Ps 61 verses 8-12 Bless our God O peoples, let the sound of his praise be heard, who has kept us among the living, and has not let our feet slip. For you O God, have tested us; you have tried us as silver is tried. You have brought us into the net; you laid burdens on our backs; you let people ride over our heads; we went through fire and water; yet you have brought us out to a spacious place.
Mark and I go on regular walks from our house along a footpath which runs alongside. It used to be firm and safe. Thanks to all the rain and snow and frost it has become quite unpredictable. Some days it is really squelchy and muddy and slippery. Some days it is frozen and as hard as rock. Other days it is icy and slippy. Other days it can be a combination of all of the above. It made me think that during this pandemic we can feel like the psalmist above. Our Christian walk and life in general has become quite unpredictable and we can feel in danger of slipping and falling or, feeling our walk is so heavy going and like walking through mud that we almost don’t want to go on. The psalmist felt like it was God bringing all his troubles and said so. We know that our troubles are very much man made but it doesn’t make them any easier to bear.
All we know is that God will not let our feet slip and he will bring us to a spacious place. Let’s pray for each other that we will have the strength and courage to go on. Father God ! Look down on this world and have mercy. Give us, your children the grace and strength to go on and to support one another so that we do not slip and fall.
Matthew Ch 2 v 23 and he went and lived in a town called Nazareth. So was fulfilled what was said through the prophets, that he would be called a Nazarene.
If all you ever do is read the Bible occasionally and just pick and choose different passages, you never get a sense of the fulfilled prophecy that takes place within its pages.
The Old Testament prophecies about the coming and life of Jesus run into the dozens. The coming of the Messiah to bring about Israel’s redemption was a recurring theme particularly amongst the Prophets.
It is amazing to consider that those who knew the Old Testament best of all, the Scribes and Pharisees, missed his birth because he did not fulfil their preconceived opinions of what the Messiah would be like.
For over 40 years I have been committed to a regular ordered reading of the Bible virtually every day, even on holiday! Reading one Old Testament chapter and one New Testament chapter daily it takes about 19 – 20 months to read it through.
Whilst no expert, what this had given me is an overview of the work of God over the centuries, and a depth of understanding that nourishes my faith.
If you have never read it, then maybe 2021 is the year to make that commitment to do so.
Dear Lord Jesus, we thank you for your word to us, that it is both ‘living and active, and sharper than any two-edged sword’. Give us a love for it, and may it guide and influence us as we seek to follow you, the way, the truth, and the life.
John 1:29 “The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!”
You might remember that there are seven deadly sins, but here it is the ‘sins of the world’ that are taken away. Have you ever wondered what this phrase means?
Studying human behaviour, as a counsellor does, I see people with anxiety and depression an awful lot of the time. I could categorize all of these unfortunate experiences with two words – ‘not now’. If you feel depressed, you dwell in the past, if you have anxiety, you are always worrying about the ‘what-ifs’, but isn’t being miserable a sin too?
What about celebrity culture or materialism, which is in effect, worshipping someone or something, whilst forgetting what you already have? What about being a people-pleaser? What about pretending to be something you are not – smiling when you feel upset?
Can you think of any of the times when you have hidden or denied your feelings?
Are not these things and others like them signs of succumbing to the snares of the world? The more I pray, however, the more I notice that I am less susceptible to fall into these kinds of trap, and I think that this can only be because somehow my prayer is involved in making me stronger.
Almighty God, in whose image we are created, encourage us to pray more, so that we can actually experience a better life: one that we don’t feel is marred by bad feelings, but one where we positively glow with the joy of personally knowing you.
Psalm 46 verse 10 ‘Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations. I will be exalted in the earth.’
As we look at the state of our nation (and others) as the toll of the current emergency escalates, it is easy to despair and wonder how we can recover. The recent and ongoing turmoil in America is another example which may also cause us to question what is happening in our world. The very urgent and critical world environmental and global warming crisis equally calls for all our attention. Things which seemed so stable at one time such as our economy, healthcare and normal way of life – so much is shifting and uncertain today. This points many of us to cling to the truths of Scripture and the eternal hope found only in the Lord our God. But our prayer today is that the eyes of the world, our leaders, those in authority; right down to the neediest person crying out for freedom, justice and the basic rights of humanity might turn, call and seek the face of our compassionate, merciful, forgiving God. Where we are able, perhaps the God of heaven and earth is calling us to pray, give, speak and act. First though, let us ‘be still, and know that I am God.’
O Lord our God, how majestic is your name. You have established your throne. We will magnify and glorify the Lord enthroned in Zion.
Luke Ch 1 verses 28 – 29 The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favoured! The Lord is with you.” Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be.
There are times when the Biblical record is marvellously understated in what it records, and this is one of those occasions. I wonder what lies behind those words, ‘Mary was greatly troubled’? I think that I would be petrified if I experienced such a visitation, even allowing for the greeting and expression of favour!
The revelation of God or of his Angelic agents in the Old Testament, more often than not brought about fear, astonishment and bewilderment, think about the experiences of Gideon, Isaiah or Ezekiel. In a number of those that are recorded, humanity is stripped bare when faced with the divine, and we hear words like Isaiah’s where he exclaims ‘woe to me, I am ruined’. But on every occasion the result was the transformation of the individual concerned.
Which makes me wonder, what would be the consequences if God revealed himself in such a way during one of our services in Church? I think that there would be tears and anguish as the reality of the majesty of the divine swept over us, driving away apathy and uncertainty. That same transformation that occurred in the lives of those Old Testament characters would take place in those of us present, and life would never be the same, nor would Wath.
Dear Lord Jesus, come, O come Emmanuel and reveal yourself to us in all your glory, burn away our apathy and kindle a flame within us that will cause inward transformation, and outward liberation to proclaim your Gospel.
Psalm 82 verse 6-7 “I have said, Ye are gods; and all of you are children of the most High. But ye shall die like men, and fall like one of the princes.” Also, Jesus referred to this in John 10: 34-38
Did you wonder how, when last week you saw on the news that the outgoing US president’s supporters stormed the Capitol, how they could be so deluded when there is plenty of evidence against what he spouts almost daily?
As I see it, this is a clear example of how delusion works in people. Here, in the verse above, it is written that although the Lord God claims us, through the resurrection of Christ, for his children to have life in abundance, some people still follow celebrities and other false gods and so miss the point.
And the crux of the matter is that although death is thought, by many, to be final, those of us who believe in Christ have lives that are not ruled by death; if we believe in Christ we have the gift of eternal life!
If we take a closer look at Trumps supporters, it is not hard to see that they are attracted to his mantra ‘America first’. He implies that previous governments have marginalised Americans in favour of others – hence they are victims.
And so, they follow this false god, and are deluded, and do ignoble, ungodly things.
Oh perfect, loving Father, encourage us through the gift of your Holy Spirit, to believe in you through your Son who has shown us what you are like; let our faith approach that perfect faith which Jesus embodied in what He said and did.
Protect us, through your uncreated Light, which shows us the Truth, against deception by random thoughts of victimhood. For if we have you for our Father, we have no need to feel sorry for ourselves, but be full of the joy of knowing you.
Let us therefore glorify you with works of faith, through Jesus Christ, our Lord.
Phil Ch 2 verse 14 Do everything without grumbling or arguing…
One sure sign of a discontented person is their tendency to grumble. We all know someone who seems to enjoy grumbling. We all know, certainly at the moment, that for some and perhaps all of us, every supermarket visit, every visit to the family, every drive in the car, every phone call we get is a cause to moan, complain and see the worst.
And to be honest who can blame anyone for grumbling in these dark times.
However, expressing negative thoughts does reinforce them in our hearts. It also spreads gloom and sadness to others who will then reflect doom and gloom back to us. And so it goes on. This endless cycle of gloom.
We can see it in the press and in ourselves and neighbours.
At this time, as Christians, Christ is calling us to live more positively and to shine as lights. So, even if we do grumble from time to time, let’s try to see the good in every day and try to bring hope and cheer to all those who need it.
Lord Jesus Christ, thank you for the hope you bring to our hearts and lives. Even while our burdens are heavy, help us to shine as lights in this dark world and to bring your unending love and hope to others.