The Lukewarm

“I know all the things you do, that you are neither hot nor cold. I wish that you were one or the other! But since you are like lukewarm water, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth!”
Revelation‬ ‭3:15-16‬ ‭NLT‬‬

This is a verse that sometimes makes me feel a bit uncomfortable. An internal “Oh dear!” and a heavy sigh starts a few minutes of self reflection that usually ends up with me mentally on my knees before Jesus. Asking once again for forgiveness. And His love and grace floods over me once again.

Jesus used the analogy of water and its temperature and it would have been a significant metaphor in that culture. Lukewarm water in 1st Century Laodicea would have been a bit suspect. It brings to mind the picture of glass of water that has been sitting out in the sun, and consequently didn’t taste very nice. And, as well, it may have become polluted by whatever was flying around near it. One mouthful, and perhaps a response would be to spit it out. On the other hand, cold water was refreshing and wholesome, probably sourced from an underground spring. Hot water would have been used for cooking or for washing, with the benefit of knowing that it felt good through cooked food or through the refreshment washing brings.

So to translate that into spiritual terms, what do we get? What is the optimum temperature for a follower of Jesus? Obviously, being lukewarm is not an option – Jesus made very clear that His palate rejects it. Perhaps, a lukewarm “Christian” is someone who goes through the motions of church life, failing to engage with the spiritual aspects, but putting up with them so that they can enjoy the benefits of the fellowship and any secular activities that take place on their church premises. A lukewarm person is someone who knows all about the liturgy and even Bible passages, but tends to ignore them, being more interested in the display of flowers, how the chairs are laid out, the length of the sermon, or what they should wear to church. They see no reason to engage with our wonderful and amazing Heavenly Father in an abundance of praise and worship, in thankfulness and reverence. These people may also be resistant to responding to the Gospel, having hearts that are hardened against Biblical truth, or prayer and worship. Jesus doesn’t want them in His church – He will eject them forcibly.

A person who is cold is someone who has no desire to get involved with anything to do with God. They probably won’t darken any church with their presence, unless the service is a wedding, funeral, or christening/baptism. They may confess atheism or be an agnostic. I was one myself until God, through His Spirit, connected with me. He brought me into a situation where I had to decide and one night, in response to an anguished prayer, He graciously allowed me to know His reality and love. So a cold person can be reached by the Gospel, and warmed by the power of God. God’s grace extends to them – they only need to reach out and accept Him. Salvation is all by His grace and it’s a free gift, costing us nothing, though it cost Jesus His life.

A person who is hot, is someone who has fully and totally embraced the Gospel. And through faith he or she fervently pursues God, reading the Bible, praying, evangelising and serving God in the way He wants them to. When times are troubled their faith carries them through. And their pilgrimage through life bears fruit, both in their own lives and the lives of others. 

Jesus said He knew everything the Laodiceans do. Of course He did. And unlike the other 6 churches He had no praise or encouragement for them. At least the church at Sardis had a few dying embers that were possible to revive, but the Laodiceans had absolutely nothing – they had reached a spiritual entropy.

A sensible pilgrim will occasionally do a spiritual check up, just to make sure they’re still “hot” and not heading for being lukewarm. As water cools to room temperature and becomes lukewarm, they too will do the same unless they put in place the spiritual safeguards necessary to maintain temperature. But we must never forget our relationship with God. He is our loving Heavenly Father. Through Jesus He has welcomed us into His family. He has made it possible for us to live with Him for eternity. So how can we ever grow cold in our faith? And neither must we forget that he has given us the special task of sharing His grace and love with the lukewarm and cold people around us. While there is still time.

Dear Lord God. How can we ever forget You, the One who has graciously done so much for us. For our salvation and our adoption into Your family we are so grateful. We pray that You will never allow our hearts to grow cold. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

A Time of Testing

“Because you have obeyed my command to persevere, I will protect you from the great time of testing that will come upon the whole world to test those who belong to this world.”
‭‭Revelation‬ ‭3:10‬ ‭NLT

Again the Philadelphians were commended for their obedience in obeying Jesus’ command to persevere. But what does perseverance look like? Jesus gave us a glimpse, as recorded in Matthew 10:22, “And all nations will hate you because you are my followers. But everyone who endures to the end will be saved“. The disciples were under no illusions as they mulled over this statement from the Master. Being a Christian, a follower of Christ, is not a popular life choice. It means living a life that does not conform with the lives of those unbelievers in the world around us. A Christian reaches out to them with love and acceptance, but receives hatred, animosity, and even violence in return. Why should that be? Because the kingdom of the world is devil-run, and the Kingdom of Heaven, the domain of Christians, is God-run. Two opposing forces. We know who wins in the end, but for the Philadelphians, living their daily lives, it must have been a constant temptation to give in to the worldly pressures and swap sides. But they persevered in the face of the persecution, being obedient to Jesus’ command. That’s what perseverance looks like.

There is no difference for today’s pilgrim. The same battle continues. The longest battle in history. The clash of the two kingdoms is no short military campaign. It will only cease when Jesus comes again, when all the nations will declare His Lordship. And we are given the same command as the Philadelphians – persevere to the end. Jesus’ half-brother James wrote right at the start of his epistle, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything”. I don’t know about “pure joy” but the message is clear – we will face many trials in our Christian lives and at times our faith will be sorely tested, but we have to persevere. There is no other way. We cannot flip-flop between the two kingdoms.

John goes on to write about a “great time of testing”. I can hear the protestations. Surely we are being tested enough, you say. The Philadelphians would have been alarmed when they heard these words read out to them, but also relieved when they were told that it would pass them by. There was no explanation for them about what the “great time of testing” would be, though they would have had access to Old Testament scriptures such as Daniel 12:1, “At that time Michael, the great prince who protects your people, will arise. There will be a time of distress such as has not happened from the beginning of nations until then. But at that time your people – everyone whose name is found written in the book – will be delivered”. Christians today also have the benefit of reading what else John wrote in his Revelation, and we will come to that in a few blogs time. Suffice to say, that there is coming a time of testing, called by many the Tribulation – perhaps that is what John was writing about in his message to the Philadelphians.

We Christian pilgrims are continually tested in this life, because the kingdom of darkness is always trying to win over the Kingdom of Light, and for most of the time, that battle is taking place within us. The Apostle Paul very clearly and eloquently set out the dilemma we all face in Romans 7:22-24, “I love God’s law with all my heart. But there is another power within me that is at war with my mind. This power makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me. Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death”? But thankfully, verse 24 is followed by verse 25. “Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord….” So, with Jesus’ help, we persevere in this life of strife, being obedient to Jesus’ commands. One day, there will be a “great time of testing that will come upon the whole world“. Something we may have mixed feelings about. But as I have said before, we may not know what the future holds, but we do know who holds the future. 

Dear Lord. Thank You that You have our future all planned out. You know the beginning from the end. We worship You, deeply thankful for all You have done in our lives, and all that You will do as we remain faithful to Your commands. Amen.

Constant Improvements

“I know all the things you do. I have seen your love, your faith, your service, and your patient endurance. And I can see your constant improvement in all these things.”
Revelation‬ ‭2:19‬ ‭NLT

Wow! What an endorsement from the Master Himself. Jesus said that He had observed the lives of the Thyatiraeans and, in particular, He singled out their love, faith, service and patient endurance. He also noted that they weren’t satisfied in staying at a certain level. He said they were improving. I cannot think of a better accolade for Christians in any generation, let alone those in the hostile environment in which the Thyatiraeans lived. As the letter was read out to them I can imagine the smiles on their faces; an endorsement for their diligent approach to their lives in Christ.

Was there any significance in Jesus just selecting these four attributes? Why not their prowess in praying for the sick? Or their attendance records for Bible Studies? Or their diligence in missionary work, knocking on the doors of the people in the next town? No. Jesus selected four examples of a Godly character. Internal attitudes and examples of a deep relational experience with their loving Heavenly Father. That sweet spot where their Christian lives were nurtured and developed to become more like Jesus.

The four attributes selected by Jesus were particularly important and significant in the society and culture prevalent in First Century Greece. They would not just have involved the way the people in the church related to each other but would also have included how they related to those in the society around them. This would not have been easy for them but their counter-cultural witness would have made significant gains for God’s Kingdom, swelling their numbers as the devil’s frontiers were pushed back.

Society and culture today is different in many ways to the Ancient Greek ways of life. Gone are the extravagant temples erected in the honour of the pantheon of Greek gods. Gone is the devilish practices that pervaded the society in those days. Today, the same issues prevail but in a more subtle way. So we pilgrims must ask ourselves if Jesus would commend us too for our love, faith, service and patient endurance. And are these character attributes growing within us day by day? Sometimes it is good to undertake a personal spiritual check up just to make sure. And how about the churches of which we are a part? Can we tick the “constant improvement” box? Or is there a “could do better” note on our report cards? But whatever the personal or corporate outcome, we know that God is helping us. Paul wrote in Philippians 2:12-13, “…Work hard to show the results of your salvation, obeying God with deep reverence and fear. For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him”. If God is working within us we cannot fail. And in Ephesians 2:10 we read that we are His workmanship, created to be like Jesus. So as we remain close to God, being obedient to what He says, we cannot fail to win the accolade received by the Thyatiraean church. 

Dear Lord Jesus. We are so grateful for Your encouragement. You are always there for us on our daily walk through life, helping us to grow more like You. Please help us to be open to the work of Your Spirit in our lives. Amen.

Four One’s

“There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all, in all, and living through all.”
Ephesians‬ ‭4:5-6‬ ‭NLT‬‬

This section of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians continues the theme of unity. And in these two verses he presents a fundamental view of God. Paul sets out the bottom line. The bedrock of our faith. A picture of God that is total and complete in every way. I see a picture before me today of an onion, and Paul is peeling away the layers, exposing truths that are seismic and fundamental to our beliefs. We have to peel away each layer to be able to appreciate the next. This view of God is so profound and true that if we cannot accept in turn each of Paul’s statements, then there is no point in continuing. This is a creed with five truths that underpins all other creeds. 

So for the first layer, Paul says there is “one Lord“. Believe it or not, in the world today there are many “lords”. And all except one are the wrong lord. We can make a loved one “lord” of our lives. Or even the devil. We have a privileged class in the UK of “lords”. And a part of our government here in the UK is the “House of Lords”. Many people make a “lord” out of their hobbies, or jobs. But Paul said there is only one Lord who really matters and that is our Lord Jesus Christ. If we hold a view that Jesus was anything other than the Son of God, a Member of the Holy Trinity, both human and divine, then there is no point in proceeding to the next layer of Paul’s “onion”.

The next layer refers to “one faith“. A sad phenomenon in some established churches today is the willingness to have “multi-faith” services. The bizarre spectacle of a Rabbi, Imam, Priest, Buddhist monk,  and a Clergyman holding joint prayers is directly at conflict with the God-truth of there being “one faith”. But is this what Paul was bothered about? No. I believe Paul was pointing out that true faith was not only believing that Jesus was, and is, the Son of God, that He died for our sins and that He sent the Holy Spirit to be His representative here on Planet Earth, but Paul was also pointing out that the faith we have extends to an unshakeable belief and assurance that God knows what is best for us, and regardless of our circumstances we will continue to have faith in Him. For an example, Abraham showed true faith when he placed his son on the altar as a sacrifice to God. True faith involves obedience to God regardless of the circumstances.

We continue to the next layer by considering what “one baptism” means. The New Testament mentions two types of baptism – baptism in water (Acts 8:36-39) and baptism in the Holy Spirit (Acts 11:16). The fact that Paul mentions baptism here is therefore significant. It is an essential, non-negotiable, part of what being a Christian is all about. In Acts 2:38 we read, “Peter replied, “Each of you must repent of your sins and turn to God, and be baptised in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. Then you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit“.

The next layer of our onion is the all-encompassing declaration of who God is. There is only “one God“. I can remember a Muslim man I worked with telling me, some years ago, that we both worshipped the same God. But the God of the Christians, Paul’s God, our God, is different to Allah, the Muslim God. very different. Sadly, even amongst Christians there are different views of who God is. Some Christian denominations worship a God that is different to the One described in His Book, the Bible. But one thing is very clear. God is a God of love and grace. He is infinitely patient and kind. “The LORD is merciful and compassionate, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love.” (Psalm 145:8).

Finally, Paul continues with the statement that God is “Father of all“. God is our Heavenly Father. We are His children. And as with any family, children can be naughty and rebellious. Well, that is how we started off in our natural lives. The religious jargon is that such behaviour is “sin”. Sadly, most people deny that they have a Heavenly Father. But saying we don’t have a Heavenly Father is the same as saying we don’t have a natural father. One day everyone will stand before God to give an account of their lives – most people will get a nasty shock if they continue to deny He exists! But it is so sad for those who don’t believe in God’s Fatherhood. He is the perfect Father. Loving. Fair. Helpful. A Guide when we need Him. Gracious. Merciful. God’s parental attributes could fill a book – well they do – His Book, the Bible. And the more we read it, the more we find out about Him. Imagine what it would be like to be in a situation where we never knew our natural father. But he left us a book about his life. I can guarantee we would read, and re-read the book he left us, to try and find out as much as we could about him. So it is with our Heavenly Father. He left us a book all about Him. And just for good measure, He threw in a shedload of information about our elder Brother, Jesus. Oh – and don’t forget the Holy Spirit – there’s a lot about Him in there as well. Three for the price of one?

The rest of these verses describe God as being, “over all, in all, and living through all.” Paul included these words just to make sure that what he had been saying was total. Complete. Nothing missed out. The word “one” is mentioned four times in these verses. Someone once said that if God said something once, we should take note. If He said it three times then we had better sit up and do something about it. Well, here is Paul writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, saying something four times. Something important, don’t you think?

Faith

Then, by constantly using your faith, the life of Christ will be released deep inside you, and the resting place of his love will become the very source and root of your life.
Ephesians 3:17 TPT

The Passion Translation of our verse today picks up the theme of faith, which we looked at in yesterday’s blog post. We build up our faith muscles “by constantly using [our] faith“. Day by day, as we continue through life, we encounter situations that need the grace and love of God. And through faith we reach out to our loving Heavenly Father through prayer. For His answers, for His remedies, for the “supernatural strength” and “explosive power” that we read about in Ephesians 3:16. Through prayer we enter into God’s presence and bring before Him the needs and situations before us. So we pray for guidance when making a difficult decision. We pray for a sick friend or relative, for healing. We pray for all sorts of things. So we, in faith, leave the situation with our Heavenly Father, who knows what is best. And “by constantly using [our] faith” we will become more and more in tune with our Father in Heaven, and able to look at the situation before us through His eyes. There are times when the situation before us is beyond what we have faith for. We pray anyway, and also pray for the gift of faith, so that the outcome is as God wants it to be. Jesus reminded us of the importance of faith in the outcome to our prayers. He said in Matthew 9:29, “Then he touched their eyes and said, ‘According to your faith let it be done to you’”. (Emphasis mine). 

There is a discipline that us pilgrims would be well advised to follow. That is to keep a journal of our prayers. A notebook where we can write down our prayers of faith. And then keep them updated with God’s answers to our prayers. When we realise empirically that God answers prayers it is very faith building. I look back over my life and see many occasions where God has answered my prayers of faith. The answers might not have been what I had hoped, but answered they were. The Godless cynic might have put down my experiences to coincidence. But there have been too many “coincidences” for me to accept that. Instead I call them “God-incidences”, because they are so real to me. To me, they are obviously answers to my prayers from my loving Heavenly Father. And I am so grateful to Him for His care and interest in me and my prayers.

One of the most misunderstood topics of prayer is the prayer for sick people. In my personal experience this is a place where ordinary pilgrims like me fear to tread. A complex area where we find answers to prayer often don’t deliver what we would perhaps expect, or hope for. We scrutinise the Scriptures and particularly the Gospels where Jesus healed so many sick people, to see if there is a formula or methodology we could adopt. But there isn’t of course. God is never bound by human thinking. There are many complex issues involved. For example, some people don’t want to be healed – Jesus asked the disabled man at the Pool of Bethesda just that question. We read in John 5:6, “When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, “Do you want to get well?”. Another situation might have involved sin. In Matthew 9:2 perhaps Jesus discerned that the more important issue was forgiveness for the man’s sins. “Some men brought to him a paralyzed man, lying on a mat. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the man, “Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven.”. Note that in this case the man’s friends had faith that Jesus could resolve their friend’s problem. But regardless of what the issues are, we still pray for the sick. There are two verses in James 5 that are often quoted, “Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven.“. Another key verse is from Isaiah 53, “But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.”. Jesus took on our infirmities, sicknesses and sins so that we are healed, body, soul and spirit.

One last thought about praying for healing – we are blessed by an incredible Health Service here in the UK. Many complain about it but behind the scenes dedicated men and women are compassionately using their skills – personal, medical and technical – to dispense God’s healing power. And we have faith in their abilities, and thank God for them. 

Let us never give up praying. And praying with all the faith we have, to a loving Heavenly Father who cares for us. One last Scripture about faith, from that great faith chapter in Hebrews. “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.“. God loves it when we pray in faith. I want to please Him, don’t you?

The Light of God

“I pray that the light of God will illuminate the eyes of your imagination, flooding you with light, until you experience the full revelation of the hope of His calling —that is, the wealth of God’s glorious inheritances that He finds in us, His holy ones!”
‭‭Ephesians‬ ‭1:18‬ ‭TPT‬‬

What is the “light of God”? In 1 John 1:5 we read, “This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all.” Jesus described Himself as the “Light of the World” (John 8). God created light (Genesis 1). James said God is the “Father of lights” (James 1). God is associated with light. With light, everything is visible. With our eyes we see and appreciate light. In darkness, our eyes have no use. 

So the next question must be, “How can God’s light impact our imaginations”? We have to refer to a verse later in this Epistle, where Paul said, “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us,” (‭‭Ephesians‬ ‭3:20‬ – emphasis mine). Our imaginations can have a significant role to play when it comes to leveraging our inheritance. Paul said that we have the power within us through God’s Spirit, making it possible for Him to do extraordinary things through us in His service. The only limitation seems to be our willingness to ask and dream.

I used to be guilty of “day-dreaming” at primary school. And still am to a certain extent. There is something within me that wants to think “outside the box”, exploring possibilities. Imagining scenarios where life is different, where God can make a difference. Paul was not referring to a worldly imagination embedded in fantasies – he was promoting a God-inspired imagination underpinned by God-dreams, flooded with the light of His presence; allowing a revelation of what it means to be a child of God to inspire and motivate us. Through all of this we will realise “the hope of His calling”. Not for me a life of pew-warming, a life of ordinariness. How can I, or anyone else for that matter, be satisfied with that? I want to enter into all that God has for me. And I’m sure that we, as Christians, want to do the same. 

There is a pivotal word in this verse – “until”. This light flooding our imaginations doesn’t bring about an instant result. There is a development process happening. Over time. We take small steps of faith, seeing the light of God grow brighter and brighter in revealing what He is capable of. Bolstering “the hope of His calling”. As we say “Yes Lord”, who knows what might happen as the light of God permeates through us into our communities and families.

Hope in the Lord

“Don’t put your confidence in powerful people; there is no help for you there. 
When they breathe their last, they return to the earth, 
and all their plans die with them. 
But joyful are those who have the God of Israel as their Helper, 
whose hope is in the Lord their God.”
He made heaven and earth, the sea, 
and everything in them. 
He keeps every promise forever.”
Psalms‬ ‭146:3-6‬ ‭NLT‬‬

A charismatic figure emerges in a nation and people are attracted to him, electing him as their leader. A familiar situation repeated many times over in ages past. And there have been many shipwrecked nations because they followed a man instead of following God. Great initial expectations are replaced by disappointment and despair. As David, the Psalmist, advises – putting our confidence in a person will not be helpful. And he points out that the grandiose plans the leaders have will die with them. A human being does not have the capability to always deliver on their promises, to provide help for everyone who needs it. When I read these verses I am reminded of the promises made by aspiring politicians when they seek election. Promises that often evaporate and disappear once their office has been realised. 

Thankfully, there is a “but” in this Psalm. When we put our hope and trust in God, we are 100% assured that He will deliver what He promises. Verse 6 finishes, “He keeps every promise forever”. But the meaning the Psalmist implies behind the word “hope” isn’t for something that might or might not happen. Like we hope it won’t rain today. Or the childish hope that Santa will bring a new train set for Christmas. The word “hope” in this Psalm implies an assurance that through our faith we will realise what we “hope” for. The first verse in Hebrews 11 says, “Faith shows the reality of what we hope for; it is the evidence of things we cannot see.” 

So we align our lives to “the God of Israel”, our wonderful Creator God. He isn’t just a local “god” hovering over a nation state in the Middle East. As the verse says, “He made heaven and earth, the sea and everything in them”. Because of His credentials as the Creator of everything, we can delight in our relationship with Him; in the knowledge that He helps us, replacing despair of human shortcomings with joy in His God-comings. Powerful people don’t make it onto the significance scale when God is around. 

God’s Word, the Bible, is full of His promises. Too many to list here. But just one has popped into my mind this morning. “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.” ‭‭Philippians‬ ‭4:6-7‬ ‭NLT‬‬. Having the peace of God within us in a world lacking peace is a promise God will never fail to deliver.

The Trembling Earth

“The Red Sea waters saw them coming and ran the other way!
Then later, the Jordan River too 
moved aside so that they could all pass through.
The land shuddered with fear. 
Mountains and hills shook with dread. 
O sea, what happened to you to make you flee? 
O Jordan, what was it that made you turn and run? 
O mountains, what frightened you so? 
And you hills, what made you shiver? 
Tremble, O earth, for you are in the presence of the Lord, 
the presence of the God of Jacob.”
‭‭Psalms‬ ‭114:3-7‬ ‭TPT‬‬

We read the historical and prophetic accounts contained within what we Christians call the Old Testament, and wonder about the nature of the events described. Are they accounts seasoned with traditional, word of mouth legends handed down from one generation to the next, or did the described events actually happen? Did the Red Sea really part? Did the Jordan River really stop flowing? And there are other events that took place in the Bible that seem against natural laws. Did the rock really release rivers of water when Moses struck it with his staff? Did the Jericho walls really collapse when the Israelites gave a shout and blew their trumpets? Did the ground really collapse and swallow up the family of Korah in the Numbers 16 account? Over the years I have heard two categories of response to these questions – one is the secular and liberal theology approach, that these Bible stories are just that, stories. Fictional accounts, or at least myths that some people try and explain away or discount by applying modern thought and archaeological research. But the other response is one of a fundamental belief in the infallibility of Scripture. A belief that these events really happened, just as they had been written. Sometimes people adopt a hybrid approach to these two extremes, accepting some accounts and not others. Others protest with the thought, “What does is all matter anyway?” 

This Psalm contains a fundamental, irrefutable theme – that God is the Creator of the Earth and everything within it. That He is able to make things happen in His creation because He is God. He is the all-powerful, ever present Almighty. And the palpable sense of awe in God’s presence manifests itself in the Psalmist’s graphic language of how the earth was responding, our world that we take to be fixed and immovable, but in his account frightened and shivering when God was there. 

As pilgrims in this life, we can trudge along, bounded by what we think are “natural laws”, or we can develop a sense of excitement that we are in the presence of Almighty God, our Creator who is able to do anything because he is all-powerful. Adopting an expectant feeling that whatever is facing us in our journey, God is there to help us, able to move the mountains in our paths. Without God’s intervention, the Israelites would have been recaptured or destroyed by the well-equipped Egyptian army when they encountered the Red Sea. Without God’s intervention, they would have been unable to pass over the Jordan River into the Promised Land. However, such miraculous events were not just for the Old Testament; Jesus Himself taught about the power we have over the natural world in Matthew 17:20, “I promise you, if you have faith inside of you no bigger than the size of a small mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move away from here and go over there,’ and you will see it move! There is nothing you couldn’t do!” Jesus walked on water. He stilled the storms. He healed the sick and raised the dead, and, amazingly, He said in John 14:12, “Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.” Now that’s challenging. 

So what do make of all this? Are we feeling a sense of excitement building within us at what we can do though and with our amazing Heavenly Father? Or are we going to continue to tramp through a monochrome world, bounded and limited by our puny and inadequate natural abilities? We may not have the faith to make one of our local hills disappear, but what about stretching our faith to pray for the sick old lady next door, believing for her healing? Or believe God for …. (fill in your own faith need)? Tasha Cobbs sings a song, “This is a Move”. Let’s sing it together today – it’s on YouTube if you don’t know it. Here are the first two verses.

Mountains are still being moved
Strongholds are still being loosed
God, we believe
‘Cause yes, we can see it
That wonders are still what you do

And bodies are still being raised
Giants are still being slayed
God, we believe
Yes, we can see it
That wonders are still what you do

Difficult Questions

The Lord says to my Lord: 
‘Sit at my right hand 
until I make your enemies 
a footstool for your feet.’”
Psalms‬ ‭110:1‬ ‭NIVUK‬‬

Psalm 110 is another Davidic Psalm, full of prophetic and apocryphal language. The verse I’ve chosen today was quoted by Jesus during one of His conversations with the Pharisees; He used it to ask a difficult question of the religious leaders of His day, one that they couldn’t answer. The details of the conversation were recorded in Matthew 22. 

I read this Psalm, and find myself at a loss to understand at first how it will help the modern day pilgrim, in his or her journey through this life. There is obviously a time coming, prophetically laid out, of when Jesus, the Son of God, will rule and reign one day in the future. It will be a time of judgement, of battle, of triumph, of defeat of the forces that will be arraigned against Him. It’s encouraging to know the contents of a future chapter in the book of this world’s history. As I scan the verses in this Psalm, some nuggets of truth emerge. About God’s unchanging promise that His enemies will one day be defeated, by His Son Jesus ruling at the head of an army of His troops. About His priestly role, leading the spiritual future of His people. About judgement bringing about the justice God’s people can only dream of today. It is these thoughts that will sustain us when our lives are difficult and challenging. 

The Bible contains difficult questions, like the one Jesus asked of the Pharisees when He quoted this Psalm. And in some places the Biblical records and accounts can be interpreted in different ways. So how do we handle challenging Biblical and theological questions when asked by those around us? I’m sure some people lay awake at night trying to dream up traps to undermine us. A genuine seeker after truth should be answered and carefully helped to understand the answer to their difficulties; if necessary we must go away and research the answer with the help of the Holy Spirit; if we don’t know the answer we should say so. And we thank God for the apologists who interface the Bible truths to everyday life, and provide light in dark corners; such people we can refer our questioners to if necessary. 

In our everyday lives, we too can have questions about difficult-to-understand passages in the Bible. At such times, we keep close to our Heavenly Father, trusting Him to provide all the answers we need for our journeys. And we need to take our life-steps, with the faith that God knows what is best for us. Perhaps Proverbs 3:6 is a good go-to place today: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” Sometimes we don’t need answers to difficult questions – we just need God.

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Confident Faith

O God, my heart is steadfast [with confident faith]; 
I will sing, I will sing praises, even with my soul. 
Awake, harp and lyre; 
I will awaken the dawn! 
I will praise and give thanks to You, O Lord, among the 
people; 
And I will sing praises to You among the nations.
‭‭Psalms‬ ‭108:1-3‬ ‭AMP‬‬

David once again picks up the Psalmist’s pen. And he immediately bursts out in praise for his God, our God. It seems strange that we are linked to David through our loving Heavenly Father, over the centuries, over the miles. Linked with someone long dead but very much alive through his writings. David was a “man after God’s own heart” (1 Sam 13:14) yet spent most of his life warring with people both inside and outside his country. We have a parallel with this too, as we journey through life, warring with our sin, struggling with the increasing secularisation of our society, and facing into our own sets of individual “giants”. But David had a quality we would do well to grow and emulate – he had a heart that was steadfast and confident in faith, faith that he had a loving Heavenly Father, as close to him as a brother. And that relationship prevailed through all of David’s life, a life devoted in his service to God. It did not mean that David’s life was not without its challenges. He battled with people, he battled with his family, he battled with his sin. David was in many ways a larger than life character who encountered many giants, not just Goliath, but, and here’s the thing, he had a steadfast, unmovable and confident faith that God was there for him and would come through for him no matter what he was facing into.

David was a pilgrim through a life set in a certain period of history. David faced into challenges we will never experience, but his faith in God carried him through.  We too are on a pilgrimage through life in our period of history, facing into challenges that we perhaps would rather not face, the clocking ticking away just as it did in David’s day. But just as God was there for David, He will be there for us too. We too can awake the dawn with our praises, thanking God for His wonderful love and grace. And we too can stand strong with a steadfast heart, with confident faith in our wonderful and awesome giant-killing God.