Sinking Sand

Tuesday 30th April

Psalm 18 

“I love you Lord: You are my strength. The Lord is my Rock, my Fortress, and my Saviour. My God is my Rock, in whom I find protection. He is my Shield, the power that saves me, and my place of safety.” 

Do you ever feel sometimes that life’s problems are ready to swallow you up? Or perhaps you feel like everyday is a battle to get out of a pit of sinking sand. The more your problems increase the more you feel like you are sinking deeper and deeper into a pit that you cant get out of. Well you are not on your own.

 David, knowing that the Kingdom of Israel had been stripped from Saul and given to him, found himself running away from Saul’s jealous manhunt. Saul knew that he had messed things up and knew that God had taken away his kingship and given it to David. He was jealous and was out to get David. David also knew what it felt like to be in a ‘sinking sand pit’ knowing that it was only by God’s strength that he would be saved. 

As we come to chapter 18 in the book of psalms, we read of David’s response to God’s triumph over his enemies and deliverance from the wicked hand of Saul. This chapter is David’s prayer/song of thanksgiving to God for saving and delivering him.

Notice the words rock, fortress and place of safe refuge that David uses to describe God. It is comforting that even though David had no way out and felt abandoned and alone, he still in his heart knew that God was the rock that he could stand on in hard times. Humanly speaking David had no other option but to trust God. Saul wanted David dead. Yet God had a plan for David.

When we feel like we are in a pit of sinking sand we must remember the words David used to describe God. He is our fortress and rock and in His strength and power can we find comfort and help from life’s problems and battles. See God doesn’t just protect us from physical harm in the same way He protected David, He also reaches out in the hard times in our lives and lifts us out the mess we are in and puts us on the Rock that cannot be shaken, Jesus Christ.

 David in verse 33, had full confidence that God would deliver him, so much so that God not only lifted him out of the ‘sinking sand pit’, not only did He place him on a solid rock but he made him so “surefooted as a deer, enabling him (me) to stand on mountain heights.” This is true of God today. He wants to lift you and me out of our problems, onto a solid rock and them make us so secure in Him that we are able to stand on mountain heights and just look down and see were God has delivered us from.

            

Changed For A Purpose

Friday 26th April

Acts 9:1-17 

‘….As he was approaching Damascus on this mission, a light from Heaven suddenly shone down around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul! Saul! Why are you persecuting Me?” “Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked. And the voice replied, “I am Jesus, the One you are persecuting! Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”’ (Verses 3-6)

Over the last few days we have been looking at examples of people who were radically transformed by an encounter with the Lord Jesus Christ. Although there are numerous examples of lives being transformed in the Bible, I wanted to conclude with what I believe to be the most radical and exciting transformation of all, Saul’s conversion on the road to Damascus.

Saul was a hardened radical Pharisee. He despised Christianity and anyone who was affiliated with the ‘church’. Chapter 9 finds us reading of his encounter with Christ. Paul had just witnessed and agreed to the killing of Stephen by stoning and now was on his way to further persecute ‘the Way’. With the High Priests backing and the synagogues support around the Damascus region, Paul filled with hate and anger had one mission; to arrest and bring the Christians back to Jerusalem, bound in chains.

Yet Jesus had other ideas. In one moment of divine visitation, Jesus confronts the very man who in effect had been persecuting Jesus Himself. Paul after being confronted by Jesus had his life changed. In fact Jesus knew what He had planned for Paul already. In verse 15 Jesus comforts the worried Ananias with these words “Go, for Saul (Paul) is my chosen instrument to take my message to the Gentiles and to the Kings, as well as to people the people of Israel.” Jesus in the moment of His appearance to Paul radically changed his desires and commissioned him to be used to spread the Gospel of Christ rather than oppose it.

(On a side note it is interesting that Jesus stops Paul by the power of His words. This again proves that Jesus humbly went to the cross as a Lamb to the slaughter. He could have stopped all that was happening to Him by just His words yet He chose to endure the cross for us.)

It amazes me that the grace of God could have even been extended to someone like Paul. His desires were to persecute and extinguish the work of Christ, yet through his encounter with Christ the opposite happened. Not only was his life so radically changed, he was responsible for bringing Jesus to the lives of thousands in his time and many more since then.

See Jesus doesn’t meet us solely for our own lives to be transformed and then that’s His work done. No, on the contrary. He transforms our lives so He can use us for the extension of His Kingdom through word and deed. Jesus’ work in us should also be manifest through us. It is not a passive inward change but an internal, external and active transformation. Christ through you will bring change to the world. If Christ has radically changed you then Go and bring show Him to others.

 

 

The Power Of The SUN/SON

Wednesday 24th April

Mark 5:1-20

 

“….As Jesus was getting into the boat, the man who had been demon possessed begged to go with Him. But Jesus said ‘No, go home to your family, and tell them everything the Lord has done for you and how merciful he has been.’ So the man started off to visit the TEN TOWNS of that region and began to proclaim the great things Jesus had done for him: and everyone was amazed at what he had told them.”

 (verses 18-20)

Yesterday we looked at the story of Zaachaeus, the chief tax collector, and how his encounter with Christ transformed his life, even to repentance and a change of lifestyle. Again today we will look at the power of Christ and the authority He had on this earth and still has today.

Today’s passage is taken from the gospel of Mark. Jesus has just calmed the treacherous storm that threatened to drown the disciples and now crossed over to the region of Gerasenes. As soon as Jesus stepped off the boat a man possessed by many demons approached Him. Notice the description Mark gives of him “This man lived among the burial caves and could no longer be restrained, even with chains… day and night he wandered among the burial caves and in the hills, howling and cutting himself with sharp stones.” This man was scary! However to Jesus, he was His creation, he was a man that needed to know the love of a Heavenly Father. Jesus was interested in the man himself, not what he had inside him (be it through his own doing). 

As soon as this man saw Jesus, what was in him knew that Jesus was no ordinary person. He immediately knew that Jesus was the “Son of the Most High God”. Interestingly Jesus converses with these evil spirits and even gives them permission to leave the man and possess pigs instead. This of course opens up many questions as to why Jesus allowed that but the most important thing to highlight instead of the why, is the authority Jesus had and the evil spirits submission to it. Not only did Jesus just cast out 2000 evil spirits by the power of His word, but by doing so, set a man free from demonic oppression and transformed his life. Verse 15 tells us “that he was sitting there, fully clothed and perfectly sane. This is the same man that wandered the graveyards day and night, breaking chains and shackles off his very hands, cutting himself with sharp stones and howling like a wild animal. And now he sits clothed and perfectly sane. Why?? Because he had an encounter with Jesus Christ.   

See when we come into the presence of the “SON” of God, who was God, is God and forever will be God, not only do we get set free from our chains and shackles but our lives are totally transformed by His resurrection power in us. Notice the change in this man life as mentioned in the scripture above. Jesus radically changed this mans life, so much so, that he wanted to follow Jesus. Instead, Jesus commissioned him to spread the message of Christ’s acceptance and mercy towards sinners and through his witness many marvelled at the greatness of Jesus’ mighty power to set even the most demon possessed sinner free and radically change their life.

 Have you met with the SON?? 

The Power Of The SUN/SON

Tuesday 23rd April

Luke 19:1-10

“…. Meanwhile, Zacchaeus stood before the Lord and said, ‘I will give half of my wealth to the poor, Lord and if I have cheated people on their taxes, I will give them back four times as much!’. Jesus responded, ‘Salvation had come to this home today, for this man had shown himself to be a true son of Abraham. For the Son of Man, came to seek and save those who are lost.” (verses 8-10).

It’s no secret. I love the sun. In fact, I know for sure that I am not the only one. Basking in the sun’s warmth is good for soul. It almost has a kind of rejuvenation power. Not only does the sun’s rays provide important vitamins for our bodies, it also provides the right chemical reactions in plants and trees to aid growth and even provides a psychological benefit for those suffering with depression. The sun brings joy, happiness, wellness and growth. 

As I was sitting in the sun and benefitting from the blessings of its rays, I realised that we too as Christians can 100% benefit from sitting in the presence of God’s Son, Jesus Christ. The transforming power of Jesus Christ’s presence, in an individual’s life, is nothing short of miraculous. Just as we can get the benefit of sitting in the sun, we can also get an incredible life transforming change when we encounter the SON, Jesus Christ.

Today’s reading is a prime example of a man’s life being changed by meeting Jesus Christ. Luke tells us in chapter 19 verse 2, that Zacchaeus was a very prominent tax collector in the region. In fact he was the chief tax collector. This meant status and wealth. Yet when Jesus came into town, all his accolades and achievements became nothing as he desperately climbed a tree to see Jesus. This was an extraordinary act from Zacchaeus, as a person of his stature and wealth would surely not be seen climbing up a tree so he could see a radical and controversial preacher. What were his motives? Desperation, emptiness in his heart, guilt, remorse, or curiosity? Whatever his motives were, Jesus noticed it! 

In verse 9, Jesus calls Zacchaeus by name to come down from the tree and invites Himself to his house. Of course the crowds were displeased that Jesus was again eating and socialising with a sinful person, especially a corrupt tax collector. But Jesus knew that this was more than just a simple visit to a sinner’s house but a visit to a sinner’s heart. As Zacchaeus accepted Jesus’ request, an inward change in his heart began to take place. His heart began to be filled with ‘great joy and excitement’ as Jesus was coming to his house. 

Zacchaeus suddenly turns to Jesus and practically repents for the way he has gained his wealth. He publically confesses that he had cheated people of their taxes and agrees to pay them back four times as much and not only that, he agrees to give half of his wealth away to the poor. What an extraordinary transformation in this mans life. Jesus, knowing that Zacchaeus was genuine, responds by highlighting that Salvation had indeed come to Zacchaus’ house.

See when we encounter the presence of Jesus Christ, even the hardest criminal’s hearts are transformed by His power. Jesus calls sinners by name and no matter what situation they are in, wants to have communion with them and transform their lives. Why? Because Jesus came to seek and save the lost! When you bask in the sun’s warmth, remember Jesus’ transforming work in a sinner’s heart and what He has done in your life!

When Praise Dry’s Up!!

Friday 19th April

Psalm 148, 150:6

“Let EVERYTHING that has breath praise the Lord, Praise the Lord.”

Finally spring has come. Trees are blossoming, flowers are growing, birds are singing and dare I say it, we have even seen the sun again. New life is all around us and creation is rejoicing in God’s harvest. Yet sometimes, when surrounded with God’s intelligently designed handiwork, we still struggle to find reasons to praise Him. We so often allow ourselves to get consumed in day to day struggles and problems, that we miss the blessings of now and focus on things that are not going so well in our lives.

See the thing is, as emotional and rational people, we are easily swayed by the good and bad things that happen in our lives, and those moments usually dictate our moods and our responses to life’s struggles. It is in those times that we forget God’s blessings of today and instead focus on the problems. God’s desire for us however, is to always see what good He has for us, even in the midst of hard times, and still rejoice in His goodness, no matter what comes our way.

Have you ever stopped and wondered why trees mostly grow with their branches reaching to the heavens. I remember having this conversation with my mother once and we came to the conclusion that they are reaching out and praising God. Ok of course, the sun has a lot do with their growth but if we take the same principle, that in all seasons, we simply stretch out our arms, receive the SON and praise Him, then you will see what fruit you will bear.

I truly believe that God designed creation for us to enjoy. He gave us a way that we might praise Him, even in the hard times. Just look around and see His beauty. Turn your sorrow into garments of praise. Join with creation praising its Creator. Join with angels singing out their praises to a Holy God. Let everything that has breath truly PRAISE THE LORD!!

Un-Plugged From The SOURCE

Thursday 18th April

Acts 1:8 

“But you shall receive POWER when the Holy Spirit has come upon you: and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

 Sometimes my phone battery doesn’t even make it through a whole day. It can be quite frustrating at times. When I come home I plug the charging cable into my laptop and charge it and by the end of the night it’s good to go again. As I was going to bed yesterday, I unplugged the cable from the computer to take it my bedroom as I use my phone for an alarm aswell. As I did this I realised that our relationship with God can sometimes be like this aswell. See when I removed the cable that was charging my phone, immediately I became un-plugged from the source of its energy. When I feel empty and dry in my spirit, I often wonder if I am plugged into the source of life and joy or if I have un-plugged myself. So often we allow ourselves to become empty and dry because we are not plugged into God’s eternal source of power, strength and joy.

 When Jesus left the earth He promised the disciples that although He was with them always, He would leave them the Holy Spirit. The book of acts in chapter 1 verse 8 tells us that when the Holy Spirit came upon the disciples they were clothed in power!! However this power was not just to have a better life or to have the ability to part traffic (as seen in Bruce Almighty) but rather it was given to fully be able to complete the commission Jesus gave to His disciples; To GO and be His witnesses to the ends of the earth!

 Similarly, we too can be filled with the Holy Spirit. But we must plug into His power to be filled, renewed and spread the message of hope and salvation through word and deed. The underlying truth is that you cannot give what you don’t have which is why it is so important to connect with the source of divine revelation being filled and re-energised daily, drawing on His strength and not our own. The source is always in us as Spirit filled believers, but we must activate the power in us but being filled daily with the Holy Spirit. Be filled, get plugged into the source and see what a difference it will make in your life and in those around you.

 

 

 

 

God’s Grace IS ENOUGH

Tuesday 16th March

James 3:8-12

But no man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our God and Father and with it we curse men, who have been made in the similitude of God. Out of the same mouth proceed blessings and cursing. My brethren this ought not to be so. Does a spring send forth-fresh water and bitter from the same opening? Can a fig tree, my brethren, bear olives or a grapevine bear figs? Thus no spring can yield both salt water and fresh.” 

Sadly I often find myself doing the very thing James warns us against. It is so easy on a Sunday morning or in a church setting to talk the talk, to praise God, or to speak in even in the tongues of angels. These things almost come as a second nature in “church” context. But what about when we leave church or on a Monday morning at work? Do we then have the same graceful words or do we so often find ourselves falling into and being influenced by the ways of the world? The truth is is that when we find ourselves in situations whereby we need to be set apart from the world, instead of taking a stand, we join in with the criticising and slandering of others, or sow into negative conversations.

James clearly makes a distinction between that of wholesome talk and that of an “unruly evil” or even “deadly poison”. Why does James use such strong language here to describe the negative way a tongue can be used? I believe it’s because a tongue can often cause more damage than a bullet. I am reminded of the old song “sticks and stones can break my bones but names will never hurt me!!” The sad thing is that this is the biggest lie of all. Name calling or bitter words might not break bones but it can surely cause physical and emotionally damage and the tongue used in the wrong truly can be like a deadly poison.

So what is our response? James says that “no man can tame the tongue”. But in truth does this give us an excuse to be passive about controlling what comes out of our mouth or better still does it point us to the One who can, Jesus Christ. See in our strength we often fail and say things we shouldn’t or even purposefully say things to hurt another. Yet when we ask the Holy Spirit to take over the words we speak over each other, we give Him control to tame our tongues.

The challenge for us all is to allow Jesus’ grace to be so evident in our lives that out of the abundance of His love in us and towards us, flows a river of grace, wholesome talk, and loving kindness out of us! If you are struggling to speak grace over someone then “Let it not be so” my brother or sister. Ask the Holy Spirit to tame your tongue so that the words of your mouth and meditation of your heart will be pleasing and acceptable to God!

Jesus Is With Us Always

Friday 12th March

Matthew 28:29

 “Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given to you. AND BE SURE OF THIS: I AM WITH YOU ALWAYS, EVEN TO THE END OF THE AGE.”

 

 What an amazing truth. Jesus the one who conquered death and sin, defeating the grave through His resurrection and who ever lives for us, stands by our side not only in His own victory but stands with YOU for your victory through life’s battles and struggles. Jesus does exactly what He says. You can be assured of that fact! He said He would be handed over and betrayed and He was. He said that if He was destroyed, He would rise again on the third day and He did. He said that He will be with you until the end of the age, and He will. He is truthful to His word and that is exactly why we can rest assured in this truth.

 Something happened in our family yesterday, which upon reflection highlights this truth even more. Jesus is always with us. No matter what situation we face, how much the enemy tries to disrupt and destroy our lives, Jesus is above and ever present in our situations. His presence with us in both the good and bad, is an anchor and cornerstone for our own personal lives, so that when tough times come, instead of drawing on our fallible and conditional strength, we draw on His infallible and unconditional love, mercy and strength. In fact it is a wonder how often He is with us and protects us even when we don’t realise it. But if Jesus said He would be with you always, He meant it.

 Interestingly, Jesus in the previous verse gives a commission to the disciples to go out and make disciples. This was no easy feat and was only achievable through the knowledge that Jesus was with them (and us) always. In fact, this commission is also ours and equally only achievable if we draw on Christ being with us and in us, for that is the HOPE OF GLORY!!

 Remember whatever you are facing right now, whether good or bad, whether to fulfil God’s commission or in coming back to Him, whatever the situation, BE SURE OF THIS: JESUS IS WITH YOU ALWAYS.

Discipleship And Its Link To Spring

Tuesday 9th April

Matthew 28:19

As I sit on my couch and look out my living room window, I realise I am blessed to have a mini forest outside my flat. In the summer the trees have so many flowers and leaves on them that you cant see through them. Various birds come and chirp at our windows, squirrels chase each other up and down the branches. It almost feels like there is an atmosphere of celebration outside our window. However, much like the rest of this nation, we are still waiting for summer. In fact April still finds itself lingering in the bitter chill of winter. We know spring is near but what was once a beautiful array of God’s creation outside my window now looks like a forgotten barren land. Puny withered trees greet me each morning looking bare and without character. Yet what intrigues me is the fact that there now is an increasing number of birds gathering again, chirping and singing away. Why? I believe it is because they are expectant that spring’s new life is soon approaching. They sense the seasons, are expectant and rejoice in new life.

 Jesus in His commission to the disciples, gives clear instructions to “Go and make and disciples of all nations”. What does it mean to make disciples? Is Jesus saying, go and get as many people into My kingdom as possible? Well, some would argue yes to that. But discipleship is more than just getting people into heaven; it’s training to be like the person they are following. The Rabbinical ideology of a disciple was one of a student like apprentice. The disciples would literally follow the rabbi as he taught them the scriptures and how to observe the laws. Jesus’ idea of discipleship was similar. He significantly chose twelve disciples whom He could train and mentor to carry out His work after His ascension. Mark 3:13-15 summarises discipleship like this, “And He went up to the mountain and summoned those whom He Himself wanted, and they came to Him. And He appointed the twelve, that they might be with Him, and that He might send them out to preach, and to have authority to cast out demons”. Jesus spent 3 and half years training the twelve disciples. Discipleship is not something that happens overnight but is an investment into someone’s life helping them to become more like Jesus and to encourage them to share Jesus with others.

 Sometimes when we are investing in people’s lives, we might get discouraged at not seeing the fruit of our labour but remember that discipleship doesn’t happen overnight. It’s like the birds that sing outside my window. They know spring is coming soon and are expectant yet if they had human eyes they might get discouraged at the lack of green growing in the trees. Yet we must too be expectant to see what God will do if we are obedient to His commission. Go and make disciples! Help people become more like our Lord Jesus Christ. For investing in them will produce good fruit, through the Holy Spirits work in their lives.

 “So let’s not get tired in doing what is good (preaching the good news and discipling others). At the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up!”

 (Galatians 6:9 <parentheses added>)

 

 

The Good News Leads To Salvation

Friday 5th April

Mark 16:15-18

 “And then He told them, “Go into all the world and preach the good news to everyone. Anyone who believes and is baptised will be saved. But anyone who refuses to believe will be condemned. These miraculous signs will accompany those who believe: they will cast out demons in My Name, and they will speak in new languages. They will be able to handle snakes with safety, and if they drink anything poisonous it will not hurt them. They will be able to place their hands on the sick, and they will be healed.” 

Mark in his sixteenth chapter, gives us his record of what happened after Jesus rose from the dead and before He ascended into heaven. Jesus leaves His disciples with a commissioning statement, to go into the world and preach the good news to everyone. There are two actions that they must adhere to. Going and Preaching; and that they did. Verse 20 gives us, along with the book of Acts, the clear evidence that in fact they did go out into the world, preach the good news and God through them, confirmed their words with “many miraculous signs”. I often wonder that if the disciples stayed as they were and went back to their lives as fishermen or tax collectors, what would the church look like today? Whatever the answer is to that question, what we do know is that they obeyed Jesus’ words and preached the good news. 

So what is the good news? The good news is simply that God sent His Son Jesus, to give His life as a ransom for many, to pay the price for mankind’s rebellion to God and to restore their relationship with the Father, through the forgiveness of sins and belief in Him. I am firm believer that the way we live our lives is as much of a testimony as our words in preaching the good news. However our actions as loud as they speak must always be coupled with the good news in words. After all this is what Jesus commissioned the disciples with and this commission stands for us today. 

Yet why is preaching so important and necessary? Because it gives the hearer a chance to respond to the good news. Jesus says that if they believe and are baptised then they will be saved. Consequentially anyone who refuses to believe will be condemned. How can someone have a choice to believe or not believe, if first the subject of belief has not been heard? It is like a court case whereby the judge without hearing the accusations of the prosecutors, immediately passes a guilty sentence to the person being tried. Obviously that would not be fair. It would be even foolishness. First a verbal accusation, accompanied with evidence must be presented to the judge in order to for him to make a decision on whether the person standing trial is guilty or innocent. The same is with those who hear the good news of Jesus Christ. To them that believe, they shall be saved. To them who hear, do not believe or reject the good news, they in turn shall be condemned. In order for the world to make that decision, they must first hear the good news (that’s our role)!

 Speak out and be bold to testify the good news of Jesus Christ, not only in action but also in word!!