The Message from the Messenger.

I hear the words, “Come to me and rest in my love”. Thankyou Lord for receiving me and loving me – just the way I am. I spend some time just quietly imagining that I am sitting next to my Father and feeling His love and acceptance, recognizing his desire to protect me and provide for me. I ponder on the enigma of “the Lord of the universe – nailed to a tree “- for me as much as anyone else – such love!

” Yes, come to me is my invitation to you with whatever cares you may have, whether you are feeling weary or discourage or full of joy – I welcome you to sit beside me and receive my love and my forgiveness for your self-centredness and self-will. My offer to you is twofold – rest from your cares, with forgiveness opening the way for me to show my love and secondly, the invitation to take up my yoke – which has been specifically designed for you and as you start drawing on my yoke – serving me – you will sense I am yoked next to you and drawing with you so that it will be easy and you will not grow weary again”.

Our reading today is from John 1:19-34. John, the writer, returns to speaking about John (the Baptist), continuing to link his unveiling of who Jesus is/was from the Old Testament. John, the Baptist now has a chance to speak.

Firstly, he emphatically denies that he is the expected Messiah. Remember the expectation was high in Israel at the time for the imminent arrival of the Messiah, the future king who would come to rescue His people, Israel. John’s behaviour had obviously attracted the attention among others of the priests and Levites. So, their first interest was the question of whether he was in fact the Christ. As we read on through this passage, we see that there is an apparent emphasis on baptism. Apparently, there was an understanding that such a baptism would be associated with the coming of the Messiah. This explains the question in vs 24; “Why then do you baptize if you are not the Christ?”

John fields this question by directing the questioners attention to the fact that he himself is insignificant, placing himself in the position of “One calling in the desert, ‘Making straight the way of the Lord'”, a prophecy from Isaiah 40:3.

The thrust firstly of his reply is to compare himself in all humility to the real Messiah. He was not worthy of tying the thongs of His sandals. He was before him, existing from time immemorial and much greater. And while John’s baptism was with water, meaning it was symbolic of washing away sins on repentance, the One coming after him would baptize with the Spirit, bringing real transformation and power.

Now, I was involved in the 80’s in the Charismatic movement, where I was saved. I was attracted to the main teaching they were propagating which was the need and value of being baptized in the Spirit. Their teaching was that this baptism happened after salvation and empowered one for service. They spoke much of the power – dunamis (from which comes the word dynamite) which came with the Spirit’s presence. This is clearly a wrong doctrine, but in a way, they were right in their observation that the average Christian did not seem to have any power.

Firstly, the term Baptism in the Spirit describes our initial entry into the kingdom. It is another term for being born again, saved, converted etc. Paul makes this clear in 1 Co 12:13 For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free —and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. There is no room there for someone to be a real Christian without this transformation which the Spirit brings.

However, having said that, their observation was and still is correct in many respects. There are heaps of people who call themselves Christian, the churches are full of them who don’t show the dynamic power of Christ’s presence in them. Paul describes this accurately in 2 Timothy 3:5 as having a form of godliness but denying its power. He uses this description to describe the church in the last days. They were just wrong in assuming that all these people are really Christians and this explanation of a “second blessing” as they often referred to it, explained it to themselves.

The reality of our gospel message is that each one of us, baptized in the Spirit, live in the power of God’s Spirit and presence every day. His Spirit enables us to be witnesses to His living presence, by our love and ability to reach out across difficulties to each other and the world.

Coming back to John’s testimony he draws it all together in the last paragraph where he refers to seeing Jesus being baptized and the Spirit literally visible in the form of a dove settling on him. He finally sums it all up in the last vs 1:34 I have seen and I testify that this is the Son of God.

As we see these proofs mount up as to who Jesus really is, my hope and expectation is that you will grow incrementally in your faith as we see more and more of them in this glorious gospel of John. God bless till next week.

From Law to Grace.

The wonder of the cross strikes me again. The Source of life – represented by Light – comes to the earth and dies on a Cross. His absence represented by instant darkness. How much more intimate can His identification with us be?

”Yes, my heart seeks to reach out to your heart so that you may just know something of my love. That love that took me to the cross, and in knowing that love, in experiencing that love which I have poured out and continue to pour out – you have the occasion to respond by giving me your Love – you’re all. Abandoning your earthly treasures, all the things of this world you love, taking up your cross and following me by giving your Love fully to me. This is a process which becomes more real as time passes and you grow nearer to Me, but I am helping you with my grace all along to be able to release your grip on this world and turn and give me all of you.”

Back to John 1. As John has identified this One about whom his gospel account is going to be about, as the Word, Creator, the Source of Life represented by light, he first shows the link to the Old Testament scriptures and experience of God’s chosen people.

This link was in the form of a man also called John, described here as a “witness” to the True Light. John, the writer does not expand on this one who acts as a witness, preparing the people for the coming of the Real Light of the World. Nevertheless, it is an important link which indicates the progression of God’s story and reminds the reader that the coming of the One who is now the focus of the story, doesn’t just happen on the scene as it were, but was planned for from the beginning.

Our focus then moves to vs 14. The esoteric description of the One, as The Word and The Light is now described as becoming real to the world by taking on flesh to be among us. The word described in vs 14 as “dwelling” is actually “tabernacling”, dwelling in a tent. This shows that His presence here in the flesh was always going to be temporary. This is huge. Matthew describes this concept in ch 1 as Jesus being called “Emmanuel” – “God with us”.

This is really the Almighty Creator described in vs 1 who has come to live among mankind and experience his life with him. It is actually easy to let this reality become everyday as we become used to it. We should never lose our awe at what He did.

He ends that paragraph with the statement that Jesus came from the Father bringing the fulness of grace and truth. John, (the Baptist) testifies and emphasizes that Jesus way surpasses him in greatness and then returns to the concept of the grace. Jesus represents the “fulness of grace and truth“, bringing a completely new era. Vs 16 is difficult to translate from the Greek. The RSV says, “From His fulness we have all received grace upon grace”. The picture is one of Jesus Himself bringing an overflowing fulness of grace, which He represents in Himself first. This concept of the fulness of grace is then contrasted with the Old Testament, describing it as the era of the law given by Moses. Jesus comes bringing a completely new era.

May you be conscious of this overflowing grace which is always with us in the person of Jesus in the coming week. We don’t have to ask for more of His grace, but maybe that we should become more conscious of how magnificent and complete what is already there for us. Paul said in 2 Cor 12:9 that Jesus told him that, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness”. The weaker you feel, the more conscious you will be of God’s grace.

Jesus the Light of Men.

As a deer pants for water so my soul pants for you oh God my Father.

” My aim in creating you and every person on this earth is to have fellows who long to be with me – with the same desire as that deer – who pants for water after running through the mountains, now totally exhausted. That is why I have created you all so that you will seek me and my promise, ever faithful and ever true, is that I will be found of you. That is why I came, Immanuel to be God with you to open the way for intimate communication which would be fulfilling to you and would fulfil my desire for a people who want to worship me and place me first in their lives. To you all then I promise the closest of fellowship, always ready to hear you and to respond, always ready to cover you with my grace. So – yes – here I am with you this morning as I have promised.”

We continue then with John’s introduction. He starts, as we saw last time with a description of the One about whom the whole book is going to be about. Firstly, he describes Him as the “Word”, foundational to God, the Father’s communication with His creation and each one of us. Today we see that the next step as we look back at God’s creation process was to give life to it. From the very beginning, His creation was to be alive, dynamic, developing, growing, interacting. God describes this life as giving light to His creation. Gen 1:3

In the presence of light there is always the possibility of darkness. Darkness where the light does not reach. God has used darkness in this world creatively. Every day ends with a period of darkness called night, when life on earth comes to rest and restore. This period is essential for the proper functioning of God’s creation. However, even when it is dark His creation is dynamically active in many ways.

Then in Genesis we are introduced to a new dimension. Adam’s revolt against the rule of God in his life. This revolt placed a barrier between man and God and we see that barrier is often called darkness. So, we see in Isaiah 9:2 the promise of God through Isaiah was that He would send someone to “The people walking in darkness”. This One would be “a Great light“. He would be called ” Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”

Back to John who then, identifies this One whom he is introducing as that Light who would bring two things to the people. He would bring life. That is, he would bring a new sort of life, because everyone without that light is, “dead in their trespasses and sins” (Ephes 2:1). To do that He would as the light, remove the darkness of sin which is the barrier between us and Him.

This metaphor of light is most powerful. No life is possible without light. So, in reality we only live because there is light, but much more we can only have true life once we have experienced the illumination of God’s supernatural light in our lives. Yet sin still lurks. As darkness spoils the light and hides much, sin has that effect on our lives preventing true life and true fellowship. Yet this Light who comes will remove that darkness. Without the light of this One whom John is describing we would still be in darkness and separated from God.

The next step is most amazing: v5b “the darkness did not understand this light“. And one step further we see in v 11 that though He specifically came first to His own people, they would not receive Him. It is amazing to think that this huge, unsurpassed gift should have been rejected by the very people He came to give life to. Then comes the frightening part, it is only those who accept Him that will benefit from His presence as the Light.

In fact, this life which He has brought, if it is received will qualify the receiver to be called a “child of God” v 12. Then note in v 13 that this adoption into God’s family is not something which is just sort of passed down. To benefit fully from this promise, the one who receives God needs to be reborn. A birth described as from God. Only that one will qualify to be called a child of God.

To summarize then, the reader doesn’t just have to know about this Person John is writing about to benefit from His coming into the world. The One described as “The Word” and “The Light“. The reader needs to respond to this message by receiving this One. Note there is nothing the reader needs to do to qualify, he/she simply needs to receive this One.

Lots to chew on. See you next week again.

Jesus the Word incarnate.

My songs have focused on God the Creator and Sustainer of the universe and the kaleidoscope of meaning that brings, ending with the focus on “Jesus humble and holy” as the visible representation of God and everything about him.

“You will never appreciate Jesus fully if you don’t see him and experience him and his love against the backdrop of Me – Yahweh, the Great I Am the Creator and Sustainer of the universe. As I have chosen to communicate with you My creation, so I bring my Son as the ultimate communicator with you, walking among you and speaking to you as He represents My very presence with you. However, even as He has given His life to set you free from your bondage to sin – your mind is still clouded by the remnants of that sin within you. This is the main obstacle to hearing Me speak to you clearly through My son who is My Word incarnate. Your desire to hear Me speak and willingness to obey draws that curtain aside to a large degree. Yes, I want to communicate with you – do you want to hear and are you prepared to obey?”

Just a few words on John’s gospel so that we can set the scene. Even a superficial reading will show that this gospel is different to the other three. Without going into great detail, the main differences are that he focuses much more on personal relationships. There are no parables used for teaching. The main backdrop are the seven miracles or signs that make up the bulk of the material. Ultimately, they are gathered together in the statement in John 20:30 : “Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of His disciples which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have eternal life”. Keep this purpose in mind all the time you are reading this gospel.

We will read the gospel slowly as we digest the material, with the aim of getting to know our Lord and Saviour better and more intimately. This week I will focus on the 5 introductory vv.

The first sentence describing Jesus as the Word have opened a new understanding for me of the whole question of communication. To communicate we firstly need a language. So, God created a language which He calls His word. He has used this tool from the very beginning, even to the creation of the universe. Remember Genesis “and God spoke…..” and it was so. What has happened to this means of communication over the years. Firstly, we are reminded of Babel, where God confused the languages and we have reaped the effect of that with thousands of languages spoken throughout the world.

During the OT time there have been many prophets who spoke God’s word, but Jesus brought a new dimension: “In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us through His Son whom He appointed heir over everything….” Heb 1:1,2

In that first vs in John we also read that this “Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God from the beginning”. Hebrews puts it this way in 13 “The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of His being, sustaining all things by His powerful word” Nixon says that this does not mean that the Word is the same person as God, but has the same nature as God.

Gathering this together before your head explodes, explores the fact of the very intimate relationship which exists between God and Jesus. Now without taking too great a leap we can see that God has and is using this relationship with Jesus who came to the earth to open the way to make relationships with his people possible and desirable, seeking to draw each one of us into a deeper relationship with Him.

Taking this a bit further, each one of us has a language that we speak to ourselves in. How does that fit with the Logos of God? How does His influence bear on this inner conversation.

There is so much to think about in these vv in John and the parallel in Hebrews, why don’t you spend some time considering the various aspects of what these vv are speaking about. I am going to leave it there and pick up next week again.

The old, Saul has gone, the new king David has come.

The Lord is by my side and I will trust in Him alone as He leads me beside still waters and makes me lie down in pastures green.

“My people of old would have understood much better what it means when I am called your Shepherd. It is a just a notion to most of the city dwellers today and even farmers don’t view the role of a shepherd it in the same light as the people of old. In those days the Shepherd was intimately involved with his sheep, he knew each one – maybe he had names for then, but he knew each one’s characteristics, the bold, the inquisitive, the brave, the foolish, the fearful – but he loved each one and was committed to them to the point of laying down his life to protect them. This picture would have come to the minds of my people – but it would still only have been a faint reflection of what I am to you all – I intimately know every thought and movement you make and I have already laid down my life for you”.

As we come to the end of 1 Samuel in ch’s 30 and 31, the message fits with what we have been looking at during the last few weeks surrounding Easter.

In ch 30 David, providentially returns to where his people have been attacked and taken hostage while he was away offering to fight for Achish. His reaction speaks to me: in the face of this apparent disaster, he does not just rush off to try and rescue them, rather we read in vs 6 that he “found strength in the Lord” and this led him to “enquire of the Lord” what he should do. vs 7. I must confess that my reaction in such crises is usually to spring into action immediately and only later to turn to the Lord for guidance and help.

The Lord encourages him to follow the Philistines and enables him to catch up to them and rescue everything they had taken, unhurt. vs 19. He also manages to take a large amount of plunder. The rest of the chapter is taken up with how he shares the plunder and uses it to consolidate his relationships with the elders of Judah vs 6 in preparation for taking over the crown.

We reach the climax of 1 Samuel in ch 31 as the story is taken up of the fight Saul is having with the Philistines, which David has no part of. The fight is a disaster for Saul and his sons. They are all killed. So the rule of Saul comes to a “fitting” end as we look back on the events that have unfolded around his kingship in this book.

From Deuteronomy we know that it was always God’s plan to have a king in Israel. This king would be a forerunner of the Forever King and Messiah Jesus. However, Saul’s kingship did not arise from God’s primary will. The people had been agitating for a king “like their pagan nations around them”. Although God allowed the choice of Saul in this mould and even had him anointed, he was always going to be a king like the pagan’s kings. Against this background God’s first choice king – king David is chosen and secretly anointed. Saul, motivated by Satan does everything he can think of to get rid of David and really gives him a hard time.

But now, in one fell swoop God takes Saul and his sons completely out of the picture, opening the way for David to rule. Does this final end of Saul’s rule remind you of anything?

I have recently been reading Matthew’s account of Jesus’ birth and early years and there is a distinct parallel in Satan’s desire to get rid of Him. In addition to that, immediately after He is baptized He goes into the desert where He is tempted. Preparing and strengthening Him for the task ahead. So, in a similar way David undergoes this harsh rejection and several attacks by Satan after his anointing as king, which we can say was all in God’s plan as He prepared David for his years of kingly rule.

Not on the same scale, but how often does God use trials, difficulties and challenges to test each one of us. We are warned of this, for instance in James 1, but this should not dishearten us, but rather spur us on to grow in the area of service God has for us. There is not one of us who does not have a part to play in God’s kingdom growth, he uses each one according to his/her character, personality and gifts He has blessed us with to be part of this wonderful kingdom plan of His.

Next week I have decided to start reading John’s gospel, so why don’t you join me. If you have received any insights in 1 Samuel which I have not dealt with, why not share them with the rest of us. To open the dialogue box, simply tap or click on the title of the talk.

The Old has gone, the New has come.

As the reality of Resurrection Sunday leads me on to a new beginning, I am singing words which are so real, “Take my heart lord, prone to wander and seal it with Thy mercy and Thy love.”

“I am God, I am your God and I still reign – no matter what the world seems to be shouting with all the pain, sorrow, hate and selfishness. I am God and I still reign. Yet as I have created all my creatures I have given them the choice to follow me or not. At the same time I continue to woo you and love you and help you with this enigmatic thought that even as you decide to follow me and love me – your heart is prone to wander. So come and walk with me as I continue to protect it with my streams of mercy and of love”.

Last week we considered the importance of understanding that the Old Covenant has been finally ended, making way for the New Covenant. Having discussed the reality that this fact has for each one of us, as we consider the New Covenant and its full impact. I want to pick up from there and talk a little about the importance of understanding the difference between the two Covenants.

We have said that Jesus’ death heralded the definitive end of the O.C. As God withdrew over silent Saturday the world was being prepared for the momentous news of what His death had accomplished. This is the nucleus of the New C. You can read this for yourselves in Hebrews 8:6-13. This Covenant was proved real by Jesus’ resurrection on Sunday.

Here are the main components:

  1. God would imprint His laws on the minds and hearts of every person who becomes part of this Covenant (vs 10b). This will be through the work of the Holy Spirit, whom God would pour out in a new way at Pentecost. This means that each person will have the presence of the Holy Spirit within them to help with their obedience.
  2. Each person would have a new relationship with God from that moment onward (vs 10c,11) Every person would “know the Lord”. “Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God and Jesus Christ” (John 17:3). This would mean that each one would have personal access to God through Jesus and no longer need a priest and special sacrifices to approach a holy God.
  3. Each person would have complete and permanent forgiveness of their sins (vs 12). Although this truth is dealt with in one sentence in this description of the New Covenant, it lies at the very heart of Jesus’ death on the cross. It was and is always sin which separates us from God. By His death Jesus dealt with that by taking the punishment for our sins upon Himself.
  4. So these all were of course, all through work of Jesus on the cross.

So, the resurrection proved that this new period in God’s story had been inaugurated. It underscored in a physical way these immense spiritual lessons. Of course, there was another aspect to God’s story which is intimately tied up with the resurrection. This is the fact that this was a demonstration and a proof of God’s promise of eternal life for each person who believes and is born of the Spirit.

The resurrection sets Christianity apart from any other religion as it underscores the meaning of the events of the cross and the fulfilment of all God’s promises throughout the O.T. Hence in the book of Acts Luke repeatedly provides proof of the reality of the resurrection. May it be and remain a reality for each one of you.

There must be an end before a new beginning.

My mood is somber, yet deep down there is also a sense of lightness, of expectation. In two days we will be celebrating the key moment in history when everything changed.

”It is good to slow down and consider from time to time – events of such importance – so that they remain fresh to us and we do not get so used to them that they no longer move us – that they start seeming mundane. That is in your human nature – to forget – not the actual event but the deeper meaning it had for you when you first discovered it. So, as you approach this weekend slow down and ponder, consider again the full meaning of events which have been documented as absolutely true. And as you experience that full meaning, I will lift you up into My very presence to worship and enjoy our relationship!”

As I was reading through the gospel account of Jesus’ death on the cross in Mark: 15:33-39, something struck me which I have not perceived before:

Perhaps the key moment of the whole description of Jesus’ crucifixion is the actual moment of His death. which is signified by His cry of dereliction in vs 34. Mark describes two events that happened at that moment. “Darkness came over the whole land” vs 33 and vs 37, “The curtain in the temple was torn from top to bottom“.

As I pondered this I could almost see in my mind’s eye, God taking the Old Covenant document written on the “page” of the curtain in the temple, that object which had always signified the separation of sinful man from a Holy God and tearing it up. Notice the writer makes a point in the fact that the curtain was torn from top to bottom, signifying that it was an act of God Himself.

Then He says, “I am out of here!”, removing His light which signifies His presence in the world and He withdraws Himself from the whole scene, where He has been working for centuries with a people whom He had called and chosen, in a specific way. One of the main features of that relationship which He had been ordering was a series of covenants which described How He desired this relationship to be conducted. So, this event was like a giant full stop to the whole of the Old Covenant that God had been making.

So why are you making such a fuss you ask me? Well, you see God had been promising a “New covenant” for several centuries to the people, in the light of their disobedience and inability to keep their part in the Old Covenant. cf several passages in Isaiah esp 62 : 11; Jeremiah 31:31; Ezek 37:22 ff and several other passages. What I have been describing in Mark is a clear sign that the New Covenant was a completely new covenant, not a slightly altered Old Covenant. The people who first set up the bible understood this, hence the fact that our bible consists of two distinct parts. The word” Testament” is parallel to the word “Covenant”. It was a completely new start.

So, what is my point? When Peter identified Jesus as the Messiah in Mark 8:29, Jesus immediately revealed that the fulfilment of His Messiaship was that He was going to die. Mark 8:31 ff. Then He says this to the disciples, “If anyone would come after me, he must take up his cross and follow me” vs 34

What does “taking up your cross mean? It means to die to your old self and all its desires and plans and start in a fresh direction. It is called “repentance” and according to Acts 2:38 it is a necessary step for anyone who would become a Christian. Baptism is an outward expression of what has happened in your heart. The old is washed away and the new is established. Paul puts it like this in 2 Cor 5:17, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” and in Galatians, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me”.

So? Just as Christ’s death signified the death of the old and opened the path for the new, it is necessary for anyone who would be a true follower of Christ to die to their old self and be reborn as a son or daughter of the Living God. Becoming a Christian is not just reforming your ways, turning over a new leaf, following the 10 commandments, living according to the Sermon on the mount, becoming a church member or any other way which may lead a person to imagine that they are a Christian. There is only one way. A complete transformation, a complete repentance and taking up a new course for your life, nothing less than a total rebirth, where you are born again of the Spirit who will then indwell you into eternity. You cannot do it for yourself, God must do it for you, but He will never force Himself on you.

Dear reader, if this news has sort of shocked you, good! This weekend is a great time to go to Christ and humbly seek the new birth from Him. If you are not sure where you stand, ask Him anyway, He has promised that “if you seek Him He will be found of you” Matthew 7:7, 8 and if you ask Him for this how much more will He give you the Holy Spirit” Matthew 7:9-11.

Friends this is a reminder of the heart of our wonderful gospel, may you experience it first hand this weekend.

God’s providence, for David and all of us.

With no point of reference – you spoke and made light – from there the whole of creation forward – till the ultimate light was put out on a hill you created – so that we could all have the opportunity of experiencing your light.

”Yes, light in a way symbolizes so much of who I am. Darkness is the opposite – as much as I spoke light – I came as the light to bring the light home to each one of you. To remove the darkness from your whole being and replace it with My light. That is what is happening in the world where so much darkness seems to be ruling. I am still the light and I am bringing in my kingdom – person by person to be the bearers of My light. there is one who is fighting this with all his might and you are in the front line – yet at the same time he has already been defeated at the cross – and the battle is not actually yours – the battle is Mine – make use of the full armour I have provided – resist him and he will flee from you. My love is always supreme and victorious.”

After a severe battering with a clever scam on the internet this weekend, the message of 1 Samuel 29 is as relevant for me today as it surely should be for all of us.

We pick up the story which was launched at the beginning of the previous chapter where David is asked to go with Achish to fight the Israelites. The question which hung in the air was, how was David going to get out of this almost impossible situation? Remembering further back when he was taken under the protection of Achish he pretended to be raiding Israelite settlements but was actually raiding other pagan tribes. To hide this, he was forced to kill all the people in the tribes he attacked. Without making a judgement, it is quite clear that David wanted to avoid attacking his own people at all costs.

Today he can’t use that ploy. He is attacking Israel as a co-fighter with Achish. An almost impossible situation for him. The whole of ch 29 shows how God intervenes and gives David a way out without losing anything. The chapter ends with David returning home. What we will see in the next chapter is that when he gets home his people have been raided. So not only does he get out of the impossible situation with Achish, he also gets home in time to deal with this new situation.

It is clear that this is all due to God’s steering of events. His providence. But what can we learn about God’s providence in this and the other chapters we have studied for David, but especially for us?

Firstly, His providence is mainly aimed at completing the overall plan or purpose he has for the believer (Cf Roman’s 8:28) “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who are called according to his purpose“. In David’s case he was the chosen next Adam in the line to the final Adam, Jesus. He was the king which launched the kingly line which ended in Jesus. For each one of us God has a purpose and that purpose is ultimately shown in Rom 8:30. His purpose is our glorification in the presence of God’s glory.

Once a believer has entered God’s purposeful plan for his life, there is no mistake or sin that will ultimately prevent that plan from being realized. We just need to look at David whose path was anything but beautifully righteous. Yet God looked on his heart and called him a man after His own heart and took him forward from there.

Being part of God’s purpose for you and your life does not guarantee a life without challenges, remorse, grief and pain as well as huge joy. Hence the promise in Rom 8:28 that God is working out all these intricacies to finally accomplish His plan for you. There are various reasons we face these tribulations, as Jesus warned us; “In this world you will have tribulation but take heart, in me you will have peace”. Here are some reasons for that:

  1. We live in a fallen world and are exposed to all the evil in that world.
  2. God often uses trials and tests for the purpose of growing our faith.
  3. He also uses “hardship as discipline” Heb 1:7. Treating us as sons/daughters, just as a loving father would treat his children.
  4. We are soldiers in a huge cosmic spiritual battle which rages around us.

This is just a brief summary. We may all be aware of ways in which God has steered our lives in the past. Sometimes in dramatic ways. Having said that I believe Psalm 139 shows us that God is also intimately involved in our thoughts, heart’s desires, plans etc and that He is constantly tweaking events and circumstances by His grace as He leads us. Sometimes we may be aware of these interventions probably in many cases not. To achieve real peace in our lives we need to realize and believe in our hearts how awesomely mighty, wise and loving God is. He is not a superhuman, He is the Creator and sustainer of the whole universe, involved in everything, from the mightiest to the almost insignificant.

Do you sometimes feel He has left you out, or turned and looked the other way? I am sure we all feel like that from time to time. I certainly did at unguarded moments this weekend. That is why we need to depend on God’s word and not our feelings which can often let us down. May God bless you as you feed on this piece of juicy steak from God.

Saul sinks lower.

What a faithful God have I. I allow these words to sink in, to sink in deep to my inner consciousness.

” Ribbons of mercy and grace adorn my throne, filling the air with a message which brings joy to every weary soul. Surrounded by the multitude of believers everyone covered by that message – the message that if God is for us who can be against us. If he gave his Son to die on the cross for you – how much more will He give you all things. Can you take the fullness of that message in? You can have, you already have, if you are a believer every spiritual blessing in the heavenlies. You have My complete Grace and My love to cover the multitude of your transgressions. So come closer this morning, let the ribbons of mercy and grace wrap around you and cover you and bring you deep peace and joy.”

The picture of desperation and terror which have taken over Saul’s life, pictured here in 1 Samuel 28, is very real reminder of what it is like when God turns His back on you. In today’s society there are many who give God no thought, but anyone who has really tasted what God is like may experience this desperation. It is a stark reminder to us of what Jesus must have experienced, multiplied by a million times when He called out on the cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

In vs 15 Saul calls out, “God has turned away from me”. Samuel reminds him in vs 17 that he had predicted this and Saul should not have been surprised. However, he had obviously not really believed Samuel. He had made a half-hearted attempt at cleansing Israel by banning all the mediums and spiritists, but this act alone was clearly not from a fully believing heart. The very fact that he was prepared to seek out a medium in his fearful state shows where his heart really was.

The chapter opens with a chilling message as Achish plans to use David and his men in an attack on Israel. We already know that David would do anything to avoid having to do this from the previous chapter. The question hangs in the air and will lead us into reading the next chapter.

The chapter ends on an interesting note as the women seek to minister to Saul in his desperate state. I take that as an indication of God’s ‘common grace’, which he extends to the world as a whole, whether you are a believer or not.

This passage may again raise the perennial question, “Can you lose your salvation?” After all Saul was anointed as king of Israel by Samuel, described in ch 10. Samuel tells him that: v 6, “The Spirit of the Lord will come on you in power and you will prophesy with them; and you will be changed into a different person”. This is the sort of language which we associate being born again in the New Testament. Yet here we find this same man with God having turned His back upon him. Can that happen to us?

This is an important question which needs a definitive answer. The answer lies in the fact that the promise of the new covenant was that our sins would be forgiven and we will be given a new heart able to live a new life of obedience. This promise followed centuries of apostasy and disobedience by the people of Israel, despite the promises of relationship with God under the various covenants.

The work of Jesus on the cross and the subsequent offer of full regeneration and renewal by the Holy Spirit, indwelling each believer, places the NT believer on a different plane to those in the OT. There are a number of promises under this new covenant which indicate that once God has saved you, He will never, never leave you eg Rom 8:1 ff, Philippians 1:6.

However, we should never become complacent. In the same book Philippians, Paul says in 2:12, “continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling”. There are many stories of apparently devoted Christians turning their back on God. What is not always clear but is a fact that those people were probably never truly saved. Jesus warned us in the parable of the tares that the church will be made up of a mixture of Christians and Non-christians. The tares were a weed which so closely resembled wheat that it was only when they came into ear that you could distinguish them.

So while we can never lose our salvation if we are genuinely saved, the genuineness of our salvation will only be proved if we persevere to the end, Heb 10:19 ff and ch 12.

The work of the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament was different to the new. He was given as an anointing to help specific people accomplish God-given tasks. Like kings and prophets, but others as well. It did not involve salvation and He would often only be given for a time till a task was accomplished. Thus, we can see David and Saul next to each other. Both anointed by God to be a king and both being involved in some horrendous things. Yet God could say about David that he was a man after God’s own heart and on the other hand turn His back on Saul. God could obviously discern the motivation of each of their hearts. Faith and love in one and disbelief and disregard in the other. Ultimately true forgiveness is only possible through Jesus and even the OT saints were only forgiven in retrospect through Jesus’ work on the cross, see Romans 3 :25

So, friends let us continue with joy, believing in the absolute certainty of God’s love and nothing separating us from that yet working out our salvation in fear and trembling. God bless, till next week.

David spares Israel.

I am overwhelmed this morning with thoughts of the love of God – the height, the depth, length, and width of it and more so since He has revealed this love to me in the fact that He took my place on Calvery.

“It is so easy to speak of love – a word which provokes feelings and thoughts of a huge variety and depth in each person. Some people have been so disappointed by the broken promises of someone who claimed to love them and later let them down. Others may have experienced the heights of ecstasy followed by the depths of despair due to the fickleness of their lover. On the other hand, I have taken pains to show that my love is absolutely steadfast, never wavering or failing. The ultimate demonstration is in the death of My Son Jesus on the cross for your sake, taking every punishment due to you on Himself and setting you free from bondage. Free to love Me fully and experience My love. Never get tired of contemplating My love and seeking to experience it in our most intimate relationship.”

We come now to 1 Samuel 27. This short chapter may seem to be fairly barren, describing a period in David’s life voluntarily exiled again from His beloved Israel and the Promised Land of Canaan. At first reading it may not be completely clear what was happening in this foreign territory.

Despite his apparent reconciliation with Saul, it is clear that David does not trust his fickleness, so he chooses again to put himself at the mercy of Achish who we have met earlier when David was alone and fled there pretending to be mad eventually to keep himself safe. Now, however he has 600 men with him as well as all their families and represents a potential threat to Achish. Achish tolerates his presence, even giving him some land to settle on, but obviously remains nervous and suspicious of David and his intentions.

To set his mind at rest David pretends to attack various tribes of Israel, who were living in various places in the Negev. The word Negev means South and describes those Israelites who had settled in the Southern part of the Promised Land. He is clearly trying to deceive Achish into thinking he had turned against Israel and was therefore no threat to him. Hence the last vs 12: “Achish trusted David and said to himself, “He has become so odious to his people, the Israelites, that he will be my servant forever“.

Instead, David was raiding other pagan tribes and to prevent this from being discovered he was simply killing everyone on each raid.

There is no judgement given in this chapter to help us evaluate what David was doing, so we need to approach it with care, asking Jesus to speak to us through it.

Our first impression is to be horrified at David’s behaviour, especially the apparent unnecessary annihilation of whole tribes of people including women and children.

Before we make too strenuous a judgement we should try and understand some of the pressure David was under. Spending years fleeing from a determined foe with great powers and the ability to kill him at any moment. He must have been desperate to leave the comfort of his beloved Canaan and hide under the power of a pagan king who was not really well disposed to him.

Nevertheless, where is the great faith that he had shown with Goliath, believing he could accomplish anything in God’s name? Had the constant fleeing eroded his faith? What about the times God had apparently delivered Saul into his hands?

The main positive note in the story is his commitment to not harming his own people in any way, despite his exile. Admittedly he had taken this to extreme, being prepared to kill innocent women and children. There is no way that the bible expresses approval of these actions.

Looking at it from a New Testament perspective, we can say that the NT equivalent to Israel in the OT is the church. And the question I found myself asking was, “What is my commitment to God’s church?” How would I react if I was forced out of a fellowship, or even out of a position of responsibility that I enjoyed? Would I at all costs (hopefully legal and moral) continue to defend this group even if they had become hostile to me?

David clearly had a very high view of God and hence the importance to him of firstly his anointed king at the time and secondly the chosen people of God. Do I have such a high view of God that I will defend the church and its members as strenuously as possible?

One thing is also clear. David was very human and full of failings, like each one of us and nevertheless we know that in Acts he is described as a man after God’s own heart. So, God continues to love us and use us, despite our shortcomings. What a wonderful relief that we have a God who is so full of grace and love that He sent His Son to die for us so that these character wrinkles can be ironed out.

Have a blessed week.