Bible Verses

Staying positive – during times of change

It looks so simple – Malachi ch.3 v.6 says it in black and white – God does not change. He is a rock of stability for us to cling to in a universe of shifting shadows and storms on every side.

But there’s more to it than that. The passage tells us much more – these were people who faced trouble, but that came from their inability to keep their side of a sacred covenant.

The promise was a great deal for them – had they kept their side of the contract. Follow me, the Lord had said and I’ll bless you. Spiritually, materially, emotionally – fullness is yours for the asking. But they didn’t, and catastrophe followed.

For these people, the remedy was simple enough – as the Good Lord hadn’t moved, it was they who had strayed – all they had to do was return to him.

For us, there’s an added dimension – bad things don’t just happen to bad people. If they did, Job’s counsellors would have been praised for their depth of insight and theological astuteness. And the cross? That would be sheer folly!

We know this – and it hurts – because we can’t give glib answers to hurting people. When we face disruption, uncertainty ourselves it’s of little consolation to us that we walk in the footsteps of One who suffered far more than us. We want answers, we want resolution. We want our comfort and stability back. And it hurts us even more when we see our struggles from a divine perspective.

There is one thing we share with the descendents of Jacob to whom Malachi’s prophecy was directed. God has not written us off – in their case, it was the covenant made with their ancestors. God refused to give up on these wayward people – He would see His purpose fulfilled, whatever the cost.

For us, it’s a new covenant – made through Jesus’ unique sacrifice – once for all of us. For that reason we can be certain that this unchanging God will change His mind about us. He has declared that He will be with us, that He will work through us, He will perfect what He has started in us. Therefore it will happen.

He has not promised it will be easy or painless.

He has not promised material benefits at the expense of our spiritual health. But He has promised to meet all our needs – although the method He chooses to deliver on this promise is entirely down to Him. He is, after all, a Creator – and therefore His methods are often creative, original and unpredictable.

It seems strange to come full circle – to take comfort in the fact that we can be certain that in a world of instability we can be confident in seeing God’s provision for us through unexpected ways. But dare we pray it? Surprise us, Lord, through your unforeseen bounty – because it’s so much better than monochrome, hum-drum predictability.

Bible Verses

Staying Positive – when there’s no answer to prayer

Luke ch. 18 v.1 introduces a couple  of short parables about our attitude to prayer. Jesus’ matter of fact treatment of the subject is worthy of some consideration.

First – prayer is natural. Jesus assumes that we will pray; that we will want to pray; that we will wonder about if we’re doing it right. So, He addresses our concerns through telling a couple of stories to point out some important truth to us.

Secondly, a lack of instant answers is not a big deal. Jesus’ attitude is not one of, “Well, if you pray and your Heavenly Father does not immediately make the situation turn around so that all is fine for you again, then obviously you’ve done something really bad that you need to seek forgiveness for, or you’ve done it wrong and missed out some important-sounding words, or you just don’t have enough faith…”

Instead, He sees it as a natural part of the process of developing a relationship with God. We’re not spiritual failures, we’re God’s children, learning important truths about perseverance, love and God’s power – where His timing and His agenda for our growth are of great importance.

Thirdly, He assumes that we will persevere and that we will get an answer. We may not know how long it will be before we see Him intervene, but we can be certain that Jesus has confidence in us; that He is sure that we have what it takes to keep on until we do see an outcome to our persistent, faithful prayer.

If He has such great confidence in us, what more comforting reassurance can we get that we can, and we will see our difficulties through to a successful conclusion?

Bible Verses

Staying positive – when you’re tired

John ch.4 v.6 is not a text you would expect to hear a preacher  on – they are far more likely to discuss the miraculous insight the Jesus had which disarmed a Samaritan woman’s scepticism and transformed her into a soul-winner. After all, that’s the main thrust of the passage.

But I take great encouragement from the sixth verse for a number of reasons.

It tells us that Jesus got tired – what an amazing revelation!

This is not to detract from His divinity – as our Divine Saviour, He temporarily laid aside His right to effortlessly overcome tiredness when He entered our world. He did so in order to show us how to live – to be our ultimate example.

Therefore, please note carefully; being tired is not a sin. You do not need to feel guilty about exhaustion. Jesus felt it too – and rested.

Secondly, being tired doesn’t mean that you have to put your spiritual face on and pretend you’re not. You can ask for help – whether it’s a refreshing cup of cold water or time and space to crash out and recharge. If you have a need, then say so.

Thirdly, it tells us that being tired doesn’t mean that God can’t use you in a powerful, miraculous way.  Yes, it’s inconvenient for God to break through when we’re least ready for it – but that’s His style. That way, you can be sure it was His intervention and not your own resources that brought about that miraculous transformation. Whether it’s finances being met, people being healed or lives being turned around through a discovery of God’s love – He can do it all without your assistance, even when you’re at you’re lowest ebb.

The best thing of all is that God will not put you in a position that you cannot handle. He will give you the strength to say no to a ministry opportunity that you don’t need. He has your best interests at heart and can be relied upon to bring you through your exhaustion better prepared when you are ready. His timing is perfect, even if our frustration at our own weakness threatens to overwhelm us. That is the time to rejoice, for we know we can do nothing but rest and let Him work without us impeding Him.

Bible Verses

In the Beginning…

John’s Gospel opens up with a powerful statement that mirrors the start of the Old Testament.

In the beginning was the Word. And the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

It becomes clear to us later in the passage that the Word referred to here is none other than Jesus Christ – the Word became flesh … dwelt among us … we have seen his glory. But why the Word?

Words have power. They give meaning, demonstrate character – communicate emotion, express truth; they create and tear down. They judge and lift up.

John chose his words carefully.

How could he express the inexpressible? How could he define a person, an event, an experience so all-encompassing that no book could ever completely frame and define what he felt?

As a word.

How could the Almighty communicate with us, translating the infinity of eternity into our material universe?

Through His Word.

The Word illuminates, defines, encapsulates who God is in a way that our fallible, finite minds can grasp at. We don’t see it all, but we see enough to know, to be certain.

We perceive enough of the infinite for Him to touch our intellect and enable us to experience eternity to the extent that we can cope with. It is enough to satisfy us and – by the nature of what we experience – simultaneously creates a longing in ourselves to share this insight, this power, this new perspective on life, love and destiny with all who will listen.

This is the power of the Word – it transforms, it creates, it renews. It awakens within us a desire to be in union with our Creator and His purpose and to emulate his redemptive work in our own spheres of influence.

For us, an encounter with the almighty through faith is a new beginning that begins and finds its completion in His Word.

Bible Verses

A need to study?

Whether we like to admit it or not, we are stewards of everything we possess. Nothing belongs to us alone. Instead, we have been entrusted with a responsibility to invest our time and efforts in the growth of God’s Kingdom.

This includes our thought-life and the way we fulfil the potential of our minds. We have a sacred responsibility to be the best student that we can be whether we like to admit it or not.

The responsibility does not end there however. We also are expected to apply the principles learned consistently in our own lives, and teach others to do the same. This is what Paul hints at when he wrote to Timothy challenging him to present himself to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth (2 Timothy ch.2 v.15).

Fortunately, we are not alone. We have a teacher, the Holy Spirit – who is able to guide us patiently into the lifestyle we crave for deep down; and a community of fellow travellers, seeking the same as ourselves willing to  share what revelation we have to build one-another up.

Of course this sounds just like a load of idealistic nonsense – as if somehow reducing spirituality to the level of a recipe book will make all the hurt we experience from interacting with eachother go away. But that’s the good news – despite our moral failings, our selfishness, our hidden agendas, our laziness our inability to look beyond the immediate and grasp the eternal.

In spite of all this God doesn’t give up on us. He keeps on reminding us of who we truly are when we look deeply into the mirror of His Word  and see the unashamed workman who correctly handles the truth.

That is why we study – to see ourselves.

Bible Verses

Christ in You

Colossians ch.1 v.26-27 refers to a great mystery kept hidden – but now revealed. This sounds exciting. Some sort of special secret knowledge. We all love mysteries – we like to be in the know; part of the inner circle who realise what’s really going on.

We don’t like to be kept in the dark – it’s stressful; it plays on our fears  so our imaginations run riot and make our lives more miserable than if we’d been woken up from our happy ignorance by sudden disaster.

But there’s good news here – the secret’s out. The last page of the detective story has already been turned. Our heroes and villains have been unmasked as the convoluted tale of history is made clear.

The secret is no longer really secret – unless you refuse to hear the good news and act on it. The secret – like all good denouements – is so simple even a child could follow it. It cuts through the complexity like a sharp knife through a tangled knot.

The secret is…

You can experience the same quality and purpose in life as Jesus Christ. You can have the same intimate relationship with your Creator as He did. Not only that but, in working with Him in partnership you can play your own uniques part in bringing Christ’s healing ministry to your part of the world. You can exercise authority in bringing about God’s ultimate purpose – not only in your life, but extending His rule throughout your own community.

This is what the prophets saw and longed to be a part of.

Bible Verses

Making the most of every opportunity

Ephesians ch.5 v.16 gives us an instruction designed to startle us out of our complacency. It concentrates our minds and efforts when we consider that we race, not only against the pressures of our own mortality, but also against the progress of everything that seeks to hinder or impede the expansion of God’s kingdom on earth.

Your time is one of the most important assets that you possess. As with everything else that we own, though, we are merely stewards of our time and one day will be called to account for how we used it.

It is up to us to invest our time wisely. It is our responsibility to learn strategies that enable us to work smarter and thus gain a greater reurn on the effort we invest in building our lives in a godly way.

Half-heartedness is not an option for success. Neither is cutting corners. We are called to be a people of excellence whose lives reflect the excellence of the Lord who redeemed us, gave us a purpose and direction and empowered us to demonstrate His wisdom and power in a world that desperately cries out for His intervention.

The good news for us is that we are not left alone to do this – we have an all-powerful equipper working in partnership with us, giving us grace to see His prompting come to fruition through our perseverance.

Bible Verses

Learning to be positive

Romans ch.8 v.31 asks a question that demands a response. Normally, we look at the second half of the verse “If God is for us, who can be against us?” We know that the structure of the question leads us to an obvious answer. Nothing – no-one can prevail against the all-powerful will of our Creator, who has our best interests at heart.

Deep down however, we’re mentally ticking off the checklist of bugbears that haunt us. Things that do stand against us – if only in our imaginations. These are the target of the first half of the verse. What then shall we say in response to all of this?

The this, referred to is the affirmation of God’s call, God’s purpose and God’s unceasing commitment to fulfilling this in our lives. Fear and uncertainty may be a natural response to the question – if God is for us who can be against us?  but they arise as a result of not seeing the bigger picture for what it is.

The question arises as a result of our assurance of who we are – when we gain a greater perspective of that, we are in a better position to appreciate its truth.

Learning to be positive in this way is not easy in the midst of the trials we find ourselves in. But it is an essential part of our education as children of God.

Bible Verses

Lent Meditation (1)

Matthew ch.4 v.1 tells us that Jesus went into the wilderness. Why?

To be tempted – it seems strange. We pray, “lead us not into temptation” but Jesus knew that that his experience in the wilderness would result in a powerful encounter with the accuser. This is an important point that cannot be ignored.

We need to prepare to face and be victorious over whatever would beset us at the end of our own time in the wilderness. Our weapons should be the same as those of our Lord: the Word of God, handled correctly. Anything else will not work.

To meet with the Father – there were far fewer distractions in the wilderness. It may be worth thinking about this the next time you find yourself metaphorically in the wilerness, stripped of distracting opportunities to minister, you can focus on what really matters.

To prepare for power – without the first two, there would be no point to this final entry. It is after Jesus’ baptism and wilderness experience that we see Him exercising real power to turn the world around Him upside-down.

That same power is available to us – but it comes at a price. To follow Jesus’ example as a powerful man of God, it is necessary to follow His example of dependence on the Father and His Word in the wilderness.

Bible Verses

Easter Meditation (1)

When Easter is past, the chocolate eggs and bunnies consumed. It is time to reflect on what it all means.

Good Friday is not a pleasant occasion for many. The reality of blood, nails, thorns and suffering is too much to bear. However, the stark reality of sin is far worse. A deadly sickness of the soul requires a radical solution. This is what crucifixion is about.

To me though – there is more to Good Friday than sacrifice. It speaks of victory – at the darkest point when all seems to be lost, this is in fact the finest hour. This is the point where history is turned upside down – for nothing will ever be the same again.

The curtain rips, God’s home is now with men – there is no barrier to impede communication through the work of Jesus in reconciling the two. Through His death we receive eternal life through s relationship with a Heavenly Father. Before His death, we could not hope to stand before God – now we have a real hope for so much more.