Bible Verses

Power to be Yourself

Deep down inside each of us, a nagging question lurks. Who am I? It is only when we answer that question satisfactorily that we can move on to settling the confusing array of related conundrums: What do you want to do? What is your purpose in life? No wonder there is a queue of at least half a dozen ancient Greek thinkers laying claim to the aphorism, know thyself!

The miraculous intervention of the Holy Spirit into our lives brings us to a point where we can explore the first question in relation to ourselves. Acts ch.1 v.8 puts it succinctly: You will receive power, you will be Jesus’ witness.

There you have it! What am I? You are a person of real supernatural power. You are no longer limited to the weakness that beset you before, you can take control, you can be a success.

That may be so – but a success at what?

First and foremost, you are a witness to Jesus’ life-transforming power. Starting where you are, you have the power to boldly proclaim that faith in Jesus has turned your life upside down, that you have found new resources to love, persevere and extend grace to those around you; that you have discovered new depths of joy and freedom in thinking that were alien to you before taking those first seps of faith.

By being set free to declare who you are now, you can begin to see your role develop in becoming a more effective witness . That way, you catch hold of the power to be your new, transformed, victorious self.

Bible Verses

Attempt Great Things…

There’s an interesting line in 2 Corinthians ch.3 v.12 – at first sight, you might think it an afterthought, but it plays a crucial part in linking together the first and second halves of the chapter. The passage emphasizes the difference between God’s ministry of reconciliation through His people before Christ and after.

Since our hope is not focused on preparing the way for the Messiah, but on completing the work of reconciliation He has already begun – both in us and in our communities – we have a vision for a future far more expansive, where God’s Kingdom makes an increasingly significant impact, culminating in Jesus’ return.

We have a guarantee, God’s promised Holy Spirit, working through us, helping perfect us and bringing us closer to the Father as we reveal the Son to a world in need of a Saviour.

This is why verse 12 makes such a grand claim – we are very bold. Not just a little bit confident. Not we have a positive feeling that something good might come out of all this – but we are absolutely convinced – in a world crying out for certainty – that the same God who created the universe and sent Jesus to redeem it from a sin-sick destiny; this all-powerful Creator who changed the course of history through raising Jesus from the dead; this Lord of All who seals His promise to us through the gift of His own Spirit to make us alive to Him – this God will prevail. His plan will succeed.

Deep down inside each of us, we look for immortality – we do not want our short life to end without us making an impact on a cold, infinite universe. We are desperate to make our mark. It drives us to procreate, it propels us into writing, communicating our thoughts in the ope that we will live on through our ideas.

It is this primeval urge that is met through a right relationship with our Creator. This desire can be channeled into building the Kingdom that will stand – not only the test of time – but into eternity. That is what gives us a confidence, a boldness to face the universe head on and attempt to turn the world upside down.

Bible Verses

Expect Great Things…

William Carey used to say, “Expect great things from God, attempt great things for God.” It was a pattern for his own life as he founded a missionary society at a time when others were of the opinion that the Good Lord would save the heathen in His own good time – a way to excuse complacency that still strikes a chord today when we see social injustice, ignorance and superstition continuing to bind up so many around the world.

Carey was inspired by Isaiah ch.54 v.2-3, which is certainly a good place to start. But I’m going to focus on Psalm 37 v.4, which tells us, “Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.” It sounds so syrupy, conjuring an image of a loving and benevolent God who exists to indulge his adoring children.

However, it’s far more than that. It’s an instruction, a direct, imperative command – not merely a positive suggestion. It is a clear precondition that states unequivocally that if you wish to have your desires fulfilled, you must get your priorities in order. Your relationship with your creator is at the root of your personal success.  To try to see it any other way, to seek the goodies  for their own sake is to miss the point spectacularly – the phrase “putting the cart before the horse” comes to mind. It just doesn’t work, no matter how hard we try to convince ourselves otherwise.

There are two important issues that are addressed by getting your attitude and relationship to God sorted, before seeking the benefits arising from this. The first is that our motives are purified. The Apostle James put it a little more bluntly when he told his readers in chapter 4 of his letter, “You ask, and you don’t get, because you pray with selfish motives.” If God truly delights us, then our hearts’ desires will be focussed on what will please Him. Which brings me to the second point.  Your heart’s desire must be specific – otherwise, how will you know you have received it?

It is of little point, to go around talking of “great things”, believing God for “great things”, positively confessing that He will do “great things” and eagerly anticipating “great things” with a sincere heart that delights in the Lord if you cannot put into words what those “great things” are.

If you believe that God wants to turn lives around in your neighbourhood, bring people to a real, personal faith in Him, heal broken hearts and bodies, give direction and purpose to those who feel an empty void – then make these specific things the desire of your heart. Expect Him to intervene, and act on His prompting.

Bible Verses

Pressing on – a call to persevere

In Philippians ch.3 v.14, the Apostle Paul makes a simple bold statement. It is one that we can identify with and apply to ourselves at times when we feel like giving up.

Paul’s attitude is not to give up. He states that he will press on – he will continue to go forwards – not stop and consolidate, not backtrack to a position of security – but actively continue in the direction that he is convinced is right.

He has a goal in mind – like all of us, he cannot see it physically, but by faith he reaches out to take hold of it – or rather he allows himself to be gripped by its inexorable attraction. He can imagine the end-game, the final goal and therefore is certain of the role his actions and the obstacles around him play in getting there.

By having this perspective, he sees hindrances for what they truly are – not as great mountains that would threaten to extinguish the light of his vision, but as temporary challenges that have already been defeated in an eternal dimension; for all he needs to do is to press on and their demise is as sure as the prospect of him reaching his ultimate goal in Christ.

Bible Verses

An uncomfortable promise

We are always ready to accept nice gifts. Whether from people, or from God. So, when a friend tells you, “Look, here it is in the Bible, you’re promised health, wholeness, purpose and power,” we say, “great, I’m having a big slice of that. Thank you, Lord!”

However, there are other promises, unconditional guarantees from the Good Lord’s mouth that we might not be quite so ready to accept wholeheartedly. John ch.16 v.33 contains one of them.

“In this world, you will have trouble.” But I didn’t sign up for that, I signed up for the Kingdom of God package, being the head and not the tail, having influence and power because of my new relationship with my Creator!

That’s the point. God’s Kingdom is not of this world. The system of this world is in implacable opposition to it. There was no need to trouble you when you were under its control, but now that you are not, you feel the struggle keenly.

There is good news however. Jesus continues His promise by pointing out one important truth. This is not a battle between equals. We are not looking at an eternal match between to sides of the same coin. The world is created, finite and above all – temporal. Jesus, on the other hand, as eternal creator has infinitely greater resources at hand to bring all your troubles to a conclusion that glorifies Him and makes the source of your salvation clear.

That is the good news. Not that we won’t have trouble. We will, it’s guaranteed. But that whatever the world throws at us to bring us down will be turned on its head and be used to glorify the one who saved us as he brings you safely through it.

Bible Verses

Psalm 23 – an anthem to prosperity?

I have been thinking about that much-loved part of the Bible that many of us are over-familiar with. It is actually a revolutionary text when you consider the implications of what it so simply, and poetically states.

We’re told in the first verse that, because the Lord is our shepherd, we lack nothing. This is David’s experience, and he’s so convinced about the ability of God to provide his needs, that he inspires us to believe the same. The Good Shepherd who supplies all his needs is the same Good Shepherd who cares for us.

However, there is an important proviso. This Good Shepherd leads and guides – he prompts and directs David into a position where he can experience God’s provision. If we find ourselves thinking, “Well, where is the God who promised to provide my needs?”, it may be time to assess whether we are truly led by Him.

Self-examination is good. It is Biblical. It has a clear purpose and goal: to determine whether we are living our lives in the benefit of the revelation God has given us through His Word, and whether we have a clear vision of His purpose for our individual lives.

Bible Verses

Power to be Positive

We love Philippians ch.4 v.13 – it is just so incredibly positive to say that I can do all things through Christ. It makes perfect sense. If you believe that you are empowered by the Creator of the universe who intimately knows how everything was created and is capable of supplying the knowledge and skill required to bring about His will through you at the time when He wants it; then this verse is axiomatic.

We can do all things because we are an integral part of the means He has chosen to redeem all things.

The flip-side is that if we find we’re in a situation where we are powerless and unable to make a difference it challenges us on two fronts:

Is this because we are no longer exercising His will. Did we have a clear vision of what He wanted to accomplish? Are our own motives and agendas pure?

Are we being challenged to take on this because God is trying to demonstrate His greatness through our powerlessness? Should we be looking for His miraculous intervention to transform a hopeless situation through our persistent and faithful prayer?

This is why James tells people to pray for wisdom! We need to know the difference between these situations.

However, there is another important point that needs to be stressed. When Paul wrote about being able to do all things, he was not speaking from a position of great material prosperity and physical comfort – indeed, his point was that he had known great challenges and need. But God had been faithful in all circumstances, had met his needs and empowered him to fulfil his calling – providing all he needed to do this – whether it was physical strength, skills, knowledge, supernatural power or just getting the timing right.

Because of his experience of God’s provision in the past, Paul was able to look on negative circumstances with a positive outlook and be certain that God would not only see him through it, but would do so in such a way that God was glorified.

Bible Verses

Reflections on Faith (6)

Hebrews ch.11 v.6 lays down an important challenge to all who claim to believe. It is not enough to believe that God merely exists. People often quote James ch.2 v.19 at this stage in a discussion on faith – which makes the same point, but in a very different way.

In their case, demons are not expressing an academic opinion on whether there may or may not be a Creator of the universe. They are well aware of the truth behind that. Instead – they have gone one step further, having translated their faith into action, they tremble with the anticipated fear of their impending judgement.

Similarly for us – the question becomes not – do you believe in God, but what sort of God do you believe in?

Is your God one who will judge without mercy?

Is your God one who will be fickle, inconsistent, merely because He can?

Or has your God revealed Himself to be consistent, a rewarder of those who seek to do His will on earth?

It is this arean where doubt actually becomes a useful tool in purifying our faith – where we critically examine our thoughts and experiences and question our assumptions – not on the subject of God’s existence – but to ensure we have fully grasped the depth and complexity of His nature.

If our concept of God is at fault – it is our duty to use doubt to excise those imperfections in order that our view of Him becomes clearer. By doing so we receive our reward – a deeper, more authentic fellowship with the Lord of Creation, a greater insight into our purpose in His universe.

Bible Verses

Reflections on Faith (5)

To understand the significance of Hebrews ch.11 v.5 you need to cross-reference it against Genesis ch.5 v.24. Another hero of faith from the beginning of history. We’re told in Genesis that Enoch walked with God. He didn’t just live a good life. He wasn’t remembered for his wealth. It was the quality of his ongoing relationship with his Creator that marked him out as someone different.

He disappeared. But it was understood that this meant he was with God, in His presence eternally as a sign to us that we too have a future in eternity – we too can stand in god’s presence if we dare to cultivate an intimacy with God.

Yes, it makes us stand out. Yes, it is something we work at – as with all relationships. But its benefits are out of this world.

A relationship with God is a step towards a life with purpose. We have a glorious destiny ahead of us – but there is a price to pay. Will you stand up and be counted as one who pleases God rather than men?

Bible Verses

Reflections on Faith (4)

Hebrews ch.11 v.4 tells us that by faith – Abel still speaks, even though long dead. Faith brings immortality in ways that are not immediately apparent. For a long time I wondered what Romans ch.2 v.7 was talking about – it did not make sense when considering that Paul wrote so much about faith being diametrically opposed to salvation by works. But when seen in the light of this statement from Hebrews, it takes on a new shade of meaning. Allow me to explain.

What will you leave as a legacy to those who come after you? A  small pot of money, a house, some antique nick-nacks? Abel, and those who come after him, saw by faith that future generations would build upon their experience of God. Their legacy – demonstrating that it is possible to live a life pleasing to God though faith – still has value today.

To that extent, by seeking to be people of a pioneering faith,  we too can speak in a voice that will survive the span of many generations. Our words and actions become immortal – continuing to bear fruit amongst our spiritual descendants.