Deeper Truths

“But I also have a message for the rest of you in Thyatira who have not followed this false teaching (‘deeper truths,’ as they call them—depths of Satan, actually). I will ask nothing more of you except that you hold tightly to what you have until I come.”
Revelation‬ ‭2:24-25‬ ‭NLT

It appears that not all the Thyatiraeans followed the false teaching of the Jezebel in their midst. The church there must have been divided and in conflict, riven by the sinful practices of some of their number. Perhaps the church leadership were involved in the sin as well, or they were at least turning a blind eye to what was going on. Perhaps they were intimidated by the Jezebel woman, afraid of the prophetic messages she was uttering. Afraid to cross her in fear of being cursed. Or elevating church unity above the sinful practices. We don’t know. But what we do know is that there were some in their fellowship who had rejected Jezebel’s false teaching.

In His message through John, Jesus called the sinful practices promoted through Jezebel “false teaching“, coming straight from the devil himself. Apparently, its adherents tried to sanitise the sin by calling it “deeper truths“. And Jesus commended those who refused to get involved. He encouraged them to keep going in their faith. To maintain its purity. And not to let go of what they believed. 

The problem of letting sinful practices enter the church is one not just relegated to history. It is still with us today. There is a constant battle between those who maintain the integrity of the Bible and believe it is the inspired Word of God and want to follow its ways and teachings, and those who want to replace or ignore certain parts of it so that social customs of the day can be absorbed into church or denominational liturgies. The debate in the US over the practice of abortion is such an example because the Bible is clear that new life starts at the moment of conception, even though Western thinking says otherwise, as we all are aware. And there are other issues regarding relationships and sexual customs that are at odds with the traditional and Biblical teaching of the Bible. So the question must be asked – would Jesus be equally as scathing over these matters today as He was 2000 years ago? To bring it up to date, will He consign those who allow sinful practices into their denominations or churches to a “bed of suffering“? Will He withdraw His Spirit from such places allowing them to wither and die, cutting them off from the source of His sustenance and life (John 15)?

For today’s pilgrims, we must stick tenaciously to Biblical teaching, checking out our faith regularly to ensure compliance. This is not a legalistic practice. We have a loving Heavenly Father and the last thing we would want to do is to engage in anything that would drive a wedge between Him and us. Bluntly, if God has said that something is sin, then it has to be repented of to maintain the purity of our relationship with Him. Psalm 24:3-5 says, “Who may climb the mountain of the Lord? Who may stand in His holy place? Only those whose hands and hearts are pure, who do not worship idols and never tell lies. They will receive the Lord’s blessing and have a right relationship with God their Saviour“. That’s the place I want to be – receiving the Lord’s blessing and in a right relationship with my loving Heavenly Father. 

Dear Lord. We pray for the discernment we need to call out the devil’s practices. We pray for wisdom when we come up against sinful ways in our churches. And we pray for forgiveness for all our sinful thoughts and deeds. Please help us in our daily walks in this life, as we look to You for our spiritual food. Please help us to maintain the integrity of Your Word in all we do. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Two-Edged Sword

“Write this letter to the angel of the church in Pergamum. This is the message from the One with the sharp two-edged sword”

‭‭Revelation‬ ‭2:12‬ ‭NLT‬‬

In his vision, the old Apostle John moves on to write down Jesus’ message to the church at Pergamum. This was a famous and illustrious city spanning Greek and Roman periods in history, and extensive ruins still exist. However, there is no longer a church there. But in the first century, it contained a Christian congregation, apparently active and thriving, but with a few problems that Jesus pointed out to them. More to come on that.

Again this message was directed to an angel. This time the “angel of the church in Pergamum”, probably a reference to both the church leaders and the whole church membership. But what is the significance of “the One with the sharp two-edged sword”? In the previous chapter, John received a vision of the Son of Man. He was standing in the middle of seven lampstands, and a sharp two-edged sword came from His mouth. We receive a good description of what the meaning of this sword is from Hebrews 4:12, “For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires“. The “sharpest two-edged sword” is indeed a powerful weapon but the writer to the Hebrews informed them that the Word of God is even sharper. Imagine the most fearsome and devastating weapon available to our armies today and then realise that the Word of God is still even more powerful. It fact it is even more powerful than any man-made device, for one simple reason. Any earthly weapon can indeed kill a human being, bringing on their physical death, but the Word of God can bring condemnation, judgement and eternal death for the same human being, in his or her life after their physical death. But, uniquely amongst weapons of destruction, it can also bring life, everlasting life for those who obey its precepts. That is why the “sharp two-edged sword” is so powerful. The Word of God is His legacy, His power, His manual for a life to be lived His way, and all encapsulated in a book always accessible to His followers everywhere. No wonder that pariah and totalitarian states want the Bible banned – they are only too aware of its power. In fact, it is so powerful that it has the capability to bring down their evil regimes.

If a pilgrim was ever asked what he should take in his back pack, one of the most important items has to be his Bible. In our pilgrimage through life we must have it. We will not reach our Heavenly goal without it. And one day we will discover that the truths contained within the Book will be transformed into glory for our wonderful God and Father.

Dear Lord God. We thank Your word, the Bible. Please help us to never neglect its reading. May its truths indeed penetrate to our very “innermost thoughts and desires”, helping us to live our lives Your way. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Fatherly Instructions

“Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger by the way you treat them. Rather, bring them up with the discipline and instruction that comes from the Lord.”
Ephesians‬ ‭6:4‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Now here’s a novel idea. Bringing up children by applying Biblical principles? Whatever next! But humour aside, here in the UK we live in a society that has lost its way, when it comes to bringing up children. The state is increasingly interfering with the rights of parents to bring up their children in the way they believe best. Social workers, teachers and the NHS, all have their own agendas, which often sacrifice Biblical principles, that have stood the test of time, on the altar of progressive and unproven thinking and theories. For example, in schools children are taught about sexual matters far removed from Biblical principles. Child gender issues abound with so-called experts agonising over the best way forward. If only they opened a Bible, they would find the answers to their dilemmas.

The Bible has a lot to say about bringing up children, both directly but also in an implied way. Way back in Deuteronomy, we read this, “And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength. And you must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands that I am giving you today. Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up”. (Deuteronomy 6:5-7). The way that we bring up children starts with us. With our own adult relationship with God, with the way we live our Christian lives. Our children look on. They see whether or not we are faking it. They can smell hypocrisy from afar. Parents living a life devoted to God and each other will set our children role models that will shape their own lives. And by so doing, we instruct our children in the ways of the Lord. 

My own children were fortunate enough to have been brought up in a Christian home. That is not to say that my wife and I always got things right. But they were able to watch us resolve our difficulties and move on in the Lord. The church teaching also helped them. I can remember that my daughter, in her High School biology class, challenged her teacher’s evolutionary beliefs, getting her in the end to agree that there was also a case for the creation model. Evolution is taught as fact in UK schools in spite of the difficulties with evolutionary theory that are conveniently glossed over. But that’s a subject for another day.

God is the Father over a large and growing family of children. He sets out the family rules, rules based on His love for His children, rules designed for our good and the good of His family as a whole. The Bible is our Source of discipline and instruction. We do well to read it, distilling out every Divine thought, every loving hint, always praying that our Father will help us in aligning our ways to His ways, our thoughts to His thoughts, our life to His life. And in the process teaching our children to do the same.

Obey for Wisdom

“Praise the Lord! 
I will thank the Lord with all my heart
as I meet with His godly people. 
How amazing are the deeds of the Lord! 
All who delight in Him should ponder them.
All He does is just and good, 
and all His commandments are trustworthy. 
He has paid a full ransom for his people. 
He has guaranteed His covenant with them forever. 
What a holy, awe-inspiring name He has!
Fear of the Lord is the foundation of true wisdom. 
All who obey His commandments will grow in wisdom. 
Praise Him forever!”
Psalms‬ ‭111:1-2, 7, 9-10‬ ‭NLT‬‬

A Psalm that starts and ends with the praise of God. And the Psalmist scratches down his thoughts of God’s goodness and mercy, His provision to His people, His trustworthy commandments and the wisdom available to His people. In this Psalm there is perhaps even a prophetic glimpse of the coming Messiah, peering round the edge of the parchment. 

But there is a profound, far-reaching, and even mind-blowing statement in verse 10. Can we really achieve “true wisdom” by following God’s commandments? It might be said that there are many around lacking wisdom but who have still kept the commandments. But the Bible has many more “commandments” than those we find in Exodus 20. The word implies what is perhaps a way of life, a mindset devoted to follow and understand God and His ways. A devotion to mine the diamonds contained within His Word, the Bible, bringing to the surface all the wisdom-thoughts contained there. A commitment to assimilate God’s ways, thoughts and instructions, that have been implanted in print over a period of 4000 years or so. Accumulated wisdom that is available for our use. It’s all about aligning our lives away from the materialistic and worldly secularism around us and instead adopting a life-style crafted and modelled on God and His Kingdom. The driver for all of this is the use of the word “fear”. But it’s not a meaning that implies the thought that God could zap us any time we stray out of line. Instead it is the thought that He is our real, living, and ever-present Creator, inviting us to respond to Him with a holy respect, a sense of awe, and a serious appreciation of who He is. 

The word “obey” isn’t a popular one either. It conjures up thoughts of subservience at odds with our “Me – it’s all about me” society. Thoughts of “Who are you to tell me what I should do” rise up within us and lead us down a destructive path of rejection of God’s ways, of God’s commandments. But God has placed His wisdom within His Word for us to find and apply in our lives, and to do that we have to adopt an obedient and willing attitude, gratefully embracing all God has for us. And by doing so, His wisdom makes the transition from the pages into our hearts. 

The Bible is a wonderful book. It is truly “God-breathed” and I constantly marvel that every time I read a few verses, something new leaps out of the page. Let’s redouble our efforts in reading His Word – it won’t do us any harm, and it might just save our lives.

The Flood

“You placed the world on its foundation 
so it would never be moved. 
You clothed the earth with floods of water, 
water that covered even the mountains. 
At your command, the water fled; 
at the sound of your thunder, it hurried away. 
Mountains rose and valleys sank 
to the levels you decreed. 
Then you set a firm boundary for the seas, 
so they would never again cover the earth.”
Psalms‬ ‭104:5-9‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Now here’s an interesting and fascinating account, appearing as it does inside this Psalm of praise to God. Clearly and succinctly, the Psalmist describes the Genesis flood, an event that has been the subject of constant debate between those who believe in God and those who don’t. What paradigm do we believe in or put our faith in? The evolutionary account that is underpinned by the assumption that the earth is incredibly old? Or the creation account that places the age of the earth at just a few thousand years? One thing is for sure – the two belief systems are irreconcilable. It’s one or the other. Sadly, there are Christians today who try and fit the Genesis account of Creation into contemporary thinking by saying that a creationary “day” could mean many thousands of even billions of years, interpreting “day” as “age”. But linguistic research indicates that the Hebrew word for “day” means just that. A period of 24 hours.

But what does all this matter anyway? It all happened in the past anyway so it is of little more than academic interest. But denial of the Genesis account of the world’s origins places the Bible in a perilous situation, because passages of Scripture like we have read today have to be omitted from its pages. As 21st Century pilgrims we have to have our feet firmly planted on the truth, and nothing but the whole truth, of the Word of God. Otherwise doubts as to the authenticity of God’s Word will grow into textual boulders that block our way through the paths of life. The Bible is the inspired Word of God. It is His only written work. Let’s treat it with respect, having faith that through it our loving Heavenly Father will lead us and guide us through the valleys and pathways, over all the mountains and obstacles that will come our way in our pilgrimage onwards and upwards to our Heavenly home.

Light and Care

“Send me Your light and Your faithful care, let them lead me; let them bring me to Your holy mountain, to the place where You dwell. Then I will go to the altar of God, to God, my joy and my delight. I will praise You with the lyre, O God, my God.” Psalms‬ ‭43:3-4‬ ‭NIVUK‬‬

Have you ever been somewhere where there are no street lamps, even close by? No cities lighting the sky in the distance? Not a glimmer of light anywhere? With a clear sky overnight the visual presentation of celestial bodies is breathtaking – there are just so many of them. But if the stars are obscured by clouds it can be a scary place, because literally you cannot see your hand in front of your face. Spiritual darkness is a bit like that too. With a view of the spiritual Heavens, God is visible and tangible. Blessing us with His presence. Communicating Spirit to spirit. But when obscured by the clouds of our rebellion and sins, God isn’t visible to us anymore, and our prayers bounce off the cloud’s underbelly, falling back to our lips answered.

The Psalmist prayed that God would lead him through His light, dispensing His faithful care in the process, revealing through the spiritual gloom His presence and His home. The Psalmist knew that once there He would find joy, delight and a place of praise. It doesn’t get better than that!

Today, O Lord, I pray that through the light of Your Word, with a thankful heart because of Your faithful care, I would find You dwelling in my heart where I can praise and worship You. Amen.

Red Lines

“Vindicate me, my God, and plead my cause against an unfaithful nation. Rescue me from those who are deceitful and wicked.” Psalms‬ ‭43:1‬ ‭NIVUK‬‬

What is my cause? What am I so deeply committed to that I am prepared to defend it no matter the cost? Some principle that has a red line, across which I cannot cross and which I believe the society around me shouldn’t cross either? Or a stand I am taking in the work place against dubious practices?  In the business realm, dodgy practices abound with the hope that a quick buck can be made, or that the taxman won’t find out. In the world of relationships marriage has been redefined. Even the God-created male and female genders have been replaced by many more. In our Western societies there is an “anything goes” mentality. “If it feels good then just do it” is applied across all demographics and age groups. But such is the language of a society that has lost its moral compass. And our political rulers, smitten by their liberal and secular ideals, nibble at the boundaries of our Christian legal and moral legacy by introducing legislation that erodes the principles God’s people adhere to.  Surely the “unfaithful nation“ in which the Psalmist lived is as true today, if not worse, than it was in his lifetime.

So what do we do? Ignore the “deceitful and wicked” practices that are occurring around us, as so many do? Or do we take a stand against them, asking God to vindicate us in the process. Realising that such a stand will potentially have a cost – remembering that John the Baptist was imprisoned and eventually beheaded because he took a stand against his local ruler’s immoral behaviour.

So I ask myself today – what is my cause? What principle or principles do I have that I consider sacrosanct? Holy Scriptures provide me with many “red lines” that I wouldn’t dream of crossing, and would hope that my society wouldn’t either. So I pray for God to protect His laws and precepts and show me how He wants me to be His voice upholding His principles. Remembering that my God-given mission is to be “salt and light” in my community.

True Heroes

“The godly people in the land are my true heroes! I take pleasure in them!”Psalms‬ ‭16:3‬ ‭NLT‬‬

We have just had a political election in Scotland, and it has culminated in a new 5-year parliament which will meet in Holyrood, Edinburgh. Such events always seem to bring out the best and worst in the voting population, but mainly the latter. Emotions are stirred. Virtues of one person over another are extolled. Interminable interviews pick over a candidate’s good and bad points, and their track record in politics, if they have one, is exposed for all to see. But where, in our political landscape, are the true heroes that the Psalmist, David, referred to in our verse today? Plenty of public spats, name calling, sleazy acts, but anything heroic? It is mostly away from politics that our true heroes can be found. Unseen and unheard godly men and women who quietly work away in their communities, making a difference in the lives of those around them. These are the true heroes. There are always opportunities in our communities to reach out to those around us. Sometimes all that is needed is a kind, cheerful word. At other times it is help with a neighbour’s children, or doing an old person’s shopping. Giving someone a lift. Walking a neighbour’s dog. The possibilities are endless.

James 2 says much about faith and works. Here’s an extract, “What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but don’t show it by your actions? Can that kind of faith save anyone? Suppose you see a brother or sister who has no food or clothing, and you say, “Good-bye and have a good day; stay warm and eat well”—but then you don’t give that person any food or clothing. What good does that do?”

Let’s look for an opportunity to be a “hero” today. We never know – we may be the only way God can be seen in our community.