God!
I know of several people healed – from cancer, all kinds of diseases, blindness, knee problems, migraines, from not being able to have children etc. But then there are others who don’t live or don’t get healed. In these times, I like what Bill Johnson from Bethel Church says – we don’t lower the Bible to the standard of our experience but should raise our faith to believe what the Bible says is true no matter what happens. There are simply forces and God’s wisdom and greater plan that we don’t understand. The Bible says we won’t fully understand in this world as we can only ever understand in part and not fully. When stuff doesn’t happen as we think, we just need to trust God. He knows when we don’t know and sometimes that’s all we need to know!
But always know how great God is, who God is and what God says. And believe John 14.12 which tells us that Jesus has given us a job to do: bring his saving power, healing, restoration, hope, peace, justice and truth in love to the world.
Taste and See – Psalm 34.8
“Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.”
Are you someone who likes to try new foods? I once went to a Chinese restaurant in Chinatown in Toronto, Canada. The menu was in Chinese and there wasn’t a lot of English speaking because we wanted to try really genuine Chinese food. It was an interesting meal as we weren’t really sure what we were eating! Some people really don’t like new foods though. When we were on a mission in an Eastern European country, we were kindly given food by the people organising the trip. However, there was so much cooking oil in it that most of the young people couldn’t eat anything! It was a bit tricky as we didn’t want to offend the people who’d made the food but for many, it just wasn’t edible! We went to a local store later and bought loads of crisps and chocolate!!
The good thing about God is when we ‘taste’ what God is like, we find that the taste is always good. It’s always nourishing, healthy and good for us! God always wants the best for us (even when we may not understand!) God always knows best, knows how to get the best out of you and do the best for you – and all of God’s people. It never tastes bitter or unpleasant. It’s never horrible or tasteless. And God invites everyone to ‘taste’ and see that he is good. We’re invited to know more about God and see how good he is. The world around us lies about God, it mocks God and it often hates God. But God still reaches out to everyone and says – taste and see that I am good. Why not ask God to show you his goodness and pray for others to know about him too!
Life – 2 Corinthians 3.6
“He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant – not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.”
When Jesus lived a perfect life on the earth then died at the cross, he paid the cost for our sin that we should have paid. He died to bring real life. This kind of life isn’t about doing whatever we want or doing what everyone else does. You see, without God people keep making bad choices or doing things they want to without thinking of the consequences (what will happen as a result of doing the things we do). Jesus gives us a much better way. He offers us life – so when we make decisions with God involved, we save ourselves from lots of bad things, we don’t hurt people and we bring life and love to others. This is the kind of people God has called us to be. In the book of Isaiah we read the phrase, ‘Arise shine for the glory of God is on you.’ God wants us to be shining ones, bringing life.
We live in a world where people do whatever they want to, regardless of what may happen. Even if they know things are going to harm them or others, people often don’t care and do what they want anyway. Sometimes this is because they are damaged themselves and are lost. We also live in a world of terrorism where people read a religious text and then use that as an excuse to murder other people, killing, robbing, stealing and destroying life – an evil world where the letter (written words) truly does kill. We don’t see that with Christians and never should. Instead, we are ones who follow the light, live in the light and bring light and life. To live this kind of extraordinary life we need the help of the Holy Spirit (God in us). With the Spirit of God alive in us, we can bring life and even stop and reverse evil. So be one who brings light and life by the power of the Holy Spirit in you. How? Just say yes to God.
The Transfer Window – Colossians 1.13
“For he (Jesus) has rescued us from the kingdom of darkness and transferred us into the Kingdom of his dear Son…”
Every year (as of 2016) there are two times when football has what’s called a ‘transfer window’. This is the time when clubs can buy and sell players. For example, those periods in the British football season are in the Summer up to the first day of the football season and then again in January. This is the time when clubs can transfer players. Most of the action takes place in the Summer months in between football seasons.
But this transfer window is pretty limited. God has a transfer window that is permanently open. What Jesus did when he died on the cross was to make a way so that if people believe in him, they can be transferred from the kingdom of darkness into the Kingdom of God. This is like moving from a rubbish Sunday league team that’s bottom of the league to the best football club in the world.
God is open 24/7, always ready and waiting for anyone to say yes to Him. There is no real transfer fee you need to pay because Jesus has already paid the fee. But the price tag of what you get in return is priceless and it will be forever. God has a great plan for your life and he’s the perfect Manager there is! So thank God for the work of his agent, Jesus and for his transfer. And if you don’t yet believe in God, take a step and ask God to come into your life, change you and transfer you into his title-winning football team! And that’s a promise.
God’s health help – Proverbs 4.20-22 and Psalm 19.7
“My son, pay attention to what I say; turn your ear to my words. Do not let them out of your sight, keep them within your heart; for they are life to those who find them and health (medicine) to one’s whole body *whole flesh).” (NIV) … “The law of the Lord is perfect, restoring the [whole] person; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple.” (AMP Classic).
In World War 2, the Allied forces fought the Germans in the deserts of North Africa. The deserts are boiling in the day and freezing at night. Sand gets everywhere. All you can really think about is water! And there was no real NHS out there to help like we have today. In the middle of this, one soldier became ill with a skin disease that couldn’t be treated. But this soldier had recently come to know Jesus and he was reading his Bible, asking God for help. He read Proverbs 4.20-22 and found that the Bible promised healing for the body through the Word of God. He thought to himself, “All I need is faith.” He then read Romans 10.17 which tells us that “Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God.” So each day he ‘took’ the Bible as his medicine – three times a day after meals (the same way you’d take medicine). What happened? He was completely healed of an incurable skin disease. That man was Derek Prince and he went on to preach the Gospel all around the world.
The Bible also helps us if we need healing in any area of our body, our mind or emotions. Yes, there are doctors and medical experts who will also help us. But true healing comes from God who identifies himself throughout the Bible as the healer. In Psalm 19.7, we read that the ‘law of the Lord’ (today we’d say The Bible) is perfect, restoring the whole person. Do you or anyone you know need restoring? Do you need help physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually? God’s purpose is to bring us to wholeness – making us everything that he meant us to be. We don’t understand why some things happen but God is good – his purposes are good and he will work all things for good for those who follow him. Just ask Him.
John 14.1-3 and Room Service
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.”
The Bible tells us in Genesis that God made the world in 6 days. Now all kinds of people argue about whether these were six real days or whether they were 6 periods of time. They do this because the word for ‘day’ in the original language (Hebrew) can mean both a period of time and a physical 24 hour day. Sometimes people believe it wasn’t six real days because they believe the Bible isn’t a science book. Other times they want to fit the Bible to what science says. Those who believe it was six days argue that we should understand science according to the Bible (not the other way round). They also say – why would God say there were 6 ‘periods of time’ and point out that the Bible only uses the word for ‘day’ to mean 24 hour physical days.
But here’s a funny thought (nicked originally from someone called Chuck Missler)… Jesus told his disciples that he was going to his Father’s house to ‘prepare a place’ for them (and for us). This happened around 2000 years ago… Just think – if God made the whole world in 6 days, how much building work and preparing has Jesus done in 2000 years?! Just think how incredible this world is and then just begin to imagine what could be done in a time period that’s 121,666 times greater! Whatever you believe about the time length of God’s creation, you should be in awe of how stunning heaven will be!
Jesus shows he is God – John 21.10-11
Jesus said to them, ‘Bring some of the fish you have just caught.’ So Simon Peter climbed back into the boat and dragged the net ashore. It was full of large fish, 153, but even with so many the net was not torn.
One of the ways that Jesus proved he was (and is) God was by the many miracles he did. He did so many miracles that John 21.25 says, “Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.”
The Bible never has pointless information in it. When the Bible is specific about something (like 153 fish), it does so deliberately. So why 153? In Hebrew, the number 153 means, “I Am He.” So when Jesus did this amazing miracle, it wasn’t just the miracle that pointed to who he was (God) but the actual number of fish showed that he was God.
So one of the great things that shows Jesus was God was by what he did and the specifics of what he did and when. The same is true for us today – we show that we are a Christian by the things we do. And we have some great promises. John 14.12-14 says this, ” I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.” Jesus is God – but his Holy Spirit (who is God) lives in the heart of every person who believes in Jesus as their King. You have the same power in you that raised Jesus from the dead (Ephesians 1.19-20).
Today, know who Jesus is and know who you are in Jesus and with Jesus in you. Then take his word literally and go do the things that Jesus did!
Invest into your future – 1 Kings 17.13-14, 17 and 22-23
But Elijah said to her, “Don’t be afraid! Go ahead and do just what you’ve said, but make a little bread for me first. Then use what’s left to prepare a meal for yourself and your son. For this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: There will always be flour and olive oil left in your containers until the time when the Lord sends rain and the crops grow again!” … Some time later the woman’s son became sick. He grew worse and worse, and finally he died… The Lord heard Elijah’s prayer, and the life of the child returned, and he revived! Then Elijah brought him down from the upper room and gave him to his mother. “Look!” he said. “Your son is alive!”
Have you ever heard people talk about investing in your future? They might say this with money when you work, saying ‘spend some, save some, give some away.’ What they are saying is that if you spend all your money, you won’t have much (or any) in the future. But if you’re wise, you’ll spend some of the money you get, you’ll give some away to God’s work with the poor, needy, the church etc and you will put some into a bank account or savings account. This is wise. Or people may tell you to work hard on your GCSEs and at University to get the best marks you can get. They say this so that you can get a better job in the future and won’t regret things if you do badly.
In 1 Kings 17, the prophet Elijah went to stay with a widow during a time of famine. Elijah asked the woman to give him some bread. The woman hardly had anything left and was getting ready to eat her last meal with her son before they died. But she did what the prophet said and gave him some bread first. And because of this, she had flour and olive in her containers until the famine was over. It was amazing – she gave out of what she had and God provided for her. God is still in the same business today! But more than that, some time later the widow’s son died. So she cried out to Elijah asking for help. Elijah prayed to God and the widow’s son was raised from the dead back to life (did you know this kind of thing is happening all over the world today still, as Jesus promised). The widow gave and invested into her future and the future of her son. Don’t miss any opportunity to give and to help people, especially people of God. You’ll be investing into your future and even your family’s future! God won’t forget what you do!
Psalm 126 – A Song Of Ascents
When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion, we were like those who dreamed. Our mouths were filled with laughter, our tongues with songs of joy. Then it was said among the nations, ‘The Lord has done great things for them.’ The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy. Restore our fortunes, Lord, like streams in the Negev. Those who sow with tears will reap with songs of joy. Those who go out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with them.
Here’s the thing to think about… The last sentence of the Psalm talks about people who go out weeping and carrying seed to sow. So these people are weeping because they are sad which is a real weight. Then they have to carry out the seed, which is light but probably feels heavy because when we’re down or sad, even simple things feel like hard work. Then the people have to sow the seed which can be hard work – putting the seed into the ground. It all feels a bit heavy and hard and tough. And maybe that’s how many of us feel sometimes!
But here is the promise of God – first of all, God says you will return. Whatever your situation, there is a way back and God will work it out for good if you ask him! It is never over – God will bring you through. Second, you won’t be weeping any more but will have songs and joy. Psalm 30.11 and Isaiah 60.3 talk about how God turns sadness into joy. He will do the same for you. He’ll also give you a song – something to say and sing praising God. And you will return with God having given you abundance (the sheaves). When we get to know God and his Word, it’s like a seed that will grow as we follow and obey God. God’s promise is that you will grow, you will get joy not sadness, you’ll get a song and that he will provide for you! All this is summarised in Psalm 23.1 – “The Lord is my shepherd. I shall not want!” The only way is up!
The Original Hack-Proofing – Philippians 4.6-7
“Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.”
Have you got any software on your computer that protects you? I hope so! If you’ve got a PC you’ve probably got things like AVG anti-virus, maybe anti-malware software like Malwarebytes and maybe even anti-spam software for email. If you’ve got an Android phone you may have some protection on your phone like AVG. On a Mac, you’re safer but it’s a good idea to have Sophos Anti-virus or even Intego’s system of defence. Every computer should have its firewall switched on. But even then we can fall for scams – like someone pretending to be from Microsoft who phones up (usually from India) and tells you that you have a fault. Someone I know did this recently, lost £30 and had someone take control of their internet banking. This can also mean people using your computer to launch hacking and other attacks, without you even knowing!
Our mind is a bit like a computer. There are lots of ‘systems’ and ‘wires’. There are lots of ways in to your mind that the enemy can use to attack you, to bring you down, to hack you and even to use you to attack or undermine other people. But we have lots of defences – all found in God’s Word! Here in Philippians 4, we find that God and his peace is like the ultimate firewall – the best anti-virus. The way we access this peace and protection is by knowing the Bible, praying, by fixing our minds on God, by giving him our worries and letting go of them and thanking God, telling him what we need! That’s the best way to be hack-proofed!
God’s Abundant Heart – Genesis 1.29-30 and 2.16
Then God said, ‘I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds in the sky and all the creatures that move along the ground – everything that has the breath of life in it – I give every green plant for food.’ And it was so…. And the Lord God commanded the man, ‘You are free to eat from any tree in the garden…
Back in the Old Testament days, the kings of the time loved to display their wealth by building huge gardens and other things that showed how rich they were. Today, things aren’t much different with people displaying how well-off they are with the things, cars, places that they buy.
But God is completely different (and he calls us to be). He demonstrated his love, his goodness, his wealth by creating things that were good to look at and good to use and eat. He then showed his riches by giving to mankind – saying here’s this amazing garden and world – it’s yours. God demonstrated how good he was by giving away, not by building up his riches. He gave all this amazing world and commanded mankind to eat from it, to use it, to enjoy it!
What does this mean for us? It doesn’t mean God doesn’t want us to have things but it does mean that just being rich so we can have whatever we want isn’t what God intended. In 2 Corinthians 9, God tells us that he gives us all we need and gives to us so we can give to others! God has an abundant heart. Have you?
God’s Timing Is Perfect – 2 Kings 8.2-6
The woman proceeded to do as the man of God said. She and her family went away and stayed in the land of the Philistines for seven years. At the end of the seven years she came back from the land of the Philistines and went to appeal to the king for her house and land. The king was talking to Gehazi, the servant of the man of God, and had said, ‘Tell me about all the great things Elisha has done.’ Just as Gehazi was telling the king how Elisha had restored the dead to life, the woman whose son Elisha had brought back to life came to appeal to the king for her house and land. Gehazi said, ‘This is the woman, my lord the king, and this is her son whom Elisha restored to life.’ The king asked the woman about it, and she told him. Then he assigned an official to her case and said to him, ‘Give back everything that belonged to her, including all the income from her land from the day she left the country until now.’
Just as Gehazi was telling the King about this woman and her land, she came to appeal to the King to get her land back. It was absolutely perfect timing! You know what, God works in incredible ways and his timing is always perfect. Maybe there are things in your life you can’t figure out or things you would like to do for God or things he has promised to you. If something is from God, he will work it out. We don’t have to strain to make stuff happen! It’s very freeing to know this fact.
A true story is of a woman who needed a lift to London for a flight. She asked a friend who couldn’t give a lift. But he had a friend who was staying who lived near Heathrow and the friend was travelling back at almost the exact time that the woman needed to get to Heathrow. The friend didn’t have much money and often struggled with money for his journey home. He was also worried about attending a family event. So it was arranged that this friend would take the woman to Heathrow. She paid all the fuel and the friend then couldn’t attend the family event. It all just worked out. God’s timing is perfect!
Be Yourself – 1 Samuel 17.38-40
“Then Saul dressed David in his own tunic. He put a coat of armour on him and a bronze helmet on his head. David fastened on his sword over the tunic and tried walking around, because he was not used to them. ‘I cannot go in these,’ he said to Saul, ‘because I am not used to them.’ So he took them off. Then he took his staff in his hand, chose five smooth stones from the stream, put them in the pouch of his shepherd’s bag and, with his sling in his hand, approached the Philistine.”
I watched an advert on TV for a new vacuum cleaner (hoover). The advert showed how the new hoover wasn’t anything like a traditional hoover. It did the same thing but did so in a completely new way. It was like it ripped up the hoover rule book and re-invented it. This is something companies do all the time with new products – people like Apple do this really well.
In the Old Testament story of David and Goliath, King Saul got David to put on Saul’s armour. But it didn’t fit and it didn’t reflect who David was so David took off the armour. Saul was doing what he thought was best and what he knew. He put his tunic on David and put a coat of armour on him. David fastened the sword on and then got on the ‘Knight-Walk’ (the catwalk for knights). He wasn’t used to Saul’s war fashions and decided he didn’t like it! “I can’t go in these – I’m not used to them” said David.
This is important for us because while God’s Word is unchanging, God always leads us in ways that relate to us. Yes, God will grow us spiritually – get us outside of what we’re used to and encourage us deeper and further out into the ‘water’ where we feel a bit less confident. But God knows you and made you who you are. Don’t wear someone else’s ‘clothes’ or ways of doing things. A famous preacher once said all the new students used to do what he did until he told them to be themselves! And the same is true for you – be who God made you to be!
God’s New Way – Hebrews 10.20
Hebrews 10.19-20 says this, “Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body…”
What Jesus did on the cross was allow us to come right into God’s presence. In the Old Testament, only the high priest could go into God’s presence (called ‘The Most Holy Place’) and only once a year. But now through Jesus we can go right into the ‘throne-room’ of God and he is always ready to hear us and speak to us! To get into the Most Holy Place in the Old Testament, the high priest had to go in via a curtain. The Bible tells us that when Christ’s body was ‘torn’ (when he died on the cross), the temple curtain was torn from top to bottom (showing God did this, not man). Hebrews 10 then tells us that this ‘tearing’ (of Jesus) is what allows us to go into God’s presence. Jesus opened up the way between God and his people.
In one translation, Hebrews 10.20 says that Christ “opened up a fresh, new, life-giving way”. What Jesus did was completely new and unique. No more ‘earning brownie points’ from God; no more sacrificing of animals to get right with God. Instead, the sacrifice of Jesus dealt with the problem of sin once and for all (Hebrews 9.28, Hebrews 10.10, 1 Peter 3.18). Our part of the bargain is to say yes to Jesus in our life. We can’t be made right with God through anything else except saying yes to Jesus because only Jesus made a way between God and man. Only Jesus dealt with sin permanently; only Jesus was holy enough to even have the right to deal with sin. If you wanted to play for Man United at Old Trafford, the only way would be through the manager. Only he has the authority – the only way is ‘through’ the manager. Jesus is the manager and the only way into God’s team!
What is God like? Romans 1.20
“For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities – his eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.”
What is God like do you think? On the DVD ‘Father of Lights’ by Darren Wilson he films a guy in California who goes out with his wife and loves people on the streets – praying for them and giving them words from God. On this one day, things aren’t going so well. They look down the street and there are some Christians who are preaching God’s condemnation and judgement. Darren Wilson says words to the effect that Christians serve God and do things according to how they see God. Darren’s friend knows God as a loving Father who loves people and wants to love them into the Kingdom of God away from sin! The other Christians see God as angry and harsh against sin and so that’s how they see their mission, preaching about God’s judgement.
So how do you see God? The famous evangelist J John talks from the Bible about what God is like. He says things like” God is the lily of the valley so that florists can understand; God is the bread of life so that bakers can understand; God’s the water of life so plumbers can understand; God is the light so that electricians can understand…” But how do we see God? Romans 1.20 tells us that God’s ‘invisible’ qualities are shown in his creation. He creates unique birds, flowers, mountains, terrain, nations, tribes, cultures, traditions, animals, insects, fish, technology, natural resources etc. Everything that is good (and we mean not evil and not against the Bible!) is from God. The world is incredible from micro to macro (small to big). The universe is perfectly balanced. He knows the stars by name and calls them out by night. He is the God who made every human unique and knows all our thoughts. He made the world and keeps it going. This is the nature of God – and it’s beyond anything we can define. If there was no God there would be no-thing. He is everything, amazing, loving, good, pure, colourful, creative, knows all things and he is worthy of our love and of letting his love flow through us to others!
Life from the dirt – John 9.1-8
As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, ‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?’ ‘Neither this man nor his parents sinned,’ said Jesus, ‘but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him. As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.’ After saying this, he spat on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man’s eyes. ‘Go,’ he told him, ‘wash in the Pool of Siloam’ (this word means ‘Sent’). So the man went and washed, and came home seeing. His neighbours and those who had formerly seen him begging asked, ‘Isn’t this the same man who used to sit and beg?’ Some claimed that he was. Others said, ‘No, he only looks like him.’ But he himself insisted, ‘I am the man.’
In the beginning when God made mankind, he took the dust of the earth and breathed his life into it to create man. God is in the business of taking what seems to be dirt, what seems to be dust or what looks like it’s dead – and he brings it to life. Jesus did that for the blind man – taking the dust of the earth and then breathing his God breath (OK his spit!) into the mud and then Jesus touched the man’s eyes and the eyes went from death to life. He was blind but then the man could see.
That’s what Jesus does – he takes our sin, our mess, our broken-ness, our sickness – and he brings healing. We don’t always understand why things happen or why things don’t seem to work out as we think they should. But Jesus is always there, always ready to forgive, always ready to heal, always ready to bring change. The blind man changed from being blind to seeing. He changed so much his friends couldn’t recognise him! This is what Jesus does – he brings light, life and changes people’s lives. Just as he has been doing since the beginning of time and just as he wants to do for you and the way he wants to use you to bring life to others.
Genesis 1.14 – Lord, give me a sign
Then God said, “Let there be lights in the firmament of the heavens to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs and seasons, and for days and years.”
Anyone heard of the rapper DMX? In one of his tracks he raps, “Lord, give me a sign.” If you’ve seen the movie, ‘Bruce Almighty’ you’ll know that at one point Bruce asks God for a sign. A lorry with signs goes past and other things but Bruce still doesn’t listen to God. This is very much like so many people in the world – they want a sign, despite all that God has done as the Creator of the Universe!
Did you know that God has given us signs already? Psalm 19 tells us that “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.” The created world around us was made by God and it shouts God’s identity and praise every day to people of every tribe and tongue across the globe. The world and the heavens are actually living witnesses, testifying to the truth of God.
In our main Bible verse (Genesis 1.14), the word for ‘sign’ can also be translated as ‘pledge’ or a kind of ‘witness’. So we learn how God created the earth and put stars and other heavenly bodies up there as both a witness and pledge of who he is. The word ‘seasons’ can be translated ‘feasts’ / ‘festivals’ / or ‘appointed time’. So Genesis 1.14 informs us that God created the world; that he put signs in the heavens that point the world to him; and he did this to show that he is involved and interested in the world and people he created. If anyone tells you God doesn’t exist, take them outdoors at night and get them to look up! They may not believe in God but they have no excuse not to!!
Matthew 3.4 – God knows best
Matthew 3.4 is talking about John the Baptist who God called to ‘prepare the way’ for Jesus. He spoke the message about Jesus and called people to turn from their sins and come to Jesus as the prophet called Malachi had said many years before (Malachi 3.1). John had a unique calling from God and was a unique person, certain of what God had called him to do. We should pray and ask God about what he wants to us to do. But talking about John, the Bible tells us this – “John’s clothes were made of camel’s hair, and he had a leather belt round his waist. His food was locusts and wild honey.”
We often have an image of John the Baptist as a lone figure and maybe a bit wild and crazy. Perhaps this is what he was like – he certainly didn’t conform to the normal way that people did things and his message turned the place upside down. Again – we could do with learning from John instead of being the same as the world around us!!
But here’s the thing: John wore camel hair clothes. Camel hair is actually pretty good kit. It has a soft underside which can be worn against the skin and not feel too bad. It gives warmth without being heavy; it can protect and insulate the camel in the cold as well as keeping the wearer cool in the heat. So it was a great choice! And John also ate wild locusts and honey. Eugh we all think (was he the first Bear Grylls?!) Well funnily enough, people eat locusts around the world today still as they are quite nutritious. In a recent programme on BBC Radio 3 (I heard about, didn’t listen to!) they spoke about people eating insects and how we should do this more. The interviewer asked the person speaking which insects were best to eat. The man replied that he’d asked his expert friend who’d replied the most nutritious things were locusts and honey, bar none! You see, God always knows best 🙂
John 2.2 – Bring it to Jesus
When the wine was gone, Jesus’ mother said to him, ‘They have no more wine.’
There was a problem at the wedding that Jesus was attending. The wine had run out! (Good thing for me as I hate wine!!) Every solution that Jesus has (and he has a solution for everything) starts with a problem. Is there something in your life that is an issue, a problem, something that needs sorting? There usually is! It may be huge (splitting up with a boyfriend or girlfriend, or an illness) or it may be small (having lost your bag) but Jesus is interested and wants you to share the problem with him. In fact he wants us to share everything with him – our whole life.
Jesus’ mother knew what to do when the wine ran out – involve Jesus and ask him. Notice that his mum only brought the problem to Jesus (‘they have no more wine’). Often we go to other people with situations first of all. But the best thing is always to go straight to Jesus in prayer, the Bible and even fasting. And go to other people too, but always only do what Jesus says! You’ll know this as it won’t go against the Bible, will be wise and you’ll have peace about it. The mother of Jesus didn’t try to tell him what to do as she knew that he would know what to do (she said this to the servants in verse 5). We know that Jesus turned the water into wine, but at the time no-one knew what would happen. When we bring problems, people and situations to Jesus, we must expect and wait for his answers, his will, his ways. These are always good for us, always right and always true. But Jesus will respond. Today he’s waiting for you to give your worries and hopes, dreams to him in prayer. Wait for his awesome answers!
Promises of provision – Luke 22.35-36
Then Jesus asked them, “When I sent you without purse, bag or sandals, did you lack anything?” “Nothing,” they answered. He said to them, “But now if you have a purse, take it, and also a bag; and if you don’t have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one.
Sometimes people get a bit confused about God’s provision and God wanted to prosper people. Lots of different ideas have come out of the Bible about God’s provision for us. But all we need to know is that God does provide for us and this can come in many ways. God does want to be with us and give us what we need and he wants us to be generous in our giving too. The way that God provides for us changes and is rarely the same even in our own lives. He may give you a job for life or you may live by faith – which means you are called by God to completely trust him to provide for you as you obey him.
In 1 Kings 17, we find the prophet Elijah who God provided for in different ways – by God providing for him in a ravine by a brook (with God sending ravens to bring him food). The first food flights in history! Then God spoke to him to live at the house of a widow and her son. So God’s ways of provision changed. The same was true for the disciples.
In Luke 10, Jesus sent out the 72 disciples, two by two. He told them not to take a purse or bag or sandals – but had to trust in God’s provision. This so often happens in our Christian lives as God builds his faith in us, causing us to trust him. In Luke 22.36 – it’s time for a change of season. Now, Jesus encourages his disciples to take their purse and their bag. Jesus was preparing the disciples for a new day and a new way of provision. The disciples had to respond to this. Same for us. The world economy is down at the moment, but God is the same yesterday today and forever and he promises to provide for you. Simply put God first, obey him and do what he tells you to. If you need provision, read the Bible, speak out the promises in it (eg Philippians 4.19), be content, keep giving and then do your part by looking for a job or do voluntary work. Get involved and let God do what only he can do!
Firewall – Zechariah 2.5
Let’s take a look at a prophecy in Zechariah 2.5 (talking about Jerusalem) where God says through Zechariah, “And I myself will be a wall of fire around it,’ declares the Lord, ‘and I will be its glory within.”
When you’re using the internet, one of the tools that is used to stop people gaining access to your computer is the firewall. There are other ways to attack computers, but the firewall stops the basic ‘burglary’ of your computer. We like to think that we have all the latest tech and stuff but guess what, God was on the case 2750 years ago (!!) through Zechariah. God promised to be Israel’s firewall saying, “I myself will be a wall of fire around it”! God probably had a chuckle when someone came up with the word ‘firewall’ thinking it was a new word!
We see an example of how God did this in Exodus 14 while Israel were escaping from the vicious slavery of Pharaoh in Egypt. As they escaped, they were chased by the Egyptian army. The Bible says this… Exodus 14.19 – “Then the angel of God, who had been travelling in front of Israel’s army, withdrew and went behind them. The pillar of cloud also moved from in front and stood behind them, coming between the armies of Egypt and Israel…” Let’s add in a couple of other verses to this… Exodus 13.21 – “By day the Lord went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so that they could travel by day or night.” And then there’s Exodus 14.24, “During the last watch of the night the Lord looked down from the pillar of fire and cloud…”
So we see that God (through the Angel of God) acted as a wall of fire around Israel. And believe me, Israel still needs this physical, spiritual and electronic protection today! But God gives us this same promise too. God is our shelter, our refuge, our defender, our protector. In Psalm 91 we see how we can rest in God’s shadow through Jesus. He is our firewall. Today, if you need protection and feel vulnerable – ask God to be your firewall.
All Authority – Luke 10.19
In Luke 10.19, we hear the words of Jesus speaking to his disciples and to us today. He was speaking to seventy two disciples who he was sending out into the world to “two by two” to every town and place that Jesus would be going. The seventy two disciples went out and then reported back to Jesus. (This is a good model of doing things – being sent out and writing / emailing / messaging / coming back to let people who sent you know what’s happened). The seventy two were amazed when they returned, saying to Jesus that “even the demons submit to us in your name”. The key was that the seventy two didn’t go out in their own strength or own name. Instead, they were representatives of Jesus – only the name of Jesus had the authority to deliver people from demons. The same is true today.
Jesus spoke to the seventy two and said, “I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you.” Jesus gave them and has given us power over the enemy, in the name of Jesus. Interestingly, Jesus uses the term ‘snakes and scorpions’ as a picture of the enemy. If we go right back to Genesis 1.26, we see a similar command given by God when he created man and woman, “Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” “
It is very interesting that God gave mankind power (‘dominion’) over the creatures of the earth, including creeping things. We know that Satan disguised himself in the form of a snake and tricked Adam and Eve into believing his lies. But Adam & Eve had authority over satan. They could have resisted his lies and told him where to go. But they didn’t and by disobeying God, they handed this power over to satan. That’s why this satan is called ‘the god of this world’. The great news is that because of what Jesus did on the Cross, if we believe in him, we once again have power over the enemy. This may not always seem to work as we expect it, but God has put the same power on the inside of us that raised Jesus from the dead (Ephesians 1.18-23). Today, know and believe God that Jesus has given authority over the enemy! Amen!
Will heaven have animals? Genesis 6.19-20
Recently, a friend of a friend had to have their dog put down because he was so ill. It was really sad for the lady, who was really upset. I remember when one of my dogs ate poison put down by an evil farmer (who did it deliberately) and also had to be put down. It can be quite sad, as you become very attached to a pet – no matter what age you are!
I’m quite sure that a God who created animals and knows the pleasure they (generally!) bring to people, as well as the way they are essential for the eco balance of the planet, will keep animals as part of his creation when he makes the new heaven and earth!
Listen to what God said to Noah in Genesis 6: “You are to bring into the ark two of all living creatures, male and female, to keep them alive with you. Two of every kind of bird, of every kind of animal and of every kind of creature that moves along the ground will come to you to be kept alive.”
The ark is a picture – what’s called a ‘foreshadowing’ – of Jesus. Those people who loved God were saved by God through the ark when the flood’s came across the whole earth. In the same way, if you have been forgiven and have said yes to Jesus, you will also be saved – but through Jesus, our ‘ark’!
But what about animals? Well, they won’t be saved in the same way we are (they can’t make decisions about accepting Jesus and Jesus was a man who died for mankind!) But, it’s amazing to think that God said to take 2 of every animal into the ark to save them. God loves animals – he created them! So will there be animals in the new heaven and earth? Yes, I’m sure there will be – species we can’t imagine as well (good ones – the Bible talks about the new earth where the lion, the wolf, the calf and the lamb will hang out – see Isaiah 11 and 65).
But will your pet be there? I can’t say for sure, but do know that a God of love may well make sure that your little pet friend is alive and kicking in heaven. Whatever happens, it will be more amazing than words and thoughts could ever possibly imagine!
Jesus calms the storm – Mark 4.35-41
That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.” Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?” He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm. He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!”
There are many points that can be made about Jesus and our faith from these few verses. But today we’re going to focus on God’s promises. Jesus spoke to his disciples and they obeyed him. Our first lesson is that God is the one who initiates things. He gives us brains and gifts, but we need to listen to what God says and then do it. Jesus said, ‘let’s go to the other side’ of the lake, so that’s what they did. They heard and obeyed. Jesus was with the disciples the whole way across, yet he went to sleep. Our second point is that God is always with us, even if he’s quiet and doesn’t seem to be speaking to you – like he’s asleep! But Jesus woke up and spoke to the storm and it calmed. Our third point is that when we pray and cry out to God, he always hears us. And he will do something – he may change you, change others or change the situation. Fourth and final point we want to look at today is that God is always faithful and does what he says. Jesus had said to the disciples, ‘let’s go to the other side’ so that was what would happen! In the middle, things got rough and the disciples lost sight of God’s promise (just like we often do). But if Jesus says he’ll do something, he will. He calmed the storm and arrived safely on the other side, just as Jesus had promised!
Simeon – Luke 2.25-28
“Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was on him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God…”
Simeon is described as ‘righteous’ and ‘devout’ and the Holy Spirit was upon him. The Spirit had told him he would not die before he seen the Lord’s Christ. He followed the leading of the Holy Spirit and went into the temple courts (it’s very important to do what the Holy Spirit says and guides you to do!!) Having gone into the courts he met Mary, Joseph and Jesus! Obeying the Holy Spirit often means meeting with Jesus in one way or another. Simeon met him physically, just as the Holy Spirit had promised. Remember that God will always do what he says – he’s not a liar like a man – and he did just as he’d promised for Simeon. Sometimes Simeon must have wondered when God would do what he said he’d do. But Simeon stayed close to God – we know this because he responded to the Holy Spirit so he must have been sensitive to God! He wasn’t moved by what he saw, instead he trusted God for what God had promised! The same is true for you – trust what God says to you, he will do it!
The Helper – Genesis 2.21-22
So the LORD God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs and closed up the place with flesh. Then the LORD God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man.
We’ve seen below in another quiet-time how things in the Old Testament often reflect something that was to come in the New Testament. Here’s another one which may just get you thinking a bit. When God created man, he found that man didn’t have a mate, a suitable helper. So God made woman out of one of the ribs of man. The rib that was taken was from the side of the ribs. The woman was man’s ‘helper’ (an ‘ezer kenegdov’ in Hebrew). “So what” you say…
Well… Adam was effectively pierced in the side. He was asleep. But out of that sleep came new life, came someone who would be the man’s helper. In a completely different kind of way, Jesus was pierced in the side by a spear (John 19.34, fulfilling a prophecy in Isaiah 53.5). Jesus died on the Cross. Then out of that came new life, came the resurrected Jesus and the opportunity for us to be ‘born again’ – have our inside changed by the Holy Spirit, who is called ‘The Helper’ (John 14.16, the Holy Spirit is described as an intercessor, consoler, advocate, comforter, helper).
Just another thought for you to think on! The Bible is full of this kind of thing and shows it was written by the hand of God.
The Third Day – Exodus 19.10-15
And the LORD said to Moses, “Go to the people and consecrate them today and tomorrow. Have them wash their clothes and be ready by the third day, because on that day the LORD will come down on Mount Sinai in the sight of all the people. Put limits for the people around the mountain and tell them, ‘Be careful that you do not go up the mountain or touch the foot of it. Whoever touches the mountain shall surely be put to death. He shall surely be stoned or shot with arrows; not a hand is to be laid on him. Whether man or animal, he shall not be permitted to live.’ Only when the ram’s horn sounds a long blast may they go up to the mountain.” After Moses had gone down the mountain to the people, he consecrated them, and they washed their clothes. Then he said to the people, “Prepare yourselves for the third day.
There are some amazing similarities between the Old Testament and the New Testament. One of the things is the amount of times we see representations of Jesus or what Jesus would do in the Old Testament. There is a famous old saying that the Old Testament is the New Testament concealed and the New Testament is the Old Testament revealed.
Here in Exodus we find the Lord telling Moses to inform the people to get ready. Why? Because on the ‘third day’ the Lord would come down from Mount Sinai in the sight of all the people. Moses tells the people, ‘prepare yourselves for the third day.’ Although not directly related, there is a closeness with the fact that in the New Testament, Jesus was ‘revealed’ on the third day when he appeared as the resurrected Christ. The people in Exodus were told to wash their clothes and be ready. The New Testament tells us that we must always be ready – ready to give an answer about Jesus and be prepared for Jesus’ return. The message today is the same as it was then – prepare yourselves for the third day. We are now living in the time beyond the ‘third day’ when Jesus rose and we need to live lives worthy of who Jesus is and what he’s done for us.
God sees, hears and remembers – Numbers 14.36-38
“So the men Moses had sent to explore the land, who returned and made the whole community grumble against him by spreading a bad report about it – these men responsible for spreading the bad report about the land were struck down and died of a plague before the LORD. Of the men who went to explore the land, only Joshua son of Nun and Caleb son of Jephunneh survived.”
At God’s command, Moses chose a leader from each of the tribes of Israel and sent them to the Promised Land to check out the land. Their job was to explore the land of Canaan, see what the land was like, see how strong the cities were, what the people were like, the vegetation and to bring back some fruit like grapes. The 12 ‘spies’ as they are often referred to went and did as Moses had asked for 40 days (a significant amount of time in the Bible – such as Jesus’ 40 days in the wilderness). They went out and did their job but returned with a faithless report, a negative report. Instead of focusing on God and the positives, they focused on the problems – the people are like giants, they are powerful, their cities are large and fortified (armed and well defended). But Caleb spoke up and said, ‘Rubbish – let’s take them. We can do it because we’ve got a big God.’ His attitude, like Joshua’s attitude was one of faith. What is faith? Believing and knowing that God is in charge, over all things – and that what he says is what will happen!
In verse 16, we read the statement that, “Moses gave Hoshea son of Nun the name Joshua.”(Incidentally, the name ‘Joshua’ is a rendering of the word later used in Greek / Aramaic as Jesus or ‘Yeshua’). Later on, when we see God refer to Joshua, God calls him ‘Joshua’ and not ‘Hoshea son of Nun’ which is what he’d been called before Moses gave Joshua his new name. In the Old Testament, names were very important and were given quite deliberately because they meant something, or had a prophetic significance. Joshua’s new name reflected the faith that he and Caleb had shown – as Joshua means ‘salvation comes from God’. Joshua was a living witness of the power of God (as are we today!) But it’s very special that not only did God reward the faith of Caleb and Joshua by allowing them into the Promised Land, unlike the other ‘spies’ – he also called Joshua by his new name. So what? Well, God sees and knows everything. He’s even interested in your name and calls you by name. He knows every little detail, every small and supposedly unimportant things. It matters to God. He cares, he loves and he is looking for people who will believe him and be a walking and talking witness for him. If you are, your reward will be great. But let’s serve God for who he is, not what he can do for us 🙂
Israel – Ephesians 3.2-6
We’ll return to the subject of Israel. Some Christians get really passionate – even fanatic about this topic. Others don’t ever think about Israel. We’ll try to keep a balance in this and look at a subject we often hear about.. The subject has a posh name called ‘replacement theology’. Let’s break it down – theology means the study of the nature of God and religious truth. Replacement means when you substitute something or someone for something or someone else (for example, a player may be replaced by another player on the field). So when we think of Israel, ‘replacement theology’ is when people claim that the church has ‘replaced Israel’. Sometimes people say that the word ‘Zion’ (a name for Israel) can be used to talk about the church. But we disagree.
In the Old Testament, God chose a people for himself – Israel. As someone cleverly wrote, God then built a temple for his people (via King Solomon – check it in 1 Kings 7) – whereas today God has built a people for his temple.. Some people say that when we read about ‘Israel’ in the New Testament, God actually means ‘the church’. But this isn’t true. Apart from the fact that the words are different (‘Israel’ and ‘the church’ are used in different ways), the Bible does not say that the church has ‘replaced’ Israel in God’s eyes. In the Old Testament, God made a covenant with Abraham about the land of Israel. A covenant is a binding agreement and God’s covenants go even further – they are everlasting (this means that God’s promises are for ever). So when God speaks, it’s permanent! God’s promise to Abraham and through the Old Testament are about Israel, a land God loves (although he does not always love what Israel did, or what it always does!) Therefore what God uniquely said about Israel still stands today – this is backed up by many Bible verses.
We then read in Romans 4.16 that the promise of faith is: “guaranteed to all (Abraham’s) descendants–not only to the devotees and adherents of the Law, but also to those who share the faith of Abraham, who is [thus] the father of us all.” The ‘devotees of the law’ Paul talks about are the Jews. Those who ‘share the faith of Abraham’ are Gentiles – more specifically, the church. So Paul tells us that faith is available to both Jew and Gentile (Gentiles are people who aren’t Jewish – from Israel). Finally, Ephesians 3 tells us that, “This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus.” What does this mean? It means that there is a difference between ‘the church’ and Israel, between Gentiles and Israel. Together, we share in the promise in Jesus, but separately – the church AND Israel. The church has not ‘replaced’ Israel. They are joined together as one, but are not the same. The picture in the book of Ruth is of a kinsman-redeemer (Boaz, the son of Rahab, who represents Jesus) marrying Ruth (the gentile bride) while Naomi also benefits (the representation of Israel). Note that Ruth does not replace Naomi. Nor has the church replaced Israel.
Woman – the pinnacle of God’s creation – Genesis 2.21-23
So many of us struggle with self-worth. For many of us, we have had difficult family situations / fathers who haven’t been there or no family at all. Maybe for others, we haven’t had much love shown towards us and have looked for love in all the wrong places. Others of us have been hurt by people and even by our friends / families / other Christians. All of us are damaged in some way and in need of Jesus – the Great Physician, the Counsellor, the Healer – to help mend us, repair us and restore us. But if we could only grasp who we were made to be by Jesus, through Jesus, and in Jesus. If only we saw ourselves as God sees us – fearfully and wonderfully made.. (Psalm 139.14). In Genesis, God is in unbroken relationship with Adam – whom he had created in his own image (amazing, huh?!) God put man in charge of the Garden, and spoke with him. But then God looked around and said, ‘It is not good for man to be alone, I will make a helper for him.’
(The word that is translated ‘helper’ is more than simply that. It means that woman is equal, she is a ‘partner’, somebody ‘just right’. Woman is not inferior. As one writer says, “God is helping man through women”. This writer continues, pointing out something awesome – “In Hebrews, man would be pronounced ’ish; woman would be ’ishshah. While the sounds are similar, the roots of the two words are different. Appropriately ’ish may come from a parallel Arabic root, conveying the idea of ‘exercising power,’ while the term ’ishshah may be derived from an Arabic parallel, meaning ‘to be soft’.”). God created woman from the side of man – so they could work and operate side by side. (In ‘Captivating’ by John & Stasi Eldredge p32, they comment that when God created woman, he called her ‘ezer kenegdo‘ – this Hebrew translates as ‘lifesaver’ and ‘alongside’).
So when God had created all of creation, after he had created man, and man was in a sinless relationship with God, the Lord looked down and said, ‘man is alone, he needs woman’ – and he created woman, the final act of his creation (as so well described in ‘Captivating’ by John & Stasi Eldredge pp.26-27). Ladies, you are invaluable and so special. Listen to the reaction of Adam when God brings Eve to him – he basically says, ‘wow, at last, this is amazing!’ Ladies, when God created you, he created something beautiful, someone who is needed by man (and woman), loved and created by God, made in God’s image, equal yet different / complimenting man, and made for a purpose. You are no accident, but the result of God’s beauty and grace.
Israel – the promises fulfilled
God makes many promises about Israel through the Bible. According to the Bible scholar called Derek Prince, there are 16 main events / prophecies made. Let’s take a look at these briefly. They will remind us that God is faithful, does what he says and has a plan and purpose for Israel, for you and for me. All the first 13 prophecies were / have been fulfilled..
1: Genesis 15.13 – prophecy that Israel would be enslaved for 400 years in a foreign land (Egypt).
2: Genesis 15.14 – God would punish the enslaving nation and Israel would leave with many possessions (see Exodus 12.35-36 for fulfilment).
3: Genesis 15.18-20 – God would give Israel the Promised Land (clearly defined, note that today Israel does not yet have all this land..)
4: Deuteronomy 31.15-21 – God told Moses that Israel would turn from God to detestable idols, that God would turn his face from them bringing disaster because of their idolatry.
5: Deuteronomy 12.5-6 – God would establish Jerusalem as the centre of worship.
6: Amos 5.27, 6.14, 7.17 – That Israel would be divided and exiled from the land (Northern Kingdom was exiled by Assyria).
7: Jeremiah 16.13, 21.10 – Southern Kingdom Judah would be taken into exile by Babylon (see 2 Chronicles 36.17).
8: 2 Chronicles 7.19-22 – The destruction of the first temple prophesied (see 2 Chronicles 36.19).
9: Isaiah 10.21 – A remnant will return from Babylon (Ezra 1 and the chapters on from this).
10: Matthew 24.2 – Second temple would be destroyed. Fulfilled to the letter in AD70.
11: Leviticus 26.33-34, Ezekiel 12.15 – Scattering of Israel in many nations. Has happened.
12: Leviticus 26.36-39 – People of Israel would be persecuted and oppressed. Has happened and is still happening, sadly.
13: Isaiah 11.11-12, Zechariah 10.9-10 – Re-gathering of Israel from exile back to the land, from many nations. State of Israel was effectively formed in a day, in 1947.
14: Zechariah 12.2-3, 14.1-2 – All the nations will gather against Jerusalem (the nations that attack and hate Israel will be judged strongly by the Lord, see Joel 3 & Zechariah 14).
15: Zechariah 12.10-14 – A supernatural revelation to the Jewish people of Jesus as their Messiah.
16: Zechariah 14.3-9 – Coming of the Messiah in power & glory to fight the nations, to see supernatural signs and to establish his Kingdom on earth. One Lord – Amen!
The Fig Tree – Mark 11
In Mark 11, we read the following:
The next day as they were leaving Bethany, Jesus was hungry. Seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to find out if it had any fruit. When he reached it, he found nothing but leaves, because it was not the season for figs. Then he said to the tree, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.” And his disciples heard him say it.. When evening came, they went out of the city. In the morning, as they went along, they saw the fig tree withered from the roots. Peter remembered and said to Jesus, “Rabbi, look! The fig tree you cursed has withered! “Have faith in God”, Jesus answered.
Jesus was hungry. He went to a fig tree to see if it had any fruit. It didn’t, so Jesus ‘cursed’ the fig tree and it died, despite it not being the season for figs. It sounds a bit strange on first glance, doesn’t it? However, there is more than one reason why Bible scholars think this happened. Firstly, this is related in Mark just after Jesus went to the temple and cleared out the sellers, who were breaking God’s rules and disgracing God’s house of prayer. The fig tree was a spiritual example of this – something meant for a purpose was not fulfilling its true purpose and so had to be ‘thrown out’. The same could be applied to the nation of Israel, who were supposed to be acting as God’s people, but who were spiritually bankrupt too. But this also has meaning for us. Are our lives meaningful, spiritually? Do you have a faith that doesn’t show itself in action? Are you like a tree that doesn’t bear any fruit? A Christian who doesn’t do anything much for God, doesn’t see God working in you? Today God is calling you to make a change. Maybe you’re a Christian who feels prayer isn’t being answered. Take encouragement from this story. Jesus cursed the fig tree and death was spoken onto it. However, it wasn’t until the next day until Peter saw the tree was dead. Sometimes prayer takes time for you to see it answered.
Mind Your Words – Proverbs 18.20-21
From the fruit of his mouth a man’s stomach is filled; with the harvest from his lips he is satisfied.
The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.
These are 21 powerful statements from The Bible. If we take these together with James 3.8 which tells us that the tongue is a powerful weapon, we need to think very carefully about what we say. Matthew 12.34-37 says:
For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks. The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him. But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.
So we learn that our tongue is powerful because of the words that can come out of it, negatively or positively. Proverbs 18.20 tells us that a person’s stomach will be filled with the fruit of his mouth. So, whatever comes out of your mouth, is what you will get back, what you will receive, take in. So if you speak bitterly, you will see bitterness everywhere and feel bitter. However, if you speak words of kindness and goodness, you will reap a harvest of goodness that will satisfy. We also know from Proverbs 18.21 that the tongue has the power of life and death. You can crush people or build them up with what you say. You can bring a spiritual sense of death or life, bad or good by what you choose to say. So choose life, choose goodness, choose Godliness. Don’t be a critical and negative person. Be honest, speak the truth. But do it in the right way to encourage, build up and lift up. After all, God lifted us out of darkness. He wants us to do the same for others.
Get Wisdom – Proverbs 1.1-7
Proverbs is a most amazing book of the Bible. Proverbs has so much – humour, insight, wisdom.. I think one of my favourite proverbs is the one that says something like, ‘it’s better to spend a night on the roof than inside with a nagging wife’. Haha! But moving on swiftly.. Young person, youth leader, listen up.. Whoever you are, whatever stage of life you’re in – get wisdom. I cannot stress its importance and significance highly enough, and neither can Proverbs stress it highly enough.
The beginning of wisdom and knowledge is the fear of the Lord (Proverbs 1.7). What does this mean? Well, it means getting God in his right perspective. Yes, he is our friend, but yes he is also the one who will judge the earth, the one who every knee and authority will bow to. He is the one who has a flaming sword coming out of his mouth and who is a mighty warrior. So we need to know who God is and be right with him. Then we have the foundation for growth and true learning. If we do not seek wisdom (and its brother, discipline), then we are a fool – by implication of verse 7. Wisdom is so essential that we find King Solomon asked God for it (1 Kings 3.9). Solomon had the right perspective of God and himself. He knew that he needed God in order to rule justly and in a Godly way. In the same way, we need wisdom to live right and in a Godly way. So get wisdom. Proverbs says get wisdom, even though it costs all you have. Why? Well, just take a look at the promises in Proverbs 1-4 to see the many benefits of wisdom!
Can God do anything? 2 Timothy 2.11-13
It’s a question that is valid to ask. God is all-powerful, right? So he can do whatever he wants, right?
Well, no. The thing is that God is bound by what he says, as he is faithful and his Word is the truth. So, God cannot step outside of the boundaries that he has created.
God cannot lie (Titus 1.2). God cannot break His promises (Psalm 89.6). He cannot be tempted with evil, nor can he tempt us (James 1.13). He cannot be unfaithful (2 Timothy 2.13). He cannot be any other than who he is, he cannot change & stop being God (Malachi 3.6, Psalm 90.2 etc).
Otherwise God could turn around and say stuff like, ‘well actually, I’ve changed my mind, you can’t be saved any more..’ or anything else he felt like. God is bound by the boundaries he has created. Otherwise nothing would be certain.
This is pure speculation but maybe there are certain ‘fundamentals’ that God has as absolutes, such as truth, faithfulness etc etc. These transcend his ability to do whatever he wants. Maybe the important principle is that God has already done what he wants, it is God alone who has done this.
Mark 11.1-3 – The Appointed Time
There are times and seasons in our lives. But God is faithful and he has appointed times and places, people to meet – in our lives. Maybe some of you are thinking about which university to go to, which job to get, who you may marry, and many other important decisions. Jesus has the answer. He has already gone ahead of you and on the Cross, he has made provision for our every need.
There was a time where I knew it was right to take on the youth pastor’s job at a church. It was an amazing time where God brought everything together and appointed me ‘for such a time as this’. (Esther 4:14,
“For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?”)
It was incredible as it was just so ‘easy’ as God used me in incredible ways. You will have these times in your life, such as the day people meet the person they will marry, God making it clear you should go on a mission somewhere etc. When we look at Mark 11, we find this amazingly illustrated in the story of a colt (donkey). This little fella had never been ridden by any person. He may have looked round at his mates and thought, ‘people are riding on the back of them, why not me? I feel a bit left out!’ Some of us may feel the same. But little did he know that the King of Kings, Lord of Lords, Jesus himself – would one day be riding on his back as he proudly walked into Jerusalem with 100s or 1000s of people cheering and waving. That little colt had been born and appointed for that moment, that was an awesome thing. His mates may have carried others, but he carried the Son of God!
The same is true for you. You were born for a purpose. Jesus chose you, he set you apart. He is using you, he will use you and he has appointed your times and places. For some of you, Jesus is saying, ‘I have chosen you and your time is coming.’ Don’t be discouraged today but think of that little colt and know that Jesus is watching, waiting, longing, excitedly, ready to use you.
Isaiah 42.3 – He will not crush a bruised reed
Both the NIV and Amplified Versions of the Bible say this prophetically about the forthcoming Jesus (an event that was years away), “A bruised reed he will not break..” What does this mean? Well, I remember God giving me this verse for someone who was struggling with their faith a couple years back. And this is how I see it. It is God’s promise that he will not break someone who is feeling vulnerable, broken, uncertain or downhearted. Maybe this explains you? Do you feel like this? If you do, then God has many promises to help you and this is one. Jesus will not break you if you are struggling, even if it’s with your faith. Jesus will be there for you.
Jesus will not damage or break a reed. But we can go further. Jesus also restores us. Let’s go back to the analogy of a reed. Reeds are the kinds of grass-like plants that grow up around rivers, ponds etc. To restore a reed, it needs water, it needs feeding (nourishment). It also needs sun, rain, it needs other reeds around it, it needs a bit of other elements on it so it can grow stronger. The same will be true for you. Jesus will help restore you if you are feeling bruised, or broken or weak. But you can help. How do we do this? Well, we feed ourselves on the Word of God, especially the deep stuff (which Paul calls ‘solid food’ in 1 Corinthians 3.2). We can stay ‘planted’ in our church, with others around us to shelter us, encourage, protect, stand with us. We can allow things that happen to change us for the better (and not make us bitter). We can keep our focus on heaven, on Jesus. Hebrews 12:2 tells us, “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith..” Then we can be like, “…a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers. (Psalm 1.3). Today I pray that you would know God’s restoration in your life.
God chooses you – 1 Samuel 16.6-13
You may not think that you are qualified for a role. But the Bible says that God doesn’t look at your physical appearance but at your heart, your love for God. In this Bible passage, we see this very clearly with David. Samuel, the prophet, saw Eliab, the oldest, best looking and biggest of the sons of Jesse. Maybe you look around at others in college, school and work and think ‘they’re better looking than me’ or think they are somehow better than you. Just as God said to Samuel, so he says to you – ‘God doesn’t consider how people look – he looks into the depths of who you really are and chooses people on that basis.’ Looks are temporary, but an inner beauty that comes from knowing Jesus, will last a lifetime – and only grow in radiance and beauty, if you let it.
In many places in the Bible, God chose people who didn’t think they were up to the role – Moses, Jeremiah. He also chose people who weren’t officially ‘qualified’. He sent people to work with peoples they knew little about (Paul), to foreign lands (Joseph) and to other cultures. If your heart is right with God, you put his kingdom first and love God with all your heart, then that is the qualification God is looking for. Listen again to 1 Samuel 16.7 and let it sink in – But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”
Authority – Matthew 10.1
When someone gets a job, they also get the authority to do that job. Huh?! OK, let’s take an example. When a head teacher is appointed at a school, in their contract it says that they are the leader, the person in charge, the one where the buck stops. They are the head of the school, and so they are given the authority that position needs.
If you know Jesus, you, too have an authority that goes with your calling. Jesus didn’t call us to work for him and say, ‘get on with it, I’m off on holiday, see you in heaven..’ No, Jesus not only called you, he has equipped you too. Do you realise that? In one of the sessions on this site, we take a look at the kingdom of God. The Kingdom of God is wherever God’s ways, heart, love and power are demonstrated by him and his people.
There are 2 kinds of authority. Firstly, there is an equipping. For this purpose, God has given us his Holy Spirit – John 16.7, “When I go away, I will send the Helper to you.”
There is also an authority to do things that go with the position. We read about this kind of thing here in Matthew 10.1, “Jesus called his twelve followers together and gave them authority to drive out evil spirits and to heal every kind of disease and sickness.”
It is a promise to you that, if you have accepted Jesus, you will be able to drive out evil spirits, heal diseases and sicknesses. The power and authority (which comes from God) is within you. Now, you may not choose or have chosen to use that authority, but it is there, and where it is used, the Kingdom of God comes in power.
The End Times – Matthew 24.4-8
Jesus answered: “Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Christ’ and will deceive many. You will hear of wars and rumours of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains.”
There have been earthquakes, wars, famines and nations fighting nations since before the days of Jesus. History is littered with all of these things. But many will say that these things are increasing, both numerically and in intensity. We know that this does not signal the end, but the end is still to come once these things have begun. But there is something else that we can notice.. ‘You will hearof wars and rumours of wars.’ Years ago, before the internet, television, radio and travel, we did not hear of these things, or perhaps not for years. But we live in an inter-connected world now, where news on one side of the globe is news across the globe – the difference is we now hear of wars and rumours of wars. So we need to be aware..
But we know for sure when the end will come. Not the exact time of course (Jesus tells us that only God knows this) – Matthew 24.42-43: “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.”
So how do we know? Well, it is when the Gospel has been preached to every tribe, race, nation and tongue – Revelation 7:9: After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands.
You matter to God – Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Matthew 1.1-17
No, it’s OK, this quiet-time doesn’t require you to read through all these three books of the Bible!! But even a simple overview of these books tell us loads about what God thinks of you and me – without reading every last detail. Why? Well, because we know that God cares. A lot. How do we know that? Well, in these books we have God giving commands to his people about every area of human life – from worship, to sexual activity, to keeping clean, rules to do with murder and so on.
But how do we know God cares from that information? Well, because God provided this information for his people. Not only that, the commands he gives are very detailed, very specific. This was for the benefit of the people of Israel, it was God expressing his love for them – I love you so much, I care about every detail of your life, I want you to live the fullest lives, so here it is – the way to life.. If we look on into other books of the Bible we see similar principles. For example in Matthew 1.1-17 we find a long old list of names, the so-called, ‘Genealogy of Jesus.’ Genealogy means the history / ancestors / family line.
God, in his written Word, The Bible, has bothered to list the names of people that to society may be long forgotten. But not to God. The same God that knows every hair (or not!) on your head is the same God who has made sure that people’s names are written down in his Word. God cares so much for his people, loves them so deeply and with such an all-encompassing love, that he gave us his Word, helps us live our lives to the fullest, has promises, mentions people by name.
Your name may not be in the Bible, but if you are in the Kingdom of God then your name is written in the Lamb’s book of Life. Revelation 21.27 (talking about the New Jerusalem) says, ‘Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.’ What a promise.
When you pass through the waters I’ll be with you says God – Isaiah 43.1-7
There are times in life when things just don’t seem to make sense. Maybe we’ve done something wrong, maybe we haven’t. But life just seems to be a struggle. Some people even begin to question where God is or struggle with their faith. If you’re in that place today, do not fear. God has a message of real hope for you. He says:
‘Fear not, for I have redeemed you [ransomed you by paying a price instead of leaving you captives]; I have called you by your name; you are Mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you, and through the rivers, they will not overwhelm you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned or scorched, nor will the flame will not set you ablaze.’
These verses were spoken by the prophet Isaiah to Israel. But they apply to you and I today. Israel was redeemed (purchased) by the Lord giving Egypt as a ransom. But we have been redeemed (purchased) by the blood of Christ. 1 Peter 1.18-19 says, ‘For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.’
So God has paid the ultimate price for you – Jesus, giving his life freely. It also means that you are not a captive in these situations – in fact, the other people are! But God goes on to make more promises. ‘When you go through the water, the rivers, the fires, God will be with you – you won’t drown or burn’. What does this mean?
Have you ever tried walking through water? It’s more difficult than on land. That’s a bit of a struggle. But not as difficult as trying to wade through a deep river, especially when the water threatens to overwhelm you (as we saw in the Asian Tsunami). Alone, we cannot hope to get through. But with God we can. There are also times where you really ‘feel the heat’ and I don’t mean in Summer! These are the times when you feel alone, persecuted, laughed at, or under stress. God has PROMISED these things will NOT harm you, that he is with you, that he will never leave you.
You may have spent a lot of money buying something – clothing, jewellery, a watch, DJ decks, a car. These things are precious to you, so you will look after them (if you are wise), treat them well. God thinks you are far more precious than all of this. He will look out for and look after you! TRUST!!
Isaiah’s prophecies fulfilled – Luke 3.4-6
In Luke 3.3 we find that John the Baptist, who God had called, went around the Jordan River preaching a baptism of changed hearts and lives for the forgiveness of sins.
If we snap back to Isaiah 40.3-5, we find that 700 years before, Isaiah had made a prophecy regarding John the Baptist. We find these verses from Isaiah quoted in Luke 3.4-6.
We find that John the Baptist was in the desert when the word of God came to him (Luke 3.3). Isaiah 40.3 predicted that a way would be prepared in the desert. John the Baptist then went on to prepare a way for Jesus, just as the prophet Isaiah had spoken all those years before. Isaiah also made many accurate predictions about Jesus (see for example Isaiah 61).
If you’ve ever wondered if God is faithful or whether the Bible is accurate, here is one of many 100s of Bible prophecies (predictions) that have been fulfilled. Hebrews declares that God is faithful and cannot lie when he makes a promise – Hebrews 6.16-18. So we know that God is a faithful God and his promises stand. This is as true today as it ever was.
David and leadership – 1 Samuel 24 (chapters 18 and 19 for further reading)
On more than one occasion David had chance to kill Saul. But he didn’t. Saul was God’s anointed and David would not lay a hand on him or allow someone else to kill him. He had plenty reason to want to kill Saul. After all, through Saul’s jealousy he brought an evil spirit upon himself that caused him to try and kill David (1 Samuel 18, 19, 23). But David did right in not touching God’s appointed King (1 Sam 24.6). Let’s not forget that Jesus, Son of David, told us to love our enemies.
You know what, many times we bitch about and diss people behind their back. It’s a disease in churches and life generally. No wonder the Bible talks so much about controlling our tongue.
The key from these verses is that we do not have the right to ‘kill off’ our leaders before God’s appointed time. You see, in 1 Chronicles 11 we read that David became King of Israel. Even though it was clear God had his hand on David a long time before Saul’s death and despite Saul’s rages and murderous attempts on David’s life, David did not waste Saul.
Many churches and Christians are guilty of forcing out leaders they have appointed before God through biting and gossip and spiritual abuse. But that’s not how it’s meant to be. God is Sovereign and until God calls you to step up and someone else to step down, your position is in one of obedience to God’s appointed unless they stray far from God. Then, like David in 1 Samuel 24, your job may be to confront for the glory of God and not for self. Your time will come if you are faithful and obedient..
Matthew 25:21- His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’
Philippians 4.19 – God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus
Today, we were wondering quite how we were going to transport a group of over 30 young people and leaders to Spring Harvest. Our child protection rules (ridiculously strictly interpreted by our church) meant that certain people could not give lifts even though they were experienced drivers (we can all probably relate to this kind of church-rule madness). I saw this verse on a Bible calendar at my parent’s house – ‘And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.’ I felt God would provide something.
Around 2 hours later we found that we were able to borrow the minibus of a local Christian school. God delivered. Thanks God!
Yet I need to apply this to every area of my life. So do you. If you’re worried about school, college, not having a girlfriend or boyfriend, if you don’t know what’s going on in your family life – there is a promise. God will meet all your needs through the depth of riches (of every kind) that is found in and through Jesus. The Amplified Bible says that God will ‘fill to the full’ your every need. So don’t worry. Like me, we have to step back from looking at things through human eyes and start seeing through God’s eyes in faith, according to what the Bible says that God will do, and be thankful too.
Your history doesn’t matter – Judges 11.1-11
What a family – Jephthah had an unusual family history. His dad was called Gilead (a son of a King called ‘Manasseh’) and therefore had a kind of important history. However, in verse 1 we learn that his mum was a prostitute. This means his old man had been a naughty lad – getting up to stuff he shouldn’t have been!
So, as a result of this, Jephthah’s brothers (these guys had the same, but a different mum) dissed him and forced him out. Jealousy may have had something to do with it too – as the Bible says Jephthah was ‘a strong soldier..’
We also find out that the brothers didn’t like him because he had a different mum and warned him off, saying ‘you’re not gonna get any of our dad’s property cos you’re not one of us.’
So off he went, away. But then stuff went wrong for Israel and the elders came to him to ask him to lead Israel and help defeat an army from the Ammonites. Jephthah was like, ‘hang on bro, you told me where to go and now you want me back? What’s with that?’
But despite this, Jephthah agreed to lead Israel and through his leadership the Ammonites were defeated. It must have taken great humility to agree to come back when he had been kicked out and treated so badly.
So here’s the encouragement – you are a son or daughter of God, called by name, time, place and by gifting. God believes in you, has a perfect plan for you and nothing can stop it, no matter who you are. I was in an estate last week and a teenager said ‘you wouldn’t like me if you knew my past.’ I told him that it didn’t matter what his past was, God still loved him. The same is true for you. Now feel that release.. it doesn’t matter who you are or where you’ve come from, God loves and wants you as part of his crew. He’s given you the character (just as Jephthah was ‘a strong soldier..’ and will give you the role in time (just as Jephthah did).
Life is a planting field – Galatians 6.7-9
In an interview, a top Christian guy said that if he knew he had 25 years to live, he’d spend 20 of those years in preparation! Quite a commitment. Yet when we look at people like Joseph, Abraham, Moses, we find that their real Christian ministry and purpose didn’t start until they and the time had been prepared by God. When life is a struggle, or maybe we feel like we’re not getting any younger, we need to remember that!
Let’s look at these 3 verses and drag out what Paul is on about. First, you get what you give. You don’t get what you don’t give. If you’ve given out for God, you’ll get back from God. If you ain’t given none, you won’t get anything much back. The principle is the same in life. What you put in, you get out. Second, if you plant bad stuff, you’ll only get back ruin. If you plant what the Spirit of God tells you to, you’ll get back eternal life if you don’t give up. This shows, thirdly, that the Christian life means being a full-on disciple with all its ups and downs 24/7. It’s no Sunday job.
Fourthly, you can work your booty at a job, even at churches, and feel like you get little back. But God works differently. He sees all you do, even when no-one else does. And he WILL reward you for it. Guaranteed.
God has opened a door for you – Revelation 3.8
If you’re feeling discouraged today then take hope because God has a plan for your life. The famous place where God says this is in Jeremiah 29.10-14 especially verse 11.
However, God makes his promises through the whole Bible, both Old and New Testament. In Revelation 3, Jesus is talking to the church at Philadelphia. This may represent an actual church, a place, a time or a general principle for all churches in all times. No-one is quite sure. However, we know that the Bible used in the right context can give us great principles for our own lives as Christians.
So Jesus says, ‘I know what you do. I have put an open door before you, which no-one can close. I know you have a little strength, but you have obeyed my teaching and were not afraid to speak my name.’
Jesus knows what is going on in your life, he knows the hurt, the weakness, the hopes and dreams you have. He sees what you have done – in fact, he keeps a record. One day you will be rewarded in heaven! Jesus says he’s opened a door, a way. If you can’t see a way through or a way ahead right now, don’t worry because Jesus does and he’ll reveal it to you. He won’t let anyone take it away, he won’t let the door close. The message of the Gospel is one of hope – hope of Jesus, hope of heaven. We’re called to preach this message but sometimes we need to hear it too. Jesus is the way, the truth, the life.
Today, the life-giver is encouraging you. Lift your eyes up. Trust him. He’ll never let you go.
God’s Work, Ways and the Promises – Psalm 19.6-14
I counted at least 12 promises and consequences contained in Psalm 19 that come from reading and following the teachings of the Lord. Have a look through and see how many you can find..
Interesting that the first half of the Psalm talks about the physical works of the Lord on the earth. We see that God is displayed in his Creation. As Romans 1.20 says, creation reveals the Creator. In Psalm 19.6 we see the connection with the rest of the Psalm when David (the author) says that the sun rises at one end of the day and follows its path through sunset. Nothing hides from its heat. So it is with us and our God. We have a path that God has laid out for us to follow from our early days as a Christian through to our sunset. Like with the sun, we know that nothing we do, think or say is hidden from the Lord – read Psalm 139.1-12.
So what about the promises and consequences in Psalm 19 about the teachings of the Lord?
1. they give new strength.
2. they make ordinary people wise.
3. they make people happy.
4. they give guidance.
5. God will always be worshipped.
6. God’s judgments are always right.
7. God’s decisions are more valuable than gold, sweeter than honey.
8. they warn and advise us.
9. keeping them brings a great reward.
10. It brings an awareness of our own sin and brings us to ask for forgiveness
11. It brings us to a place where we desire purity and holiness in our lives
12. It brings us under the authority of God where we desire all our words and actions to be pleasing to God
Waiting for the promise to be fulfilled – Nehemiah 7.4
In Nehemiah 7.4 we read that the city was large and roomy but there were few people in it. Nehemiah had to take action to get these places filled.
God had spoken to Nehemiah by moving him to want to return to rebuild the city of Jerusalem. It must have been a bit strange for Nehemiah to find the city wall rebuilt and yet many of the houses inside it empty or even not yet rebuilt. Had Nehemiah misheard God? It’s the kind of question we’d be forgiven for thinking in his position. I think there’s 3 lessons here..
First, God will often call us to do something but it will take time for the promise to be fulfilled. It may not even be in our lifetime but God will do it. Our job is to hear and then fully obey God’s call on our life.
Second, Nehemiah did not waver from what God had appointed for him to do. He had achieved the rebuilding of the walls but there was still work to do. We read in verse 5 that Nehemiah gathered the people so he could register the people who were there. Nehemiah just got on with it.
Third, Nehemiah had only achieved stage one. God will give us promises but often we have to achieve it in stages. I love the wisdom of God when he advised that taking the Promised Land would be step by step. God has his time and way, just let God be.
God is faithful
Take some time to think about one of God’s greatest servants, one of our Bible heroes. You may have heard of him, he’s called Abraham
In Genesis 15.5-6 the Lord promised Abraham he would have as many descendants as there are stars in the sky. God did this in 2 ways. First, we are descendants of Abraham. In fact the Bible is the fulfillment of this. Secondly, God’s people are like ‘shining stars’ in a dark world! Two ways God’s promise came true
God has made many promises through the Bible. He promised to be with Joshua and never leave him (Joshua 1.9). He promised to speak through Moses even though Moses felt he was unskilled with words (Exodus 4). God promised to save Rahab because she helped the spies from Israel (Joshua 6.17-25)
If God has promised something to you, believe me he will fulfill his promise. How do we receive God’s promises? Listen to the words of Jesus. ‘Believe that you’ve received the things you have prayed for and they will be yours.’
Real Promises … Read Genesis 12.1-3 about God’s promise to Abraham (or Abram as he was called at the time!) God sometimes says something to us that’s really definite. It’s something we can’t shake off, do you know what I mean? When I became a Christian, God gave me 3 specific visions that I knew would be fulfilled. I have seen 2 of those visions fulfilled completely and way beyond what I imagined (it must be God not me!). The other I know God will make true.
Other times we hear a real word from God. God spoke to me once and said, “I will protect and bless you and your family.” I have claimed that promise almost daily since God spoke, through the hard times as well as the easy times. Has God spoken to you? Do you need to hear some words from God? Do you need to speak out verses from the Bible into a situation? You see, the Bible contains within it, the power to do what God says it will do – when used in the right way with the right motivation! How God’s Word works in us specifically is different for each of us..
Derek Prince, a respected Bible teacher said that when he was in the British Army and was ill, God led him to Proverbs 4.20-22 which talks about God’s Word bringing health to your body. So, he used God’s Word to speak healing over his body, 3 times a day, just like taking medicine. It took a while but God did gradually restore him to full health. What’s God said or got to say to you today? God spoke clearly to Abram and he speaks clearly to us today. Just be still and ask God to speak. Continue to listen for his voice daily. His voice is often a still, quiet voice or a ‘knowing’ inside of you!