Nine Varieties but One Fruit
A married couple was having a ‘discussion’ one morning as to which one of them should pick up the children after school that afternoon. School was finishing a bit earlier than usual to allow the children to get home and prepare for an evening program the school was putting on. Both parents would be inconvenienced due to the nature of their jobs, but obviously the kids needed to be picked up. The discussion took a turn that saw them both walking away grizzling without a real answer as to who should pick up the kids. When the adrenaline had subsided, each one was thinking, “Boy I wish I had handled that differently.”
Wouldn’t it be great if we could always act in a gracious manner in any situation, not just with those we love, but with everyone we encounter? Thankfully, God does give us an option - He gives us His Spirit. Through the Spirit, our lives are infused with His character and we grow in grace. When we surrender our passions and live in the Spirit, His virtues become ours too!
Galatians 5:22-23 - But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.
Paul is showing us here that when we allow God’s Spirit to have His way in us, a good and gracious character develops, allowing us to act as Jesus would in any situation. It’s like planting a tree that bears wonderful fruit that blesses us and those we share that fruit with.
It is worth noting that while Paul lists out nine of the virtues that we get from growing in grace through the Spirit, these virtues combined form one fruit - a good character. This good character then allows us to exhibit a ‘softer touch’ to navigate anything in a calm, compassionate and Christ-like manner.
We can ask God for the Spirit to be in us and grow us in grace to have this character. Won’t you do so today?
Have a blessed week ahead,
The Wisest Counsel
John was a self-employed ‘jack of all trades’ kind of guy. He tried his hand at this and that and never seemed to stay in one venture for any length of time. From small appliances repairman, to household handyman, to landscaping, trimming trees and cutting lawns, John did them all and ditched them all at the first sign of economic adversity.
John’s restless mind meant that he never grew a business beyond its initial scope to realise the kind of profits that come from being established. His ‘vibrant’ brain kept driving him in new directions before the previous ones could gain viability. Often, ‘stickability’ or perseverance in a venture brings rewards eventually. In John’s case, this ‘stickability’ eluded him and so did commercial success.
Proverbs 19:21 puts that sort of restlessness into perspective: “There are many plans in a man’s heart, nevertheless the LORD’s counsel—that will stand.” This verse points out that we do have ‘fertile’ minds that can generate various schemes, dreams and plans. But, if we seek God’s advice or counsel in launching one of these ventures, it will be more successful and become established and profitable. God will bless the one that follows His pattern for our lives.
How can we find out what God’s counsel is? First, we need to consult His word – the Bible, searching Scripture in faith for words of wisdom and encouragement. There we can find examples of men and women who rolled with God, whose experiences testify to the kind of plans God can bless. In this regard, pay particular attention to the teachings of Jesus!
Secondly, God’s counsel is often sought in prayer. We should commit the plans to prayer, asking for God’s direction. Jesus said, “Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them.” (Mark 11:24) And, “Most assuredly, I say to you, whatever you ask the Father in My name He will give you.” (John 16:23). Of course asking for His blessing is dependent on His will, which if followed, brings success.
Making plans is great; it’s even greater when they are made taking God’s counsel on board. The things of God stand because of His moral perfection and righteous will. Those that look to Him will gain longevity in faith and practice and their plans will be successful.
I pray that you are found firmly fixed in the Lord’s care and seeking His blessing in Prayer and in the Word, that you may be blessed.
Have a great week ahead,
Putting Failure Into Perspective
Thomas Edison is credited with creating the lightbulb. However, several other scientists of his time had earlier hit upon versions of it but were not credited since they could not produce an effective and commercially viable version. They could not seem to solve the problem of the filament in the lightbulb burning out quickly. The basic idea was there but they kept failing to produce the right filament. That was until Edison did so in 1878.
Failure is a word nobody likes but is a condition that touches us all from time to time. Whether failure comes from decisions that did not quite pan out or from situations that worked against our decisions, failure can be heart breaking and devastating and cause doubt and fear.
The Bible records so many heroes of faith who all failed at one point of another: from the garden of Eden and the failure to see through the deception of Satan; to Elijah’s momentary lapse of faith in fleeing from Jezebel; to David’s failure to observe the 7th Commandment; to Peter’s repeated failure to acknowledge knowing Jesus. Fortunately, we can see from their experiences, Jesus still works with us in our failure.
The apostle Paul records Jesus’ reaction to our failure in this way: “But He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” 2 Corinthians 12:9.
The significance of God’s grace is not to be downplayed or misunderstood. It not only forgives us, it helps us in our weakness. It is power to overcome that weakness that we gave in to; power to overcome our failure. Grace not only redeems us, it grows us and ultimately gives us victory over the things that cause us to stumble! That is why Paul admitted to his own weakness that he could claim Jesus’ power even more. For him, grace and more grace please.
Failure is a fact of life but by the grace of God we can overcome them and learn from them so that we can grow in character like all the heroes of faith in the Bible.
Edison learnt from the mistakes of the others in producing his lightbulb. In the same way, God would have us accept His grace but also learn from our mistakes also while tapping into His grace to save and grow us. If we ask for His saving and enabling grace, we will have it.
Please remember God’s grace is available for whatever you have need of in those moments when you will need it this week.
The Longest Day
As the children of Israel journey through Canaan conquering various territories as the Lord commanded, Joshua makes a stunning request of the Lord – that the sun and the moon cease to move (Joshua 10:12).
Having marched his armies 32 Kms from Gilgal to Gibeon, he saw that the day was about to end, and he needed time to rout the Gibeonites, hence his ‘audacious’ request. Joshua 10:13 reveals God’s equally remarkable response “So the sun stood still, and the moon stopped (for about a whole day), till the people had revenge upon their enemies.”
Now, the sun does not move, rather the earth revolves on its axis creating a day over a 24-hour period. Joshua may not have understood the science, but he needed time… so he prayed. Perhaps God pressed paused or slowed down the revolution of the earth for an entire day, but He did honour Joshua’s request and in the process demonstrate three remarkable truths:
Everything on this earth, indeed the universe, belongs to God and He controls all aspects of it (Ps. 24:1)
God had promised this land to the children of Israel and would honour His word
He promised Joshua He would go before him in all things and fight for them (Joshua 1:9 and 10:14) and He did.
The miracle of the ‘longest day’ confirms for us that God is Sovereign Supreme in the universe. His power is infinite, and His will is inescapable – it will be done as He pronounces it. Those who submit to His will and walk in His ways as Joshua did (Joshua 24:15) are guaranteed God will fight for them, deliver them to the promised land and grant them peace and longevity in that land, whatever that ‘land’ represents to us.
Joshua’s experience of God’s presence, providence and protection bear witness that we are not dishonoured, dismayed or disappointed if we trust in Him and prayerfully make our requests known to Him (Philippians 4:6), no matter how audacious those requests may be.
May God prolong the day for you, whatever that prolonged day may be. Won’t you, “Taste and see that the LORD is good! How blessed is the one who takes shelter in him! (Psalm 34:8)?
Have a great week ahead.
God bless you,
Whisper a prayer in the morning!There are so many good things that can be said about the act of praying and why we are highly encouraged to do so.
The Psalmist understood that prayer is a sweet aroma wafting up to God, filling His senses and producing a response – “Let my prayer be set before you as incense, the lifting up of my hands (in prayer) as the evening sacrifice (Psalm 141:2). Notably, the Jewish priests, mirroring the angels in heaven (Revelation 8:3), would offer up incense with the morning and evening sacrifices and as the smell of the incense and its smoke rose, they would offer up prayers for the people.
Today, prayer is our quiet time with God; our alone time with Him. As Jesus noted, God already knows what we want even before we pray (Matthew 6:8), yet He likes us to pray to Him and petition Him as children would a loving parent. Our heavenly Father knows that in the act of praying, we get to speak our minds to Him directly – to unburden ourselves before the One who can do something about our needs.
Just being able to speak to a non-judgemental Father who sympathises with us and will answer us in the way that is best for us, begins a process of help and healing. Then, in His time and in His way, the prayer offered up will be answered in a manner that blesses. Indeed, while prayer may not bring God down to our level, it lifts us up into His presence and in the process lifts our spirit to a better place.
Praying confirms to us that we belong to Him, are His people and therefore fully are in His care. He will not let His people down He promised – “Be strong and courageous, do not be afraid or tremble at them, for the Lord your God is the one who goes with you. He will not fail you or forsake you.” (Deuteronomy 31:6).
Please take time to pray today. In fact, why not make this a week of quiet time with God. As your prayers go up, blessings will come down.
Have a great week ahead.
God will establish you
:The apostle Peter was born near the sea of Galilee circa 1AD and died circa 64-68AD in Rome. He never experienced political liberty, having lived his whole life under Roman occupation. As a fisherman, he co-owned his own fishing vessel but that meant hard work and hours on end fishing an area that could sometimes be fruitless. Then Jesus calls him to lead a group of believers who form part of a minority religion facing persecution first from their own people the Jews, then later from the Roman Empire. Peter himself would be martyred at the hands of the Romans, as revealed by Jesus even as He calls on Him to lead.
With this background, the words in his first Epistle written to the churches of Asia Minor present a heartfelt encouragement from a man who knew what suffering and persecution looked like and what hope in Jesus felt like. He affirms them by saying: “And, after you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace who called you to his eternal glory in Christ will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.” (1 Peter 5:10 NET Bible).
Peter was sharing with them both the blessed hope of eternal life but also comfort in present circumstances –
1.God will restore them in His eyes as if they had not sinned
2.He will ‘confirm’ them as members of His family
3.He will ‘strengthen’ them to endure the things that oppress, hurt or challenge them
4.and He will ‘establish’ them in goodness and righteousness to live wholesome and happy lives.
Those words were written not just for those in that time, but for everyone who will believe in Jesus, the Saviour. Present circumstances, no matter how stressful will last but a while.
God’s people will not just endure but will be gain victory in Jesus over present circumstances and win the crown of glory God has waiting for them (1 Peter 5:4). He assures us, having known first-hand the joys and sorrows of this world, that Jesus is the only answer to whatever we are facing.
I encourage you to hold on to Jesus, no matter what. Good things will soon come your way.
Have a great week ahead.
I hope your week is off to a good start
The Euro 2020 Football finals featuring England and Italy has just concluded. History will record Italy as deserving winners. Some will remember the hype by the English media and fans that the trophy was ‘coming home’ after 55 years of English football teams being unsuccessful in major tournaments. English hopes were dashed and the same players who had been hero-worshipped leading up to the final game were being vilified in horrible ways by fickle fans on social media. Spare a thought for the young men of both teams who did their best, but in sport, one must lose and another win.
It proves though that the things of this earth are fleeting and bring temporary joy. The apostle Paul, who seems to have enjoyed sports as suggested by his various sport references, wrote as he contemplated the end of his life, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7). He understood, throughout the sum total of his life’s experiences, that his greatest accomplishment was faith in Jesus. He noted to Timothy, his protégé and spiritual son, “But I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that he is able to guard until that day what has been entrusted to me” (2 Timothy 1:12). Paul concluded his reflection on the things of this world in comparison to faith in Jesus in this way, “The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed and bring me safely into his heavenly kingdom. To him be the glory forever and ever. Amen.” (2 Timothy 4:18).
God’s vision for each who will claim His name and walk with Him is a ‘crown of righteousness’ (2 Timothy 4:8) and a home where there is no more sickness, sadness or stress (Revelation 21:4). That vision…that hope is everlasting, not fleeting, like the things of this earth. God’s Kingdom and promises are rock solid and will never bring shame, disappointment and failure. God’s word (and His promises) last forever (1 Peter 1:25).
Please remember that God’s Kingdom can be yours and you can access it by faith and prayer. Have a blessed week.
The Love of God
The story of the ‘Prodigal Son’ that Jesus told should really be called the ‘Prodigal Family. The word ‘prodigal’ means excessive or doing something to the max. Each family member demonstrated excessive behaviour: the younger son was licentious in his lifestyle and extremely disrespectful of his elderly father in asking for his inheritance before his father passed. The older brother demonstrated utter contempt for his father by refusing his father’s invitation to come into the banquet and forgive his younger brother.
This brings us to the father in the story. He loved both his sons excessively. He is gracious to the younger one and looked out for him even when he had left. He was loving to the older son seen in his pleading tone with him – he could have commanded him but he didn’t. The father represents God, our Father. The way the father in the story dealt with the sons is the way our Father in heaven deals with us. He loves us dearly and deeply and forgives and restores us completely and fully. As some have pointed out, the depth of the father’s love seems to increase even more as the story unfolds when it is clear that love in action is required for both sons – it was the father who initiated reconciliation in both cases, doing so with great compassion but also great joy. That mirrors who God the Father is. Jesus is capable of showing us that in the story because who knows the Father better than the Son!
For us today, when we take steps back to the Father (as the prodigal son did), we can be assured that His love had never left us and we will see clear evidence of His growing love as He reconciles us to Himself and rebuilds our lives from the brokenness that was there. But always remember to make those steps daily because one thing about love is that it never forces us – we need to take those steps.
Have a blessed week
The Pay it Forward Principle
Pay it forward is a saying that is common in popular western culture. It is the idea that when we receive something good such as a gift given to us or a good deed done for us, we should in turn, do good for someone else, not simply thank the person who did something for us.
The phrase may have originated with author Lily Hardy Hammond in her 1916 book In the Garden of Delight from which comes the quote, “You don't pay love back; you pay it forward.”
In more recent times, author Catherine Ryan Hyde wrote a novel entitled “Pay it Forward” which was adapted in 2000 into a movie in which the receivers of a good gift strove to pay it forward to at least 3 people. It was meant to be a gift or deed that the person receiving it could not do on their own so that eventually good deeds would spread throughout the community at a ratio of 3:1.
In the Bible, Peter, Jesus’ disciple wanted to know how often we should forgive someone who has done us wrong. He told him a parable about an unforgiving servant who had been forgiven a massive debt but who chose to call in a debt owed to him that the person could not repay. Instead of showing mercy as he had been shown, he had the person put into prison. When the Master of the servant found out what he had done to his own debtor, he had him put in prison and had him repay his debt that had been forgiven. The idea is that having received mercy, we should show mercy to others ‘from the heart’ – in other words, pay it forward (Matthew 18:21-35).
This same principle was established by God when He made his covenant of faith with Abraham, “I will bless those who bless you”. In turn, Abraham would become a blessing, “in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” (Genesis 12:3).
Wouldn’t it be great if we could pay forward something to someone this week, wherever we may find ourselves? Maybe a charitable act, a hand up or even simply a smile could spark a sequence of good deeds from one person to another. Even if we didn’t receive a kind act ourselves, how much more blessed would we feel if we were the originators of a sequence of good acts being paid forward?
Something to think about. Have a blessed week ahead.
Every day is Important
Genesis 1:31 - Then God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good.
The Biblical account of how our world came to be shows us a very deliberate God crafting this world, during a standard week. He thought of everything that would be required to sustain life before He created humanity, then executed that plan one day at a time. Each day had a purpose in adding to the world He was creating, each day building on the day before. God then reflected on His work at the end of each day with satisfaction, knowing He had done His best and what He had done was good. At the end of all creation, He said the total package was ‘very good’ (Gen.1:31).
He ‘rested’ or stopped on the seventh day to contemplate and bless what He had made in totality. Even His Sabbath or rest day was a deliberate and purposeful act to close out the ‘creation week’. He set it apart, blessed it and left it as a celebration day for us to have time with Him and each other.
Knowing God contemplated the start and end of each day is a wonderful way to understand that we too should see the importance of each day…that each day matters. Approaching our daily tasks with planning, purpose and with the Divine Hand to guide, then deliberately doing our very best – as God did – will bring success and satisfaction. Our day will be a blessing to us and to those who are part of it. Then maybe, we too at the end of the day will be able to state that our day has been ‘good’.
The Psalmist seeks God’s wisdom this way: “So teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom” NKJV).
May we see that every day is important and see the need to make each day of our lives count.
Have a great week ahead.
God Sees You
Mary stood at the bus stop staring into space, not particularly enthused about the prospect of getting onto the bus and riding into town to begin work for the day. It wasn’t just the usual Monday morning blues; last week had brought several incidents in which her co-workers were too demanding and less cooperative or as kind as any human being should be with another.
The bus was already 5 minutes late, which would probably translate into her being 20 minutes late given the way the traffic worked. She began anticipating what her boss might think. “Why God? Can’t you see what I’m going through?” she muttered.
Mary’s struggle and thoughts are not uncommon to all of us. Often, many things can seem much larger than they really are and cause us great anxiety. Sometimes, they may actually be very big issues that cause us grief. In the Bible (Genesis 16:6-16), a young Egyptian servant girl is suddenly called upon by her apparently barren mistress to bear a child for her elderly husband. She has no choice in the matter but does in fact conceive. Seeing this, the mistress treats her harshly and the young woman flees into the wilderness. Without any options, and pregnant, and in this fearful wilderness, she stops to have a drink.
Suddenly she is met by an ‘angel’. He informs her that she is pregnant with a son who will himself go on to be the patriarch of a multitude of people. He advises her to go back to her mistress and her husband. This ‘angel’ found her in a deserted place and gave her a refreshing drink – hope and encouragement.
The young woman (Hagar) realises that this ‘angel’ that she met was actually God…she calls Him ‘El Roy’ the ‘God who sees’. She now understands that God, Jesus, never takes His gaze away from us and is with us even when we think He is not. She accepts His advice and returns to her mistress (Sarai) and her husband (Abram). They in turn accept the young woman, the husband giving the son a name (Ishmael) and with that, legitimacy for the son and security for the woman.
Like He demonstrated with Hagar, God sees us and what we are going through whether good or bad. He sees us, He knows us, and He wants to bless us. He wants to comfort us in our affliction, and He wants to reassure us that He has a plan for our lives and will bring that plan to fruition if we accept His advice found in His word - the Bible.
Psalm 46:1 encourages us with these words: “God is our refuge and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble.
May we remember that God is with us and may we call on His name to access His blessings if we do find ourselves in a wilderness requiring a refreshing drink.
Have a great week ahead,
Jesus’ Object Lesson on Prayer
We know that Jesus teaches us how to pray, during the ‘Sermon on the Mount’ (Matthew 6:9-13). It is not so much that we should pray this as our prayer each time, rather that we should pattern our prayers on it – the way it is addressed to God; its content of praising God for who He is and for His divine will; then petitioning Him for our needs. Jesus, in this discourse also recommends that we pray in a quiet or private place and make our words count (Matthew 6:6,7).
Luke records that at a later time, one of the disciples asks Jesus to teach them how to pray, the way John taught his disciples (Luke 11:1). It’s interesting to note that Jesus had followed his own instructions given on the Mount – He had retreated to a ‘certain place’ which the disciple had observed but His actual prayer was not heard by that disciple. The way Jesus prayed though left a lasting impression on the disciple, hence his request.
What does Jesus teach him about prayer on this occasion? Exactly what he did on the Mount – He recited the Lord’s prayer. He does however add a parable after the prayer: A man had a friend visit him but being late, he had nothing to feed his guest. He went to a neighbour and borrowed some food, being sure his neighbour would not turn him away, either because he was a friend or on the other hand, he would give him some food if only so that he would go away. Either way, the man would gain some food to give his visiting friend (Luke 11:5-10).
Why did Jesus tell them this parable? He said this so they would understand that they were like the neighbour in need of bread, God was the neighbour who had bread. Jesus was trying to show that whatever good and necessary request we ask of God is granted to us one way or the other. Unlike a neighbour who grudgingly gives, God though is always merciful and good so He will provide for us when we ask in sincerity.
The other aspect of the parable is also very interesting. The man was asking for bread to give to someone else – his visiting friend. He was going to give away what he was asking for, to someone else! There is a wonderful lesson for us there too – we should pray for blessings to come to others also, not just for ourselves. And, whatever good gifts we receive from God, we are to share them with others. Further, while the bread requested represents our physical needs, it also represents God’s goodness, His wisdom and of course the gift of Jesus! So, when we receive these things, we should share them around!
This week, please pray earnestly for the blessings you require, but also for God’s goodness to rest on others as well, especially that the Bread of Life may be granted to those who have not yet received Him.
Have a great week ahead.
God bless you,
Chopping Down the Poison TreeThere is a famous poem written by William Blake, “A Poison Tree” in which the speaker discusses the effects of anger on the human heart. When he was angry with his friend, they discussed it and his anger ended. On the other hand, he was angry with a neighbour whom he considered an enemy. He never talked about it but hid it behind a mask of smiles. Naturally, his anger and hatred grew until one day, he found his neighbour/enemy dead in his garden.
The poem depicts how unchecked anger can lead to disastrous consequences as both men are consumed by it. Anger is just one of those passions that we should try to understand and deal with. In fact, we should try to process all of our emotions, passions and desires in honest and constructive ways so that positive outcomes, or at least bearable ones, can be achieved when we feel those poison trees growing within us.
How can we do this consistently though? Through Jesus!
In Jesus, a person is considered reborn, renewed and refreshed. The old ways, the old habits which got the better of us by bringing out the worst in us, gradually wither as we become rooted in Jesus more and more. Through His Holy Spirit, we are being refreshed daily and given those wholesome qualities that allow a better version of ourselves to shine forth.
Sadly though, it is sometimes difficult to see how God is working on our character when we seem to be growing a garden of poison trees. What does God want us to do when we don’t understand how He is working in our lives?
God encourages us to take stock of ourselves and our conduct and mindfully work on them, as He works on us.
“Take on an entirely new way of life—a God-fashioned life, a life renewed from the inside and working itself into your conduct as God accurately reproduces His character in you.” Ephesians 4:22-24 (The Message Bible)
We are to make genuine efforts to change through Him…to purge evil behaviours from our daily routines. It’s not easy – granted. Remember though, He promises His Spirit: the voice of reason, counsel and help in moments when our own abilities seems stretched (Ephesians 3:16).
Continued seeking and surrender to Jesus daily, allows us to grow in grace as the Spirit refreshes us. Those negative passions can then be controlled better and poisoned trees pruned from our lives allowing good ones to grow and bear good fruit.
Seeking Jesus and surrendering to Him allows us to receive His Spirit to do help us deal with those unwholesome behaviours.
May we all chop down the poison trees in our lives through Jesus and His Spirit.
Have a great week ahead,
God bless you
The famous saying “no man is an island” is not only true in the world generally; it reflects a Biblical truth. From the outset, God intended that we live in communities and be communities. This is inherent in his statements to both Adam and Noah, ‘Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth…’ (Genesis 1:28; 9:1).
God’s intention was always that we live with each other, support and encourage each other, build each other up and co-operate with one another to fulfil the potential He invested in us when He made us in His image, then re-created us through Jesus. He intentionally gave us gifts and aspects of His character that we could build each other up and grow His Kingdom.
Jesus essentially sums it up this way – “love God, love each other” – the greatest and second commandments (Matthew 22:36-40).
Consider this – loving God or honouring God requires us to live with each other, work with each other and yes, love one another. Often it is a difficult thing to do. Sharing of oneself, time and talents with little apparent profit may not be appealing on the surface. Yet, many have experienced a joy and peace when they have come together for a common purpose. They have left community-oriented activities with smiling faces!
Think of this, one guy lifting a heavy load will struggle and strain on such a task. Two guys working at it together will expend less energy, finish faster, and feel a sense of satisfaction simply through the act of co-operating. They will have formed a bond and become a ‘community’. Could this also be what God meant when He said to be ‘fruitful and multiply’?
Why not take time this week to deliberately share something with a someone in your sphere? It might an encouraging word, a helping hand or even a smile to show, I’m with you in your task. Who knows, this may lead to a developing community where none existed. No one needs to be an island alone in a vast sea. Sharing the load may be good for everyone and will please God.
Have a great week ahead everyone.
God bless you,
Divine Product Placement
Someone once asked, “Why didn’t God choose to send Jesus now, with the media we have today? Surely He would get His message out much better today than 2000 years ago?”
It seems like a good question. Maybe God has an appointed time for everything, and that was the time that suited His will. Whatever happens, whenever it happens, is by His perfect will.
Or, maybe God reveals Himself by degrees as our limited hearts and minds can accept.
I’m sure if we think of it, we can come up with other good reasons. I like the idea that God chose that time because of the lack of the type of media we have today. In those times, the Roman Empire had built up a good network of roads between cities, towns and countries and the written word could travel these easily. We are aware that various New Testament writers took advantage of that: the apostle Paul wrote 14 epistles or letters (if we credit him with Hebrews), John wrote 3, Peter 2 and James 1. These were widely circulated and come down to us today in our Bible.
But, in addition to sending the written word via these roads, God was using people to travel these roads! As they travelled, they met people and interacted with them. They talked, shared meals and encouraged folk. These early Christians built relationships and left lasting impressions on those they met.
Everyone could see the Holy Spirit in them as they exhibited the Fruit of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control – Galatians 5:22-23). By being themselves in Christ, they won friends and so won converts. Many of them probably couldn’t read anyway, nor could those they encountered. For such folk, the only Bible was the story of their lives and the power of the Living Word within them. Could it be that Jesus understood ‘product placement’ well before the marketers of today?
God knew what He was doing when He used people to share His message. That has great significance today in the information age in which incorrect information challenges truth. Our lives are the greatest example of God’s word that we can share with others. A life reformed, a wholesome life, a life of service, a life of loving kindness and a life that demonstrates God’s love visibly and sincerely speaks volumes today, as it has always done.
As you journey through this week, please let your life be the Bible that people read by how you interact with them. Please exercise the Fruit of the Spirit for all to be filled as you are by your Loving Father.
When God says, ‘No
God always listens to and answers prayer. As unbelievable as that sounds, it’s true. There are some variables though that we should understand about how God answers prayer.
Firstly, it’s dependent on God’s will for us. His will is always perfect and geared to our benefit, desiring that we should all be saved and know of His truth (1 Timothy 2:4).
Secondly, answered prayer is largely for our needs but sometimes also for our wants; if that ‘want’ is for a life sanctified (Hebrews 11:6).
Sometimes God’s answer is “wait”, The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:9).
When prayer is answered in one of these ways, we should always give thanks, glory and honour to God from whom all good things flow (James 1:17).
Sometimes though, God’s answer is ‘no’. This is the answer that can cause us confusion and hurt. We need to know that saying ‘no’ is not a sign of God’s lack of love for us…quite the opposite. God is love (1 John 4:10). It is His nature to love, His very character. We should understand it was always out of love God did not answer a prayer or intervene as we had hoped.
Why then does He sometimes say no, or apparently ignore our prayer?
God sees everything and knows everything, even our future and how things will turn out. He knows what we may do or what we may choose for ourselves and the consequences we may face because of those choices.
Yet, because of His love, He allows us to exercise our choice, even though it may lead us down some unfortunate paths. He allows us to go there anyway, if that was our desire. Why? Maybe, it’s only by going through an experience for ourselves that we learn about life, learn about ourselves and learn to make better choices based on the consequences of our actions?
In traumatic situations, God may have said no to something we prayed for, causing us to feel deserted. We should not mistake that as a lack of His care for us or His absence from our lives. We do need to understand that whatever we are going through, whether it’s a small matter, a pressing circumstance or even an inexplicable tragedy, God is still there. God did not say our lives would be easy, in fact, Jesus told us that we would have many troubles in this world, (John 16:33). However, He promised to be with us and never leave us or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5), even to the ends of the age (Matthew 28:20).
God is with us whatever we are going through!
Through the trying experience, may we come to understand our need of God and call upon His name for deliverance (Zechariah 13:9). Then, we may experience His providence and peace in the storm we are in. All things endured will have worked for our good in building our character, growing our faith and gaining our eternal salvation (Romans 8:28).
Sometimes by saying no, He is answering prayer with the answer we needed most. By saying, ‘No,’ He is actually demonstrating great mercy and vision that we may only see after some time has passed.
May we remember that we are always near to the heart of God and within range of deliverance, even when He says no.
God bless you,
The assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria among other geo-political developments in the Balkans in 1914, plunged Europe into the Great War a.k.a. World War 1 which lasted from 1914-1918.
British Commonwealth nations sent troops in support of the British effort and this saw Australian and New Zealand troops (among others) land at Gallipoli in April with the mission to take the Dardanelles (Strait of Gallipoli) for the Allied Powers. Standing in their way were the Turks who were allies of Germany and the Central Powers. The attack began 24 April, 1915. The mission failed and over 140,000 men died in the campaign including 8500 Australians and 2779 New Zealanders.
The Kiwi men and boys who died were fathers, husbands, sons and brothers and their loss was felt by the whole nation. It seemed everyone knew someone who died. The ANZAC memorial was then formed to remember the sacrifice these men gave to restore freedom and peace to the region. Their heroism, bravery and self-sacrifice for a greater cause 106 years ago is still commemorated today. There is a generation alive today who are directly related to these brave men whose example is an inspiration to us all…it’s more than just a holiday.
Almost two thousand years ago, around this time of year, Jesus gave up His life that many could gain freedom from sin and its consequences (Romans 5:8 &19). The night before He died, He broke bread and drank grape juice with His disciples and asked them to keep doing that ‘in remembrance’ of Him. This is what we know as the Communion Ordinance.
The apostle Paul, in speaking of the Communion Ordinance, reveals that when we share this experience, we both remember Jesus in the ordinances and we also ‘proclaim His death until He comes’ (1 Corinthians 11:26). We proclaim His death to remember His sacrifice, His victory over death in the resurrection and the promise of our resurrection if we are found in Him. Remembering Him therefore is key to our spiritual life and existence. Not only does it give us hope but also a shining example of how we can live our lives in service to others.
For the Anzacs, there may have been no military victory, but there was victory of the spirit as New Zealand soldiers showed courage in the face of adversity and sacrifice (The Making of Anzac Day. https://nzhistory.govt.nz/war/first-anzac-days).
Just like the New Zealand nation needs to remember the Anzacs, Christians are to remember the life, death and resurrection of Jesus for our own example in this life and the promise of the life we will have when He returns. Remembering will help us to cope when days present special challenges – He died, He rose, He overcame, and we will too when we remember Him!
May it be that we remember Jesus – how He lived, His faith and His devotion to the Father and may we strive to live by His example and statutes.